TIME sexuality

What the Reaction To Billy Crystal Tells Us About Gay Tolerance

speaks onstage during the 'The Comedians' panel discussion at the FX Networks portion of the Television Critics Association press tour at Langham Hotel on January 18, 2015 in Pasadena, California.
Billy Crystal speaks onstage during 'The Comedians' panel discussion at the FX Networks portion of the Television Critics Association press tour at Langham Hotel on Jan. 18, 2015 in Pasadena, Calif. Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images

Steve Friess is a freelance writer.

Gays won by persuading everyone to view us as sexless—now the culture needs to adjust to reality

By now it seems fairly clear that the comic actor Billy Crystal did not intend to single out gay sex scenes in his reply to a question this weekend about how uncomfortably graphic some television has become. He was speaking broadly about a lot of what’s on TV now of all sexual varieties, but a reporter clipped the remark for maximum impact. The scolds of the Internet, always on alert, did the rest of the work. But set aside the insane idea that Crystal — the first straight actor to play an openly gay TV role on “Soap” back when it was career-lethal and truly cutting edge — might be some sort of sex-negative homophobe. The preposterousness of that is baffling enough; if anyone in the history of the cathode ray deserves the benefit of the doubt, it would seem, it would be him.

And yet — what if Crystal’s unremarkable remarks hadn’t been sensationalized? What if, in fact, he was just a 66-year-old grandfather who finds the increasing visibility of same-sex intimacy, especially on network TV, off-putting or startling to his sensibilities? What if seeing the bobbing head of a woman as she implicitly performed some sex acts on another woman’s lower half, say, makes some viewers uncomfortable — and they have the gall to admit it when asked?

I ask because those people exist. There are, in fact, a lot of them. The smug folks in their L.A. and New York bubbles might think they’re backwards, irrelevant, and scarce, but they’d be wrong. Their points of view are easy to understand, really. And it does not make them “haters” or any of the other epithets thrown at Crystal this week.

In fact, gay activists are as responsible as anyone for the fact that a large swath of Americans who thought they were OK with gays are finding themselves surprised by their own reactions to what they’re starting to see. This is, after all, a civil rights movement that aggressively worked for many years to downplay the mechanics of gay sexual behavior.

The gay-rights push may have started in the 1960s and 1970s with its pursuit of the fundamental liberty to have consensual sex with whatever other adults one pleased and to break free of traditional gender roles, but it morphed in the 1980s into one that preached, rightly, that being gay was about much more than mere sex. When gay male intercourse in particular became equated in the minds of millions with the transmission of AIDS, the best option was to de-emphasize it and instead make the case that our relationships are the same in every meaningful way as straight ones. Also, it did nobody any good to have our parents, much less our grandparents or our teachers or our bosses, visualizing us naked in sexual positions.

This is how the fights over the integration of the military and legalized same-sex marriage were won. Every time anti-gay forces tried to gross out the nation by referencing the gritty details of, say, anal sex, gay advocates would reply by accusing them of being secretly titillated by and obsessed with it. Whenever some crusty old military hack would grouse about gays being naked in showers or barracks with straight soldiers, gay activists did everything they could to insist gay people are supernaturally capable of stifling every fleeting sexual thought even when something attractive is before them.

Gays won, essentially, by persuading everyone to view us as sexless because we knew that how we express love and lust was at best unfamiliar — and at worst repulsive — to many people. Looking back now, it was probably the right strategy, and it was definitely a successful one. It enabled enough fair-minded people to look at couples like Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, together for more than 40 years before Thea died and the government tried to disinherit her octogenarian widow Edie, and imagine how they’d feel if the law did that to them after a lifetime of companionship. When the Supreme Court fixed that for Windsor in a landmark 2013 decision that forced the federal government to recognize their marriage, most Americans felt a grievous wrong had been set right.

But now, after decades of telling the folks that what we do in our bedrooms is not of their concern and should not matter to their opinions of us, we demand that they be happy to look upon depictions of gay sex with a big shrug or, even, a round of applause. If anyone breathes even the slightest hint of discomfort or dismay, they must be berated and humiliated. Where once the anti-gay legions used shame to scare and silence us, now it’s the pro-gay forces who think it’s a weapon.

