11 Moments The Wedding On “The Fosters” Was Incredible

After all of the stress that it took to get to the wedding, Stef and Lena’s marriage on The Fosters was totally beautiful.

Really, the fact that they managed to plan a wedding in less than a week should be reason enough to love this episode.

Forget the drama and revel in adorable moments from the first gay wedding on TV since the end of DOMA:

1. When Lena dragged Stef away and ripped open her shirt.

 

2. And somehow we weren’t disappointed even though they didn’t have wedding-day sex.

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3. When Lena wore the most beautiful wedding dress EVER:

4. When Adorable Jude gave them the rings and pretended to have lost one:

5. When the rings were mixed up and they got the wrong ones:

via: http://oyesiam1.tumblr.com/tagged/The%20Fosters

 

6. When they dealt with the whole awkward “You may now kiss the bride” thing by just saying this:

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Nailed it.

7. THE KISS:

 

Let’s replay that, because you probably couldn’t see the first one through your tears:

8. When Jesus wore this really nice shirt:

Seriously, I want one.

9. When they skipped the “I thought I was gay ‘cause I could draw” lyric when Mariana dedicated “Same Love” to her moms.

Definitely a good move. Also, you know ABC Family is so excited to have been the first same-sex marriage on television to use this song.

10. And then this awkward family dance happened:

11. When we got to see their rings as they slept peacefully naked:

 

And now, we just have to wait until January to see them being beautiful wives.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/lilyhiottmillis/11-moments-the-wedding-on-the-fosters-was-incredible

This Twelve-Year-Old Girl Might Just Be The Second Coming Of Beyoncé

1. Beyonce clearly isn’t planning on giving up her crown any time soon.

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2. And rightfully so. HOWEVER…

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3. In a little town called Los Angles, there’s a girl named Charlize Glass who has a knack for dancing.

4. She’s a member of 8 Flavahz which was a runner-up on America’s Best Dance Crew in 2012.

5. Since then Charlize has performed in Ciara’s music video for “Got Me Good.”

6. And in Maejor Ali’s video for “Lolly” with Justin Bieber.

That’s Charlize on the right.

7. None of this information, however, will prepare you for this video of Charlize dancing to “Yonce.” BRACE YOURSELF.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/saeedjones/you-really-need-to-watch-12-year-old-charlize-glass-kill-it

15 Photos From Brazil’s First Gay Church

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The evangelical church, founded by missionary Lanna Holder and her partner Pastor Rosania Rocha, is the first to serve Brazil’s gay community.

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Same-sex unions are legal in Brazil, and LGBT Brazilians have most of the same legal rights and protections as straight Brazilians.

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Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jtes/17-photos-from-brazils-first-gay-church

22 Things You’ll Understand If You Were Raised By Two Moms

1. You’re used to hearing “Oh! Wow, hi,” after you say, “This is my mom and her partner…”

2. The first time you got your period, your moms had a candlelit dinner that included a poem reading about becoming a woman.

The Colbert Report / Via humorinrecovery.tumblr.com

3. The Annie Lennox 1995 Medusa album is lying on the floor of the car.

RCA Records / Via en.wikipedia.org

4. Your moms argue over who’s Bette and who’s Tina from The L Word.

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5. You sing the harmonies to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., while you decorate the Christmas tree.

6. They interrupt each other with “But, honey.”

The Fosters / ABC Family

7. “So, what did you two do at Dinah Shore this year?” is the fastest way to end a conversation.

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8. All three of you cried over the P&G “Thank you, Mom” commercial.

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9. You always go over budget on Mother’s Day.

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10. You never run out of shampoo or conditioner.

“Honey, can I use this?”

11. You share one another’s earrings from the latest art show.

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12. You scribble out “To Mom and Dad” in Valentine’s Day cards and write “To Mom and Mommy.”

13. You put the toilet seat down in restrooms now because it was never up in the house.

14. You slowly nod your head when your mom shouts out that she’s Billie Jean King on the tennis court.

15. Your moms constantly lean over and say, “Don’t you think she’s gay?”

16. You have joint family dinners with your soccer coach and her partner.

17. Your face when your mom’s partner told you to try softball.

“Honey, throw the ball at the GLOVE.”

18. You constantly hear “Honey, I KNOW where I’m going” while your moms try to navigate on the highway in their Mazda Volkswagen.

19. You share one another’s shoes.

20. You always feel comfortable sharing your somewhat dramatic feelings with one another.

21. You still watch VHS copies of Desert Hearts and Chutney Popcorn.

 

22. You went to a Home Depot wood carving workshop when you were 6 with your mom’s partner (she was nice enough to say you made the chair when she totally did).

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/clairepires/youll-understand-if-you-were-raised-by-two-moms

Brendon Ayanbadejo Calls On Athletes To Pave Path For The Gay Jackie Robinson

Nick Wass / AP

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012.

WASHINGTON — Baltimore Ravens’ linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo says now is the “moment just before history is made … as we wait for the arrival of the first openly gay man in U.S. major professional team sports” in an op-ed published Wednesday in USA Today, invoking the memory of “Jackie Robinson crossing the Major League Baseball color barrier.”

“This is our time and our cause. … It’s a gesture; it’s a pledge; it’s solidarity at its most basic. Our Jackie is coming. We need to pave the way,” he writes of the first out gay major leaguer.

Ayanbadejo, who has been an outspoken advocate for marriage equality in Maryland and around the country, has stepped up his activism following Sunday’s Super Bowl victory, appearing on CNN to talk about LGBT issues — yes, anti-transgender discrimination as well as anti-gay discrimination — and has now penned an op-ed on the moral cause for equality.

Referring to the trailblazing Jackie Robinson, Ayanbadejo writes, “Just like Jackie, the breakthrough gay athlete will be a courageous individual going it alone in uncharted territory. But, also like Jackie, he will have backup — and hopefully more of it.”

Indirectly responding to comments opposing an out athlete made by the San Francisco 49ers’ Chris Culliver and others making less-than-supportive comments, Ayanbadejo writes:

Together athletes in all four of our country’s major sports leagues — the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA — can be more than good men. Since human rights are far more important than sports, we need to be Athlete Allies who are willing to leverage our social capital and all that goes with it — like fans, endorsement deals and more — to stand up for a larger purpose. …

There are many reasons why no gay athlete has come out in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB, most of which are likely to go away with support and acceptance from the straight community. As leaders and even role models for millions of young people across the globe, professional athletes have the ability to fundamentally eliminate prejudice from our sport and live up to the incredible privilege we enjoy. …

The NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA should and can be leaders against discrimination. Whether you’re a commissioner, an athlete, a coach or a fan, your voice will let every kid out there know that there is a place for him or her in sports. We all can be ourselves and still compete with dignity and at the highest level.

Chris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota Vikings, also has been outspoken about marriage equality issues — cutting an ad to oppose the November 2012 proposed amendment to ban same-sex couples from marrying in Minnesota — and praised Ayanbadejo.

