The first teen cannibal takes a bite in the twisted premiere of Yellowjackets season 2

The first teen cannibal takes a bite in the twisted premiere of Yellowjackets season 2

Showtime’s buzzworthy survival thriller Yellowjackets has returned with its highly anticipated second season – and the premiere officially puts cannibalism on the menu.

This recap contains spoilers for the first episode of Yellowjackets season 2.

It was the winter of 2021 when a new Showtime drama about a stranded soccer team of teenage girls crash-landed into the world. Given the endless churn (and cancellation) of TV shows, the odds of a Lord of the Flies meets Lost mystery-box series keeping its head above water were decidedly slim. After all, did anyone really want yet another brutal survival thriller at a time when reality was already so bleak?

But woe betide anyone who underestimated the power of Yellowjackets. Alternating between 1996 and the present day as it unravelled the terrible things the teenage champs did to survive in the Canadian wilderness, and the terrible things their adult selves did to keep secrets 25 years later, the show became a word-of-mouth phenomenon, startling everyone with its propulsive narrative, seamless performances and spectacular then-and-now characterisation (take a bow, casting directors). Sure enough, the Emmy nominations came calling, alongside multi-season renewals and an ardent fandom that sent Reddit into overdrive. Trauma, it turned out, was one hell of a drug.

Simone Kessell as Lottie in Yellowjackets season 2 (Kimberley French/Showtime)

Now, the wait is over, and quite honestly, I’ve rarely looked forward to a second helping of a TV show as much as this, which is saying something considering I rarely ever make it through the first season of anything. How I’ve missed Juliette Lewis snarling WHAT THE FUCK at every opportunity, Christina Ricci adjusting her specs, and Melanie Lynskey drily telling a former high school student that she’ll “gut him like a pig” before taking a tequila shot, which remains one of my favourite lines of 2022. And after showrunner Jonathan Lisco casually teased that cannibalism is merely the “tip of the iceberg” in the second run, it’s time to head back to the wilderness to find out who eats whom, who survived what, and what exactly went on out in the woods 25 years ago. Let’s tuck in to the season premiere, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.”

We kick things off with our resident Antler Queen, Lottie (Courtney Eaton), who we last saw in the season one finale offering up a bear’s heart to the wilderness and declaring, “Let the darkness set us free.” In the opening scene, she’s returned to civilisation in the aftermath of the girls’ rescue in 1998 and is scaring the hell out of her parents by refusing to eat, drink or utter a single damn word. If you had any concerns whatsoever about how the show would maintain momentum in season two, fear not: within the first couple of minutes, Lottie’s been subjected to a brutal course of electroconvulsive therapy, before we time travel to the present day, where we find newcomer Simone Kessell as adult Lottie, who’s reinvented herself as a new-age cult leader. Standing before a picture-perfect lakeside compound, she preaches to a crowd of purple-clad lost souls that they’re a) responsible for their own suffering, and b) need to unleash their ‘primal elemental self’. Now, where have we heard that before?

Jasmin Savoy Brown as teen Taissa and Liv Hewson as teen Van in Yellowjackets season 2 (Kailey Schwerman/Showtime)

Yellowjackets, as any viewer will know, is all about foreshadowing; and Lottie’s personal evolution has been perfectly plotted as we drift back to the wilderness to discover more about her rise as the team’s mystic Queen Bee. Back in the wilderness, it’s two months since Jackie died and full-blown winter has arrived at the creepy cabin. As Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) and Travis (Kevin Alves) prepare to head out on an early morning hunt, jackets stuffed with old porn magazines for extra warmth, Lottie performs a ritual with her own blood. An incredulous Natalie is predictably frustrated with the “wicca bullshit”, but Travis, still clinging on to hope that Javi (Luciano Leroux) is alive, is fully signed up to whatever the hell Lottie is selling – and it’s looking likely that the trio will only become further entwined in weeks to come.

Meanwhile, Shauna, our chief slicer and dicer, has taken to hanging out in the meat shed. Not only is she cutting down the last rations of grizzly bear, but our mum-to-be is also having confessionals with her best friend’s frozen body. In one hallucinatory sequence, a game of M*A*S*H goes awry when Jackie accuses Shauna of making the first move on Jeff, prompting a maddened Shauna to shove the corpse. Not only does our dearly departed’s ear then break off, but Shauna stashes it in her pocket for safe keeping; a grisly talisman that she clings to for the entire episode’s run.

