Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

EJ Johnson recalls crying with dad Magic Johnson after coming out

The former Los Angeles Lakers player had a ‘tough’ time at first

Published

on

EJ Johnson, son of Magic Johnson. (Screenshot via YouTube)

EJ Johnson and his mother Cookie Johnson recounted the emotional time for their family when EJ came out while speaking with Jada Pinkett Smith on her Facebook Watch series “Red Table Talk.”

Cookie remembers she was the first to notice EJ’s sexuality when he was 15 years old.

“We went to Hawaii once and I’m sitting behind him and his friend,” Cookie says.”The girls go by in their bathing suits and the guys go by and when the guys go by, they were like, ‘Whoa! Hey!’ and then girls go by and nothing. So I was like, okay, we need to have a talk.”

When EJ decided to come out to his father, Magic Johnson, Cookie admits it was a hard conversation for everyone.

“We had the talk with Dad and that was a little tough,” Cookie begins. “My husband is the kind of person like he reacts quickly. Everything that came to the top of his head, he just let it out.”

“It hurt my feelings and I know it probably hurt [EJ’s] feelings.” Cookie says. She recounts Magic saying “This is not what I wanted for my son. And do you realize what you’re saying because the world is not going to like that and do you want to live this life?”

“Afterwards, I told him, I said, ‘I thought that was a little tough. That wasn’t right.’ Then he didn’t say anything,” Cookie continued.

EJ says the next day his father came into his room “And was like, ‘We’re going to get through this and I just need time.’ And we both started crying a little bit.”

Despite the emotional moment, EJ says his relationship with his father didn’t improve until he went away to college.

“But then, I moved to New York to go to college and when he came back to visit, he picked me up for dinner and was like…he hugged me so hard, he almost broke my back and then at that point I was like, we’re gonna be okay. I could really feel the love. We’re gonna be fine,” EJ says.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Movies

Lesbian road movie returns with campy ‘Dolls’

A retro-inspired, neon-lit road trip/neo-noir thriller

Published

on

Geraldine Viswanathan, Margaret Qualley, and Beanie Feldstein in ‘Drive-Away Dolls.’ (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

Let’s admit it: by the time Hollywood’s awards season draws to a close, most of us are more than ready for a good mindless “B movie” to cleanse our palettes. After the glut of “serious” and “important” films dominating the public conversation, it’s just incredibly freeing to watch something that feels — at some level, at least — more like entertainment than it does like doing homework.

That’s one of the biggest reasons why the timing of “Drive-Away Dolls,” which hit screens on Feb. 23, feels like a really savvy move, especially since it comes from a major Hollywood studio and boasts a multi-Oscar-winning director – Ethan Coen, who alongside brother Joel is half of one of Hollywood’s most prodigious filmmaking teams – at its helm. A retro-inspired and neon-lit road trip/chick flick/neo-noir thriller featuring lesbian leading characters and leaning hard into the visual palette of the ‘70s-era exploitation drive-in movie fodder it aims to both emulate and reinvent, it lays no claim to lofty purpose or intellectual conceit; instead, it takes its audience on an unabashedly raunchy 1999-set wild ride in which a pair of mismatched adventurers find themselves unwittingly entangled in a caper involving a mysterious briefcase and the eccentric trio of thugs tasked with tracking it down. It tells the kind of story we expect to be able to check our brains at the door for, and just sit back to enjoy the mindless thrills.

In this case, that story centers on two young queer Philadelphia women – free-spirited sexual adventurer Jamie (Margaret Qualley), whose infidelity has tanked her relationship with girlfriend Suki (Beanie Feldstein), and square peg Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), whose discomfort with the hedonistic social scene of big city lesbian life has her longing for the simpler pleasures of her childhood home in Tallahassee – who embark on a road trip together to Florida in search of new beginnings. It’s clear from the start that they’re at cross purposes; Jamie sees the trip as an opportunity to “loosen up” her uptight friend, while Marian just wants to get back to where she once belonged. Unbeknownst to either, however, a shady cadre of operatives (Colman Domingo, Joey Slotnick, C.J. Wilson) is on their trail, thanks to something hidden in the trunk of their rental car, and their journey is about to take a detour into unexpectedly dangerous territory.

As a premise, it’s not hard to see close parallels to many of the themes one often finds running throughout the Coen Brothers’ films; the quirky trappings of its crime story plot, the granular focus on the behavioral oddities of its characters, the whimsical (if often pointed) irony it deploys for narrative effect – all these and more give Ethan’s first “solo flight” without collaboration from his brother the kind of familiarity for audiences one can only get from four decades of previous exposure. Yet while “Drive-Away Dolls” might bear a lot of the trademark Coen touches, it’s also distinctively its own creature, with a more radical stylistic approach that one might glimpse in more flamboyant outliers to their joint filmography like “The Hudsucker Proxy” or cult-favorite “The Big Lebowski,” but which here brings its heightened sense of absurdity to the forefront in service of a story which is about, as much as it is anything, the role of causality in determining the circumstances and outcomes of our lives. In other words, it’s a movie which drives home (no pun intended) the point that – at least sometimes – our paths are determined by fate, no matter how much control we think we exert.

If you’re thinking that all this analysis doesn’t quite fit for a movie that presents itself as a madcap escapist romp, you’re not wrong; in spite of its ostensible B movie appeal, Coen’s movie – co-written with his wife, Tricia Cook – evokes some pretty weighty reflections, and while that might lend a more elevated layer to the film’s proceedings than we expect, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We can be entertained and enlightened at the same time, after all.

Perhaps more detrimental to the movie’s effect, unfortunately, is its intricately-conceived plotting. Weaving together seemingly coincidental or irrelevant details into a chain of events that propels the story at every juncture, Coen and Cooke’s screenplay feels more devoted to cleverness than authenticity; outlandish plot twists pile up, under the guise of some esoteric cosmic significance, until they threaten to collapse in on themselves; in the end, for many viewers, it might all seem just a little too forced to be believable.