“I stand with Brendon and every other person, athlete and non-athlete alike, who says that discrimination in any form is not the legacy we will hand down to our children. I am proud to be an Athlete Ally, and I hope others will join us in treating all people with compassion, dignity, and respect. A gay player in sports is not defined by their sexuality, but by how they play, and I support any player who wishes to be him or herself with everything I have. Treat others the way you want to be treated,” Kluwe said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed.

Brian Ellner, who is on the board of Athlete Ally and had garnered support from athletes for New York’s 2011 marriage equality bill effort, added, “Brendon’s been amazing. An Athlete Ally extraordinaire, he carried LGBT rights all the way to New Orleans and the Super Bowl. Back in Maryland, he’d already helped us win marriage equality. Now he calls for our Jackie Robinson and sends a message to gay athletes around the globe that it’s time to come out and that there are professional athletes ready to embrace them.”

In a statement, Athlete Ally founder Hudson Taylor said, “The Ravens won the Super Bowl relying on unbreakable unity and trust. It’s those elements of a team that are completely compromised when athletes are forced into the closet. We applaud our Super Bowl Champion and Athlete Ally Brendon Ayanbadejo for making his voice heard.”

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/brendon-ayanbadejo-calls-on-athletes-to-pave-path-for-the-ga

How An HIV-Positive Man Was Sent To Prison For Having Sex — With A Condom

Nick Rhoades looks at his phone as he sits in the waiting room before an appointment with his psychiatrist in Waterloo, Iowa on Nov. 7, 2013. Stephen Mally for ProPublica

This story was co-published with ProPublica.

Nick Rhoades was clerking at a Family Video store in Waverly, Iowa, one summer afternoon in 2008 when three armed detectives appeared, escorted him to a local hospital and ordered nurses to draw his blood. A dozen miles away, his mother and stepfather looked on as local sheriff’s deputies searched their home for drugs — not illegal drugs, but lifesaving prescription medications.

Lab results and a bottle of pills found in the Rhoades’ refrigerator confirmed the detectives’ suspicions: Nick Rhoades was HIV-positive.

Almost a year later, in a Black Hawk County courtroom, Judge Bradley Harris peered down at Rhoades from his bench.

“One thing that makes this case difficult is you don’t look like our usual criminals,” Harris said. “Often times for the court it is easy to tell when someone is dangerous. They pull the gun. They have done an armed robbery. But you created a situation that was just as dangerous as anyone who did that.”

The judge meted out Rhoades’ sentence: 25 years in prison.

His crime: having sex without first disclosing he had HIV.

Officially, the charge, buried in Chapter 709 of the Iowa code, is “criminal transmission of HIV.” But no transmission had occurred. The man Rhoades had sex with, 22-year-old Adam Plendl, had not contracted the virus.

That’s not a surprise, because Rhoades used a condom.

And medical records show he was taking antiviral drugs that suppressed his HIV, making transmission extremely unlikely. A national group of AIDS public health officials later submitted a brief estimating that the odds of Rhoades infecting Plendl were “likely zero or near zero.”

After his lawyers petitioned the court, Rhoades’ prison sentence was changed to five years’ probation. But for the rest of his life — he is 39 — he will remain registered as an aggravated sex offender who cannot be alone with anyone under the age of 14, not even his nieces and nephews.

Rhoades’ is not an isolated case. Over the last decade, there have been at least 541 cases in which people were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, criminal charges for not disclosing that they were HIV-positive, according to a ProPublica analysis of records from 19 states. The national tally is surely higher, because at least 35 states have laws that specifically criminalize exposing another person to HIV. In 29 states, it is a felony. None of the laws require transmission to occur.

Defendants in these cases were often sentenced to years — sometimes decades — in prison, even when they used a condom or took other precautions against infecting their partners. In 60 cases for which extensive documentation could be obtained, ProPublica found just four involving complainants who actually became infected with HIV. Even in such cases, it can be hard to prove who transmitted the virus without genetic tests matching the accused’s HIV strain to their accuser’s.

People with HIV have even done time for spitting, scratching or biting. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spitting and scratching cannot transmit HIV, and transmission through biting “is very rare and involves very specific circumstances” — namely, “severe trauma with extensive tissue damage and the presence of blood.”

Many law enforcement officials and legislators defend these laws, saying they deter people from spreading the virus and set a standard for disclosure and precautions in an ongoing epidemic.

“Shifting the burden of HIV disclosure from the infected person, who is aware of a known danger, to one who is completely unaware of their partner’s condition smacks of a ‘blame the victim’ sort of mentality,” Jerry Vander Sanden, a prosecutor in Linn County, Iowa, wrote in an email to ProPublica. “It would be like telling a rape victim that they should have been more careful.”

Even many people with HIV support the laws. In a recent survey of HIV-positive people in New Jersey, 90 percent said that people with the virus bore most of the responsibility to protect their partners. More than half approved of the kind of laws that resulted in Rhoades’ sentence.

But some health and legal experts say using criminal penalties to curtail the epidemic could backfire and fuel the spread of HIV. According to the CDC, 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV, but one-fifth of them don’t know it. And studies show that about half of newly infected people got the virus from those who didn’t know they had HIV. So relying on a partner to know, let alone disclose, their HIV status is a risky proposition.

The laws, these experts say, could exacerbate this problem: If people can be imprisoned for knowingly exposing others to HIV, their best defense may be ignorance. Such laws, then, provide a powerful disincentive for citizens to get tested and learn if they carry the virus.

The laws “place all of the responsibility on one party: the party that’s HIV-positive,” said Scott Schoettes, a lawyer who supervises HIV litigation for Lambda Legal, a national gay-rights advocacy group. “And they lull people who are not HIV-positive — or at least think they are not HIV-positive — into believing that they don’t have to do anything. They can just wait for their partner to reveal their status and not, instead, take steps to protect themselves.”

Schoettes also says that the laws unfairly single out HIV, further stigmatizing and reinforcing misconceptions about living with the virus.

“There’s no reason why we should be singling out HIV for this kind of treatment,” he said. “It’s based in just a lot of fear and misconception.”

Being HIV-positive can still carry a powerful stigma. Since July 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice has opened at least 49 investigations into alleged HIV discrimination. The department has won settlements from state prisons, medical clinics, schools, funeral homes, insurance companies, day care centers and even alcohol rehab centers for discriminating against HIV-positive people. Individuals with HIV may also fear that news of their status will spread to third parties, leading to rejection, embarrassment or ostracism for themselves or even their loved ones.

In September, a disability rights group accused the Pea Ridge, Ark., school district of kicking out three siblings after officials learned that members of their family had HIV. The family’s lawyers declined to comment. The school district did not respond to requests for interviews but issued a statement acknowledging that it had “required some students to provide test results regarding their HIV status in order to formulate a safe and appropriate education plan for those children.”

In romantic or sexual settings, people with HIV often report fear of rejection, abandonment and stigmatization.

