TIME Companies

Apple CEO Tim Cook Is ‘Proud to Be Gay’

The tech executive's first public acknowledgement

The CEO of Apple announced he’s gay Thursday, in an essay that puts him among the highest-profile publicly out business leaders in the world.

“I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me,” Tim Cook, who took the reins of the world’s most valuable company from the late co-founder Steve Jobs, writes in Bloomberg Businessweek.

The highly private Cook has never publicly acknowledged his sexuality, though it was widely rumored outside the company, and he writes that colleagues at Apple already knew.

“I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others,” Cook wrote. “So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

Read next: The Best Way to “Come Out” to Coworkers and Bosses

TIME Television

Transparent Creator Jill Soloway on Making the World Safer for Trans People

Comedian and TV Writer Jill Soloway attends LGBTQ TV on October 11, 2014 in New York City.
Comedian and TV Writer Jill Soloway attends LGBTQ TV on October 11, 2014 in New York City. Anna Webber—Getty Images for The New Yorker

The 'Six Feet Under' and 'United States of Tara' vet explains how her Amazon instant hit was inspired by her family

This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

One day three years ago, writer-director Jill Soloway got a phone call with some life-changing news: Her father was coming out as a transgender woman. “It was a total surprise,” she says. But as the elder Soloway, now a retired psychiatrist in her late 70s, explained the transition over the phone, “I reacted like a parent myself,” says Jill. “I tried to make sure that the person knows that they’re safe and unconditionally loved.” (To avoid confusion, Jill uses gender-neutral terms like “parent” and “they.”)

The experience became the basis for Transparent, an Amazon Instant series and one of the fall’s best new TV shows. It tells the story of the Pfeffermans, whose patriarch (Jeffrey Tambor) goes from Papa Mort to “Moppa” Maura. The cast also features Gaby Hoffman as Maura’s daughter Ali, Amy Landecker as daughter Sarah, Jay Duplass as son Josh and Judith Light as ex-wife Shelly. Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein plays Ali’s friend, Syd, and The Office’s Melora Hardin is almost unrecognizable as Sarah’s lover, Tammy. Ultimately, it’s a family drama with a singular purpose: “I wanted to make something that would make the world safer for my parent,” says Soloway.

The prolific Soloway – who has producer credits on Grey’s Anatomy and United States of Tara and won a directing award at Sundance last year for her film Afternoon Delight – had wanted to make a “family show” since her two-year stint writing for Six Feet Under ended nine years ago. “Pretty shortly after they came out,” she says, referring to her parent, “I was thinking, ‘I’ve got a TV show now.’ It just immediately hit me as this is the show I’ve been waiting my whole life to write.”

The show’s first season premiered in its entirety on Soloway’s birthday and, even though critics were buzzing favorably about the show, she recalls being in a fugue state. As she tells Rolling Stone about all the ways making Transparent had been positive for her and her family, it seems as though the feeling of being stunned has transformed into happiness. “It’s exciting to know that it resonates so much with people,” she says. “But it’s definitely a new feeling.”

How long have you had the idea for the show?
Ever since I was working on Six Feet Under, I had an idea of doing a family show. And then the trans aspect made itself clear to me when my own parent came out as trans.

My sister worked on the show — she wrote the seventh episode ["The Symbolic Exemplar"]. She’s kind of, like, my other half. But when I imagined this show, there was always a brother. I actually think Ali and Josh are more like my sister and I are. In some ways my sister and I are like Sarah and Ali, and in some ways we’re like Josh and Ally. But in imagining the family, there were always three kids.

MORE: Jeffrey Tambor on His ‘Transparent’ Transformation

Who are you most like in the family?
I feel like I’m a lot like Josh. I really relate to the feeling of falling in love 10 times a day and wishing I could never stop falling in love. And then there are parts of me in Ali and parts of my sister in Ali. Faith is the person who would be living on her Price Is Right money for a few years, and I’m more of a Silver Lake mom, so in some ways I’m more like Sarah. And my sister Faith is gay, so in some ways she’s more like Sarah. So I think autobiographical stuff is all thrown in a blender and mixed around and evenly distributed amongst all three kids.

How much of the show is autobiographical?
I would say it’s almost 98 percent fictionalized. The Pfeffermans are just very real people. The reason I wanted to cast Jeffrey is because he’s always reminded me of my parent. They really have a very similar sense of humor and that was just immediate. Other than that, it’s not really autobiographical.

