TIME sexuality

What It’s Like to Be a Lesbian in Love With a Man

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

For now, I am just trying to be true to myself

xojane

When I commit to something, I go all in. I didn’t just become a vegetarian, I became a vegan. I didn’t just cut back on alcohol when it became too much, I got sober for keeps. When I became a runner, I signed up for a half marathon, the most difficult one in the world. When I started dating a woman, I became a lesbian.

The year I came out, much to the dismay of my girlfriend who loved my long girly blond hair, I went full lesbian with a faux hawk and shaved steps. I loooooved it.

Of course, I didn’t just “become a lesbian.” I knew that I was bisexual since probably the age of six or seven when I started kissing my girlfriends on sleepovers. We would play house, and one of us would have to pretend to be the husband and the other the wife. This was the only acceptable premise of course for them, but I was kissing girls, so I didn’t care what story they were telling themselves. Sure, yes, this time you can be the girl, sweetheart.

When I had casual relationships with girls in college, I never seriously considered ever coming out because I never seriously considered it to be an option. Girl stuff was for fun, but not very serious. Since I liked boys too, I assumed that eventually there would be a serious boy-girl scenario in my future. I never imagined it any other way.

When I met my girlfriend at 24, and it became serious, I confronted my sexuality in a real way for the first time. I had never felt guilt, shame, or fear about my sexuality at any point in my life until I needed to confront it in a social and public way.

I had never once considered what it would be like to walk down the street holding a girl’s hand, or coming out to grand-parents or raising a child in a same-sex relationship. This is the lovely state most heteros get to inhabit for their entire existences, god bless them. I know it was bliss when I was there. (I can only imagine that this is something even remotely close to the blissful ignorance I enjoy as a white, first-world, employed, able-bodied cis gendered person.)

There were many sleepless nights as I came face to face with the reality of the heternormativity of my world and with the homophobia I had only ever scarcely considered a reality of my family and community. I had benefited my whole life from cis and straight privilege and never considered a time when I wouldn’t either benefit from both, or what it was like for people who didn’t.

The process maybe took about two years; I never in that time even considered the option of coming out as bisexual, though. I was in a committed relationship with a woman, we thought we were deeply in love and I thought it was forever. We talked about forever, and babies, and growing old together.

To me, in that place, there was no point in not going all in. What was the point in telling people I was also attracted to men if I had only the intention of living in a lesbian relationship for the rest of my life? I didn’t feel that it was fair to benefit from even the privileged status bisexuals maintain (objects of male desire, and perceived as existing for and within the hetero dynamic) and/or from presumed straightness. I went all in.

I got a “lesbian haircut.” I joined activist and political organizations that were fighting homophobia and transphobia. I marched in pride parades and dyke marches and became a spokesperson in public schools where I told my coming out story to kids. I started a gay blog, and I talked about LGBT issues on national television.

I did it all as a lesbian, because once I confronted the reality of heternormativity and my cis/gender privilege and straight privilege (as someone who walks around in the world often perceived as cisgendered and straight and benefits from it greatly), I felt like lesbianism was a social and political issue that mattered.

I believed that for the rest of my life, I would have to come out over and over again at new jobs, to new friends, to teachers, to my kid’s friends’ parents, to new neighbours and to authorities.

Living in a lesbian relationship meant that I would be treated like a lesbian for the rest of my life and it mattered that I not live in fear of prejudice and that I use my other class, race and gender privilege to join this battle.

Ironically or tragically, my relationship suffered from the pain of both real and internalized homophobia. For eight years, I almost never enjoyed even simple public affection like hand holding, a light touch or gesture from someone I loved when the moment might have called for it. We never had a romantic slow dance at a wedding or a romantic kiss on a beach at sunset. Things that give me butterflies, that make me blush, that make me feel blissfully desired and loved. It was a behind-closed-doors relationship and it suffered because of it.

When my relationship did end (I am sure you saw that coming!), I once again found myself in a strangely precarious situation: I wasn’t personally confused about my sexuality, but I have been feeling deep social uneasiness.

If I date a man, do I need to come out again? What will the gay community think? Will I lose all of my gay friends? Will I lose my identity? Do I want to lose that identity? What does it mean for “the cause”? How do I explain it to people? It was all about the social and not at all about the personal.

When I recently met a wildly lovely man who has made my heart burst out of my chest with passion and vulnerability and kindness and sincerity and intelligence, I resisted. How did this fit with my identity? Reverse coming out felt anxiety-inducing.

