It’s Monday, and over the weekend there have been some big stories in the queer news world. We’ve got protests, murder and Miley Cyrus’s queerest album yet, Xtra has rounded up five of the biggest pieces of LGBTQ2S+ news for the week ahead:
1. Miley Cyrus’s new album, Endless Summer Vacation
2. Trail-blazer Georgina Beyer
3. Deaths of two men leaving Manhattan gay bars called homicide
4. Rural Ontario parents angry about school “safe spaces”
5. Anti-trans protest and counter-protests in Calgary.
1. Miley’s new album drops in less than a week—and it’s looking to be her queerest one yet
In under a week, Miley Cyrus will bless the soundwaves again with her long-anticipated album, Endless Summer Vacation, set for release on March 10. This time, Cyrus will be featuring only queer women as collaborators.
The tracklist for Endless Summer Vacation dropped last week, revealing that openly queer artist Sia would be featured on “Muddy Feet.” Brandi Carlile, who’s an out-and-proud lesbian, has also collaborated with Cyrus on the track “Thousand Miles.”
Cyrus, who prefers to keep her sexuality unlabelled, has celebrated weeks of success in the lead-up to the album, with her single “Flowers” breaking a host of records and becoming the most-streamed song in the U.K. When the album drops later this week, a Backyard Sessions music special will also air on Disney+, giving fans an extra look into the album’s production.
2. Trail-blazer Georgina Beyer, who was the world’s first out trans MP, passed away today, aged 65
Georgina Beyer cemented her place in queer history in 1999, when she was elected to the seat of Wairarapa in New Zealand. She had a prominent political career, having previously served as mayor of Carterton, and she worked in Parliament until 2007. A former actor, sex worker and drag performer, she fought for sex worker rights and the rights of LGBTQ+ people, even after retiring from Parliament.
Beyer was known for her progressive views, and often drew on her own life experiences to demonstrate her political points. One memorable example saw Beyer stand up in Parliament and defend the Prostitution Reform Act, using her own experience as a sex worker to educate peers about the realities of the industry. As a result, she was credited with changing key votes on the bill decrimilizing prostitution, which ultimately passed 60 votes to 59.
Beyer was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2013, and had been on dialysis since receiving a transplant in 2017. At her request, a funeral service will be replaced with a memorial service in the upcoming weeks.
3. New York’s chief medical examiner has found the death of two men leaving Manhattan gay bars last spring to be homicides
Last April, Julio Ramirez, a 25-year-old social worker from Queens, was found dead in a taxi cab after leaving a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen. In May, John Umberger, a 33-year-old consultant from Washington, D.C., was found dead of an overdose after leaving a different gay bar in the area. Both men had their bank accounts drained, and their deaths have since been linked to a robbery-assault scheme being investigated by the NYPD.
Last week, New York City’s chief medical examiner announced that the toxic mix of drugs in the men’s systems demonstrated that the poisonings were intentional, ultimately leading to a ruling of homicide by “drug-facilitated theft.” The ruling will assist in an ongoing investigation into the circumstances that led to the deaths, and a further investigation into robberies and assaults in the Hell’s Kitchen area during a similar time frame.
4. Angry religious parents in Aurora, Ontario, are determined to stop safe spaces for queer kids
A York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) meeting was disrupted last week after parents protested rainbow-themed “safe space” stickers that had been used by teachers in Aurora, Ontario.
Police were called to the meeting last Tuesday, after a group of parents grew enraged at the suggestion that teachers could hand out the stickers to their children, claiming that their Catholic faith is at odds with the acceptance of queer people. Legally, any exclusion of queer children in Catholic schools is a violation of the Ministry of Education’s policies for Ontario Schools, as well as the Ontario Human Rights Commission policies, so parents’ requests for the stickers to cease being handed out were denied.
Though the YCDSB stated it was not made aware that the stickers were being distributed, they stood by teachers supporting queer kids—though they noted that they also support teachers’ decisions to not display the stickers. Mike Totten, president of the York region branch of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, also said that the stickers had been available to teachers since 2013, and that supplies were simply being replenished, noting that the board’s support of queer students’ right to safe spaces is nothing new.
5. Protestors took to the streets of Calgary this weekend, with sides for and against trans rights clashing downtown
A local pool in Calgary recently came under fire on social media with accusations of indecent exposure in a changing room. Calgary police have since stated that there was no indecent exposure at Canyon Meadows Pool, and there have since been allegations that the accusations were against a trans woman simply using the women’s changing rooms. Another situation in the city saw the Calgary Public Library forced to postpone a drag storytime event scheduled for this weekend, citing danger to children and families in attendance. The weekend prior, anti-queer protestors had disrupted the event, shouting homophobic and transphobic slurs at children and parents in the library.
The rise of anti-trans sentiment in Calgary has angered pro-LGBTQ2S+ folks in the city, who rallied downtown this week in support of queer kids. They took to one side of the Macleod Trail, where on the other side they were matched by anti-queer protestors in favour of the recent anti-trans happenings in the city, who claimed they were “here to protect the rights of children to be safe and secure,” according to one protestor.
Authorities estimate that around 250 people attended the opposing rallies, signalling a concerning swirl of anti-trans rhetoric in Calgary.