So here’s a dirty little secret: I’m gay and I hate watching straight sex scenes in TV shows and movies. I always have. It subconsciously conjures up the apprehension and anxiety I felt when I was still closeted and tried to force myself to want to experience that. I know what straight people do, how they do it and what all of their parts look like. But I could do without bouncing breasts in every other scene of “Boardwalk Empire” and “Ray Donovan.” It’s the opposite of what I want to do or feel or see, so I wait it out and enjoy the rest of the show. It’s part of the bargain of consuming art sometimes and occasionally it actually even has a purpose.

Does all that make me a heterophobe? I hope not. Some of my best friends are straight. It’s just not my preference. And yes, in this case, we’re talking about preferences and not orientations. As Crystal said, albeit in a broader context, it’s about one’s personal tastes, nothing more.

Hollywood and its audiences are in a transitional period regarding how to cope with the modern era of out gays and the specifics of how to show and talk about it. Some straight people, especially older and more traditional ones, will be uncomfortable. Others won’t. Most will, as we gays have regarding explicit heterosexual sex scenes, come to accept it even if they never love it.

And all of that should be fine. Gays have enough actual enemies: people who really don’t want us to live happy, productive lives as our true selves. We certainly don’t need to turn our straight allies — be they grandparents or groundbreaking actors — into bogeymen, too.

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 society

How To Shake Up Gender Norms

ballerina-girl-holding-basketball
Getty Images

Will continuing to challenge gender norms and document their harmful impacts lead to their extinction — or evolution?

What determines your destiny? That’s a big question with what should be a complicated answer. But for many, the answer can be reduced to one word: anatomy. Freud’s assertion in 1924 that biology is the key determinant of gender identity, for instance, was for years a hegemonic idea in both law and culture.

Ever since Freud made this notion famous, critics have been objecting to body parts as central predictors of one’s professional and personal path. Many now believe that identity isn’t solely the domain of nature or nurture, but some combination of the two. Still, Freud’s theory isn’t yet dead; enduring gender norms show us that the bodies we’re born into still govern lives of women and men around the world.

But according to some recent research, its influence may be fading. In one new study, a majority of millennials surveyed argued that gender shouldn’t define us the way it has historically, and individuals shouldn’t feel pressure to conform to traditional gender roles or behaviors. Enforcing norms can even have health risks, according to another study. Some women’s colleges are now reportedly rethinking their admissions policies to account for gender non-conforming students. And even President Obama is getting in on the norm-questioning trend: While sorting holiday gifts for kids at a Toys for Tots in December, the president decided to place sporting equipment in the box for girls. “I’m just trying to break down these gender stereotypes,” he said in a viral video.

But will continuing to challenge gender norms and document their harmful impacts lead to their extinction? To answer that question, we need to first consider another: What’s so bad about traditional gender norms and the way we currently categorize men and women?

For one thing, the way we categorize gender is far too facile, explained Alice Dreger, a leading historian of science and medicine, in a 2010 TED Talk. “We now know that sex is complicated enough that we have to admit nature doesn’t draw the line for us between male and female… we actually draw that line on nature,” she told the audience. “What we have is a sort of situation where the farther our science goes, the more we have to admit to ourselves that these categories that we thought of as stable anatomical categories that mapped very simply to stable identity categories are a lot more fuzzy than we thought.”

Fuzzy – and maybe not entirely real in the first place.

“If there’s a leading edge that is the future of gender, it’s going to be one that understands that gender is relative to context,” said author and gender theorist Kate Bornstein at a recent New America event, noting that geography, religion, and family attitudes are all contextual factors that can alter one’s perception of gender as a determinant of identity. As long as we hold onto the notion that gender is a constant, “we’ll keep doing things to keep the lie in place,” she said. But the fact is that “it doesn’t stand on its own, and is always relative to something.” Bornstein argues that the trick to stripping these norms of their harmful power is to mock and expose them for both their flimsiness and stringency.