I didn’t prepare myself for was the guilt. The first time we walked hand in hand around my neighborhood, my heart was racing. When we kissed on a busy public street, I felt the heat rise up into my face. When we cuddled in the park, I felt eyes burning into me from all directions.

People were looking, but I was terribly aware that I was not a freakshow. I wasn’t been ogled. I didn’t need to be afraid of someone yelling at me, of someone being offended or someone offending me, or of violence and threats or being objectified by men. Little old ladies smiled at us as we walked by. Straight couples did little knowing straight couple exchanges.

I felt for the first time in a very long time that I could be present and be in the moment and be light-hearted and enjoy the newness of the romance, of the exchange of a smile, or the feeling of my hand in his. For the first time in a long time, the palms of my hands weren’t sweaty from anxiety and fear while holding hands in public. It was a relief.

In that relief, in that ease however, I felt overshadowed by guilt.

I am not sure how to shake it off yet. I don’t know how to not feel like I am abandoning my people and my cause, how to continue to fight the fight that is still being fought around the world and in my community for the right to walk down the street and not feel fear of retaliation, of disgust and of hatred.

For now, I am just trying to follow my heart and to listen deeply to my mind and body. And be true to myself.

Erika Jahn wrote this article for xoJane

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

Complaining About Manspreading Is Just as Bad as Fat Shaming

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

It’s not your business to regulate anyone else’s body

xojane

Alright, we’ve got our two buzzwords to play with; consider “fat shaming” with the following scenario: There is a larger bodied person boarding public transport, say a bus. This person is wider than the pre-molded seats. This person sits down and takes up the two-person row.

In one current Internet narrative, this person is doing nothing wrong, but merely taking up the space their body requires. You’re a jerk if you then get on the bus and find annoyance that the fat person is taking up more than one seat and you have to stand. To shame this person with mean words or glares or a passive-aggressive Facebook post would be to remove their bodily autonomy. Let’s please agree on this, okay?

To insist a fat person stand so two thin people might sit is wrong and rude. To suggest that the fat person’s body is at fault is appalling, and some might even claim it is discrimination.

And yet, if it was the same bus, with a passenger that is not obese but male-presenting, suddenly it’s fine to shame him online, to take his photo without permission, and even to come into nonconsensual, unprovoked physically contact with him.

This is part of a larger subculture that is more akin to a sickness than activism. It’s somehow okay to treat men as second class citizens and police their public actions while women should be allowed to do basically anything they want, including violating strangers by forcing them into contact with your behind. If we read a piece about a man on public transportation intentionally sitting on women’s purses/bags, or bigger people’s bodies, the collective internet would be in outrage.

There are actually a lot of good reasons a man might sit with his legs wide. One of these reasons is propagation of the human species. Namely, sitting down, especially in uniform pants/boilersuits or business casual slacks (a.k.a. the categories of workwear most men don), tend to bifurcate and cut into the man as he sits down. The inseam cuts into him as the fabric bunches and tightens over the quads, and cramming the legs towards each other amplifies the whole mess.

As well, men are more likely to take physically demanding jobs, participate in martial arts and high impact sports or activities, which all take an interesting toll on the body. For starters, let’s assume you don’t know how human joints work so I can pretend I’m smart.

Males have very narrow pelvises because they don’t need to pass a baby ever. These pelvises are also V-shaped, wider at the iliac crests and narrowing at the ischial tuberosities. The pelvic arrangement for the majority of men are narrow hips with very limited mobility and very little ability to externally rotate. Men tend to be taller, which means longer femurs and long femur necks, which also limit mobility of the hips.

Female femurs have a tapered shape on the other hand, wider at the hip joint and angling in at the knees. The sexual dimorphism of the pelvis is inarguable. Some things are simply going to be possible for the female pelvis and acetabula that are impossible or inaccessible to the male pelvis.

The lifestyle factors listed above coupled with the arrangement of the male pelvis and femurs have a common conclusion. I’ve known more men than I’d care to list who have “hip problems” or “tightnesss” that are actually severe injuries. They’d rather figure out accommodations on their own, like sitting with the legs wide, than do physio, yoga, or even see an ortho for surgical solutions. I’ve seen men blow out their knees trying to force hip mobility; restricted hips mean back problems and knee problems.

