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Paris Jackson apologizes for appearing on cover of Harper’s Bazaar Singapore

The 20-year-old was slammed for the ‘hypocritical’ choice

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Paris Jackson (Photo via Instagram)

Paris Jackson has apologized for appearing on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Singapore after she was criticized for the choice.

Jamie Tabberer, an entertainment editor at Gay Star News, penned an op-ed questioning Jackson’s decision to be the cover star in a country where marriage is illegal. Jackson, 20, publicly announced she is bisexual in July but says she came out when she was 14.

“The hypocrisy is absurd,” Tabberer writes. “Put simply, I don’t believe LGBTI allies or LGBTIs should be granting exclusives to publications in such countries. For the record, I’m not trying to trash her. I just want to know if she considers consenting to this cover a mistake. If she doesn’t, I respect her right to that opinion.”

Jackson noticed the article and deleted her post of the magazine cover on Instagram. She also issued an apology via Twitter.

“i didn’t know, i am sorry. i was grateful for the opportunity, but i’ll delete the post now. i don’t want to be hypocritical or hurt anyone, and my support for my fellow LGBTQ+ community comes first before my love for fashion and gratitude for this opportunity. again, i’m sorry,” Jackson writes. “i would like to add though that someone that is openly apart of the community being on the cover in a country against the community, should be celebrated. isn’t that a step forward? again, i am deeply sorry. i didn’t mean to be hypocritical or hurt anyone.

Tom Hamilton, Jackson’s manager, also issued a statement on behalf of Jackson.

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Books

New book offers observations on race, beauty, love

‘How to Live Free in a Dangerous World’ is a journey of discovery

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(Book cover image courtesy of Tiny Reparations Books)

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

Do you really need three pairs of shoes?

The answer is probably yes: you can’t dance in hikers, you can’t shop in stilettos, you can’t hike in clogs. So what else do you overpack on this long-awaited trip? Extra shorts, extra tees, you can’t have enough things to wear. And in the new book “How to Live Free in a Dangerous World” by Shayla Lawson, you’ll need to bring your curiosity.

Minneapolis has always been one of their favorite cities, perhaps because Shayla Lawson was at one of Prince’s first concerts. They weren’t born yet; they were there in their mother’s womb and it was the first of many concerts.

In all their travels, Lawson has noticed that “being a Black American” has its benefits. People in other countries seem to hold Black Americans in higher esteem than do people in America. Still, there’s racism – for instance, their husband’s family celebrates Christmas in blackface.

Yes, Lawson was married to a Dutch man they met in Harlem. “Not Haarlem,” Lawson is quick to point out, and after the wedding, they became a housewife, learned the language of their husband, and fell in love with his grandmother. Alas, he cheated on them and the marriage didn’t last. He gave them a dog, which loved them more than the man ever did.

They’ve been to Spain, and saw a tagline in which a dark-skinned Earth Mother was created. Said Lawson, “I find it ironic, to be ordained a deity when it’s been a … journey to be treated like a person.”

They’ve fallen in love with “middle-American drag: it’s the glitteriest because our mothers are the prettiest.” They changed their pronouns after a struggle “to define my identity,” pointing out that in many languages, pronouns are “genderless.” They looked upon Frida Kahlo in Mexico, and thought about their own disability. And they wish you a good trip, wherever you’re going.

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

Crack open the front cover of “How to Live Free in a Dangerous World” and you might wonder what the heck you just got yourself into. The first chapter is artsy, painted with watercolors, and difficult to peg. Stick around, though. It gets better.

Past that opening, author Shayna Lawson takes readers on a not-so-little trip, both world-wide and with observant eyes – although it seems, at times, that the former is secondary to that which Lawson sees. Readers won’t mind that so much; the observations on race, beauty, love, the attitudes of others toward America, and finding one’s best life are really what takes the wheel in this memoir anyhow. Reading this book, therefore, is not so much a vacation as it is a journey of discovery and joy.

Just be willing to keep reading, that’s all you need to know to get the most out of this book. Stick around and “How to Live Free in a Dangerous World” is what to pack.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Movies

Trans filmmaker queers comic book genre with ‘People’s Joker’

Alternative ‘Batman’ universe a medium for mythologized autobiography

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Vera Drew and a friend in ‘The People’s Joker.’ (Image courtesy of Altered Innocence)

It might come as a shock to some comic book fans, but the idea of super heroes and super villains has always been very queer. Think about it: the dramatic skin-tight costumes, the dual identities and secret lives, the inability to fit in or connect because you are distanced from the “normal” world by your powers  – all the standard tropes that define this genre of pop culture myth-making are so rich with obviously queer-coded subtext that it seems ludicrous to think anyone could miss it.

This is not to claim that all superhero stories are really parables about being queer, but, if we’re being honest some of them feel more like it than others; an obvious example is “Batman,” whose domestic life with a teenage boy as his “ward” and close companion has been raising eyebrows since 1940. The campy 1960s TV series did nothing to distance the character from such associations – probably the opposite, in fact – and Warner Brothers’ popular ‘80s-’90s series of film adaptations with gay filmmaker Joel Schumacher’s much-maligned “Batman and Robin,” starring George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell in costumes that highlighted their nipples, which is arguably still the queerest superhero movie ever made.

Or at least it was. That title might now have to be transferred to “The People’s Joker,” which – as it emphatically and repeatedly reminds us – is a parody in no way affiliated with DC’s iconic “Batman” franchise or any of its characters, even though writer, director and star Vera Drew begins it with a dedication to “Mom and Joel Schumacher.” Parody it may be, but that doesn’t keep it from also serving up lots of food for serious thought to chew on between the laughs.

