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Russian Teen Fights Homophobia on Twitter

SOS Profile PicWith the Russian government passing its new laws on gay "propaganda", it has effectively created one of the most hostile climates on the planet for its LGBT citizens. LGBT Russians face discrimination, entrapment, and violence, and are unable to go to the authorities should they become the victim of a crime. This has caused many gay Russians and LGBT advocacy groups to go underground, often relying on the anonymity of the web to stay safe. One activist is choosing not to remain anonymous, though, and has taken to Twitter to advocate for his fellow LGBT Russians both nationally and globally. The account is @ru_lgbt_teen, and currently boasts almost 700 followers. The account's administrator recently say down for an interview with Vice Magazine.

"Generally speaking, you have a gay teen being seen as a 'disenfranchised deviant' in the eyes of society and the state. People are different, but the male members of society are trying to avoid having anything to do with gays, [because they don’t want anybody] to think that they are gay. In Russia, gays are not people."

Tweet photoIn terms of the actual content of the account, much of it is standard fare for any teenager on social media: personal life updates, snapshots of his daily activities, his periodic struggles with depression. His current home, however, as well as his willingness to display his homosexuality, makes it much more revolutionary. He also tweets updates on Russian news, as well as homoerotic historical depictions of men from Russia's artistic past. Thanks to the release of the Vice interview, many have also reached out and expressed their support for the Twitter account, which he occasionally retweets. 

Be ProudHe also told Vice how, while no one has felt safe approaching him in person, many gay Russians have reached out to him via social media:

"In real life, I do not know of any other LGBT teens. But on social networking sites, I talk with several kids from other cities. I would not say that their problems are drastically different from my problems. Not all of them know what it means to be an outcast at school, but they know firsthand what it means to be an outcast in society as a whole."

He also occasionally tweets the desire to leave Russia and seek asylum abroad:

"I would very much like to leave Russia. I would say that for me, it is a kind of an obsession at the moment. I can't be granted asylum, because I cannot prove school bullying, and I do not have the mental health or the mental capacity to protest to help the gays. But that does not mean that I am not doing anything to leave Russia. In the fall I will start learning German, and I plan to study for a few years in Germany. For me, this is one of the most accessible options in terms of my financial situation."

You can read the full interview HERE, and follow the Twitter account HERE

Laverne Cox On Being A Trans Actress and 'Orange Is The New Black'


If you have not yet indulged in a binge-watching session of the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, consider this a warning: You are missing out on the best show of the summer.

Inspired by the true story of a middle-class woman sent to prison for a crime she committed years earlier, Orange Is the New Black dives deep into the lives of a diverse cast of female inmates. These women’s layered stories are revealed through an extremely effective use of flashbacks, creating a prism effect as their past reflects off their present, their relationships with one other and, ultimately, the viewer. In a television landscape punctuated by male antiheroes, such a compelling collection of antiheroines is a revelation. 

The show has already garnered praise for its exploration of the prison system, and for its handling of race, class, gender and sexuality. However, it’s transgender inmate Sophia Burset that is inspiring a conversation not only around transgender persons in prison, but transgender characters and the actors who portray them.

In Orange Is the New Black, Sophia is played by actress, producer and transgender activist Laverne Cox. After making history as the first African-American transgender woman to appear on a reality television program (VH-1’s I Want to Work for Diddy), she became the first African-American transgender woman to produce and star in her own TV show, (VH-1’s TRANSform Me). Her performance as Sophia is a standout on a series showcasing one of the strongest ensemble casts around. 

Yesterday, Cox spoke with reporters about her experience as a transgender actress, her connection to her character and the pressure to be an inspiration for others. Check out some highlights of that conversation below.


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Towleroad Interview: Jinkx Monsoon


Photo: Tim Harmon

Back in January, the world was introduced to “Seattle’s premier Jewish narcoleptic drag queen," Jinkx Monsoon, on season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race. By the time she broke out a note-perfect impersonation of Little Edie Beale from Grey Gardens, she had won the hearts of viewers. From there, she went on to win the crown.

Before she was rubbing elbows with the likes of RuPaul and celebrity judges Juliette Lewis, Bob Mackie and Paulina Porizkova, Jinkx (not yet a Monsoon) was a silent character created by Jerick Hoffer. When asked to host a drag night, Hoffer performed an impression of his mother, and Jinkx as we know her today was born.