Which is what photographer Sophia Wallace attempts with her work. Girls Will Be Bois, for example, is a documentary of female masculinity, featuring women who have traditionally “un-feminine” occupations – bus driver, boxer, basketball player – and a sartorial masculinity (baggy pants, and bare-chested). In Modern Dandy, Wallace switches up the way women and men are directed to look at the camera (or not) in photographs – whether to appear submissive (traditionally feminine) or dominant (traditionally masculine). Cliteracy, Wallace’s most recent work, uses imagery of the clitoris and text about female sexuality to illuminate a paradox: we’re obsessed with sexualizing female bodies, and yet the world is “illiterate when it comes to female sexuality.”

But it’s not as bad as it once was. Wallace thinks that photography is evolving – that some gender-focused imagery is less tinged with ignorance today. “There’s so much that I’ve seen that has been hopeful,” she said. “There are actually images of female masculinity, trans-men and trans-women now that didn’t exist when I was in my teens and early 20s. In other ways we have so far to go.”

Part of the struggle of relinquishing gender norms comes from an uncomfortable truth. “Men have everything to gain when we overthrow patriarchy…but they also have something to lose from giving up their traditional masculinity,” said Tavia Nyong’o, an associate professor of performance studies at NYU, emphasizing that male rights vary widely across race and class divisions and that white men have even more to lose than men of color. What do they lose, exactly? Privileges (the ability to open carry a gun and not be worried that they’ll be shot by the police, Nyong’o argued). Control – over political, economic and cultural domains. Access – to networks, jobs and economic opportunities. Put simply, they lose power.

“You walk out the door in the morning with a penis and your income is 20 percent higher on average for nothing that you did,” said Gary Barker, the international director of Promundo, an organization that engages men and boys around the world on issues of gender equality.

When asked whether the future of gender was evolution and extinction, Barker, Nyong’o, Wallace and Bornstein all said they hoped for extinction. But at the same time, each acknowledged how difficult that goal would be to achieve. Beyond the power dynamics, there’s a level of comfort in well-worn identities. “It’s easy to sit in these old roles that we’ve watched and to feel a certain comfort in their stability in a world that feels kind of hard to understand,” Barker said.

But change is not impossible. Barker advises demonstrating how our traditional version of masculinity may not actually be worth the fight. “Men who have more rigid views of what it means to be men are more likely to suicidal thoughts, more likely to be depressed, less likely to report they’re happy with life overall, less likely to take care of their health, more likely to own guns, the list goes on,” he said. “There is something toxic about this version of masculinity out there.”

Detoxing society requires ripping off a mask of sorts. “It’s about getting as many people as possible to have that Matrix moment, Barker said, when they realize, “wait – [masculinity] isn’t real. It’s all illusory, it’s all performance.”

Elizabeth Weingarten is the associate director of New America’s Global Gender Parity Initiative. 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 Ireland

Irish Minister for Health Announces He’s Gay

Irish Health minister Leo Varadkar, 36, who has publicly come out as gay, pictured here on Dec. 27, 2013.
Irish Health minister Leo Varadkar, 36, who has publicly come out as gay, pictured here on Dec. 27, 2013. Brian Lawless—Press Association/AP

The country is set to hold a referedum on marriage equality in May

Just months before Ireland is due to hold a referendum on marriage equality, the country’s minister for health has come out during a radio interview. Leo Varadkar told RTÉ Radio 1, an Irish radio station, that he was gay and would be campaigning in support of same-sex marriage in the lead up to the referendum in May.

“It’s not a secret — but not something that everyone would necessarily know, but it isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before,” he said during the Jan. 18 interview. “I just kind of want to be honest with people. I don’t want anyone to think that I have a hidden agenda.”

He added: “I’d like the referendum to pass because I’d like to be an equal citizen in my own country, the country in which I happen to be a member of Government, and at the moment I’m not.”

Ireland decriminalized homosexuality 22 years ago and same-sex couples have been able to enter a civil partnership since 2011, but not marry.

[RTÉ]

TIME viral

Twin Brothers Film Themselves Coming Out to Their Dad in Emotional Video

The rising YouTube stars didn't want him to find out the news from their videos

Twin brothers Aaron and Austin Rhodes had come out to everyone in their family except for their father. But as rising YouTube stars, known as the Rhodes Bros, they decided they needed to tell him before he learned the news from their videos.

