July 17, 2014
2005’s Constantine, directed by Francis Lewis, was essentially an excuse to watch Keanu Reeves smoulder on screen and Tilda Swinton rock a pair of post-modern angel wings. Constantine, which was based on Vertigo Comics’s Hellblazer series, was met with mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. The movie bore little resemblance to the source material other its characters’ names. John Constantine was no longer blonde, English, charming, or apparently bisexual the way he’d been on the pages of Hellblazer.
Late last year Deadline reported that NBC had greenlit a Constantine reboot for its fall lineup. As casting announcements were made and promotional footage released, fans of the comics were left wondering if this incarnation of the supernatural antihero would be truer to its roots.
Daniel Cerone, executive producer for NBC’s Constantine, set the record straight this past Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s press junket. One of the more interesting things about the Hellblazer series was that its characters aged in real time over the book’s 30 year run. Bisexual as Constantine may have been, the bulk of his love interests were women.
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“[T]here might have been one or two issues where he’s seen getting out of bed with a man.” Cerone explained, musing about future developments for the character. “So [maybe] 20 years from now? But there are no immediate plans.”
Unlike his love of cigarettes, Constantine’s sexuality was never exactly an ancillary aspect of his character. But it wasn’t something that the character himself, and his writers by extension, ever outright dismissed or retconned. Charlie Jane Anders of io9 agrees that the NBC’s decision to tone down Constantine’s smoking is a little more egregious, but felt as if the network definitely missed an opportunity:

I didn’t mean to skate over this issue quite so glibly — blame deadlines and pre-Comic-Con phone calls. I do think erasing queer people from pop culture is a shitty thing to do, and we desperately need more pop culture that represents the whole range of human sexuality. And it really wouldn’t have cost much for them to include an aside about ex-boyfriends along with ex-girlfriends. At the same time, to me the most important aspect of John Constantine is not who he fucks, but who he fucks over.  

A Pew study published last June reported that bisexually identified individuals composed the largest percentage of their survey sample that included gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgendered people. Conversely, on average lesbians and gays reported being far more open with friends and family about their sexual orientation than their bisexual counterparts.
One of the major challenges to combating what many queer people have identified as “bi-invisibility,” is finding opportunities to introduce bisexuals into the popular conscious. Calls to action for compulsory comings out for bisexuals are neither moral nor realistic, but programming like Constantine has the potential to push that conversation in the right direction.
 

2005’s Constantine, directed by Francis Lewis, was essentially an excuse to watch Keanu Reeves smoulder on screen and Tilda Swinton rock a pair of post-modern angel wings. Constantine, which was based on Vertigo Comics’s Hellblazer series, was met with mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. The movie bore little resemblance to the source material other its characters’ names. John Constantine was no longer blonde, English, charming, or apparently bisexual the way he’d been on the pages of Hellblazer.

Late last year Deadline reported that NBC had greenlit a Constantine reboot for its fall lineup. As casting announcements were made and promotional footage released, fans of the comics were left wondering if this incarnation of the supernatural antihero would be truer to its roots.

Daniel Cerone, executive producer for NBC’s Constantine, set the record straight this past Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s press junket. One of the more interesting things about the Hellblazer series was that its characters aged in real time over the book’s 30 year run. Bisexual as Constantine may have been, the bulk of his love interests were women.

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July 15, 2014

 

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July 15, 2014
TIME Magazine contributor, and current University of Mississippi senior, Sierra Mannie has penned an open letter to the white, male members of the gay community concerning what she feels is the widespread appropriation of black female culture:

"Maybe, for some of you, it’s a presumed mutual appreciation for Beyoncé and weaves that has you thinking that I’m going to be amused by you approaching me in your best “Shanequa from around the way” voice. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I don’t care how well you can quote Madea, who told you that your booty was getting bigger than hers, how cute you think it is to call yourself a strong black woman, who taught you to twerk, how funny you think it is to call yourself Quita or Keisha or for which black male you’ve been bottoming — you are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you.”

4284It’s not so much that gays have come to appreciate certain manifestations of black femininity that have flourished in the broader culture, Mannie argues. The line between the appreciative and problematic is crossed when gay men over-identify with black women to the point of forgetting that “strong black womanhood” isn’t something to be affected. It’s an identity tied to a very specific kind of life experience inexorably tied to one’s race and gender.
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"In all of the ways that your gender and race give you so much, in those exact same ways, our gender and race work against our prosperity. To claim that you’re a minority woman just for the sake of laughs, and to say that the things allowed her or the things enjoyed by her are done better by you isn’t cute or funny."