Fortunately, there are things to counterbalance that sense of overthinking that seems to permeate the script, most vital of which is the movie’s unambivalent embrace of its queer narrative. While it may borrow the familiar lesbians-on-the-run road tropes queer audiences have known for decades, it presents them in a story refreshingly devoid of shame or stigma; the sexuality of its heroines is something to be explored with nuance rather than subjected to the fetishized bias of the so-called “male gaze,” and it succeeds in giving us “tastefully” explicit scenes of same sex love that celebrate the joy of human connection rather than turning it into a voyeuristic spectacle. Even more important, perhaps, “Drive-Away Dolls” omits one particularly toxic cliché of queer stories on film by refuising to make its queer heroines into victims; they’re way too smart for that, and it makes us like them all the more, even if we don’t quite find ourselves absorbed in their story.

For this, full credit must go to Qualley and Viswanathan, who individually build fully relatable and multi-dimensional characters while also finding a sweet and believable chemistry within the awkwardness of finding a romantic love story between two friends – a complex species of relationship that surely deserves a more extensive and nuanced treatment than it gets space for in Coen’s film. As good as they are, though, it’s Feldstein’s relatively small supporting turn that steals the movie, with an unflinching-yet-hilarious tough-as-nails performance as Qualley’s ex that both acknowledges and undercuts the stereotype of the “angry lesbian” while striking an immensely satisfying blow for queer female empowerment. The always-stellar Domingo underplays his way through an effectively civilized supporting performance as the chief “heavy”, and Matt Damon makes a sly cameo as a conservative politician, while daddy-of-the-decade Pedro Pascal shows up for a brief but key role that gives winking service to fans who remember him from his “Game of Thrones” days – though to say more about any of those appearances would constitute a spoiler.

“Drive-Away Dolls” has been met with mixed reviews, and this one is no exception. There’s an unmistakable good intention behind it, and much to be appreciated in its sex-positive outlook and commitment to an unapologetically queer story and characters, but while its stylistic embellishments provide for campy enjoyment, it’s ultimately diffused by its own cleverness. Still, the queer joy that frequently peeks through it is more than enough reason to say that it’s a good choice for a fun date night at the movies.

At the end of the day, what more can you ask?

Continue Reading

Books

A travel memoir with a queer, Black sensibility

Nonbinary author Shayla Lawson is the Joan Didion of our time

Published

on

‘How to Live Free in a Dangerous World: A Decolonial Memoir’
By Shayla Lawson
c.2024, Tiny Reparations Books
$29/320 pages

Joan Didion, one of the greatest writers and journalists of the 20th century and 2000s, wrote superbly crafted essays – telling engaging stories about the places she traveled to. Reading her, you sensed Didion reacting personally to her travels, and, as a writer, clocking it. To write in stories for her readers. 

Shayla Lawson, a nonbinary, Black, disabled poet and journalist, is the Joan Didion of our time.

Their new work, “How to Live Free in a Dangerous World: A Decolonial Memoir,” is a provocative, impeccably crafted, hard-to-put down, travel memoir in essays. (Lawson uses they/them pronouns.)

Lawson is author of “This is Major,” which was a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle and the LAMBDA Literary Award, and the author of two poetry collections, “A Special Education in Human Being” and “I Think I’m Ready to See Frank Ocean.”  They have written for New York Magazine, Salon, ESPN and Paper, and earned fellowships from the Yaddo and the MacDowell Artist Colony.

Yet, despite this impressive track record, Lawson, who grew up in Kentucky, and has lived and traveled everywhere from the Netherlands to Brazil to Los Angeles to Kyoto, Japan to Mexico to Shanghai, had to wait nine years before a publisher would wrap their head around releasing a travel memoir in essays.

Thankfully, Lawson had the  chutzpah to persist in seeking a home for her memoir. Kudos to Tiny Reparations Books for valuing Lawson’s writing and publishing ‘How to Live Free in a Dangerous World.”

From the get-go of their memoir, Lawson draws us in. We’re with them on the plane. Right away, we’re with Lawson – a writer who’s clocking it  – telling their story – while they’re on the plane. At the same time, we’re reading the story that Lawson’s writing. 

In a few nano-secs, we get that Lawson’s stories have a queer, Black sensibility.

“Our story starts in an airplane,” Lawson writes in the opening of the memoir, “with the sound of long acrylic nails tapping on laptop keys, the sound of black femme poetics…”

“Only connect,” writes queer writer E.M. Forster in his 1910 novel “Howards End.”

Lawson’s daring memoir is a dazzling mosaic of connections between race, class, gender, sexuality, death, queerness, love, disability, grief and beauty.

Lawson met Kees, their ex-husband, a white man from the Netherlands, when he was in Harlem during a layover on a flight to Brazil for a six-month back-packing trip through South America, Lawson recalls. They meet cute over pizza, fall in love, and marry.

In the Netherlands, Lawson has to learn a new language and is stuck living in a beautiful, but boring village. They volunteer at a refugee village, that Lawson discovered had been an “insane asylum.” That village, Lawson thought, wasn’t  beautiful.

Lawson discovers beauty and sexuality when she meets up with a hunky gondolier in Venice.

In post-dictatorship Zimbabwe, they experience what it’s like to hang out with other Black people, where everyone is Black. 

In one of the memoir’s most compelling chapters, Lawson visits artist Frida Kahlo’s house in Mexico City. Kahlo was disabled. She had spina bifida.

At age 39, Lawson was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. They have chronic pain from the disability.

A doctor (with the bedside manner of Attila the Hun) told Lawson that they would die. “It’s a strong presentation,” Lawson remembers the doc said to her.

Often, disability is left out of storytelling. If included, it’s put in a box – separated, disconnected, from other intersections of the narrative (gender, sexuality, race, class, sexual orientation, etc.).

One out of five Americans is disabled, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Lawson writes, post-COVID that 60 percent of Americans have been diagnosed as chronically ill.

Lawson brings ableism out of the shadows.

I’m white, cisgender, queer and legally blind. I’m one of the many for whom Lawson’s experience of ableism will ring true.

They’ve “called me a bitch,” for moving slower, Lawson writes.

The last time Lawson traveled when “I didn’t return in a wheelchair,” was 2019, they write.

But that won’t stop them from traveling, Lawson writes.

“How do I want to live,” Lawson asks, “in such a way that someone will be honored by how I die.”

“How to Live Free in a Dangerous World” is exhilarating, but sometimes discomforting reading. Lawson makes you think. If you’re white and, using all the right pronouns, for instance, you can still be clueless about racism or being entitled.

