Sex With HPV: What You Need to KNow

HPV should not become the new scarlet letter. There is no reason to feel dirty, shameful, or demeaned in any way for being diagnosed with the human papillomavirus. If you’re a man who has sex with men, it shouldn’t restrict you from being a top — or make you any less entitled to be a bottom.

HPV is relatively commonplace among gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender and cisgender women. And its very existence, unfortunately, does lead to medical, emotional, and sexual ramifications. Researchers estimate the prevalence of HPV in men who have sex with men ranges from 60 percent to nearly 90 percent (the latter among those who are also HIV-positive). HPV is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., with up to 14 million people diagnosed every year. It is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, which means all the things we love to do — licking, rubbing, kissing, and fucking (with or without condoms) — come with risk.

Most people get exposed to HPV at some point in their lives but are never aware of it. A small group of individuals develop some manifestations of the infection — the most common being anal or genital warts, which one will notice when new bumps develop in the genital or oral regions, or bleeding and itching that occurs in the affected area. For men, who don’t have the benefit of a gynecologist as most women do, symptoms should warrant a comprehensive internal and external evaluation by a professional who specializes in gay and bi men’s sexual health. That means full anal swabs for better characterization of the subtypes and cancer risk, and a generalized whole-body dermatological examination.

Clearly, these medical ramifications need thorough evaluation and appropriate management. This can consist of localized creams for external disease, freezing or burning of both internal and external lesions, or a combination of both modalities. All should be followed by the HPV vaccine, if you have not already obtained it.

I tell clients that anal warts are like “barnacles on the tail of a whale.” The whale doesn’t even know they exist. If it did, the whale would easily flick them off. The same goes for the warts on the top layer of cells of our buttocks — the body doesn’t know they exist. The above treatment modalities allow your body to create an immune response as a defense against recurrence and the possibility of cancer development. I cannot stress enough the importance of serial follow-up once one has completed treatment. In the immediate period following infection, standard evaluation should occur every three months for continued surveillance. Then, over time, this can be relaxed to just once a year. Aggressive early management allows for complete eradication, which limits recurrence.

Through all my years as a medical provider, I have found that people are too quick to internalize their HPV diagnosis, feeling guilt and embarrassment that can lead to sexual dysfunction. Once one has fully accepted it while educating themselves on HPV’s method of transmission and various treatment approaches, the most common questions include:

What do I need to disclose to my sexual partners? How can I prevent transmission or prevent clinical symptoms from arising?

First, making sure that all partners are free of active HPV through a full internal and external evaluation with a high-resolution camera by an experienced physician or other medical provider is paramount.

Second, condom use can decrease transmission, so bareback sex should be avoided. However, since one can contract it through skin-to-skin contact, simply engaging in foreplay prior to sex carries a high risk. Post-play showering does aid in reduction of transmission and should be used as another effective prevention method, as it can wash away the virus particles.

Third, another wonderful risk-reducing strategy is the HPV vaccine, especially with the increased amount of recent evidence supporting its validity even over the recommended age of 26. I bet they all tell you you’re too old to get it, but that’s completely false. If during testing, your partner does not have the type that you do, in theory, getting the vaccine could protect them. If you’re under 26 and HPV-negative, getting the vaccine is recommended for men and women, whether they’re cisgender, transgender, or gender-fluid.

We must demand appropriate anal swabs, testing for HPV, and an understanding of the results from our physicians. With this knowledge and understanding, vaccination can be key to a low or no-risk sexual encounter.

There are several methods to aid in risk-reduction, but the most valuable component is open dialogue between partners, taking responsibility for our active engagements, and harboring an educational foundation on the science behind HPV, its treatment protocols, and finally, annual maintenance evaluations.

The initial shock of diagnosis can be mitigated by earlier education on this subject and all sexual health issues worldwide. At least now with a full understanding of its commonality, treatment, and prevention, everyone can be a true advocate for decreasing HPV transmission.

The Advocate’s sexual health expert, DR. EVAN GOLDSTEIN, is the founder and CEO of Bespoke Surgical — a first-of-its-kind health practice specializing in gay men’s sexual health and wellness. (

When Black Professionals Must Work Twice as Hard

I suck at self-care. I’ll admit that. The very act of thinking about it stresses me out, which I worry defeats the purpose. When people encourage me to take care of myself, I often reply, “Who has time for that?” And I know I’m not alone.

It might be because I didn’t have great models of self-care in my life. My father — who had been a sharecropper, a soldier, and an entrepreneur, before becoming a minister — never took a day off. The man worked seven days a week, until he physically couldn’t move anymore. My mother — who raised eight children from the time she was 16 to when she was 54 — never applied self-care either. I don’t know anyone stronger than my parents.

My professional socialization has also made it difficult to apply self-care. When I was working in nonprofit organizations, the water cooler conversation (or in our case, the coffee pot conversations) centered on how busy we were — and how stressed out we were. This was our office gossip. I used to call it productivity performance art: whoever can perform being the most stressed out or the busiest, wins the award.

As a black person working in white-led nonprofit organizations, before I founded my own (The Counter Narrative Project), I learned that we’re often perceived as not working very hard. That’s not just in nonprofit organizations, but in all institutions rooted in white supremacy.

There are racist narratives that create a toxic culture around black employees. So many of us suffer an incredible amount of emotional violence in the workplace. Racism thrives on punishing and controlling black flesh. To survive, you internalize the “you have to be twice as good” narrative. These issues arise even in the most well-intentioned and progressive work places.

It’s hard not to become paranoid. God forbid you don’t respond immediately to each email, or you fail to get that project done early. We end up working ourselves to death, literally, trying to counter these kinds of stereotypes. “See,” we say, “I work harder than you.” Yet, you still don’t get the promotion, nor that raise you deserve. Then you burn out.

Social media is hard, too. Even after we filter our content, we still see pain and cruelty. We’re reminded every day of what it means to be part of the oppressed class, and that we live in a world where we are disposable. One might say, “Take a social media break.” That’s fair. And I don’t disagree.

If you can’t actually take a vacation, one might suggest for you to take baths with candles, chant, or do other centering activities. Some of that works for me momentarily, but I find it difficult to sustain. Sure, I’ll start out doing it and maybe even put it on my calendar, but then life happens. Or I end up being too tired. The labor to even plan self-care rituals can feel overwhelming at times.

My work is the work of liberation. It’s the work of freedom and joy and love, but it’s also the work of pain. This is the path we travel in our commitment to social justice. It’s working in communities that experience profound suffering, and because these are my communities, it’s a suffering I also know and feel. You don’t get to turn it off.

To travel this path, you become wounded. There will be scars you can’t cover up with achievements, lovers, or material things. Healing is imperative if we are to survive.

During the writing of this piece, I’m currently coming out of a kind of funk. In these moments — some might call them tests — we get a chance to see if the elaborate systems we set up in our life actually work. That’s when self-care practice goes from abstract to tangible.

What I’ve learned, and am reminded of, is that I can’t do much of my work around self-care by myself. No one can. I need to have people support me, take care of me, and affirm me. That’s what self-care looks like. My mistake has been thinking self-care requires me to be alone, or to do it alone.

It’s not that at all.

Maybe, just maybe, if I’m able to integrate more of a communal approach to “self-care,” I might be more successful moving forward. When you make yourself a priority, success undoubtedly follows. Let’s try it together.

Contributing editor CHARLES STEPHENS is an Atlanta-based writer and activist. He is the executive director of the Counter Narrative Project. Follow him on Twitter @CharlesDotSteph.

Janeane Garofalo Is Still the Voice of My Generation

It’s probably the dread of Midwestern girls all over: moving to Hollywood with their dreamboat actor boyfriend only to find him in bed with another man. But in The Happys, Tracy (Amanda Bauer) not only persists, opening herself up to the quirky neighbors in her Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz, dubbed “the Happys,” she also sticks with Mark (played by The Fosters’ Jack DePew). As Tracy and Mark, both 21, learn what we all must eventually — that finding what you thought would make you happy very frequently does not — the film turns charming and thoughtful, with a sense of introspection that goes with the California dream. 

This makes The Happys (which opens today in select cities) a delightfully queer film about millennial adulting, in which we’re rooting for the straight girl as much as the bi/gay guys. At the center of Tracy’s new hood is a Latino food truck owner, a gay magazine reporter, Mark’s delightfully butchy manager who tries to straighten him out (a hilarious turn by The Walking Dead’s Melissa McBride), and importantly Luann. The latter, a compassionate, nurturing, free-spirited former child star who invested in real estate and seems to own half the rental cottages in Los Feliz, is played by Janeane Garofalo. The character, she says, is the complete opposite of the actress herself (a self-described nearly asexual New Yorker with a long-term boyfriend).

