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Opinion: Michelle Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

The seemingly harmless 32-year-old comic tore the Trump administration and the media to shreds with her White House Correspondents’ Dinner stand-up gig … and it was beautiful.

The White House Correspondents’ Association (you know, those people who sit in the press room of the White House shouting questions that typically go unanswered or answered falsely by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders) is treated annually with a nice dinner at the White House. The dinner is typically attended by the bulk of the administration, the president and vice president, members of the association intertwined with celebrities and other Washington big-wigs. However, in both 2017 and now 2018, Donald J. Trump has made the choice to not attend the festivities for one reason or another. In his place in 2018, Trump sent Huckabee Sanders.

The evening always boasts at least one entertainer, who in the past have included Jay Leno, Bob Hope, Wanda Sykes, Aretha Franklin, and many others. Last year, Daily Show senior correspondent, Hasan Minhaj, entertained the room, making one-liners about Trump, his staff, the turn-over rate (which even in late April of 2017 was alarmingly high), Russia, and, of course, the press. Minhaj committed himself to performing at the expense of the administration, and was widely regarded for doing so tastefully. This year, (also) Daily Show contributor/writer, Michelle Wolf, was tasked with the honor of performing … and she took no prisoners.

It was mesmerizing.

Throughout the bulk of her performance, Michelle Wolf took jabs at Donald Trump (“Trump is racist, though. He loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a ‘white nationalist’ is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend,’ or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man,’ which isn’t really fair — he also likes plants.”), Mike Pence (“Mike Pence is what happens when Anderson Cooper isn’t gay.”), Sarah Huckabee Sanders (“I loved you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.”), the press corps (about CNN:“You guys love breaking news, and you did it, you broke it! Good work!”) and so many others. When she took the stage, it was probably a general assumption that this tiny, 32-year-old, not-that-famous comedienne from Pennsylvania was going to perform some quick burns, but that she would do so apologetically and with respect to the administration.

What’s the old saying about assuming?

Michelle took the stage and held her own. She had no problem roasting individuals who were seated before her, and even those just a few chairs from her (read: Sanders). She delivered jokes with impeccable comedic timing and proved to the entire world that she’s just as pissed about the state of our nation’s government as many of us are. And by the time the dust had settled, Michelle Wolf became a name that everyone in America would soon know.

However, much like the 2016 election, reactions to the event were … well … divided. While many liberals and anti-Trump advocates rallied around Wolf and lamented their praises, the right, the administration, as well as a great deal of the media, felt differently. Just this morning, even the White House Correspondents’ Association president, Margaret Talev, even released a statement via Twitter responding to Saturday’s monologue. In the statement, Talev outlines that the spirit of the WHCD was “not to divide people”, and went so far as to state that Wolf’s set was not in the spirit of that mission.

Screen-Shot-2018-04-30-at-4.00.13-PM Opinion: Michelle Wolf in Sheep's ClothingEven the president felt the need to take to Twitter to comment on the performance he had not even the courage to attend, stating that Wolf “bombed.” Conversely, many big-names from the left have stepped up and sworn their allegiance to Wolf, supporting her and defending her in social media battles.

Screen-Shot-2018-04-30-at-3.50.41-PM Opinion: Michelle Wolf in Sheep's ClothingScreen-Shot-2018-04-30-at-3.51.52-PM Opinion: Michelle Wolf in Sheep's ClothingScreen-Shot-2018-04-30-at-3.53.28-PM Opinion: Michelle Wolf in Sheep's ClothingScreen-Shot-2018-04-30-at-3.54.06-PM Opinion: Michelle Wolf in Sheep's ClothingScreen-Shot-2018-04-30-at-3.54.46-PM Opinion: Michelle Wolf in Sheep's ClothingYes, Michelle Wolf put on a performance that is going to be long-remembered, as well as one that will be go down in history as controversial. But why was it so controversial? It didn’t seem controversial when a scathing performance was given by the aforementioned Minhaj the year before. And while he too was met with criticism for some of his remarks by the right, the amount of blowback didn’t include a personal letter from the WHCA.