“My first girlfriend in middle school — her mom banned her from seeing me, and it took me five years before I felt comfortable to try again,” said Reed Vreeland, a 27-year-old New Yorker who was born with HIV. Vreeland works as the communications coordinator for the Sero Project, a nonprofit advocacy group that campaigns against HIV exposure laws, which it denounces as “HIV criminalization.”

In 2006, Vreeland started dating a classmate at Bard College in upstate New York. He disclosed his HIV status on their second date.

“What’s going through your head is being scared of being rejected,” he said. “It’s scary to give someone that power.”

Vreeland and his girlfriend continued to date. Last spring, they married at a ceremony in the Bronx. “It took me a long time to propose, because I thought I would die,” he recalled. “I was saying, ‘Well, OK, why should I propose if I’m scared of dying in 10 years? And if we do have a kid, then I might die and leave my kid without a father, like I grew up without a mother.’”

The fear is “choking” and “silencing,” he said. “You’re conscious that saying three letters will change the way people will see you.”

In some cases, people with HIV have been met with violence — and even death — after disclosing their status. Last month, in Dallas, 37-year-old Larry Dunn was sentenced to 40 years in prison for murdering his HIV-positive lover. Police said he used a kitchen knife to stab and kill Cicely Bolden, a 28-year-old mother of two, after she told him about her HIV status. “She killed me,” he told investigators, according to his arrest warrant, “so I killed her.”

Until recently, criminal punishment was virtually unheard of for infectious diseases other than HIV. Federal and state officials have the authority to quarantine the sick to contain epidemics, but this power was typically granted to health authorities, who are versed in the latest science, not police and prosecutors. Very few criminal statutes take aim at diseases. At least two states have catchall laws against exposing others to “communicable diseases,” but only if exposure happens through routes most commonly associated with HIV, such as sex, sharing needles or donating blood. And while some states have laws that specifically punish exposure to tuberculosis, syphilis or “venereal diseases,” HIV exposure is almost always punished more severely.

But since 2007, three states have added hepatitis B and C to laws criminalizing HIV exposure. Those diseases are most prevalent among the same groups of marginalized people most at risk for HIV: intravenous drug users; gay men, especially those who are black or Latino; and black women.

Yet the laws may be unnecessary. In rare cases when someone intentionally tries to spread a virus, prosecutors have been able to put them away using ordinary criminal laws, such as assault or reckless endangerment. In 1997, a New York man named Nushawn Williams was accused of deliberately infecting at least 13 people, including two underage girls, with HIV. Williams pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory rape and one count of reckless endangerment. When his 12-year sentence ended in 2010, state officials kept him confined under laws that allow dangerous psychiatric patients to be locked up. He remains behind bars.

In Iowa, Rhoades’ case has prompted some lawmakers to reconsider whether exposing someone to HIV should carry such a heavy punishment.

“Putting somebody in prison for 25 years when they didn’t even transmit HIV is the most absurd thing that the state could be doing,” said Matt McCoy, an Iowa state senator who has introduced legislation to reduce the penalties. “It’s medieval.”

Even Plendl, the man Rhoades had sex with, thinks the law is too harsh. “Do I think he needs to be locked up forever?” Plendl asked. “No. Do I think these laws need to be revisited? Yes.”

Nick Rhoades talks at the beginning of a PITCH meeting in Waterloo. PITCH, which stands for Positive Iowans Taking Charge, is a support group for people living with HIV. Stephen Mally for ProPublica

In 1986, scientists had just christened the virus that causes AIDS, the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. The government had already logged more than 16,000 AIDS cases and 8,000 deaths since the American epidemic began, mostly among gay men and drug users. At the time, not a single drug was approved to target HIV, and the diagnosis was, for many, a death warrant.

In a panic, state lawmakers across the country — starting with Kernan “Skip” Hand, a Republican state legislator from Jefferson Parish, La. — began to take a law-and-order approach to keeping HIV out of their communities.

Hand’s bill, the first of its kind in the country, passed in 1987. It imposed a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine on anyone who “intentionally” exposed a person to HIV without their “knowing and lawful consent.”

The next year, Georgia adopted a statute that made no mention of intent; it could be applied to anyone who did not disclose their HIV status before having sex or sharing needles.

In 1989, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC — a conservative nonprofit that develops policy positions and drafts model bills for state legislatures — assembled a special HIV task force, which published a set of prototype statutes on subjects ranging from mandatory testing to insurance coverage. Buried in Chapter 6, alongside a proposed emergency quarantine law, was a single-page bill called the “HIV Assault Act,” which became the template for state HIV exposure laws for the next decade.

Alan Smith, who served on the committee that drafted ALEC’s model HIV bills and later served as ALEC’s executive director, recalled members’ concerns that people might intentionally try to spread the virus to drive more funding toward medical research.

“I guess there was a worry that there would be a lot worse disease than it could’ve been if people were actually on a mission to make sure more people got it so more research money could be devoted to curing it,” Smith said.

A turning point came in 1990, when Congress inadvertently gave the criminalization effort a boost by passing the Ryan White CARE Act, a landmark law that funded HIV/AIDS services.

In the run up to passage, Jesse Helms — the late Republican senator from North Carolina — proposed an amendment that would have criminalized HIV-positive health care workers who failed to disclose their status to patients and made it a federal crime for anyone with HIV, as well as anyone who had ever used injection drugs or engaged in prostitution, to donate, sell or attempt to donate or sell blood, semen, tissues, organs or bodily fluids. (The act itself was named after a hemophiliac teenager from Indiana who became a national poster child for the AIDS crisis when he was expelled from middle school after contracting HIV from a tainted blood treatment.)

But Ted Kennedy, the late Democratic senator from Massachusetts and the act’s primary sponsor, offered an alternative: Defund services unless states passed legislation to safeguard their blood and organ donation networks.

“No state,” Kennedy said from the Senate floor, describing the compromise amendment, “could receive funds under the act, unless laws are in place to prosecute a person who donates blood or organs if one knows that he or she is infected with the HIV virus and knows the risk of transmission from making such a donation.”

Waiting in the wings was the ALEC bill, which outlawed blood and tissue donations by people with HIV and also made it a crime for anyone with HIV to have “intimate contact” with another person without first disclosing his or her HIV status. By 1993, versions of the HIV Assault Act had been passed in Florida and introduced in Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Nevada, Tennessee and Virginia. By the end of the decade, copycat bills had passed in nine states, including Iowa, which enacted its law in 1998.

A side-by-side comparison shows that the Iowa law was almost identical to ALEC’s HIV Assault Act. Iowa’s only major change was to its name: The “HIV Assault Act” became the “Criminal Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus” law, itself a misnomer because transmission isn’t necessary for the charge to stick.

When Congress reauthorized the Ryan White CARE Act in 2000, it dropped the criminalization provision for blood and tissue donations. Nevertheless, since then, at least 14 bills have been passed across the country either enacting new HIV exposure laws or toughening existing laws’ penalties, especially when the victim is a police or corrections officer.