The voice of Generation X, Garofalo had her breakout role in the 1994 Winona Ryder film Reality Bites. She was dark and sardonic, attractive, sarcastic yet seemingly sincere. She became a Gen X icon immediately and through the next nearly two decades she worked steadily in film and television, having broken into the latter on the beloved but short-lived Ben Stiller Show on Fox in 1992 (alongside friends Andy Dick and Bob Odenkirk). From there came the role of the short, slightly frumpy, delightfully sardonic Paula on The Larry Sanders Show on HBO, which earned her two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

More films would follow, from the cult hits (Mystery Men, Wet Hot American Summer) to the blockbusters (The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion), with many excellent indies in between (including The Matchmaker, Cop Land, Clay Pigeons, and Dogma).

But her feisty stand-up comedy and outspoken progressive activism (she was fighting Republicans long before Donald Trump became one) made Garofalo the voice of a generation — at least a generation of women who, in the era before social media made connectivity, nonhomogenous imagery, and intersectionality ubiquitous, didn’t fit the mold of what Hollywood had always told us we needed to be.

The Advocate: I love the overarching theme of The Happys — that sort of dichotomy between what we think will make us happy versus what really does. I’m wondering, do you think that’s a universal experience?
Garofalo: I assume most things, in a way, are universal experiences, if you’re dealing with human beings. Now, obviously with The Happys, it’s a slice of life that … I live in New York, but I think it’s supposed to be a comment on a slice of life in a particular neighborhood. Certainly the experiences those people have are not universal, given that 90 percent of the global population lives on less than $2 a day. …  So it’s a comment on what [the writers] have experienced [in Los Feliz], but certainly lots of people don’t live that way.

This isn’t the typical Janeane Garofalo role. I’ve heard film critics use this as shorthand: “Well, that’s the Janeane Garofalo role,” meaning the witty, acerbic, cynical character, a lot of times, female character. Have you heard that before?
In the ‘90s, I was certainly typecast. There’s no doubt about that. I didn’t start acting until I was 27, which is very late. I started doing stand-up at 19, but I got lucky when I was 27 through Garry Shandling and Ben Stiller, who I was friends with, and got cast on their shows. Now, on Larry Sanders, my character was based on a real person who worked at [Late Show With David Letterman]. The Sanders show was a little bit about behind the scenes of Letterman. That person was, I guess, what you could call acerbic, taciturn, and so I was tasked with doing that. And I guess people thought I was pretty good at it. And then combined with the way I look, which entertainment, and life in general, people like to put you in categories.

I wasn’t savvy enough to realize, “Oh, you’re going to get typecast.” I was just so flattered to get a job. I couldn’t believe my good luck. I am extremely chatty. I’d like to think I’m polite. I’m much more polite now that I’m older than I was. I used to be drunk a lot, so I don’t know how polite I was all the time in the ‘90s, but still, I like to think of myself these days as a door holder, a holder of doors.

Unfortunately, in my early stand-up, due to insecurity, I … probably behaved in a more, I guess, what could be called cynical way only because I was nervous. And then as the years went on and I became more comfortable in my own skin as a stand-up, I speak in the way that I’m speaking to you now. So I’m terribly embarrassed by any old footage of me doing stand-up, like I’m too cool for school. because I’ve never felt that way about myself. I am embarrassed that I behaved that way. …  I have done a lot of roles that are different; it’s just that no one ever sees them anymore.

Especially the small indie films. They just don’t get the wide attention.
There’s a lot of them. And not all of them deserve to get [attention]. A lot of times you’re on the set going, “Why are we making [this?] Why did this story need to be told?”

You’ve also gotten a little bit choosier about your projects.
It’s not like people are banging down my door. But luckily, when I was successful in the ‘90s, I didn’t buy anything. … I’m not a big spender, and I don’t have children … I can afford to be “choosy” and again, it’s not like I have a ton of people saying, “Hey, please do this.” I don’t have to do certain things because I don’t have to think in terms of, “Oh, I need to put this money away for my kids.” I own the apartment I live in. I don’t have a car. And that’s about the extent of it.

There’s not a lot of roles for middle-aged women as it is. There’s also less roles for middle-aged women who are not considered conventionally attractive, and not a lot of roles for middle-aged women not considered conventionally attractive who have been pigeonholed. Again, I’m not complaining, I’m just answering.

Did you ever have a moment in your career that you were like, “This is it, I’ve made it?”
Not so much, “This is it, I’ve made it,” but just pure joy, meeting certain idols like Catherine O’Hara, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Albert Brooks, those kind of things. Those were moments where I felt, “Oh. my gosh, this is amazing,” Catherine O’Hara being one of the biggest. … It’s not “I made it,” it’s like, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I’m doing a scene with these people.”

That’s probably a smart way to do it.
I think it is because a lot of people start buying stuff … [and] very, very few have sustained career success. It looks like there’s a lot, I guess to the outside eye, but as you’ll note, there are a handful of actors that work and work and work and work and work. And a lot of times females drop off. You know what I mean? There is a precious few that work and work and work well into their 60s and 70s. And they tend to get a lot of the jobs. A lot of the men get old, they keep going, and the women get younger.

It requires a great deal of luck, but also a great deal of hard work, and I must say I am not the hardest-working woman in show business. I am a person who is easily defeated, and I’m the first to say, “I’m out, I’ll pass.” You know what I mean? Except for smoking and making jewelry and doing stand-up, I’m what you call a quitter. It requires a great deal to sustain, to stay in the game. And a lot of the stuff that I just don’t want to do. And sometimes I feel bad about that, and then sometimes I realize that’s not my nature. I don’t want to be on that metaphorical treadmill. It requires a great deal of things outside of the actual job of just acting that I don’t have any interest in.

Also, I don’t want to take care of myself physically. I don’t want to take care of my skin. That’s a full-time job. I also have no social media platforms. There’s a fake me tweeting and a fake Facebook me, but I don’t work the social media, which is a full-time job. I don’t want to dress up and go somewhere to have my picture taken. I don’t want to do any of that. I never have wanted to. The business requires you to do that, and I don’t want to do it.

And a lot of those folks end up doing stage work too.
I’ve done plays, and I’m happy to do that. I did this summer. I was on Broadway with Lili Taylor in a revival of Marvin’s Room. It was a great learning experience, but I did not enjoy some of the process. I enjoyed actually doing it with Lili, when we really got in our rhythm. But then there’s the repetition. And the tech rehearsals. Some people really like it. I did not, but I did love working with Lili Taylor.

Do you identify with your character Luann in The Happys?
Actually, no, there’s really nothing similar to us in certain ways. She and I did this movie a long time ago, so forgive me. She became a landlord of sorts and was responsible for people and collecting rent checks, stuff which wouldn’t be great for me. I feel like I wouldn’t be that kind of person. Also, she was much more flighty. …  She’s a nurturer, which I can be that, but I am not as like, “Oh, say yes to life, and go for it.” I’m not like that.

How old were you when you were able to really admit what made you happy?
I think I’ve always been able to admit it, but I think, as I’ve gotten older, as probably as everyone does, you realize who you are, I think. Still, one hopes to evolve. I think I really know my nature. I really know what I do and don’t want to do. Sometimes that’s fine, and sometimes I can become more cut off. I’m the chattiest introvert you’ll ever meet.

You know what my greatest joy is, to tell you the truth? Walking, just walking around. That’s one of the greatest parts of New York and the outer boroughs, but also any cities I go do stand-up in. That’s all I want to do. I don’t want to bring my phone with me, and I don’t want to have a plan. Now, if there are bead stores, that’s the cherry on top of the cake, if I can wander into a good bead store. I just want to walk around. I want to read. I want to go to a bead store.

I love walking across the bridges in New York at night — either the Brooklyn Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge, or the Manhattan Bridge at night — on a cold, brisk night. That’s when I feel as happy as can be by myself. I have no problems being alone.

And you’re not afraid for your safety?
Oh, no … New York is so safe. I think people misunderstand that because everybody’s out walking, and everything’s open. Now, that’s not true of every city, which I find out the hard way lots of times.

I love that you bead.
Oh, I’m a beadist, yes. I like making jewelry. I just make it for the fun of it, but also, I give it as gifts for free. It’s not like I’m good at it, and I would never charge anyone for it. I just enjoy the process and the ritual, I think.

Do you ever look back on some of the jobs you had before you were successful?
I was a bad bike messenger who was quickly demoted to a walking messenger. This is back in the day before the internet’s open. In downtown Boston in the Financial District, there’s papers that need to be delivered between buildings. So there was a lot of work for walking messengers that does not exist now. I was a terrible waitress who was demoted to ice scream scooper and then dishwasher and then fired. And I worked at a shoe store, was terrible at that. I was fired. I worked in retail, was fired. And I say this with no pride, no pride whatsoever … I can’t follow directions very well. I get easily overwhelmed, and I’m really stupid sometimes, like pitifully stupid.

