Indiana’s Republican governor is urging his party to stand up for trans rights

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb

Republican Eric Holcomb replaced Mike Pence as Indiana’s governor after Pence became Vice President. But unlike Pence and many other Republicans, Holcomb is a supporter of transgender rights.

Indiana’s Hate Crime Laws

The state of Indiana is preparing to debate hate crime laws again. Many companies, including tourism boards, have expressed desire for gender identity to be included in these laws. However, House Speaker Brian Bosma disagrees that gender identity should be among the list of protected groups. Republicans control both chambers of the Indiana state legislature.

But for the first time, Indiana’s governor has told lawmakers to leave gender identity in the bill — or don’t pass anything at all. Holcomb has expressed that he’d like the state’s hate crime laws to mirror the executive branch’s nondiscrimination policy – which includes both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Currently, Indiana does not have a nondiscrimination law that protects residents who aren’t employed by the government.

‘The goal for us all, before we adjourn, is to pass a bias crime bill that moves our state off the list of five states without one,’ Holcomb said in a statement to IndyStar. ‘I’m comfortable with the executive branch employment policy that we’ve had in place since 2005, and I look forward to working with Hoosiers and the legislature as we move to achieve this goal.’

In 2017, 85 bias crimes were recorded in the state — the highest number since 2010.

Republican lawmakers at work

New Republican lawmakers, elected in the November midterms, are working on new bias crime legislation. The November election ousted one of Indiana’s biggest opponents of hate crime legislation, Republican Sen. Mike Delph. Delph was replaced by Sen. J.D. Ford, the state’s first openly gay lawmaker.

‘We’re everyday Hoosiers just like they are, going to work, paying our taxes,’ Ford told IndyStar. ‘I’m hoping to really play a huge part in this, but I also know it’s going to take some heavy lifting, and some difficult conversations.’

Sen. Ron Alting is another Indiana lawmaker working on a hate crime bill that includes gender identity. He is hopeful that it will be passed.

‘It’s time for legislators to look in the mirror on the issue and think to themselves, “What do the constituents want?” I think it’s time to think a little bit about the constituents versus your own beliefs in this,’ Alting said. ‘You are a public servant. You work for the people… I really can’t think of any reason why we shouldn’t but I think of a lot of reasons we why should.’

Opposition

But not every Indiana conservative is on board. For instance, Micah Clark, president of the socially conservative American Family Association of Indiana, thinks including gender identity in the state’s hate crime bill is ‘unnecessary.’

‘When you start creating a list, you’re going to leave people off,’ Clark said. ‘Right now nobody is missed; everybody is covered by law in practice.’

Anti-trans violence

Still, LGBTI advocacy groups disagree.

‘The purpose of listing protected classes in civil rights and hate crimes laws is to ensure that those who are targeted by discrimination and are most vulnerable, are protected,’ said Kate Blair, director of advocacy and public policy for ACLU of Indiana.

‘Transgender people are disproportionately targeted with violence because of who they are.’

Anything else?

Feelings toward the LGBTI community are slowly shifting in Indiana. Over the summer, a church in the state was evicted following their posting of a homophobic sign. The sign claimed being LGBTI was a ‘hate crime against God.’

Author: Rafaella Gunz

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The amount of talent from last night made this one of Strictly’s best semi-finals ever

If this is what the celebs can do in the semi-final, I cannot wait for the final.

It’s still hard to believe that this series of Strictly started twelve weeks ago, my how time flies when you’re swept up in the whole spectacle. And this semi-final proved that after all of these weeks, the celebs can still really sweep you away in the performance.

Even some of the lower scored dances this time around where still absolutely stunning, with Joe Sugg’s Viennese waltz being one of the prime examples. And after a bit of a disappointing Musicals Week, it was just the antidote that was needed.

And last week, it was Charles Venn’s final dance, and it wasn’t that surprising. Charles had already been in the bottom two several times, and given Ashley Roberts’s general unpopularity it really wasn’t surprising to see her knock him out.