As the camera is rolling, they are both so nervous (“I think I’m going to pass out,” said one), crying a little bit as they struggle to get the words out.

“I just don’t want you to not love us anymore,”Austin says.

But the father reassures them that he will still be there for them. “Oh stop it,” he says, “It’s the way things are. You know I love you both. That will never change. You have to live your lives.”

(h/t BuzzFeed)

TIME society

Why Tiffany & Co.’s New Same-Sex Couple Ad Is Important to Me

A person walks past a Tiffany & Co. store on Jan. 12, 2015 in New York City.
A person walks past a Tiffany & Co. store on Jan. 12, 2015 in New York City. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

It's nice to feel that a company that I’ve been wearing for so long went out of its way to stand behind marriage equality

xojane

By now, you’re probably aware that Tiffany & Co. just released its first ad featuring a same-sex couple. If you haven’t already seen it, here it is in all its glory.

The photo, shot by fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh, features a real life gay couple from New York, accompanied by the text “Will you?” Cute, right?

Tiffany is hardly the first company to feature a same-sex couple in its advertising. It joins the ranks of companies The Gap, JCPenny, and Banana Republic, to name a few, who have made gay couples a part of their advertising campaigns. But just because it’s not the first to do it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be celebrated.

One of the things that stands out to me the most about this ad is not that it features two men, but that it features people at all. Tiffany ads are typically completely devoid of any models, placing all focus on huge images of the jewelry.

Where many luxury jewelry brands employ celebrity faces to hawk their pieces, Tiffany (usually) lets its jewelry speak for itself, showcasing its pieces against the signature Tiffany-blue background.

Even on the website, you’ll only see a piece modeled on a hand or neck to better illustrate size and scale. So to me, Tiffany didn’t just use a gay couple where a straight couple would normally be; it made an exception and made them the focal point, the engagement rings a close second.

If you can’t already tell, I’m a huge fan of Tiffany, and have been for quite a while. I’ve worn one of the brand’s bands on my right ring finger for the last seven years, and this fall, I copped my mom and I matching T Rings from its new T Collection because both of our names start with the letter T. I know, how cute. Personally, it’s kind of nice to feel that a company that I’ve been representing for so long went out of its way to stand behind marriage equality.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that a company using a gay couple in its advertising shouldn’t be news, and I hear that, but I’d rather not look at it that way. True, featuring the LGBT community shouldn’t still be worthy of a headline, but I do think that it’s still worthy of recognition, at the very least. There are a lot of companies who are happy to take our money while still looking at us as second-class citizens, and I’m probably giving my money to more of them than I’d like to without even realizing it. So while I’m the king of skepticism, I’m not going to pick this one apart. I choose to see this good thing as a good thing.

True, this is an ad, and its purpose, at the end of the day, is to sell. It was no doubt conceived in a boardroom and given the green light because the suits behind Tiffany knew that it would be newsy enough for every media outlet to run an article about it, just like this one, which would mean a whole lot of free advertising for them. But you know what? I’m fine with that. Because the more eyes on it, the better.

I was thinking about what it would be like if I was in high school again, the only out gay kid in my class and probably the entire school, seeing this ad. Personally, it would have been powerful for me as a teenager to see an image of two men, well-adjusted and happily engaged.

Walking through the halls every day, being so nervous all the time because I stuck out like a sore gay thumb, feeling like such a frazzled weirdo simply because of who I was. Looking through a magazine and have this company tell me “Yo. Look at these fine men. They’re just like you. You’re beautiful and normal and your love is worthy of recognition,” that would have been big for me to see.

So you’re right when you say this sort of thing shouldn’t still be a headline, but if all of these headlines serve to get the ad in front of more peoples’ faces, then great.

It reminds me of this summer when a friend and I were cruising around in my car. Macklemore’s “Same Love” came on the radio, and he made some comment about how he was sick of the song because it is so overplayed. I pointed out that, yeah, the song had been played to death, but did you ever think we’d see a day where a rap song about marriage equality would be overplayed on top 40 radio?

Five years ago, less than that, even, the song would most likely never made it on an album, let alone on the radio. Now we can’t get rid of it. What I’m saying is, you gotta count your small victories where you can get them. And besides, it’s better than hearing “Dark Horse” for the thousandth time.