Have you ever had that problem in acting?
Actually, no, because it’s a different kind of multitasking. It’s more talking and doing. When I first started acting, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, and it was hard for me. You pick up the glass of water here while walking. That was really hard, because … I didn’t realize you have to stay within certain parameters, and then you have to do the same thing again. So that took a while to naturally walk and talk, which you wouldn’t think would be so hard. But as soon as somebody says action, it’s like, “What do I do? What?”

I don’t have a problem memorizing lines at all. I used to have a problem with “Do I have to pick up the water here? Can’t I just do it without the water?” That kind of thing. I used to have a problem with that. It’s a different kind of skill set. … I still get lost on the way to jobs all the time in Los Angeles in my rental car. I’m a terrible orienteer … I always build in an extra hour of getting lost time. I don’t know how to work the GPS.

Well, everybody gets lost in L.A., so that’s good.
I like to be punctual too. … It’s disrespectful [not to be]. [Perpetual late-comers] absolutely are doing it with the full knowledge that they are going to be late. And texting has just allowed people to do that. I don’t do that. If I’m late, it’s because it was something that was absolutely unforeseen. I do not build in an extra 15 minutes to be late like most people do.

In many ways you helped reinvent stand-up, the form of it.
I am credited in some instances with somehow pioneering alternative stand-up, which I don’t think is true … it’s just an undisciplined way of doing stand-up. It’s just the way that I happen to do stand-up. They say your style chooses you rather than you choosing it, and my style was always, I’m bringing the notes onstage. I don’t want to write it all out or rehearse it because then it doesn’t sound right to me. Also, I want to leave it open to maybe I don’t want to say that tonight. Maybe I want to talk about something else.

That was just a style I always did because that’s just my nature and a lack of discipline. Now, when I had to do TV stuff with stand-up … you have to tell [producers] what you’re going to say, this, that, and the other. And you have to shorten it, and so I find that it’s very difficult for me to do five-minute sets, 10-minute sets. It’s really easy for me to do an hour or more. It’s hard for me to contain it.

Mort Sahl used to do similar things and Paula Poundstone, and I really think the first sort of alternative stand-up is Patti Smith. There’s tapes of her speaking at events where she’s hilarious, and she’s doing what I think sounds like stand-up meeting spoken-word type stuff, which is sometimes called alternative comedy. Alternative comedy really just means in venues that are an alternative to a comedy club. But some people think it means the content is different, but I disagree with that. I think it just means that people are doing stand-up in venues that are not comedy club proper.

Also, the audience tends to be different. They’re willing to listen more and go on the journey with the person onstage than, understandably, people at a comedy club who have paid money for the tickets, and there’s a two-drink minimum, that kind of thing. They kind of, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, really would like the comedy the way they want it.

You’re talking about two women who were basically doing stand-up in their own way, in a way that was different than we had seen before in a lot of venues and stuff. I think in some ways that does sort of demand a reinvention.
Well, yeah, sure. But I think that there’s a tradition of it in, when I read about the ;50s and the coffeehouse scene in the ’60s in certain cities, there was spoken-word people and poetry slam people and comedy in the jazz clubs and things like that. So that has always existed. There’s always been people who have pioneered different ways like Beth Lapides, UnCabaret in Los Angeles, when she really worked very hard to establish a scene that would cause an alternative comedy scene. She deserves lots and lots of credit for that.

One of the things that happened early on with you, at least from my perspective, is we always thought you gave off a queer vibe.
Everyone thinks I’m gay and Jewish, to which I say, “Thank you,” because it makes me seem far more interesting than an asexual atheist.

Right-wing pundits for a long time liked to attack you far more than somebody who is also a left-wing comedian.
Oh, yeah, because it’s low-hanging fruit, right? It’s easy to mock and marginalize anyone in show business, especially if they’re female. And that’s why a lot of mainstream news outlets only book people in entertainment to speak about a lot of social issues, especially when it comes to military-industrial complex issues, because they’re easy to dismiss and dislike and to ignore. Let’s use a rock as an example: There were plenty of people in the Pentagon and within the military industrial complex that people could have gone, “Wow, that person’s against the Iraq invasion?” But they didn’t do that. There’s a reason they don’t do that. They put Susan Sarandon on and Tim Robbins and myself and others just to make it look silly. Right? Because it’s easy to ignore it and dislike it. I get so angry with people like, “Oh, just shut up and sing,” like with the Dixie Chicks. What? Are they not taxpaying citizens?

Yeah, or now with the NFL.
Exactly. And that’s just lazy. That is a person looking for an excuse to disengage. Are you telling me if I’m a plumber, you listen to your plumber? Oh, shut up and plumb, shut up and fix my pipes. How dare you. And they, of course the type of people that would say shut up and sing, are the first people to voice their opinion, right? Why wouldn’t you say to them, “So, what makes your opinion more valuable?” Also, some of these things are not opinions, they’re facts. They’re facts when people talk about social justice issues.

And science. That’s a thing.
Right. It’s not two sides to this story about LGBTQ issues. There’s not two sides to the story with climate change. There’s not two sides to the story with the lack of weapons of mass destruction. There’s not two sides to the story with the Trump administration. Facts are facts are facts. The mainstream media also likes to pretend there’s two sides.

The mainstream media has been trained to for the longest time. They’ve been trained to think that’s how it works, and now it’s really coming back to roost.
It looks cowardly. It’s just cowardly, and it’s just corporate.

In your case, part of the right-wing playbook is to call a woman a lesbian. You can point out that she doesn’t have children, that she doesn’t have a husband. Those are all ways to somehow discredit her.
It’s as silly a thing to say as “Don’t walk under a ladder — it’s bad luck.” You know what I mean? It’s verbal dust. It’s nothing, and right-wing politics media, it’s a blood sport. It’s a blood sport. It’s got nothing to do with issues, per se. It has everything to do with the most visceral, base instincts of a human.

What it is to be a conservative or a Republican today is a very bad thing, and one should be deeply ashamed of it. I would have said that for the last 30 years, almost, but for sure, today. It’s like when somebody says, “I voted for Brexit, but I didn’t think it would happen.” Keep that to yourself. Jesus. You sound like an idiot. And anybody who identifies as Republican or conservative today, I don’t understand that. Don’t say that out loud. You know what I mean? There’s no party for you, unless you’re admitting to me that you are unrestrained id, that you have no emotional intelligence and no empathy.

I wrote an essay a while ago about how I abandoned the Republican Party when I came out and got educated. I do think in Idaho, where I’m from, it was always a libertarian’s dream, a live and let live.
But they’re not live and let live.

Nowadays there’s no moral compass. There’s the lack of intelligence and morality and humanness about it.
They’ve been moving that way since the civil rights era. They are certainly not the party of Lincoln. They have always been the party that uses racial dog whistles and sexist things. They are a repository for the seven deadly [sins] or whatever it is that’s wrong. All the flaws in human nature gravitate toward that party and have since the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s just really obvious now. They used to try and hide it.

Yeah, it’s kind of like white supremacists.
It’s just human nature, and until the human condition changes, until human nature is upgraded as easily as software is, there will always be a place for people like that — as long as there are people who are ignorant or lack emotional intelligence or are racists, who are sexist, who are anxious, who are xenophobic, who are unkind, who are uninformed, or who are greedy. There’s always a place for you in the big tent. The GOP, they always call themselves a big-tent party. Yeah, a tent full of hate has elastic walls. And they do not represent the majority. That’s the good news. And that’s why they have to steal elections, and that’s why they have to redistrict, and that’s why they have to roll back the Voting Rights Act and gerrymander.

They cannot legally and ethically win anymore, and I don’t think there’s been an honest win by conservatives in certain districts and the White House since Bobby Kennedy got shot. That sounds like tinfoil hat stuff to some people, but it’s just business. They have not represented the country since the 1960s.

And how do people combat that?
Well, first of all, there certainly has to be people fighting for voting rights to be protected, for the illegal gerrymandering and redistricting to be undone. Now, obviously, Trump should have been arrested already. How Robert Mueller is going — how long is this going to take? I mean, if you watch The First 48, they get it done in 48 hours. They just have a carcass and the nickname of a guy that might have seen somebody, and then they solve it, right? But when it comes to this, how much evidence do you need?

Now, also, it was known that this happened prior to the election, and Mitch McConnell, of course, did everything he could to stop it because he’s a piece of shit. And Barack Obama, as much as I love him, conciliatory, who in the end allowed it to happen because he didn’t think that Trump would win. But the thing is, Barack Obama knew about it, but, of course, Mitch McConnell stood in the way as much as he could to keep the lid on it.

