I recently moved to Harlem. While I was wandering around my new neighborhood, admiring the beauty of the old brownstones and Marcus Garvey Park, I came across the Atlah World Missionary Church. What I read of their sign made my stomach churn.
‘The LGBTQ mafia is posting lies, attempting a hit job on our church,’ the sign read. ‘They want Harlem to be white and homo.’
Being born and raised in a place as liberal as New York City, I was taken aback by this sign. So many churches in various areas of Manhattan boast their acceptance of LGBTI congregants. It didn’t occur to me that Manhattan, of all places, could house incredibly homophobic churches as well. Call it ‘East Coast elitism’ if you must, but I always thought this type of overt hatred was reserved for certain areas of the South.
I just had to Google this church when I got home from my walk. Who is the LGBTI mafia? What is the ‘hit job’? I had so many questions.
Atlah World Missionary’s awful history
It turns out, Atlah World Missionary Church and its pastor, James Manning, are notoriously bigoted. In fact, they are on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-LGBTI hate groups.
In the past, Manning has made hateful comments directed at former President Barack Obama, who Manning calls ‘long-legged mack daddy’ and says was ‘born trash’. Manning is also famous for his Daily Show interviews with correspondent Jessica Williams, where he said Obama was the next Hitler and that Starbucks flavors its lattes with semen.
In the clip below, he tells Williams that ‘sodomites’ are ‘invading’ Harlem looking for ‘black meat’ (aka black men to have sex with):
Apparently, back in 2016, the Church was facing foreclosure. It happens to be located near the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBTI youth. The Center wanted to buy the Church’s property to shelter young LGBTI individuals who would otherwise be sleeping on the street. Considering the Church is still in existence, hateful signs and all, I would assume this plan fell through.
However, Pastor Manning’s comments and ridiculous signs aren’t the only awful thing about him.
Huffington Post exposé
According to a recent investigation by Huffington Post, the school Pastor Manning runs out of his church has been accused of abusing students. HuffPo spoke to 27 people connected with the church, including students, faculty, congregants, and more.
One former student, Sharif Hassan, reported being locked in the Church’s basement for days with limited access to food. Another student claims Pastor Manning outed him to his parents, causing him to be kicked out of his home. And a female student says Manning harassed and sexually assaulted her when she was 18.
‘It was constant hate and control and manipulation,’ Hassan, who is now 25, told the Huffington Post about his experience. ‘I felt like we were his slaves.’
Indeed, the school’s curriculum includes a lot of hate-filled speeches about ‘evil f*ggots’. The school’s website even tells parents to ‘Stop the homosexual brain washing of your children’ and to ‘give them a chance at a normal demon-free sexual life’.
According to the HuffPo investigation, Manning forced students to watch YouTube videos he made. While his YouTube show, The Manning Report, was banned by the site for violating community standards, he still makes videos to post on the Church’s site. Most recently, he made one claiming that actor Jussie Smollett and Barack Obama were lovers.
Huffington Post’s investigation goes on and on. It outlines more gruesome details of the Church’s history, including Pastor Manning’s own god complex.
WNYC reports that this HuffPo piece is the ‘hit job’ put on him by the ‘LGBT mafia,’ which the sign I came across references.
If reporting facts is a ‘hit job’ and believing that love is love makes one part of a ‘mafia,’ then I guess this bisexual journalist and now Harlem resident will definitely be on Pastor Manning’s shitlist. All in a weekend’s work!
The final episode of Game of Thrones is approaching fast and will be the culmination of what many, even among staunch fans, have described as its worst season.
How could such a hotly anticipated TV event turn into a huge disappointment?
The eighth and final season of the HBO fantasy drama follows the hasty mess that was season seven, which significantly differed from what George R. R. Martin had in mind for his book series.
This new season bears the marks of the inevitable downfall of what was one of the best series in recent TV history.
Don’t get me wrong. Game of Thrones did change the game for television by delivering some of the most riveting episodes we’ve seen in years. That is why it is extremely painful to see it heading for the rocks.
A twenty-month wait for… this?
It’s certainly hard to live up to the hype now that the rug has been pulled out from under the writers’ feet. They can no longer rely on Martin’s structure and it shows.