In 2011, for example, Nebraska passed a measure that made biting or spitting on public safety officers a misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine — unless the offender is HIV-positive. Then the same crime is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

At the same time, three states — Mississippi, Nebraska and Tennessee — have criminalized exposing someone to hepatitis B or C. In Nebraska and Tennessee, this is a misdemeanor, while HIV exposure is a felony, even though, according to the World Health Organization, hepatitis B is up to 100 times more infectious than HIV.

***

On June 26, 2008, Nick Rhoades was at home in Plainfield, Iowa, when he received a chat invitation on Gay.com, a dating and social networking site. The sender, Adam Plendl, was a 22-year-old student at the University of Northern Iowa.

At 3 that morning, the men struck up a conversation. Plendl invited Rhoades to meet him in Cedar Falls, roughly 30 miles south of Plainfield, where Plendl had just moved into a new apartment several blocks from campus. The two men spent the next several hours drinking pomegranate vodka martinis, smoking marijuana, unpacking Plendl’s belongings and bonding over their struggles with bipolar disorder. Eventually, they had sex.

A few nights later, Plendl was sharing a midnight cigarette with Jordan Brown, a friend who had learned through the grapevine that Rhoades was, as he later described it to police, “sick.” Plendl panicked at the possibility that he had been exposed to HIV. He said he “flew out of the house” to the emergency room of the nearby Sartori Memorial Hospital.

As he tells it, Plendl never planned to press charges against Rhoades. He went to the hospital seeking a doctor who could prescribe him a short-term, emergency regimen of HIV drugs that, if started within 72 hours of exposure to the virus, can stop infection from taking root. But when the Sartori staff seemed clueless about the procedure, Plendl went to the emergency room at Covenant Medical Center in the neighboring town of Waterloo.

There, Brandy Weida-Cooper, a registered nurse who was working the graveyard shift, admitted Plendl to the ER and, records show, made the call to involve police. “I never called the police,” Plendl said. “Yes, when I was asked questions, I provided them answers. But I did not call the police; the hospital did.”

In a telephone interview, Weida-Cooper declined to explain what spurred her decision to alert authorities. (A spokesman for Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, the Roman Catholic nonprofit that owns both Covenant and Sartori, also declined to comment.) In any case, by 4:02 a.m., a Cedar Falls patrol officer was standing in Weida-Cooper’s emergency room, ready to take Plendl’s statement.

Nick Rhoades, in his home in Waterloo, Iowa on Nov. 7, 2013, charges the GPS ankle bracelet he must wear as part of his probation. Stephen Mally for ProPublica

The more than 500 instances documented by ProPublica in which people have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to HIV-specific laws since 2003 represents one of the largest collections of such cases ever assembled. Still, it is almost certainly a substantial undercount.

The data was drawn from more than 1,300 records, including court files, police reports and registries of sex offenders and prisoners. Some law enforcement agencies refused to provide records about their cases or redacted names and case numbers, saying that the suspects’ HIV status — once used to prove their criminal guilt — should be protected out of concern for their medical privacy. (A full breakdown of the data is here.)

Some of the cases were originally compiled through public records requests made by the Sero Project; most were independently obtained by ProPublica.

Despite its limitations, the material creates a rough portrait of how these laws have been applied through the years.

ProPublica was able to find just four cases that involved lawmakers’ original concerns about protecting the blood and organ supply. Two of these four resulted in a conviction or guilty plea, one was dismissed, and the outcome of the last could not be determined.

For cases in which the route of potential transmission could be determined, the overwhelming majority involved sex. The circumstances and relationships in those cases confound stereotypes or preconceived notions: HIV-positive defendants and their accusers have included gay and straight couples in one-night stands, dating relationships or even years of marriage. Cases have involved instances of sex between prisoners, rape and child abuse.

In Waterloo, Iowa, 42-year-old Donald Bogardus, a church-going, HIV-positive gay man who also suffers from cerebral palsy, recently pleaded guilty to charges of failing to disclose his status to a partner. “I wanted to tell him, but when I went to say it, I clammed up,” Bogardus told the Daily Iowan last year. “So many things came across my mind. I was afraid he was going to blab it out to everybody. But I still regret not telling him. I really do.”

Bogardus currently works as a nurse’s assistant, but his guilty plea will place him on the state’s sex offender registry, barring him from working with patients in nursing homes.

Even just the fear of prosecution has had consequences for people with HIV. In New York, one HIV-positive woman interviewed by ProPublica said she didn’t report being raped because her attacker threatened to press charges for not disclosing her status. (New York does not have an HIV disclosure law, but the woman said she didn’t know that and feared prosecution because she’d heard of cases elsewhere.)

Women, including many alleged sex workers, were the accused in almost a quarter of the convictions and guilty pleas for which gender could be determined.

In St. Louis, Nigaila Gibbs was 20 years old when police arrested her during an undercover sting operation in 2010. Gibbs, who was born with HIV, began prostituting herself after aging out of Missouri’s foster care system. Police accused her of having sex with “hundreds” of clients and failing to warn them about her HIV status, although Gibbs told police she always practiced safe sex. At the time of Gibbs’ arrest, St. Louis County police encouraged potential victims to come forward. Three clients stepped up to complain about Gibbs, but a police spokesman said no one was found to be infected or charged with soliciting a prostitute.

Gibbs ultimately pleaded guilty to “performing an act of prostitution” while knowingly infected with HIV and was sentenced to five years in Missouri state prison. Today, searching for her name on Google turns up blog posts and message board threads titled “AIDS Whore Nigaila Gibbs May Have Infected Hundreds!” and “Fat ugly prostitute infects over 100 clients w/ HIV.”

In one 2006 case, the defendant was already in prison when he was charged with an HIV-related offense.

Thomas Tompkins was serving his last month in prison at Ohio’s Richland Correctional Institution when a guard caught him performing oral sex on another inmate in the prison library. State police questioned the two inmates about whether the encounter was consensual, and both men agreed it was. But when Tompkins acknowledged that he had not disclosed his HIV-positive status to the other inmate, prosecutors accused him of felonious assault with HIV.

Scientists agree that a man who receives oral sex has virtually zero chance of contracting HIV.

Still, Tompkins pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of aggravated assault, adding an extra year to his sentence.

And in a 2010 case from South Carolina, a 32-year-old man named Jesus Cazares spent five months in the Marion County jail awaiting trial for “exposing another to HIV.” He pleaded guilty and was credited with time served, but not before U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement filed to detain him on immigration charges. In February 2011, Cazares was released into ICE custody, and a federal judge ordered him “removed” to Mexico.

In addition to the convictions and guilty pleas, ProPublica found at least 179 instances in which people were acquitted or had their cases dismissed. Yet even then, the repercussions can be severe. The accused can find their names splashed in local news accounts, making their HIV status common knowledge; they can lose jobs, homes, family members and friends; and if they can’t make bail, they can be stuck in jail, where inmates can face spotty access to HIV medications and other problems.