We don’t live in a democracy; we never have. It’s a managed democracy, and there’s never really been free and fair elections. That’s just a fact. That’s just business. The late Antonin Scalia illegally installed George W. Bush. That should have never happened. Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon. That was the agreement in the Rose Garden before they even installed him. You know what I mean?

It’s always been as corrupt as most other countries. We’re really quick to point the finger at other countries about their stolen elections. It’s front-page news. Then here it isn’t. I mean, it is now — you know what I mean? You can’t avoid it now, but people would drag their feet if they could. But there is just so much Trump stuff, and there’s some really good journalism going on, luckily.

Do you actually identify as asexual?
No, no, I just say that in my life. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 17 years. … What I’m saying is, it is what it is after 17 years. But I actually have always had a very low libido. Honestly. I think it is biology. I think some people have it. I think it’s just the way you’re hard-wired. From youth, I have had a very, very low libido. Now, when I was drinking heavy, it was much more active. Then there was a brief period in my late 30s and early 40s where, again, I think it was biology. This drive kicked in because I think it was my body saying, “If you want to have a baby, this is it.” The libido kicked in. And then it went back to where it is, which is basically at a base, low level. When you’re with the same person in a one-bedroom apartment for 17 years, I say asexual. I mean, we’re closer now than we ever have been before, but it’s not like romantic anymore.

I don’t see it as a problem. It’s just the way I am. I used to think it was weird. And also, when I would drink a lot, and I would be more sexual, it made me feel more normal, I guess. “This seems to be what other people are doing.” Looking now, it really doesn’t matter to me that much. It just is what it is. I’m just not really moved by sexuality that much.

Do you ever think about what your legacy is if there are no kids to remember you, if there are no children that are yours?
No, no, I’ve never actually wanted children. Now, I like other people’s kids. And I have seven nieces and nephews, and that’s fine. I have never, from earliest memories, wanted to be married or have children. It’s just, honestly, one of those things. There have been brief periods where I’ve thought, Should I just do it? And then I realize very quickly, no, no. I have never been more sure of anything. But also, a legacy, it’s weird to me when people say, “I want so-and-so to carry on my name.” And it’s like, “Oh, thank you, John Quackenberry. What would we do without a son to carry—” Who gives a shit? I don’t care. I realize that we are all here just mere specks for a brief time. You know what I mean? No one will be worse off if there is no legacy from me. … It doesn’t negatively affect anyone.

I’m not trying to degrade anybody or disparage anybody who feels they want that, but I don’t get it. There’s a lot of great reasons to have children, but just to leave a legacy isn’t one of them. … And if you’re concerned about a legacy, it’s best, then, really, get your ass going and do stuff that when you leave this earth, people are better off for your having been here. That’s more important than just naming someone after you.

I hear a lot about who will take care of me when I’m older, those kinds of questions.
It’s not my kids’ responsibility. … Who will take care of me when I’m older? Hopefully I’ll be financially OK to do it, or whatever, but that is not my children’s responsibility.

My favorite Janeane Garofalo movie, and thank God I’m not going to say The Truth About Cats and Dogs. My favorite Janeane Garofalo movie is The Mystery Men.
Oh, thank you, on behalf of the writer and producers, directors, thank you. I have the bowling ball right here. They gave it to me, and I put it out every Halloween, and the kids in the building love it.

You didn’t have a lot of dialogue, you didn’t have a lot you had to do, but there was something about it I just found very empowering for me.
Aw, I’m blushing.

Tell me what you’re favorite Janeane Garofalo movie has been.
Favorite as the best time I had, I can only speak to it in terms of the good memories. So my favorite experiences movie-wise have been — Wet Hot American Summer and The MatchMaker are two that come to mind. Just being in Ireland was so wonderful. I also loved doing a TV series called Ideal in Manchester, England, for two seasons that was on BBC Three. And also living in Manchester briefly, those kinds of things I’m very fond of.

I would say that the most important work I’ve done is working at Air America radio. I look on that and say, “That was important.” Although there’s a project that people would say, “That needed to be done.” I mean, I was happy to be part of The Laramie Project, happy to be part of Marvin’s Room, happy to be part of the Abbie Hoffman biopic. But I feel like I’m proudest of Air America radio.

Can you tell me a little bit more about Air America?
Well, it was just something I felt was important to do. I was very flattered I was able to do it. It also allowed me to work with Sam Seder, my cohost, who has gone on to continue his career in political podcasting and being on MSNBC and CNN. Sam Seder is a wonderful person, and also Rachel Maddow, Al Franken, Lizz Winstead, Marc Maron worked there. Just lots of great people, and I still — I made Al Franken a friend and I’m a supporter of Al Franken. I know that some people consider that controversial.

Discussing the #MeToo movement is like talking about Israel, for Christ’s sake. It’s one of the things, you know what I mean? People are like, “Uh-oh.” But Al Franken did a lot of great work, a lot of great work, and was a big supporter of Planned Parenthood and all kinds of things. And I think, in his case, it is OK to question the accuser, who had worked at Fox News, and Breitbart had contacted her. And I think when the word Breitbart is mentioned, everybody has the right to question what the heck is going on. And I think that’s fair. And the spirited gender-neutral bathrooms, you know what I mean?

I’m going to say, consider the source when it, like when we discussed earlier, the Republicans, it’s a blood sport. As soon as the game becomes there’s a lot of Republicans guilty of sexual harassment, you know the accusations are coming hard at Matt Taibbi and Al Franken. You know what I mean? Like I said, if you hear the word Breitbart, then you have every right to wonder what’s going on. And as you know, Democrats are the first to throw each other under the bus.

Yeah, we’re first to step down, we’re the first throw each other under the bus, and we’re also the first to do the right thing.
Well, because that’s who we are, and that’s why we’re liberals progressing as Democrats. And pieces of shit are not. And they double down on their stuff. They double down on it, but I don’t know why Democrats keep bringing a tennis rackuet to a baseball game. Why Obama believed there was going to be bipartisanship, why any Democrats still believe you can be bipartisan is shocking to me, especially when [Republicans] state it, they state it that they will not do it. It’s a weird one, but it’s human nature that draws us one way or the other. And if your nature is tainted, you are going to go to the right, but I do think Democrats really make a big mistake when they throw people under the bus so quickly, because sometimes you’re really losing a good person who is not defined by this accusation.

Here’s another thing. The person who accused Al Franken, now they were in Iraq and Afghanistan, that’s your takeaway. That’s your takeaway from the experiences you saw over there? Is this picture bothering you? Have you seen the way women are treated over there? Have you seen the way veterans are treated when they return? Have you seen how many casualties from the drones? This is what bothers you? You know what I mean? It would have been one thing if she was upset about that picture, which by the way I think what Al Franken is guilty of is not being clever in a photo. It’s just a ridiculously unfunny photo. It took months for that to be a problem, for the accuser, who as I said, worked for a Fox affiliate and was contacted by Breitbart.

It would be one thing if that picture bothered her and she spoke about how veterans are treated, how many casualties there are, and how women are treated, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but by our own military. That I could accept.

I think the problem with the #MeToo movement is it’s really wonderful what’s happening for young women and young women coming out and speaking about stuff. It’s difficult, and there are many people you can see — Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey — all these people where you can see egregious crimes. When we look back 30 yeas prior at things that weren’t considered harassment, and the in current light we talk about them as though it’s the same. It’s difficult.
It isn’t. It’s not. It’s like lights out on Maple Street from Twilight Zone. You know what I mean? The same thing happens with these movements — always starting out with the best of intentions, always bringing us toward progress. That’s all to the good. The bad thing is now everything, now we’re casting a wide net. Now we’re casting a wide net. You cannot put Al Franken with Harvey Weinstein. You can’t. There’s not any similarity whatsoever. Harvey Weinstein, horrible human being. Al Franken, a decent human being who has devoted his life in the last 15 years to public service. And he’s a guy who’s a feminist. That photo is just stupid. It’s just a dumb photo.

We watched the TV when they announced that he was going to resign. We were like, “No! No, they’ve won!”
I cried. We can’t afford to lose good Democrats. We can’t afford it. It’s too important. And also, does nobody want to discuss the things he’s done or been trying to do? You know what I mean? It’s a part of that, and that photo, that’s the thing? That’s so strange. Actually, probably out of office, one could get more accomplished. It’s not like it’s easy to get shit done in Congress.

