TIME sexuality

I Am a Pro-Gay Evangelical Christian Fighting for Marriage Equality

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Brandan Robertson is the spokesperson for Evangelicals for Marriage Equality.

Time and time again, I encountered men and women who identify as LGBTQ and were still overflowing with love for Jesus

xojane

After spending four years in a conservative evangelical Bible College in Chicago, I had a dramatic realization: Evangelicals, which means “people of Good News,” were instead seen by the surrounding world as people of Fox News.

Evangelical Christianity had become known for its conservative politics, narrow social views, and dislike of LGBTQ people. In Chicago, I had the opportunity to visit a large number of diverse faith communities and met, for the first time in my life, faithful gay Christians.

I had previously been told that such a person couldn’t exist. One could not embrace a “homosexual lifestyle” while simultaneously claiming to follow Jesus Christ. And yet, time and time again, I encountered men and women who identify as LGBTQ and were still overflowing with love for Jesus.

How could I claim that these people I met weren’t faithful Christians?

Why was it OK for the church to condemn and marginalize these men and women who were so committed to our faith? And what kind of witnesses were we being to the broader LGBTQ community when we actively fought against their right to be civilly married under the law?

Throughout my time in college, questions like these plagued me. I spent an enormous amount of time praying, studying the Bible, and talking with LGBTQ Christians as I tried to figure out where Evangelicals had gone wrong. The revelation came to me one day as I was reading through the first four books of the New Testament known as the “Gospels.” The Gospels are four unique accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. They form the very foundation of the Christian faith and message.

As I read through these books, I began to see a different side of Jesus, a side that I had been missing for a long time.

I discovered a Jesus who wasn’t concerned with establishing laws or policing the morality of his society. Jesus didn’t seem too concerned with upholding religious doctrines and dogmas, either. Instead, Jesus’ message and example was one of love for every single person. Even when Jesus interacted with those who he considered sinners, his message wasn’t one of condemnation. Instead, his message was one of redemption and restoration.

It was my reexamining of Jesus that finally changed my mind about LGBTQ marriage equality — not, say, a liberal political agenda, or “selling out” my faith to be popular.

It was the example of my Savior that compelled me to begin supporting marriage equality in the United States. And four years later, I am honored to serve as the national spokesperson for a new organization that is working to change the hearts and minds of my fellow evangelicals on this issue.

Evangelicals for Marriage Equality (EME) was founded by two straight evangelicals who felt compelled for many of the same reasons I did to begin speaking out in support of civil marriage equality. The organization’s mission is simple: We believe you can be a devout, Bible-believing evangelical and support the right of same-sex couples to be recognized by the government as married. Our commitment to following Christ leads us to speak out for equal treatment under the law for others — whether or not they share our religious convictions.

In the evangelical church, there are a growing number of millennials (people roughly between the ages of 18-35) who have come to stand in full support of marriage equality for our LGBTQ friends and family. As young evangelicals like us evolve on this issue, we have encountered opposition from elder church leaders who are still very committed to standing against civil marriage for LGBTQ couples.

At EME, it is my hope to be able to sit down with these evangelical leaders and explain to them why I, as a faithful evangelical, have come to disagree with their position. Our ultimate goal is to make room for my fellow evangelicals to be able to step out in support of marriage equality.

It is my hope and prayer that through conversations and reexamining the words of Jesus that we can change the hearts of many evangelicals — in order to call us back to being people of good news and of unconditional love for all.

This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

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 gender

Google+ Offers Infinite Gender Options

The Google logo is seen at the company's offices on August 21, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.
Adam Berry—Getty Images

Users can now choose any word to describe themselves from "gender fluid" to "trans"

Google+ has joined Facebook in offering an expanded array of gender options for users’ profiles. The two social media sites used to only offer three options—”male,” “female” and “other”—but now both are expanding their drop down menu to accommodate an increasing array of identities.