Although the rest of the team are, quite rightly, freaked out by Shauna’s behaviour, there are two people having a jolly gay time of things: Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Van (Liv Hewson), who are young, in love, and tied at the wrists at night in a bid to stop Taissa’s sleepwalking. One night while she’s asleep, Tai violently bites Van’s lip and draws blood. Luckily for her, when she wakes up, her girlfriend proclaims that she isn’t scared of her, and even writes “I [heart] u” in blood on her forearm. Young love, eh?

Christina Ricci as Misty in Yellowjackets season 2 (Kimberley French/Showtime)

Back in the present day, there’s business to attend to. We find grown-up Misty (Christina Ricci) helping Shauna cover up the murder of her ex-lover Adam (Peter Gadiot), who, lest we forget, found himself on the end on the wrong end of a sharpened knife after she incorrectly assumed that he was blackmailing the surviving Yellowjackets. The pair practise a police interview, and beady-eyed Misty, armed with a voice changer, really wants to delve deep into the relationship. Was the sex mindblowing? Did Adam fail to “get it up”? Nat and Taissa are also supposed to be there too for the frolics; only unbeknownst to Misty and Shauna, Nat has been tossed into a van by purple-suited hench people, and Taissa is… well, who knows. Eating dirt? Crouched up a tree? Tending to her sacrificial dog altar? 

Taissa’s problems aren’t ostensibly as grave as being kidnapped, but she’s still definitely faring worse than her chirpy teen self. Now single and living without her wife Simone (Rukiya Bernard) or son Sammy, she’s endeavouring to get things back on track since beheading Biscuit by paying a trip to the local dog shelter, and adopting what can only be described as a ‘yappy’ dog called Steve. But after Taissa rocks up to the school gates to introduce Sammy to the new pup, Simone emerges channelling her inner Hades, and delivers an ultimatum: step down from office and seek help, or she’ll never see their child again. It’s all very upsetting, as is Tai’s discovery of the bloody basement altar later on, where she promises Steve that killing Biscuit was simply a mistake and that she’s “going to do better”. Famous last words!

Sophie Nélisse as teen Shauna in Yellowjackets season 2 (Kailey Schwerman/Showtime)

Family time isn’t going great with Shauna’s crew either. Sarah Desjardins is on deliciously spiky form as Callie, who knows her Mum is covering up Adam’s disappearance but hasn’t yet copped on to the full extend of her shadow side. “You could start by not pretending like everything’s normal!” she yells at her mother across the kitchen cabinets, but Shauna has bigger problems to worry about. While looking through Adam’s possessions in her safe – i.e, stone-cold incriminating evidence – she has a horrifying realisation: not that she’s committed a murder, but rather that Adam has an art studio somewhere, as evidenced by splattered paint on one of the keys. Instead of calling the Yellowjackets, though – who are, let’s be honest, the only ones capable of covering up a murder – she ropes Jeff into the mix once more. At the studio, they discover the entire place is filled with paintings of Shauna in suggestive poses; and for what it’s worth, they’re gorgeous. Shauna isn’t moved by her ex-lover’s devotion, though, and instead decides to tell Jeff that the idea of her husband being unfaithful always turned her on. Before we know it, they’re going at it in front of the paintings, which they then proceed to deface with turpentine. And back at home, they burn Adam’s driver’s licence on the barbecue, and grill Frankfurters for dinner. 

Courtney Eaton as teen Lottie, Kevin Alves as teen Travis, Sophie Thatcher as teen Natalie, Samantha Hanratty as teen Misty, Sophie Nélisse as teen Shauna and Nia Sondaya as teen Akilah in Yellowjackets season 2 (Kailey Schwerman/Showtime)

While Shauna is committing crimes, Misty is playing citizen detective, unable to accept that her bestie would just abandon her. Heading to Natalie’s dingy motel, she sweetly threatens the manager, who tells her that Natalie took off in the middle of the night. Unsatisfied, Misty breaks into Natalie’s hotel room and spots splinters on the floor when the door was forced open, leading her back on the trail.