However, after a twenty-month wait and an average production cost of $10 million per episode, fans were expecting something that would knock them off their feet. Something that is very unlikely to happen at this stage.
This season has had good bits that most average series could only dream to incorporate. But Game of Thrones is not an average series. Or at least it didn’t use to be.
The raging fandom has even started a petition asking HBO to hire ‘competent writers’ to rewrite season eight. That’s how hilariously bad it is.
Why don’t you just stop watching, any sensible person would ask. Because we invested eight years of our lives to witness this epic disaster happen before our very eyes.
Game Of Thrones fans deserved better. What’s worse, its protagonists did, too.
Game of Thrones has failed its queer characters
Warning: spoilers for seasons 1-8 of Game Of Thrones ahead
Game of Thrones isn’t different from other mainstream shows in its treatment of LGBTI characters.
The Bury Your Gays trope is very real in GoT, to the point that nearly all of its major queer characters are now dead or presumed dead.
Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell
Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) and Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), one of the most beloved couples in the books and the only two explicitly gay characters, are both dead on the HBO show.
In the novels, Renly shares the same fate of his onscreen counterpart, whereas Loras is still alive.
What upset fans the most, however, was that Loras didn’t seem to mourn Renly as desperately as he does in the books, where he swears he’ll never love anyone else. This suggests that their relationship in the show isn’t as significant as it is in the novels.
Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand
Bisexual, polyamorous power couple Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) are also dead.
Oberyn is murdered by the Mountain in a duel in both the show and the books.
In the TV series, Ellaria is kept a prisoner in King’s Landing and presumed dead after Daenerys burns the city to the ground in the last season.
In a sample chapter from the yet-to-be-published novel The Winds of Winter, Ellaria is travelling with her daughter Loreza to Hellholt, the seat of her father.
GoT is failing its women, too
Warning: major spoilers for the final season of Game of Thrones ahead
Although disappointing on a general level, the lazy storytelling this season did GoT women dirty. To be fair, Game of Thrones has never excelled in the way its female characters are depicted.
Martin gave us some interesting, complex female characters that the show could have – and, in very rare instances, has – developed further. All efforts have been nullified in season eight, where misogynistic writing reaches its peak.
A glance at the writing credits for all seasons is enough to explain this.
It’s a male-dominated microcosm which occasionally lets a woman in to write an episode or two. Moreover, the show has only ever had one female director. The embarrassing unbalanced ratio of female vs. male nude scenes must be a consequence of this, too.
Just like the previous years, creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss penned most of the scripts for this final season. And it was a plethora of trite tropes and sexist storylines.
Before bringing up the ‘historical accuracy’ argument, let’s bear in mind that Game of Thrones is set in fictional continents which don’t necessarily share the same set of antiquated, sexist conventions of western Middle Age.
If I wanted historical accuracy, I’d watch a History Channel documentary. As if those actual past societies didn’t have strong women. Or non-white and non-straight people, for all that matters.
Shouldn’t we expect more from a show of this caliber than just indulging in overused plot points which do no good to their characters or viewers?
Where is Yara Greyjoy?
Pansexual sea captain Yara Greyjoy takes back the Iron Islands in season eight. Great, no?
Except we don’t get to see it on screen. And we have no idea who she actually takes them back from.
The only queer female character still alive and kicking does something powerful and we find out from Lord Varys, in an easily forgettable line that you might not even hear if you’re too bored to care at this point.
Let’s hope she shows up for the series finale.
Hell has no fury like Daenerys Targaryen scorned
This white saviour stereotype of a character has never been the biggest fan of democracy. Or of peaceful means to solve conflicts.
After Cersei (Lena Headey) kills her confidante and aide Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), a grieving Dany (Emilia Clarke) suffers yet another blow.
The mother of dragons is rejected by her lover/nephew Jon Snow (Kit Harington), a cringe relationship that should have never happened in the first place.
A raging Dany then rides the only dragon she has left to fight Cersei in King’s Landing. It doesn’t matter if the Lannisters surrender because Dany has gone full mad queen and roasts civilians to their death.
It was just a matter of time before Dany followed in the footsteps of her father Aerys, known as The Mad King. However, seeing her going crazy because Jon betrays her is disheartening at the very least.
Hell has no fury like a woman scorned, right? Yeah, but how about no?