I realize that “Same Love” comes with its own slew of issues, like his Grammy win over genre-defining artists like Kanye West, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar, or the fact that it could have been done better by one of the many up-and-coming queer rappers who can spit better then Macklemore all day long, but I don’t hate on him for being an ally.

I guess how I see it is that no matter if it’s a jewelry ad or a rap song, visibility in all forms is important. Whether its marriage equality, trans rights, the homeless LGBT youth population, or any of the many issues facing the LGBT community, I personally count each and every instance of increased visibility as a win, and motivation to demand more of it. Personally, it’s just nice to feel seen.

Tynan Sinks is a music journalist and contributor for xoJane. 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 Business

Now There’s a Female-Friendly Condom You Won’t Be Embarrassed to Buy

Photo courtesy of Lovability

A new brand of female-friendly condoms hopes to make contraception cute

Condoms present the ultimate catch-22: we all need them in order to stay STD-free, but buying them, carrying them, and presenting them can feel dirty.

Tiffany Gaines, 24, is out to change that. She’s in the process of raising money to expand the inventory of her new line of condoms, Lovability. They’re condoms specifically designed for female comfort, and not just in bed. “Lovability condoms were inspired by my realization that I didn’t feel comfortable acquiring condoms, and I didn’t even feel comfortable carrying them, and I didn’t feel comfortable producing them in the moment,” Gaines says. “For years, condoms have been marketed as a masculine, dominant, hyper-sexual product.”

And that’s a problem, since male condoms are approximately 82% effective at preventing pregnancy with average use, and (along with female condoms) they’re the only contraceptive that also prevents STDs. State and municipal health authorities are so sure that condoms are good for public health that they even distribute them for free in some places (like NYC and Philadelphia). Yet only 19% of single women say they regularly use condoms every time. Gaines found that most women she spoke to hated the experience of buying condoms, felt ashamed to carry them, and were anxious about using them, even though 6.2 million women rely on male condoms to prevent pregnancy.

And it’s no wonder, because the condom experience is totally creepy. First, you have to find the condoms in the drugstore next to the pregnancy tests and the yeast-infection treatments (not sexy), and in some stores you have to slide open the noisy plastic theft guards (which make you feel like a criminal), then you have to wait in line to purchase them so everybody sees what you’re buying (and gives you side-eye).

Carrying condoms is equally embarrassing– just look how Reese Witherspoon’s character in Wild was judged when fellow hikers found her stash. And after all that, Gaines says that many women worry that tearing open the slippery packages can cause condoms to rip, or that condoms get put on inside-out in the heat of the moment.

Lovability isn’t the only condom company that’s pushing to appeal to female consumers. Sustain makes eco-friendly condoms marketed to women with tasteful cardboard packaging decorated with shells or bamboo. L Condoms also has female-focused branding, plus they donate a condom to Africa for each condom sold (and offer one-hour delivery in some places). But Lovability condoms are unique in that they don’t look like condoms: they come in a cute little tin that looks more like lip balm or mints than anything else. “You’re first drawn to it in the store because of the way it looks,” Gaines said. “It’s absolutely discrete. It looks like a cosmetic product.”

The tins are designed so women can carry them in their purses without being embarrassed if they’re found, which means spontaneous encounters don’t have to be unprotected ones. The design also eliminates the anxiety that the condom might rip when the package is opened; Lovability condoms come in a special buttercup packaging, so there’s no confusion about which side of the condom is the top. “In a regular foil wrapper, you have no idea, you’re just tearing it and hoping for the best,” Gaines says. “It was really important for us to not only create a condom that was more accessible and more beautiful, but also more functional in the bedroom.” (And each individual condom package comes with a motivational quote inside.)

Lovability is a very young startup: the two-person company started out with less than $10,000 in funding, and even though she’s the president of the company, Gaines spends hours assembling the tins herself. But the condoms were so popular that they sold out in NYC lingerie stores, which is why Gaines and Claire Courtney, Lovability’s outreach director, are raising money to make more. They’ve got their eye on big outlets like Sephora, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters, but also want to sell condoms in other places women feel comfortable, like salons, gyms, or spas. Basically, they only want to sell their condoms where no other condoms are sold. Or, as Gaines puts it, “Why shouldn’t you discover your favorite condom brand while enjoying a spa day with the girls?

