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LGBT entertainment leaders convene in WeHo for Pride Summit




(L-R) Peppermint, Blair St. Clair, Alaska Thunderfuck, Trixie Mattel and Manila Luzon attend the Billboard / Hollywood Reporter Pride Summit on August 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Billboard)

On Thursday, August 8, The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard held their first ever Pride Summit at The 1 Hotel West Hollywood, underscoring the ongoing importance of LGBT inclusion and visibility in entertainment media.

It was a star-studded event, held in conjunction with Billboard’s second annual Pride issue, featuring an array of panels and conversations covering important topics such as bringing LGBTQ+ voices into the songwriters room, emerging queer artists, eradicating homophobia, and best practices in hiring and fostering welcoming and safe workplaces for queer and gender non-conforming beings.

Among the participants in the day’s seven panels were cast members MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Hailie Sahar, Dyllón Burnside and Angel Curiel from the Emmy-nominated show, “Pose;” pop icons Tegan and Sara; pop star and activist Hayley Kiyoko; game-changing New Orleans artist and TV star Big Freedia; rapper ILoveMakonnen; Grammy® nominated songwriters Justin Tranter and Teddy Geiger; Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Daya; NBC’s “Songland” star Shane McAnally; “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumni and recording artists Trixie Mattel, Alaska, Manila Luzon, Peppermint, Blair St. Clair; and YouTube celebrity Gigi Gorgeous.

The day’s first panel was “Emerging Artists: We See You,” which featured as panelists BAYLi, Shea Diamond, Parson James, K. Flay and Daya.  Diamond, a GLAAD Media Award- nominated trans soul singer, spoke of discovering her voice while incarcerated in a men’s prison for 10 years. “There was nothing but hatred for people like me – either I was highly desired or I was just purely hated for no reason,” she said. “I was a threat to society, just for existing. And so, all these things just came to me, and I started writing songs… I wrote about being an outcast, and how there’s an outcast in everybody’s life – and ‘I am her,’ was this thing they denied me of… everything I had experienced or was going to experience, they would never honor that.  So, I got the vessel in prison – that’s when I realized there was power in it.”

Singer-songwriter Daya expressed a common theme that would emerge as the day went on when she said, “I think representation of multi-dimensional queer people in the media is so important. That’s why I love shows like ‘Euphoria,’ and shows that are naturally bringing those queer narratives into the media.  I also think… there should be more queer visibility across the board, not just with artists but people behind the scenes, too.”

During the “Digital Media: Pride & Platforms” discussion, sponsored by Verizon Media, YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous said, “I get asked a lot ‘are you always gonna do YouTube,’ like say you’re in a movie someday, are you just gonna quit?’ And my answer is always, ‘No, because that’s what gave me the confidence.’” She added, “Honestly, I feel like YouTubers, a lot of the time, have a deeper connection with their fans than even like a Leonardo DiCaprio… when people meet their favorite YouTubers, they literally break down and cry, because they really helped them through a really hard time.” Gorgeous was joined on the panel by Hayley Pappas, Hannah Hart, Joey Graceffa, Anna Akana, Eugene Lee Yang, and Miles McKenna.


Hannah Hart, Gigi Gourgeous, Joey Graceffa, Miles McKenna and Anna Akana attend the Billboard / Hollywood Reporter Pride Summit on August 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Billboard)

The next panel was “Pride in the Corner Office,” with panelists Cindy Nguyen from Create Music Group, Eliah Seton from Warner Music Group, Wade Leak from Sony Music Entertainment, Aaron Rosenberg from Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox Rosenberg & Light, Jess Caragliano from Terrorbird Media, and Rick Marcello from Kobalt Music. A highlight came when [email protected] Coalition’s Bamby Salcedo added to the conversation from the audience, saying “The trans community is way behind in comparison to the gay and lesbian community – if we look at where we are, we’re about 40 years behind.  How do we, as individuals who have power, how do we support those upcoming organizations – groups, artists, all of those?  How do we include that into our budgets, and how doe we include that in supporting events that we do to raise funds, and that kind of stuff?”