As the reigning Drag Race champ, Jinkx says “doors are opening to play the roles I always thought I should be playing.” That includes the brilliant show The Vaudevillians, in which Jinkx appears alongside her musical collaborator Major Scales as two vaudeville performers recently reanimated after being frozen alive. Debuting in New York in July, the critically-lauded musical comedy’s run has been extended through August.

We caught up with Jinkx in New York to talk about her experience on the show, what’s next and what makes her approach to drag so special.


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Gay Priest Addresses Pope's And Cardinal Dolan's Remarks On Gays

Gary Meier
Pope Francis made remarks about gay priests and gay Catholics that generated a great deal of publicity on Monday. New York cardinal and archbishop Timothy Dolan subsequently made comments the following day that, according to some, attempted to backtrack on the Pope's message of tolerance and peace. It's not often that you find someone with a vested interest in both Catholicism and LGBT rights. Fortunately, HuffPost Gay Voices managed to find Father Gary Meier, an openly gay priest and author of the book Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest, and asked for his thoughts on the two potentially-conflicting messages spouted by both the Pope and Cardinal Dolan.

"I'm not the only gay priest," Meier began. "In fact, there are lots of gay priests in the clergy and in the Catholic church today." He went on then to explain that the Pope's original comments could potentially aid those gay members of the clergy who live life in fear of being exposed to their colleagues and congregations. 

"I'm hopeful that the pope's comment about gay priests would maybe encourage other gay priests to come out, as I have a few months ago, and just not be so afraid to just be gay and to be a priest...There's been such a lot of anti-gay and hostile environment from Catholic hierarchy throughout the world towards the LGBT community." 

Thus, a comment such as "who am I to judge," coming from the world's most powerful Catholic could certainly be the catalyst for a welcome change in tone with regard to the church's teachings on homosexuality. "I'm an advocate that homosexuality is a gift from God," Meier said.

"It's not a curse, it's not a cross, it's not something you have to be silent about and be ashamed of...I hope that this [the Pope's comment] might be an avenue in which to have further conversations about homosexuality and what it means to be gay and Catholic." 

What about detractors such as Dolan? Meier chose not to address the cardinal's comments directly. Instead, he chose to simply gloss them over by saying "the fact of the matter is that most Catholics in the United States support the LGBT community," and previously offereing up his own comming out experience as proof. 

Watch Meier's interview at HuffPost Gay Voices HERE

One Direction's Harry Styles Addresses Bisexuality Rumors

Harry Styles GQ Cover
All five members of One Direction will be individually gracing their own cover of GQ's UK edition this upcoming September. To commemorate that fact, the boys were also interviewed by the magazine, and it was during that interview that Styles was asked point blank about his alleged bisexuality. According to GQ and E! News, rumor has had it for months now that Styles has been engaging in a relationship TV and radio host Nick Grimshaw. 

His answer? "Bisexual? Me? I don't think so. I'm pretty sure I'm not." He went on to say...

"Some of them are funny. Some of them are ridiculous. Some of them are annoying. I don't want to be one of those people that complains about the rumours. I never like it when a celebrity goes on Twitter and says, 'This isn't true!' It is what it is; I tend not to do that. The only time it gets really annoying is that if you get into a relationship and you get into a place where you really like someone and then things are being written in the papers that affect them and how they see you. Then it can get annoying."

One hopes that this isn't an instance where Styles finds the rumors to be "annoying". Otherwise, he might want to give a more committal response. 

Towleroad Interview: Zdravko Cimbaljevic, Organizer Of The Very First Pride Parade In Montenegro

Earlier this week we reported on the very first Pride parade to take place in the small Balkans country of Montenegro. Unfortunately, the event was marred by 200 anti-gay protesters who shouted "kill the gays" and threw stones and other objects at the 40 Pride participants. The marchers shouted their own response to the protesters: "Kiss The Gays."

Zdravko Cimbaljević, the executive director of LGBT Forum Progress, was one of the organizers of Wednesday's parade. He is also the very first openly gay person in the history of Montenegro, having come out publicly in 2010. In an attempt to target and scare organizers of the parade, several of the country's newspapers published fake obituaries of Cimbaljević in the days leading up to the event which took place in the coastal town of Budva. Those phony notices were then seen posted all over Budva.

I spoke to Cimbaljević about the events surrounding this week's Pride parade, death threats and the overall progress of the LGBT community in Montenegro over the last few years. Read our interview with him, AFTER THE JUMP.

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