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5 Things That Pissed Us Off This Week: Rachel Maddow the Cheerleader and International Oppression

5 Things That Pissed Us Off This Week: Rachel Maddow the Cheerleader and International Oppression

5 Things That Pissed Us Off This Week: Rachel Maddow the Cheerleader and International Oppression

Russia and India battle it out for most homophobic country, while the good old U.S. of A has some serious contenders for the award recognizing the most awful humans in existence.


Once again, we're back with our weekly round-up of the most infuriating bits of anti-LGBT rhetoric to grace our news feeds in the past seven days. And as usual, right-wingers around the world gave us plenty to choose from — our only problem was picking only five outrageous stories to share here. Read on to see what made the cut, but expect a healthy dose of snark in the following pages — sometimes it's the only way we can get through the day. 

5. Rachel Maddow Is the Smartest, Most Educated 'Cheerleader' We've Ever Seen

Out MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow is no stranger to right-wing pundits calling her names. Fox News anchors regularly refer the Rhodes Scholar and doctor of political science as "Rachel MadCow," and a local Ohio news anchor was kicked off the air for two days after she called Maddow "such an angry young man" on her Facebook page. Because, you know, lesbians are really just men! Haha! Sexism is hilarious, AMIRITE?!

Anyway, most of those insults are hurled at Maddow from the safety of a separate studio, and not leveled against the accomplished journalist and commentator while she's actively interviewing someone. Enter Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp, a Republican who had a virtual seizure on Twitter over all those "radical" changes President Obama promised in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. 

When Maddow tried to ask Huelskamp about his conspiracy-theorist tweets, which called Obama's administration an "Imperial Presidency," the GOP talking head started rattling off about the supposed Benghazi cover-up. 

"This administration promised to be the most transparent in history, Rachel, and if you would stop being a cheerleader and be a journalist, maybe we would get the answers," Huelskamp quipped.

"Did you just call me a cheerleader?" Maddow asked, incredulous. When Huelskamp reiterated the insult, suggesting perhaps he'd tapped into some part of Maddow's past, the anchor had heard enough. "You're amazing," she sighed, before throwing up her hands and laughing at the absurdity. 

Watch the exchange below, with the "cheerleader" comment dropping at the 5:20 mark.


4. India's Supreme Court Stands By Decision to Outlaw Gay Sex

Despite massive international protests stemming from the India Supreme Court's recent recriminalization of homosexual acts — well, to be technical, the colonial-era law prohibits activities described as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal" — the nation's highest court refused to reconsider its decision. That December ruling reversed a 2009 decision by the Delhi High Court that struck down Section 377 of India's Penal Code, reinstating 10-year prison sentences for anyone who commits such salacious acts. 

Activists were understandably disappointed with the decision. “The Supreme Court has turned a cold shoulder to these groups and their suffering,” Arvind Narrain, one of the lawyers representing the human rights organizations, told Reuters Tuesday. "The court had an opportunity to correct itself today. This is a court that is meant to be for all human beings."

India's Supreme Court held fast to its earlier decision that the colonial law could only be overturned by India's parliament — from which we have so far heard… crickets. 

Read on for more outrage.

3. Brazilian Trans Women Arrested In Dubai for 'Imitating Women'

News Flash for Dubai police officers: Transgender women are women. Full stop. If only it were so simple to help get two Brazilian women back home after being detained in Dubai since the end of last year.

In December at a popular Dubai nightclub, Karen Mke, 38, and Kamilla Satto, 33, were approached by security guards, and asked for their identification. After the two presented the guards with passports that listed "male" as their sex, they were removed from the club.

In what they've since described as "the worst thing we did," the women called the police to file a complaint about their treatment. Once police arrived and became aware of the women's trans status, Satto and Mke were taken into custody. Officers reportedly also confiscated the women's passports, trapping them in Dubai. 

The women say they were detained for two days without explanation as to why they were being held. Finally, the women were released, and informed that they were in violation of a local law that prohibits "men from dressing as women," according to Brazilian news source

The law prohibiting "indecent acts" includes a ban on "imitation of women by men." If found guilty, the two women could face fines, deportation, and up to 12 months in prison. The same law prohibits homosexual acts. 

The women are reportedly staying with a Filipino family, but are quickly running out of resources, and are unsure how they're going to make ends meet until their court hearing, scheduled for March 23. 

2. Sochi Mayor Claims There Are No Gays In His Town

Well then, that should make enforcement of Russia's ban on so-called "gay propaganda" particularly easy during the Winter Olympics next month. 

Anatoly Pakhomov, the mayor of Sochi and a member of the ruling United Russia party, told the BBC's Panorama that his city's "hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian Federation and who doesn’t impose their habits and their will on others," he said. "But yes, everyone is welcome."

When asked whether there were any gay people already in Sochi, the mayor balked. "We do not have them in our city," Pakhomov said. When challenged by the reporter who'd visited one of the city's gay bars the night before, the mayor admitted he wasn't certain that there were no gay people in Sochi. 

"I am not sure, but I don’t bloody know them," Pakhomov replied, according to the BBC's translation. 