Do you think he’ll continue to do stuff in that realm?
I certainly hope so, but I’m sure he’s been emotionally impacted egregiously by this. And I’m sure it’s going to take him some time to recover emotionally from what’s happened and how fast it happened and how his coworkers were not there for him, etcetera. Who knows what. I haven’t spoken to him recently, so I don’t know what kind of mental state he’s in or his family’s in. I don’t know. And then people say, “Well, how do you think the woman in the picture feels?” She doesn’t give a shit, and actually, nothing happened to her. It’s just a shit picture. Also, for the rehearsal that she was upset that he kissed her. You know what, tell him. Tell him. Call him up. You guys were together day and night for weeks. Say, “Hey, man, get off me. Don’t touch me.” Had she no agency, you know what I mean, no personal sovereignty? Make it clear you don’t want that.

The one thing that I’ve heard from a number of actresses I’ve talked with who’ve said that happens all the time — it’s not necessarily meant to be harassment. It’s meant to be capturing those moments or whatever for the film.
Right, to make it real. There’s a huge difference between people who physically force themselves on a person. That’s a whole different category, and I’ve nothing but compassion, and they should be heard from, people that are physically and emotionally abused. That is certainly a different category than Al Franken taking this picture and then in rehearsal kissed me, and an octogenarian, George Bush touched my butt from his wheelchair. That’s just sad, you know what I mean? Come on.

And also, with these things, do you have to discuss that publicly? He’s senile, for Christ’s sake, and he’s also at your butt level. He’s sitting in a chair. You know what my problem with George Bush Sr. is his time with the CIA and his illegal invasion of Iraq. That’s my problem with him. And his work with Eli Lilly, and his work at the Carlisle Group. Now that’s something to have a problem with. 

Exclusive: Maxine Waters Answers Trump's Attack on Her Intelligence

LOS ANGELES — The president gave Rep. Maxine Waters the spotlight and she used it to blast him in an interview and a blistering speech before the Human Rights Campaign’s annual dinner in Los Angeles on Saturday. 

Before rallying an audience of more than 1,000 people at HRC’s fundraiser held at the J.W. Marriott (Olympian Gus Kenworthy called it a “mic drop moment”), Waters spoke backstage with The Advocate exclusively about the president’s latest attack on her intelligence. 

During a speech in Pennsylvania earlier in the afternoon, Trump called the California congresswoman “a very low I.Q. individual.” He seemed especially bothered by her repeated calls for impeachment—which Waters not only doubled down on in the interview but then expanded her suggestions of wrongdoing to the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who she said is “in danger.” 

Waters specifically called out Kushner over the required disclosure forms he filed (and re-filed) to work in the White House. “In addition to maybe having left things out, I think he may have lied on his disclosure,” she said. Waters accused him of also lying while under oath when facing three hours of questions from the House Intelligence Committee in July.

“I believe that he’s lying and that he has lied,” she told The Advocate. Waters suggested the special counsel’s charges against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort could impact Kushner. “I believe that Kushner can be caught having lied, and I think he can be caught involved I think in some of the money laundering involved with Manafort,” she said.

That’s exactly the kind of talk that appears to perturb Trump. He complained to an audience during a campaign-style rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, that “We have to defeat Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters, a very low I.Q. individual.“ The audience booed Waters’ name. “Ever see her? You ever see her? ‘We will impeach him! We will impeach the president.’ But he hasn’t done anything wrong. ‘It doesn’t matter, we will impeach him.’ She’s a low I.Q. individual. You can’t help it. She really is.”

It wasn’t the first time Trump went after Waters’ brains. 

“He started with at the Gridiron when he said I need to have an I.Q. test,” recalled Waters before taking the stage in Los Angeles. Waters said “I’m not surprised at all” about being attacked, or that Trump would belittle her intelligence. “I’ve been saying some things about him for a while. I think it’s gotten to him, finally. I’ve been very vocal, and I’ve been very confrontational almost. And I’ve been on the point calling for his impeachment, and I think that bothers him a lot. What I’m told about his speech in Pennsylvania was that he kept saying, ‘she keeps calling for impeachment,’ so I think it bothers him.”

And with that, Waters reiterated her call for impeachment. “I’ve always believed that there was enough there certainly to impeach him, and I believe even more so now that Mueller has been more than connecting the dots,” she said. “This latest revelation about the secret meeting in the Seychelles was very very telling.” Waters is using her moment in Trump’s spotlight to note reports that adviser Erik Prince might have lied while testifying under oath to Congress, having insisted a meeting there had not been intended to set up a back channel with Russia.

Waters then went on stage for the HRC fundraiser and ripped Trump for much of her 20 minutes. At one point she powered through a huge list of Trump controversies, naming everything from his bragging about grabbing women to the Russia investigation. “I am not going to back down,” she promised. “I believe that all of us deserve better than Donald Trump.”

The kicker got the biggest applause, though. Waters said she had great faith in Mueller’s investigation, but hinted at a backup plan. “In the final analysis I think he is going to get him. And if for some reason he is not able to get him, I’m counting on Stormy to do it.”

Watch the entire HRC speech in the video below.

[embedded content]

NEAL BROVERMAN contributed to this report.

Come On, We Can Beat the NRA

Gun violence has reached an all-time high in our country, and the American people are fed up with the failure of our elected officials to do anything to try to stem the tide of gun deaths. In the three weeks since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., there has been a renewed push for gun reform. This comes a mere five months after our nation experienced the worst mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas, which took the lives of 58 people and injured 527 others.

We are at a boiling point on the issue of gun reform. After an alarming spike in the frequency and severity of mass shootings and the slaughter of innocent clubgoers, concert attendees, people in church, and students, people are saying enough of this drama. This growing public outrage has its sights set on three targets: the National Rifle Association, corporations that do business with the NRA, and politicians who are bought and paid for by the NRA and its campaign donations.

The latest data shows that approximately 38,000 Americans die each year as a result of gun violence, a number that includes murders, accidental shootings, and suicides. This is an absolute public health crisis that must be taken seriously, and action is needed immediately to protect our communities from this epidemic. However, there are two main reasons why our elected officials have refused to act.

First, the Republican Party is bought and paid for by the NRA. In the 2016 election cycle, the gun lobby spent almost $53 million to influence our elections through direct campaign contributions to Republican candidates and dark money spending on independent expenditures in support of the NRA’s preferred candidates. This significant financial influence has bought a direct line to these members of Congress. Politicians, even moderate Republicans, fear taking action because they fear the repercussions. The NRA will unleash fury and potentially withhold campaign checks, despite overwhelming public support for commonsense policies.

Second, the NRA is one of the most well-funded, well-organized political machines I have ever seen. Any time there is a remote possibility of gun reform, the NRA can immediately mobilize thousands or hundreds of thousands of its supporters to call, email, and visit their members of Congress or state legislatures. Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, gun violence prevention groups have invested in significant technology efforts to improve grassroots organizing on our side, and a lot of progress has been made.

With the latest mass shooting, there is now a new cohort of allies in the fight for gun reform — corporate America. Since the Parkland shooting, we have seen dozens of national corporations, such as Delta, United Airlines, Avis, and Enterprise, cut formal ties with the NRA, ending corporate discounts to members of the gun lobby. In addition, we have seen businesses enact policy changes since Congress won’t act. Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack announced the chain would immediately stop selling assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, and that it would not sell guns to anyone under the age of 21, regardless of local laws. Walmart is following suit to raise the minimum buying age, which is a critical step because it is the largest arms dealer in the United States. These decisions are important because it’s corporate America finally rejecting the NRA’s agenda due to popular demand.

Public opinion, even among gun owners, is on our side. Ninety-seven percent of voters support expanding background checks to cover all gun sales; 67 percent support banning assault-style weapons; and 72 percent support banning high-capacity magazines.

Pride Fund to End Gun Violence was formed in the days following the Pulse nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people in Orlando with the goal of mobilizing the LGBTQ community and our allies in the fight for gun reform. In the 20 months since our establishment, Pride Fund has traveled throughout the country and has had significant impacts in the 2016 and 2017 elections to help ensure the right leaders are in office, the ones who will prioritize their constituents over the gun lobby. Two of our top policy priorities are banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, both of which make shootings much more lethal.

I am an Iraq war veteran. I served in the Army Reserve for 14 years, and I carried an assault rifle on the streets of Baghdad. I am firmly convinced that weapons very similar to those I carried in combat, which are available for sale here in America, should be banned. That is why I especially praise Dick’s Sporting Goods for its move to no longer sell them. Not every organization and not every business is willing to make such a bold move.  Let me be crystal clear, assault weapons were designed for the specific purpose of killing human beings as quickly and as efficiently as possible and don’t belong on our streets.

So what are the takeaways? When lawmakers won’t act, it’s up to private citizens and responsible businesses to do the right thing. We applaud Dick’s Sporting Goods for its sensible steps to keep assault weapons off our streets and ensure that guns remain out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. We need to keep educating the public by conveying the truth about the NRA, the facts behind gun violence, and the complicity of NRA-backed Republicans. We can shift the tide by electing new leaders who support commonsense gun reform and show the country that gun violence prevention is a winning strategy, and it is what the overwhelming majority of Americans support.

