Rikers Island is opening its new transgender housing wing this week for its male-to-female inmates who have yet to undergo transition surgery reports Gay City News. The news organization toured the new 30-bed facility located on the sixth floor of the jail's north infirmary command, which is not part of the jail's actual hospital. The unit is a large dormitory-style room with another smaller room complete with round tables and fixed seats where inmates can watch TV, eat or play games. Inmates have yard access and can use physical and mental health services located nearby the unit.r
The jail is known for its history of unsafe conditions and documented brutality at the hands of officers. Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Planning and Programs at the Department of Correction (DOC), Erik Berliner, is assessing the safety and security of the unit.r
"We are finding ways to keep people safe, giving them a place where they don’t have to worry about being themselves. This is a place that can be sensitive to them. It is the right time for it. We are reassessing everything about safety and security."r
The transgender housing unit is an option offered only to transgender inmates; the inmate can voluntarily choose the unit or a unit with the rest of Rikers' 11,000 general population inmates. Berliner surveyed incoming transgender inmates, who have not had transition surgery yet, about what option they would choose. Half of those surveyed chose the new unit, and the other half chose to remain among the male inmates.r
Advocates of the facility have pushed for its implementation for years. More than a 100 jail staff members received training on transgender issues by two of the advocates for the facility; Chase Strangio, himself transgender and a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, and Alisha Williams, director of prisoners’ legal services at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Strangio spoke about the unique opportunities that the training presents.r
"It's an incredible opportunity to have advocates on issues impacting trans people in confinement settings to be the ones training uniformed correctional staff. The trainings represented a point of potential progress insofar as they show a commitment by leadership at DOC on meaningful training on trans issues.r
"But like with all training, the culture change that is going to need to happen is going to take much more than a two-hour training could ever accomplish. So much will depend on the governing document and our hope is that the directive will permit all trans people who wish to access the unit to do so. One of the reasons why this model is important is that it is a voluntary unit. It is not one they are forced to enter. From an advocate’s perspective, that’s the only way a unit like this could work."r
Berliner noted that one of the trainers referred to a correction officer as a "guard," which is considered a mislabelling term among corrections officers. However, Berliner felt that it proved educational to the officers as they now understand what transgender people encounter on a daily basis. Former inmate, Maria Lopez, and executive director of transgender rights group STARR is optimistic about the program.r
"Like most programs that are new and innovative, it's going to take some time to work out the kinks. But I’m optimistic. This is an opportunity to work with law enforcement for a change. I’m elated.r
"What is remarkable about this opportunity is that it is about more than just getting trans people jailed better but also connecting them to services. The deputy commissioner said he will do what he can to connect people to non-profits. It will save the city money in recidivism."r
Berliner urges staff, inmates and advocates to continue providing input on the new facility.r
Let it be known that November 20 will from here on be known as country music’s official coming out day. Hot on the heels of Nashville superstar Ty Herndon’s public acknowledgment that he’s a happily-partnered gay man, country performer Billy Gilman has been inspired to do the same. Gilman, 26, first garnered attention as the youngest person to score a top 40 country hit (he was 12 at the time) with the single “One Voice,” has followed Herndon’s lead and posted a video online in which he acknowledges he’s a gay man with a partner of five months.
Gilman tells viewers that it was “difficult for me to make this video not because I’m ashamed of being a gay male artist or a gay artist or a gay person. But it’s pretty silly to know that I’m ashamed of doing this knowing that because I’m in an genre and industry that is ashamed of me for being me. That said, I want to say that all of the country artists that literally I grew up with – Keith Urban, Vince, Lee Ann Rhimes and all of these wonderful friends of mine have been nothing but supportive. Not that they knew but they’ve just been such wonderful people.”
With the C&W floodgates now wide open, who do you think will come out next?
Watch Gilman’s video below.
...And five other things you should know today.
Ellen runs down a host of hard-to-believe-they're real toys from over the years, including a masturbating Tarzan, wino action figures and a drug-dealer doll strictly for kids 15 and up...
Mike Nichols, the acclaimed director of such film classics as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and The Graduate (1967), as well as one half of the legendary comedy duo of Nicolas & May with Elaine May (b. April 21, 1932) in the '50s and '60s, has died at 83. He'd been married since 1988 to journalist Diane Sawyer (b. December 22, 1945).
Nichols won the Oscar for The Graduate, only his second film, and delivered many other memorable movies as diverse as Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), Gilda Live (1980), Silkwood (1983), Postcards from the Edge (1990), The Birdcage (1996) and his last film, Charlie Wilson's War (2007).
In 2001, he brought the highly regarded play Wit to TV, and three years later directed an ambitious Angels in America adaptation for HBO.
Nichols & May were known for their improvisational comedy, which led them to the successful Broadway show An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May. They split, both creatively and personally, but later buried the hatchet and teamed up on plays and films. (May wrote both The Birdcage and the Clinton parody Primary Colors.)