The new Google+ format will allow users to choose among “Male,” “Female,” “Decline to state” and “Custom.” If “Custom” is selected, a text field and pronoun field will appear where users can fill in whatever words they want. (Many trans people and others in the LGBTQ community prefer pronouns like “their” to the traditional binary “him” or “her.”) Google+ users will continue to be able to limit who can see their gender on their profile.

Screenshot of new gender options on Google Rachael Bennet—Google

The new option is similar to Facebook’s new gender policy that it introduced earlier this year. Facebook users can now choose from over 70 different gender definitions that include terms like “female to male trans man,” “gender neutral,” “gender fluid” or “non-binary,” to name just a few.

“For many people, gender identity is more complex than just ‘male’ or ‘female,'” Google software engineer Rachael Bennett writes in the announcement. “Starting today, I’m proud to announce that Google+ will support an infinite number of ways to express gender identity.”

The change is a welcome one for those who have protested social networks’ identification policy. But several sites are still navigating the politics of gender. In October (after it had already introduced its new gender identification drop down menu), Facebook had to apologize for attempting to require that drag queens, transgender people and others in the LGBTQ community use their real names on their profiles. Facebook’s policy was meant to weed out fake users but inadvertently suspended hundreds of legitimate accounts that belonged to people who did not feel comfortable identifying with their legal name.

MORE: Facebook Apologizes to Drag Queens Over Suspended Profiles

TIME sexuality

Even If the Salvation Army Is Homophobic, Can We Please Leave the Bellringers Alone?

Salvation Army volunteer rings the collection bell outside a grocery store on Nov. 24, 2012 in Clifton, Virginia.
Salvation Army volunteer rings the collection bell outside a grocery store on Nov. 24, 2012 in Clifton, Virginia. PAUL J. RICHARDS—AFP/Getty Images

When I read about folks hassling the bell ringers over Salvation Army policies, it's hard not to think of it as a form of bullying

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Pretty much every story I tell about my 20s could be summed up by the question, “What was a nice lesbian like you doing in a place like that?”

To an outsider it might appear that I was trying to find a purpose in life by process of elimination.

Bible College. Naw.

The convent. Nope, definitely not a good fit.

Heterosexual engagement? I discovered I was not, in fact, a straight person months before my wedding date. I’ve still got a few “Kelli & Jay May 10th: Building a Household of Faith on the Foundation of God’s Love” napkins, if you, should by any strange chance, be in need of some.

While it’s true that I was scouting around for my purpose, I was also simultaneously trying to survive. Since I had only completed high school and also had no discernible job skills, this was not a simple undertaking.

My short-lived employment at the Bass Pro Fishing Lure Factory was particularly lackluster. Because I did not have the knowledge base needed to fill the complicated fishing lure mail orders, I got demoted to night shift worm counter.

The task of the worm counter was—you may have guessed this already—to hand-count worms into small styrofoam containers sold in the company’s live bait vending machines. If I stopped at the grocery store on the way home, inevitably some small child would exclaim, “Phew! Something smells like worms!”

That something was me.

I got fired one night when I fell asleep and my supervisor found me head nodding into a vat of black dirt and nightcrawlers at 4 a.m. Perhaps it was for the best.

Thus unemployed, and dejected and broke, I answered a want ad for Salvation Army bell ringers. I reported to what we would probably now call a group interview, but at the time seemed to be a Situational Depression Tolerance Experiment.

Dave (“Not Davey,” he warned us) was the Salvation Army employee tasked with giving us an orientation to our responsibilities. He spoke slowly and sighed loudly after about every third sentence.

“So,” he said. Long, tired pause.

“This isn’t a good job, I don’t guess, but it’s a job. All you gotta do is ring the bell and don’t steal the money. ” Pause. Sigh.

It took almost 90 minutes for him to drag through the list of rules. We were to be to the left of the Salvation Army sign at all times. We were to stand at all times. We were not to have anything to eat or drink at our posts, not even water. We were supposed to smile at everyone who walked by. People had to put the money through the slot directly into the locked bucket—we were never ever allowed to touch the money.

