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When I hear someone say “I don’t believe in labels,” I roll my eyes all the way down to the nail on my big toe.

Before you roll your eyes back at me, let me make a few things clear. I respect everyone’s right to identify however they choose and I will accept that choice accordingly. Likewise, I understand why many object to labels. Labels can feel restrictive because they can packaged with preconceived notions and stereotypes. However, I find the premise that avoiding a label—particularly with respect to one’s sexuality—will spare one from whatever prejudices people may harbor to be flawed, at best. You need an almost a Disney-like level of naïveté to believe such a fairy tale.

There’s a certain hubris that comes with an announcement that you don’t believe in labels. Like, you’re somehow more evolved than others who succumb to the bait of a word like “gay” or “bisexual.” More often than not, this sort of announcement is just a grab for some shred of individuality—an typically masturbatory practice popular with many millennials.

I tend to look at labels as more of a productive tool than a hindrance because, in many ways, labels are part of what allows for community. If you’re a part of a marginalized group, a label can help foster a supportive, loving environment. (Label recognition and membership in a group are often the first steps to political change.) And really, labels like gay, lesbian, bi, pansexual, and so on are broader than many give them credit for.

To be gay is to have a predominant sexual attraction to someone of the same sex. That literally is the beginning and end of the label. Anything else someone wants to attach to that is by their own invention (and at their own peril). There are mores and customs that can be associated with the label—that is, gay culture—but to be gay does not necessarily mean identifying with gay culture. I blame education policies like No Child Left Behind for so many folks not being able to reach what feels like a very natural conclusion.

I am a gay, but would happily fuck Rihanna, given the opportunity. After we finished, though, I’d probably ask her to hook me up with her male background dancer. I’m sure she’d be down for that.

And while some people rather ignorantly don’t believe in bisexuality—notably among men—calling yourself something else won’t protect you from whatever biases another person has the minute you make it known that you are sexually attracted to someone of the same sex. The same goes for anyone who identifies as pansexual.

Read the rest at Complex.

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If you are curious to know how current and future generations are influenced by reality television, look no further than what happened yesterday after PARTYNEXTDOOR posted a picture of Kehlani’s hand on Instagram with the caption, “After all her shenanigans, still got the R&B singer back in my bed.”

These two have had a long history of sharing every intricate detail of their personal relationship, only what took place yesterday could have easily ended a 20-year-old Grammy-nominated singer’s life. Immediately after that post went up on Instagram, many online created a narrative that suggested Kehlani cheated on her boyfriend, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, despite not having a real idea of what may have actually been happening behind closed doors.

The picture dominated conversation across many social media feeds—even among those who had absolutely no idea who in the hell any of the individuals involved were. Not surprisingly, Kehlani was the one pounced on most as numerous folks proceeded to come with a bevy of different ways to call her a ho.

That ridicule preceded Kehlani’s hospitalization over an apparent suicide attempt. In a since-deleted post, Kehlani uploaded a picture of her arm with an IV from a hospital bed, writing, “Today I wanted to leave the Earth.” She went on to note, “Don’t believe the blogs you read. No one was cheated on and I’m not a bad person.”

Kehlani also thanked PND for saving her life. Thankfully he was there for her, but if he had any intel on how fragile her mental state was, in the future, perhaps maintaining privacy about what goes on in and outside of their bedrooms might be best for all parties involved.

I try to stay clear of the “GET OFF MY LAWN!” moments that come with getting older, but I am equal parts befuddled and frightened yesterday at what happened to Kehlani. More importantly, I am increasingly concerned with people sharing every tidbit of their lives and creating noise as if they are a part of a reality show subplot.

I am fearful for people her age and below. For many born after Madonna’s Truth or Dare, The Real World, and the O.J. Simpson trial, and with the rise of reality stars like the Kardashians, there is no such thing as privacy. This habit of chronicling everything about themselves for public consumption is the new norm.

I saw someone say, “If Beyoncé can have a private life, so can these D-listers.” That’s the thing: most people don’t want that. Her celebrity is sort of a relic. And for those who may not understand Kehlani and PARTYNEXTDOOR oversharing, there is another modern trait that people are just as guilty of perpetuating: online cruelty.