My mom had a husband who had frontal temporal dementia, who couldn’t speak, similar to the story of Shelly and Ed. He passed away a few years ago, the same summer that my parent was coming out. So I’d say that stuff is all informed by what was going on in my life at the time. A lot of things that I was experiencing and saying to myself, this feels like a TV show and thinking, “Good thing I have a TV show that I’m writing so that I can process all this stuff.”

Something to help you work through it.
I was really working through it. I felt kind of lucky actually.

What I like about Ali is she seems like a character you could do almost anything with. Is that why you chose Gaby Hoffman?
I saw her in an episode of Louie, and I just loved the way she was talking the whole time and he’s trying to get a word in edgewise and he lets her break up with him. I just loved the way words rolled off her tongue and nothing seemed written. I loved how free she was. I was just like who is this really cool, Jewish lady? And she’s not even Jewish.

MORE: The Best TV of 2014 So Far

You might say the opposite of Judith Light.
With her, I knew that even though America knew her as the Who’s the Boss blonde person and even as the character that I remembered her from on One Life to Live. She’s been playing these Jewish moms on Broadway and that she, herself, was Jewish. When I started to imagine her without blonde hair, I was able to see Shelly in her.

When I was casting her, [actor-filmmaker] Josh Radnor called me to say, “I just hope you realize she’s a magical being. She has spiritual power and can understand people’s emotional lives in an instant.” I was down for that. On one of the early days of the shoot, a bee stung on the top of my head when we were in the park – filming the push-up scene – and then later that afternoon I was shooting a scene with Judith, and she was doing Reiki healing on me and fixed the pain. That and the Vicodin fixed it.

How did you connect with Carrie Brownstein?
Originally, when we were trying to cast Tammy, her name came up. But I always felt Tammy was really tan and blonde, like Lady Diana or someone who spent some time in her childhood on a ranch. And Carrie just seemed too Jewy to play Tammy, but I really, really wanted to work with her, so in the writers’ room we created this character of Syd for her.

You’ve said you really wanted the show to be five people who were equally lovable as well as unlikable. Is that a hard balance to strike?
I’m always going for truth and honesty. I’m a fan of Louis C.K., I’m a fan of Lena Dunham. I love shows about people that other people would consider unlikable, or like the work of Woody Allen and Albert Brooks. I love a kind of shambling outsider protagonist who always feels like they’re “other.” And so the challenge was to make five of those people in the family instead of just one. I’ve written scripts before about a single odd outsider and someone who’s trying to make sense of the world. I like that idea that all five of these people would be connected over their common legacy of feeling different, feeling on the outside.

MORE: In Pics: 8 TV Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now

What does your parent think of the show?
They love it. All four of us in our family – my sister, my mother and my, I guess you could use the word “moppa” – were all just kind of standing back and watching this thing that feels a bit like a tribute to our family but mostly like something else entirely, something so much bigger than us. We’re just all watching it together and checking in with each other every day. “How are you doing? And what do you think?”

There’s this zeitgeisty moment in the trans community, and this show happened to land in the right place, by accident really. It’s probably a show that couldn’t have been made five years ago, and five years from now [it] wouldn’t have that same feeling of “Holy shit, we’ve never seen this before.” It’s kind of fun actually to be all experiencing this together.

How much work did you need to do with Jeffrey to create Maura?
I keep saying this weird feeling that Maura Pfefferman existed out in the universe, this whole family did. She was waiting for me to notice her and waiting for me to go get Jeffrey so she could appear through him. Somebody said in an email I was sent that Maura felt spiritual to them. I was feeling that a lot when I was talking to our hair and wardrobe people about her costumes and her hair — that she should be a California hippie, kind of a Wiccan, two spirits, high priestess. It all felt so organic.

Early Maura was a little bit more awkward, who hadn’t felt her sense of style…that had one sort of feeling. And I think in the fourth episode when Davina helps her use her own hair on top and use her silver extensions underneath, she really transforms into somebody else. Even the hair and makeup people said that Jeffrey was a certain level of comfort.

I never felt like I was working with Jeffrey to “do” her, I just felt like I was trying to stand back and let her come through.

Do you have ideas for Season Two?
A little bit. I’m starting to see the beginnings of what the characters would do in a second season. But I love the writers’ room process so much. I think more of what I’m going to be doing is trying to stop coming up with too much of it so we can all do it together when we all get back together.

Your parent must be very proud of you.
Yeah, they are. They came to the set on Jeffrey’s 70th birthday actually. It was a really special day. We gave Jeffrey a big cake. And they came to the premiere as well. It was really cool.