Coupled with the legs spread, notice that most creepshots of men sitting on public transpo are also slouching. This often is done with intent of relieving pain. Slouching rounds the lumbar spine into kyphosis rather than slight lordosis, its natural state. Manipulating the lower back is really common in men with hip issues, and spreading the knees wider is common in men with low back issues. Low back injuries, by the way, are more likely to be received on the job for men and are more likely to be chronic.

Unsurprisingly, all of this means sitting and standing, especially for long periods of time, is a painful process. Spreading the legs alleviates some of this distress. Still not buying it? Find a postnatal woman with sliding SI joints and ask her how sitting with her legs clamped for a long period of time together feels. Or a woman who needs labrum repair surgery.

It comes together to make sustained sitting with the thighs even close to parallel prohibitively uncomfortable for many men. In fact, depending on the pelvic construction and orthopedic history, it will be beyond painful but anatomically impossible for a large percentage of men to bring the knees together and to keep the knees held there without causing lasting damage and distressing pain.

This is not mansplaining, or any other derogatory portmanteau. This is the reality many men live with. Disclaimer: Yes, there are women with similar hip disorders, injuries, and construction, just as there are men with open hips and above average mobility. This doesn’t alter anything previously said, because the whole issue comes back to the policing of others’ bodily autonomy. If it’s inappropriate to sit on a fat person, a woman’s purse (or legs, for the women who put their feet up), why is it okay to strip anyone else’s autonomy and dictate their posture?

Now, not every man has a pelvic injury. No more so than every fat person has a socially acceptable ‘reason’ for fatness. Does this matter? No. It’s not your business to regulate anyone else’s body. Full. Stop. If a fat person taking up two or three seats on public transportation doesn’t bother you, you have no grounds for regulating how men sit.

If you’ve read this far and still think your comfort takes precedence over anyone else’s, for every manspreader you allegedly encounter, you must demand a fat person who is taking up more space than you think they deserve stand and give you their seat.

Julie Winters wrote this article for xoJane

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 Family

Why I Think It’s Selfish to Have an Adult-Only Wedding

The truth is, I just can't afford so many kids-free weddings

Wedding season + kids + babysitter = a tulle-filled circle of hell.

This summer, my husband and I have approximately 10,000 weddings to attend. O.K., that’s an exaggeration, but it definitely feels that way. In and of itself, our plenitude of weddings are a good thing. Drinks! Dinner! Butter cream frosting!

The only problem with all these weddings this summer is that the vast majority of them don’t include an invitation extended to our offspring.

For all the best parenting stories from the web, sign up here for TIME’s weekly parenting newsletter.

And while I totally get that most couples don’t want to fork over the cash to pay for some snotty-nosed children to eat a few rolls and bust a move in the chicken dance, adult-only weddings have become my nemesis.

On one hand, I love the idea of an adult-only wedding. The chance to eat a kids-free meal and drink it up with my husband — which actually means like two drinks because I’m the world’s biggest lightweight (thanks kids for those perpetual pregnancies) — is pretty much my idea of heaven right now.

But the truth is, I just can’t afford so many kids-free weddings.

And frankly, after the third one, they kind of lose their appeal a little. Green beans and rubbery chicken, a few painfully drunken toasts, did they cut the cake yet, and are you ready to go yet?

I know every couple thinks their wedding will be different and the event of the century, and I appreciate that — I really do. I’m happy for you all, and I’m sure you put a lot of thought into that cupcake table and the vintage-inspired centerpieces, and the photo booth props, really. But a wedding is a wedding is a wedding.

For couples that have kids, an adult-only wedding is a painful decision-making process that includes weighing the cost of a babysitter with the most special night of your lives, which is just another weekend in ours.

For us, to attend the ceremony and a reception, I’ll easily shell out over 100 bucks on a babysitter, plus the wedding gift. It’s a horrendously expensive date night and I’m sorry (and no offense to you and the love of your life), but that’s really asking a lot of your guests with young children.

I know you think that you might be doing us a favor by giving us a “night out,” but that’s not really the case when $100+ could buy me a whole lot of date night elsewhere.

Part of me doesn’t buy all the justifications couples use for not inviting kids to their wedding. The uber-fancy wedding, granted, I can accept. I wouldn’t want my kids breaking any crystal, either.

But if you’re like the rest of us, hosting a pretty standard wedding and reception and aren’t inviting kids because of the cost, it’s a tough pill for me to swallow. I’d rather bring my kids after dinner, or pop them on my lap to share my buttered roll, so we could all attend your special day without it costing me an arm and a leg to be there.

And is it just me or do kids sometimes make the party?