It’s not enough anymore to hope the NRA will see the light on sensible gun reforms; we know it never will. Its hunkered-down approach to Parkland has insulted the teen survivors and victims of the shooting, disrespected the lives of those killed, and angered our national community. It has reignited the flames of the gun violence prevention movement and renewed the vigor with which we fight. We all have a responsibility to stand up to gun violence and take a side. Either you stand with the gun lobby or you stand with the safety of our communities. You can’t do both.  

To get involved, volunteer, or donate to help enact real gun reform, visit our website at

JASON LINDSAY is founder and executive director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a political action committee that supports state and federal candidates who will act on sensible gun policy reforms and champion LGBTQ equality. Lindsay is a seasoned political operative with 14 years of experience working in politics, government, and campaigns. He also served for 14 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq in 2003.

Here's Exactly What's Wrong With Barbra Streisand Cloning Her Dogs

Anyone who has lost a cherished dog understands the desire to have our loved one back. But cloning an animal, as Barbra Streisand did with her dog Samantha, is folly.

Cloning is a horror show: a waste of lives, time and money. The suffering that such experiments cause is unimaginable. There is no good excuse for it, and it should be ended now.

We understand Streisand’s grief, and we have great compassion for her. But she adored Samantha because she was Samantha. Everything about this dog — her quirks, her interests, her temperament — everything that made her such an endearing animal was unique. You can’t replicate personality in a laboratory.

Those who pay for this procedure may not be warned that the dogs are likely to bear no behavioral resemblance to their lost companions, even if they share the same DNA. Three dogs who were cloned from some of South Korea’s best police “sniffer dogs” failed to perform even basic tasks.

When you consider that millions of equally personable dogs are euthanized in animal shelters every year for lack of a home, cloning is all the more indefensible. Not only does it result in even more births, it also involves the suffering of animals in laboratories.

To clone a dog, living cells are obtained from a tissue sample, and eggs are harvested from a “donor.” The eggs are shocked with electricity to prompt them to begin dividing. The nucleus is then removed from the donor’s eggs and injected with material from the animal to be cloned. A surrogate mother dog carries the embryos to term.

Dogs are not test tubes, and subjecting them to painful experiments should remain within the realm of bad sci-fi flicks. When people poke, prod, cut, and hurt animals, they can and should be charged with a crime. Wearing a lab coat doesn’t make it any less perverse.

In the decades since the first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, became the poster child for the procedure, and countless deaths later, there’s been little improvement in the effectiveness of the technique.

Cloning has a high failure rate, so countless dogs are caged and tormented for every birth that actually occurs. Mortality rates among young cloned animals are extremely high during both pregnancy and infancy. Dolly the sheep was the sole surviving animal from 277 attempts, and as many as 90 percent of attempts fail. While the success rate for cloned dogs can be slightly higher than for other animals, dozens must be caged and subjected to repeated traumatic procedures in order to create one dog for a paying customer. And many of the resulting puppies won’t survive. One South Korean laboratory that has churned out more than 600 cloned dogs admits that the process works only about 33 percent to 40 percent of the time.

Over the last few decades, thousands of dogs have been subjected to the invasive procedure touted in this profitable business, and many “donor” animals are forced to spend their entire lives in a cage awaiting the needle. Are their lives less valuable than Samantha’s?

The irony is that while shelters everywhere struggle to raise enough money to fund spay and neuter clinics and provide high-quality care, laboratories that clone are raking in the bucks. Streisand may have paid upwards of $100,000 in her effort to recreate Samantha. While she has every right to spend her money in any way she chooses, one must ponder how many animals just as deserving as Samantha could have been helped instead.

A spokesperson for Miami-Dade County’s animal services department lamented that the $155,000 a Florida couple had paid to clone their dog could fund “spays and neuters for six months.”

The sheer pleasure of sharing our lives with a dog is something to treasure, and it’s why losing them is such a devastating blow. But the best thing that we can do is to honor them by keeping them in our hearts and cherishing our beautiful memories of them. We can also honor them by recognizing that they aren’t reproducible.

KATHY GUILLERMO is a senior vice president for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

8 Celebrities Surprisingly Skeptical of #MeToo, Time's Up, and Sexual Harassment

Since October, when Harvey Weinstein’s dark, serial predations came were exposed in a New York Times article, #MeToo has become a necessary and overdue rallying cry, a point of connection, an outlet for survivors of harassment and abuse. Of course, all movements have detractors, and #MeToo has its predictable opponents like Donald Trump

But more surprising are those like Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, and New York Times opinion writer Bari Weissm who generally skew left and who’ve spoken critically about #MeToo, often chastising the movement for not making crystal-clear distinctions between rape and harassment while failing to realize the movement already allows for gradations in behavior. 

Here are eight of the most surprising critiques of #MeToo. 

Michael Haneke 

The Austrian director of acclaimed films like Funny Games, Amour, and The White Ribbon came out hard against #MeToo, calling it a “witch hunt” that “should be left in the Middle Ages.” While the filmmaker allowed in an interview with Kurier that any form of “rape or coercion is punishable,” he slammed the notion that accused serial predators like Kevin Spacey have lost their jobs based on the word of accusers. 

“This hysterical pre-judgment which is spreading now, I find absolutely disgusting,” Haneke said, according to Deadline. “And I don’t want to know how many of these accusations related to incidents 20 or 30 years ago are primarily statements that have little to do with sexual assault.”

Haneke, the filmmaker behind two versions of the uber-violent home invasion film Funny Games, expressed concern that #MeToo could ruin art, citing Nagisa Ôshima’s 1976 study of sexuality, In The Realm of the Senses, as a film that would not get funding in the era of outright believing survivors of harassment and abuse. 

The two-time Palme d’Or winner at Cannes blamed social and online media for making people hate men.

“Any shitstorm that even comes out on the forums of serious online news outlets after such ‘revelations’ poisons the social climate. And this makes every argument on this very important subject even more difficult,” Haneke said. “The malignancy that hits you on the internet often stifles you. This new puritanism imbued with a hatred of men that comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement worries me.”

Bill Maher

Earlier this month, Real Time host Bill Maher lashed out at “fucking fragile” millennials for the existence of #MeToo, as if survivors of other generations aren’t also fed up with sexual harassment and abuse. But it’s not that Maher doesn’t believe accusers, he just doesn’t act as though it’s a big deal, rightfully calling for equanimity when it comes to believing Donald Trump’s multiple accusers and then quipping that married men harass women in the workplace because “they have shitty sex lives.” 

In a segment with New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss, a millennial he appears to agree with, Maher also spoke out about how men who have not experienced harassment are being asked to listen at the current juncture rather than share their thoughts on something of which they have no experience. He defended Matt Damon, who was skewered for speaking out and saying that distinctions need to be made between harassment and rape (as if survivors aren’t capable of walking and chewing gum). While standing up for Damon, Maher, like a 1950s-era comic, took another stab at marriage. 

“When you’re wrong even when you say the right thing, then I feel like a husband,” Maher said about his fear, not of speaking out, but for being called out for his antiquated opinions. 

Maher then likened the hard line supporters have taken #MeToo to a police state. “A police state is the safest place to live but we don’t want to do that with love,” Maher said, failing to recognize that harassment and abuse have nothing to do with love.

100 French Women 

Actress Catherine Deneuve was among 100 French women artists, academics, and business professionals who signed a letter in January that denounced #MeToo for going too far. 

While the letter, published in the French publication Le Monde, allowed that rape is, in fact, a crime, it accused #MeToo of being a threat. The signatories alleged that men’s “freedom to pester” is “indispensable to sexual freedom.” 

The letter continued to defend the right of men to harass women as if women’s freedom to live a life unbothered by men isn’t also a type of freedom. 

“Rape is a crime, but insistent or clumsy flirting is not an offense, nor is gallantry macho aggression,” the letter read. 

The French women also slammed #MeToo for its predilection for believing survivors without allowing the accused the chance to defend themselves. They wrote that “swift justice” had claimed its own victims in forcing men to resign “when all they did wrong was touch a knee.”

The letter also insisted on separating the artist from the work even in the case of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl. The letter wagged a finger at #MeToo for a movement to ban a Polanski retrospective in Paris. 

Matt Damon

Actor Matt Damon has a habit of putting in his two cents when he’d be better served to listen, so much so that the term “Damonsplaining” has sprung up in response to his predilection for weighing in on issues about which he’s no expert. On Popcorn With Peter Travers in December, Damon called #MeToo a “watershed” moment for women who feel empowered to speak out against abuse while also noting that the country is in a “culture of outrage.” Then he couldn’t help but “Damonsplain” that harassment and abuse should be viewed on a spectrum.