For Natalie, waking up chained to a bed in a room with bars on the room is far from an ideal scenario, as is discovering that you’re in a cult compound where everyone’s wearing pendants with the ominous symbol from the woods. Despite being literally bedbound, Natalie does a great job at psyching out her youthful captor, and manages to escape by seizing the opportunity to stab her with a dirty fork. After being chased through the forest by more of the purple people, she comes to a clearing where she finds a frightening scene reminiscent, possibly, of what went down in the wilderness: people wearing animal masks, beating drums, and preparing to bury a naked man in a ditch. That’s when Lottie appears in sweeping white robes, prompting Natalie to emerge from her hiding spot and prepare to beat the living daylights out of her with a heavy piece of wood. But Lottie isn’t perturbed by Natalie’s sudden appearance. “I have a message for you,” she says breathily. “From Travis.”

Yellowjackets season 2 (Showtime)

It’s the final montage of the premiere, though, that really delivers the WTF energy we all know Yellowjackets is capable of. While Natalie and Travis appear to find evidence that Javi might still be alive, and Callie, in the present day, discovers the charred remains of Adam’s driver’s licence, teen Shauna takes Jackie’s ear out of her pocket and scoffs it like a pringle. Sound the klaxon, we’ve officially got our first taste of human flesh.

Are we any closer to solving the show’s central mysteries come the end of the episode? No. But the addition of post-rescue flashbacks is a brilliant addition, the present-day timelines are gaining traction, and even if we now have more questions than answers about what creepy sh*t went down in the wilderness, Yellowjackets is at last shaping up to be the cannibalism drama we all hoped it would become.

Yellowjackets season 2 episode 1 is available to stream now on Showtime and Paramount+.

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Millions of These LGBTQ+ Americans Could Be Missing in Population Estimates

Millions of These LGBTQ+ Americans Could Be Missing in Population Estimates

As we head to the busy upfront advertising buying season, it’s worth noting that millions of Americans and possibly hundreds of billions in LGBTQ+ spending are possibly missing from the current industry-recognized estimates of at least 20 million LGBTQ+ people in the United States with 1.4 trillion in household spending. How could millions of people and billions in dollars have been missed by the U.S. Census and Gallup, where much of these numbers are culled?

To cut to the chase, I believe that these well-intentioned tallies are only counting the people who live their sexual or gender identity openly. It does not count the more than 16 million or more individuals not yet living openly in their LGBTQ+ identity — meaning there could possibly be nearly 40 million LGBTQ+ Americans. Those 16 million people are estimates pulled from Gallup’s own figures and statistics, of which I’ll explain more below. As a result, this adjustment in population would conservatively make the household estimated spend by queer people to be about $2.3 trillion, significantly higher than most estimates.

How do I draw such conclusions that would make the population and household spend worthy of notice by advertisers, politicians, and the general public?

Let’s start with population. Everyone, including the Gen X principal owners of equalpride, were surprised when a recently released Gallup study concluded nearly 20 percent of the Gen Z population (born between 1997 and 2004) of 82 million identify as LGBTQ+. In comparison, the queer count for Millennial, Gen X, and Boomer generations were 11.2 percent, 3.3 percent, and 2.7 percent, respectively.

The generational divide speaks to an evolution in tolerance; there has always been LGBTQ+ people, but now more people are comfortable describing themselves as such. Still, there remains those still reticent to identify as LGBTQ+. Counting LGBTQ+ people in a poll means counting openly LGBTQ+ people; but do those not yet comfortable identifying as queer not absorb LGBTQ+ content and/or not respond to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians at the polls?

The math is quite simple. If you harmonize the number of those openly identifying as LGBTQ+ and those who do not, but are closeted, you get about 12 percent across the generations, on average, identifying as LGBTQ+ — open and closeted — or about 40 million Americans. I’m giving up a lot of points in the Gen Z population and adding a fair number to the older generation to make this point, but it still a rather conservative estimate.

The household income is relatively easy to calculate if you believe my population thesis. We simply estimated the share missing from the current GDP contribution of $1.4 trillion by LGBTQ+ spenders — still a tidy sum. The number when you include the estimated 16 million missing Americans in the counts is more like $2.3 trillion or roughly 10 percent of the GDP. In either case, LGBTQ+ households have the income and assets to weather any downturn in the economy and over-index virtually on every category of spend.

Even if the current statistics of 20 million LGBTQ+ Americans and $1.4 trillion in annual spend are left unchallenged, and certainly if you agree with these revised projections, advertisers, politicians and employers, among other Americans, need to recognize that being queer in America is now mainstream and deserving of equal treatment.