Who else has such a carefree lack of inhibitions (sober) on the dance floor? Who else can you do the robot with and not feel like an idiot? Everybody dances more when there are kids around and parents don’t have to hurry home to pay the sitter.

Don’t get me wrong, I will be a good little wedding guest this summer and shell out the cash to a sitter when I can, and send a polite card when I can’t, but part of me wishes that if you care enough to want me (or my money) at your wedding, you could make it a little easier on me to be there with my family.

Because I want to be there, I really do, but preferably not while going bankrupt in the process.

This article originally appeared on YourTango

More from YourTango:

TIME society

Why We Must Teach Law to Those Who Need It Most

gavel-sounder
Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

At the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, we encourage families to join their loved ones' defense team

When I heard about the suicide of Kalief Browder, a teenager who was charged with stealing a backpack and served three years in brutal Rikers Island until the charge against him was dropped, I thought about the shared culpability of his death by the criminal court system.

Police may have racially profiled Browder and wrongfully arrested him; but a prosecutor decided to pursue charges on patchy evidence and drag the case out for years; a judge set bail at $3,000, a bar his family could not afford; a previous plea deal — when he thought he had no defense against a charge of stealing a truck for a joy ride — meant that he was put in jail when the backpack charge was leveled. No wonder so many people think it’s impossible to have their fair day in court. More than 95% of cases like this are resolved with plea deals.

While police in the streets or inhumane conditions in the prisons have been focuses of social justice movements, the machinery between arrest and incarceration — the courts — have remained a social justice blind spot.

In San Jose, California, where I’m from, families have started use the science of community organizing to penetrate the court system. Families who have loved ones facing charges meet on a weekly basis; support each other; and share knowledge about what helps defense attorneys and what sways judges and juries. They form a network behind the person who has been arrested.

It is a communal counterbalance to the isolation of the court system. At the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, we call the approach participatory defense — essentially encouraging communities to engage in the justice system, rather then waiting for the courts to do what it will with loved ones.

The essential agents of change don’t have to be lawyers or judges. Our meetings are facilitated by people who first came for help on their own cases or the cases of loved ones, volunteers who have transformed from isolated mothers watching their sons get chewed up by the courts to vocal navigators for other families.

As the director of a community center where we host the meetings every Sunday, I had no intention of getting involved in court organizing. When we started eight years ago, we were doing police accountability work. But we realized there was a common denominator among the people who came to our meetings: when facing a criminal charge, they needed a compass to help them harness community power to fight the charges. So we extended that community-organizing ethic to the court process.

The tangible impact of family and community participation on cases is undeniable. We have seen acquittals, charges dismissed and reduced, prison terms changed to rehabilitation programs, even life sentences taken off the table. When we tally up the original maximum sentencing possibilities against the “time served” from all of our cases collectively over six years, we see over 1,800 years of time saved.

One of the co-founders of the approach, Blanca Bosquez, started because of her son Rudy. Like Kalief, Rudy was 16 when he was arrested, charged with robbery based on a flimsy investigation. His backpack, which was stolen a year prior, was allegedly found near the crime scene. The prosecutor claimed that Rudy was the ringleader of a teenage robbery crew, but his mom knew this couldn’t be the case: Rudy was severely mentally delayed, had the mind of an 8-year-old, and required 24-hour care.

Blanca quarterbacked a community-wide penetration into the court system with her large extended family and friends. They gathered critical medical and school records showing Rudy’s mental challenges, packed every courtroom, offered testimony to the judge about Rudy’s care requirements and the role specific family members played in his well-being.

Rather then keeping him in jail while the case was going on, Rudy was released on home detention. Though he had only been in juvenile hall a few days, Rudy was visibly shaken. It was the first time he had been away from his mother since birth. He didn’t know how to use the knobs for the shower.

And while he was home, “Team Rudy” continued to press: they reviewed the police interrogation video, and “confession” to help their public defender. The officers and even the defense attorney initially knew nothing of Rudy’s mental challenges. Several times the officers asked Rudy if he was high because of a slurred speech that came from his condition.

Within weeks, Rudy’s felony-level charges were dropped. After this battle, Blanca thought other families should know how they, too, could do something to change the outcomes of their own cases.

As more families have engaged in this practice, we have seen patterns arise in where a family’s intervention makes the most sense. For example, after arrest, we ask families to write a statement about the incident and arrest, preserving any information that could be helpful to the defense.