MORE: 10 Great TV Shows You’ve Never Heard Of

TIME faith

The Christian Way to Deal With Your Kid Coming Out

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My experience with my own daughter taught me a valuable lesson

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

Four years ago our daughter came out to us. She was 20. Here’s one of my first thoughts: we’ll never be the same in the church.

No kidding.

My daughter is telling me something very intimate and scary, several thoughts are going through my head, and I am a little surprised to realize that one is about how the church relationship would never be the same. Not just our then-church but the evangelical tradition we’d been in for 20+ years. They don’t accept gays, and no way are we going to squeeze our daughter into some box so we could fit a church. No. Way.

Frankly, the fact that our relationship to the church was a concern in my mind in that moment indicates a very serious problem with the non-affirming evangelical church tradition. Every time Jesus interacted with people in need, he was a safe and welcoming place. Done.

We are supposed to be that for each other.

Yet, in this moment of need, I knew the church was not a safe place for me to bring this conversation. Just the conversation was not safe to have with my closest friends there. That is a serious distortion of what the church was supposed to look like.

Our daughter asked if we would accept her. I said yes. She said are you sure? I said of course. Absolutely. My husband said the same – no doubt about it.

As I look back on the conversation now, I get chills. But in the moment, I didn’t grasp the gravity of her question. Of course we would accept her. No other possibility crossed our minds. But she told us this is not always the case. She told us that some of her friends lost their families when they came out. They were kicked out. What?!? How could that possibly makes sense?

My experience since then shows me this rejection is all too common. One young woman’s psychotic mother threw her down the stairs. A young man’s mother fell on the floor and wailed, “Where did we go wrong?” and his father answered, “When we had him.” This response is a serious breakdown. (Ya think?)

And it reveals something horrifying.

It reveals a lack of understanding of sexual orientation. A lack of understanding that it is who somebody is, not what they do, and not a choice. And nowhere, nowhere, does God or the Bible or common sense condone throwing out your child because they’re gay. By no measurement does that make sense. Unjustifiable. Period.

It reveals a completely wrong understanding of God’s unconditional love and acceptance. It is a wrong and dangerous teaching that puts behavior first, that makes worthiness up for grabs, something that can be withdrawn on a moment’s notice. It completely undermines Jesus’ presence on earth and in our lives today.

That my daughter could think, after all these years, that we could cut off or in any way limit our relationship with her is a chilling indictment of much of the church and its teaching.

Imagine someone who’s already been through the struggle of discovering that they are gay, and coming out to themselves. It took immeasurable strength and courage to come out to their Christian parents. And then those parents, and the church throw them out? Shun them? Reject them? Tell them they are going to hell? That makes no sense! ZERO SENSE. And it is the complete opposite of the message of God’s love.

But the church is changing. Because I AM the church. And I know many, many, many parents just like me. The church is shifting.

I’m beyond grateful that God is ushering in a new day and age. Legalism, fundamentalism, literalism – all of it – is on its way out. The next generation will not tolerate it. God is refreshing the truth of unconditional love to all people.

As it should be.

Susan Cottrell is the author of Mom, I’m Gay: Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith.

Read more from Patheos:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME sexuality

Hook-up Apps Are Destroying Gay Youth Culture

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Many dating apps help perpetuate what people scorn about LGBT: promiscuity, impersonal behavior, and compromised interpersonal connection

Notification: You have 12 new matches!

When I get home from work and realize the silence of the end of the day, I open one of the many dating or sex-based apps I have — programs that provide literally thousands of people for me to choose from as a possible match to my personality. I assume that I am like most people on these apps: ultimately seeking a lasting relationship.

Coming out as gay in my hometown of Muncie, Indiana, was not an easy thing to do, so I didn’t. Like many LGBT folk, I flocked to a liberal university in a liberal city to feel accepted, but I found gay communities closed-off to LGBT youth. We all crave connection and intimacy, but there is nowhere for freshly out young gay men to connect. Feeling alone in a big city, walking from building to building without making a connection, I desperately wanted to meet like-minded individuals, but I found myself resorting to these apps to do that.

But instead of advancing the gay agenda of inclusion, I found the apps to perpetuate what people scorn about LGBT: promiscuity, impersonal behavior, and sexually motivated conversations. This is not the fault of the LGBT community, but these depersonalized conversations are what lead to depersonalized relationships. When an introduction to gay culture is through a sex-based app, it perpetuates the sex-based stereotype.

