Disney’s ‘Andi Mack’ Introduced a Gay Storyline in its Season Premiere

Disney Channel is no new champion to the pro-LGBTQ+ movement, and they continue to proudly show their support for the community by introducing a gay storyline in one of its coming-of-age series.

“Andi Mack”, which originated back in April, is a series that follows the life and adventures of 13-year-old Andi Mack, played by Peyton Elizabeth Lee, and her two best friends, Buffy Driscoll (Sofia Wylie) and Cyrus Goodman (Joshua Rush). The main focus of the series is to show the journey of young teenagers figuring out who they are, which was made clear from the very beginning as Andi learned that her free-spirited older sister Bex (Lilan Bowden) was actually her mother during the pilot episode. At that moment, Andi’s journey of self-discovery began and has been aided by her two best friends, Buffy and Cyrus, ever since as they, too, are trying to figure out who they are and where they stand in this crazy world.

During the Friday premiere of its second season, Andi was struggling with a crush on one of her middle school classmates, Jonah, and later in the episode, Cyrus shares that he is struggling with the realization that he, too, had a crush on Jonah when he comes out to Buffy. Take a look at the emotional, heartfelt scene below:

This move by Disney Channel wasn’t the first of its type, but it was definitely historic as it became the channel’s first story arc about a character coming out as gay. In other words, this is the first time Disney Channel will display a character’s journey to self-discovery as an LGBTQ+ individual on live-action TV. What makes this projection even more remarkable is the effort put into making this introduction come to life in the best way possible. In an effort to make sure Cyrus’s story came across in both an age-appropriate and respectful manner, Terri Minsky, the show’s creator, and Disney Channel consulted child development experts, in addition to pre-screening the premiere episode to a few LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, which included GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Defamation), PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and Common Sense Media.

“With more and more young people coming out as LGBTQ+, Andi Mack is reflecting the lives and lived experiences of so many LGBTQ+ youth around the country.”

- Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO

According to Deadline Hollywood, “Andi Mack” ranks as the most popular TV series of 2017 among girls ages 6-11, 9-14, and 6-14. Yet, as usual, everyone just won’t be happy. One Million Moms (OMM), a conservative group known for being anti-anything gay, posted a statement on their website last Thursday - the day before the episode aired - ‘alerting’ all moms while simultaneously bashing Disney Channel for “becoming another Freeform Network” that no longer caters to children and abandons family-friendly content. The petition created by OMM garnered more than 7,000 signatures; however, as expected, and rightfully so, Disney Channel kept their position in airing the episode and it was received with much more warm welcomes and appreciation than not. To catch “Andi Mack,” tune into to Disney Channel every Friday at 8:00 pm EST.

Ines Rau Becomes the First Openly Transgender Playmate & Playboy Claps Back at the Haters [Pictures Inside]

Shortly after Hugh Hefner passes away, the infamous Playboy brand reached even higher heights when it announced Ines Rau as its first openly transgender Playmate in its 64-year history. 

“The people who reject you aren’t worth it. It’s not about being loved by others; it’s about loving yourself.” – Ines Rau to Playboy

Ines Rau, a 26-year-old French model, is not new to the adult magazine as she was previously featured in the May 2014 Playboy issue, but is set to embrace the iconic centerfold spot in the upcoming November/December issue - an issue that will also include a special 100-page tribute to the organization’s late founder. This shoot only adds longevity to the model’s already existing resume as she has appeared in several campaigns, including Vogue Italia and American Vogue, in addition to ripping the runway for various top designers like Balmain; but, her newest position fits right into the publication’s tagline that it features on its Instagram: “Pushing and removing buttons since 1953.”