In preparation for a bond hearing, we gather testimonials of community ties — essentially what that detained person has in their life, and the impact on that person and others if he or she had to be away during the adjudication of the case. Would jobs be lost? An elder left high and dry because a caretaker is gone? Supporters also share their role in ensuring the person attends court hearings. What we do is to strip away the mythology that people facing charges are islands, rather then people embedded in communities.

If a case is heading to trial, families are encouraged to review documents unearthed during the discovery process, such as police reports, to point out inconsistencies or false statements. If the aim is to reduce a charge or a sentence during the penalty phase, families create “social biography” packets, which arm the defense attorney with arguments about future prospects like housing, employment, or educational opportunities.

One of the most effective cases I’ve seen involved a single father named Carnell. He had pled guilty to a low-level drug charge, but because of prior convictions from a long-forgotten past, he faced five years in prison. His greatest worry about returning to jail was that his three daughters would be put in the foster system. We gave him a camera, and he took pictures of his typical day as a father — making the girls breakfast, taking them to school and after-school programs, helping them with homework. His defense attorney used the photo essay during the sentencing phase, and instead of prison, Carnell was sentenced to a six-month outpatient program so he could keep his family together.

Of course, we know there are limits to how much we can fight the court system’s default tool of incarceration. For example, if someone is found guilty of a charge with a mandatory minimum, a social biography packet won’t change that sentence. The judge has no discretion.

But what participatory defense will do is create a ground-up movement where people are “looking under the hood” of the court system, and seeing where change needs to happen. People see their own capacity — and their community’s collective capacity — to bend seemingly immovable institutions like the courts. While that is not a new concept, it’s a potent reminder how we truly are stronger together then alone. And case by case, we hope we’re building a movement that could one day end mandatory-minimum sentences.

Raj Jayadev is the director of Silicon Valley De-Bug, which hosts the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project. Jayadev is a 2015 Ashoka Fellow. He wrote this for “Reimagining California,” a partnership of the California Endowment and Zócalo Public Square.

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 History

The Civil War Was Won by Immigrant Soldiers

gettysburg-national-battlefield
Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

One in four Union fighters was foreign-born

In the summer of 1861, an American diplomat in Turin, Italy, looked out the window of the U.S. legation to see hundreds of young men forming a sprawling line. Some wore red shirts, emblematic of the Garibaldini who, during their campaign in southern Italy, were known for pointing one finger in the air and shouting l’Italia Unità! (Italy United!). Now they wanted to volunteer to take up arms for l’America Unità!

Meanwhile, immigrants already in the United States responded to the call to arms in extraordinary numbers. In 1860, about 13% of the U.S. population was born overseas—roughly what it is today. One in every four members of the Union armed forces was an immigrant, some 543,000 of the more than 2 million Union soldiers by recent estimates. Another 18% had at least one foreign-born parent. Together, immigrants and the sons of immigrants made up about 43% of the U.S. armed forces.

America’s foreign legions gave the North an incalculable advantage. It could never have won without them. And yet the role of immigrant soldiers has been ignored in the narrative of a brothers’ war fought on American soil, by American soldiers, over issues that were uniquely American in origin.

In the 1860s, Confederate diplomats and supporters abroad were eager to inform Europeans that the North was actively recruiting their sons to serve as cannon fodder. In one pamphlet, Confederate envoy Edwin De Leon informed French readers that the Puritan North had built its army “in large part of foreign mercenaries” made up of “the refuse of the old world.”

Embarrassed Northerners claimed the Confederacy exaggerated how many foreign recruits made up the U.S. armed forces—pointing to immigrant bounty jumpers who enlisted to collect the money given to new recruits, deserted, and then re-enlisted. The underlying premise was that foreigners were not inspired by patriotic principle and, except for money, had no motive to fight and die for a nation not their own.

It was not true. Immigrants tended to be young and male, but they enlisted above their quota. Many immigrants left jobs to fight for the Union, enlisting before the draft—and the bounties—were even introduced. They volunteered, fought, and sacrificed far beyond what might be expected of strangers in a strange land.

Historians have done an excellent job of retrieving the voices of native-born, English-speaking soldiers. But the voices of the foreign legions remain silent—thanks to the paucity of records in the archives, the language barriers posed to historians, and, perhaps, a lingering bias that keeps foreigners out of “our” civil war.