Last year, St. Louis prosecutors accused 40-year-old Adam Childs of exposing an ex-boyfriend to HIV. While awaiting trial in the city jail, records show, Childs was raped by another inmate and moved to protective custody. A few months later, a nurse and a prison guard were dispensing medications in Childs’ cell block when they found his lifeless body hanging over the stainless steel toilet in his cell, strung from a sprinkler cover with a blue, standard-issue jail bed sheet.

***

One consequence of the viral exposure legislation is that public health activities and law enforcement, which have traditionally been kept separate, can now overlap. In some states, such as Mississippi, people who test HIV-positive are routinely asked to sign a document called a “Form 917.” By signing it, patients acknowledge they have been counseled about the basics of living with HIV, including the legal consequences of not telling partners they have the virus. Similar forms have also been used in Arkansas, Michigan and North Dakota.

In several states, including Idaho, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan and Iowa, ProPublica found, prosecutors and judges have used subpoenas and warrants to force health officials to hand over these forms along with other medical records, such as test results, as evidence against patients charged with violating viral exposure laws. County prosecutors in Indiana, for example, have served at least 20 such subpoenas to the state health department since 2010.

Sometimes, health officials have initiated criminal proceedings. In Grand Traverse County, Mich., former county health officer Fred Keeslar sent a memo to the local prosecutor headlined “Recalcitrant Behavior,” suggesting that police set up a sting operation to arrest and prosecute an HIV-positive man suspected of cruising for sex in public bathrooms without disclosing his status. Keeslar did not respond to requests for comment.

On the federal level, Obama administration officials have come out against HIV-specific criminal laws. In 2010, the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy issued a white paper saying that the “continued existence and enforcement of these types of laws run counter to scientific evidence about routes of HIV transmission and may undermine the public health goals of promoting HIV screening and treatment.” The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS has also condemned these laws.

In 2011, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, or NASTAD, also endorsed the repeal of laws that criminalize HIV exposure or nondisclosure. (Last June, NASTAD also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Rhoades case.)

But across the states, health officials have varying opinions. “The existence of the statutes does not affect our prevention, diagnosis and treatment efforts,” a spokesman for the Virginia state health department said.

But Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said that “imposing harsher sentences on individuals with HIV or treating HIV-positive patients differently in the eyes of the law may impact the effectiveness of the Department of Public Health’s HIV prevention efforts.”

And Donn Moyer, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health, said, “we believe it’s time to look at the effectiveness of such laws, given current knowledge and understanding of HIV transmission and treatment, which have advanced a lot since most of those HIV laws were written.”

Officials in Louisiana did not comment on specific criticisms of its law, but internal emails discussing ProPublica’s questions show how sensitive the topic can be. One former health department spokeswoman told a colleague it is “a touchy topic that will require governor’s office involvement.”

In Tennessee, ProPublica’s questions were sent to the state epidemiologist, who told a spokesman: “Ain’t touching it with a 10 foot pole.”

In Iowa, the Rhoades case helped spur a bill that would lower the penalties for HIV exposure, but it failed to pass. Its lead sponsor said he plans to reintroduce it. For anyone who intentionally tried to infect someone, the punishment would remain harsh: 10 years if infection occurred, and five years if it didn’t. In cases where someone didn’t intend to infect his partner but still did so after failing to take “practical means to prevent” transmission, the penalty would be two years. If there was no intention to infect and no one was infected, there would be no penalty. Local AIDS activists and the state health department support the bill, but some prosecutors still oppose it.

***

Whether Adam Plendl actually faced a significant risk for contracting HIV from Rhoades, or was even exposed to the virus during their encounter remains unclear. HIV is far less transmissible than many other sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes. Even for unprotected anal sex, the riskiest sexual act, the receptive partner’s chances of contracting HIV have been estimated at only five in 1,000. (The insertive partner is at a much lower risk.)

The men agree that Rhoades wore a condom during intercourse, although Plendl claims it fell off. Neither man recalls whether Rhoades ejaculated during the encounter.

But Rhoades was taking a cocktail of three antiretroviral drugs, and his medical records show they were working. The drugs had suppressed the amount of HIV in his blood to such minute levels that it was undetectable in lab tests. A widely heralded 2011 study found that similar patients were 96 percent less likely to pass HIV on to a partner.

The men did not use a condom when Plendl performed oral sex on Rhoades, and prosecutors later argued that the act could have exposed Plendl to pre-seminal fluid containing HIV. While HIV transmission from oral sex has been documented, the CDC says it’s rare, and it considers the risk low. Plendl later said he was suffering from a shaving nick, which, he worried, could have made him more susceptible to transmission.

Lab results eventually confirmed that Plendl did not contract HIV.

In the days after he visited the emergency room, Plendl cooperated with Mark Abernathy, the Cedar Falls detective who was assigned to investigate the case. Plendl gave Abernathy a copy of Rhoades’ Internet profile, which listed his HIV status as negative.

In an interview, Plendl told ProPublica he asked Rhoades if he was “clean.” He explained, “I always ask anyone, before anything, ‘Is your profile correct with your HIV status?’”

Rhoades said he doesn’t remember that exchange, but he admitted to lying about his HIV status online.

“That was different,” he told a prosecutor in 2011. “That was a public openness.” Telling his close friends and family was one thing, Rhoades said, but he didn’t want his HIV infection available to “people who randomly page through profiles on an online website.”

“It’s a stigmatized condition,” he added. “I have a job.”

After their encounter, Rhoades left several voicemails on Plendl’s phone. “I wanted to get together with him,” Rhoades said in an interview. “I wanted to sit down and have the conversation about my HIV status. I didn’t realize that the reason he wasn’t returning my phone calls was because he was already in contact with law enforcement.”

Plendl said he finally called Rhoades back, with his phone wired up to police recording equipment. He confronted Rhoades, who confirmed, on tape, that he was HIV-positive and that the men had engaged in unprotected oral sex during their encounter. The recording would become crucial evidence.

Four days later, on July 14, a Black Hawk County judge approved Detective Abernathy’s request for a search warrant, allowing him to seize Rhoades’ medical records, prescriptions and a sample of his blood.

“They came to my work,” Rhoades said. “I think it was three openly-armed police detectives from an adjacent city.” The officers, he continued, “asked me to go down to the local sheriff’s office and discuss something with them, and they didn’t say what this was about.”

youtube.com / Via ProPublica. Video obtained from the Cedar Falls Police Department.

At the sheriff’s station, Abernathy led Rhoades — who was dressed in a striped blue polo shirt, light tan khakis and a pair of white sneakers — to an interview room. Initially, Rhoades signed a Miranda waiver, acknowledging his rights to silence and legal counsel, while Abernathy, a tall, balding man in his early 40s, questioned him about the encounter with Plendl.

“I have a case involving you and an Adam Plendl,” Abernathy said. “Do you know who Mr. Plendl is?”

“I know someone named Adam,” Rhoades replied.

The detective continued, asking how, when and where the meeting with Plendl occurred.

“I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable,” Abernathy said.

