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Twitter Crowdsources Manhunt for Philadelphia Hate-Crime Attackers, Suspects Turn Themselves In: VIDEO

Suspects

Yesterday, we told you about a brutal hate crime that took place in Philadelphia's City Center. Last night, Philadelphia Police released a surveillance video that appeared to show a group of up to 12 people they identified as suspects in the assault. Shortly thereafter, the video spread like wildfire on social media and resulted in the suspects being identified. Philadelphia Magazine reports: 

PhillyWithin hours, former Real Housewives of New Jersey castmate Greg Bennett tweeted this photo [pictured right] that he claims — because of similarities in clothing — includes some of the alleged suspects in the hate crime that happened on Thursday in Center City. 

Not long after, police were contacted by lawyers for the suspects. 6ABC reports: "Late Tuesday night, Action News has learned attorneys for some members of the group have called police. They are making arrangements to bring their clients in for questioning on Wednesday."

Twitter user @FanSince09 also played a pivotal role in identifying the suspects. He was able to identify the restaurant shown in the background of the photo tweeted by Bennett and also used Facebook check-ins to help identify the attackers. 

No arrests have been made, but Philadelphia police are crediting Twitter and social media users with helping to solve this case.

Philadelphia native and NPR social media guru Melody Kramer documented how the crowdsourced Twitter sleuthing went down using Storify. Check out her excellent timeline along with a news report that shows the surveillance video in question and includes an interview with @FanSince09, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Twitter Crowdsources Manhunt for Philadelphia Hate-Crime Attackers, Suspects Turn Themselves In: VIDEO" »


Facebook Agrees To Meet With Drag Community Members Following 'Real Name' Controversy

Heklina_drag_queen_performing

In response to a planned protest at their headquarters, representatives from Facebook have agreed to meet with Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and David Campos, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, about Facebook’s recent crackdown on the use of drag names.

Hundreds of drag queens found their public Facebook profiles deactivated last week after Facebook began to enforce its rules stating that all users must attach their birth names to personal pages. While members of the drag community were not explicitly targeted by the crackdown, drag queens seems to have been disproportionately affected given their tendency to embody their personae as public figures.

“I’ve had this name for 20 years now,” San Francisco-based performer Heklina explained to Tech Crunch “I walk down the street and people say ‘Hi Heklina.’ People know me by my drag name.”

Heklina claimed that every single drag performer that she knew in the Bay Area had been affected by Facebook’s enforcement of the policy, robbing them of the ability to keep their drag lives separate from their personal ones.

“This is like in the 1950’s when drag queens would perform at the club and then had to quickly change into their boy clothes after to keep from getting harassed,” she said, citing the many queens that were effectively forced to out themselves.

Initially Facebook responded by suggesting that drag performers attach their aliases to profiles featuring their actual names or create fan pages for their characters as an alternative. Fan pages, says Heklina, often don’t really capture what all it means to be a drag fixture in a local community.

“While many drag queens are 'out' about who they are, not all drag queens have that luxury," San Francisco Boardmember Scott Weiner wrote in a Facebook post. "Preventing drag queens from using the names that actually define who they are also puts a number of people in the untenable position of having to choose between telling the world that they’re drag queens and abandoning Facebook for their drag personas.”


Kazakhstan Politician Claims Gays Can Be Identified By 'Colored Pants', Blood Tests For 'Degeneracy'

Dauren Babamuratov

A Kazakhstan politician has said that gay people can be easily identified by blood testing for “degeneracy,” reports Tengri News.

Dauren Babamuratov, leader of the Bolashak national movement, made the comments at a press conference calling for laws banning LGBT people from spreading “propaganda,” taking public office and serving in the military.

KazakhstanAccording to TengriNews, Babamuratov said:

"We have stooped so low that LGBTs no longer hide their orientation. One can see a lot of people in the city's malls and other public places - these are young people in colored pants. This means they no longer hide their orientation.

“I think it is very easy to identify a gay person by his or her DNA. A blood test can show the presence of degeneratism in a person. Unfortunately, suppressing activities of the LGBT community in Kazakhstan is extremely difficult, because there is no law in our country prohibiting this type of activity, that is, the promotion of homosexuality.”