Why did they fight? What were they fighting for? Recruitment posters in the New York Historical Society provide hints at the answers. One poster reads: Patrioti Italiani! Honvedek! Amis de la liberté! Deutsche Freiheits Kaempfer! (Italian patriots! Hungarians! Friends of liberty! German freedom fighters!) Then, in English, it urges “250 able-bodied men . . . Patriots of all nations” to fight for their “adopted country.”

One immigrant mother gave testimony in 1863 to an antislavery convention as to why her 17-year-old son was fighting for the Union. “I am from Germany where my brothers all fought against the Government and tried to make us free, but were unsuccessful,” she said. “We foreigners know the preciousness of that great, noble gift a great deal better than you, because you never were in slavery, but we are born in it.”

Following the failed Revolution of 1848, thousands of young Germans fled to America. They took up arms in what they saw as yet another battle in the revolutionary struggle against the forces of aristocracy and slavery. “It isn’t a war where two powers fight to win a piece of land,” one German enlistee wrote to his family. “Instead it’s about freedom or slavery, and you can well imagine, dear mother, I support the cause of freedom with all my might.”

In another letter written to his family in Europe, a German soldier gave a pithy explanation of the war: “I don’t have the space or the time to explain all about the cause, only this much: the states that are rebelling are slave states, and they want slavery to be expanded, but the northern states are against this, and so it is civil war!”

So it was civil war, but for many foreign-born soldiers and citizens, this was much more than America’s war. It was an epic contest for the future of free labor against slavery, for equal opportunity against privilege and aristocracy, for freedom of thought and expression against oppressive government, and for democratic self-government against dynastic rule. Foreigners joined the war to wage the same battles that had been lost in the Old World. Theirs was the cause not only of America, but of all nations.

Don H. Doyle is the author of The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War. He is McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina. Follow him on Facebook. He wrote this for What It Means to Be American, a national conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Zócalo Public Square.

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

Watch an NYPD Officer Dance With a Gay Pride Parade Marcher

A beautiful, beautiful moment

Most New York City police officers remained stoic at Sunday’s annual gay pride parade, but one officer went above the call of duty. Way above. The officer — whose identity is sadly unknown — joined in on the festivities by showing off some dirty dance moves. (You can enjoy a taste of said moves in the video above.)

Paige Ponzeka, a member of an LGBT softball league, posted the clip to YouTube after the parade. One of Ponzeka’s fellow marchers, Aaron Santis, told BuzzFeed that he’d been trying (and failing) to get cops to dance with him all day. Finally, his plan worked.

“I didn’t expect him to get into it as much as he did,” Santis said. “The crowd just loved it and I think it made him want to dance more.” He added: “It was such a fun moment. He was such a good sport and I’m so glad he decided to dance.”

This certainly gives new meaning to the old NYPD nickname “New York’s Finest.”

TIME

John Oliver: Here’s How to Make Use of Your Spare ‘Leap Second’ Tomorrow

The comedian weighs in on the addition of one second to the world's calendar

Everyone’s day will be a second longer on Tuesday, thanks to the “leap second” added to our clocks to compensate for the gradual slowing in the Earth’s rotation.

With 86,401 seconds in your day instead of 86,400 seconds, what are you going to do with all that extra time?

John Oliver shared some ideas on Sunday on Last Week Tonight.

 

TIME society

This Is What Could Happen to the Confederate Flag in Court

Before this becomes a lawsuit, the Confederate flag should be taken down

The tragedy in Charleston has revived the movement to take the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds.

On Monday June 22 — five days after the shooting in the AME Emanuel Church — South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called a press conference to announce:

It is time to remove the flag from our capitol grounds. … This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state.

This is a particularly sensitive issue because the flag is on state property.

The Confederate flag on public property leads many to ask: what message is the government sending?

The case against flying the Confederate flag

For those who want the flag to come down, the message is a reminder of white supremacy and the war fought to maintain slavery.

States have been taking Confederate flags and monuments down for years now, and refusing new requests to fly them.

Just this term the Supreme Court in Walker v Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans permitted Texas to reject a specialty license plate proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans with a Confederate battle flag on it.

Justice Breyer concluded that what appears on the license plate is a form of government speech and that Texas could decide for itself what speech to permit. When Texas decided that it did not want to include the Confederate battle flag, Breyer concluded there was no first amendment right of members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to require Texas to include the flag.

Integral to the conclusion that Texas can keep the Confederate battle flag off their license plates are the twin ideas that the government is speaking through the license plates and that Texas can control its own speech.

Such principles were used to justify the 2009 decision of Pleasant Grove City, Utah, to reject a monument from the Summum church for display on public property.