Set in a sort of comics-inspired dystopian meta-America where unsanctioned comedy is illegal, it’s the story of a young, closeted transgender comic (Drew) who leaves her small town home to travel to Gotham City and audition for “GCB” – the official government-produced sketch comedy show. Unfortunately, she’s not a very good comic, and after a rocky start she decides to leave to form a new comedy troupe (labeled “anti-comedy” to skirt legality issues) along with penguin-ish new friend Oswald Cobblepot (Nathan Faustyn). They collect an assortment of misfit would-be comedians to join them, and after branding herself as “Joker the Harlequin,” our protagonist starts to find her groove – but it will take negotiating a relationship with trans “bad boy” Mr. J (Kane Distler), a confrontation with her self-absorbed and transphobic mother (Lynn Downey), and making a choice between playing by the rules or breaking them before she can fully transition into the militant comic activist she was always meant to be.

Told as a wildly whimsical, mixed media narrative that combines live action with a quirky CGI production design and  multiple styles of animation (with different animators for each sequence), “People’s Joker” is by no means the kind of big-budget blockbuster we expect from a superhero — or in this case, supervillain — film, but it should be obvious from the synopsis above that’s not what Drew was going for, anyway. Instead, the Emmy-nominated former editor uses her loopy vision of an alternative “Batman” universe as the medium for a kind of mythologized autobiography, expressing her own real-life journey, both toward embracing her trans identity and forging a maverick career path in an industry discourages nonconformity, while also spoofing the absurdities of modern culture. Subverting familiar tropes, yet skillfully weaving together multiple threads from the “real” DC Universe she’s appropriated with the detailed savvy of a die-hard fangirl, it’s an accomplishment likely to impress her fellow comic book fans — even if they can’t quite get behind the gender politics or her presentation ot Batman himself (or rather, an animated version voiced by Phil Braun) as a closeted gay right-wing demagogue and serial sexual abuser.

These elements, of course, are meant to be deliberately provocative. Drew, like her screen alter ego, is a confrontation comedian at heart, bent on shaking up the dominant paradigm at every opportunity. Yet although she takes aim at the expected targets – the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, corporate hypocrisy, etc. – she is equally adept at scoring hits against things like draconian ideals of political correctness and weaponized “cancel culture”, which are deployed with no quarter from idealogues on both sides of the political divide. This means she might be risking the alienation of an audience which might otherwise be fully in her corner – but it also provides the ring of unbiased personal truth that keeps the movie from sliding into propaganda and elevates it, like “Barbie”, to the level of absurdist allegory.

Because ultimately, of course, the point of “People’s Joker” has little to do with the politics and social constructs it skewers along the way; at its core, it’s all about the real human things that resonate with all of us, regardless of gender, sexuality, ideology, or even political parties: the need to feel loved, to feel supported, and most of all, to be fully actualized. That means the real heart of the film beats in the central thread of her troubled connection between mother and daughter, superbly rendered in both Drew and Downey’s performances, and it’s there that Joker is finally able to break free of her own self-imposed restrictions and simply “be” who she is.

Other performances deserve mention, too, such as Faustyn’s weirdly lovable “Penguin” stand-in and Outsider multi-hyphenate David Leibe Hart as Ra’s al Ghul – a seminal “Batman” villain here reimagined as a veteran comic that serves as a kind of Obi-Wan Kenobi figure in Joker’s quest. In the end, though, it’s Drew’s show from top to bottom, a showcase for not only her acting skills, which are enhanced by the obvious intelligence (including the emotional kind) she brings to the table, but her considerable talents as a writer, director, and editor.

For some viewers, admittedly, the low-budget vibe of this crowd-funded film might create an obstacle to appreciating the cleverness and artistic vision behind it, though Drew leans into the limitations to find remarkably creative ways to convey what she wants with the means she has at her disposal. Others, obviously will have bigger problems with it than that. Indeed, the film, which debuted at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, was withdrawn from competition there and pulled from additional festival screenings after alleged corporate bullying (presumably from Warner Brothers, which owns the film rights to the Batman franchise) pressured Drew into pulling it back. Clearly, concern over blowback from conservative fans – who would likely never see the film anyway – was enough to warrant strong arm techniques from nervous execs. Nevertheless, “The People’s Joker” made its first American appearance at LA’s Outfest in 2023, and is now receiving a rollout theatrical release that started on April 5 in New York, and continues this week in Los Angeles, with Washington DC and other cities to follow on April 12 and beyond.

If you’re in one of the places where it plays, we say it’s more than worth making the effort. If you’re not, never fear. A VOD/streaming release is sure to come soon. 

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Travel

Hot fun in the desert sun: Your Palm Springs guide

Hiking, dining, bar hopping, and more await

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There are plenty of hiking options for visitors to Palm Springs. (Photo by Bill Malcolm)

Palm Springs is a favorite destination of mine. I have lots of friends there and there is always something new to do. This trip was no exception. Hiking in two new natural areas. A cabaret shows at Oscar’s. Swimming with the USMS Masters at the Palm Springs Swim Center. A bagel at Townie Bagels and a baguette at Peninsula Pastries. And a cocktail at PSP Air Bar were among the highlights.

WHAT TO DO

Enjoy the Villagefest Thursday night downtown. They block off the street, and it becomes a huge farmers market and art show.

Hit the PS Air Bar for an airline themed evening. They have piano bar Sunday nights in the front. Shop at the Revivals store in the same complex.

Hike in the new Prescott Preserve, formerly a golf course.

Take a hike at the South Lykken Trailhead in Oswit Canyon. Enjoy the cacti and wildflowers. We saw 3 big horn sheep in the meadow. Check out the Oswit Land Trust website for more information.

Go shopping on Sunny Dunes just off South Palm Canyon drive where you will find vintage stores, the Tool Shed leather bar, the new Club 541, antique stores, and a cactus and succulent gift shop (as well as Townie Bagels). Then walk or bike along the new trail along the river just south of Sunny Dunes Road. They even have the plants marked. All are steps from the Motel 6 Downtown.