“I’m a little uncomfortable,” Rhoades replied.

“What was the intent of the meeting, if you will?”

“It was purely social. And I don’t know if you can subpoena — I don’t know if they keep records of those chat conversations, but if they do, I’d be more than willing to share them, because I was quite clear that it was just a social nature,” Rhoades said.

As the interrogation continued, Rhoades plainly told Abernathy about his HIV status and his phone conversation with Plendl — which, unbeknown to Rhoades, the detective had already listened to.

“He did find out that I’m HIV-positive,” he told the officer, “and he was very concerned about any interaction that he had with me, and I tried to assure him that nothing that happened between us was anything of risk.”

“You said you’re pretty open with it,” Abernathy said. “You don’t advertise it, but you tell your friends?”

“It’s too much to stress about. It’s a bad thing, but the more open I am, the less anxious I feel. And people around me that I’m close to — I think it helps our friendship to be honest.”

“How come you didn’t let Adam know?” the detective asked.

“Again, it’s a need-to-know basis. And there was no —”

“But you guys had sex?”

“No.”

“You did not have sex?”

“We did not have sex.”

Abernathy had caught Rhoades in a lie, and he bore down on it.

“Are you saying there was no oral or anal penetration?”

“No,” Rhoades answered. “No.”

“You look surprised. Which one of those surprised you?”

“Well, they both surprise me. With my condition I have to be pretty — picky, I guess, about who I’m with and why I’m with them,” Rhoades said. “I’m honest about it. Especially when it comes to a situation that would lead to possibly a sexual encounter.”

Abruptly, Abernathy excused himself from the interrogation room. It wasn’t until he returned — and revealed to Rhoades that his phone call with Plendl had been taped — that Rhoades realized how serious the situation had become. He invoked his right to a lawyer, ending the interview, and went with the cops to a local hospital where nurses drew his blood.

When he was finished, he told his mother, “I don’t know if I’m going to be in trouble.”

Nick Rhoades sits outside of his house in Waterloo. Stephen Mally for ProPublica

After Rhoades’ police interrogation, his parents found him a lawyer: James Metcalf, a former local prosecutor who now runs his own criminal defense practice in downtown Waterloo.

As the case progressed, Rhoades pleaded with Plendl not to press charges. After the police interview, he left a final voicemail on Plendl’s phone, begging him to abandon the case.

“I’m just calling to absolutely get on my knees and beg you to please drop these charges,” Rhoades urged. “This has all just gone absolutely crazy. Please consider — again, I absolutely beg you, beg you, beg you to please drop these charges.”

But on July 28, Abernathy submitted a criminal complaint to the court and county prosecutors, accusing Rhoades of violating the state’s HIV exposure law. A judge issued an arrest warrant.

When police showed up to take Rhoades into custody, he was nowhere to be found. “Without getting into too much detail, I had a nervous breakdown,” he said.

In an affidavit later submitted to the court on Rhoades’ behalf, Colleen Brems, a nurse who treated him at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, said that he had been admitted to the hospital’s mental health unit to recover “from a suicide attempt in [the] context of [a] severe depressive episode.”

“In a small community like Iowa,” Rhoades explained, “dealing with the most stigmatized condition, in my mind, that currently exists; becoming fodder for the media gossip mill; me and my HIV status becoming public domain; and the idea of, you know, becoming a felon and having the embarrassment to my family and feeling like my life would be absolutely — there would be no life after if this prosecution were successful.

“It was more than I could take, and I just — I crumbled.”

Rhoades spent a month in inpatient care. When he was discharged on Sept. 30, 2008, he was immediately taken into custody and escorted to the county jail in Waterloo. “I walked out of the hospital in my cuffs and shackles,” he recalled.

Rhoades pleaded not guilty, and the judge set his bond at $250,000. Rhoades said his family “didn’t have that kind of cash,” so he spent seven months in the Black Hawk County jail, waiting for trial.

For the first 20 days, the sheriff’s office said, Rhoades was placed in solitary confinement and was allowed one 30-minute visit each week. He lived in the jail’s secured housing unit, or SHU (pronounced “shoe”), where his HIV medications were delivered through a slot in the cell door.

Eventually, Rhoades was transferred to a cell in the jail’s high-security wing. He left the jail twice, the sheriff’s office said, for medical appointments, where he sat in a waiting room wearing an orange jumpsuit, leg irons and handcuffs.

In the meantime, Metcalf had suggested that Rhoades waive his right to a speedy trial so he would have more time to prepare a defense. At one point, Metcalf started deposing Plendl, but the interview was never completed.

By May 2009, Rhoades had grown exhausted and frayed from jail and the uncertainty. He and Metcalf decided to enter a guilty plea and hope for a lenient sentence. But at the hearing, Judge Harris gave Rhoades the maximum sentence under Iowa’s law — 25 years in state prison. The maximum sentence under Iowa law for sexually abusing a child is 10 years.

“Prison very rarely provides rehabilitation,” Harris told Rhoades. “You’re being sent there as a punishment.”

***

Harris’ decision to give Rhoades the maximum sentence immediately caught the attention of the local news media. “I got lots of mail,” Rhoades recalled. “I got mail from friends, family. I got mail from POZ magazine” — a monthly publication for people with HIV/AIDS. “I got mail from supporters who didn’t even know me.”

Judge Harris was also getting mail. Over the summer, he received a letter from Jeanne Brager, a friend of Rhoades’ who lived in Modesto, Calif., urging the judge to modify the sentence. “Murderers and child rapists receive less time than this young man did,” Brager wrote. “He is not a man with a criminal mind. Prison will destroy him. He has far too much goodness and sensitivity to survive in such surroundings. He will simply wither away and die.”

Harris also heard from Mark Kassis, an HIV/AIDS advocate in Ames, Iowa, who argued that jailing people with HIV for failing to disclose their status set a dangerous precedent and would “deepen the stigma around the disease” that “actually leads to the spread of HIV.”

The letters seemed to work. A few months later, Rhoades got a call from his attorney. “Judge Harris approached him and said, ‘Now would be a good time to apply for that [sentence] reconsideration,’ ” Rhoades recalled. “Judge Harris said, ‘You apply for it, I’m going to grant it.’” (Harris declined to comment for this article.)

On Sept. 11, 2009, Harris granted Rhoades’ application for a sentence reduction, lowering his sentence to five years of supervised probation. Rhoades, who now lives in Waterloo, must obey an 11 p.m. curfew, wear a GPS monitoring bracelet, cannot use social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, cannot drink alcohol and must obtain permission from a probation officer to leave the county, even to visit his parents in nearby Plainfield. He remains a registered sex offender and, as a convicted felon, he cannot vote.

Around the time that Rhoades’ sentence was reduced, Sean Strub, a fellow Iowan, was wading into the debate over HIV exposure laws. Strub, a tall, wiry 55-year-old is a well-known AIDS activist and the founder of the Sero Project and POZ magazine. In 1985, Strub was living in New York City when he was diagnosed with HIV. He nearly died in the mid-1990s, until a daily regimen of 18 pills turned his health around.

