iOS app Android app

JamesMichael Nichols
GET UPDATES FROM JamesMichael Nichols
 

Entries by JamesMichael Nichols

This Incredible Trans Woman Is Challenging The Way We Think About Gender

(1) Comments | Posted July 22, 2015 | 4:21 PM

Alex Drummond is a 51-year-old transgender woman who works as a psychotherapist and photographer in Wales.

Drummoud recently began making waves on an international level due to her articulate, scholarly understanding of transgender identity, as well as one significant physical trait -- a fully, bushy, beautiful beard.

While mainstream understandings of transgender identity still tend to  often rely on binary notions of male/female, Drummond seeks to queer the idea of gender through both her physical appearance and her day to day life and existence.

The Huffington Post chatted with Drummond this week about her thoughts surrounding this important moment in time for transgender individuals, as well as her own journey to living as her authentic self.

The Huffington Post: What are your thoughts about this specific moment in history for queer and trans individuals?
Alex Drummond: We are at an exciting time -- a new era that might finally offer equality of the sexes.  A new generation of Trans* identities are emerging, broadening the bandwidth of gender and creating new ways of being. Historically, we saw everything as a binary of male or female and made assumptions about how male or female should look and behave. But the latest neuroscience is showing brains really do have a 'gender' orientation and that brains sit on a spectrum of traits/interests which, yes, society has labelled as male or female but in truth it's more complex. Gentials do not determine gender, brain-orientation does. To clarify, the brain determines gender identity but society creates the rules that constrain people, and importantly, that gender isn't an either/or binary but a spectrum. 

With your own personal experiences in mind, what is it about human diversity that you most want people to understand ?
When our understanding of ourselves is limited to what parents and teachers tell us, how are we to know that gay identities are ok, that trans* identities exist? Growing up, I knew only that I was told I was a boy (but the other boys didn't think so and bullied me for being too girly), and for my part I found more affinity with the girls -- but it got me bullied. I tried my best to fit in but despite my best efforts somehow never quite pulled it off. As an adult I did my best to suppress the female side but lived with a constant inner struggle. Only in my forties did I discover "transgender" and finally something I'd wrestled with for 40 years suddenly made sense; that it really was possible to feel more identified as female than male, that not all transsexuals start as gay and not all transsexuals have surgery. For a long time equality law and medicine set a very fixed way to be a "proper transsexual" and, for me, surgery and hormones could be risky. However, since the 2010 Equality Act, non-medicalized transition is now a protected characteristic. This makes a big difference.

As the social and political climate changes for trans people in the West, what do you hope the future looks like for trans and gender nonconforming individuals?
Until recently, the only stories that got told about "being transsexual" were the sensationalized "Trucker Dave Becomes Diana" and the articles invariably took a mocking tone, with unflattering photos and a freak-show subtext. We never got the stories of people living happily and successfully post-transition, so it was hard to know it was possible. And we virtually never saw a story about a "woman transitioning to become a man."

But with the Internet there has been a democratizing of knowledge -- people can publish and share content and young people can connect with others who validate their experiences. And now (due in no small part to the work of Trans Media Watch) the mass media is finally getting its house in order, presenting more respectful pieces about trans* people. As people see what is possible, more will come out and we'll become more familiar with the ordinariness of gender difference and diversity.

You've discussed how having a full beard as a trans woman "queers gender." Can you elaborate on this?
The beard is an accident, as it happens. In working through my process of transition, I took a cautious stage by stage approach and the beard was a legacy of a period in my thirties when I tried to "butch up." A lot of trans women can feel anxious about being read as "male historied" so, in a way, the beard deliberately deconstructs the anxiety -- I present as female but people don't have to work too hard to see the male history. At an activism level, it makes the idea that gender is more complex than merely man-or-woman very visual: hence the term "genderfuck." Importantly, there is nothing in the equality act that says a woman can't have a beard!

There is no universal trans experience. But, to you, what does it mean to be trans?
Trans*, as an identity, has allowed me to find a more congruent way of being, a way of finding myself and allowing the female self to be shown to others. Its been very liberating. I hope to be part of a movement that advances trans* rights and makes it easier and safer for young people, especially, to come out earlier to live their lives without the shame and stigma our generation have battled with. 

