Outsourced Issue Five: Some Weeks, This Thing Writes Itself
It was a ridykeulously queer week in the news
One thing I love about launching Outsourced at the peak of election season is the way LGBTQ news has been slowly returning to the media cycle now that Trump is slightly less able to suck all the oxygen out of the room. This week did not disappoint: from Elliot Page and Rhea Butcher coming out as trans to the death of North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill,” there was a lot to actually celebrate for once. There were some rough stories too, of course, because it wouldn’t be The News™️ if it weren’t at least a little depressing 🙃.
It’s World AIDS Day as I write this, and I’m reflecting on how far we’ve come—and on how my childhood informed my commitment to telling LGBTQ stories. Growing up in 1980s New York City, most of my mom’s friends were gay men. A hip young artist and single mom, she naturally found herself in a community where everyone did drag or worked in fashion or was part of the party scene at places like Pyramid Club. I’m blessed enough to have attended Wigstock in Tompkins Square Park as a child, and to have met Basquiat and the B52’s before finishing junior high. It was a fun but messy upbringing. We often had weird living situations with things like a shared toilet down a creepy basement hallway, a toaster oven to replace the lack of a kitchen, or a tub sink used for bathing in lieu of a shower—but we were wealthy in culture and I was constantly exposed to queer brilliance. It was also the height of the AIDS pandemic in the gay community, which was our family at the time.
I remember going with my mom to visit her friend Isaia Rankin, a rising young fashion designer. At age 13, I was starting to work as a fashion model and I worshipped Isaia, so watching him waste away in the hospital was heartbreaking and horrifying. He seemed to be literally turning into a skeleton before our eyes. And it happened so fast. One day he was the darling of the fashion world, and then he was simply dead. Isaia was only 35 when he passed in 1989; AIDS was still so stigmatized that his obituary in the New York Times claimed he died from “respiratory failure.” I’ve talked about those visits with my mom since, and she says she felt at the time that it was important for me to see what was happening. She also says that most hospital staff treated AIDS patients like nuclear waste. Nurses wouldn’t even enter the room to bring in food; the lovers and friends of people dying from AIDS had to do everything themselves, staying round-the-clock in hospital rooms to make sure people were fed and washed and held and loved. A few years ago, my mom bequeathed one of Isaia’s old pieces to me. It’s just a plain brown bodycon top, but I cherish it because it helps me remember. And every once in a while, someone will write about Isaia, like in this Sotheby’s blog post I came across.
The world is so radically different today. I have HIV-positive friends who are healthy and not at risk of getting sick, much less dying quick and painful deaths in hospitals where the dying are shunned by those who should be their salvation. People living with HIV can talk openly about it without losing their careers, as Jonathan Van Ness does in the story linked below. Anyone who lived through the AIDS era will never forget it, but somehow this massive transformation offers a bit of healing and a lot of hope. We’re living through another life-altering pandemic right now, one that enforces its own brand of isolation on everyone. If there’s one lesson that I’m bringing to Covid from my experience of AIDS in the 1980s, it’s that no one should suffer in isolation. Queer people especially are too brilliant, too beautiful, too resilient, too committed to loving to stay locked down for long. My hope for 2021 is that we’ll get Covid under control (thanks, Dolly Parton) and that we’ll slowly, cautiously, and safely get back to thriving instead of just surviving.
THIS WEEK’S TEA 🍵
HB2 Expired On Tuesday
North Carolina’s famous anti-trans “bathroom bill” banned all cities and towns from passing LGBTQ protection laws, and caused the state to lose millions of dollars after national outcry. Yesterday, that law expired—and no one expects the state legislature will dare try to bring it back. The Atlantic talked to locals about the day HB2 died.
Aimee Stephens’ Old Boss Has to Donate $250,000 In Court Settlement
A transgender woman fired by her longtime employer, R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, went all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for her rights. And she won, with June’s historic ruling that trans people are protected by gender discrimination laws in the workplace. Stephens sadly died the month before the ruling, but this week a federal judge ordered her former employer to pay a quarter of a million dollars, split between the ACLU and Stephens’ estate. The details are in this Advocate story.
Ugly Smear Campaign Against Trans Candidate Over Sex Work Past
On Sunday, the New York Post ran a story about local city council candidate Elisa Crespo, who aims to replace outgoing Ritchie Torres as he moves into his new role in Congress. But the headline, “Ex-prostitute Elisa Crespo vies to become first trans member of NYC Council,” was classic Post trash—and it royally pissed off prominent members of New York’s political elite. AMNY pubbed some thoughtful coverage, including context on how many trans people do sex work in the face of discrimination that creates barriers to employment.
