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LGBT entertainment leaders convene in WeHo for Pride Summit

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(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.

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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.”

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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.

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(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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July 4 travel woes in flight cancellations, record number Americans driving

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per the Triple A auto club

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – As the 4th of July weekend approaches, Americans getting underway to travel are facing heavy delays and cancellations amid staffing strains, weather, among other issues with U.S. air carriers.

On Friday according to tracking website FlightAware.com as of 7PM Pacific there were 27,544 total delays, domestic flight cancellations were 2,975 and international flight cancellations within, into, or out of the United States were 571.

(See the MiseryMap for a live visualization of flight delays.)

CNBC reported that consumer complaints are piling up. In April, the latest available data, the Transportation Department received 3,105 from travelers about U.S. airlines, up nearly 300% from April 2021, and at nearly double the rate during the same period last year.

The unprecedented number of airline cancelations and delays is causing travelers to choose to drive and fly. Delta, American Airlines and United are all trimming their schedules even further to accommodate staffing shortages, despite passenger levels hitting post-pandemic highs.

Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have sparred over who’s to blame. Airlines chalk up the disruptions to bad weather, their staffing shortages and staffing problems at the government’s air traffic control.

Yesterday, the FAA’s acting Administrator Billy Nolen and other top agency officials held a call with airline executives to discuss weekend planning, including the agency’s use of overtime to staff its facilities, traffic and routing plans, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The call was in addition to regular planning meetings with airlines.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks with reporters on Zoom call about flight cancellations and expected delays this July 4th holiday weekend.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg: “It is time for the airline industry to deliver.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters Friday that, “passengers have high expectations from an industry that we have supported with tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding through the pandemic to keep it up and running so that it can serve passengers. Now we need them to deliver.”

Concerned about flight cancellation trends, Buttigieg said he has spoken directly with airlines.

“Something I’ve asked them to do so that if you’re selling a ticket, you know you can back that up, that you have the staffing to do it,” he added.

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per a new report from the Triple A auto club.

Screenshot/NBC News

Just in time for that Fourth of July travel, gas prices are continuing to drop from their record high points of two weeks ago as the Energy Information Administration reports that gasoline stockpiles across the country have increased, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

Since Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has decreased by four cents to $4.85.

Despite the highest 4th of July gas prices on record, 42 million Americans are driving this holiday.

Travelers Driving This 4th of July Weekend To Avoid Airport Chaos:

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Sports

Welsh Olympic distance swimmer Dan Jervis comes Out

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming at the Olympics in Tokyo said he was inspired by Blackpool FC soccer player Jake Daniels

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Dan Jervis (Screenshot via British Swimming Livestream-archive)

NEATH, Talbot County Borough, Wales – In a recent interview with BBC Radio Cornwall, 26-year-old British Olympian distance swimmer Dan Jervis revealed that he had given considerable thought before announcing to the world that he is gay.

Jervis told the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast; “I was adjusting to everything else, just trying to fit in — until I thought, Just be you.”

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming for the British team at the Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan, told the BBC he was inspired by 17-year-old Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels, the professional soccer player who made history as only the second person in the past 30 years to acknowledge their sexual orientation publicly in that sport in the United Kingdom.

The swimmer also told the BBC it was important to be seen as a role model as he readies to compete in the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Jervis has previously competed winning a 1500m freestyle silver and bronze at the 2014 and 2018 Games in Glasgow, Scotland and Australia’s Gold Coast respectively.

“It took me 24 years to be who I am,” he said and added, “You know, we’re just before the Commonwealth Games and there are going to be kids and adults watching who will know that I’m like them, and that I’m proud of who I am.”

The Olympian reflected on his decision to announce he was gay: “For so long, I hated who I was – and you see it all the time, people who are dying over this. They hate themselves so much that they’re ending their lives.

“So if I can just be that someone people can look at and say, ‘yeah, they’re like me,’ then that’s good.”

Jervis then said he revealed his sexuality to a close friend when he was 24: “At that point, I’d never said the words out loud to myself.”

“I said to her: ‘I think I’m gay.’ I couldn’t even say: ‘I’m gay.’ I was basically punching the words out.

“She was quite shocked but great, and it was exactly the reaction I wanted. I’ve had all good reactions, and the way I’ve described it is I’m not going to change as a person.

“Everyone’s journey is different, but I think I’ve always known.

“It was something in the back of my mind, bugging me. I thought I was bisexual and had girlfriends that I loved – but it came to about three years ago where I knew I had to deal with this.

“It wasn’t affecting my swimming, but me as a human being. It sounds quite drastic, but I wasn’t enjoying my life. Yeah, I was smiling, but there was something missing to make me properly happy.

“I’m still the Dan you’ve always known. You just know something else about me now.”

The Commonwealth Games open in Birmingham, UK on July 28.

Listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0chqfhn

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Online Culture

FCC asks Apple & Google to remove TikTok app from their stores

Its pattern of surreptitious data practices that are documented show TikTok is non-compliant with app store policies and practises

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

WASHINGTON – In a series of tweets Tuesday, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr disclosed a letter sent to both Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet asking the two tech giants to remove TikTok from their app stores over his concerns that user data from the wildly popular social media platform is disclosed and used by bad actors in China.

In his letter dated June 24 to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr noted that because of its pattern of surreptitious data practices documented in reports and other sources, TikTok is non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies and practises.

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” he said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Carr stated that if the companiest do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8.

The statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies,” he said.

Carr was appointed by former President Trump in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC.

In March of this year, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a nationwide investigation into TikTok for promoting its social media platform to children and young adults while its use is associated with physical and mental health harms to youth.

The investigation will look into the harms using TikTok can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about those harms. The investigation focuses, among other things, on the techniques utilized by TikTok to boost young user engagement, including strategies or efforts to increase the duration of time spent on the platform and frequency of engagement with the platform.

TikTok’s computer algorithms pushing video content to users can promote eating disorders and even self-harm and suicide to young viewers. Texas opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged violations of children’s privacy and facilitation of human trafficking last month.

TikTok has said it focuses on age-appropriate experiences, noting that some features, such as direct messaging, are not available to younger users. The company says it has tools in place, such as screen-time management, to help young people and parents moderate how long children spend on the app and what they see, the Associated Press reported.

“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” the company said. “We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.”

TikTok has also had a problematic relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. Recently The Washington Post confirmed that the ‘Libs of TikTok,’ an influential anti-LGBTQ account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.

Libs of TikTok regularly targets individual teachers and their workplaces – releasing their personal information that includes school and individual names as well as social media accounts, and leading its audience to harass the schools on social media.

A year ago, an investigation by Media Matters found that TikTok’s “For You” page recommendation algorithm circulated videos promoting hate and violence targeting the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, while the company celebrated the month with its #ForYourPride campaign. 

Numerous LGBTQ+ content creators have shared stories with the Blade about TikTok’s seemingly arbitrary algorithms that target otherwise benign content that is not listed outside of the platform’s polices and removed the content. In many cases restoring the posts after appeals or in the worst case scenarios banning the users.

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