NIGHTLIFE

Catch a show or go to the Sunday T Dance at Oscar’s. They also have a drag brunch both Saturday and Sunday called “The Bitchiest Brunch.” I saw the fabulous trio, Brandon, and James with Effie, on a Thursday night.

Toucans Tiki Lounge has a popular drag show Monday night. Pick up some new underwear or adult novelty items at the Not So Innocent store next door, 200 N. Palm Canyon.

The Tool Shed at 600 E. Sunny Dunes has a Sunday beer bust and BBQ. They also have an underwear night on Thursdays.

Hunters Palm Springs on Arenas Road has a fun happy hour. (This is the same owner as the one in Wilton Manors, Fla.) You will find 10 other bars nearby.

Fasten your seat belts for the Karaoke Thursday night at PSP Air Bar. The airline themed speakeasy is inside Bouschet. Sit in an old first class American Airlines seat (or an old coach Southwest Airlines seat) while the captain pours you a drink at the PS Air Bar. Then enjoy a show at the Revolution Stage Company next door.

WHERE TO EAT

Grab your morning bagel and coffee at Townie Bagels at 650 East Sunny Dunes. Get there early or expect a line. They open at 6:30 a.m. They are at 650 E. Sunny Dunes Road and have a cult following.

Enjoy a café Americano and pastry at Ristretto For Coffee Lovers (500 S. Palm Canyon Drive).

Enjoy a French baguette or pastry at Peninsula Pastries, 611 S. Palm Canyon in the Sun Plaza. They are only open Thursday to Sunday starting at 8:30 a.m. Get there early to avoid the line. All baked goods use French flour. Like Townie Bagels, they are quite popular. Next door is the Palm Greens Café for a healthy lunch.

Nature’s Health Food and Café (555 Sunrise Way) has fresh juices like carrot juice and vegetarian items like the eggplant wrap. You can sit outside on their patio with your to-go food.

Pick up fruit, yogurt or a pre-made sandwich at Grocery Outlet, Bargain Market in downtown Palm Springs.

GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND

I took United through Denver on the way out and through their Houston hub on the way back. United had the best fare and best departure times so I chose them despite my disdain for their policy charging for carry on for basic economy passengers. I had Economy Plus so I got a no charge carry on.

Palm Springs has a cute, small airport with a huge outdoor area. It’s the nicest airport I have ever been to. However, pack something to eat as they have few food options at the moment.

Hop on the #2 SunLine Bus across the street from the airport to go downtown. It’s a two block walk and costs $1. Rental car not needed if you stay downtown. (The lines for the rental cars can be long and they are packed with fees and surcharges.) I used Uber when not taking the SunLine. (SunLine.org)

Leave your bike helmet at home. The city does not have a shared bike system and is not pedestrian friendly outside of the downtown area despite being flat and having a warm climate.

WHERE TO (AND NOT TO) STAY

I stayed at the very handy and very affordable Motel 6 Downtown, 600 S. Palm Canyon. It is across the street from the Sun Plaza, which consists of many shops and restaurant, is a short walk to the bars on Arenas Road, is around the corner from Townie Bagels and the Tool Shed Bar, and more. Rooms are cleaned daily without asking – unheard of with most motels and hotels. The internet is good. No annoying resort fees. Free coffee every morning at 6 a.m. Get a quiet room on the third floor facing east.

Beware of junk fees like resort fees at other Palm Springs hotels. Most hotels in Palm Springs now have them and they are only disclosed on third party booking sites at the end of the reservation process making the room rate look lower than it actually is.

Often, they are lumped under “taxes and fees” to make you think the government requires them. My favorite (not) was the mandatory “community impact fee” at the Hotel Zoso. It is for a mandatory contribution to a charity.

Happily, I have yet to see hotels add a “pillow fee” or “key fee.”

Palm Springs has many lodging options including VRBO and specialty resorts. Men will like the new Twin Palms Resort as well as their sister property, The Descanso Resort. Both are excellent. Service is top notch. Lunch catered everyday. And more.

MORE INFORMATION

GED is the local magazine. RAGE Monthly out of San Diego also covers PS as does the Los Angeles Blade.

The weekly is the Coachella Valley Independent, which covers upcoming events, restaurants, hikes, local politics and more.

Palm Springs also has a gay radio station. Pick up a copy of their KGay desert Guide or view them at kgaypalmsprings.com (106.5 on the FM dial).

You won’t run out of fun things to do in Palm Springs and summer is their value season.

There is nowhere else where you can enjoy the desert sun surrounded to the west and north by snow capped mountains. And you won’t find a gayer city anywhere.

Bill Malcolm is an award-winning travel writer. His syndicated travel column in run by select LGBTQ publications throughout North America. You can find him on Facebook and read his columns at the travel blog section of the IGLTA website. He received no compensation of any kind for this column.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch

Sen. Butler delivers keynote address

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Sen. Laphonza Butler speaks at the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – The LGBTQ+ Victory Fund held its annual National Champagne Brunch at the Grand Hyatt on Sunday, April 7. Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) delivered the keynote address.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Social Media Platforms

Instagram battles financial sextortion scams, blurs DM nudity

When sending or receiving these images, people will be directed to safety tips, developed with guidance from experts, about potential risks

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Instagram app start up screen on iPhone/Los Angeles Blade graphic

Editor’s note: The following article is provided as a public service for readers regarding actions taken by Instagram, a social media platform, dealing with a subject of general interest and concern. The Los Angeles Blade has not verified the information contained herein.

By Meta Public & Media Relations | MENLO PARK, Calif. – Financial sextortion is a horrific crime. We’ve spent years working closely with experts, including those experienced in fighting these crimes, to understand the tactics scammers use to find and extort victims online, so we can develop effective ways to help stop them.