Gaines says Lovability’s aesthetic appeal is all in the service of public health and sexual empowerment– she wants more women to have condoms with them at all times to prevent the spread of STDs. “You can be safer if it’s a shared responsibility. And a lot of time guys aren’t prepared,” Gaines says. “This is a great opportunity to capitalize on the judgement of women. ” Plus, Gaines adds, some women like to provide the condoms, since “they know it hasn’t been in the guy’s wallet for the last three years.

But the startup hopes to do more than keep women safe. Gaines also wants the condoms to spark discussions about contraception. “Our mission is to bring condoms out of the back room and into the spotlight, and get conversations going about it,” she says. “Modern women are ready to take control of their sexual health, and be proud of it.”

 

TIME

Leelah Alcorn’s Suicide: Conversion Therapy Is Child Abuse

Leelah Alcorn posted this photo on Tumblr, stating "I don't take many selfies because I hate how I look as a boy and I rarely get a chance to dress as a girl, so I'm only posting 5, but this year was a big year for me."
Leelah Alcorn posted this photo on Tumblr, stating "I don't take many selfies because I hate how I look as a boy and I rarely get a chance to dress as a girl, so I'm only posting 5, but this year was a big year for me." Leelah Alcorn

Fallon Fox is a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter, transgender athlete, and LGBT activist.

We cannot allow religious beliefs to cross the line of medicine and harm our youth

This past week, like so many other transgender people, I carried out my daily activities with a heavy heart and anger. A transgender 17-year-old named Leelah Alcorn committed suicide on December 28.

In a suicide note posted, but since deleted, from her Tumblr, Leelah wrote that when she told her mom about being transgender, her mother “reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes.” Leelah wrote that she was subsequently taken to Christian therapists, who reinforced the notion that being transgender was “wrong.” In an interview with CNN, Leelah’s parents claim they were loving parents, and that they just wanted to do the best for their child. Her mother Carla said that she took Leelah, who she referred to as Josh, to a psychiatrist, who prescribed medication, and that her child was depressed but only talked to her once about being transgender.

If you know anything about the very real state of having gender dysphoria, you know that telling him or her it is wrong is one of the worst things in the world a transgender person can hear. It deepens the depression transgender people already seek help for because we suffer from having a body that does not match our mind. In addition, we deal with our rejection from society, with those who slam us for having this mental health condition in the first place, and those who don’t believe it’s a real thing.

I know all this because I’ve experienced it myself. I’ve been through conversion therapy, albeit when I was an adult and with the privilege of being able to refuse the treatment if I wanted to. Conversion therapy is treatment whose goal is to change homosexuals to heterosexuals, and to convince transgender people to identify with the sex and gender they are born as. I cannot express how harmful it was to my psyche, and I became suicidal when I went through it.

Fortunately, I had a means of escape. Leelah, it seems, had none. As many transgender people do, Leelah reportedly came out as gay even though she was not, in order make others happy. She felt even more isolated after her parents forbade her from interacting on social media. She reached out online for help from the outside.

As she writes in her suicide letter, Leelah felt hopeless and alone, resigned to living her life “like a man in drag.” What the medical community has stated time and time again is that transgender people who suffer from gender dysphoria should seek therapy by licensed professionals.

While we as Americans denounce the cruelty of other countries that engage in torture—and our own—the cries of tortured transgender children in this country have fallen upon deaf ears because of bigotry and religious beliefs that have zero place being inserted into anything resembling mental health therapy.

Conversion therapy is unconscionable. It should rightfully be called what it is: child abuse. It is banned in California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., and legislation is pending in other states. It should be illegal in all states, and those who break the law should be locked up.

I’m not objecting to all religious beliefs, so long as one can separate those beliefs from actual medicine. But the point at which a religious belief means abusing American citizens is the point at which religious freedom ends.

We cannot allow religious beliefs to cross the line of medicine and abuse our youth. Those in opposition to this reasonable mindset often fight tooth and nail to keep that line in the sand at bay. In this process, innocent children with other medical problems are hurt, and in some cases even die. The more progressive minded are in uproar over that. It’s about time that they recognize transgender kids who endure the same.