A few of the Playboy’s fans are a bit upset and feel as if the franchise decided to embark on this new era only after the passing of Hefner. Yet, in 1981, Playboy ran a feature on the “For Your Eyes Only” James Bond movie that included a popular model by the name of Caroline “Tula” Cossey. Both unfairly and unfortunately, in 1982, a British tabloid exposed Cossey with a headline that read, “James Bond Girl was a Boy.” At the time of her 1981 Playboy shoot, the status of Cossey’s gender-at-birth wasn’t public knowledge due to the time (societal ideals just weren’t feeling that – much more then than now with the ridiculous judgmental ideals of current times) and the progression of Cossey’s Hollywood resume came to an abrupt halt and suffered tremendously from being outed in such fashion; however, Hefner knowingly brought her back to make a statement when he featured her in the September 1991 issue and titled it, “The Transformation of Tula” which broadcasted Cossey as an out transgender woman and described her as “a beautiful woman who was born a boy.” Also, to not be forgotten, Hefner published a story in 1995 that flipped the roles of modern–day society in which heterosexuals were persecuted in a homosexual world and called the fight for gay marriage, “a fight for all out of rights.” It definitely appears that the slander projected by many are without facts and very misguided, but that did not stop the publication from addressing the ongoing threats by highlighting the parallel reaction to when they featured their first African American Playmate, Jenny Jackson, in 1965, to specifically let it be known that the franchise will continue to be unfazed by their negative comments.

Ultimately, it is important that we do not let Hefner and Playboy’s legacy supportive and progressive history dim the light of Ines Rau’s position as the first openly transgender person to be named a Playboy playmate and own the covenant centerfold position. What’s even more remarkable, Hugh’s son, Cooper, Playboy’s Chief Creative Officer, told The New York Times that Rau was selected to be the new playmate when Hefner was still alive and was even going to stand as the cover model until Hugh passed away two days before the issue went to print and was given the cover as a tribute, instead. Cooper also willingly admitted that the decision to select Rau was not for the satisfaction of those who purchase the brand’s product or even support them, but because it was the right thing to do regardless of how people would feel about it. The November/December 2017 issue is available in stores today and is also available for download by clicking here.

As FreedomTwoLove extends our sincerest appreciation to the Playboy brand for their continued progressive and inclusive mindset, we especially like to extend a huge and heartfelt congratulations to Ines Rau. In the meantime, check out a few of the beautiful pictures from the shoot below:

Jeff Sessions Reverses Trans Workplace Protections, Corporate America Petitions

Under the current Trump administration, the rights and lives of transgender persons have been severely targeted. Even after challenging their ability to use restrooms that don’t identify with their birth genders and removing their “privilege” to fight for our country, it seems like the targeted attacks are only worsening.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions received major, and rightfully deserved, backlash from the LGBTQ+ community and its supporters when he released a memo stating that the Justice Department would reverse a 2014 guidance issued by the Obama administration which interpreted Title VII (which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, religion, sex, orientation, and national origin) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as also banning discrimination of transgender employees in the workplace. In other words, the federal civil rights legislation does not protect transgender individuals from discrimination in the workplace. 

“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women, but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.” - Jeff Sessions

According to USA Today, Devin O’Malley, the Justice Department’s spokesman, agreed with Sessions on his remarks that the Obama administration abandoned the fundamental principle of law and this reversal is a matter specifically of law, and not of policy. Yet, he attempted to reassure that the department is devoted to protecting individuals’ civil and constitutional rights without disregarding the various laws initiated by Congress to specifically protect those against the presence discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“The attorney general joins President Trump and an administration who are stopping at nothing to strength institutional discrimination and walk back the hard-fought progress made by the LGBTQ community.”  - Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO

Shortly thereafter, 76 companies, including some of the biggest names in corporate America (Starbucks, Apple, Ben & Jerry’s, Facebook, American Airlines, etc.), have teamed up with Lambda Legal - a nonprofit advocacy organization - to create a petition that urges the Supreme Court to end employment discrimination based on sexual orientation once and for all by creating a uniform set of federal protections for gay, lesbian, AND transgender employees. Even more importantly, the petition challenges the Supreme Court to settle the never-ending debate regarding the protection of LGBTQ+ workers - sooner rather than later - in the case of Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital. Jameka Evans, a proud lesbian who presented herself in a masculine fashion, worked as a security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah for approximately a year (2012-2013). While there, Evans admits to having been harassed because of her sexuality based on not only the treatment she received but the questions she was asked about her sexuality after filing an internal complaint with human resources regarding the gruesome treatment. Ultimately, Evans decided to quit her job when the harassment persisted. In April 2015, she filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia against her former employer for violating Title VII, an action that was dismissed by the court, and her day in court has yet to come as that request was later denied by the Eleventh Circuit Court in March 2017.

Ironically, the Supreme Court has yet to decide if they will hear the case.

 To learn more about the Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital case, click here.