Writing for the majority in City of Pleasant Grove v Summum, Justice Alito said “the display of a permanent monument in a public park” is likely to be perceived as the government’s speech.

The city could reject a religious monument, because observers would think the government was endorsing that monument.

So far, so good: the state can (and many of us believe ought to) reject the display of the Confederate flag on government property.

Now look at the other side of this.

What is the state saying by flying the Confederate battle flag?

What happens when the state government decides to speak by putting a Confederate battle flag or a monument to the Confederacy on its property (or permitting others to do so)?

What message is the state sending?

While we’re working on that thought experiment, take, for instance, the Confederate monument in front of the Sussex County, Virginia Courthouse.

Note the inscription: “The principles for which they fought live eternally.”

That makes me suspicious of the quality of justice that African Americans can receive inside that courthouse.

Indeed, many people now see the rise of the use of the Confederate flag during the Civil Rights movement as a response to the increasing claims of African Americans to equality.

And as Justice Alito recognized in the Summum case, monuments on public property will lead observers to “routinely—and reasonably—interpret them as conveying some message on the property owner’s behalf.”

Violation of the 14th amendment?

That leads to the question, then, of whether government speech that tells African Americans they are inferior – and perhaps that the era of slavery was right – violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

This is a stretch of current equal protection doctrine, which is concerned with tangible questions like funding rather than speech.

However, if a state legislature passed a statute proclaiming African Americans are inferior I can imagine that such a bold and vicious statement might rise to the level of a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Now take a further step: does the Confederate battle flag or a monument to the Confederacy tell African American citizens that they are inferior? And if so, does that violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

While the answer to the latter question may not be clearly yes, I don’t think it is clearly no, either.

Ultimately, this is really more a question of whether a state – and its politicians – want to continue to fly a flag that is so closely associated with a war begun to maintain slavery.

Many supporters of the flag say that the meaning for them is about southern heritage, not race hatred. And in this I am inclined to believe their statements about their motive.

But at this point in American history the flag has become closely associated in the minds of many with white supremacy, slavery, and Jim Crow segregation. Whatever its meaning once was – or still is in the minds of some – in the minds of many it is time to realize that this is a symbol that is sending the wrong message to U.S. citizens.

Before this becomes a lawsuit, the Confederate flag should be taken down from in front of the South Carolina State House.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

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

Boston Mobster Whitey Bulger Pens Remorseful Letter to Teen Girls

Apponequet Regional High School students, Mollykate Rodenbush, Brittany Tainsh, and Michaela Arguin (from left), hold the handwritten reply from Whitey Bulger.
David L. Ryan—The Boston Globe/Getty Image Apponequet Regional High School students, Mollykate Rodenbush, Brittany Tainsh, and Michaela Arguin (from left), hold the handwritten reply from Whitey Bulger.

"If you want to make crime pay, go to law school"

James “Whitey” Bulger, the Boston crime boss who was convicted of 11 murders, has penned a letter to three 17-year-old girl in which he admitted he “wasted” his life.

The girls wrote to the now 85-year-old, who is serving life at the federal penitentiary in Sumterville, Florida, as part of a National History Day competition on leadership and legacy – but they never thought he would answer. “It wasn’t what we were expecting at all,” said Brittany Tainsh, one of three who wrote Bulger.

In the letter, dated Feb. 24, Bulger offered the three teens advice. “My life was wasted and spent foolishly, brought shame + suffering on my parents and siblings and will end soon,” he wrote in the note, which was excerpted in The Boston Globe Saturday.

“Advice is a cheap commodity some seek it from me about crime – I know only one thing for sure – If you want to make crime pay – ‘Go to Law School,'” he continued.

The letter is the first hint of remorse the defiant crime boss has ever shown since being convicted of involvement in 11 murders in 2013. He was caught after spending 16 years on the run. Even at his trial, Bulger showed no emotion as he was handed two life sentences plus five years.

In the letter, Bulger added that he “took the wrong road,” calling his brother William, a former president of the state Senate and of the University of Massachusetts, “a Better Man than I.”

“Don’t waste your time on such as I – we are society’s lower, best forgotten, not looked to for advice on ‘Leadership,’ ” he concluded.