Salcedo’s [email protected] colleague Michaé de la Cuadra also spoke to the panel, adding, “A lot of the time it comes in a job description, a lot of the times you require these degrees and years of experience, and all this stuff that trans people don’t have — so really thinking about how when you’re giving opportunities to black trans women, undocumented to trans people, and just trans people of color… about how, internally and in the process, you’re excluding people, and I just wanted to raise that.”

Stephen Daw, moderating the panel “Drag & Music: From Drag Race to the Top of the Charts,” asked participants Alaska Thunderfuck, Peppermint, Blair St. Clair, Trixie Mattel, Manila Luzon, and Ryan Aceto if being on “RuPaul’s Drag Race was a vital step for queens hoping to build a career, or if there was a “path forward” for those who have not been on the show. Thunderfuck answered, “I think it’s great that it [the show] exists, and it has created this entire economy that is just, you know, drag queens… it’s really awesome if you do get on ‘Drag Race,’ it’s like the golden ticket on ‘Willy Wonka,’ like, it’s really amazing – but I think there are more and more opportunities, if it’s not your thing, I think you can still make it and make something huge.  More and more, there are avenues to do that.”

For the “They/Them Write the Songs” panel, LGBT+ songwriters Justin Tranter, Victoria Monet, Teddy Geiger, and Shane McAnally joined together for a conversation about bring their queer voices into their craft. Tranter said, “When we have our songwriter hats on, you’re there to facilitate somebody else’s story, and so it’s not about our experiences – but you do want to tap into your own truth so that you can write better lyrics, that reflect their truth better.  You have to tap into your truth – but it’s not about us, in that moment.” He went on to add, “We’re in this weird political landscape where things are getting really bad for our community, but when it comes to the media, when it comes to music… things are looking better than they ever have.  Media is finally embracing us – a little bit.  They need to do a lot more, but we’re getting there.”


Justin Tranter and Teddy Geiger speak onstage at the “They/Them Write the Songs” panel during the Billboard / Hollywood Reporter Pride Summit on August 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Billboard)

On the “Queer Headliners 2019” panel, LGBT+ musical celebrities Big Freedia, ILoveMakonnen, Hayley Kiyoko, and Tegan and Sara spoke about their experiences. Freedia spoke of influences, saying, “For me, it was Sylvester.  He was just fierce, and being himself all the time.  It just opened so many doors for me, just to be myself and get out there and live my truth.”

Kiyoko struck another key theme of the day when she said, “I think no matter who you are or where you come from, we all just want an opportunity to be heard and to share our stories, and to find our people.  Releasing ‘Curious,’ I didn’t think that was direectly made for frat boys, specifically – but I do think as a musician and as an artist, we all go through love and loss and lust, and sometimes depression and all these things, and that’s what connects all of us. No matter what your sexuality is, why should we be put in a box?  We all have those same feelings, we all get heartbroken, so why are we different?”

Tegan of Tegan and Sara addressed the ongoing conflict in the music industry between queer visibility and systemic homophobia. “We just always talk about it,” she said. “We bring it up in every meeting, we talk about it in our own organization, and in the press, and onstage. It’s not like any of us have the answers on how to fix it, but I think we want to participate in basically trying to disrupt and rebuild the system… that’s how you do it – don’t get comfortable and just keep disrupting.”

The day’s final panel was “Televised Revolution: The Beings of ‘Pose,’” featuring panelists Indya Moore, MJ Rodriguez, Hailie Sahar, Dyllón Burnside, and Angel Curiel.


(L-R) Angel Bismark Curiel, Hailie Sahar, MJ Rodriguez, Dyllón Burnside, and Indya Moore attend the Billboard / Hollywood Reporter Pride Summit on August 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Billboard)

Burnside, who plays Ricky on the show, told of how he worked for a church before beginning his acting career. “Before I was able to embrace my identity, before I was willing to accept, I confided in my pastor that I was attracted to men and I lost my job.  In our exit meeting he told me that I was gonna ruin my life – and for me that was the thing that always propelled me forward, that I cannot not do this, because there are kids all over the world, all over the country, who are being told that who they are isn’t right, and that they can’t do the things they were put here to do because somebody else doesn’t understand them.”

