Build Back Better

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It's been said many times: Leaving Trump behind feels like emerging from an abusive relationship, or perhaps renewing one's relationship with a former BFF (America) after she leaves her sh*tty man.

After all, Trump is a classic abuser. He gaslights, he lies, he cheats, and he is leaving behind an America with 200,000 people dead and more dying every day. He never admits his mistakes, creating a vicious cycle wherein he does something atrocious, gets a tan, and then shows up smiling with flowers (or in his case, a last-minute attempt to curry favor with the Black community by befriending several aging rappers).

Many Americans are still under his spell, and there's not much a lot of us can do about it. People in abusive relationships are often in denial about what's happening to them, and they often won't leave until they decide to. Shaming someone in an abusive relationship is rarely an effective way to get them out of it, as they've likely already been shamed many times.

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TV Features

RIP Naya Rivera: The Specific Importance of Santana to Femme-Presenting Gay Women

Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.

via NBC

As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.

My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.

Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.

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Remembering Marsha P. Johnson, a Leader in Gay Liberation

As Pride month ends, we look at the life of one of the most important figures in the push towards gay rights.

Warsaw, Poland. Woman holding a powerful protest sign featuring Marsha PAY-IT-NO-MIND Johnson - One of the most prominent figures in LGBTQ history.

Photo by Poppy Pix (Shutterstock)

Content warning: This article contains a brief mention of sexual assault.

As Pride Month comes to a close, we remember Marsha P. Johnson, one of the principal figures in the gay liberation movement.

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I Hate the Way Pete Buttigieg Kisses His Poor Husband

One small step for gay rights, one giant leap for awkwardness.

Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation

US Department of Tarnsportation

With the botched Iowa caucuses and the many inaccuracies of Trump's State of the Union address, it's safe to say this week in politics has been particularly chaotic.

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Raven-Symoné and 5 Other Stars Who Were Told Being Gay Would Hurt Their Careers

"I'm labeling myself, but in the way that I want to," says the former Disney star.

With celebrities coming out left and right and queer storylines gaining big-screen prominence in Hollywood, it seems hard to imagine that some of our favorite gay stars were encouraged not to come out for the sake of their careers.

One such star is Raven-Symoné. In a video for "It Gets Better," she discussed how difficult it was for her to come out as queer due to pressure from the media and fear that her sexuality would affect her personal brand. "I never thought I would come out because my personal life didn't matter," she said. "It was only supposed to be sold as, you know, a Raven-Symoné record."

She was afraid to come out because, as she said in the video, being gay "was always negative. So, if you don't see other people going through it in a positive way, why would you say anything? There was nothing that would have made me want to deal with my own issue at that time."

The pressure to remain in the closet didn't end as the years went on. She recently told Variety that she received criticism for her appearance during her years starring on That's So Raven. "I remember that I wore Abercrombie and Fitch jeans, a stereotypical lesbian vest, a tie," she said, "and one of the members of my team went up to my mom and was like, 'She looks too much like a lesbian. Can you tell her to put on a skirt and makeup? Because then they'll accept her and come to her concert.' I could not! It always happened when I was on tour, because I've always been myself in hip-hop clothes and not necessarily super feminine... So seeing the reaction of people in my own camp who were trying to mold and publicize me in the way that they think girls should look like just blew my mind."

Since she came out in college, Raven-Symoné has never been one to defer to others' expectations. After the comment about her looking too much like a lesbian, she ended up going onstage in a tutu, just to spite her managers.

Later in the interview, she said, "I do not like labels because labels have certain historic connotations that don't describe who I am fully. If I use a certain label, our world view of that word or image will go right to the negative, every single time. I think as my generation and the generations after me continue to grow, we're changing certain labels, but it's still a part of the fabric of society. I'm labeling myself, but in the way that I want to. I know that I am a 'human of the world.'"