And finally, we were required to ring the bell continuously every minute of every hour of our eight hour shift.

“People who work at the business you’re standing in front of, they’re going to complain,” said Dave. Sigh. Pause.

“Just smile and keep ringing the bell.”

For this we were paid $3.35 an hour, no benefits, no sick days.

When Dave left the room to get the hand-out about the bell-ringer dress code, all the future bell ringers began to chat. As we exchanged stories, I realized I was one of the luckiest ones in the group, even though I had just been deemed unqualified to count worms.

Some of the bell-ringers had been recruited directly out of the shelters that the Salvation Army ran into town, including at least one new mom whose newborn had to stay with a relative because the shelter didn’t allow children, even three-month-old children. There was a trio of guys I knew because they hung out at the downtown library. All three were veterans, frequently drunk, well read and always seemed on the brink of something vaguely catastrophic. An older man told me he hadn’t been able to do his accounting job since he had a stroke.

“Just got to take whatever kind of work comes my way,” he had said with a shrug that betrayed not even a smidgen of self-pity that I’m pretty sure I would be marinating in, were it me in that situation.

The hand-out on the dress code had been run off on a mimeograph machine that had seen much better days. I strained to read the smudged print.

“Um, for women white shirt….um black skirt,” I gestured at my stocky masculine-for-a-chick-figure. “Maybe I could….maybe I would look better in…some dress slacks?”

Dave sighed.

“You…you especially should wear a skirt.”

I spent six days a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas outside the Kmart strip mall on Daytona Beach’s busy Volusia Avenue, ringing that bell every minute of every hour of my workday. I stuffed my chubby figure into a blue skirt that I had tried to dye black. The color hadn’t taken, though, and the skirt was mottled grey except for one clearly demarcated palmprint on the front where I had attempted to apply the dye directly with my hand, like paint.

Earlier that summer I had bleached my hair with a $2.35 box of Clairol hair color and then volunteered to be a guinea pig for a friend’s home spiral perm project. The unintended effect was that it looked as if I had been using Clorox as creme rinse.

The feedback from the shopping public made it clear that they saw me as a slightly unhinged teenage drag queen, which was perhaps not so far from the truth.

More than a few men made inexplicable comments that involved my age, my appearance and whether or not I could actually be gainfully employed as a sex worker although they didn’t phrase these comments nearly so respectfully as I have here.

One a woman a few years older than I was came to a complete stop in front of me, walked back to her car and returned with two friends. They pointed, “Oh my god, what is it?”

I just kept ringing my bell, smiling at people, not touching the money. Those hours did not pass quickly.

At the end of each day, Dave would come by in his red panel van, take the bucket off my stand, unlock the tiny padlock and empty the money into a large canvas bag. When I asked how he was, each night he’d reply the same way.

“Running ragged, Shelly,” he’d say, inserting a name but never quite my name, “Running ragged.”

I was beginning to understand his deep weariness of life.

It’s been many years since my desperation led me to my bell ringing gig and things have certainly gotten much better for me; I went to nursing school, discovered stand-up comedy, wrote some books, came out as queer.

But since then — or a least since the advent of social media — each fall I start reading similar posts about the Salvation Army, posts that bring me back to those days. I was luckier than most folks doing the bell ringing gig, had some advantages that they didn’t have, and I have many more options now.

You can read the controversies surrounding the Salvation Army and their historical homophobia as well as their current statements about their relationship with the LGBT community and decide for yourself whether their mission is one you want to support.

But when I read about folks (and believe me, it’s all kind of folks) hassling the bell-ringers over Salvation Army policies, it’s hard not to think of it as a form of bullying. While kettles are sometimes staffed by Salvation Army officers and occasionally volunteers, the seasonal workers they hire are mostly just people having a really hard day.

Don’t want to support the Salvation Army? It’s easy. Just don’t put money in that red bucket.