But Lawson’s memoir isn’t a hectoring sermon. It’s a frisson of freedom, liberation and hope.

“No matter where you are, may you always be certain who you are,” Lawson writes, “And when you are, get everything you deserve.”

Check it out. You won’t be able to get it out of your head.

Continue Reading

Movies

New Bella Abzug documentary is a must-see film

‘This Woman’s Place is in the House’ highlights courageous congresswoman

Published

on

‘Bella! This Woman’s Place is in the House’ movie poster.

Watching the documentary on Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (D-N.Y.), “Bella! This Woman’s Place is in the House,” brought back so many great memories for me. I had to watch it twice to separate my personal feelings about Bella, having worked for her and become her friend, to imagine what others would see who didn’t know her, and her life. 

Both viewings were rewarding. Jeff L. Lieberman, writer and director, has brought Bella to life for everyone. 

Lieberman tells the story of a passionate, courageous, brilliant, woman, one who made a real difference in all women’s lives. But more than that, she made a difference in everyone’s life; men, women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community. Bella was a true force of nature. Using pictures and video from her younger years, Lieberman makes Bella come alive. Pictures of her mom and dad and those with the love of her life, her husband Martin. Interviews with her daughters Eve, and Liz, help tell her personal story. He brought out a side of her not everyone saw, delving into how in her younger years the experiences she had formed her life’s goals. Bella was all about fairness and decency. Bella was a leader and people followed. 

Yes, many called her ‘a tough broad.’ She brooked no nonsense or weakness in herself or others. She was tough on her staff and those around her, but no tougher than she was on herself.  Yes, Bella was loud. She could yell at her staff, other politicians, and even constituents. But she was also the Jewish mother, and many called her Mother Earth. 

The film shows the influence of her Orthodox Jewish family. How when she said Kaddish for her father after he died when she was just 13, she was relegated to the women’s balcony of the shul. It was something she fought against all her life. Bella went to Hunter College and wanted to go to Harvard Law School. At the time Harvard didn’t take women or Jews. So she went to Columbia University Law School. She formed her own firm when she graduated. 

She started wearing hats when she realized that was how she could distinguish herself as a professional, and wore them all her life. They became her trademark. As a young lawyer she went to Mississippi to fight for the life of a Black man who had been sentenced to death for a crime she didn’t believe he committed. She would sleep in a bus station because when people found out she was his lawyer, they wouldn’t rent her a hotel room. She worked so hard she had a miscarriage, but nevertheless kept fighting for him, though eventually he was executed. That experience, and others, portrayed in the film, simply drove her to fight even harder for fairness for all. For civil rights and for the rights of all minorities, including the LGBTQ community. Not everyone in the LGBTQ community knows it was Bella who introduced the first Equality Act bill in 1974. A bill still not passed today. Bella was ahead of her time in so many ways, and Lieberman shows that in this film.  

There is a funny story in the film about House of Representatives Sergeant at Arms Fishbait Miller, telling Bella to take her hat off when she entered the House Chamber. The rumor had it she told him politely to “Go fuck yourself.” Bella denied it. But many years later I sat with him at a dinner party and he confirmed it. Laughing, he said he ended up liking and respecting her. 

Lieberman’s film portrays Bella’s tenacity in Congress, standing up to the powers that be and her fight against the CIA and FBI and her push to impeach Nixon. Bella was a founder of Women’s Strike for Peace and there is a focus on her fight against the Vietnam war, and for a ban on nuclear testing. 

The film follows her campaigns, from the first winning one in 1970, where she came up with the slogan, now the basis for the title of this film, “A woman’s place is in the House, the House of Representatives.” Then her fight to keep her seat in 1972 after she was redistricted. He follows her losing race in 1976 to Patrick Moynihan, in the U.S. Senate primary, by only a whisker. Then her continued losses first in 1977 for mayor of New York City, then for Ed Koch’s old seat on New York’s East Side, and finally, a losing race for Congress in Westchester County. She wanted to get back into Congress but never did. But even when she lost, Lieberman shows us how she never stopped fighting for people and change. She ran the Women’s Conference in Houston in 1977, and went to China for the International Women’s Conference in 1995. That was where Hillary Clinton declared, “Women’s rights are human rights,” even though by that time Bella was in a wheelchair.

Lieberman brings Bella’s life to us in the fullest way with a host of women, and some men, who speak about her, and what she meant to them. They include Barbra Streisand, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, and Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna, among others. Former staffers, and community activists, who talk about what she meant to them and what she accomplished. He reminds us Bella was named a whip by Tip O’Neil in her third term, because she got things done. Bella got the bill passed that allowed women to get their own credit cards. She is responsible for all those curb cuts on our streets. She broke the highway trust fund allowing states and cities to get funding for mass transit. She was not only loud, and a fighter, but she was tremendously successful. 

“Bella! This Woman’s Place is in the House,” will be at the DCJCC for three nights; March 14, 17,, and 18. Tickets will go fast and they are available online. I would urge every woman, every member of the LGBTQ community, and everyone who cares about peace in the world, to see this film. You will not only learn about a great woman, but seeing it may just give you that push to go out and fight for your own rights. Even more, to emulate Bella, and fight for a better world.

Continue Reading

Books

Gay author takes us on his journey to fatherhood in ‘Safe’

One man’s truth about the frustrations and rewards of fostering

Published

on

(Book cover image courtesy of Atria Books)

‘Safe: A Memoir of Fatherhood, Foster Care, and the Risks We Take for Family’
By Mark Daley
c.2024, Atria Books
$28.99/304 pages

The closet is full of miniature hangers.

The mattress bumpers match the drapes and the rug beneath the tiny bed. There’s a rocker for late-night fusses, a tall giraffe in the corner, and wind-up elephants march in a circle over the crib. Now you just need someone to occupy that space and in the new book, “Safe” by Mark Daley, there’s more than one way to accomplish that dream.

Jason was a natural-born father.

Mark Daley knew that when they were dating, when he watched Jason with his nephew, with infants, and the look on Jason’s face when he had one in his arms. As a gay man, Daley never thought much having a family but he knew Jason did – and so, shortly after their wedding, they began exploring surrogacy and foster-to-adopt programs.

Daley knew how important it was to get the latter right: his mother had a less-than-optimal childhood, and she protected her own children fiercely for it. When Daley came out to her, and to his father, he was instantly supported and that’s what he wanted to give: support and loving comfort to a child in a hard situation.