The LGBTQ+ community deserves to be part of every media buy. Our community needs to stop being targeted by politicians and rise to elect those committing to treating us equal. Employers need to consider LGBTQ+ candidates as a significant and permanent inclusion in their hiring processes and benefit. Americans need to stop the banning of printed books, studies, and materials because out and closeted alike still seek LGBTQ+ magazines like ours and topical books in libraries, bookstores, and other public places far from the reach of browser histories on shared computers.

Nearly a quarter of our newest adults learned lessons from their parents by choosing to live differently — openly and happily. We sincerely hope the rest of closeted Americans join us, but in the meantime, we need to include them in estimates. As a closeted man for most of my life, I can assure you I still cared and supported LGBTQ+ issues, migrated to reading LGBTQ+ materials, and even had LGBTQ+ relationships when I told others I was not. The point is we need to count everyone, and that could be 40 million+ LGBTQ+ Americans and $2.3 trillion+ in spending power.

Michael Dru Kelley is chairman of equalpride, publisher of The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate‘s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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U.S. House Passes Republican-Backed “Parents Bill of Rights Act”

U.S. House Passes Republican-Backed “Parents Bill of Rights Act”

U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow, R-Louisiana – Photo: U.S. House of Representatives.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a Republican-backed bill giving parents more power and oversight over school boards’ and school administrators’ policies and decision-making processes.

The bill comes at a time when the Republican Party nationally has injected itself into culture-war battles over curriculum content, student privacy policies, special accommodations for LGBTQ students, and what books or materials are accessible in school libraries.

The House approved the bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.) on a largely party-line vote, 213-208, with five Republicans voting against the bill. 

According to a “fact sheet” of talking points issued by the U.S. House Education & Workforce Committee, the legislation would require public school districts to publicly post information about curricula for students, including providing a list of books and reading materials available in libraries — even if they are not used in actual classroom instruction.

Teachers would be required to hold two in-person meetings with parents each year, and parents would be allowed to publicly comment at school board meetings on district-approved policies, with school boards encouraged to “consider community feedback” in their decision-making.

The bill would also require parents to have the right to see school budgets, including revenues and expenditures, published, and require that parents be informed of any violent activity on school grounds or at school-sponsored events, while still protecting the privacy of the students involved in the incident.

Schools would be prohibited from sharing student data with tech companies, would be required to inform parents of changes to school privacy policies, and would have to obtain parental consent before performing any medical exams or mental health screenings, as well as before students complete any behavioral surveys containing questions about sensitive topics to which parents might object.

Democrats have largely opposed the bill, arguing that Republicans are simply pushing divisive social agendas and are instead imposing new reporting requirements and unfunded mandates on schools that will leave administrators and teachers more focused on meeting the law’s dictates than on actually teaching. 

Opponents are also concerned that the bill will result in bans on or the removal of books and lesson plans that touch on potentially controversial subjects, historical events, or are written from the viewpoint of racial, religious, or political minorities.

Additionally, LGBTQ advocates fear the bill’s requirements will encourage administrators and school districts to adopt policies hostile to LGBTQ-identifying students such as banning books with LGBTQ characters, barring transgender children from gender-affirming facilities, or prematurely “outing” LGBTQ students to their parents.

The Office of Management and Budget released a statement noting that the Biden administration does not support the bill as introduced.

“The administration does not support H.R. 5 in its current form because the bill does not actually help parents support their children at school,” the statement reads. “Moreover, instead of making LGBTQI+ students feel included in their school community, it puts them at higher risk. The administration strongly supports actions that empower parents to engage with their children’s teachers and schools, like enabling parents to take time off to attend school meetings. Legislation should not politicize our children’s education.”

The Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to take up the legislation this session.

First Focus on Children, a bipartisan advocacy organization that calls for centering children and families in federal policy and budgeting decisions, opposed the bill, calling it a “Politician’s Bill of Rights” that would “usurp the authority of parents and children in the schools that they attend and support with their tax dollars.”

“Parents are fundamental to the upbringing of children and absolutely should be engaged and involved in the education of their children. In fact, children have better outcomes when their parents are involved,” the organization’s president, Bruce Lesley, a parent of four, wrote in a letter to members of Congress opposing the bill. The letter was addressed to the bill’s sponsor, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and the chair and ranking member of the House Education & Workforce Committee.