And when it came to last week’s poll, it was a wash-out for Faye Tozer, as her mesmerising charleston landed her 56% of the vote. The closest dancer after that was Joe Sugg’s massive rainbow salsa on 15%.

Last night’s show started off with Stacey Dooley’s charleston, and o.m.g. that dance should’ve been closing the whole show. She captured everything that the dance is about and she danced it precisely as a flapper would have done back in the 1920s. If ever there was a dance that deserved a perfect 40, this one is definitely it.

And perhaps I was still spellbound by Stacey’s dance, as I didn’t find Joe’s Viennese waltz to be that bad. Yes, it definitely had a lot of rise and fall, and yet it didn’t lost the story aspect of the dance, and I was still swept away by the whole romance of it. I can see where Craig is coming from, but this dance deserved to be in the 30s.

Unfortunately, there always the bit in the show, especially at 90 minutes long, that you find just a little uninspired and that was with Ashley’s paso doble and Lauren Steadman’s tango. Although both dances were nice to watch and provided plenty of great moves, they just felt a little lacking, and I wasn’t as interested in them as I was with the others.

But Faye Tozer’s samba rescued me from that, as it had plenty to look at, and not just the obvious thing, and it was so much fun to watch, and again not for the obvious. Her technique was incredible, the song was reasonably catchy, and it felt like you were in Rio watching it.

And getting into the second half of the show, it did seem a little strange that some celebs weren’t playing to their strengths for their final chance to win people over. Both Stacey and Lauren delivered a weaker performance, and this was so much more evident in Lauren who should’ve been ending her dances with the ballroom as that is her stronger point.

Stacey’s Viennese waltz was another beauty to watch, but I have to side with Craig that at the start of the routine it didn’t look or feel like I wanted a Viennese waltz to do. I wouldn’t go as so far to imply cheating on their side, but a bit more Viennese waltz would’ve been nice to see.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t feeling Joe Sugg’s Argentine tango. It looked a little locked in place, and didn’t flow as well as I wanted it to. It’s a shame because I thought he might be able to do this dance well, but given his chemistry with Dianne perhaps it would’ve been better for the pair to do a rumba instead.

But Ashley’s American Smooth did save her from a bit of a mundane night, as the dance was simply incredible. Some of the lifts that the pair pulled off were simply incredible, and showed why she is often at the top of the leaderboard. Pure class for that routine.

The same can’t be said for Lauren who did fumble her way through that samba. She gave it her best shot, but when Latin isn’t her strong point, it’s not surprising to see her move so awkwardly. At least she’ll still have memories from last week’s American smooth which was incredible.

And Faye finally gave us the Argentine tango that we had been waiting for all series. She moved effortlessly, and Giovanni looked like he could move her like a knife through butter. Their dance was hypnotic and by far and away the best Argentine tango of the series, although to be fair that’s not really saying a whole lot.

Unfortunately, I was out when it came to voting, but I had I not been, then I would’ve voted for Stacey and Kevin. I can forgive the opening part of their Viennese waltz, and their charleston was just out of this world. Never has an opening dance to a Strictly show stayed with me so long. And you can watch Stacey’s charleston and Faye rescue the Argentine tango from a series of poor routines below.

I can see AJ missing out on the Strictly finals for the third year in a row here, although I still maintain that him and Claudia from his first year should’ve been in that final. Lauren’s only real hope is that Joe joins her in the bottom two, as her tango was ranked higher than both of his dances, but even so any mistake and she’s likely getting the chop. Although Lauren’s only hope is Joe, his army of fans will likely get him through, and so it honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see Ashley in the dance-off yet again.

But who was your favourite dancer last night? Let us know in our poll below.

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The good, the bad, and the ugly of RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-slay Spectacular

A still from the RuPaul's Drag Race Holiday special

RuPaul’s Drag Race aired its very first holiday special on Friday, 7 December. As an avid Drag Race fan myself, I was curious as to what the show would entail.