“There’s a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation,” Damon said. “Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated.”

Following much criticism from people including #MeToo activists Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, Debra Messing, and ex-girlfriend Minnie Driver, Damon apologized, admitting, “I really wished I’d listened a lot more.” 

Margaret Atwood

Of all those who’ve questioned the #MeToo movement the most surprising has been author Margaret Atwood. The writer’s most famous novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, is about a dystopian future under a fascist patriarchy under which women are reduced to the viability of their reproductive organs; the book has reemerged as one of the most important texts during the Trump years. 

In January, Atwood published an article in her native country Canada’s Globe and Mail in which she asserted that #MeToo arose out of an ineffectual legal system in which survivors of assault were not given their day in court. Atwood wrote:

“The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn’t get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations, and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids.” 

Atwood warned of the urge to rush to judgment about the accused without due process. 

“But understandable and temporary vigilante justice can morph into a culturally solidified lynch-mob habit in which the available mode of justice is thrown out the window, and extralegal power structures are put into place and maintained,” Atwood wrote. “In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated.”

Germaine Greer

Australian feminist Germaine Greer, who has a history of making anti-trans statements, has criticized not only the #MeToo movement but also women who’ve come out as having been sexually abused. 

The author of the seminal rallying cry The Female Eunuch, Greer recently slammed survivors of abuse like Woody Allen’s accuser Dylan Farrow, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.  

“It was 20 years ago, so you want him to stop making movies now? It might be a good idea because he’s probably no good anymore,” the 78-year-old glibly said about Farrow’s trauma. 

Greer’s wider response to #MeToo essentially posited that boys will be boys and that it’s incumbent upon their victims to fight back immediately. 

“I want, I’ve always wanted, to see women react immediately,” Greer said, as if that’s always an option. “I want women to react here and now. I want the woman on a train who feels a man’s hand where it shouldn’t be … to be able to say quite clearly, ‘Stop.'”

Greer attempted to qualify her remarks when discussing wealthy predators who wield a threatening power. 

“What makes it different is when the man has economic power, as Harvey Weinstein has,” Greer said. “But if you spread your legs because he said ‘Be nice to me and I’ll give you a job in a movie,’ then I’m afraid that’s tantamount to consent, and it’s too late now to start whingeing about that.”

Bari Weiss

New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss appeared with Bill Maher on Real Time, with Maher deeming her a “sensible” millennial to speak on #MeToo because she showed up and agreed with him across the board. Weiss made a name for herself as a contrarian in the movement when she penned an article in January defending Aziz Ansari — who, from one woman’s account, struggles with boundaries of consent — as guilty of “not being a mind reader.” 

Weiss made a few fair points on Maher, suggesting that the hard left has gone too far in skipping due process and “innocent until proven guilty,” but she failed to acknowledge the dark history of sexually harassed and abused people not being believed. She also slammed what she perceives as a failure to make distinctions between harassment and rape, as if accusers are incapable of doing so.

“It means that Aziz Ansari is on a list next to Harvey Weinstein, and I don’t think anyone with common sense thinks that that’s reasonable,” Weiss said. 

Then Weiss laid out her criticism of her millennial peers. “Twenty-five percent think that asking someone for a drink is sexual harassment, an unsolicited kiss is rape. It’s over. Then words don’t mean anything,” she said. 

But Weiss didn’t just go after her generation. She went after those who came before her who fought for the Equal Rights Amendment. 

“I went to a college where I was taught gender is a social construct. Nature doesn’t matter at all. There’s really no difference between men and women,” Weiss said. “Those are myths. That’s a lie that the sexual revolution sold to women.” 

Liam Neeson 

Actor Liam Neeson called #MeToo “a bit of a witch hunt” on Ireland’s The Late, Late Show in January, in reference to accused men like Dustin Hoffman, who Neeson said committed only minor offenses, despite the revelation that Hoffman allegedly exposed himself to his daughter’s teenage friend years ago. 

Like most others who’ve spoken out about #MeToo, Neeson condescended to survivors of harassment to emphasize the distinction that rape and harassment are not the same thing. 

“There is a movement happening,” Neeson said, “It’s healthy and it’s across every industry; the focus is on Hollywood at the moment but it is across every industry. I’m a UNICEF ambassador and very proud to be one, and I get sent facts and figures and if you read what I have read about how female laborers are being treated on farms and ranches, it’s chilling.”

Still, Neeson expressed concern for Hoffman and A Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor, both of whom were accused of serial predation. 

“There are some famous people being suddenly accused of touching some girl’s knee or something, and then suddenly they’ve been dropped from their program,” Neeson said. 

Lesbian Romance 'Tipping the Velvet' Comes to Streaming Service for Valentine's Day

Lesbian Romance Tipping the Velvet Comes to Streaming Service for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a day for chocolate, roses, champagne, sentimental cards, and — if you want some women-centric entertainment — Tipping the Velvet.

The 2002 BBC miniseries about a lesbian romance in 1890s London, based on Sarah Waters’s first novel, has just come to BritBox, the digital streaming service from BBC Worldwide and IFC. The series tells the story of Nan Astley, a young woman from the provinces who loses her heart to Kitty Butler, a “male impersonator” and music hall star.

Rachael Stirling (The Bletchley Circle, Snow White and the Huntsman, Their Finest) portrays Nan, and Keeley Hawes (Upstairs Downstairs, The Durrells in Corfu) plays Kitty.  Also in the cast are Anna Chancellor, Jodhi May, Alexei Sale, John Bowe, and a couple of stars in the making — Sally Hawkins and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Screenwriter Andrew Davies, known for Bridget Jones’s Diary, the 2008 version of Brideshead Revisited, and numerous British miniseries, adapted Waters’s novel, and Geoffrey Sax (Victoria, Christopher and His Kind) directed the series.

Authors aren’t always pleased with screen versions of their work, but Waters has nothing but good to say about the treatment of Tipping the Velvet.

“The adaptation was a wonderful experience for me,” she tells The Advocate via email from London. “It was a fascinating process to be part of; there was a great team of people involved; it raised my profile enormously and took the story of Tipping the Velvet to a huge new audience. Most of all, I loved — and still love — the fact that the series stays true to the upbeat lesbian rompiness of the novel. It’s fun, it’s sexy, it’s romantic — and it puts lesbians center stage the entire time. We see lesbians quite a lot on mainstream television these days, but they’re often in minor or secondary roles — dispensable roles, which means they’re vulnerable to being bumped off. So I still enjoy the fact that Tipping is this thoroughly lesbian drama from start to finish.”

Waters was “astonished,” she says, that anyone wanted to bring her novel to the screen. “I was an inexperienced writer with pretty modest ambitions, writing lesbian stories for, I imagined, a largely lesbian readership,” she recalls. “When the producers told me that Andrew Davies was interested in writing the screenplay, I was amazed — he was such a huge name. Then Andrew told me he would only do it if the BBC agreed to keep in all the sex, dildos included, and I thought, This is never going to happen. But I think the BBC saw it as a chance to do something a bit daring — so I guess it suited everyone. I think the only sex they felt they had to leave out was a bit of fisting.” (The title, by the way, is slang for cunnilingus.)

Several Waters’s other novels have been adapted for film or TV, including Fingersmith, Affinity, and The Night Watch. Tipping the Velvet is “the most playful and lighthearted of all my adaptations, because that’s very much the spirit of the book it’s based on,” she says. “My novels since then have been a bit more somber, and the adaptations have been darker or more melancholy. I like them all, though. They’ve had some amazing actors in them: Sally Hawkins, Keeley Hawes, Charles Dance, Imelda Staunton, Claire Foy…”

Hawkins is an Oscar nominee for Best Actress this year for her performance in The Shape of Water, and she was nominated previously for her supporting role in 2013’s Blue Jasmine. “I knew that Sally Hawkins was going to be a star — she was just so brilliant,” Waters recalls. “She was lovely too, and she took her roles in Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith really seriously, doing lots of research — she used to go around the set of Fingersmith with a copy of the novel bristling with underlinings and Post-it notes. I’m so happy that she’s done so well. Every time I see her in a movie now I feel a ridiculous, possessive glow.”

And we can expect more Waters works on the screen. A feature-film adaptation of her 2009 thriller, The Little Stranger, is due out in late summer, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Will Poulter, and Ruth Wilson. It’s directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Room), with a screenplay by Lucinda Coxon (The Danish Girl). “I haven’t seen any edited footage and am longing to,” Waters says. “I visited the filming last year, and it all looked incredible.”

We can also probably look forward to an adaptation of her most recent novel, the lesbian love story The Paying Guests, published in 2014. It’s “in the pipeline,” Waters says, “but it’s very early days, so I won’t say too much about it yet.”