Today, we’re sharing an overview of our latest work to tackle these crimes. This includes new tools we’re testing to help protect people from sextortion and other forms of intimate image abuse, and to make it as hard as possible for scammers to find potential targets – on Meta’s apps and across the internet. We’re also testing new measures to support young people in recognizing and protecting themselves from sextortion scams.

These updates build on our longstanding work to help protect young people from unwanted or potentially harmful contact. We default teens into stricter message settings so they can’t be messaged by anyone they’re not already connected to, show Safety Notices to teens who are already in contact with potential scam accounts, and offer a dedicated option for people to report DMs that are threatening to share private images. We also supported the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in developing Take It Down, a platform that lets young people take back control of their intimate images and helps prevent them being shared online – taking power away from scammers.

Takeaways:

  • We’re testing new features to help protect young people from sextortion and intimate image abuse, and to make it more difficult for potential scammers and criminals to find and interact with teens.
  • We’re also testing new ways to help people spot potential sextortion scams, encourage them to report and empower them to say no to anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • We’ve started sharing more signals about sextortion accounts to other tech companies through Lantern, helping disrupt this criminal activity across the internet.

Introducing Nudity Protection in DMs

While people overwhelmingly use DMs to share what they love with their friends, family or favorite creators, sextortion scammers may also use private messages to share or ask for intimate images. To help address this, we’ll soon start testing our new nudity protection feature in Instagram DMs, which blurs images detected as containing nudity and encourages people to think twice before sending nude images. This feature is designed not only to protect people from seeing unwanted nudity in their DMs, but also to protect them from scammers who may send nude images to trick people into sending their own images in return.

Nudity protection will be turned on by default for teens under 18 globally, and we’ll show a notification to adults encouraging them to turn it on.

When nudity protection is turned on, people sending images containing nudity will see a message reminding them to be cautious when sending sensitive photos, and that they can unsend these photos if they’ve changed their mind.

Screenshots showing a message reminding user to be cautious when sending sensitive photos.

Anyone who tries to forward a nude image they’ve received will see a message encouraging them to reconsider.

Screenshots showing a message encouraging them to reconsider when a nude image is forwarded.

When someone receives an image containing nudity, it will be automatically blurred under a warning screen, meaning the recipient isn’t confronted with a nude image and they can choose whether or not to view it. We’ll also show them a message encouraging them not to feel pressure to respond, with an option to block the sender and report the chat.

Screenshots showing an automatically blurred under a warning screen when someone receives an image containing nudity.

When sending or receiving these images, people will be directed to safety tips, developed with guidance from experts, about the potential risks involved. These tips include reminders that people may screenshot or forward images without your knowledge, that your relationship to the person may change in the future, and that you should review profiles carefully in case they’re not who they say they are. They also link to a range of resources, including Meta’s Safety Centersupport helplinesStopNCII.org for those over 18, and Take It Down for those under 18.

Screenshots showing safety tips about the potential risks involved when sending or receiving these images.

Nudity protection uses on-device machine learning to analyze whether an image sent in a DM on Instagram contains nudity. Because the images are analyzed on the device itself, nudity protection will work in end-to-end encrypted chats, where Meta won’t have access to these images – unless someone chooses to report them to us.

“Companies have a responsibility to ensure the protection of minors who use their platforms. Meta’s proposed device-side safety measures within its encrypted environment is encouraging. We are hopeful these new measures will increase reporting by minors and curb the circulation of online child exploitation.” — John Shehan, Senior Vice President, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

“As an educator, parent, and researcher on adolescent online behavior, I applaud Meta’s new feature that handles the exchange of personal nude content in a thoughtful, nuanced, and appropriate way. It reduces unwanted exposure to potentially traumatic images, gently introduces cognitive dissonance to those who may be open to sharing nudes, and educates people about the potential downsides involved. Each of these should help decrease the incidence of sextortion and related harms, helping to keep young people safe online.” — Dr. Sameer Hinduja, Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University.

Preventing Potential Scammers from Connecting with Teens

We take severe action when we become aware of people engaging in sextortion: we remove their account, take steps to prevent them from creating new ones and, where appropriate, report them to the NCMEC and law enforcement. Our expert teams also work to investigate and disrupt networks of these criminals, disable their accounts and report them to NCMEC and law enforcement – including several networks in the last year alone.

Now, we’re also developing technology to help identify where accounts may potentially be engaging in sextortion scams, based on a range of signals that could indicate sextortion behavior. While these signals aren’t necessarily evidence that an account has broken our rules, we’re taking precautionary steps to help prevent these accounts from finding and interacting with teen accounts. This builds on the work we already do to prevent other potentially suspicious accounts from finding and interacting with teens.

One way we’re doing this is by making it even harder for potential sextortion accounts to message or interact with people. Now, any message requests potential sextortion accounts try to send will go straight to the recipient’s hidden requests folder, meaning they won’t be notified of the message and never have to see it. For those who are already chatting to potential scam or sextortion accounts, we show Safety Notices encouraging them to report any threats to share their private images, and reminding them that they can say no to anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

For teens, we’re going even further. We already restrict adults from starting DM chats with teens they’re not connected to, and in January we announced stricter messaging defaults for teens under 16 (under 18 in certain countries), meaning they can only be messaged by people they’re already connected to – no matter how old the sender is. Now, we won’t show the “Message” button on a teen’s profile to potential sextortion accounts, even if they’re already connected. We’re also testing hiding teens from these accounts in people’s follower, following and like lists, and making it harder for them to find teen accounts in Search results.

New Resources for People Who May Have Been Approached by Scammers

We’re testing new pop-up messages for people who may have interacted with an account we’ve removed for sextortion. The message will direct them to our expert-backed resources, including our Stop Sextortion Hubsupport helplines, the option to reach out to a friend, StopNCII.org for those over 18, and Take It Down for those under 18.

We’re also adding new child safety helplines from around the world into our in-app reporting flows. This means when teens report relevant issues – such as nudity, threats to share private images or sexual exploitation or solicitation – we’ll direct them to local child safety helplines where available.