But don’t preach or hassle or be snippy at the bell ringers. They are not the enemy.

Kelly Dunham is an author and speaker living in Brooklyn.

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

The New Case for LGBT Rights: Economics

Diversity
Getty Images

Even though the LGBT community is relatively small, the economic costs from unequal treatment can add up quickly

What’s the secret to convincing the world to back a movement? Figure out how it could impact the global bottom line.

Economic reasoning is part of what propelled the modern women’s empowerment movement. And now, it’s informing an emerging argument for LGBT inclusion: Unequal treatment of LGBT people, as it turns out, can cause economic harm, leading to lower economic output for individuals, businesses, and even countries. And on the flip side, inclusive policies can boost a country’s GDP.

This argument is taking shape as treatment for LGBT people is deteriorating or stagnating in many places around the world. In Egypt last month, eight men were sentenced to three years in jail after showing up in a video of what looked like a “gay marriage” to Egyptian officials.

Over the last year or so, countries as diverse as Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, and Brunei have implemented new laws that increase penalties for homosexuality or for supporting rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Anti-LGBT arrests, discrimination, harassment, and violence are pervasive – cropping up in schools, workplaces, health care facilities, and within families.

So how does this translate into economic loss? The link between discrimination and the economy can be direct. Those eight men sitting in an Egyptian jail, for example, will not be contributing to the economy for three years and instead create an avoidable cost for the government. Their skills and knowledge might be less valuable when they get out, and if future employers are likely to discriminate against people assumed to be gay, their options might be limited to work in less productive jobs. In other cases, links are indirect, though still strong: Injuries from physical violence or the mental health effects of stigma will mean poorer health for LGBT workers, in turn reducing their productivity at work.

More broadly, disadvantaged workers can be bad for business. Absenteeism, low productivity, inadequate training and high turnover make for higher labor costs and lower profits.

Multinational companies know they’ll have trouble convincing an openly gay executive to accept a transfer to a country that is LGBT intolerant. Tour operators steer LGBT tourists away from hotels and attractions in unfriendly countries.

The numbers back up these contentions. Even though the LGBT community is a relatively small percentage of any country’s population, the economic costs from unequal treatment can add up quickly. A recent World Bank case study of the cost of stigma and LGBT exclusion in India shows how the losses could be calculated. Similar studies of gender inequality and other forms of discrimination have shown the billions of dollars lost by national economies from discrimination.

Unfortunately, data on LGBT people in India are not available to estimate the effects as precisely in that study. But my own back-of-the-envelope calculation using what we do know about the costs of discrimination and big health disparities for LGBT Indians gives us a good idea of how large the effect could be. Even with conservative assumptions that make costs low, the estimated losses to the Indian economy range from 0.1 percent to 1.4 percent of national output, a meaningful loss that no country–rich or poor–would want to bear. The bottom line: India could be throwing away more than $26 billion a year by stigmatizing LGBT people.

Luckily, there’s a way to recoup those costs: A study that I co-authored, just released by USAID and the Williams Institute at UCLA, finds that countries that treat LGBT people equally also have better-performing economies. In our study of 39 countries, we compared a measure of rights granted by each nation related to homosexuality—decriminalization, nondiscrimination laws, and family rights—to GDP per capita and other measures of economic performance.

The positive link between rights and development is clear: countries that come closer to full equality for LGBT people have higher levels of GDP per capita over the 22 years we studied.

Even after we take into account other differences across countries that matter for GDP growth, like capital stock and international trade, we still find a strong positive effect of gay rights. Each additional right is associated with a $320 increase in per capita GDP, or about 3 percent of the average output produced by an economy.A better environment for LGBT individuals can be an attractive bargaining chip for countries seeking multi-national investments or even more tourists. On a recent trip to Peru, I talked with people in businesses, universities, and government ministries who expressed concern that because their country lags behind many other South American countries on LGBT rights, they fear they could be less competitive globally. They are right to be worried. A conservative climate that keeps LGBT people in the closet and policymakers from recognizing the human rights of LGBT people will hold their economy back from its full potential.

