Tag: Hard

Pop Culture Fix: Charlize Theron Was Serious About That Lesbian “Die Hard” Remake, Y’all

Pop Culture Fix: Charlize Theron Was Serious About That Lesbian

You know what I was wishing for today? One of those little spray guns they have (had?) at bars that they spritz seltzer out of right into your glass? Wouldn’t that be cool, and then instead of the other buttons being soda, it could be flavors for your seltzer! Maybe I should just crack and get a SodaStream.

+ Charlize Theron really does want to make that lesbian Die Hard, y’all.

+ Gillian Anderson will play Eleanor Roosevelt in the new Showtime First Ladies series.

+ Lee Daniels on Billie Holiday: “Her imperfection is what made her perfect.”

+ Shadow and Act has an exclusive clip of The United States vs. Billie Holiday!

+ Legends of Tomorrow is moving to Sunday to pair with Batwoman when it returns in May.

+ The many cruelties of I Care a Lot.

+ Lorraine Toussaint on She-Ra, Orange Is the New Black, and The Equalizer.

+ The Director’s Guild of America reports, completely unshocklingly, that women of color are still underrepresented behind the camera.

+ In a recent interview, Zendaya balked at the question “What do you like most in a man?” which Drew is calling “a soft coming out.” 😂

+ It’s a Sin and the untold stories of the women in the AIDS crisis.

+ Netflix’s true crime boom is it a dangerous crossroads.

+ The Black women of Star Wars and how they’re represented.

+ Why don’t TV characters have text history?

+ Best tweet of the week?

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She’s a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1102 articles for us.

Harm Reduction in Hard Times: What Safety & Care Around Drug Use Can Teach Us During COVID-19

Harm Reduction in Hard Times: What Safety & Care Around

In the waning months of 2019, I sat in a friend’s home in East Oakland, looking down at defunct Oakland Coliseum, and the house lights flickering on in the twilight. I was there, ostensibly, to celebrate a friend’s birthday party. But as the evening slid into night, and gentle inebriation from La Croix wine spritzers began to take hold, small bags began to be pulled from pockets, their chalky contents poured onto trays, tested for fentanyl, then cut into lines and inhaled. We were each handed an inch and a half long trimmed segment of a plastic straw, to prevent cross contamination. This, in the home of a sex worker, with two healthcare professionals on either side of me, felt safe. It felt safe to do drugs that had been hammered into my social consciousness as always dangerous, as always a step away from death. As writer and activist Dean Spade outline in their 2020 piece “Solidarity Not Charity” for Social Text, “Mutual aid is a form of political participation in which people take responsibility for caring for one another and changing political conditions, not just through symbolic acts or putting pressure on their representatives in government but by actually building new social relations that are more survivable.” Mutual Aid is not just about making a one-time donation, but about building a politics that is concerned with the safety and wellbeing of others, naming “the failures of the current system” and showing an alternative. And because of the safety protocols that we observed, I glimpsed what ensuring that safety might look like.

In the early months of the pandemic’s grip on the United States, I saw a graphic float across a friend’s Instagram story. Set in Barbara Kruger-esque text, the words “Guys Are Hooking Up During The Pandemic. Are You?” sprawl across a digital graffiti background. I tapped through to find the account Fagdemic, their bio a concise “Hot Work in Hard Times: fag harm reduction for coronaworld.” Seeing this account felt like being pulled through my phone screen; I wanted to reach out, wanted to peel off the layers of shame I felt for wanting to touch a stranger, to do drugs in a room with strangers, to be around strangers in a time of so much wanton isolation. For those unfamiliar, harm reduction, as defined by the International Harm Reduction Association, is a strategy of both policy and social programs “which attempt primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of mood altering substances” for individual drug users as well as their broader communities, without requiring a decrease in drug use. Harm reduction’s adoption as a viable set of socioeconomic and healthcare practices have been hotly contested because of decades’ long Drug War propaganda – the Mayor of Charleston, West Virginia, used his public platform to rally support for shutting down a needle exchange clinic just two years after it had opened.

When a gay men’s sexual health organization in Ontario decided to deal more coherently with substance use in the queer community, they called on two self-described “notorious drug using fags” to produce a video for them. But many of the most helpful, albeit transgressive parts of the video, such as speaking to an individual’s drug dealer about sanitizing practices, were edited or cut out in favor of a more conservative, abstinence forward approach on drug use. Frustrated with having to push a political message they didn’t feel aligned with, the two founded Fagdemic, and set out to produce information, messaging, and safer use tips for their broader community. For them, “starting with the language our community is already using,” around drugs, paraphernalia, and safety practices goes a long way to destigmatize the advice being given; the harm reduction tools are coming from inside the community, instead of a patronizing non-profit or ideologically-driven organization.