Or children, as it happened. Just weeks after competing foster parenting classes and after telling the social worker they’d take siblings if there was a need, the prospective dads were offered two small brothers to foster.

It was love at first sight but euphoria was somewhat tempered by courts, laws, and rules. Their social worker warned several times that reunification of the boys with their parents was “Plan A,” but Daley couldn’t imagine it. The parents seemed unreliable; they rarely kept appointments, and they didn’t seem to want to learn better parenting skills. The mother all but ignored the baby, and the child noticed.

So did Daley, but the courts held all the power, and predicting an outcome was impossible.

“All we had was the present,” he said. “If I didn’t stay in it, I was going to lose everything I had.” So was there a Happily-Ever-After?

Ah, you won’t find an answer to that question here. You’ll need to read “Safe” and wear your heart outside your chest for an hour or so, to find out. Bring tissues.

Bring a sense of humor, too, because author and founder of One Iowa Mark Daley takes readers along on his journey to being someone’s daddy, and he does it with the sweetest open-minded open-heartedness. He’s also Mama Bear here, too, which is just what you want to see, although there can sometimes be a lot of tiresome drama and over-fretting in that.

And yet, this isn’t just a sweet, but angst-riddled, tale of family. If you’re looking to foster, here’s one man’s truth about the frustrations, the stratospheric-highs, and the deep lows. Will your foster experiences be similar? Maybe, but reading this book about it is its own reward.

“Safe” soars and it dives. It plays with your emotions and it wallows in anxiety. If you’re a parent, though, you’ll hang on to every word.

Continue Reading

a&e features

We Predict an #OscarsSoStraight evening at the Academy Awards

Published

on

Photo Credit: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

HOLLYWOOD – The 96th Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, will take place on Sunday, March 10, 2024 at new early time 4 PM PT at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood in Los Angeles, California. The ceremony will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and broadcast live on ABC.

Depending on whether you are an Oppenheimer lover or a hater, the Academy Awards this year will come off as either a blast, i.e. as in nuclear explosion, or a bomb, i.e. as in the atomic kind.

Spoiler alert: Oppenheimer is set up to create scorched earth against all its competitors. 

If you are attending an Oscar party and filling out your predictions list, you will do very well if you mark Oppenheimer down the line. (But uncheck it in the Best Supporting Actress category. Love you Emily Blunt, but, no.) 

Here is what a rainbow-tined, LGBTQ high visibility evening would go like: Barbie would win Best Picture because there was Kate McKinnon, and what self-respecting LGBTQ person does not appreciate pink? It would just edge out Anatomy of a Fall or Maestro which feature bisexual main characters. Anatomy of a Fall would win Best Director for Justine Triet to make up for the Best Picture snub, however. 

Best Actor would go to Colman Domingo for his portrayal of gay civil rights icon Bernard Rustin, just edging out Bradley Cooper as the bisexual Leonard Bernstein. Two-spirit Lily Gladstone would edge out Annette Benning as the iconic Diana Nyad (Lily might actually win this, though Emma Stone is coming on strong). Sterling K. Brown would win for gay Clifford Ellison in American Fiction and we would oogle runner-up Ryan Gosling as Ken because even though Ken is presumably straight, we gay boys know the truth.

Lesbian icon Jodie Foster would win playing a lesbian character in Nyad. Nimona would win Best Animated Feature. The ABCs of Book Banning would win Best Documentary Short Film. Barbie, Maestro, and May December would duke it out as front runners in the screenplay categories.

None of those are likely to happen, however, with the exception of Lily Gladstone, as mentioned. Oh, and Billie Eilish may win for best song. That won’t be a particularly LGBTQ moment, however, as Eilish does not like her sexual orientation being talked about, so she won’t mention it, and we won’t either.

Because the Oscars are preceded by so many other award shows and programs, many populated with Academy voters, there usually are strong indications as to who really will get what. This year, that message has been a strong sweep and one name emerges above all others. Cue explosion…

Oppenheimer. 

It is the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant physicist who led the Manhattan Project during World War II. Oppenheimer’s complex personality is challenged as he is recruited to head the Manhattan Project, the top-secret effort to build the atomic bomb. With five Golden Globe Awards, seven BAFTAs, eight Critics Choice Awards, the Directors Guild Award, The Producers Guild Award, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards, its dominance coming into the Oscars is clear.

Out Magazine rightfully observed, “It’s been a great year in cinema for LGBTQ+ actors, directors, writers, films, and characters.” It has been. Unless the Oscar Awards show producers specifically call that fact out, it may go unnoticed, however, and LGBTQ representation may be minimal. The announced presenters so far do not scream Queer, with the possible exception of our favorite mom-of-a-transperson, Jamie Lee Curtis.

This is the year where we enjoy the concept of “it was an honor just to be nominated” LGBTQ-wise. It may be the year that we just appreciate that we don’t win all horse races just because we are LGBTQ+ or the horses are queer.

The Academy loves to be unpredictable, however, so you never know. Rainbows and unicorns may emerge. I wouldn’t bet on it.

But, Acadamy, come on, surprise us…

My prediction is that in the morning after this year’s ceremony, we may be social media-ing #OscarsSoStraight, and Out Magazine’s “hope that the 2024 Oscars could potentially be the most queer- and trans-inclusive ceremony ever” will have gone up in a cloud of atomic smoke.

Oh well. At least you should do well at your Oscar party.

*****************************************************************************************

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

Continue Reading

Social Media Platforms

Social Media platforms still lagging on critical LGBTQ+ protections

All Social Media platforms should have policy prohibitions against harmful so-called “Conversion Therapy” content

Published

on

Photo by Dan Balinovic

By Leanna GarfieldJenni Olson | NEW YORK – GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization released new reports documenting the current state of two important LGBTQ safety policy protections on social media platforms. 

The reports show how numerous platforms and apps (including, most recently Snapchat) are increasingly adopting two LGBTQ safety protections that GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Program advocates as best practices for the industry: firstly, expressly stated policies prohibiting targeted misgendering and deadnaming of transgender and nonbinary people (i.e. intentionally using the wrong pronouns or using a former name to express contempt); and secondly, expressly stated policies prohibiting the promotion and advertising of harmful so-called “conversion therapy” (a widely condemned practice attempting to change an LGBTQ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity which has been banned or restricted in dozens of countries and US states). 