Of course, passing a non discrimination law may not lead to an immediate boost in economic output (although less discrimination should eventually lead to more output). Another explanation for our findings is that countries may become more concerned about minority rights as the country gets richer and less worried about economic subsistence. The 39 growing countries we studied averaged one right for LGBT people in 1990, but the average was more than three rights by 2011.

Still, considering the economic perspective on human rights is valuable because it challenges us to think about these issues in a different way – to think about how much we all lose when any group is denied full and equal participation in society. Discrimination and violence against LGBT people who could contribute more to a country’s economy has put many of the world’s economies in a kind of permanent recession. The road to recovery is clear.

V. Lee Badgett is a professor of economics and director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is also a Williams Distinguished Scholar and former research director of the Williams Institute at UCLA. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

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 Media

Thank You, Duggars, Your Homophobia Is Really a Public Service

Duggar family - Woodbridge, VA
Reality telvision celebrities, Jim Bob Duggar, center, and his wife, Michelle Duggar make a stop on their "Values Bus Tour" outside Heritage Baptist Church on Wednesday October 16, 2013 in Woodbridge, VA. The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

When gay marriage is passing in state after state, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is on the bandwagon

You would think that, decades after Anita Bryant went on a crusade to rid gay people from public life, we’d be sick of hearing D-listers call us names and voice their hatred against us in public. The latest to really take a stand against gays is Michelle Duggar, the human baby factory who is the matriarch on the reality show “19 Kids and Counting.” This may sound strange, but I would actually like to thank her for her recent behavior.

The Duggars stirred up controversy when they recently asked for people to post pictures of married couples kissing on their Facebook page and then deleted a picture of a gay married couple kissing. (Hello? Who do you think is keeping TLC in business?) When the news of this leaked, activists directed people to sign a Change.org petition to “end LGBTQ fear mongering by the Duggars” and calls for the show to be canceled because of their behavior. It now has well over 120,000 signatures.

For what it’s worth, this isn’t Michelle’s only recent offense. She also recorded a robocall asking that the people of Fayetteville, Arkansas, vote to repeal a law that stops discrimination based on gender identity. Basically she wants people to be able to discriminate against transgender men and women.

Now some people think that we need to silence the Duggars and those like them. I think we should let them keep going. Nothing defeats complacency like knowing exactly where gay people stand with millions of Americans. Now, it’s not a shock that the overly religious Duggars don’t like gay people. That’s sort of like saying that Paula Deen likes butter. But, when gay marriage is passing in state after state, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is on the bandwagon. There are still large groups of Americans out there who want to rob us of our rights, and if we don’t stay vigilant, we’ll never win the war.

Right now we’re having a bit of success in dealing with pop culture homophobes. In May, HGTV decided to cancel a show they were planning to air featuring David and Jason Benham when it was discovered that they had made some nasty comments about gay people very publicly.

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty made some very homophobic comments to GQ this January, and was mouthing off once again this May about how gay sex is unnatural. He was suspended from A&E briefly for his behavior and the ratings for the show tanked after his disclosure.

That’s why we need these people to keep talking. There’s no doubt in my mind that there is hatred in the hearts of many people for LGBTQ men and women in this country, but if that hatred just stays in their hearts they’ll be working against us without our knowledge. The louder they become, the easier it is to target them. And when we can target them, well, we’ve seen that we can do things to shut them up. If only we could give them all a pie in the face like Anita Bryant got.

Having loudmouth opponents also serves as an effective recruiting tool for allies to gay civil rights causes. Like it or not, reality stars like the Duggars and especially the Robertsons–whose most recent season finale still clocked almost 4 million viewers–have a huge stage. When they make these sorts of remarks there is always a media firestorm and each time that happens, I would like to think that there is at least one fan out there who thinks, “God, what an idiot.” Hopefully that opens up some minds and shows those out there who may not be very hospitable to the “gay lifestyle” that bigotry is distasteful no matter how it manifests itself.