When Strub learned about Rhoades’ case, he introduced him to a civil rights attorney named Dan Johnston. In 1969, a young Johnston was working with the American Civil Liberties Union when he won Tinker v. Des Moines, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that established free speech rights for students in public schools. Johnston, who happened to be planning a visit to Iowa that weekend to celebrate Tinker’s 30th anniversary, agreed to meet with Rhoades and Joseph Glazebrook, a gay 29-year-old attorney based in Des Moines.

Glazebrook had worked closely with HIV-positive clients, but mostly on employment discrimination cases. “When I first got the case, I probably was not the most sympathetic person on this issue,” Glazebrook recalled. “I guess my uninformed opinion was probably rooted in the assumption that it’s never OK to have sexual relations with somebody without disclosing things about you that could hurt them,” he said.

But as he worked on the case, his position shifted.

“Even if it’s the moral thing to do — to be open and honest with your sexual partners about any threat to your sexual partner — that may be a very legitimate and moral position to take, but it doesn’t make sense to legislate based upon that particular thought or feeling,” he said.

In 2010, Glazebrook and Johnston filed a petition in Black Hawk County court seeking post-conviction relief, alleging that Rhoades’ original defense lawyer had failed to fully investigate the case; that Rhoades did not understand what he was pleading guilty to; and that there wasn’t enough evidence to sustain the charges in the first place. (Metcalf, Rhoades’ original defense attorney, did not respond to requests for an interview.)

According to Rhoades’ appellate lawyers, the fact that he used a condom was proof that he did not intend to expose Plendl to HIV. In fact, they argued, wearing a condom suggested the opposite: Rhoades was trying to protect Plendl.

But Iowa’s law, which bans “the intentional exposure of the body of one person to a bodily fluid of another person in a manner that could result in” HIV transmission, doesn’t make an exception for safe sex. Rhoades hadn’t disclosed that he has HIV, so, the state argued, the “wrongful act is engaging in a sex act in a manner through which the virus could be transmitted.” It didn’t matter whether Rhoades used a condom, intended to expose or infect Plendl or even whether infection was likely. “Any kind of act

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/cerealcommas/how-an-hiv-positive-man-was-sent-to-prison-for-having-sex-wi

Janet Mock Opens Up About Her Experiences As A Trans Sex Worker At Age 16

1. In anticipation of the debut of her first book Redefining Realness, Janet Mock has released a six-part video series about her journey as a sex worker and how it relates to pop culture, death, and the power of words.

Janet Mock / Via janetmock.com

2. First of all, each video starts with her fanning herself. And we fall in love each time.

Janet Mock / Via janetmock.com

3. Mock says she wrote her book to help other women not think that being trans is “bizarre.”

“Through my own story and emotional experience, I hope that it empowers other young girls who know that, first off, that they’re not alone, and it’s not bizarre, and that they’re not the first ones to have been there. That would be the biggest goal for me with Redefining Realness.”

4. It’s important to her that at the beginning of the book, she disclose that she’s trans, she was a sex worker, she was sexually abused, and that she grew up poor.

Janet Mock

 

Best quote from her “Disclosure” video: “We’re all frightened that if we tell the person that we love our truth or tell them who we really are, what we’ve been through that, then they will not love us any more. And I think that that’s what we’re all searching for. We’re all searching for someone to love us exactly as we are.”

5. Mock worked other jobs in fast food and retail, but she said, “Nothing would compare to the check that comes from being a sex worker—that money was quick.” Her body image issues were urgent matters for which she needed money quickly.

Janet Mock / Via janetmock.com

Best quote from her “Sex Work” video: From the other sex workers, she felt “a sense of community, sisterhood, resiliency, resources, strength. It was like our underground railroad of resources to navigate a system not built for us.”

6. She named herself after Janet Jackson, but it was Beyonce who instilled strength in her after she watched the “Bills, Bills, Bills” music video.

Janet Mock / Via janetmock.com

Best quote from her “Pop Culture” video: “When I started college, Aaliyah died, and I just remember how vital and immediate that was for me, and how it put this sense of urgency in me that death is real and that I didn’t want to die without being myself…”

7. She said people perceive her as a woman, but then, when she reveals that she’s trans, she becomes “objectified and gawked over.”

Aaron Tredwell / Via Facebook: janetmock

Best quote from her “Passing” video: “I am a woman. I live my life as a woman and that’s how I should be perceived. I’m not passing as anything. I’m being…being myself.”

8. She would sneak books like Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale from the library because, to her, “words are how I found out what I feel, what I think…”

Aaron Tredwell / Via Facebook: janetmock

Best quote from her “Power of Words” video: “I’ve always yearned for that sense of being able to create the book that I should have been able to read growing up. To be able to create and contribute to that story about the experience of growing up as a young trans girl, as a young trans girl of color. What does that look like?”

9. Today, Janet published the essay below about her life after she started being a trans sex worker at the age of 16.

At 16 years old, I began trading sex for money. The money I earned I used to pay for the vital medical care my family couldn’t afford. This essay is not a confession. Neither is my book Redefining Realness. I do not believe that having engaged in the sex trades or being a former sex worker is a confessional matter.

I do not believe using your body — often marginalized people’s only asset, especially in poor, low-income, communities of color — to care after yourself is shameful. What I find shameful is a culture that exiles, stigmatizes and criminalizes those engaged in underground economies like sex work as a means to move past struggle to survival.

***
I was 15 the first time I visited Merchant Street, what some would call “the stroll” for trans women involved in street-based sex work. At the time, I had just begun medically transitioning and it was where younger girls, like my friends and myself, would go to hang out, flirt and fool around with guys and socialize with older trans women, the legends of our community.

The majority of the women I idolized engaged in the sex trades at some time or another – some dabbled in video cam work and pornography, others chose street-based work and dancing at strip clubs (an option reserved for those most often perceived as cis). These women were the first trans women I met, and I quickly correlated trans womanhood and sex work.

I perceived the sex trades as a rite of passage, something a trans girl had to do in order to make the money necessary to support herself. I had also learned (from media, our laws and pop culture) that sex work is shameful and degrading.

Sex work is heavily stigmatized, whether one goes into it by choice, coercion or circumstance. Sex workers are often dismissed, causing even the most liberal folk, to dehumanize, devalue and demean women who are engaged in the sex trades. This pervasive dehumanization of women in the sex trades leads many to ignore the silencing, brutality, policing, criminalization and violence sex workers face, even blaming them for being utterly damaged, promiscuous, and unworthy.

So because I learned that sex work is shameful, and I correlated trans womanhood and sex work, I was taught that trans womanhood is shameful. This belief system served as the base of my understanding of self as a trans girl, and I couldn’t separate it from my own body image issues, my sense of self, my internalized shame about being trans, brown, poor, young, woman.

Though I yearned to be among women like myself, I also judged them for doing work that I swore at 15 I could never do. The work and those women didn’t fit my pedestal perched Clair Huxtable portrait of womanhood.