There are steps that can be taken to prevent more deaths. Talk about this with family and friends and bring awareness to the issue. But the greatest way to stop the abuse is to sign the Leelah’s law petition to ban transgender conversion therapy.

Fallon Fox is a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter, transgender athlete, and LGBT activist.

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

Jealousy: One More Way Men and Women are Different

Trouble ahead: Just which kind depends on who's at the door
Trouble ahead: Just which kind depends on who's at the door Anton Ovcharenko—Getty Images

It's never easy to be cheated on, but how you react depends on your sex

Not that I cheated on my college girlfriend when we were both freshmen attending schools 130 miles apart. But if I did, I had an excuse: I was young, I was male and I was an idiot. These are conditions that psychologists like to call “co-morbid.”

The only good thing I can say about myself in this very hypothetical scenario, is that at least I had the honesty to ‘fess up to my faithlessness the next time I saw her. She was not—you won’t be surprised to learn—pleased with my behavior. But what I was surprised to learn (bearing in mind the young, male and stupid thing again) was that she was less upset by the sexual aspect of my infidelity than the emotional.

Soon enough, I came to learn that that was the way of things when it comes to women’s reactions to cheating—or at least that’s the stereotype. The equally glib corollary is that men can tolerate the nuzzling and canoodling part of infidelity better than they can the flesh crescendo it leads to.

Now, research out of Chapman University in Orange, California confirms that when it comes to this one aspect of the great gender divide, the big news is that there is no news to report. The stereotypes, it turns out, are spot on.

The study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, was an ambitious one, involving a whopping 63,894 male and female respondents of both sexes, aged 18 to 65. In addition to basic biographical information such as income, marital history and sexual orientation, the participants were asked to choose (whether from imagination or painful experience) if they’d be hurt more by the carnal or cuddly part of being cheated on.

By a margin that would qualify as a landslide in politics, heterosexual men outpaced heterosexual women 54% to 35% on the physical side of the hurt-feelings equation, while heterosexual women beat heterosexual men 65% to 46% on the emotional side. Homosexual and bisexual men and women were troubled more or less equally by both aspects.

“Heterosexual men really stand out from all other groups,” said psychologist and lead author David Frederick, in a statement. “They were the only ones more likely to be most upset by sexual infidelity.”

In fairness to the straight guys, there’s more than just the doofus factor at work here—there’s also evolution, according to the authors. Short of a paternity test (which hardly existed when our behavioral coding was first being written millions of year ago), a male can never be absolutely certain that a child his mate bears is his, so physical infidelity poses a much greater risk.

And while males in the state of nature are hardwired to mate and mate and mate some more because it’s easy, fun and a calorically cheap way to get their genes across to the next generation, females are coded to seek protection and resources since it’s awfully hard to fetch food and defend against predators while giving birth and nursing. Even modern women are thus inclined—at least evolutionarily—to worry more about the outside romance that may cost them a partner than the roll in the hay that could be a one-time thing.

Societal expectations—outmoded though they may be—exacerbate the difference. Men are still judged more harshly (if only by themselves) in terms of their sexual prowess, while women are brought up to value bonding. Being cheated on thus has a different effect on the sexes because it threatens different aspects of their self-esteem.

Making the study more impressive was that the researchers corrected for nearly every variable other than gender that could have influenced the results—and repeatedly came up empty. Marital status didn’t play a role, nor did a history of being cheated on, nor did income, length of relationship or whether a respondent had children or not. The only factor that seemed to make some difference was that younger respondents of both genders reported a higher degree of upset at the physical aspects of infidelity. That’s probably because younger people of both sexes are in the stage of their lives when they’re helping themselves to that aspect more, so it makes a bigger difference in their relational well-being.

None of this alters the larger takeaway, which is that cheating still stinks. And none of it changes the fact that even a few decades on, a hypothetical person who was guilty of such a thing might still feel kind of bad about it. Or that’s what I’ve been told, but I wouldn’t know. Really.

Read next: Here Are All the Sexist Ways the Media Portrayed Both Men and Women in 2014

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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

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