GLAAD

Major companies that have such LGBTQ policy safeguards include: TikTokTwitchPinterestNextDoor, and now Snapchat.

Companies lagging behind and failing to provide such protections include: YouTubeBlueSkyLinkedInReddit, and MastodonX/Twitter and Meta’s InstagramFacebook, and Threads have received partial credit due to “self-reporting” requirements.

related

“Now is the time for all social media platforms and tech companies to step up and prioritize LGBTQ safety,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “We urge all social media platforms to adopt, and enforce, these policies and to protect LGBTQ people — and everyone.”

Companies will have another opportunity to be acknowledged for updating their policies later this year. To be released this summer, GLAAD’s annual Social Media Safety Index report will feature an updated version of the charts.

Conversion Therapy

GLAAD

The widely debunked and harmful practice of so-called “conversion therapy” falsely claims to change an LGBTQ person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and has been condemned by all major medical, psychiatric, and psychological organizations including the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association. Globally, there has been a growing movement to ban “conversion therapy” at the national level. As of February 2024, 14 countries have such bans, including Canada, France, Germany, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, Taiwan, and New Zealand. In the United States, 22 states and the District of Columbia have restrictions in place.

Expressing concurrence with GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Program guidance, IFTAS (the non-profit supporting the Fediverse moderator community) stated in a February 2024 announcement: “Due to the widespread and insidious nature of expressing anti-transgender sentiments in bad faith, it’s imperative to have specific policy addressing this issue.” Further explaining the rationale behind such policies, the IFTAS announcement continues: “This approach is considered a best practice for two key reasons: it offers clear guidance to users, and it assists moderators in recognizing and understanding the intent behind such statements. It’s important to reiterate that the focus is not about accidentally getting someone’s pronouns wrong. Rather, our concern centers on deliberate and targeted acts of hate and harassment.” 

Conveying appreciation to companies but also highlighting the need for policy enforcement, GLAAD’s new reporting notes that while the policies mark significant progress: “These new policy additions do not solve the extremely significant other related issue of policy enforcement (a realm in which many platforms are known to be doing a woefully inadequate job).” 

There is broad consensus and building momentum toward protecting LGBTQ people, and especially LGBTQ youth, from this dangerous practice. However, “conversion therapy” disinformation, extremist scare-tactic narratives, and the profit-driven promotion of such services continues to be widespread on social media platforms, via both organic content and advertising. And, as a December 2023 Trevor Project report reveals, “conversion therapy” continues to happen in nearly every US state.

Thankfully, more tech companies and social media platforms are taking leadership to address the spread of content that promotes and advertises “conversion therapy.” In December 2023, the social platform Post added an express prohibition of such content to their policies, and in January 2024 Spoutible did the same. That same month, in response to key stakeholder guidance from GLAAD, IFTAS (the non-profit supporting the Fediverse moderator community) crafted sample policy language and implemented an “IFTAS LGBTQ+ Safety Server Pledge” system for the Fediverse, in which servers can sign-on confirming they have incorporated a policy prohibiting both the promotion of “conversion therapy” content and targeted misgendering and deadnaming. In February, Snapchat also added both prohibitions into their Hateful Content and Harmful False or Deceptive Information community guidelines policies.

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis acknowledged this recent progress, saying to The Advocate: “Adopting new policies prohibiting so-called ‘conversion therapy’ content puts these companies ahead of so many others. GLAAD urges all social media platforms to adopt, and enforce, this policy and protect their LGBTQ users.”

A January 2024 report from the Global Project on Hate & Extremism (GPAHE) illuminates how many social media companies and search engines are failing to mitigate harmful content and ads promoting “conversion therapy.” The report outlines the enormous amount of work that needs to be done, and offers many examples of simple solutions that platforms can and should urgently implement. Recommendations from the report are listed below.

In February 2022, GLAAD worked with TikTok to have the platform add an explicit prohibition of content promoting “conversion therapy.” TikTok updated its community guidelines to include the following: “Adding clarity on the types of hateful ideologies prohibited on our platform. This includes … content that supports or promotes conversion therapy programs. Though these ideologies have long been prohibited on TikTok, we’ve heard from creators and civil society organizations that it’s important to be explicit in our Community Guidelines.”

In 2022, GLAAD also urged both YouTube and Twitter (now X) to add an express prohibition of “conversion therapy” into their content and ad guidelines. While X does not currently have such a policy, YouTube, with the assistance of its AI systems, does mitigate “conversion therapy” content by showing an information panel from the Trevor Project that reads: “Conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as ‘reparative therapy,’ is any of several dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” However, unlike TikTok and Meta, YouTube does not include an explicit prohibition in its Hate Speech Policy.

Meta’s Facebook and Instagram (and by extension Threads which is guided by Instagram’s policies) currently do have such a prohibition (against: “Content explicitly providing or offering to provide products or services that aim to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”). However it is listed separately from the company’s standard three tiers of content moderation consideration as requiring, “additional information and/or context to enforce.” GLAAD has recommended that it be elevated to a higher priority tier. In addition to this content policy, Meta’s Unrealistic Outcomes ad standards policy also prohibits: “Conversion therapy products or services. This includes but is not limited to: Products aimed at offering or facilitating conversion therapy such as books, apps or audiobooks; Services aimed at offering or facilitating conversion therapy such as talk therapy, conversion ministries or clinical therapy; Testimonials of conversion therapy, specifically when posted or boosted by organizations that arrange and provide such services.”

Among other platforms, it is notable that the community guidelines of both Pinterest and NextDoor include a prohibition against content promoting or supporting “conversion therapy and related programs.” While Twitch’s community guidelines expressly state that: “regardless of your intent, you may not: Encourage the use of or generally endorsing sexual orientation conversion therapy.” As mentioned above, Post and Spoutible also have amended their policies, with Spoutible’s new guidelines being the most extensive:

Prohibited Content: Any content that promotes, endorses, or provides resources for ‘conversion therapy.’ Content that claims sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed or ‘cured.’ Advertising or soliciting services for ‘conversion therapy.’ Testimonials supporting or promoting the effectiveness of ‘conversion therapy.’