This strategy, of intercommunal language use to reach audiences not otherwise accessible, is notable in the work of New York City-based DISH (Do It Safe Heaux) which provided supplies for safer usage primarily to black and brown drug-using trans women. But this practice, of meeting people exactly where they are at, begins decades ago, with foundational work by John Paul Hammond, a queer Black man. Growing up in a North Philadelphia family of Quaker activists, Hammond became involved with ACT UP, and in 1992 helped to establish Prevention Point, a needle exchange clinic that has helped to prevent an estimated 11,000 new HIV infections since its founding. Dr. Lauretta Grau, associate research scientist at the Yale School of Public Health, met Hammond in 1997 and said that, while his passion was activism, he was also an exemplary researcher. “He was on a multi-site project we were doing of active injectors as part of our research field team, and he was a very wonderful, careful, systematic researcher,” he said. “He did a lot of epidemiological research for us and was a wonderful, wonderful colleague. He was reliable, he was fastidious and he was organized. He was an extremely bright man.” Because of Hammonds’ experiences as both a drug user and as a researcher, advocate, and harm reduction activist, he was able to reach community members and individuals who would not otherwise be receptive to answering a university researcher’s questions.

Tim McCaskell, one of the most notable queer activists in Toronto’s history, also contributed deeply to work around harm reduction, helping to mentor the two men who started Fagdemic and so many others in the Toronto queer activism scene. His work spanned decades, beginning with AIDS ACTION NOW!, as well as serving as a spokesperson for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. But in January 25th, 2019, McCaskell penned an op-ed for Now Toronto about the dangers of crystal methamphetamine use in the gay community. The byline, “I lived through the worst years of the AIDS epidemic… once again everybody’s pretending nothing is going on with the explosion of queer people experimenting with crystal meth during sex” and the contents of the article shocked so many who had trusted McCaskell to be a voice championing harm reduction. “That was especially kind of shocking coming from somebody we’ve learned so much from,” said Jonathan of the collective Fagdemic. For the Toronto-based harm reduction duo, instead of preaching the same old moralizing narratives, the work should involve “building solutions in our own healthcare modality.” The building of this modality of harm reduction should not just conclude with a politics of survival, of distributing naloxone or fentanyl test strips and calling it a day. For Fagdemic, and those interested in an abolitionist vision of harm reduction, building a politics which acknowledges how layers of marginalization impact your health outcomes, and still goes “beyond just surviving to actually enjoying our lives and accounting for those health disparities,” is the goal.

Over the summer of 2020 and into the Fall, protest camps, space collectivization efforts, free community fridges, and the distribution of harm reduction resources, PPE, and masks to those on the West Coast affected by wildfires, became more prominent than ever before. New York’s Abolition Park, an effort initially started as ‘Occupy City Hall’ became a site of communal organizing, education, and care. In Dean Spade’s writing about mutual aid projects, because they create spaces “where people come together based on some shared need or concern,” and end up encountering and working closely with people whose lives and experiences differ from theirs, they “cultivate solidarity.” Cassie, one of the organizers who was present at Abolition Park, spoke about acting not from a mindset of scarcity, or of lacking resources, but of abundance, in which “we can give everything to each other.” For her, any mutual aid project has to foreground those without resources, those “who are cut off from accessing means of life.” Nikki, a young unhoused transgender woman who began staying at Abolition Park, remarked that the life-affirming services AP offered not only allowed her a respite from the harassment she experienced on the street, but a chance to feel full and supported. She felt both politically aligned and socially cared for at AP, telling Gwynne Hogan of Gothamist “at the end of the day, [the] community takes care of the people”. Nikki’s participation in the aforementioned article seemingly led to her arrest by plainclothes NYPD officers, putting the demands of AP’s communal care and abolitionist framework even more starkly in contrast with systems of carceral justice and policing.