Interesting that Pakhomov used the word "bloody," since it's not only a swear word in British English, but also is an apt description of how the mayor's powerful political party is oppressing LGBT Russians.  

And lest Pakhomov have a lock on hollow rhetoric coming from Russia, several other Russian officials have spoken out in the weeks leading to the Olympics. Despite the nationwide law, which imposes fines and possible jail time for anyone discussing LGBT identities or equality in a positive light in areas that might be visible to children, Russian officials continue to claim that all Olympic athletes and visitors will be safe and respected at the Winter Games, which begin February 7. Last week, Russia's prime minister claimed that the law was not being enforced, and explained that he hadn't heard from any LGBT Russians who had been discriminated against — even though a gay protestor was arrested and fined two days earlier for unfurling a rainbow flag as the Olympic Torch passed through his village about 500 miles north of Sochi. A week before that, President Vladimir Putin said that gay people were welcome in Sochi but asked them to "leave the children alone," making a false conflation between homosexuality and pedophilia that supporters of the law claim is factual proof demonstrating the need for the nationwide ban.

Find the most outrageous bit of news on the next page. 

1. 'Journalist' Decides It's Totally OK to Out Trans Subject — AFTER She Committed Suicide

In what is certain to go down as the prime example of how not to report on transgender people, ESPN outlet Grantland published a lengthy feature that started out as an effort uncover the science of a purportedly "scientifically superior" golf club, then quickly devolved into one of the most dangerous, transphobic pieces of writing I've ever seen published. 

In writing "Dr. V's Magical Putter" — side note: Am I the only one who takes issue with that title? It seems needlessly graphic, given the direction the story ultimately took — author Caleb Hannan first promised the club's inventor, Essay Anne Vanderbilt, that he would focus only "on the science, and not the scientist." Of course, that was before he knew Vanderbilt's so-called dirty little secret. 

While trying to verify aspects of Vanderbilt's resume — which was, arguably, in itself a violation of the reporter's agreement with his subject — he spoke to estranged colleagues and family members who informed him that Vanderbilt was a transgender woman.  

You might be wondering what relevance a scientist's gender identity has to a story about a golf club she invented, and you'd be a thoughtful, moral person for asking that. Apparently that never crossed Hannan's mind. And even after Vanderbilt told Hannan that he was "about to commit a hate crime" by outing her in his article — though Hannan's editor contends he never threatened to do so — Hannan continued reporting and digging into Vanderbilt's past. 

Shortly thereafter, Vanderbilt committed suicide. She had previously attempted, and trans people are, statistically speaking, at a greater risk for suicide than the general population, so it's unfair to claim that Hannan's story made Vanderbilt complete her attempt. But her former partner and business co-owner said she holds Hannan's report "90 percent responsible" for the timing of her friend's death. 

While Grantland editor in chief Bill Simmons did publish a lengthy and seemingly sincere apology, even that was riddled problematic statements. Aside from the basic miscarriage of journalistic integrity — Simmons said more than a dozen editors proofed the piece before it was published, but no one thought to run the draft by anyone even vaguely acquainted with the transgender community — Simmons seems to buy into his writer's assertion that Vanderbilt's gender identity was part of a larger pattern of fraud. 

"Whether you believe we were right or wrong, let’s at least agree that we made an indefensible mistake not to solicit input from ANYONE in the trans community," writes Simmons. On that point I readily agree. "But even now, it’s hard for me to accept that Dr. V’s transgender status wasn’t part of this story. Caleb couldn’t find out anything about her pre-2001 background for a very specific reason. Let’s say we omitted that reason or wrote around it, then that reason emerged after we posted the piece. What then?"

Even here, Simmons admits that there was a "very specific reason" why Hannan couldn't verify Vanderbilt's background. He doesn't say it here, but that reason is relatively simple — and basically all of Hannan's suspicions about Vanderbilt's supposed "fraud" can be easily explained away with the knowledge that she was a transgender woman. Why couldn't Hannan confirm that Vanderbilt had worked for defense contractors? Because she likely worked for them under a different name. And why couldn't Hannan verify that she had the degree from MIT she said she did? Because that degree was likely issued in her old name. And let's not even start on the fact that Vanderbilt offered to meet with Hannan in person and provide concrete proof that her credentials were legitimate. Since Vanderbilt put a stipulation on this meeting that Hannan not report that portion, he suddenly found his ethics and decided that was a request he couldn't fathom. 

While Simmons, in his role as editor in chief, ultimately (and rightly) accepts responsibility for this horrible, unethical story, he also says he plans to leave the story online — as a teachable moment. But you know what? Fuck that. People's lives are not teachable moments. Disagree? Read my colleague's powerful op-ed at The Advocate on the issue and get back to me.

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Sunnivie Brydum

<p>Sunnivie is an award-winning journalist and the managing editor at&nbsp;<em>The Advocate</em>. A proud spouse and puppy-parent, Sunnivie strives to queer up the world of reporting while covering the politics of equality daily.</p>

<p>Sunnivie is an award-winning journalist and the managing editor at&nbsp;<em>The Advocate</em>. A proud spouse and puppy-parent, Sunnivie strives to queer up the world of reporting while covering the politics of equality daily.</p>