Drummond wrote a book titled Grrl Alex: A Personal Journey to a Transgender Identity. Head here for more...

Read Post

BLgT USA Reflects On Its 50-State LGBTQ Equality Food Tour

(0) Comments | Posted July 22, 2015 | 3:49 PM

Note: The following is the seventh post in a series of posts from GET//OUT regarding its BLgT USA 50-state food equality tour. Each week, we'll be sharing updates, photos and more as the BLgT team travels across the country helping to raise awareness about and celebrate LGBT equality.

Read Post

Watch These Women Get Transformed Into Drag Kings For The First Time

(0) Comments | Posted July 22, 2015 | 2:15 PM

In the world of drag where queens often get all of the attention, we are often left wondering -- where are all of the kings?

Filmmaker Nicole Miyahara is gearing up to bring us "The Making of a King," a documentary that chronicles the lives and experiences of a group of drag kings -- or women who dress up and perform on stage as men -- living in Los Angeles.

While "The Making of a King," isn't due out until 2016, Miyahara recently paired with Buzzfeed to create a promotional video in which the stars of the film make over a group of women who do not normally participate in the world of drag. 

The Huffington Post chatted with Miyahara this week about what viewers can expect from the film, as well as the recently produced drag king make-over video.

What is your overarching vision for the documentary?

Nicole Miyahara: I want the audience to enter the world of these Los Angeles-based drag kings who dedicate themselves to the art of drag though costume, makeup and performance. They strive to be considered equal to queens within their own drag community and recognized within mainstream culture. Drag has afforded them the skills for a career in fashion, as a creative outlet from the stress of family life, a way to express the nuances of transgender identity on stage and the prestige that comes with being a national pageant title holder.
 
My approach to the documentary is rooted in ethnography and the methods that go along with it because of my Masters degree in Visual Anthropology. Anthropologists spend extended periods of time with their participants, really trying to understand and then explain to the others -- the communities that they are working with. It's been three years that I have been collaborating with these kings and documenting their lives as artists. The film will be both educational and entertaining. 
 
Why did you decide to publicize your documentary with a video and event like this?
 Nicole Miyahara: My friend Jazmin Ontiveros and I met while attending graduate school at USC. We were in the same Anthropology program together and she came to many drag king shows and helped shoot the performance footage while I was doing interviews backstage. She was inspired by my documentary, "The Making of a King," and when she got a job at Buzzfeed she wanted to highlight the kings in a big way. Having the four girls transformed is the "sexy" part of the drag experience and everyone loves a good transformation video. We knew a video like this could bring awareness to the drag king community and help build support and an audience for the film. 
What kind of misconceptions or stigma surrounding drag kings are you attempting to dispel with this documentary?
The stigma comes from the perceived idea of what a drag king is -- a performer wearing a costume of jeans, a t-shirt and a pencil mustache -- which isn't very entertaining or stage worthy. The kings in the film move far beyond the stereotypical portrayal of masculinity to include celebrity and character illusions like Landon Cider's Pitbull or Phantom's Mad Hatter. They really push the boundaries and make you think about masculinity in all its different forms. So much time and effort goes into their makeup, performance mix, and the creation of a costume - and that's just for one number! Their level of talent clearly rivals that of the Los Angeles queens. 
 
There is also a misconception that because some people have never heard of drag kings that it's a relatively new phenomenon. In fact, drag kings have a rich history and have been around since the late 1800s as stars in the British Music Hall. There have been ebbs and flows in the popularity of drag kings. One notable period was in the late 1990s with kings performing weekly in New York, London and San Francisco. There were books written and films made about drag kings during this time. We are currently experiencing a period of flow for drag kings and I hope that lasts for a very long time. 
 
Drag kings tend to receive less visibility than drag queens -- why do you think this is? Why does this need to change? 
There is currently only one show on national cable television that is devoted to highlighting drag culture and that's "RuPaul's Drag Race." After seven seasons there still hasn't been a drag king cast to compete, and it's not lack of trying. I know several very talented kings who have submitted audition tapes for multiple seasons. It's unfortunate that the show is the only platform for the drag community to be celebrated and recognized for their art and that kings have been excluded from that spotlight. We are trying to change that with our documentary and other collaborative projects. We know that kings all over the world perform alongside queens in shows, yes they are in smaller numbers, but they are definitely out there. 
 