We don’t get to teach these lessons, show our strength or fight these battles if these people are silent. We need people like Michelle Duggar to be loud in order to get the hard work of activism done. So no matter how much it sucks, we have to just take it on the chin every time one of these yahoos has the bright idea to spout off. Trust me, it’s for the greater good. Every time a reality star says something ignorant about the LGBT community, a gay angel gets her wings.

Oscar Wilde, one of the world’s most public and tragic gay men, said “True friends stab you in the front.” There is no doubt in my mind that there are plenty of misinformed people in America carrying daggers against gay people, including those who have a public forum to discuss those views. Why would we want them hiding that hatred in the shadows when, out in the open, it can be diffused, acted on and used as a teaching tool to get more people on our side. We should all thank Michelle Duggar. She thinks that she’s stabbing gay Americans in the front, but what she’s really doing is bloodying herself.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

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 politics

Prop. 8 Plaintiffs: Charles Manson Can Get Married, But We Still Can’t

Charles Manson and friends
From Left: Afton Elaine Burton and Charles Manson, imprisoned for life for association with a series of murders in the 1960s in Corcoran, Calif. on Aug. 14, 2011. Manson Direct/Polaris

Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami were plaintiffs in the landmark Supreme Court decision in the federal lawsuit against Proposition 8 in California.

By not ruling on marriage equality, murderers are afforded more fairness and dignity than our LGBT brothers and sisters

When the news broke that Charles Manson had obtained a marriage license while serving out his life sentence in a California prison, we were mad. Really mad. This man was sentenced to death—a sentence later commuted to life in prison—after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit mass murder. The Supreme Court has told him that his right to marry is federally protected. That same court has yet to affirm that same right for the LGBT community. The only thing we are guilty of is falling in love with a member of the same sex.

So while Manson and his bride-to-be make their wedding plans, thousands upon thousands of LGBT couples in 15 states, which accounts for nearly 30% of the U.S. population, are left at the altar. Opponents of marriage equality surely can’t say that Manson is more worthy of the right to marry than the couples in these states, can they? Would Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins rather have a dinner in our loving home or in the jailhouse cafeteria with a man who has no regard for human life? Would Cardinal Timothy Dolan prefer Manson and his “Helter Skelter” cult to the God and churches that many good and decent LGBT couples pray at and want to be married in? Would National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown prefer the sanctity of this sham Manson marriage–to a woman he is not even permitted to have a child with–over the marriage of loving and committed gay couples who are already raising children?

Our society is affording prison inmates more fairness and dignity than that of our LGBT brothers and sisters. Ted Olson and David Boies, who were our attorneys in the Prop 8 case, underscored this dichotomy to Chief Judge Vaughn Walker in court when fighting for our right to marry. Frankly, we don’t care if Manson gets married. It’s his right. Good for him. What we can’t stand by and tolerate is inaction by the Supreme Court on this issue. The piecemeal approach with which the Court has “ruled” in favor of marriage equality–by not ruling on the issue–is not nearly enough. Now that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the right for states within its jurisdiction to discriminate against its LGBT citizens by preventing them to marry the person they love, the Supreme Court must agree to hear one or all of the cases and do the right thing. You did it for Manson and now the prison has assigned him a wedding coordinator. We plan great weddings. What about us?

Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami were plaintiffs in the landmark Supreme Court decision in the federal lawsuit against Proposition 8 in 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 health

New Crisis Line Aims to Help Transgender People at Risk of Suicide

On 2014's annual day of remembrance for transgender victims of violence, a new hotline is ready to field calls

On Nov. 20, people are gathering at events around the nation to read names of transgender people who have died in the past year in violent crimes. The descriptions on the website for the occasion, the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, are chilling: “massive trauma, found dead in an alley,” “murdered and burned,” “gunshot to the back.” Transgender people, particularly transgender women, are subject to high rates of violence and harassment. A 2013 report found that 72% of homicide victims in LGBT-related hate crimes were transgender women of color.