At the same press conference, Sanzhar Bokayev, the Head of the Youth Policies Department in the country’s largest city Almaty, said that Kazakhstan's gay community was "supported and funded from abroad" and is now “a big problem that concerns our society,"

However, activist and journalist Zhanar Sekerbayeva said “there is no gay ‘propaganda’ in Kazakhstan, but there is homophobia. The question of gay marriage in Kazakhstan has never been on the agenda. There have been no public speeches or gay pride parades. There is only homophobia and discrimination of women.”

Viktoria Tyuleneva, the Director of Freedom House in Kazakhstan added that if new anti-gay laws are adopted, “Kazakhstan will face grievances at every international forum it attends, and this will draw a squall of criticism from all international organisations.”

Last weekend, Babamuratov took to Facebook to defend his views regarding gay "propaganda": 

The promotion of homosexuality can be defined as activities aimed at disseminating information, [creating positive images of] homosexuals and homosexual relations and stimulating interest in sexual intercourse with persons of thesame sex, which creates the illusion of normality of homosexual relationships..."

Dauren Babamuratov facebook


Facebook Begins Enforcing 'Real Name' Policy, Disproportionately Affecting GLBT Performers

My Name Is Roma

Facebook requires members to use their real names, a fact of which most folks are likely unaware due to the policy largely being unenforced, a decision quite possibly made due to the substantial blowback Google Plus received with their mandatory real name policy that they only recently rescinded. However, Facebook is now cracking down on their policy and the fallout is a disproportionate effect on LGBT individuals and drag performers in particular.

In a remarkably tone-deaf response in an interview with Business Insider, a Facebook representative said:

If people want to use an alternative name on Facebook, they have several different options available to them, including providing an alias under their name on their profile, or creating a Page specifically for that alternative persona.

As part of our overall standards, we ask that people who use Facebook provide their real name on their profile.

Fan Pages and Musician/Group categories are how stars like Lady Gaga, Madonna, RuPaul, and will.i.am keep their obvious stage names. 

Sister Roma of the San Francisco chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is presently one of the more high-profile dissenters to the policy. When Roma, who now has to go by Michael Williams in order for his Facebook account to remain active, was told to create a Fan page he responded

I use this site to keep up with friends and simply don't want employers or crazy stalker people to log on and search me . I want my friends to find me...I detest the idea of having a fan page. I'm not fucking Britney Spears. I have friends, not fans.

Saying additionally:

Bottom Line: I've been Sister Roma for 27 years. Ask anyone what my name is, in or out of drag, and they will tell you it's Roma. #MyNameIsRoma

Which brings to the forefront something that Facebook may not be considering: safety. While no doubt some users adopt pseudonyms for the purposes of trolling or harassment, no small number adopt fake names to protect their privacy and safety, and when that privacy is broken it can lead to disastrous results as one particularly devastating incident on Google Plus revealed.

This mandatory outing could be especially destructive for LGBT youth who need the protection of anonymity to connect with friends and resources without subjecting themselves to the hatred of peers...or even their own family. Going to Sister Roma again, she posted a message she received from a friend when the name change went into effect:

Here is an example of the comments i have received regarding Facebook's legal name change policy:

"The name I was born with is the name of a victim, a lonely little boy who hated himself.

That is NOT who I am. 

#MyNameIsJayd"

Adding to all of the chaos and shady business, Roma went to reply to a message from Sister Unity and found that the entire thread had been censored, along with other conversations that had discussed Facebook's name change policy. 

Then there's the whole question of "How does Facebook enforce this?" Unlike Google Plus, users don't have to submit photographic proof of identity when they sign up, so it seems to be that enforcement his highly subjective and is going to target people with obvious stage names rather than people who are simply creating a fake profile with a real-sounding name. Enforcement is also very spotty; Roma and some Sisters have been forced to change their names, while other Sisters like Nancy Drew Blood and performers like Heklina have their drag names intact. 

A Change.org petition has been started to demand that Facebook allow performers of all types be allowed to use their stage names and is seeking 2,800 signatures. As of right now, Facebook hasn't commented any further on the issue.


First Person: #WhyILeft What I First Thought Was a Consensual Leather Relationship

Vancouver_Pride_Parade_-_Flag_(3816236455)

#WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft have gone viral on Twitter since the Ray Rice domestic violence revelations. Our friend David M posted his story of surviving domestic abuse on Facebook earlier today and has given Towleroad permission to share it.

I was helped by several wonderful people when I was a homeless boy, discarded by my LDS family. There was Jim, the leatherman who introduced me properly to the leather scene, the man from whom I earned my first leathers. And there was Miss Gladys, the Black trans sex worker who took me in and gave me a home for a time, who was to me like a mother, and who made the best fried chicken I have ever had.