Waters is working on another novel, set in the early 1950s. “It isn’t gay this time — it’s my other passion, rather gothic,” she says. “I’m about two-thirds of the way through the writing process — though I’m such a slow writer that that means I still have another year or so to go. So it won’t be out any time soon, I’m afraid — but it’s definitely well on the way.”

For that we can be grateful, and also for the chance to stream Tipping the Velvet. And if you want tales of love between men for Valentine’s Day, BritBox is also offering, beginning this week, Christopher and His Kind, based on Christopher Isherwood’s memoir of his relationship with a German man in the 1930s, and Against the Law, an adaptation of journalist Peter Wildeblood’s autobiographical tale of his affair with a military man in the 1950s.

Find all of BritBox’s movies and miniseries here, and watch a trailer for Tipping the Velvet below.

Dan Savage Raises More Than $200K for Planned Parenthood, ACLU

Just over a year ago, legendary author, podcaster, and activist Dan Savage resurrected ITMFA (Impeach the Motherf*cker Already) to coincide with Donald Trump’s inauguration. But beyond the fun merchandise it offers, including tees, beanies, caps, mugs, and pins that read “ITMFA,” more than $200,000 has been raised for Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. 

Since Savage created ITMFA in 2006 in response to George W. Bush and raised over $20,000 that he donated to the ACLU, the nonprofit has gained even more traction the second time around. Following the record-breaking 2017 protest that was the worldwide Women’s March, ITMFA began selling limited edition pink beanies and tees to raise money for women’s organizations, like Planned Parenthood. 

With Trump’s first year in office behind us, ITMFA announced it will sell its pink ITMFA merchandise through the end of February. Just last month the Trump administration announced it would revoke President Barack Obama-era guidelines that made it more difficult for states to defund Planned Parenthood. So there’s never been a better time to help PP fund its life-saving services while also sporting some anti-Trump garb. 

The Entertainment Industry Is Gay for Pay. But Is That Bad?

The Entertainment Industry Is Gay for Pay. But Is That Bad?

Reading Julia Himberg’s recent book in public, even in Los Angeles, is a bit like wearing a statement piece to church. Fellow coffee shop dwellers, lunchers, and friends see the rainbow-colored television screen emblazoned on the cover, their eyes run over the title, and one question generally leads the conversation: “What is The New Gay for Pay?”

“Gay for pay usually brings one or two things to mind,” Himberg told me. “First is probably porn, when a straight actor plays the role for money. There’s also business gay for pay, which is when a company appeals to LGBT consumers basically for the sake of financial gain.”

Himberg’s book looks at shows like Will & Grace, Glee, and The Fosters and explores how their LGBT storylines are constructed and how those calling the shots — producers, publicists, and even the networks’ corporate social responsibility officers — help construct narratives on queer life that help shape public opinion.

The topic is polarizing: Many see mainstream corporations, of which TV networks are a part, as incompatible with LGBT people (take, for example, the recent uproar over corporate sponsorship of Pride festivals). But Himberg, who holds a Ph.D. in critical media studies from the University of Southern California and currently teaches at Arizona State University, understands the relationship as complex — a system of both support and profiteering — and brings forth surprising evidence in her research that gay-for-pay business can sometimes benefit LGBTQ communities.

These conflicting ideas must be kept in mind in order to understand the function of contemporary LGBT television and advocate for effective media policies, Himberg argues.

“The reason that I went to that old notion, or used ‘gay for pay’ in [the title] is that these are things that are thought of as exploitative by some and others think of them as kind of liberating,” she said. “The television industry and those working in it live this contradiction each day. Their work in many ways is liberating. They’re working diligently for LGBT audiences, and they’re also meeting the needs of the industry, which can mean exploiting those same audiences at other times.”

It’s difficult to imagine companies with traditional needs (growth, profit) and traditional customers advocating for LGBT communities. But in her extensive industry interviews with the likes of Andy Cohen, who was executive vice president of original programming and development for Bravo at the time, and former president of entertainment for Showtime Robert Greenblatt (now NBC Entertainment chairman), Himberg found it to happen more often than she expected.

“The thing that was most fascinating to me was how much activism truly happens under the radar within the television industry,” she said. “When I say under the radar, I mean that it is strategically kept out of view because of how many audiences television tries to please.”

Another difficult thing to comprehend: If a company or a prominent executive does pro bono or charitable work for an LGBT organization, why not publicize it?

“Audiences are fragmented, segmented,” Himberg explained. “We see that so embodied in Fox News versus MSNBC, where television is seeking very specific audiences, and yet there is still this demand to please people of all different political affiliations and social values.” Networks accomplish this through a variety of means, including multicasting, defined by Himberg as the process of drawing in audiences to programming based on demographics shaped and refined by market research.

That balancing act can make even objectively charitable work a danger for those in positions of power. In an interview with an executive at Disney ABC Television Group, she heard the story of an openly gay man who had struggled to come out and find acceptance within his family. The executive told her that he oversaw programs that supported LGBTQ homeless youth, programs he said were close to his heart.

“He was really clear that those kinds of initiatives were kept strategically out of view, because, he said, ‘I get to make the kind of changes I want, I get to advocate for the people I believe in supporting,’ but he actually says, ‘Many of our viewers are people who would vote for Mike Huckabee.’ So he gets to pursue things that are important to him, and at the same time he meets the demand of the company, which doesn’t want to alienate a portion of the population.”

Himberg said she was surprised to learn about this under-the-radar activism. “What do you mean you’re serving the interests of Mike Huckabee voters and serving LGBTQ youth?” she asked, laughing. “You can’t imagine how those things go hand in hand, and yet when I learned about what was going on behind the scenes, those were the kinds of practices happening every single day.”

Other interviews Himberg conducted proved just as surprising. When speaking with Bravo’s Cohen, he put forth the belief that the network’s branding mirrors his own sexuality. “We’re gay without necessarily having to come out of the closet,” he said, which Himberg sees as specifically positioning gay identity as not a primary factor in the network’s image.

Cohen had previously described the network as having a sexual identity in a 2012 interview with NPR, saying, “People always ask me if Bravo is gay, and I always say I think Bravo is bi, because I think Bravo is open enough to go home with whoever is most attractive at the end of the night.”

Bravo originated shows like Project Runway, the Real Housewives franchise, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which market themselves to gay audiences as well as affluent, educated, high-tech audiences that aren’t necessarily LGBTQ, as noted in The New Gay for Pay. According to Himberg, Cohen’s method of labeling the network’s sexuality, always with stipulation, works at a larger strategy of audience attraction.

“There is a very popular idea out there that we have somehow reached a post-gay era,” she said. “There is a desire to create characters and programs with the belief the fact that they are LGBTQ is irrelevant to the storyline, is not important to their character development, doesn’t affect plot. … And it’s very aspirational.”

The ability to move beyond a character’s sexuality represents social and political progress in networks’ eyes, Himberg says, and allows them to market themselves to socially and politically progressive demographics while theoretically doing less to leave non-LGBT audiences feeling alienated.

Cohen’s post-gay belief isn’t an uncommon one, and one that can be seen in a host of influential media: Call Me by Your Name, for example. The relationship within the film is centered around two male characters, but the point of the film isn’t a decided, explicit take on LGBT communities’ place in a political or social landscape. The film’s director, Luca Guadagnino, has stated publicly that Elio will not necessarily be gay.

“This is where in some ways the entertainment industry keeps its audiences in a much more utopian world than actually exists,” Himberg said. “When you look at the statistics of the number of trans women of color who are attacked, brutalized, murdered — those are the stories that are hard for people to hear about. That’s where we need to be focusing money, attention, and advocacy work.”

With the exceptions of Moonlight or Tangerine, Himberg says, “we aren’t seeing those stories being told because they don’t fit a post-gay discourse. They contradict it.”

Himberg sees this as part of a larger trend that revolves around catering to networks’ built-in audiences and aspirational, post-gay thinking.

“If you think about the shows that they’re bringing back with gay characters (Will & Grace, Queer Eye), they are gay characters — they are white gay men, middle- to upper-class, educated, and they’re very clearly gay,” she said, linking the normativity of the shows to audience comfort. “Because media does influence policy, it does risk taking away essential resources from people who need it the most — who need protection and need legislative protections. It runs the risk of perpetuating already existing forms of homophobia and gender discrimination and potentially overlooking where the resources need to go.”

Acknowledging the amount of positive change that has been made for LGBTQ people in a relatively short span of time, Himberg stressed the importance of remaining vigilant and knowing how to create change, especially in the current political climate.

“I think we need to be mindful of how quickly, how easily things can be taken away in our current political climate,” she said.

The New Gay for Pay: The Sexual Politics of American Television Production is available through University of Texas Press.