There are other forms of drag besides the traditional drag queen. Faux queen/bio queen/diva are [cisgender] females that perform female drag and bearded queens are [cisgender] males that perform female drag with a full beard. Having the visibility of the full spectrum of the drag community is so much more interesting! All of the various styles of drag, including kings, should be highlighted so that people can appreciate the art form, come to shows and leave with a new found appreciation of their talent... and maybe shake them up a bit! 
 
What do you want people to take away from this documentary?
Drag kings are a subculture of a subculture, so first and foremost I want people to know that they exist. There is a strong bond and brotherhood among them and they lean on each other for support and strength. The audience will see that they work hard, if not harder, than the queens and constantly prove that they can reign just as fierce! Within the drag king community there is a range of gender identities that are as unique as the performers themselves. I hope the documentary will be a catalyst for conversations about gender that we so desperately need as a society right now. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding. I want people to embrace the idea that drag is entertainment, it's art, and it's for everyone. 
 
"The Making of a King" is currently in post-production and will be available in 2016. Head here for more .

Also on The Huffington...
Read Post

Jake Gyllenhaal Offers Beautiful Quote About Marriage Equality, 10 Years After 'Brokeback Mountain'

(0) Comments | Posted July 22, 2015 | 11:50 AM

Ten years after playing a gay man on screen in "Brokeback Mountain," actor Jake Gyllenhaal commented this week...

Read Post

Watch Lesbians Guess Whether Porn Stars Are Straight Or Gay

(0) Comments | Posted July 22, 2015 | 11:09 AM

Is is actually possible to tell the whether a woman performing in a lesbian porn identifies as either lesbian or straight (or somewhere in-between)?

Popular YouTube vlogger Arielle Scarcella tackles this question with a bit of nuance in her latest video "Lesbians Guess: Straight Girls Or Gay Girls In Porn."

Scarcella brings together her usual roundtable of other lesbian YouTube vloggers to watch various porn videos and judge -- based on the actions of the performers -- whether the women actually identify as lesbians or not.

The twist? Well, for one, this is literally an impossible task to undertake. Secondly... Scarcella doesn't even know the answer herself! She explains at the end of the video:

"I don't think it matters because the truth is if somebody told you as a lesbian that you can't be gay if you use dildos or you can't be gay if you don't like when a girl goes down on you, you'd probably be upset about it! Because we know that how we express our sexuality has nothing to do with our sexual orientation."

Very tricky, Arielle. Want to see more from Scarcella? Head...

Read Post

LGBT Athletes Offer Surprising Thoughts On The 'Perfect Body'

(0) Comments | Posted July 21, 2015 | 3:56 PM

A compelling new video brings together a diverse group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes to discuss what the "perfect body" means to them.

Pat Manuel, Robbie Rogers, Julie Shaw and Lypheng Kim open up in this video from Buzzfeed, offering nuanced and candid thoughts about the idea of a "perfect body" -- both for them personally and from a larger, cultural perspective.

"As someone that's struggled with body issues, not only with gender dysphoria but as a black man," Manuel shared, "When I was younger I wanted to look like a tall, lean swimmer... but that is not my body type."

"The 'perfect body' also comes with race," Kim says. "Why is the world idolizing the perfect white image?"

The overarching narrative of the video is one of self-acceptance -- learning to recognize and accept your own body as "perfect," despite the message from the world around us. 

(h/t Towleroad)

Also on...

Read Post

Tom Daley Opens Up: 'I Always Knew I Was Attracted To Guys'

(0) Comments | Posted July 21, 2015 | 2:18 PM


Olympic diver Tom Daley recently sat down with The Guardian for a revealing interview in which he discusses coming to terms with his gay identity in the public eye, his relationship with Dustin Lance Black, and his life as an athlete. 


Daley spent a portion of the interview...