“[W]e strongly support parental engagement in education, but parents should not control all curriculum and educational decisions. Doing so is unworkable,” added Lesley, providing examples of how H.R. 5 could potentially empower a minority of parents holding fringe or factually incorrect views to impose those views on the entire student body, or demand special accommodations that impose additional burdens on teachers.

The solution, argued Lesley, is to follow what parents and children have told pollsters about educational priorities, including pushing greater investment in public education, safety measures to prevent gun violence in schools, adopting curricula that teach children lessons and skills they’ll need to be successful in school and in life, addressing teacher shortages, providing mental health services for students who need them, expanding tax breaks for families with children, providing child care opportunities for working parents, and expanding family and medical leave.

“Parents are far more interested and focused on improving education, child health, and reducing child poverty, hunger, and homelessness than book bans, censorship, the whitewashing of history and science, and the excessive filing of numerous records requests for personal and confidential information about school teachers,” Lesley concluded. “Let’s work together toward those goals.”

The National Black Justice Coalition, a leading Black LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, condemned the bill as “yet another vehicle for the anti-democratic, white nationalist GOP to traffic in hate and discrimination in its crusade against Black people and the LGBTQ+/Same-Gender Loving community.”

“This bill is political posturing designed to ignite the [Republican] Party’s base around anti-woke hysteria. In this case, the bill would allow parents susceptible to manufactured right-wing paranoia to opt their children out of any education related to race, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” Dr. David Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a statement. 

“The bill and the underlying threats to democracy, civility, and holistic development pose a significant threat to the rights and safety of Black, transgender, and LGBTQ+ students and puts already vulnerable students at additional risk, limiting their access to resources and support needed to thrive,” Johns added. 

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Why Do Gay Men Hate Gay Reality Stars?

Why Do Gay Men Hate Gay Reality Stars?

Tacky. Phony. Unwatchable. The Twitter reviews of MTV’s newest reality show, The Real Friends of WeHo, were not kind. Ratings for the show — centered on gay men like stylist Brad Goreski, choreographer Todrick Hall, TV host Jaymes Vaughan, and their group of “friends” birthed from central casting — were just as sour, especially for a series that aired in the timeslot between Emmy-winning cultural phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race and its popular behind-the-scenes companion series, Untucked.

The online vitriol towards WeHo, much of it generated from LGBTQ+ viewers, lobbed poison-tipped arrows at what is basically the latest piece of hastily-made reality programming featuring upscale people clumsily thrown together and shown spending money, drinking too much, and calling each other names. Truth be told, WeHo is not much different than ratings juggernauts and queer fan favorites like Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or Vanderpump Rules (both of which often film in West Hollywood). So why did people, especially LGBTQ+ people, so loudly reject the exploits of a group of gay guys? Is the standard for content different when it comes to queer non-competition shows, at least when queer people are watching?

Yes and no, says Zack Peter, host of the Housewives-themed podcast No Filter with Zack Peter. One of the biggest issues with WeHo was not the sexual orientation of the cast but the inauthentic connections between the stars, he says. A reality show always casts its stars, but the most successful feature family dynamics (Housewives of Beverly Hills) or friendships that pre-date the show (Housewives of New Jersey).

“Think of the Real Housewives franchise, it’s been around for so long, we’ve become so savvy that we know real chemistry and we know casting,” Peter says. “We know when someone’s just brought on a show so they’re a name, or when they bring on someone younger to attract a younger audience. These tricks and gimmicks, we see right through it.”

Zach Peter and Harry JowseyPodcaster Zach Peter (left) interviews reality star Harry Jowsey

Aside from the issue with “Real Friends” being in the title, Peter said the setting also helped doom the show. In the popular queer imagination, West Hollywood is associated with a gay superficiality that is less aspirational and more exclusionary. Whether true or not, WeHo often brings to mind thick bank accounts, thin waists, and “no fats or femmes” Grindr profiles.

“I don’t personally like WeHo,” says Peter, who resides in downtown L.A. “I don’t go out; I don’t like the association that gay men just love to party and fuck each other, and we all have gang bangs. A good threesome is a good threesome, but I’m a career person. I’m so much more than the fabulosity of being gay and wearing a boa and going to a drag show on Sunday. That’s fun and a great aspect of the community, but there’s so much than that. I wish that would get represented a little more.”