Fighting Sextortion Scams Across the Internet

In November, we announced we were founding members of Lantern, a program run by the Tech Coalition that enables technology companies to share signals about accounts and behaviors that violate their child safety policies.

This industry cooperation is critical, because predators don’t limit themselves to just one platform – and the same is true of sextortion scammers. These criminals target victims across the different apps they use, often moving their conversations from one app to another. That’s why we’ve started to share more sextortion-specific signals to Lantern, to build on this important cooperation and try to stop sextortion scams not just on individual platforms, but across the whole internet.

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The preceding article was previously published by Instagram here: (Link)

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Events

Cynthia Erivo to be honored at LA LGBT Center Gala

This year’s gala features a special musical performance by pop trio MUNA, who will receive the Leslie Jordan Award for Excellence in the Arts

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Cynthia Erivo performs "Alfie" for Dionne Warwick at the 46th Kennedy Center Honors (Screenshot/YouTube CBS)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles LGBT Center, the world’s largest queer-serving nonprofit organization, announced Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning and Oscar-nominated actress, singer, songwriter and producer Cynthia Erivo will be honored with the Schrader Award at this year’s Center Gala on May 18, 2024.

A global sensation and proud queer woman, Erivo will be recognized for her stellar achievements in entertainment and activism championing the LGBTQ+ community. 

“I’m thrilled to continue my support for the Los Angeles LGBT Center—an organization that does so much for our community,” Erivo said. “I can’t wait to celebrate with my fellow presenters and honorees, and of course, our queer family in LA.”

Mickalene Thomas, considered one of the most influential visual artists of our time, will be honored with this year’s Vanguard Award. ​​Thomas is an award-winning multidisciplinary artist whose work has yielded widely celebrated aesthetic languages within contemporary visual culture. An out lesbian, she’s recognized for her advocacy and commitment to intersecting complexities of Black and female identity within the Western canon.

“It’s an honor to be recognized alongside Cynthia and so many other talented members of our community,” said Thomas. “I’m excited to kick off an incredible Pride season in LA with the Los Angeles LGBT Center.”

This year’s gala will also feature a special musical performance by power pop trio MUNA, who will receive the Leslie Jordan Award for Excellence in the Arts. 

“We are facing unprecedented attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, which means the Center’s work is more urgent than ever,” said the organization’s CEO, Joe Hollendoner. “Now is the time to strengthen our support for the movement and celebrate with fierce, radical joy.”

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Online/Digital Streaming Media

Delivering a 25-year-old gay lost love letter across time & distance

Los Angeles Blade contributor and gay YouTube vlogger ‘StanChris’ delivers a 25-year-old love letter across the Atlantic

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A special moment during a unique adventure that started with a discovery of a letter in a dusty bureau inside a Boston antique market. (Screenshot/YouTube StanChris)

By Chris Stanley | BOSTON, Mass. – Celebrating one of my younger brother’s birthdays I took him thrifting a few months ago and while we were in an antique marketplace exploring, he found an interesting item in a bureau that ended up being a modern day adventure- in the name of gay love.

Please watch my videoblog below oh and at the end, especially for you folks living on the West coast, I have a special request for your assistance.

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Chris Stanley, a contributor to the Los Angeles Blade, is a Boston-based YouTube vlogger and social media influencer with 400K plus followers. He is also on TikTok and Instagram as ‘StanChris’ and along with his best mate, fellow vlogger and influencer Artem Bezrukavenko @itsartbezrukavenko, document their lives, capturing stories and their interactions in the LGBTQ+ community.

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Online/Digital Streaming Media

The trans man, journalist, & filmmaker embedded with the Taliban

New documentary TRANSITION presents an astounding scenario with depth and sensitivity by documentary filmmaker Jordan Bryon

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Australian trans man, journalist, and filmmaker Jordan Bryon with members of the Taliban. (Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

HOLLYWOOD – Imagine taking this plot into the creative meeting at a major studio:  “It is right before the Taliban take control of Afghanistan. A transgender journalist has been living in transition. He becomes embedded with a group of Taliban warriors – and gets to know them. Here’s the kicker—he even goes and gets his gender-affirming surgery WHILE being embedded.”

You can hear imaginary murmurs from the theoretical executives. “Nah, who would DO that?”  “Implausible. They would get found out.” And a third, “No. No one would believe that could happen.” 

They might determine that it tries to create a truth that no one will believe.

As it turns out, they, and you, CAN believe it, because it happened. It has already been turned into a film, but not a dramatized fictional one – it is now a documentary. The documentary not only gives you the experience of a transgender activist embedded, and in action, but equally astounding, it was made by a woman. If you know anything about the Taliban, you will know that a woman wielding a camera around them is hard to fathom.

The film is ACG Unwritten’s “Transition,” released through Gravitas Ventures. In the film, Australian trans man, journalist, and filmmaker Jordan Bryon gains incredible access to a Taliban unit during the fall of Afghanistan. While he is in his own personal transition, so is the country around him. As he and his local videographer, Teddy, embed with the Taliban, Jordan conceals his physiology and is accepted as a man. If the Taliban had found out, he and Teddy would have been stripped and killed. In the film, Jordan struggles with the moral and ethical dilemmas that come with his unique situation. “Reality is far more complex that ‘this is the way things are.’ We wanted to find humanity in dark places, we wanted to explore the gray areas.”

I sat down with Jordan and his filmmaker partner, Monica Villamizar, on the podcast Rated LGBT Radio and the episode The Trans Man Who Embedded with the Taliban: The Hot New Doc TRANSITION. The film is a mind-blowing chronicle of personal transition played out against the backdrop of a cultural one. It still begged the question, why would a nice trans man like Jordan, raised and supported by a gem of a mom back in Australia (we meet her in the film), subject himself to the danger and potential vitriol he would have encountered had he been discovered, or even suspected of being trans?

