EXCLUSIVE! Gia Gunn Talks Transitioning, All Stars 4 and Finding Love

I am a firm believer that season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race remains their best yet (outside of All Stars).  Chicago’s very own Gia Gunn was a big part in making her season so much fun to watch, even though she didn’t make it too far as the season went on.

Regardless, she became one of the most talked about queens that year due to her catchphrases like “ABSOLUTELYYYYYY” and “let me feel my oats,” not to mention her bold and brash personality that was seen during the episodes and on Untucked.

Gia became known for so much more after season 6 was over with, as she proved to be more than just a GIF or meme-worthy queen with her brave admission that she herself is trans. It’s something that some other queens have been able to discuss after their initial season, and Gia opening about her transition and how it changed her life has only opened yet another door for inclusivity and acceptance when it comes to the T in LGBTQ.

She re-emerged in the Drag Race scene at the end of 2018 on All Stars 4, where she made it to 8th place amid a very competitive group of queens. Gia also became the first openly trans queen to compete on The Emmy-winning show, which broke ground with how millions of people typically view drag and all that goes with it.

I spoke with Gia about her AS4 experience, transitioning, finding love and so much more. Take a look.

INSTINCT: How did it feel to be the first openly trans queen competing on RuPaul's Drag Race?

GIA GUNN: It first and foremost is an honor to be the first openly trans woman on Drag Race.  But with that sense of reward also comes a great amount of pressure.  I have gained responsibility to not only make sure I am representing my community as a whole and being mindful that everyone's journey is completely different but also staying true to myself.  I can only hope that my participation can lead to greater things for other trans individuals and open doors for more opportunities to arise.

Do you think that your appearance will inspire other trans women to audition for future seasons?

Absolutely!  Honestly the only reason that I even agreed to go on the show was to hopefully provide a sense of faith for others to encourage them to never give up and stay inspired.  Keep creating and know their craft/talent is just as worthy as any other drag queen in the world.  Whether WOW continues to make this possible for others, that I have no control over and can only hope for the best!

At what point did you realize that you were trans and what was the process like when you not only started transitioning but telling your loved ones about this in real life?

I saw my very first drag performer at the age of 18 and they happened to be a beautiful trans woman.  At that moment I remember my mind sparking and seeing something in her that I knew I had in me.  However, I decided to continue living as I was and continuing to educate myself on what trans life was really like beyond the stage.  My mother had asked me to wait until I was 25 to make a decision and she suggested that this is when one's brain is fully developed.  Sure enough at 25 I started my hormone replacement therapy and it has been pretty much uphill since then.  I am blessed to have friends and family who decided to not only support my transition but also go through this process with me.  My parents took it upon them to educate themselves on what this meant for them as parents and how they could be better parents to their child who was going through this. 

Did you lose friends and family members as a result? What was the most challenging this in this experience for you?

I fortunately didn't lose anyone due to my decision and if anything I feel like it brought me closer to my loved ones. However, I realize for some people the decision to transition can distance them and that is why I continue to be public about my journey to help shed some light!  The most challenging part of coming out was the fact that some people felt like they were losing me or in my parent's mind that they were losing their "son."  This was difficult for me to accept but putting myself in their shoes gave me a better perspective.  That's why with anything in life communication is key and educating those around you about things they are ignorant to is a very healthy motive!

Can you tell us about your mini-doc and what fans can expect from it?

My mini documentary on my YouTube channel, GiaGunnEntertainment, is basically showcasing the 6-month process leading up to my surgery.  From the very first consultations to the morning of the surgery, the process of the actual surgery and the aftercare as well.  I choose to document this to show other trans individuals the proper options we have in terms of changing our bodies and to help educate people on what happens during surgery and gain a better idea what the actual physical process is like.

Outside of all of that, are you dating anyone right now? If not, what do you look for in your significant other?

After 28 years of searching for love I have been so fortunate in being able to meet a man that I thought never existed!  For many years I spent so much time looking for someone to love me and validate me as female.  Not realizing that this had to come from within first before expecting someone to come along and do this for me.  Dating as a trans person can be so difficult as we suffer from inner insecurities, the shame society puts on us and our potential partners and simply finding love in general is hard!  However, what I've learned is that love will find you and if your true to yourself, others will be true to you.

