Buttigieg's blunder

Queer media needs and deserves his support.

I’d really love your help generating just a bit more buzz about this newsletter. I want you to think of just one person you know who you think would benefit from reading this. Shoot them a message or tag them in a post with the link and let them know you thought especially of them. Maybe they’re people who care a lot about LGBTQ issues, or maybe they’re people who could stand to learn a thing or two about them. Let’s see if we can’t wrangle a few more readers that way!

Onto today’s LGBTQ news!


Ben Carson spouts transphobia behind closed doors

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a long history of making pretty nasty transphobic comments, once calling trans people’s mere existence the “height of absurdity.” So it’s not really news that he has terrible things to say about transgender people. What’s news is that he’s still saying such things as a cabinet secretary — and as his department is trying to prevent transgender people from accessing homeless shelters, a move House Democrats are trying to fight.

According to the Washington Post, while visiting San Francisco, Carson apparently claimed that he’s concerned about “big, hairy men” pretending to be women to get into shelters, adding his signature line that he doesn’t believe in “special rights” for any class of people. For the record, there is zero evidence this happens and there are many ways to prevent it while still ensuring access for trans women. Carson also allegedly said that people no longer know the difference between genders.

This is like Transphobia 101. If you are out there saying that trans women deserve discrimination because you can’t tell the difference between them and “big, hairy men,” then you have no business helping make such policy.

Pete Buttigieg doesn’t read LGBTQ media

I started this newsletter for two reasons: 1) I missed engaging directly with queer news, and 2) I thought there was a significant deficit in access to queer news that I wanted to help rectify. That’s why I’m personally pretty disturbed by some new comments from Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

When you have a queer person in a new and powerful position of influence, it’s tempting to want to project on them what you’d personally like to see from a queer person in such a position. That has certainly happened to Buttigieg since his star rose in the Democratic Primary earlier this year, but it seems to have had a disappointing and ironic effect.

In a new interview with Sirius XM host Clay Cane, Buttigieg confesses that he no longer reads LGBTQ media because of how some outlets have critiqued his masculinity and sexuality:

I just am what I am, and you know, there’s going to be a lot of that. That’s why I can’t even read the LGBT media anymore because it’s all: ‘Too gay, not gay enough, wrong kind of gay.’ Like, geez, alright. All I know is that life became a lot easier when I started allowing myself to be myself, and I’ll let other people write up whether I’m ‘too this’ or ‘too that.’

Now, as Nico Lang correctly points out, the few outlets that did publish pieces discussing Buttigieg’s identity weren’t even LGBTQ-specific. And frankly, while queer people may have shared thoughts on an individual level, there hasn’t been much, if any, of that kind of identity policing from actual LGBTQ publications. Yet Buttigieg is saying those are the publications he doesn’t read.

First of all, it’s a big concern that someone with his level of influence could so easily dismiss queer media. Queer media (and progressive media writ large) is struggling — [Remember how my colleagues and I were recently laid off?] — yet he paints with such a broad brush, seemingly suggesting that these sites have no value, or that all that they’re capable of is catty commentary about his identity. Not only is that not true, but he also probably does himself no favors with people who don’t feel like he’s connected enough to the queer community by basically admitting: Yeah, they’re right, he’s not.

It’s foolish to ask one queer person to be all things to all people, and it’s quite tempting to ask that of a presidential candidate! Their goal literally is to convince people that they’re all things to all people. But if Buttigieg’s sexuality isn’t particularly salient to him and not a defining aspect of his overall identity or social interactions, that should be okay. We should be able to just celebrate that a gay man is seen as a real contender in this race.

The issue, I now fear, is that it’s not just a matter of salience. It’s not hard to listen to this clip and feel like Buttigieg is derisive, like he sees no value in queer media and he’s annoyed that it’s something that he has to deal with. I’m not sure what that says about Buttigieg himself, and I don’t think it’s my place to speculate, but I do think comments like these hurt our community.

As I noted in yesterday’s Quick Hits, a new report shows mainstream media coverage of LGBTQ issues has significantly declined in recent years. Queer coverage was one of the first casualties of the big news sites’ layoffs earlier this year, and there really isn’t much left of the blogosphere infrastructure that really elevated queer media in the 2000s. We need all the help we can get, and a gay presidential candidate waving us off dismissively is not going to help.

It’s perfectly fine if Buttigieg doesn’t feel as connected to the queer movement and community as other queer people, but if he fees like being in conversation with us is an obstacle, that’s a very different pill to swallow.