Because LGBT still face shame and disownment, our coming out is plagued with fear that we will lose those we love, which leads to a shame-based idea of relationships. Each dating app focuses on a different demographic, with OkCupid, Tinder, and Grindr thriving as probably the three most popular in the mainstream gay community. OkCupid is for the romantics looking for dates, Tinder is where you browse pictures and compare common Facebook interests before deciding to meet; and Grindr allows one picture and a brief description for guys who are looking for temporary company.

I never thought of approaching dating through this screening process, but many people inadvertently find themselves becoming a part of the hook-up culture. Compared to traditional dating methods, these apps provide many advantages: you save time on bad blind dates and boring conversations, you can connect to someone anytime you feel lonely, and if you are rejected you simply move on to the next person. But because there are thousands of people at your fingertips, it also creates a society of oversharing, superficiality, and instant gratification. You are on the grid 24/7 and you must advertise yourself. And there’s a paradox of choice: be careful who you choose, because there might be someone better out there—always.

Gay men want those perfect relationships that we see in romantic-comedies, instead of the ultimate fear of our generation: being alone. But there is nowhere that is not sex-based to connect. LGBT are still considered outcasts of society. Homosexuality, while popularized by the media, is still considered dangerous to teach to our kids. The way to solve this is through education. The history of talking about sexual orientation to children has been one of fear, regret, and ignorance. We need informed parents who understand how to support gay youth. We need college-aged LGBT to actively work their state’s capitals for gay marriage, harassment laws, and transgender equality. Most importantly, K-12 children should be taught about sexual orientation in an open, direct, and engaging way encouraging normalcy and assimilation. If we can openly discuss it, LGBT can defeat the sex-centered stereotype.

This generation will determine the course of healthy relationships while using future connection forums such as Ello or Hinge. If people feel supported during their formative years rather than making sex a dirty and scary thing, there won’t be a need to change our values because we are LGBT. There won’t be a need to comprise ourselves for connection.

 

Cody Freeman has worked extensively in the Philadelphia LGBT community through ActionAIDS, I’m From Driftwood, and The William Way LGBT Center.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Sex

Parents and Teens Aren’t Embarrassed by the Sex Talk Anymore

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But there's still a lot more conversations that need to happen, according to new data shared exclusively with TIME

Adolescence is an entirely new beast in the era of high-speed Internet and smartphones. People have never been so easy to chat with nor has content been so easy to download–and that adds a new layer to the parental ritual of having “the talk.” But new data shows that while parents and young people are perfectly willing to chat about sex, they may not be doing it as often as they should.

Planned Parenthood and and New York University’s Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,663 pairs of parents and their children, ages 9-21, to get a sense of how American families of all backgrounds are communicating about sex and healthy relationships. What the inquiry found was that eight out of 10 young people have talked to their parents about sexuality. Among those pairs, about half of the parents said they started having the talk with their kids by age 10 and 80% initiated the conversation by age 13.

While a high majority of parents (80%) talked to their kids about sexuality beyond the basics, like peer pressure and how to stay safe online, responses also revealed that they weren’t doing it all that frequently. Over 20% of parents said they’d never talked to their 15-21-year-olds about strategies for saying no to sex, birth control methods, or where to get accurate sexual health information, and over 30% hadn’t talked to their kids about where to get reproductive health services.

“The great news is that parents and teens are talking about these topics,” says Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Most parents and their children report starting these conversations before the age of 14, and they are talking about topics like peer pressure, puberty and staying safe online. The bad news is that people don’t necessarily have a lot of conversations, so [it] doesn’t become ongoing.”

Although most parents and young people said they didn’t feel embarrassed to talk about sex, nor felt they needed to rely on schools to do it, sometimes parents weren’t very clear about their stance on virginity. For instance, 61% of parents want young people to wait to have sex until they can handle the responsibility (45% advocated waiting for marriage), but only 52% of parents talked to their kids about sexual values, regardless of their beliefs.

Experts suggest that starting the conversation may be the trickiest part. “Young people are dealing with some different contexts than in the past,” says Kantor, citing the pervasiveness of social media. “When was I was growing up, I couldn’t meet up with someone by meeting them on a game online. These things didn’t used to happen.”

Kantor says parents are learning to deal with circumstances they never experienced themselves, and therefore feel like they can’t keep up, or don’t really know where to start when it comes to sexuality in the digital age.

Sometimes, using the same technologies can be the best way to ensure positive learning opportunities–an idea Planned Parenthood has adopted. If young people are getting a lot of sex education from the media other online sources—more than 75% of primetime programming contains sexual content—then parents and educators can harness that for the good.