And why is it that America is so angry? (Let’s be honest, it’s mostly because she’s a liberal woman, and liberal women apparently shouldn’t have opinions … least of all express them). Wolf did her job. Not just as a comic (and it was really freaking funny), but as an American. She used the opportunity to point out through satire and rhetoric the issues that a great deal of Americans have with the administration, as well as the press (and even added to the end of her set that Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water.). And while you may not often hear the words ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ being shouted throughout the halls of the White House as they were last night (then again, how can I really know that?), Wolf’s commentary was tasteful and rewarding.

Trump is racist, though. He loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a ‘white nationalist’ is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend,’ or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man,’ which isn’t really fair — he also likes plants.

—Michelle Wolf

Everyone is concerned for Sarah Huckabee Sanders and President Trump for what Wolf had to say about them; but what about what those two say to all of us on a daily basis? It’s no secret that Donald Trump is a compulsive liar. He usually gets caught in his lies, denies them, is presented with evidence, denies that, and then comes around and says, “Oh, sure. Yeah. I think that did happen. But it’s okay, because it was just me.” Huckabee Sanders does nothing to help that situation, as she conveniently holds a title that requires her to relay a great deal of those lies to the press. And the problem with the both of them? As they’re spewing bullshit to America, they’re doing so with faces that read clearly: I believe what I’m saying is true. To add insult to injury, Trump doesn’t just tell lies, he’s also a self-proclaimed sexual assailant (refer to the Billy Bush recording travesty), and talks about people—often his constituents, mind you—as if they’re not people, but pawns in his real-life game of Monopoly.

Have we so quickly forgotten how he accused Megyn Kelly of having “blood coming out of her wherever” when she chastised him for his behavior during a debate? Are we ignoring how he mocked a disabled news reporter on live TV at a rally held in South Carolina? Are we forgetting how his temper tantrums have brought us to the brink of nuclear war more times than a few? What about his proposed ban on transgender military members? What about the time he claimed that sexual assault in the military is just what happens when men and women work together? Oh, and there was that time he joked about dating his own daughter (that one still makes me cringe).

Wolf did what Wolf was there to do and she did a damn fine job doing so. The backlash she’s receiving is basically to say that we are now supposed to hold the comics in this country to a higher standard than we are the leader of the free world. And that sort of assertion is, quite frankly, ridiculous. She tackled issues that people don’t want to talk about, including the press pandering to the president for ratings and money.

Wolf wasn’t what the crowd was expecting that night at the WHCD … and thankfully so. Whether you like what she had to say about the president, his administration, or the press, Wolf showed up and did her job the way that a comedian is supposed to (and much unlike the president’s record has proven, she did so without insulting the image or body of a single woman). When is the Trump administration going to show up to do their jobs the way they’re supposed to?

You can watch Michelle’s full remarks here.

Editor’s Note: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month LGBTQIA #MeToo #TimesUp

About will be supporting Sexual Assault Awareness Month, with a focus on how it pertains to the LGBTQIA community

(HOUSTON) — April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a topic that is neither new nor relevant, and one to which that many in the LGBTQIA community are not strangers. In fact, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), a person is sexually assaulted every 8 seconds in America. Those statistics are startlingly high. More shocking is that according the Center for Disease Control (CDC), queer people often are sexually assailed at similar or higher rates than heterosexual and cis-gender people.

What’s frightening about these numbers is that they are based solely on the information available. They’re nothing more than estimations. Much of RAINN’s information comes from the National Crime Victimization Survey, which selects 150,000 Americans each year and gathers information based on that group. Unfortunately, there is a large and unaccounted for number of sexual assault victims who do not come forward—a fact that should not be used to place blame upon the victims. While there are several potential reasons for each individual’s decision not to come forward (fear of retaliation, fear of not being believed, fear of being fired, and many more), the one thing that is certain is that the longer that this sort of behavior continues to be perpetuated by sexual assailants and rapists, the longer more people will be victimized and that fear will perpetuate, as well.