Anything else coming up in the year that you want to discuss?

I really look forward to launching my one woman show "This is me" and continuing to write my book and have it published!  I also am focusing on collaborating with more influencers and brands that support what I stand for and creating more content to help in advocating for my community but also sharing my story with the world.

For more information on Gia, take a trip over to her homepage.

Netflix Says 'No' To North Carolina Over Anti-LGBTQ Laws

North Carolina just can’t get its act together regarding anti-LGBTQ laws.

And now, according to StarNewsOnline, the state may have just lost $60 million in revenue thanks to the inaction of state lawmakers to repeal those laws.

Streaming giant, Netflix, was looking to shoot a new series, OBX, in the Tar Heel state but balked thanks to HB 142.

The law, enacted in 2017 was meant to be a ‘fix’ on previous legislation HB 2, which marginalized transgender people by requiring them to use public bathrooms that align with the gender on their birth certificates.

HB 142 partially repealed HB 2, but left in place bans on local communities passing their own anti-discrimination laws through 2020.

Ten episodes of the new project have been ordered by Netflix, and Jonas Pate, who created the show, wanted to shoot in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina. But the ban on local municipalities enacting their own legislation is a sticking point for Netflix.

“This tiny law is costing this town 70 good, clean, pension-paying jobs and also sending a message to those people who can bring these jobs and more that North Carolina still doesn’t get it,” Pate said.

Pate added that the production is projected to spend in the neighborhood of $60 million in whatever state the series shoots.

Pate, and his brother Josh, have previously created the NBC series Surface, which was shot in Wilmington.

But this past weekend, Pate found himself scouting sections of Charleston, South Carolina, for the new production.

Freshman state Sen. Harper Peterson, a Democrat from Hanover, hopes to see the issue addressed this week as the state Assembly is in session. 

“That is a decision the legislature has to make and realize that it is one more opportunity we are losing if we don’t,” Peterson told StarNewsOnline. “We have to get back and be competitive with other states. It just hurts to see a production about North Carolina go to South Carolina.”

OBX is described as a coming-of-age story that follows four teens in the Outer Banks whose lives are changed when a hurricane cuts off all power to the islands.

“When these lifelines for teens like phones and Snapchat are gone, it really reorients the generational divisions,” says Pate.

(h/t StarNewsOnline)

Two Women Arrested For Sexually Assaulting Trans Woman In Public Bathroom

Two women have been charged with misdemeanor sexual battery and felony second-degree kidnapping after violently attacking a transgender woman in the ladies room of a downtown Raleigh bar.

According to the NewsObserver, Amber Nicole Harrell, 38, and Jessica Leann Fowler, 31, struck up what began as a ‘friendly conversation’ with the victim at Milk Bar on December 9. 

But the women reportedly became violent and grabbed the trans woman’s genitals asking if she had a penis.

The assault was reported the next day by a friend of the victim who called 911. 

A recording of the call, made public by the Raleigh Police Department, indicates the two women started laughing as they pulled up the victim’s shirt in an attempt to see her breasts. They also grabbed the victim’s buttocks as the victim repeatedly told them to stop.

The assault continued after the three left the ladies room as the women openly groped the victim’s stomach and buttocks. 

The bartender eventually told Fowler and Harrell to stop.

Harrell turned herself in to the police over the weekend and was released on $50,000 bail Monday morning.

Fowler turned herself in on Tuesday and is being held in the Wake County jail under a $30,000 bond.

In 2016, North Carolina state lawmakers passed HB2, an anti-LGBTQ law which prohibited transgender people from using public bathrooms which aligned with their gender identity unless they had changed the gender listed on their birth certificate.

The law was repealed a year later but replaced with HB142, which still did not ensure trans people would have access to public restrooms. Additionally, the new law left prohibitions in place that bans any local communities from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances.