Planned Parenthood has set up chat and text sex education programs that allow young people to chat in realtime with a PP staffer about everything from STD to morning-after pill questions. In September alone, there were 10,974 conversations, and since the launch in May this year, there have been a total of 393,174. The organization also has an Awkward or Not app that takes young people through an online quiz that gives them the chance to send their parents a text to start a conversation about dating and sex.

“We are very committed to ensuring that parents are the primary sex educators of their own kids,” says Kantor. “Use TV as an opportunity. Even if the show is sending a terrible message, it gives you a chance to get in there with something else. For example, asking, ”Is this what people look like at your school? Not everyone is size two.'”

Ultimately, 90% of parents surveyed said they think that sex ed should be taught in both middle school and high school, which is telling in a country where abstinence-only education is still a mainstay and often sex ed is reserved to a brief health or gym class period—or in some places is entirely non-existent. There’s a lot of incomplete or incorrect information out there when it comes to sexuality, and if parents and young people really don’t feel that embarrassed to have these conversations, then it’s time to break the ice.

Read next: How Nudity Became the New Normal

TIME sexuality

Take a Look at History’s Worst Contraceptives for Women

This video was made to raise awareness of family planning

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

While the pill has been around for over 50 years, it took quite a long time to come up with a fuss-free method of contraception. Before the pill’s creation, there were some really awful ways to prevent pregnancy, and non-profit organization EngenderHealth has come up with a video to show us of all those methods. We’re talking crocodile dung mixed with honey, beaver testicles with moonshine, pig intestines, and even glass bottles.

The video was made to raise awareness of family planning through EngenderHealth’s WTFP?! initiative, which aims to give a voice to the more than 220 million women around the world who don’t have access to contraception.

(via Design Taxi)

TIME health

Disabled Teens Should Also Have Access to Birth Control

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Leaving disabled teens without access to reproductive health tools (and sexual education) means that they can be exposed to higher risks than their peers

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Big news this week in the world of pediatrics, where the American Academy of Pediatrics has just released a new best practices guideline — the first since 2007 — on handling sexual health needs for children and adolescents. One aspect of the story is getting a great deal of coverage: The recommendation that teens be provided with IUDs and implantable birth control, as these methods are easier to adhere to than a daily pill.

That change in policy is important and has big implications for teens managing their sexual health, but it’s not the only part of the lengthy set of guidelines. For that, you’ll have to scroll further down into the report, to the section on “Adolescents With Disabilities and Other Complex Illness.”

It’s rare to see disabled and ill people, including teens, acknowledged at all as people who are sexual, or who might have reproductive-related healthcare needs. The AAP is reminding physicians both that disabled teens need birth control, and that numerous options are available for helping disabled teens manage their reproductive health — but that doctors need to reach out with information and advice to help their patients, instead of remaining silent on the matter.

Sexuality and sexual health care needs in this population are often overlooked, yet data demonstrate that, compared with healthy adolescents, adolescents with chronic illness have similar levels of sexual behaviors and sexual health outcomes (eg, STIs).

That may be the money shot, a sharp rejoinder and reminder to physicians that, yes, disabled teens have sex too. Not only do they have sex — they do so pretty much like everyone else. However, leaving them without access to reproductive health tools (and sexual education) means that they can be exposed to higher risks than their peers, and it can leave them vulnerable to higher rates of sexual exploitation and abuse. That’s why pediatricians, who are often the first point of contact for sexually curious youth, need to step up their game when it comes to dealing with disabled teens.

The document also notes that there’s more than one reason to use birth control:

In addition to pregnancy prevention, these adolescents may need menstrual suppression for heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding disorders, or chemotherapy. Other patients may be using teratogenic medications and need contraception for that reason. Issues that arise include safety concerns with estrogen use, medication interactions, and complications from the underlying disease.

These considerations highlight the importance of making birth control available to disabled teens, regardless as to whether they’re sexually active, as it should be considered another tool in the medication library. While its primary purpose may be to prevent pregnancy, birth control doesn’t need to stop there. While it’s dangerous to use non-sexual applications of birth control as a justification for taking it (people can take birth control simply because they don’t want to be pregnant and they don’t need to defend or explain themselves), acknowledging those uses can be important in contexts like these.

There’s also an important additional policy recommendation at the end of the document that could provide special protections to all minors, but especially disabled ones:

Pediatricians should allow the adolescent to consent to contraceptive care and to control the disclosure of this information within the limits of state and federal laws. There are a number of supports for protecting minor consent and confidentiality, including state law, federal statutes, and federal case law.