Rodriguez, who stars as house mother Blanca, talked about how the diversity of the characters in “Pose” was a big factor in making her want to be part of the show. “I saw that each and every one of these women, as well as the men, were of color… and I just thought, ‘well I have to be a part of it because of this,’ but also because of the human aspects they had.  In the breakdown they showed every single thing that cis-gendered individuals get cast for, that we have them too.  And I thought, ‘Okay, this goes to show we’re being seen as humans.’  And that’s the first thing that anyone should see us as, is human. We shouldn’t be seen as anything other than.”

Rodriguez also spoke of the importance of including the presence of AIDS on “Pose.” “I think that it’s imperative that it’s on this show,” she said, “because there is a stigma that is constantly held around having HIV and AIDS, and the history is important.”

The day-long event featured a special installation of “The Art of Finding Love” and exclusive merchandise from renowned artist Michael Kalish, as well as participation from nonprofit partners including GLSEN, The Trevor Project, and local LGBTQ+ vendors.

Things wrapped up with a performance at West Hollywood’s Peppermint Club by Daya, Big Freedia and Trixie Mattel.

The First Annual Pride Summit, which was sponsored by Cadillac and Verizon Media, was part of Billboard’s “Summer of Pride,” which also includes special editorial coverage in the magazine of concerts and events across the globe, well-known and up-and-coming LGBTQ+ artists and allies, curated playlists, and a “Pride Chart” recognizing LGBTQ+ artists of the past and present.


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Canadian soccer player first out Trans and non binary Olympian

I feel proud seeing `Quinn’ on the lineup- I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of this world



Quinn from Instagram

TOKYO – The Canadian professional soccer player, a midfielder for OL Reign and the Canada women’s national soccer team, made history this week as the first openly transgender and non-binary athlete to participate in the Olympic games when they started Wednesday night in a 1-1 draw match in Sapporo between Canada and opposing the team Japan.

“I feel proud seeing `Quinn’ up on the lineup and on my accreditation. I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of this world,” they wrote on Instagram. “I feel optimistic for change. Change in legislature, Changes in rules, structures, and mindsets.”

Quinn, who came out as trans in 2020, was also a member of the Canadian team that won the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Mostly, I feel aware of the realities,” Quinn continued. “Trans girls being banned from sports. Trans women facing discrimination and bias while trying to pursue their Olympic dreams. The fight isn’t close to over […] and I’ll celebrate when we’re all here.”

ABC News Sports reported that the International Olympic Committee has allowed transgender athletes to participate at the Olympics since 2004, but until this year, none had done so openly. In addition to Quinn, Hubbard and Wolfe, some transgender athletes are competing without discussing their transition. Some have been outed and harassed online by people who oppose transgender athletes competing.

The current rules specify certain conditions for transgender women to compete in women’s sports. Among them, athletes must demonstrate lower testosterone levels for 12 months before competing, and athletes can only qualify four years after transitioning, at the earliest.

Quinn is not the only transgender athlete participating in this year’s summer Olympic Games in Japan. Laurel Hubbard, a trans woman from New Zealand competing in weightlifting for the Kiwi team and Team USA women’s BMX freestyle team has a trans BMX racer, Chelsea Wolfe, holding down a reserve spot on the team.

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Four Olympics, 13 years, and now a Gold Medal for Tom Daley

“I hope any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone. You can achieve anything.”



British Olympic Diving Duo Matty Lee and Tom Daley (Photo Credit: Daley Instagram)

TOKYO – Standing there on the podium with tears forming in his eyes, a masked for Covid-19 British Olympic diver Tom Daley saw his dreams of Olympic Gold finally come true Monday. Watching a live-stream of the event intently, at the moment Daley secured his victory, Tom’s husband, writer Lance Black and Tom’s mother took in the results and jumped up screaming in joy.

Daley along with his British teammate diving partner Matty Lee won the gold with a score of 471.81 in the men’s synchronized diving on Monday at Tokyo 2020 narrowly besting the defending champions, China’s Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen by just 1.23 points.