Cersei Lannister, what a shame
The woman with a full glass of red in a hand and a few tricks up her sleeve dies like an insect while her fortress crumbles to the ground because, you know, love.
Remember Cersei’s brother/lover Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the one who raped her in front of their son’s corpse? The incestuous pair reunite and share one final kiss before they both are crushed to death.
And that’s a rather unimpressive ending for the greatest villain of the series, and one of its greatest actors. Shame.
Survivor Sansa Stark
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) has possibly received the worst treatment of any female character on the show. And she got rewarded for it with one of the most interesting narrative arcs because that’s how it works on Game of Thrones.
In the show, she has been in abusive, coercive relationships and beaten up, raped and tortured multiple times at the hands of some of the most hideous characters. Hello, Joffrey and Ramsay.
And, somehow, the screenwriters tried to turn that history of sexual, physical and psychological abuse into a developing point. Sansa herself tells The Hound (Rory McCann) she wouldn’t be where she is today, hadn’t it been for those terrible experiences.
Saying her history as a victim turned her into a warrior romanticizes the abuse. The ‘what doesn’t kill you…’ is a trope only those who have never experienced any kind of violence can think of as a legitimate way to justify a character’s personal growth.
Sansa hasn’t become a strong leader because of what happened to her. She has despite what happened to her.
Brienne of Tarth, touched for the very first time
A career-focused woman gets a long overdue promotion but realizes there is more to life than just work.
After Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) is formally accepted within the ranks of Westeros’s boys’ club, there’s just one thing missing in her life: true love.
This could be the perfect plot for a cheesy romcom straight from the Noughties, not for a GoT subplot.
Brienne gives up her virginity and dignity for Jaime, who seduces her with vomit-inducing pickup lines right before going back to Cersei.
The whole situation was gratuitous, treating virginity as something to get rid of and turning Brienne, notably the strongest woman in the Seven Kingdoms, into a begging, weeping mess, asking a man to stay.
Arya Stark isn’t a Mary Sue
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is the most consistently written female character of the entire show.
She has been revenge-driven ever since her father’s untimely death in season one.
She’s a trained assassin whose sole aim is to seek justice, even if this means killing those who hurt her and her loved ones.
In season eight, we get to see a different side of Arya. Before The Long Night, she has sex with Gendry (Joe Dempsey). Unlike what happens with Brienne and Jaime, it’s Arya who initiates the sex, asks for consent and leads the action. The scene is shot from her point of view.
After she loses her virginity in a way that makes sense with her whole story, she goes on to fight the most important battles of Westeros. And she kills the Night King, attracting fans’ criticism because that was supposed to be the culmination of her brother Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) narrative arc.
Many called Arya a Mary Sue, a perfect female character lacking in flaws. But Arya is perhaps a more trained fighter than Jon is and, albeit unexpected, the killing of the Night King comes after years of training. She earned it.
Her big revenge plan is halted by The Hound in the fifth episode. As she is willing to sacrifice herself in order to kill Cersei, he stops her. It is sensible advice, but this is yet another instance of a man telling a woman what is best to do. And seeing stubborn, strong-willed Arya following this piece of advice did feel a little off.
Despite this weird moment, having such a fierce female character on the show has been fantastic. Arya’s young age only adds to how awesome she is and gives the chance for younger audiences to look up to her.
But it’s 2019 and we definitely need more than just one token badass female character standing out.
David Benioff and D. B. Weiss should keep that in mind when writing the new Star Wars trilogy, set to be their next big endeavor. There’s a lot that could go wrong with that.
Gay men have a problem with fetishizing straight men.
This is not to say all of us do, but it’s impossible to deny we idolize our hetero peers. And we really, really need to stop – if not for the sake of heterosexual men, then for us as a community.
While it’s physically hard for anyone over 22 to care about YouTube news, the James Charles controversy has dominated the internet outrage cycle.
The make-up YouTuber is hemorrhaging subscribers after his friend Tati Westbrook called him out for his allegedly predatory behavior with straight and bi-curious men. Apparently, he put unfair pressure on those he fancied. Other straight men came forward, to varying degrees of severity.
Last year, Shawn Mendes – who has stated multiple times that he is straight – said in an interview with Rolling Stone he felt so uncomfortable with men questioning his sexuality he panicked when Taylor Swift uploaded a photo of him with make-up.