The show was modeled like a single episode of Drag Race and featured eight queens from previous seasons. Sonique (season 2), Latrice Royale (season 4, All Stars season 1), Trixie Mattel (season 7, All-Stars 3 winner), Jasmine Masters (season 7) Eureka O’Hara (seasons 9 and 10), Mayhem Miller (season 10), Kim Chi (season 8), and Shangela (seasons 2, 3, and All Stars 3).

These eight queens competed to be the Christmas Queen, all while promoting RuPaul’s new holiday album.

The Good

I personally loved how G-A-Y this Christmas special was. Even RuPaul declared the ‘War on Christmas’ to be over. To me, this read as a clapback to all the conservative snowflakes who get offended if you say ‘happy holidays.’ RuPaul and the contestants really, fully embraced the Christmas aesthetic while not undermining their LGBTI pride.

Another thing that made me really happy was the inclusion of Sonique, the season 2 queen who came out as trans during the reunion episode. Considering RuPaul’s exclusionary rhetoric when it comes to trans queens competing on the show, it was amazing to see Sonique back in the Werk Room as an out and proud trans woman.

‘When I came out as being transgender, I was scared. There was nobody doing that on TV, and it was a scary time,’ Sonique told Entertainment Weekly.

‘Luckily over the past few years we as a community [are] more visible. With this administration, it’s kind of shaky, but we can’t forget who we are. We’re here now and we have to make every moment count, and that’s what pushed me and has driven me to excel in this, even if it’s just a special. It’s, to me, my way of reintroducing myself to people.’

Also, the runway looks were to DIE for. I especially loved Mayhem Miller’s Krampus outfit. With all the other queens dressed in white and gold and red and green, it was refreshing to see a darker, creepier take on the Christmas season.

Oh! And let’s not forget the fact RuPaul and Michelle Visage competed against each other in a very special Lip Sync For Your Life. RuPaul even twerked!

The Bad

Spoiler Alert: ALL the contestants were ‘winners’ of the episode. All eight were crowned Christmas Queen. To me, this felt like a bit of a cop-out. However, considering there were many queens on this episode I was rooting for (Eureka IS jolly, as is Latrice, as is Shangela, as is Kim Chi…), I was slightly relieved that there wasn’t just one winner.

Another thing I wasn’t too thrilled about was the fact that by ‘holiday special,’ they only meant Christmas. There was no mention of other winter holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or even just the winter solstice. Before the queens debuted their runway looks, RuPaul referred to them as ‘non-denominational.’ This term is only inclusive of different types of Christians, unlike ‘secular,’ which would leave religion out of it entirely. So as a Jew, I didn’t feel included or represented in the episode. But, this was just the first ever RPDR holiday special. So perhaps next year they’ll consider more diversity. At least I hope! I mean, they could have on Miz Cracker, a proud Jewish queen. I’d watch that!

The Ugly

While I was watching and feeling disillusioned at the lack of non-Christian representation, I noticed a quick shot of a Menorah, a Hanukkah object, among the Christmas decorations backstage.

I don’t know what the point of this was. Was it to show solidarity with the Jewish community following the deadly Tree of Life synagogue shooting?

I knew from Twitter that some Christians were putting Menorahs in their windows to show solidarity with Jews. However, many Jewish people on Twitter find this act appropriative. The Menorah is not simply a decoration, but an object of worship.

So, yeah, this split-second display of solidarity wasn’t necessarily in the best taste.

So?

Overall, I enjoyed the first RuPaul’s Drag Race Holiday Special. Some of my favorite queens from previous seasons made appearances and, as usual, the costumes were amazing. Still, I would have liked to see more diverse representation. The word ‘holiday,’ for me, is a secular word that can be inclusive of all belief systems. But this show was basically exclusively about Christmas. And that’s fine — I’m well aware that even non-religious people celebrate Christmas. It just would have been nice to see acknowledgment of America’s non-Christians, especially considering the anti-Semitic and Islamophobic beliefs perpetuated by the current administration. But hey, there’s always next year!

And for now, we can anticipate All Stars 4, premiering on 14 December. Watch the full-length trailer below:

Author: Rafaella Gunz

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