Spoutible’s policy also thoughtfully outlines these exceptions:

Content that discusses ‘conversion therapy’ in a historical or educational context may be allowed, provided it does not advocate for or glorify the practice. Personal stories shared by survivors of ‘conversion therapy,’ which do not promote the practice, may be permissible.

In addition to GLAAD’s advocacy efforts advising platforms to add prohibitions against content promoting “conversion therapy” to their community guidelines, we also urge these companies to effectively enforce these policies.

To clarify even further, all platforms should add express public-facing language prohibiting the promotion of “conversion therapy” to both their community guidelines and advertising services policies. While some platforms have described off-the-record that “conversion therapy” material is prohibited under the umbrella of other policies — policies prohibiting hateful ideologies, for instance — the prohibition of “conversion therapy” promotion should be explicitly stated publicly in their community guidelines and other policies.

When such content is reported, it’s also important for moderators to make judgments about the content in context, and distinguish between harmful content promoting “conversion therapy” versus content that mentions or discusses “conversion therapy” (i.e. counter-speech). As a 2020 Reuters story details, social media platforms can provide a space for “conversion therapy” survivors to share their experiences and find community.

GLAAD also urges all platforms to review and follow the below recommendations from the Global Project on Hate & Extremism (GPAHE):

To protect their users, tech companies must:

  • Use common sense when evaluating whether content violates rules on conversion therapy and remember that it is dangerous, and sometimes deadly, to allow pro-conversion therapy material to surface. It is quintessential medical disinformation.
  • Invest in non-English, non-American cultural and language resources. The disparity in the findings for non-English users is stark.
  • Elevate authoritative resources in the language being used for the terms found in the appendix.
  • Incorporate “same-sex attraction” and “unwanted same-sex attraction” into their algorithm that moderates conversion therapy content and elevate authoritative content.
  • Create or expand the use of authoritative information boxes about conversion therapy, preferably in the language being used.
  • All online systems must keep up with the constant rebranding and use of new terms, in all languages, that the conversion therapy industry uses.
  • Refrain from defaulting to English content in non-English speaking countries where possible, and if this is the only content available it must be authoritative and translatable.
  • All companies must avail themselves of civil society and subject matter experts to keep their systems current.
  • Additional recommendations from previous GPAHE research.

Source: Conversion Therapy Online: The Ecosystem in 2023 (Global Project Against Hate & Extremism, Jan 2024)

An earlier version of this overview first appeared in Tech Policy Press and was adapted from the 2023 GLAAD Social Media Safety Index report. The next report is forthcoming in the summer of 2024.

The preceding article was previously published by GLAAD and is republished by permission.

Continue Reading

Sports

Out gay figure skater Colin Grafton shares his story and his dream

“I’m proud of my sexual orientation and I want to let other people know that they should be proud of every part of themselves too”

Published

on

Colin Grafton (Photo Credit: Colin Grafton/Instagram)

LONDON, UK — For a second year, Boston native and professional figure skater Colin Grafton is carving up the ice on British television’s “Dancing On Ice,” and now he’s doing it as his authentic self. 

“I told my closest friends. I told the people around me and I eventually told my parents,” Grafton, 32, recalled in an interview with PinkNews, in which he discussed coming out as gay. “I was maybe 24 when all that happened. I know there’s a lot of curiosity about my sexual orientation and my love life, but I never actually came out to the public,” said ITV personality. 

“I guess this is me announcing it to you guys.”

Grafton, who has been skating since he was 7, reflected on how watching Tara Lipinski win an Olympic gold medal at the 1998 Winter Games inspired him to pursue this career. But being a male figure skater was “really tough” in the 1990s and 2000s, he told PinkNewsUK.

“I remember feeling so nervous at various points in my childhood,” said Grafton. ”I’d be skating and the hockey players would come and bang on the side of the rink and shout words. That was something all male skaters had to deal with back then. It wasn’t easy but all of it made me stronger because I took it and focused everything on my sport.”

Grafton’s focus catapulted him to competing for Team USA, winning a bronze medal at the Junior U.S. championships in 2012, with his former partner Kylie Duarte. The memory of those who taunted him only fueled him to work harder. 

“When somebody tells you, you can’t do something, or somebody makes fun of you, just prove them wrong.”

Grafton ended his competitive career in 2013 and transitioned to professional skating, leading several European tours, and even becoming a coach. Then came the Covid pandemic.

“I feel very fortunate about the fact that I’ve been able to kind of dabble in so many different areas in the professional world, but tour life is quite hard, all the travel and being away for so long,” he said. “So, when ‘Dancing on Ice’ came up, I jumped on it.” That was in 2023. 

The program is broadcast Sunday nights on ITV’s Channel 3 from studios in Bovingdon, a village in Hertfordshire about an hour northwest of London. During that first season, Grafton made history being paired with “RuPaul Drag Race” star The Vivienne, the first drag performer on the show and the first time “Dancing On Ice” featured a same-sex team. They made it all the way to the finals, finishing in third place.

“Being a part of that representation, being a part of that team, it was just wonderful,” he said. “The support we got from everyone was just fantastic. If I’m honest, I didn’t really understand the impact that it would make in the end.”

And at the conclusion of last season, Grafton finally found time to read the many messages of encouragement from fans, as well as from viewers who wrote, “Seeing us helped them and gave them the courage to either come out or be themselves,” he said. “It was truly something.”

And now, as a regular on the show’s 16th season, Grafton has decided he wants everyone to know who he really is, and in doing so, show others they are not alone. 

“If I’m honest, I never really felt the need to announce it before, but the reason I am saying this now, is because I want to show that there is representation in any way I can”, the TV personality explains.

Along the way to self-acceptance, Grafton revealed he had a lot of “small steps and small triumphs” leading him to finally feel comfortable being himself in the public eye. “It was on my own terms,” he said, and feels “blessed” to have found support among friends. 

“It’s been a long journey but now I am proud of myself and I’m proud of my sexual orientation and I want to let other people know that they should be proud of every part of themselves too,” said Grafton, acknowledging he had concerns about coming out publicly. “I was really nervous of doing that to myself. It was like, ‘OK, if I come out as gay then people are going to think I’m this or that,’ when in reality the human sexuality spectrum is so vast and it’s just one small part of the person you are.”