This is sweet Shawn Mendez. Who has supported the LGBTI community multiple times. The man who wore Calvin Klein just for the gays.
Our porn habits are perhaps most revealing. PornHub Insights takes a revealing look at our viewing habits. In 2016 the most searched for term was ‘straight’ among gay men in the US. Two years later, ‘straight guys’ is still the most browsed category on the website for gay men in the UK and US.
The problem isn’t necessarily the sexual attraction itself. Most of us can’t help who we are sexually attracted to and fantasies don’t always equate to reality.
The woke police aren’t going to bust down the door and arrest you because that Chris Hemsworth power bottom photo awoke teenage-level hormones.
The problem arises when it starts to hurt other people. Then we need to think about whether our behavior needs changing.
Why should I care about straight people?
Straight people have painted gay men as predators for decades. Alongside religious and government propaganda, films played a huge role in this, from The Children’s House in 1961 and Midnight Express in 1971, to Eurotrip in 2004. The ‘gay panic defense’ has resulted in the needless deaths of countless people.
James Charles | Photo: Instagram/jamescharles
So this is definitely not an argument that we should stop because it makes straight men ‘uncomfortable’. They make us comfortable our entire life.
Also, straight men are weird with women all the time. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to put my body between a female friend and a pervy male stalker eyeing her up in a club. They call it ‘cock-blocking’ whereas I call it ‘Jesus, take the hint and leave her alone’.
But just because many of them do it, doesn’t mean we should do it too. If we as men use our position of power to intimidate and pressure others, that’s on us. Not all straight people are physically more powerful and not all of them are emotionally stable.
Zara Larsson called out James Charles for allegedly hitting on her boyfriend in the DMs despite ‘knowing he is straight’. Doing this is a dick move and definitely inappropriate. But we should be more worried about the alleged badgering of a potentially bi-curious waiter. If true, he put someone who, professionally, was in a position less powerful than him in an awkward position. The amount of adoration and influence he has only exacerbates this.
Moreover, it’s not healthy for us to idolize straight men in this way. The more we obsess over the forbidden fruit, the worse our relationship with our own sexuality gets.
Because this is how prejudices start. We begin to fetishize not just straight people, but those who act in a traditional ‘cishet male’ way, pursuing that nebulous ‘straight-acting’ guy.
White, straight men are already held as the ideal in our society. They are the sexiest, they are the manliest, they are the heroes throughout media and myths (I mean, just look at the main Avengers line-up). Why would we want to contribute to to this false ideal?
LGBTI people are just as capable as being heroes as white, straight men. ‘Femme’ or ‘camp’ men are more likely to stand up against homophobia and call it out in all its forms. They don’t even have a monopoly on ancient warriors – Alexander the Great was bisexual.
What’s more, there’s such an interesting diversity in gay and bisexual men that when you compare it to a fantasy of a straight man, it feels utterly absurd – and boring.
Because sex with gay and bisexual men is fantastic. Really, really great. 10/10, would recommend to a friend. A lot of us are more interested in mutual pleasure than just cumming. We know our way around each other’s bodies and know how to react to sensitivities.
You’re not going to get that with your fantastical vision of a straight man. In fact, you aren’t going to get it at all.
This is not purity politics
I really want to emphasize that you can be sexually attracted to any adult you like until the sun eventually consumes the Earth. It’s fine! Most of us do it. Whatever.
It matters when we start to hurt other people. When someone like Shawn Mendez can’t express themselves without a million voices piling on, questioning their identity. It must suck for people in Shawn’s position, no matter the fame level.
And I say this as someone who, regretfully, has made some people feel uncomfortable in the past. It’s not nice for the person and it’s not a good look. But this stems from the idolization of straight people and society teaching us male entitlement to sex. Also, it comes from not respecting other people. Disrespect is way more than just hurting someone’s feelings – it’s damaging.
If you are one of the thousands of men of all sexualities who have hurt people in this way, learning, apologizing, and trying to be a better person is the only way forward. This is why we should be using cultural events as reason to change our culture. To better ourselves, to create a better society, and to start elevating our fellow queer men.
Because our sexuality is something special. It’s born out of love and desire. So why waste it on the wrong person?