Read the rest at Complex.

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It is no secret that black creatives bear the burden of prejudices assigned to them for no other reason than complexion. We can be marginalized and segregated while simultaneously noticing that our white brethren are free to navigate numerous spaces—even the ones we’re by and large told to sit tight. Unfortunately, black women deal with this on an even greater scale than black men.

Black men—rappers and select singers alike—are still heard on multiple formats on radio. Meanwhile, if you want to hear a black woman, your options are far more limited. A few have openly discussed this—notably Jazmine Sullivan, who recently acknowledged her frustration with the likes of Adele enjoying superstardom while she of equal talents and gifts is not as lucky. However, no contemporary black female artist has been as vocal about her vexation with the state of the music industry and black women’s role in it than K. Michelle.

Last November, the Memphis-bred singer-songwriter and reality star announced an album title that further ignited conversation: I Ain’t White, But I Hope You Like. When asked about the title on Twitter, K. Michelle explained: “I’m sick of executives telling me I can’t sing certain songs because I’m black. I grew up on country, let me sing.”

Around that same time, K. Michelle took to Instagram to write: “Have you heard an amazing URBAN ballad on your Urban radio stations lately? Nope. You won’t without a fight. We have to sing songs like Fuck a man, about drugs, and sex all day in order to get mainstream radio play. I was JUST told by an executive that NO ONE wants to sign a Black woman soul artist, because they can’t promote it or make their money back.”

Despite those obstacles, K. Michelle has managed to enjoy some creative growth even if it may seemingly come with compromise. To wit, K. Michelle’s third album now has a different and far less polarizing title in More Issues Than Vogue. I prefer the original title, but the album does offer material that speaks to the critique of I Ain’t White, But I Hope You Like.

“If It Ain’t Love” is a country-influenced tune, though to K. Michelle’s credit, she showed her love of country via “God I Get It” from her last album. But, there are songs like “Make The Bed,” a duet with Jason Derülo that screams “Top 40 can get it.” It’s a good song though not the sort of track I would expect to hear from K. Michelle. The same applies the album’s lead single, “Not A Little Bit.”

Of course, there is plenty of familiarity to be found overall.

While she may not want to be burdened with having to record trap-inspired tracks solely because she is a black artist, there are elements scattered across the album. You hear it on “Ain’t You” and “Nightstand.” What works to K. Michelle’s benefit is that unlike many of the mindless artist flooding the market with cloning, she has a very distinct point of view and voice. Likewise, there is a certain wit and frankness to her lyrics that make every song undeniably hers. Say, on “These Men,” in which K. Michelle sings, “Then I tried Idris [Laughs.] and he still can get it/Even if he ain’t shit.”

Read the rest at Complex.

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When it comes to the long discussed sequel to Waiting to Exhale, there is an obvious issue: Whitney Houston is dead. Houston’s voice and celebrity made her such a key component of the film. How does one go on without her?

In 2012, a FOX 2000 executive revealed that the sequel would indeed go on and argued that Houston would want it that way. A year late Waiting To Exhale co-star Angela Bassett echoed the sentiment, telling The Huffington Post: “In my heart, I love Whitney and her work and the time that we shared together. Her role and her presence was just so important. I have a hard time replacing someone else in her shoes. I guess they wouldn’t have to do that. We would have to just come up with a brand new friend.”

And then we heard not much of anything for a few years until author Terry McMillan, who penned both Waiting To Exhale, and its sequel, Getting To Happy, said in 2015, “I don’t think that’s going to happen. I really don’t.” As for why it was “dead in the water,” McMillan added, “It’s been horrible since Whitney [Houston] passed away for a whole lot of reasons. FOX wanted to basically eliminate that character altogether from the story. How they thought that was going to work, I don’t know.”

In a recent interview with Hollywood Live, another Waiting To Exhale co-star, Loretta Devine, revealed that not all hope is lost and that McMillan is still working on the sequel.