A show about young, attractive gay men working in the entertainment and fashion industries in a place packed with gay bars and restaurants is just too on the nose, Peter says. Instead, he believes a cast featuring a true cross-section of the queer community — doctors, teachers, parents, monogamous couples — and based on preexisting connections would fare much better with a gay audience.

“I want to see a variety of gay men; people who are career-focused or family-focused, relationship- and marriage-focused,” he says. “All the things that break the mold of what people think of as gay men.”

Still, Peter admits that all the gripes against WeHo were not entirely legitimate.

“It’s hard too for gay men; it’s hard for us to root for each other,” he says. “I think it comes down to a deeper-rooted insecurity; we were raised to be unsure of ourselves. The climate is changing and things are shifting, but that inherent judgment we have of ourselves is projected onto judgment we give to other gay men.”

Peter hopes another network takes a stab at a queer-led reality show since, well, gay people are so fun to watch.

“I always think gay men have such rich histories and such big obstacles they’ve had to overcome that they’re going to naturally be entertaining,” Peter says. “Gay men have great wit because we had to develop a personality, a sense of humor, a sharp tongue as a means of defense. Maybe, at the end of the day, WeHo is a good thing because it opened the door and provided an opportunity for more shows like this to come to fruition. I don’t really want to see another Real Friends, but someone has to do it first and then somebody has to come around and do it better.”

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What’s behind the ‘terrifying’ backlash against Australia’s queer community?

What’s behind the ‘terrifying’ backlash against Australia’s queer community?

At the start of March, Australia was the queerest place to be.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community and their families walked over the Sydney Harbour Bridge for WorldPride, joined by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese. Rainbows draped the city, eco-friendly glitter was strewn across the streets and trans and gender-diverse performers hit the stage.

Then the tone changed.

Last weekend, a group performed the Nazi salute on the steps of Victoria’s state parliament in Melbourne in support of British anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen.

People take part in Pride March over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on 5 March this year.
People take part in Pride March over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on 5 March this year. Photograph: JM/Getty Images

On Tuesday, a mob in Sydney chased and attacked an LGBTQ+ group protesting a talk by a right wing politician.

In the aftermath, Australia’s LGBTQ+ community has been left reeling. MPs from Victoria’s Liberal party are considering whether to boot an MP from the parliamentary party after she attended Keen’s rally, and a Melbourne council has cancelled an event involving LGBTQ+ people after a threat from a far-right group. Victoria’s premier has vowed to enact legislation banning the Nazi salute.

But Australia’s LGBTQ+ advocates say these aren’t isolated incidents – they come after an increase in attacks on the country’s queer community.

‘Out for our blood’

Keen’s visit to Australia was controversial before she arrived.

Keen – also known as Posie Parker – has made a name for herself in the UK, cozying up to far-right commentators and campaigning against the transgender community. Her Australia tour proved no different.

“We’re going to say ‘hello boys’,” Parker told a crowd in Melbourne last Saturday.

She was referring to around two dozen men dressed in black. They carried a huge banner with the words “Destroy Paedo Freaks” and threw Nazi salutes at trans supporters protesting her rally.

After the rally, Keen claimed in a video posted on YouTube that the men who gave Nazi salutes might not have been neo-Nazis.

Days later in Sydney, a mob set on LGBTQ+ protesters demonstrating outside a church in south-western Sydney where Mark Latham was speaking.

Videos of the incident showed men swarming the protesters from grassroots campaign group Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR), chanting “leave our kids alone”. In another video, a person could be heard accusing police of “protecting the paedophiles”. Videos shared on WhatsApp groups in the days before the incident showed a man urging people to disrupt the protest and “drag away” activists “by their fucking hair”.

Attenders said they were pushed to the ground and punched in the face.

“We were just surrounded by these people who were out for our blood, basically. It took a lot for police to push them back and for us to make our escape,” one protester said.

Three people were charged over Tuesday’s clash and both the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and the Maronite Eparchy of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania condemned the violence.

Screengrab of a video of protesters who gathered outside a church in south-western Sydney where Mark Latham was speaking.
Screengrab of a video of protesters who gathered outside a church in south-western Sydney where Mark Latham was speaking. Photograph: Mostafa Rachwani/The Guardian

CARR says it is being targeted online by members of religious rights group Christian Lives Matter, with photos and names of one particular organiser shared on the group’s Facebook page. The post – shared to more than 26,000 members – says organisers of the protest brought “terror” to the Belfield Church.