Monica Villamizar in an Afghan school for girls. (Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“It’s wild. I experienced a lot of discrimination and even violence in Australia because I always had these labels that followed me around. When I went to Afghanistan, because they have such a limited understanding of LGBTQ people, I was anonymous. They didn’t really know if I was a man or a woman, so I became just ‘Jordan” and that anonymity really gave me a blank slate to reimagine myself as to who I wanted to be in the next chapter of my life. Obviously, I am talking as a privileged Australian. For Afghan LGBTQ people, it can be a fatal experience,” he answers. Jordan had been in Afghanistan for five years before it fell to the Taliban. He was not willing to let that “small” fact deter him, when he still had so much more he wanted to give back by revealing the true Afghanistan to the world.

“I am a documentary filmmaker,” he tells me. “Like all of us documentary filmmakers, I am on the hunt for stories that are going to give the audience insight into something they may not know that much about. My mom, you met her in the film, is a bloody legend. She raised me to always speak out for the underdog. Having always been an underdog myself, growing up queer in a small rural town in Australia, I’ve always had an underdog affiliation. I’ve lived in Jordan, Palestine, and Afghanistan, all underdog countries. Making films in these countries, especially Afghanistan, is an absolute gift. Afghanistan is largely undiscovered in many ways and the headlines we see in the media are only one dimension of the country. It is a complex, multi-dimensional country that blows your mind the more you get to know it. Being a filmmaker in Afghanistan is the best chapter of my life I have ever had.”

As to his own identity, Jordan says, “I love being trans. I do not see myself as being a man or a woman. I see myself as being a cluster-fuck of both and everything in between. “ While Joran has gender-affirming surgery in the film, he still celebrates the decades that he lived as a nongender individual within a female presenting body. 

For her part, Monica felt a responsibility as a journalist to capture this piece of history, even though she did not have the same privilege that Jordan experienced. A paradox of the film shows is how Jordan gains more freedom in this toxic masculine world as he transitions, than Monica. The film deftly chronicles the increasing oppression of women as the Taliban transitions to power. Monica experiences this firsthand as her freedoms become more limited operating behind the camera. “I was with Jordan, Kiana, and Teddy for some of the filming where I could have freedom of movement as a woman, but when Jordan was traveling with the Taliban unit, but when they went remote, I had to stay back in a hotel. They had to go through various Taliban checkpoints where I could not be in the car, I could not be seen because I am a woman. I was locked up in a hotel, communicating with the crew via telephone messages.” Even with those restrictions, through the team, Monica was able to capture film that showed Afghanistan in way no one around the world had seen before.

(Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Monica points out the most unique aspect of the film: getting a reporter’s viewpoint through a nonbinary lens. She calls out the journalism establishment that has female reporters covering one kind of story, and male reporters who are very “gung ho” covering others. Here you have a nonbinary reporter’s vision being captured. “How Jordan approached people was so interesting. More rich. We wanted to explore these complexities and nuances. How Jordan disarms the Taliban members with his personality, it is very interesting. We would not have gotten that kind of footage and intimacy through another reporter’s eyes.”

Transition is a film about a country being regressed to its prior oppression. It is a film about one man’s transition into his more finely honed authenticity. 

Mostly though, it is a film that will impose a transition on you, the audience member. It will take you from pre-conceived notions about both situations to a deeper more multi-dimensional understanding.

Therefore, Transition is ultimately about truth. Afghanistan’s truth. Jordan’s truth.

And the truth each one of us chooses to see and believe in the world.

Transition had its world premiere at the Tribeca Festival to audience and critical acclaim and has captivated audiences around the world as an Official Selection at Sheffield DocFest, Sydney Film Festival, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Watch Docs Festival and the Human Rights Film Festival where it won the Audience Award.

You can view it on all on-demand platforms.

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

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] 

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Theater

Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle announces 2023 award recipients

The 54th Annual ceremony took place on Monday, April 8, 14 different productions were honored, celebrating a wide range of LA theater

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The audience at the THANK YOU FIVE event held at The Matrix Theatre Company stage in October 2023 sponsored by Rogue Machine Theatre, Joshua Bitton and Isidora Goreshter in support of IATSE members affected by the 2023 SAG strike. (Photo Credit: Rogue Machine Theatre/Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle has announced their award recipients for 2023. Kill Shelter (Theatre of NOTE) received the prestigious Production award, with additional honorees named in 17 other categories. In total, 14 different productions were honored, celebrating a wide range of Los Angeles theater.

Theatre of NOTE’s Kill Shelter and Pasadena Playhouse’s A Little Night Music received the most awards for a single production. Both productions were also factored into Special Awards, with Kill Shelter author Ashley Rose Wellman winning The TED SCHMITT AWARD for the World Premiere of an Outstanding New Play and A Little Night Music being a significant part of The JOEL HIRSCHHORN AWARD for Outstanding Achievement in Musical Theatre winner Pasadena Playhouse’s The Sondheim Celebration.

The 54th Annual ceremony took place on Monday, April 8th at 8 pm PST. For the first time in LADCC history, a presentation was live stream simulcast on both Instagram and Facebook @LADramaCritics. The live replay can still be viewed on the LADCC’s YouTube channel at @ladramacriticscircle3508 or at https://ladramacriticscircle.com/2023-awards/.

As previously announced, the LADCC has named the following Special Award Honorees:The POLLY WARFIELD AWARD for Best Season by a Small to Midsized Theater is given to Rogue Machine: John Perrin Flynn (Producing Artistic Director), Guillermo Cienfuegos (Artistic Director), Elina de Santos (Co-Artistic Director), and Justin Okin (Producing Director).                                                                                                                               

The GORDON DAVIDSON AWARD for Distinguished Contributions to the Los Angeles Theatrical Community is presented to Joseph Stern.