Many practitioners are already doing this, to some extent, encouraging their patients to play an active role in their care and treatment decisions, including when it comes to contraceptives. Having that reinforced in AAP policy, however, encourages physicians to remain aware of the issue, which can be critically important for disabled youth. Because disabled youth are often desexualized and treated as though they aren’t sexually active, it can be hard for them to access contraception and to be taken seriously when they request it and want to talk about sexuality with the people around them.

A disabled teen who might feel shy about talking to parents or guardians about birth control could still safely access it through a pediatrician under this policy recommendation, without having to worry about the doctor disclosing private information. While physicians may encourage their patients to reach out to their families and others about their relationships, the ability to maintain confidentiality ensures that the patient’s needs are met first, which in turn protects the sexual health of disabled teens.

Teens who can talk openly with their doctors about sex can get the contraception and advice they need, which, as this bulletin reminds doctors, includes a recommendation to use a condom with every instance of intercourse, even if the patient is already using another method of birth control.

The decision to include disabled teens in an update about sexual health care for young adults is a positive sign. It shows that physicians and medical organizations are recognizing that adolescent teens are as sexually active as their peers, that they need treatment, and that their treatment may be complicated by their impairments or medical conditions. This is a huge step for the rights and health care of individual disabled teens, as well as disability rights in general, as it represents one more chip in the myth that disabled people aren’t sexual and have no interest in sexuality.

S.E. Smith is a writer, agitator and commentator based in Northern California.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME LGBT

Taco John’s Sued Over Teen Employee’s Anti-Gay Nametag

Tyler Brandt, 16, says he was forced to wear a nametag with the word "GAYTARD" on it

A teenage former Taco John’s employee has filed suit against the fast food chain for allegedly being forced to wear an anti-gay slur on his name tag, in a case that has become a viral sensation thanks to an American Civil Liberties Union campaign.

Tyler Brandt, 16, said that he was required to wear a name tag labeled “GAYTARD” at the Taco John’s branch in Yankton, South Dakota where he worked, according to the ACLU. Brandt, after being repeatedly humiliated in front of customers and coworkers, finally felt that he had to quit his job.

The ACLU is representing Brandt in a discrimination suit again Taco John’s.

More than 32,000 people have signed an ACLU-organized petition requesting that Taco John’s apologize and speak out against workplace discrimination. Many have shared pictures of themselves on social media holding signs with the names of insults that have been leveled at them.

“No one should have to face slurs in their workplace – no boss should be allowed to label their employee with insults,” said the ACLU in the petition.

The company addressed the alleged incident on its Facebook page:

TIME sexuality

How Not to Be a Jerk to Your Child Who Is Coming Out

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Coming out is not about the parent

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This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Coming out isn’t simply one moment; it’s a process those in the LGBTQ community experience their whole lives. Regardless of how outwardly gay I am, I still have to come out occasionally.

Six months ago, I started a new job. I assume everyone who meets me knows automatically, including my new employers, but when I needed to request a day off for my girlfriend’s college graduation, I was still nervous. The truth is, I get nervous every time. There is always at least a little bit at stake. The anxiety one feels during these moments, however, is nothing compared to the terror during the moment — that first moment. That first time you look at your parents and say it.

That moment is life-defining. Eight years later, I still want to throw up when I think about coming out to my mother. Until you start coming out, your life is built on lies.

You don’t know how to talk to your peers because they’re starry-eyed over the opposite sex. You tell your parents that you don’t have a boyfriend because you’re too busy with school to think about boys. That cliche nightmare teenagers have about going to school naked — that’s what being closeted feels like. It’s a combination of feeling blatantly exposed and disconnected.

But that moment. That first time. That is when you first feel like a real person.

I collect coming out stories. I don’t pass them on to other people. They’re not trophies of mine to share, but I love hearing about when someone was first able to stop living their double life. Even an uneventful coming out story is the most raw and passionate piece of themselves a person can share.

And a lot of us wish we had or will have uneventful coming out stories, but the problem is that sometimes parents can be total dicks.

I realize many mothers don’t give birth and then immediately think “I hope this one grows up to be a flaming homosexual.” But this is not about you. So if you’re a parent, aspiring parent, or even if you hate children but there’s a possibility someday it could happen, let’s talk about how to not make your child’s coming out story a nightmare.

  1. Do not ask your newly out child about how they’re going to fare in the future.

I’ve heard this one far too many times. In fact, my friends’ parents will still occasionally ask, “Do you still want a family?”