“This evil people [sic] need to be held responsible for their actions!!!” the post read.

‘They want to intimidate queer people’

Grace Isred, who was standing with the pro-trans rights crowd in Melbourne, said last Saturday’s events “filled everyone with rage”.

In the days after the Melbourne protest, Keen traveled to other cities in Australia, including Canberra, where she addressed a crowd of about 30 supporters. On the other side, a larger gathering of more than 100 people led chants and held signs.

“One positive is that everywhere, including Melbourne, the pro-trans crowd have outnumbered the anti-trans crowd,” Isred said. “But by the same token, you also have quite a disturbing rise of anti-trans movement.”

That’s something others in the community have noticed. Charlie, who asked not to use her full name for privacy reasons, is an organiser with grassroots political organisation Pride in Protest. She said there had been an increase in attacks on the LGBTQ+ community in New South Wales recently, which she believes may be partly due to the upcoming state election.

“They want to intimidate queer people and bolster candidates,” Charlie said.

During WorldPride – a festival held every couple of years in different cities around the world – a group of approximately 30 men staged a Christian protest march in one of Sydney’s LGBTQ+ hubs. According to Charlie, the men poured paint on a church that had painted the rainbow flag on their steps.

Another rally, held last Saturday in Sydney, featured a wide coalition of religious groups, with speakers suggesting children needed to be protected from an agenda of “homosexualisation”.

Son Vivienne, 53, is no stranger to anti-trans hate. The CEO of Transgender Victoria – the peak body for gender diversity in the state – has been out as non-binary for a long time.

“We don’t need a debate about whether or not we exist,” they say.

Vivienne is angry the Melbourne protest caused a whirlwind of backlash, with the state’s Liberal party debating if they should boot MP Moira Deeming, who attended the rally. Deeming has vowed to fight the expulsion and maintains she has done nothing wrong.

“Our lives are not a debate, we exist already. We are working, we are contributing to society, consuming services and needing health care the same as everybody else,” Vivienne says.

‘We shouldn’t expect them to disappear’

Anti-LGBTQ+ groups in Australia are nothing new.

“Fringe extremist movements, they tend to kind of glom [attach themselves] on to the culture war issues of the day,” says Lydia Khalil, an extremist expert from the Lowy Institute. “There is a point of convergence in terms of what it is they believe in their ideology around some of these cultural and political issues with regard to gender, sexuality and equality.”

Although these movements are fringe, Khalil says it’s unlikely they will fizzle out.

“There is a potential for their focus on the trans movement to move on once the main culture moves on from that issue, but we shouldn’t expect them to disappear.”

Neo-Nazi researcher and left activist Tom Tanuki says the group that showed up in Melbourne did so for two reasons – they agreed with the substance of the event, and they also wanted to use the stunts to help them recruit new members.

“They can walk around, they can Sieg Heil. And then they can walk off,” Tanuki says. “And everyone talks about it.”

The impact

The events this week dominated headlines and social media feeds. They also prompted Australia’s LGBTQ+ groups to question their safety.

This week, two Melbourne councils cancelled upcoming drag events over safety concerns.

“This decision in no way legitimises or validates the actions or statements of individuals, activists or protest groups,” City of Casey chief executive Glenn Patterson said in a statement.

Hume city council, which cancelled a drag event this week before reinstating it after an online backlash, said it “sincerely apologised for the stress” caused to the performer and LGBTQ+ members and allies. “Hume city council is committed to supporting our proudly diverse community and we wish to re-affirm our commitment to all.”

Members of Canberra’s LGBTQIA+ community protest against British anti-transgender rights activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, also known as Posie Parker, outside Parliament House in Canberra.
Members of Canberra’s LGBTQIA+ community protest against British anti-transgender rights activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, also known as Posie Parker, outside Parliament House in Canberra. Photograph: AAP

Last year another Melbourne pride celebration was cancelled due to threats from Nazis.

Drag artist Belial B’Zarr was scheduled to perform at last year’s event and the City of Casey’s event, and says when the Stonnington council cancelled the first event, B’Zarr warned it would only escalate.

“I said, ‘hey, this is going to make things more dangerous. Do you want more Nazis? Because this is how you get more Nazis,” said B’Zarr, who uses he and they pronouns.

“They’ve been emboldened. They’ve been allowed to get away with it more times than they should.”