Abolition Park and the organizers present there worked tirelessly to create medic tents, a power charging station for people to charge their phones, and a People’s Bodega that handed out PPE, cleaning supplies, “just everything else that folks needed.” AP also hosted an eviction defense workshop with longtime tenants’ rights organizers – lessons which have become crucial, as major rent relief stalls or is denied to the majority of those who apply for it. Organizers at Abolition Park established a reading group centered around M.E. O’Brien’s Junky Communism essay that was turned into a zine and distributed. The essay, and the politics of harm reduction as a strategy of leftist organizing contextualizes, traces how syringe exchanges were a technique developed by activists in the 1980s that, despite often being illegal and organizers risking arrest, helped to combat some of the most severe devastation of the AIDS epidemic. O’Brien’s experience working at a syringe exchange, helped them to see “how harm reduction had helped politicize their experiences, transforming individual misery into a collective practice of solidarity and a basis for social critique.” For organizations like the Young Lords and the Black Panther Party, the political question of how to support, educate, and organize members of the working class who used drugs and could not reliably hold down a job was of utmost importance. While many leftists and organizers interested in respectability saw “junkies unable to maintain stable employment” as having no place in revolutionary organizing, Cassie speaks to the reality of being a queer person with a holistic view of radical work. “I know how to use Narcan out of, like, absolute necessity… This is like waking up and breathing.” She continues, saying “We live in a community that is structured around a lot of addiction. We need to have that compassion and love for ourselves and for our friends and for each other.”

In the last few years, the growing rates of drug overdose have lowered American life expectancy for the first time since the peak of the AIDS crisis. As reported by the American Medical Association, millions of Americans with difficult relationships to substance use have been struggling beyond the difficulties produced by the pandemic, because it has so “complicated access to basic resources” like medical care, resulting in an increase in drug overdose related deaths. Even in San Francisco, an epicenter of the AIDS crisis and a city which has harm reduction institutions like St.James Infirmary and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, overdose deaths are outpacing deaths from COVID-19. O’Brien writes how, “As the crisis of capitalism and working-class life deepens, insurgent movements will need to grapple with drug addiction.” By refusing the implied disposability of drug users, and the isolation or ostracization of those assumed dangerous because of drug use, we must “move towards a communism not based on the dignity of work, but on the unconditional value of our lives.” Cassie notes that, for those drug-using individuals who were present at Abolition Park, after receiving the sorts of care made freely available, they began doing fewer substances because of the level of communal support they were surrounded by and had access to. The act of giving someone else the tools and material resources necessary to change their life has been the driving mission behind the Portland Sex Worker Resource Project, which aimed to “provide low barrier financial support to Sex Workers affected by COVID.” Prioritizing Black, Indigenous, and Trans sex workers, as well as those who live at the intersections of those identities, requires identifying that margnialized sex workers “face disproportionate violence within the industry… Black SWERS are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be assaulted by the police and/or clients, and more likely to be murdered by the police and/or clients.”

For Kat and Saiya, the organizers of PSWRP, it’s been difficult “telling people “no” when you truly believe they deserve everything they’re asking for.” But while the project’s work has functioned on a limited budget and has not been able to fulfill every request they’ve received, they have been able to distribute $5,000 in microgrants, assisting 40 people with $200 in material support. Everyone who applied for a microgrant received funds, and in establishing a low barrier application system, were able to help Sex Workers who previously may have been turned away by state agencies or non-profits with more complex bureaucratic processes. Mutual aid work in the state of Oregon may also be buoyed by the recent passage of Measure 110 which means that “state’s residents will no longer face arrests or prison sentences for carrying small amounts of drugs like cocaine, heroin, oxycontin and methamphetamine.”

This encouraging step towards decriminalization signifies one step away from a carceral system that punishes drug users or sex workers with jail time, but fails to include the necessary steps of expunging records, freeing those convicted of drug offenses, and allocating revenue from sales taxes towards social programs for those previously convicted. As Emily D. Warfield, an MSW researcher said concerning the overlap of the two communities, “Any drug policy win is also a big win for sex workers, not just because of the overlap in drug users and sex workers but because it indicates the public is willing to rethink criminal punishment as a solution to economic and social problems.” This movement away from rampant carcerality is encouraging, although the trap of feigning reform in the guise of forced rehabilitation still remains. For Saiya, the Portland Sex Worker Resource Project has always centered the needs of the community, and establishing trust in organizers takes time – but they are intent to be “an ember, not a flame.”

A few years ago, while showing an ex around my hometown, we slid into the single occupancy bathroom of a crummy gay dive bar, the same crummy gay dive bar I had been going to since I turned 21. She pulled out a small container of cocaine, scooped out some with her long acrylic nails, snorted, and then turned on her heel to walk out of the bathroom, leaving me with the bag in one hand. A year or so afterwards, I was in the bathroom of a crummy Oakland dive bar that had come to feel like a second home, warmed by the presence of the first deep trans friendship I had made in the Bay Area. They pulled out a bag of cocaine, we each did some, and walked arm in arm to a house party just a few blocks away. But once there, they left me to ride out the high alone, my face numb, my fingers cold. And when I told them a short while later, still in the throes of a dull throbbing nose, that I needed to go home, they let me walk, by myself, into the predawn darkness. For O’Brien, “revolutionary politics must embrace the many broken and miserable places inside ourselves.” It is precisely from these sites of anguish, hurt, and pain “that our fiercest revolutionary potential emerges.” There are moments in which drug use has felt wrapped in the shame and stigma that isolate people in those moments of most crucial need. And there are moments in which people are met where they are at, with communal care and abundance offered to those who most desperately need it, enabling people to do so much more than just survive.