Nicholas was extremely active and frequently rewarded for his efforts in the theater, including directing enduring classics Barefoot in the Park (1963—his debut), The Odd Couple (1965), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971), Annie (1977), Hurlyburly (1984), Whoopi Goldberg's blank-titled one-woman show (1984) and the relatively recent runaway hit Spamalot (2005). His final work on Broadway was as the director of Betrayal in 2013, starring Daniel Craig and his wife Rachel Weisz.
Apparently, Nicholas had not been in ill health, but died suddenly of a heart attack. A major loss for the entertainment world.
When you're a blogger, you take the good (free tickets, great opportunities to meet fascinating people, the ability to express your opinion to a wide audience every day, positive reinforcement from supportive readers) with the bad (scorched-earth comments from anonymous anti-fans, the occasional rejection of an interview request, some people assuming you're a public service and that you have to publish anythnig they want).
One thing I really never get over, though, is the odd push-pull from some quarters—they want you, they don't want you...it changes day to day.
Case in point: I would routinely get news tips from a gay magazine on a weekly basis. They'd encourage me to post their stuff, which I often did since I run a personal blog with a gay slant and they're a classy gay magazine that has great content. Why wouldn't I?
But then I wouldn't get invited to their annual party in NYC, which each year I would point out and then would be told they'd correct it the following year.
Finally happened, and I've been happy to cover their events on the carpet, too. (Which is something I shouldn't even be doing, red-carpet jockeying—it's stressful as hell trying to get decent soundbites from people who often don't actually want to speak to any gay blogs, instead just focusing on the mainstream media, and takes a lot of time and energy when editing footage, with the pay-off being...maybe I"ll get some nice views on a YouTube video and make 20 cents.)
Anyway, if I didn't wanna do it, no one's holding a gun to my head.
So this year, I got a save-the-date notice, a tip sheet, a follow-up note making sure I still wanted to cover and then, five hours before the event, I got a note from the PR firm handling the event to say they could not (underline is theirs) let me cover after all, that they'd hoped I could cover, but turns out there's no space.
I've never had that happen in 15 years of covering carpets (P.S. again, it's time to stop covering carpets)—it would be one thing if I'd requested to cover and they'd said they'd try but couldn't come through. But to be asked and then unasked?
My blog is not as big a deal as a couple of other gay blogs that are really the gay blogs of record, but I have a solid following and certainly overlap with their readership. Frankly, I don't think they'd treat a non-gay outlet this cavalierly. No idea if anyone at the magazine is even in the loop on this so I'm not intending to blame them—it's probably all tied into the PR. But still. Give me a break with this nonsense.
An extended look at the hilarious tribute to Mike Nichols by his partner in crime Elaine May from 2010...
Ty Herndon, 52, a bona fide country star whose “It Must Be Love” was a #1 country hit and Top 40 pop song in 1998, has come out as an “out, proud and happy gay man.”
Herndon came out personally beginning at age 20 and has been married twice, to women he says “absolutely” knew the truth.
Welcome to the family, pardner.
A change.org petition asking The Learning Channel to cancel 19 Kids and Counting over the Duggars' "LGBT fear mongering" has caught fire on the internet and amassed over 100,000 signatures.r
The letter states:r
End LGBTQ fear mongering by the Duggars. The Duggars have been using their fame to promote discrimination, hate, and fear-mongering against gays and transgendered people. You need to take a stand on the side of justice and cancel their show.r
Among the listed anti-LGBT actions on the part of the Duggar clan:r
- Matriarch Michelle Duggar's Fayetteville robocall warning residents that the city's proposed LGBT non-discrimination ordinance would enable "males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls." r
- Josh Duggar, the oldest son, taking a job with the hate group Family Research Council. In this role, Duggar has peddled lies and misinformation about the LGBT community, including an appearance outside the Arkansas Supreme Court this morning to warn the crowd that the gays are "taking away your right to speak" r
The Duggars also made headlines last week after issuing a kissing challenge on Facebook and then deleting any pictures of gay couples locking lips.r
Read the petition here.
The Washington Post on why Elizabeth Warren would be a very dangerous candidate in 2016.r
Mike Nichols, the legendary director (The Birdcage, Angels in America) and EGOT winner has passed away.r
Taylor Swift's 1989 hits the 2 million sales mark.r
Towleroad's Brian Sloan has a great new article over at The New York Times on how gay bookstores are adapting in an "era when print is supposedly dying."