Yet my economic hurdles were real and urgent, and I couldn’t deny that witnessing the women of Merchant Street take their lives into their own hands, empowered me. Watching these women every weekend gathered in sisterhood and community, I learned firsthand about body autonomy, about resilience and agency, about learning to do for yourself in a world that is hostile about your existence.

These women taught me that nothing was wrong with me or my body and that if I wanted they would show me the way, and it was this underground railroad of resources created by low-income, marginalized women, that enabled me when I was 16 to jump in a car with my first regular and choose a pathway to my survival and liberation.

Fifty percent of black, 34% of Latin@, and 16% of Asian trans people have made a living in underground economies, including sex work, compared to 11% of white trans people, according to Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

A leading factor that makes young trans women of color, like myself, more likely to engage in survival sex work is economic hardship. Family rejection and hostile, unwelcoming school environments can push a trans girl to leave these spaces, and anti-trans bias coupled with racism and misogyny and a lack of education heightens joblessness.

When you’re 16 years old, dreaming of being yourself and you come from a family that is already struggling economically (not to mention dealing with accepting your identity) and you’re faced with the high cost of gender affirmative healthcare, the hurdles are high and overwhelming, and sex work becomes the most appealing, viable, efficient option. At least it was for me.

Multilayered systemic oppressions are stacked up against trans women from low-income and/or communities of color so the sex trade becomes a road well traveled, helping trans women alleviate financial woes while also making many of us feel desired as women (through an objectifying male gaze), women who are taught that we are undesirable and illegitimate.

There’s no denying that sex work is dangerous work. Engaging in the sex trades increases a person’s risk for criminalization, acquiring HIV or other STIs, sexual abuse and violence. It can also, for myself at least, complicate and conflate your image of self, of love, of sex, of value, not to mention the stigma that is internalized about the work you do, work that often leads others to define you and your character.

My hope is that being open about my experience as a teenage sex worker helps further conversations about how we can better serve folk engaged in sex work as a means of survival, and particularly vital to my community, how we can develop programs that create more appealing and viable options for young trans women, so sex work isn’t their only option for support and survival. We need programs that help trans girls and women find affirming, affordable healthcare and housing options, that shepherd them towards completing their education and that instills in them a sense of possibility.

For many years I thought being trans, that being brown, that being a former sex worker, that being a different kind of woman made me less than and undeserving of being heard. So I silenced those parts of myself that I felt would lead me to further marginalization. I hope now to stand more fully in my truth, and that my decision to be authentic about my experiences gives young women like me, who feel they may not have and didn’t have other choices, the strength to step more fully into who they are.

This essay and my memoir are pivotal steps in my continual process of revealing myself to myself, to those I love and to the world. I believe that sharing our experiences – specifically the ones that we’re told to keep silent, secret and shameful – are the ones that gives us greater access to power.

I am choosing now to step further into my power.

You can watch her six-part video series here.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/clairepires/janet-mock-opens-up-about-life-as-a-trans-sex-worker-at-age

Most Popular Dating Profile Headlines Across 50 States

On any dating website, choosing your profile headline takes some finesse and creativity. It’s the first thing viewers will see, and judge, on your profile. The situation is no different for the “world’s biggest gay hookup site,” Manhunt. The website decided to have their tech team pull data for the most popular headlines in the United States of America.

2. The results:

Forty-nine of fifty states had some variation of “hey guys” at the top of their list. Connecticut was the only state that had some creativity with, “looking for a top.” Can you feel the romance blossoming?

3. How can you resist a line like that?

4. The site gave examples of popular headlines by state:

9. Tip: Stating you are a “regular guy” does not come off as normal.

Head on over to Manhunt Daily to check out the list in full.

H/T:Queerty

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/skarlan/most-popular-dating-profile-headlines-across-50-states

“Rizzoli And Isles” Is The Gayest Non-Gay Show On Television

1. Thanks to the blatant on-screen chemistry between Sasha Alexander and Angie Harmon, Rizzoli and Isles has become a need-to-watch lesbian show…with no lesbians in sight.

2. And the creators of the show are completely aware of this.

3. Writer Janet Tamaro told TV Guide:

“The lesbian theory endlessly amuses me, and it amuses the cast. Rizzoli and Isles have been heterosexual from the first episode, though there is no way I would want to interfere with my viewers’ fantasy lives.”

4. We see you Janet, feeding the fire of the great ship that is “Rizzles”.

5. With this new promo for Season 4, Rizzoli and Isles has truly outdone itself.

Subtext EXPLOSION.

8. Don’t think we don’t know what you’re doing here. We see the excessive touching.

9. Subtle guys, really subtle.

10. Who spends this much time “just talking” on a bed?

11. Nobody.

*Bonus for some bra-strap action.

12. Did Rizzoli really have to get that close while teaching Maura how to shoot a gun? DID SHE!?

13. Then you had them pose as a couple!? What are you trying to do to us?

L-biffs =“Life-Long Best Friends Forever.” Sure it does.

14. I…um…what are we talking about?

15. Then you have the NERVE to dangle moments like this in front of us:

16. I mean, for goodness sake you entitled an episode “I Kissed A Girl” and let THIS happen:

17. Okay. Nice recovery, but we saw that.

18. We all know there is a reason this speed dating promo ended with them both striking out.

Cough*They went home together?*cough

19. You don’t think we notice all the loving stares?

20. Seriously. No more staring, it’s too much.

21. Are you guys even TRYING to pretend they’re straight anymore?

22. Even the character’s twitter accounts are playing it up.

23. And when the actual actresses themselves start using the couple nickname…game over.

24. They made it to the elite 8 of a “TV Couples” March Madness….COUPLES!?

25. Give the people what they WANT!

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/skarlan/rizzoli-and-isles-is-the-gayest-non-gay-show-on-television

Boy Scout Camp Counselor Fired After Coming Out, Caught It On Tape

1. Eric Jones, an Eagle Scout and camp counselor for the Boy Scouts in Missouri, came out to his camp director last July. He was fired on the spot.

2. Eric told The NY Daily News at the time:

“I’d been working on coming out, I thought it was time to have my life of scouting and my other life come together […] He said I was deserving to be there, but he had to follow the policy of BSA.”

3. Jones’ conversation with the camp director was filmed by Ryan James Yezak:

4. In the video you hear the Boy Scout Official Say:

“I understand, and quite honestly your lifestyle is your lifestyle. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the way I look at an individual or the way I judge them. However, by telling me what you just told me, it automatically takes you out of the program. I wish you hadn’t done that.”

5. Listen:

6. Eric was trying to set a good example for other scouts, as he told FOX4KC:

7. The filmed segment will appear in Ryan’s work-in-progress documentary Second Class Citizen.

8. The Boy Scouts of America will be voting today on a proposal to lift the ban on gay scouts..

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press / MCT

H/T:Towleroad

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/skarlan/boy-scout-camp-counselor-fired-after-coming-out-caught-it-on