Recently, America has seen in influx in the publicity of survivors who have stepped forward. With well-covered movements such as #MeToo (founded over ten years ago by activist Tarana Burke) and #TimesUp, to celebrities such as Rose McGowan, Alyssa Milano, Ashley Judd, Gabrielle Union, Anthony Rapp, Oprah Winfrey and many more that have stepped forward to share their stories and to talk about their experiences in the hopes to encourage and empower other people (namely women, people of color, and LGBTQIA folks) to step forward.

While this could have come at a better time (or maybe I should say that people could have been this tuned into the fact that sexual assault is prevalent sooner), it is nonetheless a remark to the bravery of women, the LGTBQIA community (with an emphasis on the trans community), people of color, and all others who are now stepping out and firing back. Men in power, from Harvey Weinstein to Louis C.K. and countless in between are being brought to their knees, which should be scaring men of lesser recognition all over the world. Because, famous or not, their time is coming, too. Unfortunately, RAINN also reports that most sexual assailants and rapists in the nation will not be imprisoned or be held accountable for their crimes. This is no surprise, considering that we currently live in a country run by a sexual predator (yes, Donald Trump is just as guilty).

But through these movements, through the media, and through solidarity for one another, we can begin to hold as many of these men accountable as possible. In fact, it wasn’t until just recently that I myself was comfortable discussing the story of the man who raped me when I was 19-years-old in my Less Than Butterflies column. It’s a terrifying feeling thinking that no one will believe you. It’s a terrifying feeling to wonder if the person will retaliate or what they’ll tell your loved ones about you. And no one can blame the victims who choose not to share their stories with the world. With that said, however, we—especially in the LGBTQIA community—must continue to be resilient, supportive, and engaged with our brothers, sisters, and nonbinary siblings. Because until we get there, until there comes a time when there is no tolerance for sexual assault and when victims do not feel they have to hide in the shadows, no one is safe.

And of many other things, the LGBTQIA community should be able to rely on each and every member for safety.

This month, About Magazine will be running a series of stories from victims of sexual assault, as well as informative articles about the prevalence of sexual assault, why the LGBTQIA community is so desensitized to it, why among gay men the lines seem to be more blurred (hint: they’re not and shouldn’t be), and much more. And this won’t be a one-off sort of thing. As long as there is sexual assault happening around the world, we will continue to talk about it, because time really is up for the disgusting men of the world who have led so many of us to a place where we can say (or where we’re too afraid to say), “Yeah. Me, too.”

Anthony Ramirez, Editor-in-Chief


You can donate to RAINN and learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month here.

Queer Houston, We Have a Problem

endorse lupe valden jenifer rene pool

What the actual heck is the GLBT Political Caucus thinking?

(HOUSTON)—Over the weekend, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus announced its long-winded list of endorsements for the 2018 primary elections, which are now only one month away (March 6th, 2018). The list, which consists of 60 names—59 Democrats and 1 Republicanhosts some notable names, from Beto O’Rourke to Fran Watson and beyond. However, it also is missing a couple of not only recognizable, but very important names in two very important slots.

Jenifer Rene Pool for the Texas House of Representatives and Lupe Valdez for governor. Why do these names matter? Well, for one, Pool was the president of Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus from 2006 until 2008. And then there’s the fact that she was also the first trans person to ever win a primary election in Texas in 2016 (although, she was defeated in November). As for Valdez, well, she made history by being one of the first democrats elected to office in Dallas in 2004 after a long span of time, and by being the only Latina sheriff in the entire nation elected and serving in 2004. Now, as their political candidacies are just a month shy of votes that could disconcert the Texas political establishment, Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus has pulled a very Texas-fitting move by endorsing straight, white men rather than these two queer women.