Bulger is the subject of the upcoming film Black Mass, which stars Johnny Depp as the notorious crime boss.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Money

How the Sharing Economy Is Hurting Millennials

car-piggy-bank-top-driving
Getty Images

Millennials are having to cope with an economy that is not delivering high-quality jobs

Coming of age in the wake of the Great Recession, the Millennial generation has had to accept an uncertain economic landscape as their new normal. One critical adjustment they’ve made is to enthusiastically embrace the upsides of the share economy. While their parents helped Craigslist and eBay become household names, today’s youth rely on crowdsourcing and funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Their collaborative ethos promotes a peer-to-peer approach that can cut out the broker and benefit both provider and consumer in the process.

By taking advantage of their collective connectivity, this generation shares information openly and at scale to (among other things) make best use of the excess capacity of goods and services. Examples of this approach are everywhere. Why buy a car—and pay money for a parking space— if you live in a pedestrian city where the vehicle will sit idle most days anyway? Instead, you can join Zipcar when you need wheels or use the Uber or Lyft app on your phone to get a ride across town. With so many shared resources, it makes sense to cooperate with others, especially if it means having access to assets that one wouldn’t be able to afford independently.

But as these economic arrangements gain popularity, there may be downsides for the rising cohort of young adults. Journalist Monica Potts offers a critical assessment of the “sharing economy” in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly that features a set of in-depth articles that focus on the relationship of Millennials and money (additional contributions are made by Phil Longman, Matt Connolly, and Jordan Fraade). Potts shows how Millennials have been creating virtues of necessity as a means of coping with an economy that is not delivering high-quality jobs.

Instead of following in the footsteps of their parents who married, bought homes, and had kids, Millennials are renting everything from homes to bikes, phones, and software, signifying a cultural shift that is radically altering their relationship to ownership. Instead of opting for the suburbs, Millennials are remaking the urban core of cities across the country, demanding improved transportation, more walkability, and better integration of technology into public services in order to benefit the collective rather than the individual. Some of these arrangements make sense over the long term, especially when the underlying assets are depreciating, but it also means that Millennials are missing out on recouping the gains from owning appreciating assets.

If we look at the balance sheet of young Millennials, and even Gen-Xers, we see declining incomes and lower levels of wealth, not merely vis a vis the rich, but compared to previous generations of Americans. In his piece, Phil Longman presents this as an emerging and consequential expression of inequality, arguing that perceptions of growing disparities might be best understood in generational terms. Rather than focusing on how exceedingly well the 1% is doing, it’s more instructive to recognize the decline of every generation of young adults born after the Boomers. In so much as the rise of the share economy is delaying a generational wealth-accumulating process, it is contributing to the pervasive downward mobility experienced by the Millennial generation. If people feel as though it is harder to get ahead than it used to be, it’s because it’s true.

One way that young people have traditionally been able to build up the assets side of their balance sheets is through entrepreneurship. However, Matt Connolly describes how Millennials are starting fewer businesses in recent years even as a seemingly endless wave of aspiring young Mark Zuckerbergs report in surveys and in the media that they want to do so. Without steady jobs, many of these young entrepreneurs take on temporary work, in effect creating a “Gig Economy,” characterized by a small, and less powerful, form of entrepreneurship that ends up supporting one job at a time and fails to spark the benefits we traditionally associate with small business creation.

Another impact of the Great Recession has been the delayed entry of young families into the economy as homeowners. Without savings to cover a down payment or the ability to qualify for a mortgage, Millennials are lagging behind previous cohorts in their rate of homeownership. Jordan Fraade sheds light on an innovative response, shared equity homeownership, which is gaining momentum in communities across the country. In shared-equity housing, the buyer gets a one-time subsidy that allows them to purchase a home that they would not be able to afford otherwise and in exchange, they are required to share the accumulated equity upon resale. This approach still offers the potential for wealth building but also provides access and stability for a generation desperately in need of both.

Shared-equity homeownership is just one example of the innovative policy solutions that we will need more of if we are to help the current crop of young families make the move up the economic ladder. Reversing their growing generational inequality is the new Millennial challenge and it will require a broad set of policies that can deal effectively with the numerous ways that inequality has expanded and grown more entrenched. Certainly, one set of policies should focus on limiting debt and bringing down the costs of accessing education and health care so liabilities don’t overwhelm the family balance sheet. But another set of policies is needed to assist young adults in building up their asset base over their life course and connecting them to productive ownership opportunities. It is our collective responsibility to make sure the emerging “share economy” doesn’t leave Millennials completely devoid of wealth.

Reid Cramer is director of the Asset Building Program at New America. He was a convener of the Millennials Rising symposium, which helped inform the articles described in this piece. 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.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com