Tom Petty’s Last Tour Featured a Small Nod to Trans Rights

On Monday, October 2nd, music fans were devastated to hear about the untimely passing of rock sensation, Tom Petty at the age of 66.

In April, Petty and the Heartbreakers embarked on the Retrospective Summer Tour, a tour that held the intent of celebrating their 40th anniversary together. At every show across the world, the band performed their 1976 classic, “American Girl”, and each time, it only made sense that the band projected a tribute that consisted of several photos of American women. Yet, Petty took a stand in support of the transgender community when he included an image of American actress Alexis Arquette.

Alexis, an activist in the transgender community, died at the age of 47 from complications of HIV/AIDS in 2016. AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is a disease caused by an infection with HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus - a virus people can live for many years with before developing the more serious AIDS condition. HIV destroys the essential immune cells your body needs to fight off infections and without treatment, the fight becomes harder; however, it is not the HIV/AIDS virus that kills a person, but illnesses that take advantage of the weak immune system the body has due to the virus. It was reported shortly after Alexis passed that she had an inoperable tumor that had developed an infection that traveled throughout her body. 

Petty wasn’t known to be very political with his artistry, but the severity of presenting Alexis as one of the many American women on stage every night reached its peak on July 26th in New York - the same day that Donald Trump announced his very controversial plan to ban transgender service members from the military via Twitter. A move that made headlines in publications like Billboard and The New York Post, in addition to receiving much admiration from Alexis’s brother, David Arquette.

The world will definitely miss the kindhearted legend. 

Lance Bass & Other Men Turned Away from Donating Blood to Vegas Victims

On Sunday, October 1rst, a gunman - identified as a local, 64-year-old real estate investor, named Stephen Paddock - traveled up to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino with a reported amount of 23 assault rifles, including some he may have turned into automatic weapons, and opened fire on a crowd of more than 22,000 music lovers who were enjoying the sound of Jason Aldean at the outdoor Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is reported that Paddock killed himself before the police could get inside of his hotel room, but that doesn’t stop this tragedy from being deemed as the worst mass shooting in modern-day U.S. history as the gunman killed 58 people and injured more than 500 others. 

In the wake of the tragedy, Lance Bass, a pop singer and actor that rose to fame as a member of the boy band favorite - *NSYNC, wanted to help the victims of the mass shooting by donating blood, but he was slapped with the reality that he was prohibited to do so by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with every other gay and bisexual man. In 2015, the FDA made national news when it lifted its lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood; however, it’s current policy still bans any man who has had sex with another man in the past year from donating and that also includes sexually active gay men who are married or in monogamous relationships. Which undermines the fact that heterosexual men who have unprotected sex with several partners, or even complete strangers, are still able to donate blood over the gay male who religiously practices safe sex.

On October 3rd, the 38-year-old singer took to Twitter in frustration to slam the FDA policy. 

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Bass, who married Micheal Torching in 2014, also made his case on Instagram the following day when he posted a photo of the Las Vegas strip and quoted the thoughts of Pulse Nightclub Owner, Babara Poma, in regard to the horrific incident. Shortly afterward, a fan suggested that he donate blood, and he responded back truthfully, stating, “I can’t. I’m gay.”

Bass was joined by other LGBTQ+ celebrities, as well as gay and bisexual men in the community, in his efforts to speak out against the FDA’s restrictions. Not only do these restrictions shed light on the exhausting stereotype surrounding gay and bisexual men and HIV/AIDS as the ban originated in 1983 at the start of the AIDS epidemic, but a 2014 report by the Williams Institute (click here) found that removing the ban entirely on men who sleep with men (MSM) would save an estimated 1.8 million more lives each year by increasing the total blood supply in the United States by 2-4% per year.

“…and I’m gonna do all these things. Except give blood. I would but I can’t. I’m a gay American.”  - Jeffery Self, Actor & Author

“…it’s 2017 and gay men still can’t donate blood.”  - Robbie Roselle, Director & Writer

“It infuriates me that gay & bisexual men can be turned away from donating blood in Las Vegas because of the @US_FDA’s discriminatory policy.” - Shane Bitney Crone, LGBTQ+ Rights Activist

***FreedomTwoLove continues to extend its sincerest condolences to the families of those lost, injured, and the city of Las Vegas as a whole!