Chuck Knipp, the comedian behind the drag persona Shirley Q. Liquor, has drawn varying degrees of criticism for his use of blackface and heavy reliance negative stereotypes about black women in his act. It’s easy to point out egregious examples like Knipp and decry their behaviour while overlooking the more subtle, but very real strains of misogyny and racism fostered within gay male culture—particularly when they masquerade as kitsch.
 
Reactions to the piece have varied from emphatic agreement to flat-out dismissal.
Reactions to the piece have varied from emphatic agreement to flat-out dismissal. In a piece for Thought Catalog comedian H. Alan Scott, challenged Mannie to broaden her ideas of what constitutes the “proper” kinds of actions for men and women, gay, straight, black, or white.
“Must I, as a gay white man, only like and act in a certain way because I’m a gay white man?” He asks. “Must that black woman pretend to like Beyonce when maybe, just maybe, she likes Katy Perry?
“[T]he last thing we want is for people to embrace other cultures.” Wrote another reader.  “Just have the blacks and the whites keep to [their] own sides of the town. Next thing you know they might start marrying each other and having kids.”
Far from calling for the resurrection of anti-miscegenation laws Mannie, like everyone else who has ever made her points is simply looking for people to be more cognizant of their actions.

"All of this being said, you should not have to stop liking the things you like. This is not an attempt to try to suck the fun out of your life.  
If you love some of the same things that some black women love, by all means, you and your black girlfriends go ahead and rock the hell out. Regardless of what our privileges and lack of privileges are, regardless of the laws and rhetoric that have attempted to divide us, we are equal, even though we aren’t the same, and that is okay. Claiming our identity for what’s sweet without ever having to taste its sour is not.”

TIME Magazine contributor, and current University of Mississippi senior, Sierra Mannie has penned an open letter to the white, male members of the gay community concerning what she feels is the widespread appropriation of black female culture:

"Maybe, for some of you, it’s a presumed mutual appreciation for Beyoncé and weaves that has you thinking that I’m going to be amused by you approaching me in your best “Shanequa from around the way” voice. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I don’t care how well you can quote Madea, who told you that your booty was getting bigger than hers, how cute you think it is to call yourself a strong black woman, who taught you to twerk, how funny you think it is to call yourself Quita or Keisha or for which black male you’ve been bottoming — you are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you.”

4284It’s not so much that gays have come to appreciate certain manifestations of black femininity that have flourished in the broader culture, Mannie argues. The line between the appreciative and problematic is crossed when gay men over-identify with black women to the point of forgetting that “strong black womanhood” isn’t something to be affected. It’s an identity tied to a very specific kind of life experience inexorably tied to one’s race and gender.

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July 15, 2014
The Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. could pose a significant threat to the fight for broader access to comprehensive treatment for HIV/AIDS. The ruling, handed down last week, held that closely held, for-profit corporations could be exempt from laws in direct conflict with their religious beliefs.
Hobby Lobby took specific issue with four forms of contraception the Affordable Care Act required it to provide its employees through its healthcare. While the bulk of the Hobby Lobby conversation has centered around religious objections to contraceptives, Media Matters points out that similar arguments could be made against Truvada, a drug just as socially polarizing.
A form of pre-exposure prophylaxis, (PrEP) Truvada has proven itself to be an overwhelmingly effective means of blocking HIV infection when taken properly. With a 99% efficacy rate, an endorsement from the CDC, and increasing deployment in public health initiatives, Truvada has the potential to be a key component in halting new HIV infection rates.
As Carlos Maza points out in Media Matters, however, the conversation around Truvada bears a striking resemblance to the debate about birth control. “[T]he Truvada debate recalls the way birth control was viewed in some quarters in the 1960s — as an accessory to promiscuity.”

The Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. could pose a significant threat to the fight for broader access to comprehensive treatment for HIV/AIDS. The ruling, handed down last week, held that closely held, for-profit corporations could be exempt from laws in direct conflict with their religious beliefs.

Hobby Lobby took specific issue with four forms of contraception the Affordable Care Act required it to provide its employees through its healthcare. While the bulk of the Hobby Lobby conversation has centered around religious objections to contraceptives, Media Matters points out that similar arguments could be made against Truvada, a drug just as socially polarizing.

A form of pre-exposure prophylaxis, (PrEP) Truvada has proven itself to be an overwhelmingly effective means of blocking HIV infection when taken properly. With a 99% efficacy rate, an endorsement from the CDC, and increasing deployment in public health initiatives, Truvada has the potential to be a key component in halting new HIV infection rates.

As Carlos Maza points out in Media Matters, however, the conversation around Truvada bears a striking resemblance to the debate about birth control. “[T]he Truvada debate recalls the way birth control was viewed in some quarters in the 1960s — as an accessory to promiscuity.”