Then there was Paul. He gave me a place to live, too. But it came at a price. He beat me, raped me, abused me emotionally and financially, and lent me out to his friends. All under the guise of a BDSM relationship, which I wanted desperately. He taught me I had to start out living as his slave if I wanted to be in the scene. I was young and stupid and I believed him. I thought it was normal. And I was afraid of being back on the street, where I was already being raped and abused, anyway. That's #WhyIStayed, far too long. But one day I found the courage to leave.

We were watching tv downstairs by the pool. I locked him into the room, went upstairs and threw my clothes into a bag, and walked out the door. I had no money, no friends, nowhere to go. But I walked out. I walked 50 miles to Tampa where I knew there was a leather bar and other leathermen. That weekend, I went to the local bar, and I started telling people my story. I met Jim, who I mentioned earlier. Jim was an old school (some would say Old Guard) leatherman. He gave me a place to live, and this time there were no strings attached. I would have slept with him; I was used to sleeping with men for food or shelter. But for the  year I lived with him, he never touched me. He taught me how to have a healthy, consensual leather relationship. He taught me the difference between BDSM and abuse. But back to the story...

A few months after I had left, I was at the bar, this was the 2606 in Tampa which some of you may know. Jim was not with me, so I was alone when Paul walked in and tried to get me to leave with him. After being afraid of him for so long, I wasn't afraid any longer. I yelled at him; I told him I was going nowhere with him.

The music kept playing, of course, but all around me men went quiet and turned toward us. The pool games stopped. The tension in the room was palpable. Paul grabbed me by the arm and began to pull me toward the door. And suddenly, something magical happened. The leathermen in that bar closed ranks in front of us. And all around us. Tampa had a small leather community, just the one bar, so I already knew these men, and they knew my story. They knew who Paul was and why he was there. As ethical leathermen, they stepped up to protect me.

Paul didn't really understand what was going on, but for the first time I saw fear on *his* face. I experienced a sudden realization of how small and pitiful he really was. I pulled my arm from his grip. I was shaking not with fear but with anger; I leaned in close to him and I told him that these were my friends, that this was my bar, and that he was not welcome here. He should leave, and never come back. He never did.

To this day I still ask myself #WhyILeft. But I really don't know. Why was it that one day I suddenly had the courage that I had never had before? I don't know. I'm just glad I did. I wish I had done it much sooner.

David M. is now married to his longtime partner. He teaches and mentors young men entering the leather scene. He says the most important thing he teaches them is how to tell the difference between healthy BDSM and abuse. He recommends consulting the site Kink Abuse for more information on the topic.

From time to time Towleroad runs first person stories spotted on social media we think will be of interest to the broader community. Hat tip to Jim Landé for spotting this one. If you come across a particularly timely, moving, amazing or otherwise worthy post, please let us know through our contact form or drop us an email at tips at towleroad dot com.

Previously in this series:
How Three Restaurant Workers Restored a Gay Man's Faith in Humanity [tlrd]

[image kyle pierce - wikimedia commons]


Facebook Donates $10,000 to Utah's Anti-gay Attorney General Sean Reyes

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes' re-election campaign got a healthy influx of cash from Facebook, Inc. back in May, according to disclosures filed with the Utah Lieutenant Governor's office.

ReyesThe company, which is usually a strong corporate backer of LGBT equality, donated $10,000 to the man who vowed late last year to 'spend whatever it takes' to prevent gay couples from obtaining marriage licenses in his state.

QSalt Lake reports:

When asked about the donation to the person who has arguably become the face of legal opposition to marriage equality in America, a Facebook spokesperson responded with:

“Facebook has a strong record on LGBT issues and that will not change, but we make decisions about which candidates to support based on the entire portfolio of issues important to our business, not just one. A contribution to a candidate does not mean that we agree with every policy or position that candidate takes. We made this donation for the same reason we’ve donated to Attorneys General on the opposite side of this issue – because they are committed to fostering innovation and an open Internet.”

LGBT supporters unsatisfied with Facebook's response have launched an online petition calling for the company to "publicly decry this bigotry and make an equal or greater contribution to the campaign of Charles Stormont who is also seeking the office of Utah Attorney General."

Earlier this month, we reported that Reyes had appealed a Tenth Circuit's decision striking down the state's gay marriage ban directly to the U.S. Supreme court 


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