A little more background on these two women:

Jenifer-Rene-Pool-1 Queer Houston, We Have a ProblemJenifer Rene Pool is more than just a trans womanshe’s a successful businesswoman and advocate who not only has been appointed to the Buildings and Standards Commission, the Police Advisory Commission, the Task Force on Buildings and Standards, the Special Task Force on Film in Houston, the Houston Police Advisory Committee, but has also served thoroughly and actively in the LGBTQIA community for decades and owns her own consulting firm. In 2016 (as aforementioned), Pool became the first trans person to ever win a primary election in the state of Texas, beating opponent Erik Hassan for the Harris County Commissioner’s Court, District 13 seat by a staggering margin. Pool pulled in 78.28% of the votes. Hassan, on the other hand, reeled in only 21.72%. In November, Pool lost the seat to Republican candidate Steve Radack, but by a much smaller margin than Hassan had lost to her in the primary. Radack won with approximately 58%, leaving pool with about 42%. Now, Pool is running for the Texas House of Representatives, heavily emphasizing the repair of infrastructure, implementing comprehensive flood protection, reforming education to a quality standard, and so much more.

TLMD_LUPE_VALDEZ-e1517945975587-300x229 Queer Houston, We Have a ProblemLupe Valdez has served as a captain in the US Army, and has also worked as a federal agent. She served as Sheriff of Dallas County from 2004 until just last year. Valdez’s work in the federal government involved investigating fraud in the country, as well a crime corps outside the country. As the sheriff, she spent a great deal of time reforming prisons that were understaffed and overpopulated. Her advocacy for inmates extended even further, however, seeking better care for prisoners suffering mental illness. As mentioned before, Valdez was one of a handful of LGBTQIA elected public servants serving over the course of her career as sheriff; and when she began in 2004, she was the only Latina in the entire country to hold the title of sheriff. Now, Valdez is running for governor. Valdez is running on higher minimum wages, equal pay, affordable college educations, affordable healthcare, more and better public transit options, and raising the standard of education.

Unarguably, these are two strong political candidates. Right? And they just so happen to identify as LGBTQIA. Still, Pool and Valdez aren’t the only two LGBTQIA candidates running for office. In fact, there are almost fifty queer people running in Texas alone. Certainly, they can’t all win. Still, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be given the opportunity to win.

Jennifer-Rene-Pool-e1312640557522-225x300 Queer Houston, We Have a ProblemI’m a staunch believer that we shouldn’t elect queer people just because they’re queer. I wouldn’t be electing Caitlin Jenner just because she’s trans. She’s also a Republican who endorsed Donald Trump. Not quite my cup of tea. However, among those near-fifty candidates that we’re talking about, nearly all are running on the Democratic ticket and are talking about issues that matter to the LGBTQIA community. After all, when it comes down to it, we’re concerned about the same things that cis and straight people are. We just want to be safe and afforded the same opportunities. But more than anything, what the community needs right now and more than ever is representation. Rare is the occasion that any given person is going to agree with each and every political stance taken by any given politician; but even rarer—especially in the LGBTQIA community—is the opportunity to be represented by a majority of politicians. We’re a community of minorities that converges like a Venn Diagram with other minority groups. We’re made up of gay people, trans people, bisexual people, black people, Hispanic people, Jewish people, Asian people, disabled people, veterans, asexuals, the non-binary, and so many more. Unlike the representation we see in our government—especially so in our state’s government—we are more than just white, cisgender, straight, male faces. So, why is that so much of what we’re seeing? And more importantly, why are those the faces that the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is endorsing over queer trans women or queer women of color? 

Screen-Shot-2017-12-06-at-6.20.19-AM_1512562828089_11882921_ver1.0-300x225 Queer Houston, We Have a ProblemThough it was reported in 2017 that Congress is now composed of 19% nonwhite individuals, there are only seven people who identify as LGBTQIA currently serving—less than 2%. Worse still? Only one of those 7 is a nonwhite person. So, if we take this information into consideration, and if we bother to ask why in 2018 we’re still seeing a giant lack of representation in our national and state government systems, it is equally important to ask why the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is endorsing straight, cisgender, white men in place of a strong trans woman and a Latin lesbian. Both of these women have worked tirelessly over the course of their political careers to ensure safety for the LGBTQIA community and who want to bring their voices—our voices—to Austin to make effective change.

As someone told me lately, “If the Caucus ain’t gonna support you [queer people], who will?”