But appearing in primetime on such a popular TV show means that Grafton is the target of speculation about his personal life. He admits to having “lived and breathed skating” until finally getting in a relationship at age 24, around the same time he decided to come out to friends and family.

While that lasted two and a half years, Grafton’s frequent travel commitments and work on the ice left him no other chance for love. “I just didn’t really have an opportunity”, he said. “You might meet someone while you’re on a contract for six months and after that, you’re both off in different directions, so, I wasn’t really able to hold down a relationship because of that.”

But now that London is his home, Grafton told PinkNewsUK he feels ready to settle down. His perfect match? Someone local and appreciative of his business obligations. 

“We live really crazy fast-paced lives as skaters,” he said. “Personally, I want to meet someone who is also fast-paced and able to keep up with that, but they don’t have to be a fellow skater. I just want someone who supports me and I can support them, too.”

“At the end of the day, we’re all just humans doing our thing on this planet and trying to find love.”

Until he does, Grafton said he is excited to keep skating on television.

“I absolutely love ‘Dancing on Ice.’ Every season that I’m asked to do it, I feel like I’m blessed and I feel very lucky to be able to keep doing the show. I would love to continue doing it while I can or while my body allows me to as well,” he said. And when it doesn’t? Grafton imagines he might try his hand at acting. 

“I think that’s what life is all about,” he said. “Learning new things and pushing yourself to do other things.”

Continue Reading

Celebrity News

Colton Underwood opens up about fertility struggles

On a new podcast Daddyhood the former Bachelor star says learning he had a low sperm count was “not a great feeling”

Published

on

Reality star Colton Underwood joins Hoda & Jenna to reveal his latest project, a new series called “Daddyhood” and — spoiler alert — Underwood says he and his husband, Jordan C. Brown, are on a “path to parenthood.” He also opens up about their difficult journey, saying, “I’ve had, already, some fertility struggles and it’s time we talk about this.” (Screenshot/YouTube NBC Today)

By Rob Salerno | LOS ANGELES – Former Bachelor star Colton Underwood wants to end the stigma around fertility treatments by letting the world follow his and his husband’s journey to create a child together on their new podcast Daddyhood, available now on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube.

In an interview with People Magazine, Underwood opens up about he and husband Jordan C. Brown began the process of creating a child shortly after they got married last year. Underwood says they’ve created embryos and are in the process of implanting them in a surrogate.

But before they could do that, both men were tested to ensure their sperm were viable. While Brown’s sperm count was normal, Underwood says his sperm count was too low. The couple both wanted to contribute sperm so that they wouldn’t know who was the genetic parent of their offspring, and could treat the child as equally there.

“I mean right away, my husband gets his results back for his sperm count and he had incredible, great numbers, and I got mine back and all my sperm was dead. And I think immediately I was just like, ‘Oh, what does this mean? It means I’m sterile and can’t have kids now.’ And it was not a great feeling,” he told People.

Underwood says he hopes that talking about it can help reduce the shame around fertility difficulties.

“I think one of the reasons why men don’t talk about it is it’s sort of a blow to the ego. They’re just like, ‘Why me, I’m an alpha man? How can I not do the most simple task a man can do?’” he said.

His doctor helped Underwood realize that parts of his lifestyle were causing his low sperm count, and put him on a plan to get his numbers up. 

“My doctor did list the most common reasons why sperm count could be low and I was doing literally everything you could possibly do to kill your sperm, which was hot tub and sauna, baths. Exercising more than four or five times a week actually has an adverse effect on sperm. Pelotoning, riding a cycle or a bike,” he said. “And then I was taking synthetic testosterone. I was prescribed testosterone after my days in football and what my body went through. So I was quite literally doing everything you possibly could do to hurt your sperm count.”

And Underwood is no stranger to putting his life on public display. After briefly playing in the NFL off season in 2014 and 2015, he competed on the reality show The Bachelorette before taking on the star role in the 2018 season of The Bachelor. He publicly dated Bachelor season winner Cassie Randolph for a year, ending amid allegations that he stalked her, leading to a restraining order. 

In 2021, Underwood publicly came out after saying he was blackmailed by someone who had spotted him at a bathhouse. He later starred in the Netflix reality series Coming Out Colton, which followed his journey learning about his sexuality and the gay community.

In a promo for Daddyhood, a supercut of interviews Underwood has done over the years highlights how often he’s spoken of how much he wants to have kids. 

Underwood says that Daddyhood will examine the issues that male couples face when seeking to have children, including medical procedures, legal issues, and the emotional toll that the journey can take. 

“I’m ready for this. I’m really excited to take this on,” he says of the podcast. “I cannot wait to share this dream with you.”

******************************************************************************************

Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

Continue Reading

Sports

New LGBTQ+ & ally wrestlers promotion to debut in L.A.

“There will be amazing wrestlers that have been in the area before, facing new and fresh faces with pink and glitter everywhere”

Published

on

AFA/Los Angeles Blade graphic

CHATSWORTH — In 10 days, out gay pro wrestler Barbie Boi will bring 30 West Coast-based independent wrestling talent to this San Fernando Valley suburb. The event, organized by Alliance For All Wrestling, will be their first time together in the squared circle.

“There will be amazing wrestlers that have been in the area before, facing new and fresh faces with pink and glitter everywhere,” said Boi in a statement. “Not only does this show represent the LGBTQI+ community, but also brings together the straight allies that have supported and treated us equally, as one.”

Among the featured talent are Che Cabrera, Delilah Doom, Diego Valens, Dustin Daniels, Everly Rivera, G Sharpe, Maximilien Monclair, Mylo, Ray Rosas, Sandra Moon and Tyler Bateman. 

The Thursday, Feb. 29th event will be hosted by drag queen, performer and wrestling personality, Pollo Del Mar of San Francisco. 

“The last few years has seen an explosion in popularity for pro-wrestling produced and headlined by LGBTQI+ talents,” Del Mar said in the statement. “It’s bringing this new form of entertainment by and for our community to an area which hasn’t had access to it as consistently as it should. I’m anxious for everyone who attends to see the spectrum of characters and incredible wrestlers we have as queer people.”

Bell time is 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and will be sold at the door at the venue at 19801 Northoff Place in Chatsworth, Suite 110, which is also home to Millennium Pro Wrestling and the Millennium Wrestling Academy. 