Read Post

GET READY QUEENS: 'RuPaul's Drag Race' Announces A Second Season Of 'All Stars'

(1) Comments | Posted July 21, 2015 | 12:09 PM

Hello, hello , hello! Are you sitting down? Because, girl, do we have news for you!

 We are FINALLY going to get a second season of "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars"!

However, don't get too excited. You're going to have to wait at least a year -- until after the...

Read Post

Cartoon Network's 'Steven Universe' Includes Lesbian Couple

(1) Comments | Posted July 21, 2015 | 11:13 AM

A groundbreaking television show on Cartoon Network is now pushing the envelope even further by revealing that two characters on the kids program are a lesbian couple.

 "Steven Universe," one of our favorite cartoons with heavy queer overtones follows the adventures of Steven, a young boy, who protects the universe with his magic gem powers alongside superheroes Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl. In a recent episode, the show revealed that Garnet is actually a fusion of two other gem characters -- Ruby and Sapphire.

The scene in the video above initially raised questions about the nature of Ruby and Sapphire's relationship. This week, co-executive producer Ian Jones-Quarterly confirmed via Twitter that the pair are, in fact, a lesbian couple.

"Steven Universe," is one of a number of kids shows that are increasingly focused on queer representation. As noted by Autostraddle, "study after study and expert after expert says that when kids see people like them positively portrayed in the media they consume, they are positively impacted, and when they don’t see that same representation, it negatively affects not only them, but how others view and treat people like them."

Most recently, Hulu premiered "The Bravest Knight That Ever Lived," a queer fairytale where the main character rescues both a princess and a prince and later gets to decide whose affectation he truly desires.

We love you, Steven Universe!

Read Post

The Biggest LGBT Wellness Stories Of The Week

(0) Comments | Posted July 17, 2015 | 5:18 PM

Each week HuffPost Gay Voices, in a partnership with blogger Scout, LGBT HealthLink and researcher Susana Fajardo, brings you a round up of some of the biggest LGBT wellness stories from the past seven days. For more LGBT Wellness visit our page dedicated to the topic here.

Good Relationships Prevent Eating Disorders

A recent study of eating disorders among men found that for bi and gay men, being in a good relationship lowered the chance of an eating disorder 10 years later. Single men or ones in bad relationships had a higher chance. Relationship status made no difference for straight men.

Las Vegas Is Successful Reducing LGBT Smoking

If you’ve ever hit the bars in Las Vegas, you might’ve run across the innovative tobacco-free social branding campaign called CRUSH. Now, there’s evidence CRUSH has been effective in reducing smoking. A new analysis shows those with highest exposure to CRUSH messaging and social events had 37-48% lower odds of current smoking.

LGBT Elders Americans Act Introduced in Congress

Senator Michael Bennett introduced the LGBT Elders Americans Act in the Senate, a bill aimed at helping with the housing and health needs of older LGBT folks—and it’s badly needed. We know that aging can be harder for queer people because of stigma, fewer family ties and inadequate care. This bill should help.  

Med Students Not Well-Prepared for LGBT Care

A new study found most med students felt comfortable caring for LGBT patients but did not feel prepared. Alarmingly, 67% rated their medical school training as fair or worse so there’s a lot of work to do there.

New Jersey Universities Add Trans Health Care

Trans students at publicly funded universities in New Jersey can now access transgender health care! The change is expected to not only help with physical health, but also boost mental health and academic performance.

Bi Erasure is a Problem, Hurts Health

Bi erasure, ignoring or glossing over bisexuality, is still an all too common problem, even within the LGBTQ communities. Steve Williams makes the smart point this week that this isn’t just a social issue, it actually hurts health. Bi folk tend to have worse health and more substance use, cancer and tobacco use. Erasure is already a problem -- let’s not continue ignoring...

Read Post

What Happens When You Put A Bunch Of Legendary Drag Queens On A Boat?

(0) Comments | Posted July 17, 2015 | 11:26 AM

For anyone invested in drag culture, the role of of Wigstock in the narrative of queer performance is legendary. The once annual New York City drag festival, organized by drag icon Lady Bunny and Scott Lifshutz, ran for over 20 years in the '80s, '90s and early 2000s, attracting over 30,000...