“I still can’t honestly believe what is happening,” Daley told BBC Sport. “That moment, being about to be announced as Olympic champions, I was gone. I was blubbering.” 

Daley tells young LGBTQ people: “You can achieve anything”

Later at a press conference, Daley, an openly gay athlete talked about the experience of being gay and at the games;

“In terms of out athletes, there are more openly out athletes at these Olympic Games than any Olympic Games previously. I came out in 2013 and when I was younger I always felt like the one that was alone and different and didn’t fit. There was something about me that was never going to be as good as what society wanted me to be. I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone. You can achieve anything.”

Great Britain’s Tom Daley, Matty Lee nail final dive to win gold | Tokyo Olympics | NBC Sports

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Out athletes going for summer Olympic gold

At least 142 publicly out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and nonbinary athletes are headed to Tokyo for the Summer Olympic Games



Michael Gunning narrowly missed out on qualifying for this year’s Olympic Games. (Photo courtesy Gunning)

By Kevin Majoros | WASHINGTON – The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games began on June 23, with competitions continuing through Aug. 8. The Games were postponed in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many aspiring Olympians, the quadrennial event is the culmination of a lifetime of sacrifices to compete against the best athletes in the world while representing their country on an international stage.

The road to get there is filled with obstacles and this Olympic cycle produced one more barrier in the form of training disruptions that happened in almost every sport.

After all the dust settled during the qualifying process, 627 athletes were named to Team USA. More than 30 of those athletes are out members of the LGBTQ community. 

Regarding the other countries competing, according to a recent story by Outsports, “At least 142 publicly out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and nonbinary athletes are headed to Tokyo for the Summer Olympic Games.”

Flashback to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games when a correspondent from The Daily Beast used hook-up apps such as Bumble, Tindr, Grindr, and Jack’d to message gay athletes. His published story went on to describe the athletes, creating potentially dangerous situations for the athletes from countries with high anti-LGBTQ violence rates.

What should we expect from the environment in Japan? 

There have been a handful of Japanese athletes who have come out recently but for the most part, they are competing in other countries – notably trans soccer star Kumi Yokoyama who plays for the Washington Spirit and out lesbian Shiho Shimoyamada who plays soccer for SV Meppen in Germany.

LGBTQ activists in Japan were hoping that the worldwide attention on the Tokyo Olympics would help push their ruling Liberal Democratic Party to pass EqualityActJapan banning discrimination against LGBTQ people. Their legislature went into recess without passing the measure.

That setback did not stop Pride House Tokyo Legacy from opening in October 2020 in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It will serve as a permanent LGBTQ support center where individuals can feel safe and at home.

Pride House Tokyo Legacy has been authorized as part of the Tokyo 2020 Official Program by the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games along with full support from the International Olympic Committee. Those endorsements make it the first Pride House worldwide to achieve this status.

Visibility for the LGBTQ community is important for a variety of reasons and in the sports world, we tend to point to LGBTQ athletes as role models for younger generations. 

Over the next few weeks we will bear witness to the first transgender athlete to compete in Laurel Hubbard as a weightlifter for Team New Zealand. 

We will watch lesbian triple jumper Yulimar Rojas compete and carry the flag for her country of Venezuela in the Parade of Nations. 

And we will sit enthralled as gay British Olympic diver Tom Daley is cheered on by his three-year-old son Robbie as he attempts to medal again in his fourth Olympics.

The last time the Blade checked in with out Tongan swimmer Amini Fonua, he was in heavy training to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and struggling with the funding needed to complete that journey.

Fonua was one of the Olympic athletes that spoke out against The Daily Beast story from 2016, which helped to get the story retracted, with an apology. It was the first instance where the International Olympic Committee, which also chimed in, had ever acknowledged an LGBTQ presence. 

Amini Fonua qualified for his third Olympics this year. (Photo courtesy Fonua)

When the pandemic hit, Fonua’s training pool closed and his income from teaching swimming lessons dried up. In an effort to be closer to his training group, New York Athletic Club, he moved from New Jersey to New York City mid-pandemic.