Earlier today I was a guest on Rated LGBT Radio discussing this topic if you’d like to hear more about it.

Updates on school trans policies

The end of an anti-trans fight in Pennsylvania

A group of anti-trans parents working with — you guessed it — the Alliance Defending Freedom had been challenging a Boyertown, Pennsylvania school’s trans-inclusive policies. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals shot them down, and earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to take up their case. This week, they finally withdrew their litigation, bringing the fight to an end.

Rumors prompt anti-trans protest at North Carolina school

Meanwhile, students at North Buncombe High School near Ashville, North Carolina staged a walk-out this week, falsely believing that its trans-inclusive policy was allowing a male teacher to use the girls’ bathroom. Student vandalism of the girls’ bathroom sign also led to the rumor that there would be no such thing as the girls’ bathroom at all anymore. This speaks to just how dangerous anti-trans advocacy is and how quickly it can spark totally unwarranted fear.

Illinois school considers end to segregation policy

District 211 School District in Illinois has been the focus of several different legal fights over its handling of transgender students — both for not being inclusive enough, and then for being too inclusive. Tonight, the school board is meeting to finally discuss ending its policy of forcing transgender students to only use private one-stall restrooms, a de facto policy of segregation.

Another Christian campus group conflict is brewing

Over the past decade, Christian student groups have been trying to challenge their university’s nondiscrimination codes, specifically with the goal of openly discriminating against queer students. The latest fight is at Duke University, where the group Young Life doesn’t want to allow queer leaders or staff. Duke responded that they could operate that way, but they couldn’t then be a registered student group, prompting many to claim that the policy was unfair.

Of course Mark Regnerus is criticizing a new study

Last week I shared a new study that found that transgender people who have experienced conversion therapy have faced more mental health consequences. Of course, Mark Regnerus had to chime in.

If you’ve never heard of him, you’re lucky. Regnerus infamously worked with conservative groups during the marriage equality fight to distort research so that they could claim that same-sex couples made bad parents. There were massive flaws in how he collected his research, such that it really had nothing to say about same-sex couples — let alone their parenting — whatsoever.

Ever since he was publicly excoriated for this biased distortions, he periodically has reappeared whenever a study finds that discrimination or rejection actually hurts LGBTQ people to say, “Well, does it really say that?” In this case, for example, he suggests that making trans kids wait to transition isn’t such a bad thing (it is), and that maybe the largest study of transgender people ever conducted isn’t a very reliable sample (it is). It’s all concern trolling from someone with clear prejudice and it’s designed to suggest that there are some high-minded reasons not to buy into certain LGBTQ-affirming narratives (there aren’t).

I wanted to bring this to your attention just so that you know that this is the kind of stuff that always come from the right. It’s an attempt to poke holes and reinforce doubts so that people feel justified in holding onto their bigotries. Know that it exists, but read it with his obvious motivations in mind.

Quick Hits

  • A transgender man’s lawsuit against a California Catholic hospital that refused to perform his hysterectomy has been given the green light to proceed after a lower court dismissed his complaint.

  • A new study finds that a quarter of LGBTQ employees have experienced bullying in the workplace. The worst industry? Tech.

  • Another new study confirmed that transgender college students are more likely to experience mental health issues than other students.

  • Purdue University is defending its decision to allow a Chick-fil-A on campus so as not to “deprive” the people who’ve asked for it. In their statement, the school failed to demonstrate a basic understanding of why so many others were protesting it.

  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida has passed both a comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance and a ban on conversion therapy.

  • A new report from the Movement Advancement Project explores the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ people of color who live in rural parts of the country.

  • The Ural State University of Economics in Russia threatened to expel a student for being gay, based in part on the fact that his phone case was pink.

  • Lesbian singer-songwriter Anna Calvi has opened up about the homophobic abuse she has experienced after kissing her girlfriend in a bar.

  • Musician Mark Ronson has come out as sapiosexual — meaning he’s attracted to intelligence — in addition to being bisexual.

  • What does it mean to be both bi and nonbinary? GLAAD’s Mackenzie Harte shares her experiences in a new essay for BiWeek.


In case you didn’t get around to reading it yet and maybe almost forgot about it, here’s another link to yesterday’s bonus issue.

Until next time, stay platinum!

(Pete Buttigieg photo credit: Flickr/Ted Eytan.)