Extra! Extra!: Everything Not the Election It’s Been Hard to Keep Up with

Extra! Extra!: Everything Not the Election It's Been Hard to

With less than two weeks to go until the presidential election, I find myself losing sight of all the many other things going on in the world. I’m sure many people feel this way as well. This week’s Extra! Extra! looks at a whole slew of non-election related news, including LGBTQ+ rights and the trifecta of global pandemics: police violence, climate change and COVID-19. And then, of course, we do take a look at election-related news too.

LGBTQ+ Issues

In Shift for Church, Pope Francis Voices Support for Same-Sex Civil Unions

Rachel: I’ve been thinking all week about how to feel about this as a cultural/lapsed Catholic. On the one hand I think even this (ultimately abstract, as it doesn’t amount to a shift in dogma or Catholic theology) gesture will make a genuine difference for many queer folks growing up in Catholic-practicing families and communities, as families and loved ones may genuinely revisit their stances; on the other hand, the Vatican still went out of their way to state as recently as 2019 that the existence of trans people “annihilates the concept of nature”. On yet another hand, this is absurdly too little too late – it’s 2020! Civil unions??? – and ultimately, regardless of theological beliefs, the Vatican as an institution is an inherently oppressive and colonial one; symbolic tolerance of LGBTQ folks is… not liberatory, really. This thought does not have a resolution! I would very much like to hear from other LGBTQ Catholics and folks historically colonized by Catholic empires.

Texas social workers can now turn away LGBTQ, disabled clients

Himani: People keep talking about how Texas is turning purple. That may very well be true but as long as Greg Abbott is governor, it seems like state-driven policies in Texas will remain a deep shade of red. Earlier this year, we saw how Abbott used the governorship to try to undermine police reform in Austin. Now he’s at it again by “recommending” to the state’s Board of Social Worker Examiners to remove the civil rights protections for queer, trans and disabled people. And, unlike the city of Austin — which stood by its police budget cut — the Board caved to this pressure from the governor. The ramifications of this decision are clear.

Barrett was trustee at private school with anti-gay policies

Himani: Yes, this article is about Amy Coney Barrett’s deeply homophobic views, but also let’s talk about private schools for a hot minute. As per this AP article: “the school’s and organization’s teachings on homosexuality and treatment of LGBTQ people are harsher than those of the mainstream Catholic church” — which, given Rachel’s comments earlier, is a pretty low bar… This is a school that told a gay student to tell a lesbian parent of prospective student that they would have no place in the school, and that this applied to trans and queer families and students on the whole. The school has enshrined the notion of marriage being solely between a man and woman, prevented children from LGBTQ+ families from enrolling, itself bullied its own LGBTQ+ students, … the list goes on and on.

And yet, as the AP article continues, “The actions are probably legal, experts said.”

This is a private school that has received taxpayer money in the form of vouchers. And this is among the many, many reasons why the policy shift towards “school choice” is such a terrible, terrible idea. There’s a long list of other reasons why it’s bad, but tax-payer funded discrimination is pretty high up there.

Police Violence, the World Over

Himani: Police violence was at the forefront of the American conscience this summer. But police violence is, truly, a global problem. Right across the border, Canada is grappling with some of the same issues as the U.S. in terms of the wide latitude it gives to law enforcement and the deadly consequences of that. An ocean away, Nigerians have taken to the streets over that very issue. Over in the Philippines, Duterte is obstinately justifying the thousands upon thousands of extrajudicial killings that have happened at the hands of the police on his watch. In Belarus, police are violently suppressing protests as people demand their right to free and fair elections, much like we saw in Portland earlier this summer and witnessed in Nigeria this week as well. A similar situation is playing out in Thailand, but just today it seems like the government is responding to the pressure from pro-democracy protests. These are just a few instances of police violence that have made the news the past couple of weeks.