As a lesbian, I feel like this questions secretly means “You don’t want a husband who’s going to support and take care of you?”

I don’t need a man to take care of me.

I think I do just fine on my own, thanks. If we’re really talking about an actual family of my own, sure I suppose some day I’ll want a wife and a couple of kids.

But being gay doesn’t stop us. There are a lot of different ways to have babies. We may have to do a little more work, but we’re a pretty resourceful community.

Parents will still ask this question. It seems to be a logical one, but it really just provokes a lot of guilt that we’re letting you down by not having that biblical sort of family.

Please don’t go there.

  1. Speaking of biblical, just don’t bring God into the coming out process, unless it’s to tell your child that he loves everyone.

Have you seen the video where the teenager from Georgia recorded his parents verbally and physically assaulting him because homosexuality goes against “the word of God”? The video may seem extreme, but this is a very real fear for many queer youths. If your child’s sexual orientation is such a violent contradiction to your religion, it’s time to disown your religion, not your child.

  1. Don’t tell your child that they’re too young to know their sexual orientation.

A good friend of mine was in seventh grade when he came out, but he knew a long time before that. I waited until I was 17, but my first crush was on a teacher when I was just six years old.

Generally, when we come out, we’ve been thinking about it a lot.

The words “I’m gay” didn’t just happen to fly out of my mouth as I was speaking because it was a fleeting thought I had 10 minutes ago. I agonized over my sexual orientation for years and spent weeks just wondering how I might begin to approach the topic with my parents. I spent the entire summer before my senior year sleeping with men, thinking maybe I could turn off the attraction to women.

We agonize over our coming out moments. We live in fear of our sexuality. Don’t minimize this freeing step by alluding to the idea that your child simply is too young to know.

  1. Don’t assume that your child is trying to be hip and rebellious by coming out.

No one “comes out” because they’re trying to piss off their parents.

When I was a teenager, bisexuality was trendy. Every high schooler who had more than a thousand MySpace friends was “interested in men and women.” But these weren’t the kids who struggled to sit down and have the serious sexuality discussion with their parents. If your child or teenager cares enough to begin a real conversation with you about their orientation, they’re not just gay for street cred. It’s the real deal.

  1. Don’t punish them. Like seriously, at all.

You can cry. That’s OK. Your child will understand. He or she will probably cry too. Any negative reaction that extends beyond that is unacceptable and a total dick move.

Coming out presents this newly found freedom, and your child will never want to return to the closet. Severe punishments and restrictions will only force them to rebel. You’ll create liars out of kids who were once model students simply because they’re avoiding the prison that was the closet. Your children will continue to be gay whether or not you allow it, but they would much rather be upfront and honest with you about it.

Coming out is not about the parent.

You didn’t make any mistakes to make your child gay. The most important way to not be a dick to your child when they come out is just to let them do it. Tell them you love them, and then move on with your lives. A gay child shouldn’t change anything in a familial relationship. We’re not asking you to hang a rainbow flag or go to a Pride parade with us.

Just be our mom, our dad, our family, our parents. That’s all we ever need you to be.

Biz Hurst is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

Missouri Lawmaker Sues for Control of Daughters’ Sexuality

Birth Control Pill
BSIP—UIG/Getty Images

Adult women should be allowed to make their own reproductive choices

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

Did you see this one coming? (From MSNBC)

One Missouri lawmaker has taken the fight against birth control coverage to a new and very personal place: His own daughters, two of whom are adults.

State Rep. Paul Joseph Wieland and his wife Teresa are suing the Obama administration over its minimum coverage requirements for health plans under the Affordable Care Act, which includes contraception. They say the government is forcing them to violate their religious beliefs because they have three daughters, ages 13, 18 and 19, who are on their parents’ plan and might get birth control at no additional cost.

Wieland’s lawyer makes this comparison:

[Attorney Timothy] Belz also said that making birth control more accessible under health plans was “as though the federal government had passed an edict that said that parents must provide a stocked unlocked liquor cabinet in their house whenever they’re away for their minor and adult daughters to use, and Mormons came in and objected to that. It is exactly the same situation.”

Except that that’s not how insurance works. No one is requiring Wieland to hand his daughters birth control, or to keep a stock of birth control on the kitchen table for easy access. What the law says is simply this: health insurance companies must cover birth control with no deductible or copay. That’s it. Yes, Wieland has his daughters’ on his health insurance plan. His wife is on it too, so she, too, has access to birth control as well. It’s about ensuring that insurance companies cover women’s healthcare, period.