On this somber day, an organization based in the Bay Area is trying to get the word out that there’s a new resource available to fight what may be an even deadlier problem among transgender people: suicide.

According to the most definitive report on transgender issues in recent years, 41% of transgender people attempt to commit suicide, a statistic that doesn’t necessarily factor in successful attempts. That’s a number that the people behind Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860), a crisis hotline staffed entirely by transgender people, want to see decreased.

“There are a ton of suicide hotlines. There’s no shortage of them,” says Greta Martela, a software engineer and president of the organization that went live this month. “But it’s really difficult to get a person who isn’t trans to understand what it’s like to be trans.”

Empathy is a powerful emotion for people attempting to come to terms with being transgender. Many transgender people say they only had the courage to come out once they met someone else who was living a happy life as an openly transgender person, people Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox calls “possibility models.”

Martela came out last year, as a 44-year-old parent. Before she did, she was plagued by anxiety and debilitating panic attacks. In the process of coming out, she called a suicide hotline. A man answered the phone, she says, and when she explained the trouble she was having, he just went quiet and told her to go to the hospital. “They had no idea how to deal with a trans woman,” she says. And when she got to the hospital seeking help, she had to explain what being transgender was to the hospital staff.

Her aim is to get people in crisis—whether that person is a suicidal, closeted teenager or the confused parent of a six-year-old—access to volunteers who can understand what they’re going through right away and direct them to more help wherever they are. “Those are the people I want to call the most,” Martela says of parents who are trying to understand what a child is going through. “Getting them good resources could spare their child a lifetime of pain.”

Right now, the corporation—which has applied for status as a non-profit—is a shoestring operation, fueled by open source software that allows Trans Lifeline to funnel calls to on-duty volunteers wherever they are. They’re raising funds for advertising to get their number out there, to people like Martela who couldn’t find anything like the hotline when she needed it. “There’s a body count associated with people not accepting trans people,” Martela told TIME in a previous interview for a cover story on transgender issues. “It’s costing lives.”

TIME Dating

OkCupid Rolling Out New Gender and Sexual Orientation Options

OkCupid manipulierte Nutzer
Maja Hitij—dpa/AP

The new feature isn't yet available to all users

Dating site OkCupid is granting select users additional options for listing gender identity and sexual orientation in their profiles.

“You’re part of a select group with access to this feature,” reads a message some users have reported seeing, according to pop culture site NewNowNext. “Keep in mind as we continue to work on this feature: For now, editing your gender and orientation is only supported on the desktop site.”

Users were previously only able to identify their genders as male or female and their sexual orientations as gay, straight or bisexual. Included in the new sexual orientation options are asexual, queer, questioning, pansexual, and sapiosexual (where intelligence is the most important factor in attraction). For gender, new options include cis men and women, transgender men and women, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender nonconforming, intersex and others.

It is unknown when these options will be available for all users.

[NewNowNext]

TIME sexuality

Butt Out! In Defense of Hot Moms

Kim Kardashian Paper Magazine
Jean-Paul Goude—Paper

Claire Howorth is the books editor at Time.

We Americans like our Moms and Wives a certain way—and only that way

I’m about to be a mom. And I love Kim Kardashian’s butt. Would that it were mine, well, it would be on the cover of Paper instead of sitting here writing in defense of hers. (Kim, I hope you’d do the same for me.) Would I pose glistening and naked? No. But do I think as a wife and mother Kim is beholden to some absurd notion of postnatal propriety, as some Glee cast members and other folks with wag-happy fingers seem to? No. In fact, I wish there were apron strings hanging down each cheek in that first photo—it’d be all the more winking an image. If you’re going to chastise a mother for indecency, why not get a head start and say women in general should never pose naked? Most of them will be moms one day. It’s as if, in the words of a foolish paragon of archaic decorum, “We can have a good time, but we cannot be wild.”