The JOEL HIRSCHHORN AWARD for Outstanding Achievement in Musical Theatre is presented to Pasadena Playhouse for The Sondheim Celebration.

The MILTON KATSELAS AWARD for Career or Special Achievement in Direction is presented to Michael Michetti.

The KINETIC LIGHTING AWARD for distinguished achievement in theatrical design goes to Pablo Santiago who will receive a cash prize from Kinetic Lighting (https://kineticlighting.com/).

The TED SCHMITT AWARD for the World Premiere of an Outstanding New Play is awarded to Ashley Rose Wellman for Kill Shelter (Theatre of Note). Ms. Wellman will also receive a cash prize from our Schmitt Award sponsor, The Black List  (https://blcklst.com/).

The MARGARET HARFORD AWARD for Excellence in Theatre is given to Echo Theater Company, Chris Fields, Founding Artistic Director.

The complete list of award recipients for 2023 is as follows:

PRODUCTION

Kill Shelter; Theatre of NOTE

MCCULLOH AWARD FOR BEST REVIVAL

A Little Night Music; Pasadena Playhouse

DIRECTION

Shaina Rosenthal; Kill Shelter; Theatre of NOTE

WRITING-ORIGINAL Bernardo Cubría; Crabs in a Bucket; Echo Theater Company
Rosie Narasaki; Unrivaled; Playwrights’ Arena and Boston Court Pasadena.                       

WRITING-ADAPTATION

Aaron Posner; Life Sucks; Interact Theatre Company

MUSIC DIRECTION

Alby Potts; A Little Night Music; Pasadena Playhouse

CHOREOGRAPHY 

Joyce Guy; Much Ado About Nothing; A Noise Within

Casey Nicholaw; Mean Girls; Hollywood Pantages Theatre

MUSIC & LYRICS

Michael Shaw Fisher; Exorcistic: The Rock Musical; Orgasmico Theatre Company

LEAD PERFORMANCE

Merle Dandridge; A Little Night Music; Pasadena Playhouse

Edwin Lee Gibson; Fetch Clay, Make Man; Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre

Ashley Romans; Kill Shelter; Theatre of NOTE

FEATURED PERFORMANCE 

Tasha Ames; Do You Feel Anger?; Circle X Theatre Co.

Casey Smith; Do You Feel Anger?; Circle X Theatre Co.

ENSEMBLE

Life Sucks; Interact Theatre Company 

SCENIC DESIGNAlexander Dodge; The Engagement Party; Geffen Playhouse

LIGHTING DESIGN

Dan Weingarten; The Tempest: An Immersive Experience; The Shakespeare Center LA and After Hours Theatre Company

COSTUME DESIGN

Kate Bergh; A Little Night Music; Pasadena Playhouse

Lou Cranch; Crabs in a Bucket; Echo Theater Company

SOUND DESIGN

Alyssa Ishii; Unrivaled; Playwrights’ Arena and Boston Court Pasadena.

SOLO PERFORMANCE

Daniel K. Isaac; Every Brilliant Thing; Geffen Playhouse

PROJECTION / ANIMATION DESIGN (was missing a comma)

Yee Eun Nam; Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992Center Theatre Group / Mark Taper Forum

PUPPET DESIGN

Emory Royston; Kill Shelter; Theatre of NOTE

Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) Info: The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle current officers consist of President Jonas Schwartz-Owen (TheaterMania, BroadwayWorld/LA), Vice President Dana Martin (Stage Raw), Treasurer Hoyt Hilsman (Cultural Daily), Co-Secretaries Martίn Hernández (Stage Raw) and Philip Brandes (Stage Raw, LA Times, Santa Barbara Independent), Website/Social Media Co-Chairs Socks Whitmore (Stage Raw) and Patrick Chavis (LA Theatre Bites, The Orange Curtain Review) and Awards Chair Tracey Paleo (Gia On The Move, BroadwayWorld/LA).

The current 2024 membership of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (in alphabetical order): Lara J. Altunian (Stage Raw, L.A. Dance Chronicle), Philip Brandes (Stage Raw, LA Times, Santa Barbara Independent), Katie Buenneke (Stage Raw, TheaterDigest.substack.com), Patrick Chavis (LA Theatre Bites, The Orange Curtain Review), F. Kathleen Foley (Stage Raw),  Anita W. Harris (LATheatrix.com), Martίn Hernández (Stage Raw), Hoyt Hilsman (Cultural Daily), Travis Michael Holder (TicketHoldersLA.com), Deborah Klugman (Stage Raw), 

Harker Jones (BroadwayWorld/LA), Dana Martin (Stage Raw), Myron Meisel (Stage Raw),                                                                                                                                               Terry Morgan (Stage Raw, ArtsBeatLA.com), Honorary Member Steven Leigh Morris (Stage Raw), Tracey Paleo (GiaOnTheMove.com/ BroadwayWorld/LA), Melinda Schupmann (ShowMag.com, ArtsInLA.com), Jonas Schwartz-Owen (TheaterMania, BroadwayWorld/LA), Don Shirley (Angeles Stage on Substack), and Socks Whitmore (Stage Raw).