Look, health insurance companies cover blood transfusions. I suspect they’re required to by law, too. Could a Jehovah’s Witness parent object, because his adult son might get a blood transfusion should he ever be in need of one? Applying Wieland’s logic leads to a mess. I mean by his logic, parents should be able to pick and choose through their children’s health insurance and pick and choose which things their children can have covered, provided they can make a religious justification and completely irregardless of their adult children’s religious beliefs.

Now of course, the fact that Wieland’s daughters can get birth control on their parents’ plan doesn’t mean they have to get birth control. And if they share their parents beliefs on the subject, they won’t. But Wieland is concerned that they might not share his beliefs.

One of the judges pointed out that parents might have more control over their kids than employers, and that parents could just say to their kids, “We expect you do abide by our religious tenets.” Belz replied, “Well, we all have high hopes for our kids, that is true. We all expect and want them to obey us, they don’t always …”

These girls are 18 and 19. They’re not children, they’re adults.

There are two ways to look at this. We could say that Wieland is trying to prevent his adult daughters from having access to affordable birth control, and we would be correct. But Wieland’s legal claim is slightly different. Wieland says that paying for his daughters birth control would violate his religious beliefs. In other words, he says this is about his beliefs and his conscience, not about whether or not his daughters are using birth control. But again, this isn’t how insurance works. It wasn’t in the Hobby Lobby case, and it isn’t here. Unfortunately, Hobby Lobby won its case, suggesting that the Supreme Court thinks this is the way insurance works.

Now, Wieland could simply drop his daughters from his plan, and maybe we should be grateful for them that he’s not going that route. Wieland is arguing that his religion requires him to provide birth control for his daughters. The problem is that he’s using this argument to prove that the law requiring birth control coverage violates his religious beliefs.

The Wielands have argued in their brief that providing health coverage to their daughters – which, thanks to the same Affordable Care Act, they can do until their children turn 26 – is also part of their religious beliefs. “The Plaintiffs cannot terminate their daughters’ health insurance coverage without violating their religious duty to provide for the health and well being of their children,” they wrote in one brief.

I think it’s awesome that Wieland believes he should continue to pay for his daughters’ health and well being through providing them with birth control. It would be even more awesome if that belief extended to all of women’s health care. The problem is Wieland’s view of birth control. You would think that a parent in his shoes might want his daughters to abstain from premarital sex, but also want them to have access to birth control should they decide to have sex anyway (after all, a parent cannot prevent an adult daughter from having sex). But no.

Christians who oppose sex before marriage tend to feel that access to birth control increases the likelihood that young people will have sex. This is probably not all that true for young people who are already taught that sex before marriage is sinful. After all, if you belief something is sinful and may send you to hell, whether or not you are protected against STDs or pregnancy is the less important worry. Christians who oppose sex before marriage also tend to believe that having unprotected sex is less sinful than having protected sex. This is because using birth control shows that the sex is premeditated. You can see this last point illustrated in this short video clip:

Wieland is Catholic, which adds another dimension. The Catholic Church teaches that birth control is unacceptable for even married couples. Families may use natural family planning to space their children out—provided they go about it with the right attitude of openness to children—but that’s it. So for Wieland, this isn’t just about his adult daughters having premarital sex, it’s about them using birth control at all. Of course, they’ll have to leave their father’s insurance when they marry, so Wieland won’t have any say regarding their use of birth control in marriage.

I have no idea what Wieland’s daughters think of all of this. They may be completely involved and invested, as I would have been at their age. I would have seen it as a way to fight back against the big bad government in favor of our religious beliefs. But at 21 I would have seen it differently. At 21 I would have felt used, and I would have wanted out. Frankly, I probably would have gotten off my parents’ plan entirely and found a way to make a go of it on my own, were I in their shoes. After all, that’s what I did when it came to paying for college. I didn’t want anything else they could use to control me and my choices.

When it comes down to it, Wieland wants the right to use his daughters’ insurance coverage to control their sexuality. He wants to have a say over whether the insurance he obtains for his family gives his adult daughters’ access to birth control. In a world where patriarchy reigns supreme, this request would be reasonable. But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where adult women are allowed to make their own reproductive choices (or at least, that is the world we should live in).

Libby Anne was raised in an evangelical family, was homeschooled and was taught that a woman’s place is in the home. She became a non-believer after college and now writes on purity culture, Christian right politics, and the importance of feminism.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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