Read Post

Queerview: Biggest LGBT Stories For The Week Ending July 17 2015

(0) Comments | Posted July 17, 2015 | 10:41 AM

Each week HuffPost Gay Voices and HuffPost Live takes a look back at some of the biggest queer news stories from the past week. Check back every Friday for your queer news round-up in this regular feature titled "QueerView."

This Is What It's Like To Be LGBT In Indonesia
Dédé...

Read Post

30 Gay Men React To The Word 'Faggot'

(1) Comments | Posted July 16, 2015 | 4:07 PM

 UPDATE: The video "30 Gay Men React To The Word 'Faggot'" has been removed by Cut Video. This post has been updated to reflect its removal.

Gay men have complicated relationships with the word "faggot."

While we're at a moment in time where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people...

Read Post

Meet Two Of The First Gay Dads To Foster-To-Adopt In Florida

(0) Comments | Posted July 16, 2015 | 3:40 PM

In this installment of the Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild.US Let Love Define Family” series, contributing writer David Humiston is inspired by two foster and adoptive dads in Tallahassee, Florida, and shares their story.

Inspiration is a living thing. In the act of making ordinary people do extraordinary things, it...

Read Post

Uh Oh! Kirk Cameron Won't Be Happy About This New Softcore Gay Erotica

(1) Comments | Posted July 16, 2015 | 11:54 AM

 

If you've ever enjoyed the thought of anti-gay bigot and former child star Kirk Cameron being part of some softcore gay erotica... well, you're in luck!

Mandy De Sandra's new book, called Kirk Cameron & The Crocoduck of Chaos Magick, re-imagines Cameron as the director of a "pray...

Read Post

Siri Has An Awesome Response To Anyone Who Says 'Bruce Jenner'

(1) Comments | Posted July 15, 2015 | 2:47 PM

If you're gonna talk to Siri about Caitlyn Jenner, you better use the former Olympian's correct name.

An amazing revelation is making its rounds on the Internet: Siri will only refer to Caitlyn by the name she currently identifies with . 

Siri's awareness about Jenner's transition extends beyond just knowing...

Read Post

New Queer Web Series Takes An Inside Look At Life In San Francisco

(0) Comments | Posted July 15, 2015 | 1:26 PM

Web series about popular "queer meccas" seem to be all the rage these days, and now we have a promising new one set in San Francisco.

Called "This Town: San Francisco," the  original series will comedically tackle issues currently related to the city, like gentrification and drought, along with commonly discussed issues among gay men, like body image and race.

"This Town: San Francisco" comes from the mind of Accidental Bear founder Mike Enders, a site which aims to "inform, and promote news, art, culture, music and a whole lot of sexy" as well as act as a platform for original videos.

Check out pilot episode #2 above.

...
Read Post

This Emotional Video Illustrates How Far Marriage Equality Had To Come

(0) Comments | Posted July 15, 2015 | 12:55 PM

 We can still hardly believe it, but same-sex marriage has been legal nationwide in America for almost a month.

While the battle for the rights of all people identifying along the queer spectrum is far from over, the legalization of same-sex marriage marks a massive victory for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community after decades of violence, stigma and death.

In recognition of this huge moment in the mainstream narrative of queer rights, Freedom To Marry put together this emotional video that chronicles many of the significant political and social moments for the LGBT community over the past several decades. From the days of the AIDS crisis to SCOTUS' ruling last month, this video will take you back through time and remind you how far we've come -- and how far we still have to go.

Check it out for yourself above. 

(h/t

Read Post

'Start Talking. Stop HIV.' GIF Campaign Raises Awareness About HIV Education And Stigma

(0) Comments | Posted July 14, 2015 | 2:15 PM

HIV awareness has now taken on a new and exciting face: GIFs displayed in Times Square in New York City.

 Creative studio YoMeryl recently composed a series of GIFS -- collectively called "Start Talking. Stop HIV." -- in order to raise awareness about HIV and the importance of getting...

Read Post

Meet Trans Teen Jazz Jennings, Star Of New TLC Reality Show

(0) Comments | Posted July 14, 2015 | 11:56 AM

One of our favorite voices from the teenage transgender community is about to get her own reality...

Read Post