The 10 worst Uber horror stories.r
Texas Governor Rick Perry on his flash pan 2012 presidential bid: "I was a bit arrogant"r
Today marks the 16th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.r
The Daily Beast on the problematic hunt for a "gay gene" - "Indeed, as it has always been, the magic bullet for the acceptance of homosexuality seems to be the act of knowing an actual gay or lesbian person, not reading a study that suggests the possibility of a shared genetic marker on the Xq28 region of the X chromosome...In terms of promoting LGBT equality, then, it doesn’t seem to matter as much whether or not people believe that gay people are “born that way” as it does that they simply know someone who is currently gay, no matter how they were born. Friendship is the trump card in the movement for equality, not etiology."r
Zac Efron and James Franco casually discuss their masturbation habits in spoof video for The Interview.r
Check out this fascinating new study on the economic cost to American businesses as a result of our nation's patchwork same-sex marriage laws. Here's one of the fact highlights of the study's findings: Every additional day of inconsistent marriage laws will cost the private sector $3.5 million.r
Rand Paul and Al Sharpton grab breakfast together to discuss criminal justice issues.r
Study reveals The New York Times has a pro-dog bias.r
How to Get Away With Murder's Jack Falahee dishes on his character Connor's steamy gay sex scenes on the show - "I am glad that people are talking about it and that it's sparked the conversation. I think that that's the aim of entertainment."r
Olympic gold medal swimmer Ian Thorpe reveals he's "ashamed" he didn't come out as gay sooner.r
Former U.S. Senator from Virginia Jim Webb has launched an exploratory committee for presidential bid.r
Is Ryan Gossling rejecting the Sexiest Man Alive award?r
Prince Harry loves playing with his sword.r
Britney Spears is set to make an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live tonight.
Billy Gilman, who at the age of 12 became the youngest singer to land a Top 40 hit on the country music charts with 2000's "One Voice," has come out as gay in a video message posted online today.r
In the video, Gilman shares that country singer Ty Herndon's coming out earlier today makes it easier for him to open up, but that he is still concerned about how the country music industry will react.r
You know, it's difficult for me to make this video not because I'm ashamed of being a gay male artist or a gay artist or a gay person. But it's pretty silly to know that I'm ashamed of doing this knowing that because I'm in an genre and industry that is ashamed of me for being me. That said, I want to say that all of the country artists that literally I grew up with - Keith Urban, Vince, Lee Ann Rhimes and all of these wonderful friends of mine have been nothing but supportive. Not that they knew but they've just been such wonderful people.r
Gilman also reveals that he's been with his partner for five months.r
Watch Gilman's video announcement (and a Today show performance of "One Voice") AFTER THE JUMP...r
[photo via Instagram]rr
24 years-old gay filmmaker gets naked to fund his feature film
The former O-Town heart-throb discusses heading to Oz as the hunky Fiyero (and those underwear photos).
For reasons we can’t begin to understand, Alec Baldwin is taking a step away from his acting career to focus on his other identity –“internationally recognized relationship expert.” In his new web series Alec Baldwin’s Love Ride, he doles out relationship advice. In a recent episode he tries his hand at a modern gay love story.
They cover the differences between Grindr, where the couple met, and Scruff. As Alec puts it, “Scruff is where you send pictures form the waist up, and Grindr from the waist down.” How little he knows…
He concludes that the couple is “awesome” as he is fed questions from his lesbian friend off camera. He even offers up her uterus at the end of the ride. How generous!
Alec has previously been fired by MSNBC for going on what was perceived as a homophobic rant, when he tweeted to a reporter, “I’d put my foot up your fucking ass, George Stark, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much. I’m gonna find you George Stark, you toxic little queen, and I’m gonna fuck you… up.”
Could this be a little calculated publicity to throw off the tireless forces at GLAAD?
“I was born intersex and named David Roy Fitch at birth,” 41-year-old Taylor Lianne Chandler (pictured) announced on her “official” Facebook page earlier this week. “But the time I could walk and talk I made it clear I was a girl and dressed as one. In my early teens I was medically diagnosed and went on testosterone blockers, at 15 estrogen enhancers. My birth certificate was modified along with my name while I was a teenager, prior to any corrective surgery.”
According to Chandler, she and Phelps initially connected on Tinder back in September. She says she did not tell him about having transitioned before they hooked up together.
“One thing led to the next,” she said, “and we made love during halftime. Later, we had sex again. The intimacy with him was amazing! It was the first time in my life that someone has made me feel like a true woman.”
Since going public with her story, Chandler has made headlines around the world, and she hasn’t been humble about sharing the articles written about her. A quick scroll through her Facebook page displays an endless stream of tabloid stories and other write-ups about her alleged fling with Phelps.
Some of the stories, however, have not been so kind.
Chandler says she’s appalled by the way some media outlets are covering the story, particularly their incorrect use of male pronouns. Being referred to as a man, she claims, has caused her to vomit uncontrollably.
“In a world of educated people that had all the facts of intersex and what it means and then to sell a magazine say [sic] Michael Phelps is dating a MAN,” she said. “I have cried now for an hour, thrown up anything in my system till I dry heaved. I just can’t believe this is happening in 2014!”
She continued: “I am Taylor Lianne Chandler; I have always been a female regardless of labels and personal opinions. I am not transsexual and I have never identified with the moniker transgender, but intersex is certainly on the spectrum of gender along with them.”
Phelps has yet to respond to the rumors.