July 14, 2014
Television shows and movies like Looking, and Dallas Buyers Club are increasingly bringing LGBT stories to the big and small screens, but their representations of diversity within the queer community are sorely lacking. White, gay, male characters are grossly overrepresented, according to a Vox analysis of a number of recent shows and films focusing on gay narratives. The issue, write Alex Abad-Santos, is not with the specific stories that are depicted, but rather with the meta-narrative created by an unchanging stream of stories solely about white guys:

“We don’t and shouldn’t expect anyone to change Harvey Milk’s race or change who Larry Kramer’s friends were. Kramer’s and Milk’s experiences aren’t in our control. However, choosing which stories to tell is. And having a willingness to tell other kinds of stories, perhaps some that are just as worthy as Milk’s or Kramer’s, from places we’re not necessarily looking, is something filmmakers and writers can do better.”

Gary Gates, an LGBT demographer at UCLA, says that statistically speaking the kinds of LGBT groups being portrayed in modern media simply don’t reflect reality. In addition to nearly half of the characters being non-white “if you had a show with a cast of 20 characters who were LGBT, two-thirds of the women would be bisexual, and one-third of the women would be lesbians, while two-thirds of the men would be gay, and one-third would be bi.”
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Gates goes on to point out the disproportionate amount of screen-time given to characters that read as being affluent. The persistent idea that all LGBT individuals are more economically successful than their heterosexual counterparts is due in large part to to a conflation of statistical findings. College graduated, same-sex couples, with two partners actively participating in the workforce do, on average, make more than heterosexuals, Gates explained in 2013 to US News. These couples make statistical headlines because they are exceptional, however, and portraying them as The New Normal is disingenuous at best and problematic at worst.
In terms of movies and documentaries like The Normal Heart and How To Survive A Plague, filmmakers are presented with the task of parsing through the historical record in order to suss out compelling stories. Problems arise when the cinematic truth depicted on screen only reflect the limited perspectives of certain characters. In an interview with Vulture Sarah Schulman, co-creator of The ACT UP Oral History Project, recently voiced her misgivings about what she perceived as a whitewashing of early HIV/AIDS activism as depicted in How To Survive A Plague.

We call it “The Five White People Who Saved the World” — that’s our nickname for it. And those white people are very busy because apparently they’re always saving everything all the time. Everywhere you go, you see them.

Referring to a discussion following screenings of Jim Hubbard’s United in Anger: A History of ACT UP and David France’s How To Survive a Plague, Schulman recalls that same point blank critique.

At one point they open up for questions and the first question to David is: Why do you have no women or people of color in the film? And he says, well I wanted to focus on wealthy white men because they had the time to devote to activism. Now as a person who has interviewed 168 surviving members of ACT UP New York, I can tell you that’s not historically correct.
People in ACT UP gave their entire lives to ACT UP. All different kinds of people from every class and background would report in our interviews that they were at ACT UP five nights a week, that their entire life was ACT UP. And that had nothing to do with how much money you had. And the second thing he said was that these men went to good universities and so they were able to understand the science. That is absurd. The audience almost started laughing. One of the best experts on the science of AIDS in ACT UP was Garance Franke-Ruta who was 19. We all sat there and realized that this man knows nothing about ACT UP.

Watch a video of the exchange below:

I originally wrote this for Towleroad.

Television shows and movies like Looking, and Dallas Buyers Club are increasingly bringing LGBT stories to the big and small screens, but their representations of diversity within the queer community are sorely lacking. White, gay, male characters are grossly overrepresented, according to a Vox analysis of a number of recent shows and films focusing on gay narratives. The issue, write Alex Abad-Santos, is not with the specific stories that are depicted, but rather with the meta-narrative created by an unchanging stream of stories solely about white guys:

“We don’t and shouldn’t expect anyone to change Harvey Milk’s race or change who Larry Kramer’s friends were. Kramer’s and Milk’s experiences aren’t in our control. However, choosing which stories to tell is. And having a willingness to tell other kinds of stories, perhaps some that are just as worthy as Milk’s or Kramer’s, from places we’re not necessarily looking, is something filmmakers and writers can do better.”

Gary Gates, an LGBT demographer at UCLA, says that statistically speaking the kinds of LGBT groups being portrayed in modern media simply don’t reflect reality. In addition to nearly half of the characters being non-white “if you had a show with a cast of 20 characters who were LGBT, two-thirds of the women would be bisexual, and one-third of the women would be lesbians, while two-thirds of the men would be gay, and one-third would be bi.”

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