“I still have to work, I still have to make money and pay my bills. But I can’t stop existing as a queer person,” they said. “But it’s getting really hectic If I’m being honest.”

B’Zarr said it was “terrifying” how quickly it had escalated, but the community was determined to keep running events.

“This is not the end. We will continue. Maybe it’ll look different to what it usually looks like but we’re not going away.”

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House Republicans Pass Bill to Restrict Transgender Rights in Schools

House Republicans Pass Bill to Restrict Transgender Rights in Schools

The Republican-controlled House passed a measure on Friday limiting transgender students’ school rights. The bill is expected to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

H.R. 5, also known as the Parents Bill of Rights Act, passed 213-208, with five Republicans and all Democrats voting against it. GOP Reps. Andy Biggs, Ken Buck, Matt Gaetz, Mike Lawler, and Matt Rosendale did not support the bill.

In the legislation, sponsored by Republican Rep. Julia Letlow of Louisiana, schools must publish their curricula publicly, allow parents to meet their children’s teachers, and provide information to parents when violence occurs at school. Additionally, the legislation would require schools to list the books and reading materials available in their school libraries, and it would give parents a voice when schools update or craft privacy policies and procedures.

A key provision of the bill would require schools that take steps to respect a student’s gender identity to forcefully out transgender students to their parents, even if this is dangerous for them.

A “Parents Opt-in Protection Act” was introduced to limit the ability of students to fill out surveys about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Critics argue that his provision limits the country’s ability to collect data about school students’ experiences, both LGBTQ+ and not.

It also includes a provision requiring schools, upon request, to share their children’s answers to surveys with parents, potentially outing students if surveys ask about being part of the LGBTQ+ community. However, experts argue that this would also encourage students to lie on surveys if they are uncomfortable with their answers being revealed, undermining the accuracy of all data they collect.

Democrats highlight that two provisions contain offensive language about transgender people. These provisions, critics say, are designed to mislead parents about transgender people and motivate them to oppose trans-inclusive policies.

During the House debate on Thursday, Representative Lauren Boebert proposed two amendments that quickly passed. Boebert’s first amendment protects a parent’s right to know if their child’s school has athletic programs, sponsors, or facilitates activities that allow transgender individuals to participate in sports other than the gender assigned to them at birth. In another amendment sponsored by Boebert, parents are entitled to know whether their child’s school allows transgender students to use a changing room or bathroom that doesn’t match their gender assigned at birth.

Boebert has been a vocal anti-LGBTQ+ member of Congress.

Congress’s Equality Caucus called out the legislation.

“H.R. 5 is a dangerous bill that would require schools to forcibly out transgender students, even if it puts those youth in harm’s way. All children deserve access to a safe and affirming school environment, yet H.R. 5 does not address any of the actual needs of our students, schools, or parents. Instead, it targets the wellbeing of LGBTQI+ children,” said Equality Caucus Chair, Wisconsin’s Rep. Mark Pocan. “Transgender youth have enough challenges already due to harassment, bullying, and anti-transgender state laws. My colleagues who voted for this bill should be ashamed.”

The Equality Caucus’s political arm, Equality PAC, co-chairs Rep. Mark Takano of California and Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York also excoriated House Republicans for their vote.

“Instead of focusing on what parents actually want, which is a good education for their children and schools that are safe, House Republicans have decided to target LGBTQ children, placing them directly in harm’s way,”said Takano and Torres in a joint statement. “This Politics Over Parents bill outs LGBTQ students, putting them at risk for harassment, bullying, and life-threatening situations. This discriminatory bill is full of hate directed towards LGBTQ children, and it is sick that House Republicans seek to put this already vulnerable group in the crosshairs. We remain committed to doing everything we can to support LGBTQ children and ensure this bill never becomes law.

LGBTQ+ rights groups also condemned the bill.

National LGBTQ+ group the Human Rights Campaign said the legislation is not about what parents want, but is just about playing politics.

“All this bill would do is hamstring local school officials, teachers and parents from making important decisions about what’s right for their students,” David Stacy, the organization’s government affairs director, said. “These efforts to censor curriculum and force the outing of transgender and nonbinary students are borrowing from a discriminatory wave of bills sweeping the country — a wave of bills, incidentally, that the majority of voters have not asked for and do not support.”

Stacy added: “We expect that Senate leadership will choose to focus on the real issues confronting our students and our schools rather than taking up this empty, time-wasting piece of legislation.”

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