Citation Totals by Production

A Little Night Music; Pasadena Playhouse; 4 wins

Kill Shelter; Theatre of NOTE; 4 wins

Life Sucks; Interact Theatre Company; 2 wins

Crabs in a Bucket; Echo Theater Company; 2 wins

Do You Feel Anger?; Circle X Theatre Co.; 2 wins

Unrivaled; Playwrights’ Arena and Boston Court; 2 wins

The Tempest: An Immersive Experience; The Shakespeare Center LA and After Hours Theatre Company; 1 win

Mean Girls; Hollywood Pantages Theatre; 1 win

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992; Center Theatre Group / Mark Taper Forum; 1 win

Every Brilliant Thing; Geffen Playhouse; 1 win

Exorcistic: The Rock Musical; Orgasmico Theatre Company; 1 win

Fetch Clay, Make Man; Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre; 1 win

The Engagement Party; Geffen Playhouse; 1 win

Much Ado About Nothing; A Noise Within; 1 win

Citation Totals by Company

Pasadena Playhouse; 4 winsTheatre of NOTE; 4 wins

Center Theatre Group; 2 wins

Interact Theatre Company; 2 wins

Echo Theater Company; 2 wins

Playwrights’ Arena and Boston Court Pasadena.; 2 wins

Circle X Theatre Co.; 2 wins

Geffen Playhouse; 2 wins

The Shakespeare Center LA and After Hours Theatre Company; 1 win

Hollywood Pantages Theatre; 1 win

Orgasmico Theatre Company; 1 win

A Noise Within; 1 win

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Sports

Applause & criticism for Coach Staley’s trans-inclusive stance

“If you’re a woman, you should play. If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports… you should be able to play”

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South Carolina Gamecocks women's basketball head coach Dawn Staley. (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News Today)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — If not for a conservative transphobic blogger, this moment should be a celebration of NCAA women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley and the women of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

On Sunday, they concluded their undefeated season with a decisive win and a championship title. But when Staley faced reporters before that big game, Outkick’s Dan Zakheske asked her an irrelevant, clickbait question about transgender women in sports, referring to them as “biological males.” 

Staley could have ignored the question, or stated she had no opinion, but instead the legendary coach offered a crystal clear endorsement of trans women competing in women’s sports, something outlawed in her home state of South Carolina for girls in kindergarten through college. 

“I’m of the opinion,” said Staley, “If you’re a woman, you should play. If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports or vice versa, you should be able to play. That’s my opinion.”

Zakheske clearly wasn’t satisfied with that declaration of allyship and Staley swiftly cut him off. 

“You want me to go deeper?” she asked. 

“Do you think transgender women should be able to participate,” he started to say, when the coach stole the ball and took it downtown on a fastbreak. “That’s the question you want to ask? I’ll give you that. Yes. Yes. So, now the barnstormer people are going to flood my timeline and be a distraction to me on one of the biggest days of our game, and I’m okay with that. I really am.” 

Staley is herself a Hall of Fame player a leading voice for diversity. 

Reaction to her comments were swift, from LGBTQ+ rights organizations, athletes and inclusion opponents. 

“Coach Staley simply spoke the truth that trans women are women and should play if they want,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, in a post on Instagram. “All of us can take a page from Coach Staley’s playbook as a sports leader and as a person of high integrity guided by faith, compassion and common sense.” 

A White House pool reporter revealed President Biden called Coach Staley Sunday evening to congratulate her and the Gamecocks on their championship win. But it’s not clear if she and the president, an outspoken supporter of transgender rights, discussed her remarks on trans athletes. 

A number of Black leaders in the LGBTQ+ movement applauded Staley for taking a stand. 

“Coach Staley has always been a trailblazer, but she’s also shown that true leadership is about advancing justice and equality for everyone,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson. “By expressing her full-throated support for transgender athletes’ inclusion in sports, she’s sending an important message — our shared humanity matters. 

“Coach Staley showed courage and vulnerability, in choosing to answer the question and make a powerful statement of support for trans people on one of the biggest days and biggest stages in sports history,” said Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in a statement. “Not only does that make her a leader we can all aspire to like, it makes her a class act. She has etched her legacy in the history books with her play, her coaching, her heart and her smarts.”

In congratulating Staley on her championship title victory, Dr. David J. Johns, the CEO and executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, also commended her for “her unwavering advocacy and support for transgender people in sports.” 

“In a time when transgender athetes face unjust scrutiny, discrimination and exclusion from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, her courage to speak truth to power and in support of inclusion and fairness sets a powerful example for us all, and is a testament to her integrity and compassion.”

The NBJC leader was referring to Monday’s announcement by the NAIA, the governing body of athletic programs at small colleges nationwide, voting 20-0 to essentially ban trans women from competing with other women beginning August 1, as ESPN reported.

“It is a shocking and devastating development that the NAIA, an organization that has done so much to open doors, is now slamming those doors shut on transgender athletes,” said Sasha Buchert, Lambda Legal’s senior attorney and director of the organization’s nonbinary and transgender rights project. 

“Instead of standing up in support of transgender young people, the NAIA has simply turned its back on them — permanently depriving them of the benefits of competition. Would that they had the courage of victorious University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley, who didn’t miss a beat in clarifying that transgender women should be able to play.” 

However, praise for Staley’s stance was not universal. 

Riley Gaines, failed former college swimmer and paid shill for the anti-inclusion organization, Independent Women’s Forum, called Staley “entirely incompetent or a sell-out” on Fox News. “Personally, I don’t think she believes what she said.” 

Gaines has turned her fifth-place tie with out trans NCAA champion Lia Thomas into a career as a crusader against inclusion and a former advisor to the presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Val Whiting, a former Stanford University and professional women’s basketball player, tweeted her strong disagreement with Staley. “A lot of my basketball sisters feel differently but trans women do not belong in women’s sports. It’s not fair nor safe for biological women. There has to be another solution for trans women to be able to compete athletically besides having them compete against biological women.” 

Zaksheske’s Outkick colleague, anti-trans pundit David Hookstead, also went all-in with a transphobic post. 

“Dawn Staley says she supports men who identify as women competing against real women in sports. Her view could literally destroy women’s basketball forever. Why won’t more people stand up for women?”

Hookstead then boasted that Staley blocked his account. 

South Carolina Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace retweeted Zaksheske’s account of his interaction with Staley, calling her support of trans athletes “absolute lunacy.” That in turn won praise from Caitlyn Jenner, who retweeted Whiting and posted her thanks to Rep. Mace, along with this comment: “There is nothing complicated about this issue!” 

What is complicated is that Jenner has never explained why she has competed with cisgender women in golf ever since her transition almost a decade ago. 

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