As for who they would get to replace Houston, Devine had no particular actress in mind, but noted, “Oh they have so much new young, great talent so it would be limitless girls that could do it.” McMillan once mentioned Viola Davis as a very intriguing addition to the cast. Davis certainly commands a certain star power and while she can’t exhale, shoop shoop like Nippy, it could still be a good fit.

Whomever they get or don’t get, though, the sequel should be made, that’s a clear position for me. For a lot of people, the success of The Best Man Holiday changed minds with respect to creating sequels for sacred films we typically prefer to remain in our good memories as is. However, a more important condition related to the making of this sequel hinges on the creators writing a compelling enough script that allows us to see realistic and relatable growth in the original cast. I think it’s important for the film industry to offer a film that allows Black women of a certain age to have their lives depicted on screen behind the roles of the matriarchs in this much-loved story.

I want to see actresses like Loretta Devine and Angela Bassett get the treatment Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep have in Nancy Meyers movies. They are women over 50, who are still sexual, self-motivated and vibrate. They still have relationship goals as they continue their pursuit of happiness. Their lives are captivating yet accurately complex. It’s a failure on the industry at large for not really offering any characters comparable to that for Black women. If the makers of the film offer anything less than that it would be a tragic mistake resulting in tepid support for the sequel. It’s a condition for making the film that I think most fans would agree is a non-negotiable aspect that we won’t budge on.

Read the rest at VH1.

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A true friend can lovingly tell another, “You sound like a damn fool.” If you truly care about someone, you don’t let them talk out the side of their necks. As far as intersectional homies go, genuine friendship is a Black friend telling their White friend, “You’re way too comfortable.”

If West can’t find it in his heart to convey any of these sentiments to artist Vanessa Beecroft, he needs to simply change her name in his phone to “Do Not Pick Up” and block any subsequent calls and text. That is, if he takes issue yet another troubling sentiment she’s conveyed about race in the press. I don’t know exactly how close West and artist Beecroft are, but she certainly has no issue using him as a racial beard.

In a new interview with W magazine, Beecroft says of her work with West, “I am protected by Kanye’s talent. I become Black. I am no longer Vanessa Beecroft and I am free to do whatever I want because Kanye allows it.”

Unless ‘Ye can wave a magic wand, turn Beecroft into an actual Black woman who gets followed around in a Target by a suburban bigot willing to punch protesters for Donald Trump, this is not how any of this works.

Beecroft is no stranger to controversy when it comes to matters pertaining to race. Not only has she used Blackface in her work before, she has been accused of seeking out Sudanese boys to adopt for the seeming purpose of photographing them for an exhibit. Beecroft proceeded to refer to these orphan kids as poor creature.” Moreover, she reportedly said it was “very stressful to work with Black women.” As if she sounds like a joy to work with.

Vulture once referred to Beecroft as a “hypocritically self-aware, colossally colonial pomo narcissist.” I’d like to add delusional, self-important, casual racist that should report directly into the abyss. However, it should be noted that this is not the first seeming bigot to call Kanye West a friend.

Last year, French A.P.C. designer Jean Touitou’s drew the ire of many over his use of “n*gga” in his latest menswear collection.

As models walked the runway in matching gray sweatpants and A.P.C.-designed Timberlands, Touitou held up a sign that read, “Last Ni##@$ in Paris.” As he explained to Style.com: “I am friends with Kanye, and he and I presented a joint collection at the same place, one year ago, and that this thing is only homage to our friendship. As a matter of fact, when I came up with this idea, I wrote to him, with the picture of the look and the name I was giving to it, and he wrote back immediately, saying something like, ‘I love this vibe.”’

Touitou would go on to apologize, but like Beecroft, Touitou believed that he was protected by his affiliation with West. I don’t know what planet Beecroft resides on nor am certain about whether or not Yeezy gave her a little gas money to fly there. Nevertheless, I do know not only has West expressed that racism is “a dated concept,” he now stands charged with handing out multiple racial hall passes to his artsy and fashion industry friends.