JVN Talks HIV and Stigma on the Cover of SELF
When Jonathan Van Ness (of Queer Eye fame, in case you’ve been living under a rock) came out about living with HIV, he was in the middle of a massively successful turn in his career. In the past, such a move could have destroyed a career—but JVN used his platform to attack the stigma around the virus. My former INTO colleague Mathew Rodriguez interviewed JVN for a gorgeous Self cover story.
LGBTQ-Inclusive Companies Do Better On The Stock Market
As a lifelong poor, I do not know a single thing about stocks or markets. But this study from Credit Suisse shows that corporate diversity and inclusion efforts literally pay off. “Credit Suisse said it selected basket members based on either the presence of openly LGBTQ managers in senior positions or recognition as a top LGBTQ-inclusive employer in surveys such as the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index,” says this Bloomberg piece. There’s even a handy chart that shows it pays to hire gays.
Trump Could Have Won If It Weren’t For LGBTQ Voters
Using exit poll data that only very recently started including sexual orientation, the Washington Post came to the conclusion that LGBTQ voters likely helped Biden win in swing states. If you know me at all, you’ve probably heard me rant about how little data there is on LGBTQ Americans (we aren’t counted in the census, there’s no lesbian or trans exit polls, etc.) and why it is vital that we be counted. This news illustrates why that’s so important.
Laverne Cox and Friend Attacked While Hiking in Los Angeles
Ugh. It was so unnerving to see Laverne Cox post this, but after I watched I was just really relieved that she wasn’t hurt. Her friend was physically attacked after trying to come to her aid, though, and she said she believes the incident was motivated by the attacker’s attempt to “clock” her as trans.
World AIDS Day Reminds Us That MSMs Are Still Banned From Donating Blood—In a Global Pandemic 🤦🏻
The FDA is a weird place. For years, the federal agency said that gay and bisexual men (AKA men who sleep with men or MSMs in data collection terms) could not donate blood unless they promised not to have sex with any guys for a year before donating. Then Covid hit, and with it a desperate need for blood, so the FDA changed the year of abstinence to 3 months of abstinence. Why 3 months? No one really knows. Blood is tested for diseases when it’s taken at donation centers, and it’s not like gay men are trying to sneak some kind of spooky gay blood magic into Red Cross vans. And it’s not like tons of straights don’t have the HIV virus. There is no good explanation for the policy, other than the stigma of the AIDS era being hard to let go of.
Beauty Retailer Lush Donates Thousands to Anti-Trans Group
Dammit, I really liked those bath bombs. R.I.P. to my collection of soap freshly sliced off giant soap logs. Pink News has the scoop on how Lush gave 3,000 British pounds to anti-trans organization A Woman’s Place UK.
Trans Women Are Banned From World Rugby
Look, if girls wanna bash each other head-first and get absolutely covered in mud while doing it, they should be able to—regardless of assigned sex at birth. I won’t be doing that, personally. But go off, rugby dykes. World Rugby’s ban on trans players came in October, but this smart op-ed in The Conversation written by two professors (Sports Management and Kinesiology) pubbed on Monday.
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Non-Depressing Fun News Zone! 🥳
Chopin Was a Horny Homo
The world has been covering up queer love for so long, we often don’t even know who our ancestors are. Everyone please welcome Frederic Chopin, the great Polish and French composer, to the family. It’s been nearly 200 years since he died, but someone finally figured out why he was writing all those erotic letters to his guy friends. Here’s the CNN exposé.
Rhea Butcher Comes Out as Trans
Always ahead of the curve, comedian Rhea Butcher came out as trans three entire days before Elliot Page. It’s not a competition…or is it? 🤨 In perfectly Gen Z fashion, author Austen E. Osworth responded to Butcher’s announcement by declaring that “being trans fucking slaps.”
Elliot Page Broke the Internet (and Confused Newsrooms Everywhere)
Page, star of Juno and the X-Men and Umbrella Academy and Gaycation and that GIF that says “I am here today because I am gay,” came out as trans on Tuesday. With a new name and he/they pronouns to tackle, mainstream newsrooms grappled with how to avoid using the actor’s previous name. Read Elliot’s emotional public letter.
And now, here are a bunch of tweets that loosely summarize the community’s feelings on this historic occasion.
EVENT OF THE WEEK
Victory Institute’s International LGBTQ Leaders Conference is online Thursday-Saturday, and the biggest challenge is trying to name someone who isn’t speaking there. If you aren’t familiar, Victory Institute and Victory Fund are responsible for getting pretty much every LGBTQ candidate in history elected. Don’t miss it!