In honor of her bravery and generally inspiring outlook on life and the media (read the whole interview here), here are 5 other contemporary gay icons who were encouraged to remain in the closet for the sake of their careers.

1. Ellen Page

The Juno star and globally adored lesbian icon (have you seen the photos of her and her wife?) was initially encouraged to stay in the closet. "I was distinctly told, by people in the industry, when I started to become known: 'People cannot know you're gay,' she said. "And I was pressured—forced, in many cases—to always wear dresses and heels for events and photo shoots." She added, "As if lesbians don't wear dresses and heels. But I will never let anyone put me in anything I feel uncomfortable in ever again."

Still, it wasn't easy for her to come out. "I remember being in my early 20s and really believing it was impossible for me to come out," she told Porter. "But, over time, with more representation, hearts and minds have been changed. It doesn't happen quickly enough and it hasn't happened enough, particularly for the most marginalized in the community. But things have got better."

Now, she has said she feels a responsibility to be out and proud, and is committed to creating queer content. She's also just enjoying married life. "I love being married," she said. "I'll be walking my dog, and I start talking to people, and I end up telling them about my wife and making them look at our Instagram. I'm that person."

2. Ezra Miller

Miller is the new star of Justice League, but he solidified a place in many young queers' hearts when he played the queer character Patrick in Perks of Being a Wallflower. Unfortunately, he apparently faced a huge amount of pressure to remain in the closet in order to survive in Hollywood.

"I won't specify [who told me not to come out]," he said. "Folks in the industry, folks outside the industry. People I've never spoken to. They said there's a reason so many gay, queer, gender-fluid people in Hollywood conceal their sexual identity, or their gender identity in their public image. I was told I had done a 'silly' thing in…thwarting my own potential to be a leading man."

3. Hayley Kiyoko

Kiyoko, who has previously stated she knew she was a lesbian since the age of 6, has said that she was told to "tone down" her sexuality after the release of her 2015 single, "Girls Like Girls."

"'Girls Like Girls' was too violent and too sexual for a lot of people to premiere," she said. "When you're in the LGBTQ community and you're open about your sexuality, it's not common for you to hear your music played on the radio. It's more common to be underground and left-of-centre with a selective core that listens to that music. That's why this is an exciting time to really break those barriers of… I wouldn't say judgment, but to break out of that box."

4. Amber Heard

The bisexual actress, who has starred alongside Johnny Depp and Nicholas Cage, was told that coming out as bisexual would ruin her career. "Everyone said, 'You're throwing it all away. You can't do this to your career,'" she said. "And I said, 'I cannot do this any other way. Watch me.'" She later said, "I told myself to describe reality in a truthful way and to offer young people someone to look up to, since those of my generation had grown up without any model of reference. Who knows." She added, "Thanks to me, maybe someone has felt less inadequate."

The outspoken star has also critiqued the LGBTQ community, stating, "I didn't come out. I was never in." She explained, "It's limiting, that LGBTQ thing. It served a function as an umbrella for marginalized people to whom rights were being denied, but it loses its efficacy because of the nuanced nature of humanity. As we become more educated and expand the facts of our nature, we keep adding letters. It was a great shield, but now we're stuck behind it." Food for thought, certainly, but at least it seems that Heard remains committed to speaking her mind and questioning norms.

5. Evan Rachel Wood

The Westworld star has become a feminist force of nature in recent years, due to her honesty about her past as well as her refusal to remain in the closet. Recently, she released a 20-minute confessional video along with the comment, "I recorded a video of myself walking people through my journey of self-realization—abusive relationships, suicide attempts, and finally coming out of the closet."

Still, she wasn't always this open about her sexuality. Because she had few role models growing up, she felt alone. "No one I knew was talking about it," she said in her HRC speech. "I wasn't exposed. So the only thing that I knew was fear, and confusion, and loneliness. How can you be who you are when you don't understand what you're feeling?"