It's a popular trope among anti-transgender activists that trans people are a threat in public bathrooms, but the facts show that trans people are the ones who are attacked in bathrooms, not the other way around. A 2016 study showed 60% of trans people avoid public bathrooms out of fear for personal safety.

To date, there is no record of any transgender person attacking a cisgender person in a public bathroom.


(h/t NewsObserver)

NJ Will Have a Gender Neutral Option Coming Next Month

New Jersey Governer Phil Murphy signed the Babs Siperstein Bill, a bill that will allow parents to select a gender-neutral marker on their children's birth certificates, into law last year and will come into effect in February, according to News 12 New Jersey.

Effective February 1st, parents will be able to choose a third, gender-neutral or non-binary option for their children on their birth certificates, as well as allowing adults to change their gender marker on their birth and death certificates (I assume a family member of the deceased will have the right to change the death certificate) without proof of reassignment surgery. 

Gender is separate from sex, as sex is a biological concept, while gender is more a means of expression of one's identity and one's gender is not always consistent with one's biological sex. Some people are also born intersex, so this third option on birth certificates will help them more accurately identify themselves. 

The Bill was created because of Babs Siperstein, a resident of Edison and the first transgender woman to be elected into the Democratic National Committee in 2012. California, Oregon, and Washington are other states with similar legislation. 

As a person who has lived in New Jersey his whole life, I am glad to see that my tiny home state is furthering LGBTQ rights for transgender, intersex, and nonbinary people by validating their identities. 

h/t: News 12 New Jersey

All-Woman College Will Allow Trans Women in 2019

Stephens College, the United State's second oldest all-women's college adopted a policy that will allow trans women to apply, starting in 2019 according to The Hill.

Since Stephens College, located in Columbia, Missouri, is specifically for women, it stands to reason that the admission's office would allow all women, regardless of biological sex. The new policy states "the college’s undergraduate residential women’s program will continue to admit and enroll students who are women and who live as women, just as it always has.” The decision was unanimous. 

The college has also expanded their definition of womanhood to include sex and gender. The new policy will also admit and enroll anyone who identifies and lives as a woman. The applicants will need to provide legal documents to show that they identify as a woman and/or are transitioning from male to female. The policy will go into effect in 2019. 

Many women's colleges across the country are also considering adopting this policy. I think that this is definitely a good thing as transgender people are often ostracized and in need of inclusion. I hope that every all-women's colleges across the United States adopt this policy, as transgender women are women and should be allowed to attend an all-female institution. 

h/t: The Hill

LGBTQ Brazilians Worry Marriage Equality May Be Revoked Under New President

Even though same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since 2013, LGBTQ couples are hurrying their wedding plans before right-wing politician Jair Bolsonaro is sworn into office as the country’s new president.

Bolsonaro, often referred to as the “Donald Trump of the Tropics,” has been virulently anti-LGBTQ his entire career and campaigned on a promise to defend “the true meaning of matrimony as a union between man and woman.”

Bolsonaro's campaign already seems to have begun to influence public opinion and actions.

Comparing 2017 to 2016, anti-LGBTQ murders are up 30% (387 in 2017 vs. 327 in 2016) according to local LGBTQ advocacy group Grupo Gay de Bahia.

And openly lesbian city councillor Marielle Franco of Rio de Janeiro was murdered in March of this year.

All of this and Bolsonaro's impending presidency has led to a 66% spike in same-sex weddings in November according to The New York Times.

In Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, 57 same-sex weddings were celebrated during the first ten days of December compared to 113 in all of December 2017.

Aline Foguel set a date for her wedding to her girlfriend Carolina Zannata right after Bolsonaro’s landslide victory. She, like many in the LGBTQ community, worries that the new far-right president’s ascension will give permission to homophobes to openly air their hateful, divisive rhetoric, possibly leading to violence.

“People now have this open homophobic discourse that they were too embarrassed to say before,” Ms. Foguel told the Times. “I’m so afraid of reliving a past that I thought we had already conquered. I’ve had panic attacks.”

The Brazilian Bar Association’s head of sexual diversity, Maria Berenice Dias, urged same-sex couples “who want to get married to hurry up and formalize their union before the end of the year.”

