National and World Briefs

I’ll take LGBTQ literature for $1000, Alex

On “Jeopardy!” “LGBTQ Books.” might be an easy category. The American Library Association has released its top 10 most challenged books of 2023. The answer in the form of a question, “Which six of the top ten challenged books have LGBTQ+ content?” Alex, now Murray, Utah’s own Scott Jennings, would also accept the addition of “People of Color.” In 2023 the number of book challenges at U.S. libraries increased 65 percent over the previous year. The challenges, according to the ALA, came from “parents’ rights and anti-LGBTQ+ groups like “Moms for Liberty.” The 10 most challenged books of 2023 are as follows:

·         For LGBTQ+ content: “Genderqueer” by Maia Kobabe, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, “Flamer” by Mike Curato, “Let’s Talk About It” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan

·         For sex, violence, and language: “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews, “Sold” by Patricia McCormick.

The worm turns in Florida

Get in the “Way Back machine,” and it is possible to go to a time when the Irish-American sponsors of the St. Patrick’s Day parade would not let gays and lesbians march in parades. The announced reason was they feared violence. Go to Miami Beach Pride organization this year and you get the same reason to deny Florida state Rep. Fabian Basabe. He represents the district in which the parade will run and, though married to a person with a uterus, says he is a member of the LGBTQ community. He is also an out-Republican and voted for “Parental Rights in Education,” Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law. The last time he was in the parade, protesters followed him with rude chants and threatened violence. Miami police had to march along for his protection. As we know, police in parades trigger some participants, so police in uniform are generally kept out of Pride Parades and Festivals (see Utah Pride for more info). He says the First Amendment lets him in the parade. The parade organizers, hired by the city and county, say they have the right to keep him out to ensure safety. Not the representatives, but those caught up in the protest or those triggered by the sight of motorcycle cops in tight jodhpurs. More to come as it is all headed to court. BTW, the Irish-Americans lost in court. 

“Shangela” accused of sexual assault

One of the most popular performers on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is now facing multiple accusations of sexual assault. Darius Jeremy “DJ” Pierce ― who performs as “Shangela” ― has been accused by five different queer-identifying people of sexual assault. Neither RuPaul nor the show are implicated in Rolling Stone’s story airing the accusations, most of which are not connected to personnel from the show. One man, now 27, said when he was 20, he dined with Pierce and, after one mojito, woke up “completely naked on a bed” and had “no recollection of the events that occurred after he drank” the cocktail. Another victim claimed he was shoved into a closet, and Pierce attempted, unsuccessfully, penetration. With what, was not made clear. One production assistant got a settlement with Pierce after accusing the performer of rape. Pierce denies all accusations. No charges have been filed in any of the accusations.

Schlapp pays up, accuser shuts up

The accusation against American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp has been settled. The man, who was a campaign staffer for a Georgia Senate candidate, accused Schlapp of “grabbing my junk.” When asked about the event and settlement, the man said, “I am only legally allowed to say five words, and that is ‘We have resolved our differences.’” The man originally sued Schlapp for $9 million for defamation, but settled for $488,000. Schlapp claimed he was exonerated; the plaintiff’s attorney opined it’s not exoneration if you have to pay. Schlapp remains chair of ACU, which produces the inflammatory, right-wing gab-fest called CPAC. His wife, Mercedes, was a prominent White House policy official and spokesperson from 2017 to 2021.

Flags down at embassies

One of the compromises in the 2024 U.S. budget battles in Congress regulates how LGBTQ+ Pride flags are flown at U.S. embassies. None on the official flag poles, okay on desks and private quarters. Pride flags have been in and out of U.S. overseas facilities since the classic rainbow flag was first flown from 2013 to 2016. From 2017 to 2020, no flags were flown. From 2021 until this day, the Progressive Pride Flag was allowed in official displays. Some embassies in places like Saudi Arabia or Serbia have never flown Pride Flags due to local laws and customs. Celebrations have not been prohibited, just flying flags.

Pope answers age-old question

Outrage and, oddly, surprise have greeted the Roman Catholic Church’s declaration that gender theory and gender-affirming care are “violations of human dignity” alongside war, poverty, human trafficking, and other disapproved activities. The Vatican’s “Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith,” the department in charge of religious doctrine, spent the last five years creating the 20-page document, Dignitas Infinita,” The document denounces, “as contrary to human dignity the fact that, in some places, not a few people are imprisoned, tortured, and even deprived of the good of life solely because of their sexual orientation.” It reiterates the Pope’s description that “gender theory “amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God. It risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception.” The ukase allows Intersex individuals surgical intervention in what it calls, people “with genital abnormalities.” Yes, the Pope is Catholic, still.

Military to promote service members living with HIV

An Air Force cadet and a Navy midshipman have won a lawsuit after being denied promotions for being HIV-positive. In 2018, the Department of Defense denied commissions after the two graduated from their respective service academies because they are living with HIV. Lambda Legal ran the suit, which led to a settlement allowing the commissions. The DoD had already made some policy changes in 2022 by recognizing that service members who are asymptomatic, with undetectable viral load are “fit for duty’ with no undue accommodations.

RIP, gay and lesbian writers

One of the most accomplished non-musical theatrical writers, Christopher Durang, has died at age 75. He is best known for such acclaimed plays as “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You,” ”Beyond Therapy,” and “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” The New York Times lauded him in an obit, “In a career spanning more than 40 years, he established himself as a hyperliterate jester and an anarchic clown. He ‘pogoed’ from sex to metaphysics to serial killers to psychology, and he had a way of collapsing high art and jokes that aimed much lower.”

Ella Matthes, longtime publisher and editor in Norwalk, Calif., died at 81 years old. She ran The Lesbian News Magazine, the“LN” to its devotees, from 1994 until 2022. Founded in 1975, it is North America’s longest-running lesbian publication.

AI, next Grindr grind

The Death Star of gay hook-up bars, Grindr, is going to use AI to keep its user base growing. In an earlier move destined to alienate current users, the company announced it hoped to move away from hook-ups and casual encounters toward longer-term dating, travel, and professional networking. Returning to its senses, it has teamed with Ex-Human Inc., a generative artificial intelligence company, to introduce “AI boyfriends to “sext with you when nobody else will.” There is a marketing come-on for you. Grindr is having growing pains with the “AI boyfriend.” Like most AI tools, the bot learns from the database. So, it occasionally makes problematic remarks about Jews and Muslims, overpraises or undervalues penis size based on race, and uses phrases like “No fats, femmes, or trannies.” Like most young things,  “AI boyfriend” will need to learn to play nice.

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