Now, she's become determined to use her platform to spread love and solidarity with other marginalized people. "As an actor, my job is to look at a stranger and find myself in them—to connect the dots, to have such empathy for a character that I can read someone else's words and be moved to tears," Wood said in a 2017 speech at the HRC gala. "Turning empathy into vulnerability... and it wasn't until I saw the effect that it had on other people that I really started to see how powerful really allowing your most vulnerable parts to be seen was. I saw another side to what I did, and it was the power of visibility."


Thank You, Ariana: The Sweetener World Tour Graces New York City

Ariana Grande began the NYC leg of her world tour with an empowering celebration of her career.

Ariana Grande

Photo By Sky Cinema/ Shutterstock

On June 15th, Grande performed for the second night in a row at Barclays Center.

Before even stepping inside the venue, concert-goers were greeted by seven, pink balloon rings, each adorned with a different color gem to create a rainbow. The instagrammable set-up was intentional; for every picture posted with the hashtag #ArianaWithUS, T-Mobile would donate a dollar to the HRC in support of LGBTQ+ equality. Every person who took a picture in front of the balloons had to awkwardly grab their phones out of plastic bags, reminding everyone of the safe space they were entering. Grande enforced the clear bag policy to ensure everyone's safety after the attack at her Manchester show in 2017. Two years and two albums later, Grande chose to title her tour after her fourth album, Sweetener, instead of thank u, next. Transforming her pain into universally acclaimed creativity, Grande helped Sweetener become a balanced symbol of hope, weighing the dark with the light, the bitter with the sweet. Back in her natural element, the New York resident took the evening in stride— as if it were easy for her, even though she's disclosed how draining performing can now be.

The singing began off-stage, maybe to give Grande a moment to herself. Grande used that big voice of hers to introduce the event with "raindrops (an angel cried)." On stage, she broke into her transformative, compelling hit "God Is a Woman," recreating her iconic VMA's performance. On the vast stage, Grande was small and visually swallowed by her dancers. In contrast, her voice bellowed and washed over the crowd like a gust of wind and water so refreshing and revitalizing, you couldn't help but sit up. The personal songs were followed by the bangers. The simple stage design comprised of three spheres, which included visuals of the sun and moon, at times eclipsing one another. Meanwhile, the formal stage drew out into a semi-oval, so the performers could run and dance around the crowd. The schematic design placed her voice at the center of the show. Grande may be a pop star, but she's so much more, and in concert, she's in control. At times, one may not understand her mumbled cries of "I love you, New York!" but one doesn't have to in order to connect with the vulnerable star. She laid it bare on the stage for her fans to breathe and harmonize with her.

Unsurprisingly, the performer did not sing a couple of thank u, next's standout tracks. Prior to kicking off the tour, Grande revealed that she would not sing the ultra personal, devastating "ghostin." To the disappointment of some, the equally private and complicated "in my head" was instead used as a transition between performances. The exclusion of the two songs felt like a line drawn—Ariana Grande has boundaries now.

That doesn't mean she didn't end the night by tearing down every wall she could to try and let her fans in. Grande exquisitely ended the evening with "no tears left to cry," prancing around with an umbrella, referencing "Singin' in the Rain." When the hopeful, cathartic banger ended, the audience knew she couldn't leave without performing her iconic "thank u next."

The audience clapped and cheered for the encore they knew was coming. The encore began with a montage of the social media frenzy that surrounded the personal events that inspired "thank u, next." With supportive female singers on each side, she sang—for the first time that evening—like it wasn't easy. From her discography, "no tears left to cry" and "thank u next" are the most revelatory; the career-defining tracks were both born from the trials of love and loss. To follow one with the other was genius and pivotal.

Towards the end of "thank u, next," the male performers joined the women on stage, parading around with pride flags, waving them in unison—symbolically concluding this chapter of Ariana's career. Still recovering from the trauma of the terrorist attack in Manchester and the unexpected death of Mac Miller, the pop star's finale shone with hope and ended on a lasting, powerful "ye."