AFA graphic

“The excitement is bringing something a little newer to the area. Seeing all different talent from all over coming to the L.A. area is very exciting and meaningful — especially the representation of the LGBTQI+ community, women and people of color,” said Boi.

Continue Reading

Movies

Oscar-nominated ‘Nimona’ an essential gem for queer fans

Rescued from oblivion of studio politics, film rings palpably authentic

Published

on

The two queer protagonists of ‘Nimona.’ (Image courtesy of Netflix)

If you weren’t already a fan of ND Stevenson’s webcomic-turned-graphic-novel, last summer’s release of Netflix’s screen adaptation of “Nimona” likely escaped your notice. But with its emergence on multiple critics’ choice lists and awards show ballots for 2023, it’s time for you to pay attention.

Created while Stevenson — who has since come out as a trans man — was a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art and initially distributed on Tumblr, the comic was published in print in 2015 to become an award-winning bestseller. It’s an adventuresome sci-fi/fantasy blend set in a futuristic world where the fairy tale knights of medieval tradition have been given a high-tech makeover; but what captured its audience even more than its high-spirited, whimsical creativity was its unsubtle exploration of LGBTQ identity, underscored by a same-sex love interest for its hero but resonating most deeply through its shape-shifting title character and a plot that revolves around the systematic suppression of “otherness” by society. Yet, “controversial” elements notwithstanding, it’s fully and unapologetically targeted toward YA readers – the very audience, of course, that is most in need of its messaging in a time when the discourse around queer identities has become an omnipresent source of existential anxiety for young people attempting to come to terms with any non-hetero-normative leanings that might be bubbling to the surface of their developing psyches.

When Stevenson – who went on from the success of “Nimona” in print to become the creative force behind numerous queer-friendly projects in various media, including a stint writing for Marvel (the comics “Thor” and “Runaways”), Disney’s animated “Wander Over Yonder” series, and the acclaimed Netflix reboot “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” – came out as trans in 2020, the themes of queer acceptance in his seminal work were illuminated beyond a shadow of a doubt. In the meantime, “Nimona” had already been optioned to 20th Century Fox Animation as the basis for a film adaptation, produced by their subsidiary Blue Sky Studios; when Disney acquired the rights to Fox and its properties, the movie fell under its control. According to staffers, commenting in the wake of Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek’s clumsy response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” political campaign, the film had already experienced pushback from studio executives over its LGBTQ themes, and especially its inclusion of a same-sex kiss – and when COVID-related financial pressures led to budget cuts, Blue Sky, was officially shut down, along with “Nimona” and all the rest of its projects.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of the story. “Nimona” was picked up by indie production company Annapurna in 2022, with Nick Bruno and Troy Quane stepping in as directors, and Netflix granted distribution rights. The completed film, with all of its intended queer elements firmly intact, was given a limited theatrical release in June of 2023, debuting as a streamer on the Netflix platform a week later – to the delight of fans who had believed the long-awaited project to be a lost cause barely a year before.

It took another six months or so for the rest of the world to take notice, but thanks to its inclusion on critics’ choice lists and awards-season buzz in the wake of multiple nominations, “Nimona” has become one of last year’s “hidden gems.” and now stands within plausible reach of achieving the highest possible honor from the Hollywood movie industry: the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Of course, whether or not it wins that (or any other) accolade has little objective bearing on its quality as a film; while positive steps toward inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ characters and stories may be a laudable accomplishment in today’s tenuous social environment, they don’t necessarily equate to cinematic excellence from the wider perspective of aesthetic analysis. Fortunately, in this case, the two viewpoints merge perfectly to provide a movie that is at once keenly relevant to queer life in the modern age and defined by an artistic vision that transcends any political agenda or clumsy social engineering in which it might otherwise have allowed itself to become mired. While it may place its queer or queer-suggestive characters front-and-center in the spotlight, its message is unmistakably aimed toward anyone who feels (or has ever felt) like an outsider in a world that rewards conformity over individual truth – and let’s face it, that means everybody.

In Bruno and Quane’s finished film, there is no effort to obscure or downplay the story’s queer underpinnings: the hero, a newly minted knight named Ballister Boldheart (voiced by Riz Ahmed) is unequivocally gay, deeply in a fully requited love affair with fellow knight Ambrosius Goldenloin (YouTube star Eugene Lee Yang), and his shapeshifting sidekick, the titular Nimona (Chloë Grace Moritz), is so obvious an allegorical avatar for trans-hood that only the most oblivious of viewers could miss it. That’s fortunate: deprived of its deeper purpose of accessibility for those “outside the norm,” there would be nothing all that special about “Nimona” beyond its admittedly stunning visual design, which evokes connections to thematically related movies from “Sleeping Beauty” to “Star Wars” and everything in between. But though it makes painstaking effort to honor those and other influences within the scope of its pointedly progressive narrative, it establishes and inhabits its own distinctive milieu, carving a space for itself in which it feels neither derivative nor mired in gimmicky conceit – and it achieves this mostly through its loyalty toward (and empathy with) the characters whose status as outsiders to the mandated cultural standard makes them even more relatable.

Admittedly, it’s hard to miss the allegorical broad strokes in the plot, in which Boldheart, the first knight without a direct link to the ancient bloodline of the ruling class, is framed as a political criminal and targeted for elimination by a governing system steeped in long-standing traditions and prejudices, or to its seemingly juvenile title character, a girl with the ability to transform her physical being at will who is branded and persecuted as a “monster” because of it. As the story progresses, revealing even more hidden-in-plain-sight correlations to the “real” world, it’s difficult to imagine even the most obtusely straightforward viewer being blind to the story’s clear message about the corrupting influence of ancient and unquestioned preconceptions on the systems that govern our world.

Its aggressively deployed messaging, however, is not a detriment; “Nimona,” rescued beyond probability from the oblivion of studio politics and economic setbacks, rings all the more palpably authentic for wearing its agenda on its sleeve. In its unequivocal and undiluted embrace of the queer experience of “otherness” which lies (barely) beneath its every nuance, it becomes the inclusive, gay-and-trans-affirming parable it was always intended to be, emerging as a front-runner in the yearly race for accolades from a cautiously mainstream industry establishment in spite of its unapologetic queerness.

If that doesn’t make it essential viewing for queer movie fans, we don’t know what would.

Continue Reading

Popular