To hear the Caucus’s new and sitting president tell it, as reported to MyStatesman, “We absolutely, positively wanted to endorse Lupe, but she didn’t do as well as we would have liked in the interview.” But that doesn’t quite seem like a good enough excuse. When it comes down to politics, the public eye never leaves a politician, especially not in the current era of 24-hour news coverage. A politician’s reliability, their credibility, and their flat-out ability to do the job aren’t solely based on one interview. They’re based on what work the candidate in question has done to effect change in the community. And neither Pool nor Valdez has carried out a career lacking said efficacy. Moreover, their careers—possibly even somewhat stunted due to their LGBTQIA statuses—have not come without pressures that their candidates have never had to face. As women—one trans and one cis—and as members of this community, both of these ladies have jumped hurdles to assume and maintain the positions they’ve fought tirelessly for to protect the well-being of other people. And, let’s be honest, these are both women of a certain age. That’s not a jab at them—that’s a jab at the times in which they’ve had to be unafraid and unabashed in order to make the strides they’ve made to get to where they are. Their political lives have had to shatter more glass ceilings than many in politics can ever imagine having existed.

 

andrew-white-300x201 Queer Houston, We Have a Problem
Andrew White, who won the Caucus’s governor endorsement over Valdez

And, as a community of mixed voices—gay, bi, trans, non-binary, lesbian, black, Asian, Hispanic, and more—we need heroes that are comfortable being uncomfortable to stand up, sword and shield in hand, to say no to the assholes in Austin who seek to shove us back into the holes we’ve worked so hard to wiggle our way out of. No more bathroom bills. No more denying us spousal benefits for city employees. No more revoking our right to marry. No more refusal to change gender markers. We need leaders whose voices reflect the people who are underserved—and we are the underserved. I’m not sorry to say that I don’t need a straight, white, cisgender man making decisions for my big, fat, gay life, just like our trans brothers and sisters don’t need one making decisions for them, and just like our lesbian sisters don’t need them making decisions for them, and just like our non-binary siblings don’t need them making decisions for them. We all need a voice that sounds a bit more like ours—a perspective that has been shaped by adversity and experience.

adam-e1517946106222-300x297 Queer Houston, We Have a Problem
Adam Milasincic, who won the endorsement over Pool.

With that said, I’m not sure what the Houston GLBT Political Caucus was thinking when they made these decisions. No offense to Andrew White or Adam Milasincic, the men endorsed in place of Pool and Valdez. Their resumes are impressive, but they’ve also lived lives of white boy privilege. If we’re going to continue talking about draining the swamp and equality and reclaiming our time and nevertheless persisting, our community and the organizations and caucuses that self-proclaim to represent the politics of our best interests need to recognize that it’s time to stop endorsing straight, white, cisgender men in lieu of people who have walked down the roads we have. As someone told me lately, “If the Caucus ain’t gonna support you [queer people], who will?”

Houston GLBT Political Caucus, shame on you. Shame on you for not supporting our trans sister and our sister of color. Sure, they may seem like the underdogs right now. But isn’t that what all of us in this community are? The underdogs? Isn’t that what all of your sitting board members were at some point? But in 2018—a year into a presidency of pussy-grabbing, trans military-banning, and wall-building—you need to be setting the example that even the underdog deserves a chance to shine. You need to be elevating our people and putting them on a pedestal and telling not only these candidates, but the world, “Yes. You can do this. You are the best person to represent our community.” And you have failed in doing that here. As happy as I am that you have endorsed many candidates that I think are going to go out there and use their voices to do great things for us, I am so disappointed in you for discouraging two strong, fierce-as-fuck women when you had the chance to expose them to people who need to know they’re out there fighting for us.

Shame on you.

And queer Houstonians, yes, we have a problem. But we are the only people who have the power to fix that problem. So, on March 6th, get up, go out, and vote. Vote for the queer people on the ballot—no matter who has or has not endorsed them. Make your voices heard. Because the louder that we shout, the more of us that show up, the harder we fight back to be heard and seen and to live an equal and happy life, the more the world will change for the better.

Vote.

Editor’s Note: World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day 2017

A note on World AIDS Day from About editor-in-chief, Anthony Ramirez.

Hi, everyone. I hope you’ve all had a lovely week and are wrapping up your Fridays differently than I am – by not working.