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It’s pretty clear, these days, why no one can use the Bible’s “Curse of Ham” to justify enslavement of black people, or why it’s in poor taste to ask a woman if she is menstruating even if Leviticus considers her “unclean”. The Bible, as Desmond Tutu explained in the 2007 documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, “is the word of God through the words of human beings speaking in the idiom of their time.”

More simply put: whether or not the Bible was meant to be taken literally when written, times change. And I’m all for more folks analyzing scripture to help square their holy text with modern realities. It is imperative that we stop empowering those who distort God’s words to use them against marginalized members of society.

But the text is still the text – changing how you interpret The Word is different than deciding other words are better. That is why I question Robert Whitehead’s idea to create what he is calling a Queer Bible. Though increasing number of US Christians are more accepting of homosexuality, Whitehead doesn’t think the religion goes far enough. He writes:

I want to make an inclusive, celebratory space within the text that undoes the implicit sexism, misogyny, heterosexism, hierarchical oppression, slut-shaming, etc. and reconstitutes the feminine, the queer, the outcast, the strange.

Whitehead has already exceeded his Kickstarter campaign goal, but for all his good intentions, what’s the softer, sweeter way to write: “And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do?” How do you massage text that says anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death?

Whitehead says intent isn’t to “change meaning” but “rather to show meaning in a queer way”. You can gussy up an ugly sentiment all you want, but there’s only so much makeup you can pile on to cover a blemish that hideous. Considering his source material, Whitehead would literally have to create a whole new text to net his goal in any meaningful fashion.

Anyway, re-translating the Bible to deliberately elide its medieval edges doesn’t grapple with its flaws so much as seek to evade them, and this doesn’t queer the Bible – it just offers an alternative, which devout believers of The Word would undoubtedly reject, and which hurts efforts to undermine those who cite “religious liberty” to justify their prejudices.

It’s a feel-good premise without actual significance, and it’s how too many progressive Christians try to soften what’s there instead of just being daring enough to smartly argue that the book is a historical text that’s not meant to be taken literally.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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What song do you think Marco Rubio cried to after his crushing defeat in his home state of Florida on Tuesday? An admitted 2Pac fan, I would put money on Rubio reflecting on his career with a loop of “So Many Tears.” While some claimed to be moved by his “heartfelt” remarks about the brutishness of Donald Trump and his campaign, offered days prior to Rubio’s exit, I felt nothing.

Rubio deserved to lose because he was an abysmal candidate. You may hate me, but it ain’t no lie (baby, bye bye bye).

Rubio, like Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and every other floundering Republican candidate during this election, condemns Trump with insults like “carnival barker,” “clown,” “con man”—insults meant to convey that Trump is too much of a showman to be taken seriously. What these slights get right is that Trump campaigns like an entertainer. In fact, Donald Trump is basically running his campaign the same way one would orchestrate a reality show.

Trumps treats his political opponents the same way nemeses treat each other on any Real Housewives franchise. There is a genius in how Trump can encapsulate a political adversary’s greatest flaw in as few words as possible. Ask Jeb! Bush about his “low energy.” Trump referring to Ted Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted” is akin to NeNe Leakes coining the name “Wig” for Kim Zolciak on Real Housewives of Atlanta. Or how I have referred to Leakes in my writing and tweets as “Baloo.” These insults stick because Trump is able to disparage a foe in an entertaining way.

And like any bitchy reality star (this applies to men and women alike, FYI), Trump loves a tit-for-tat, which is why every Republican debate has mirrored a reality show reunion. When he announced that he would not be attending the now-canceled debate Fox News scheduled for March 21, all I could think of was Draya Michele bowing out of the Basketball Wives reunions because she was tired of talking about the same bullshit. To wit, Trump tweeted: “How many times can the same people ask the same question?”

Trump is narcissistic, dramatic, and completely out of his depth in terms of actual policymaking. However, what Trump’s critics continue to misunderstand is that that last issue doesn’t matter—his narcissism and intuitive understanding of drama make him great at campaigning. By centering on the theatrics of the campaign trail, he is presently winning winning winning.