To stay in shape, he ramped up his time spent on weight training, running, biking, and yoga.

“The pandemic changed a lot of things for all of us,” says Fonua. “This past year has been about survival, and I have done my best with what I have been given.”

Eventually pools opened back up with limits on swimmers per lane and time spent in the water. Fonua was only allowed four 45-minute swim practices per week, which is well below the amount of time that elite swimmers spend in the pool.

He also found employment with Fitter and Faster Swim Camps with all of his travel to swim camps completed by train to minimize his exposure to the virus. 

As of May 2021, Fonua was not the top Tongan swimmer that would be selected for the Olympic team. He was also facing swim meet entry barriers due to COVID restrictions to even compete for a spot on the team.

In smaller nations and those with developing swim programs, the international federation for swimming, FINA, and the International Olympic Committee allow for universalityentries into the Olympics. 

The universality system allows a nation with no Olympic swimming qualifier to enter up to one man and one woman in the Olympics. The two swimmers are chosen based on FINA points, which are calculated using a cubic curve.

Fonua received a last minute entry to the Atlanta Classic swim meet on May 14 where he would have one last shot to make the team. He threw down a time in the 100 meter breaststroke that moved him past the top Tongan swimmer based on FINA points and qualified him for his third Olympics.

For this Olympic experience, Fonua will be thinking about what his father always says to him regarding sports — be competitive, do your best, and have fun.

“I will be staying in the Olympic Village but there won’t be any Grindr this time because I am in love. I will be racing on the 24th and still hope to walk in the Parade of Nations the night before,” Fonua says. “My mom is the team manager for the Tongan swim team, and I am looking forward to cups of tea with her and visiting Pride House Tokyo. I know it will be different this time because of COVID, but there is nothing like experiencing a city hosting the Olympics.”

When you receive an email from out swimmer Michael Gunning, the signature line says Professional Athlete. He laughs when asked about it and says it is a continuation of what he used to write on his school essays — Michael Gunning, The Swimmer.

Gunning, who currently trains in Manchester, England, became fully committed to swimming at age 13 when he won a national competition in England. A few years later he was representing Great Britain on their junior national team.

“We have all heard that Black people don’t swim, and I wanted to prove it could be done,” says Gunning. “I began chasing those Olympic dreams at every event I swam in.”

Despite swimming well in the 200 meter butterfly in the qualifying trials for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, he was left off the Great Britain team.

Jamaica reached out and said they would love for Gunning to swim for them (his father was born in Jamaica). He represented the country for the first time at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest and again at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju.

“I was really on the fence before saying yes. I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously in the UK and this was an opportunity to do my bit and inspire,” Gunning says. “That first experience in Budapest was amazing. The Jamaican team accepted me, and I finally felt good enough.”

When the Blade last checked in with Gunning, he was pointing toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. At that time, he was the top Jamaican point earner if it came down to a FINA universality selection for the Olympics.

Then the pandemic hit. Gunning was out of the water for more than 100 days and scrambling to stay in shape with dryland training.

“Those were dark and desperate times,” says Gunning. “Once I was able to get back in the water, I trained by myself for 20 weeks.”

With COVID barriers for training and competitions, Gunning knew all along that another Jamaican swimmer could top his FINA points. 

And then it happened. 

FINA adjusted their earned points for the 200 meter butterfly downward and another swimmer earned more points in the 200 meter IM.

Gunning had one last shot in June at a meet in Glasgow but did not swim near his best times. He received the news earlier this month that he was not selected for the team.

“Swimming shapes you as a person. Whether you reach your end goals or not, you are so much stronger for it. I don’t regret any of the hard work I put in,” Gunning says. “Swimming prompted me to come out – swimming gave me that. We still need diversity and inclusion, especially at the grass roots level. I want to be that representation.”

With the news being so fresh, Gunning is unclear on his long term path in the pool. He will continue to teach swimming and field offers that come his way. Next year, he will be a Pride House ambassador at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“The Olympics make role models, and I am excited to support and cheer for the LGBTQ athletes who are competing,” says Gunning. “For now, I am going to live every day, one day at a time, being myself and being authentic.”

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