We Americans like our moms and wives a certain way, for the most part. We like them in minivans and on the sidelines—spread the Jif, not the legs. Just look at our advertisements (which have come a long way, even in my adulthood). There’s the Cadillac mom, so chic, so pulled together, so … fully dressed. There’s the series of LG Appliance ads—humorously written, but nevertheless relegating moms to the kitchen, the laundry room, the home front.

This is not to say we don’t want them to be attractive. No, we want that. We want postpartum bikini bodies and the jogging skirts that maintain them—marionettes on puppet strings, in G-strings, if you believe DirecTV. We fetishize famous moms throughout and after the gestational period—from bump watch to bounce back, and the faster the better. (Remember how hideously we treated Kim when she was pregnant?) We are okay with—enthusiastic about?—the classic Mom I’d Like to [This Bleeping Acronym Is Not Allowed Here], but even she must carry a few wholesome attributes: unconditional love, a sense of devotion, some bosomy, lipsticked comfort atop the five-inch heels.

How do we not like our moms and wives?

We do not like them dancing dirty.

We do not like them acting flirty.

We do not like them being lewd.

We do not like them in the nude.

We don’t want moms to be naked-naked, nipples that recently breastfed a baby reverted to something perverted (we have enough problems with nutritionally exposed breasts as it is). Surely a mo-om (say it in your best multi-syllabic teenage voice) should not be getting a bikini wax. Or perching a crystal coupe on her behind while an arc of bubbly squirts suggestively over her head. It’s part of the overall “mommy problem” that the writer Heather Havrilesky nailed just days B.B.I. (Before Broken Internet)—”You might feel like the same person deep inside, but what the world apparently sees is a woman lugging around a giant umbilical cord.”

So in a few weeks, do I officially enter some sort of Sisterhood of the Sexless, whereby we stop celebrating the very thing that made us mothers in the first place? Grab the twinset and pop the chardonnay! For whatever else you can say about her, at least Kim is putting forth—very, very forth—the person she always has been, before baby and now beyond.

What about when North grows up? Will she be embarrassed? Well, there are many other problems in the family tree of more serious psychological concern than Mama’s wanton nudity. As far as Kim’s body parts go for the rest of us, we’ve seen it all before, on ourselves and on her. If she wants to strip down in a puddle of sequins, baby oil and champagne, great. I’ll take a judgment-free gander. Maybe some moms will feel sexually reinvigorated or newly liberated by Kim. For anyone who prefers not to see all of Kim, make like a breastfeeding scold and look the other way.

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 Education

Sex Education, From ‘Social Hygiene’ to ‘The Porn Factor’

The facts of life have been inspiring debate for decades

Within mere weeks of the publication of TIME’s first issue in 1923, sex education was making news: the “Social Hygiene Bureau” had done a survey of 5,000 American women, with the goal of designing a more “discriminating” kind of sex ed. This was news because 74% of the respondents admitted to using birth control of some sort, a surprising finding for the era.

Over the years, TIME’s coverage of the topic — which has included several cover stories — has ranged from 1930s worries about “over-intellectualization” of the topic, to Alfred Kinsey’s 1950s pronouncements that some form of sex ed should begin in infancy, to the first federal grants in the field in the 1960s, to a 1972 cover story’s finding that teens having sex younger didn’t mean they weren’t “woefully ignorant” on the topic, to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop’s 1980s statement that sex ed should be “as explicit as necessary,” to the 1990s fear that Dawson’s Creek was doing more to educate kids than schools were, to the 2000s fear that the Internet’s “porn factor” had replaced Dawson’s Creek.

And yet a few questions have been constant: How much of this is about the mechanics? How much is about the morality? How much should be done by schools and how much by parents?

Those debates continue today, as schools confront the problem of why they’re still having trouble teaching the topic.

Read more: Why Schools Can’t Teach Sex Ed in the Internet Age

 

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