Trump’s critics may cry that his approach prevents debates from digging into anything substantive, but is this a stance rooted in reality? Does anyone want (or recognize) substance? We live in a country where, as of September 2015, 43 percent of Republicans still believed that President Obama is Muslim. A 2012 study found that one in three Americans could not pass a naturalization civics test. And when it comes to the GOP candidates, a lot of them are just as empty on policy as Trump—notably on domestic issues like health care (they want to repeal Obamacare but provide no clear alternative) and the economy (we don’t want debt, but let’s give rich people huge tax cuts).

In January, Robert Gates, the former Defense Secretary for President George W. Bush and President Obama, said of those candidates who had promised to “carpet bomb” ISIS: “Well, they—first of all, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Carpet bombing would be completely useless. It’s totally contrary to the American way of war. Total disregard for civilians. So I mean, part of the concern that I have with the campaign, particularly when it comes to national security, is that the solutions being offered are so simplistic and so at odds with the reality of the rest of the world, with the way the world really works.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Just because a statement sounds good doesn’t mean it is especially accurate or particularly useful. So for all those that read Amber Rose’s recent comments about the purported double standards between her and Kim Kardashian’s past with Beyoncé’s present, I only have one question: The hell were y’all reading? Please advise.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Rose spoke of Kim Kardashian, with whom she recently mended fences with, and spoke of the criticism they both receive. However, Rose invoked the name of Beyoncé to argue her point.

Rose explained: “It’s bullshit, and this is the thing: They come at me and Kim so hard because I was a stripper and she had a sex tape. So if we could sing, it would be OK if we were on stage half-naked? We all love Beyoncé, but she’s on stage half-naked and twerking all the time, yet people say, oh, she has talent so she’s able to do that. We don’t have the talent that Beyoncé has, so we get criticized as former sex workers, but at the end of the day we’re just women—we’re all women—and we should all embrace each other. No one is greater. We’re all the same. So, to criticize us as incapable of being smart businesswomen because Kim has a reality show and I’m a socialite and we don’t sing is stupid. We’ve both been in movies, and we take our acting, business ventures, and everything else very seriously.”

In response, Beyoncé’s most rabid fans, known collectively as The Beyhive, swarmed Rose’s social media accounts to virtually snatch every strand of her hair from her head. Rose took to Twitter to try and clarify, first tweeting: “Was just speaking on Classism. Look it up maybe it applies to ur life. Don’t take my words out of context. I cried twice when I met her Lol.”

Rose followed that with making it clear that she, too, is a part of the BeyHive, and that she referenced Beyonce because “she is the most talented and beautiful.”

None of that really negateswhy some took offense, though.

I get the crux of Rose’s argument in that women should all be treated the same, but there is a bit of a false equivalence here. Whether it is fair or not, Kim Kardashian’s celebrity will always be a polarizing issue because of what it represents to many: a democratization or cheapening of celebrity. Beyoncé is virtually the only kind of star we have who rivals the stardom of Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Madonna had in the ’80s. In those times, no Kim Kardashian could exist, let alone dominate pop culture.

Some will never get over that, which is why when it comes to Kim Kardashian, those people follow what Mama Joyce once told Todd on The Real Housewives of Atlanta: “Ain’t no river high enough. Ain’t no ocean deep enough. Ain’t NO desert hot enough to keep me off yo’ ass, baby.”

Even so, the fact is every person has the right to do with their body as they please. On the other hand, don’t compare Kim Kardashian’s lazy performance in a homemade sex tape to Beyoncé. Likewise, while some strippers should easily be a part of Cirque du soleil, it’s not the same work that Beyoncé or any entertainer of her caliber does. It simply is not.

Moreover, I don’t care for the way Rose posits that a leotard – Beyoncé de facto onstage attire – as “half naked.” Rose is still learning certain language so while I think it is important to offer a bit of learning curve, nonetheless, her sentiment on its surface reads as progressive but in reality reinforces a very reductive look at the human body. Rose must’ve missed that Beyoncé, like any woman who dares to be sexual in any form or fashion, has been criticized by men like Mike Huckabee and Bill O’Reilly. Something sexual in nature does not make it immediately pornographic or immoral.