Police Were Warned About No-Knock Warrants. Now, a Black Man Is Dead

Tens of Thousands March in Belarus Despite Police Threat to Open Fire

Thailand’s Prime Minister lifts state of emergency. Protesters give him three days to resign

‘I’m the one’: Philippines president takes responsibility for drug killings

Federal Agents Used Toxic Chemical Smoke Grenades in Portland

Climate Change and Racism Go Hand in Hand

Himani: From the beginning, climate change and racism have been close bedfellows. For centuries, white, Western colonials prioritized their own (short-term) prosperity at the expense of indigenous people and the environment. And those patterns continue. The oil tycoons and land developers and big agricultural corporations know the environmental consequences of their actions. But they don’t care because they don’t have to live with them in the present and won’t have to deal with them in the future. And when some of the effects of climate change start to be felt by those in power, they turn to their two favorite approaches: cultural appropriation and trading in one problem for another.

The great hypocrisy of California using Indigenous practices to curb wildfires

Knock on Wood: How Europe’s wood pellet appetite fuels environmental racism in the South

This is my message to the western world – your civilisation is killing life on Earth

COVID-19 Update

‘Drastic rise’ in Malawi’s suicide rate linked to Covid economic downturn

Himani: It’s such a horrible bind we’ve put ourselves in the world over. The only safe way to exist, to try to fight the virus is to shut down economies. But shutting down economies leads to devastating consequences for the poorest people in society. In Malawi, where half the country lives below the poverty line, this has resulted in a sharp increase in suicides. If only, we as a global community, structured our societies differently. If only we did not endlessly chase after dollars, as Rachel notes below, as well. A pandemic might still have wreaked havoc in the world but perhaps not quite as much death, destruction and devastation.

8 Million Have Slipped Into Poverty Since May as Federal Aid Has Dried Up

Rachel: There’s been a lot of (rightful) criticism of the passive voice here – people didn’t “slip” into poverty, as a happenstance, but were thrust into it by the government. Similarly, ‘dried up’ is some very careful phrasing; federal aid was actively denied to us despite calls for it; aid that was actually meant for small business was instead reallocated in bulk to corporations; many businesses that did receive aid weren’t actually beholden to use it to pay workers. All those points are crucially important; I’m also thinking of this news in light of the development just yesterday that GoFundMe has expanded its own relief program in the form of Causes, which include Covid-19 relief. It’s too kind to say it’s a farce – not only has the government abjectly refused to care for its people, but in doing so has created a vacuum that allows a private company to step in and make a profit just by facilitating other private citizens trying to keep each other alive. The invisible hand of the market, I guess!

California kept prison factories open. Inmates worked for pennies an hour as COVID-19 spread

On Elections, in America and Beyond

Himani: As the world anxiously awaits the results of the upcoming U.S. election, let’s take a look at a few other political situations around the world.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wins historic reelection

Himani: Ardern has been widely praised for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and that played a big role in her successful re-election. In a world of populist (essentially) dictators winning landslides and becoming even more authoritarian, this is such a breath of fresh air. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do in her next term.

The remarkable power of African elections

Himani: This article was a sobering reminder that even when democracy is suppressed to the point of no longer being anything even close to democracy, elections still serve a purpose. I’ve thought about this a lot when I think about the work Alexey Navalny has done for years in Russia. As Americans grow increasingly jaded with our own electoral process, this would be a lesson we would do well to learn.

Less Than Two Weeks Out : Let’s Talk about the Issues

The Swamp that Trump Built

The Neo-Imperialist’s Burden

The Dystopian Police State the Trump Administration Wants

Lawyers say they can’t find the parents of 545 migrant children separated by Trump administration

What to Expect on November 3

We’re Living in the Shadows of a Bush v. Gore 2.0

Himani: I was in seventh grade when Bush v. Gore happened, and it literally disillusioned me on American democracy for the rest of my life. The 2016 election was absolutely devastating for me and others for so, so many reasons. And this. This is my absolute worst nightmare that I am very, very much afraid will be our reality.

How to Survive Election Night

Rachel: This isn’t political analysis, but my therapist also brought up this week how many of her clients are making or should make election night preparedness plans about how they’re going to spend the evening regardless of outcome and make sure they’re as well-resourced and cared for as possible. I think this is a great idea and would encourage it for you also! Are there folks you can be with, digitally if not in person? If you do want to get updates, what are sources you trust and share values with that you can get those updates from, and how can you turn off access to the other sources? Would it be a good idea (and possible) to take off work or other obligations the next day? Do you have plans for ways to get involved in making your communities healthier and safer through and beyond the election regardless of outcome? We’re here for you now, and will be on election day too.

Extra! Extra! is on a biweekly schedule for the month of October. We’ll see you in two weeks! (Yes, after the election…)