As most of you who are in the LGBTQIA community know, today is World AIDS Day, a day specifically targeted at remembering those who have lost their lives to the HIV/AIDS virus, as well as to spreading education about the importance of safe sex, prevention, and living with HIV/AIDS.

I want to start by saying that there is nothing shameful about living with HIV/AIDS. I, myself, am HIV-negative, so there are a lot of aspect to HIV/AIDS that I cannot speak to. But as a person who is very sexually active and who has been with multiple gay male partners in his life, it’s extremely important to me that I am tested regularly, and that I take the precautions necessary to prevent myself from contracting HIV. And I believe it is equally important that we all get tested frequently. We have to so that we can live longer and healthier lives with those we love.

But back to my previous point: having HIV/AIDS is not a shameful thing. It’s not something that a person does to themselves. It is not a reflection of the kind of person someone is. It is not a scarlet letter they should have to wear for everyone to see. HIV/AIDS is an illness, and one that takes lives every single day. It does not, however, define a person who is living with it, nor should it affect the way that others look at them. It should not serve as an excuse for anyone to pass judgment on them. Again, it’s an illness that affects far too many people because preventative medications and healthcare are expensive, and because the LGBTQIA community does not have proper and comprehensive sex education throughout almost all of the United States of America.

The real trouble here is, nothing is 100% effective. You can utilize expensive condoms and take PrEP as prescribed, but you are never going to be 100% protected from transmission. That said, science has brought the LGBTQIA community very far in terms of prevention. True, PrEP provides a 92-99% reduction rate in your risk of transmitting HIV, but 1-8% of potential transmission is still a potential for transmission. That’s why being tested is (again) so very important. While I cannot – nor would I ever try to – speak for an HIV-positive person or try to expound upon their experiences, I can say that it is not a virus that anyone would want. For decades, our community has battled HIV – back to when it was still referred to as GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency disease) – before even that. In that same span of time, innumerable people have lost their lives to this disease.

However, science is constantly looking for ways to make us safer, because HIV/AIDS is not a virus of perverse sex or to just being gay. It’s a virus that limits our ability to love freely and live long, healthy lives. HIV/AIDS has long been used against the queer community by the conservative side of politics as a tactic to restrict the rights of queer people. And in many ways, that has served a hindrance to scientists who work their entire careers trying to find a cure for it. But no one is giving up.

We’re lucky that the number of queer people who are living with HIV/AIDS has diminished. Lucky, because no one deserves to live with something so nightmarish. Still, it is possible to live a long, happy, and relatively healthy life with HIV/AIDS. It’s not always an end-all. In fact, more people are living now much longer lives than ever before with HIV and AIDS. And that’s really something, because it was nearly unheard of just thirty years ago.

So, with all that said, About Magazine did not publish any content related to World AIDS Day, as we have a number of articles for you that will be released starting tomorrow, Saturday, the 2nd of December. We aren’t putting a time parameter on when these articles will end, as we believe that HIV/AIDS should be normalized and discussed all throughout the year. However, given what we recognize today, the next week will serve more information than normal. These articles will talk about the importance of sexual education for queer youth in schools, preventative measures for HIV, resources for people living with HIV/AIDS, a history of World AIDS Day, lists of myths about HIV/AIDS and the people affected by it, some personal stories from those in the Houston LGBTQIA community that are living with this virus, and much more.

It’s our earnest hope here at About that everyone will learn something from these pieces, and take this information to share it with the people you love and in your life. If you have questions you don’t know a credible answer to, hopefully we can help provide it, or at least point you in the right direction. Our goal here at About is always to make sure that this community lives well, happy, and healthy lives. So, please take the time to read some of the information if you’re unsure of anything about HIV/AIDS. And always feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or if there’s something you think we should touch on. You can reach us at info@about-online.com.

For anyone reading this, please know that you are important, that you are special, that you are beautiful, and that you are loved, regardless of your HIV status or anything else you may feel defines you. Because nothing defines you other than what’s in your heart and how you treat others around you.

Choose kindness.

Choose community.

Choose love.

 

Anthony Ramirez
Editor-in-Chief