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Last night, I found myself singing an impromptu rendition of Toni Braxton’s “How Could An Angel Break My Heart?” upon word that the legendary Foxy Brown had endorsed Donald Trump for president. I mean, that’s some sh-t I would expect from Smooth or Sylk-E. Fyne, but certainly not Fox Boogie. The New York Daily News, which has such a hard on for Trump right now, published the story, leading with “Move over, Stacey Dash.”

Oh my God, the disrespect.

They quote the rapper claiming that while she loves Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, she’s supporting Trump’s presidential bid.

Foxy apparently says: “No matter how many people sabotage his campaign, it keeps growing and growing and growing. I know so many people won’t agree with me and will try to change my mind, but I’m a smart girl. I’m excited … I haven’t been this excited in so long. I know people say he’s a racist, but that’s just crazy.”

With this quote came many of us who grew up with her music bewildered, promising not to return to the Hot Spot or bar, y’all until Inga Marchand took a hard look at herself and her choices. Alas, there is now no reason to fear the politics of Foxy Brown.

Foxy took to Instagram to refute report, writing: “I am in no way endorsing Trump. What I said verbatim was Trump had tenacity, much like I said Hillary Clinton I love dearly and Bernie Sanders I absolutely adore.”

You see that? The evil, vicious media tried to turn Foxy Brown into Azealia Banks, who actually did endorse Trump for president. I can understand why the linkage in theory. After all, Azealia Banks is just Foxy Brown without the hits. And you know, Foxy Brown has been accused of spitting on folks, which is sort of a Trump supporter thing to do. Trump and Foxy would probably have an enjoyable dinner of Trump steaks, talking about “the haters” and losers.

Read the rest at VH1.

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Here’s what’s fascinating about Caitlyn Jenner: Since undergoing her transformation, she has gone from being part of the most fortunate and privileged group on the planet—wealthy, white, and male—to a community which is more susceptible to violent attacks, poverty, and varying forms of discrimination than any other. Despite her status as a trans woman, Caitlyn is still rich, still white, and certainly more famous than ever. Even so, she is considered a minority now, and one shouldn’t expect the demographic shift to go completely smoothly. On the other hand, who would have thought she’d have the hubris to step into the spotlight and serve as a de facto spokesperson for a community which, as it turns out, she knows very little about.

Perhaps it’s problematic to reduce a woman to one voting issue. But when that woman is outspoken on national TV, and positioning herself as a representative for others like her—one who is already more privileged than many people she represents—yes, she should be held to a different standard.

To her credit, though, Caitlyn Jenner wants to learn. And through her reality show, I Am Cait, she is getting schooled by her trans sisters on national television. Yet there is a stubbornness to Jenner that is increasingly painful to watch. During the show’s season premiere, which aired earlier this week, Jenner defiantly defended the GOP as a party of tolerance.

 In a heated debate, trans activist and writer Jennifer Finney Boylan asked Jenner who among the GOP presidential field would be most supportive of trans people. In response, Jenner claimed, “All of ‘em.” Jenner said this without adding “SIKE!” or howling in ironic laughter. Instead, Jenner continued, “None of the Republicans say, ‘Oh, I hate trans people,’ or, ‘I hate gays.’ Nothing like that. They do more, ‘I want a thriving economy so every trans person has a job.’”
When Boylan noted that conservatives were behind efforts to repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), that offered broad non-discrimination protections, Jenner said, “Don’t go there.” Jenner went on to say, “Republicans and conservatives are not these horrible people out there trying to oppress people… I don’t know anything of what they said down there, but I’m not blaming it on Republicans and conservatives.”
Jenner admits she knows nothing “of what they said down there,” but speaks on the issue anyway. Meanwhile, Boylan was right: Conservatives and religious leaders managed to defeat the anti-discrimination ordinance by preying on voters’ transphobia with signs like “NO MEN in Women’s Bathrooms.”
Interestingly enough, when the subject of Hillary Rodham Clinton came up, Jenner dismissed her, arguing, “[Hillary] couldn’t care less about women. She cares about herself.”
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