And it’s not just marriage equality Brazilian LGBTQs are concerned about.

Noah Beltramini, a transgender man, not only rushed to marry but also to officially change his name and gender identification after a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year allowed.

“It wasn’t something I was worried about before,” said Beltramini. “But with Bolsonaro I feel completely vulnerable.”

(h/t The New York Times)

Tennis Legend Martina Navratilova Sparks Outrage Over Trans Athlete Remark

For almost 40 years, tennis legend Martina Navratilova has been a vocal champion for human rights and the LGBTQ community.

But recently, the 18-time Grand Slam champ made an odd misstep as she took to Twitter to complain about transgender athletes in sports.

“You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,” Navratilova tweeted. “There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.”

Navratilova's remarks drew quick condemnation from trans activists, and the tennis icon quickly deleted her tweet.



Even after the deletion, though, the criticism continued. Dr Rachel McKinnon, who won a women's event at the UCI Masters track world championships, wasn’t satisfied.

A Canadian cyclist and transgender activist, McKinnon was identified as male before transitioning in her 20s. Her win at the Los Angeles event this past October sparked controversy.

On Twitter, McKinnon denounced Navratilova’s “pro-trans’ tweet and added, “Genitals do not play sports.”



As Cyd Zeigler notes at Outsports, "Various sports bodies have adopted trans-inclusion policies that allow trans women to compete as women without having gender-reassignment surgery." 

The International Olympic Committee made that shift three years ago, and the NCAA changed their policy in 2011.

Navratilova eventually stepped back after Renee Richards, a pioneering transgender athlete, weighed in.

“Ok- I take it back,” wrote Navratilova. “Clearly I do t know what u [sic] am talking about. So once again- I will defer to Renee Richards as she certainly knows what she is talking about. I will find that tweet and delete it. All I want is fairness. Thank you.”



But Navratilova and McKinnon each took one more swipe at each other:




(h/t Outsports)

Senate Democrats Urge OPM to Restore Trans Employee Guidelines

Senate Democrats, led by Dianne Feinstein, want the U.S Office of Personnel Management to restore its website that had guidance that made sure transgender federal employees were treated fairly, according to Washington Blade

The website was taken down completely during the week of Thanksgiving. 

In a letter to the OPM, the Democrats expressed great concern about the guidelines that ensured transgender federal employees were treated with dignity and respect being removed and they request that it be made available immediately. I agree with this, as it is clear that transgender people are treated unfairly and cruelly frequently in the United States and around the world. 

Also in the letter, they address the fact that the original guidance "addressed common questions that agency managers and federal employees had raised with OPM, identifying issues and core concepts specific to understanding rights and fair treatment of transgender employees" while the new guidance "omits essential information, including any reference to transgender individuals, greatly diminishing OPM's ability to educate federal agencies on anti-discrimination policies and retain a productive federal workforce as diverse as the people it serves."

They also mention that many major companies such as Microsoft and IBM recognize that diversity and inclusion are good for business, while discrimination actively hurts both transgender people and company profit margins and that over 80% of Fortune 500 companies have gender identity protections. You would think that not discriminating against people and having protections in place for workers would be common sense, but it seems as if certain government agencies are seriously lacking in that department. 

The removal of the guidelines isn't all that unexpected, as the Trump administration has been consistently hostile to transgender people. However, things aren't so grim, as protections for LGBTQ employees that were put in place during the Obama era are still in effect and the OPM recognized that June is Pride Month. That being said, the Senate Democrats urge the OPM to reinstate the guidelines as to provide a safe and positive work environment for transgender employees. 

I really do wish I didn't have to write things like these, but this, unfortunately, is the reality that we live in. It is my hope that the senators are successful in getting the OPM to restore the transgender guidelines so that people can be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Democrats hold more positions now than they did when this presidency started, but the Senate is still majority Republican, so I suppose we'll have to wait and see what happens.

h/t: Washington Blade, Senate.gov

Maryland School District Sued for Failing to Take Abuse Against Trans Teacher Seriously

Jennifer Eller, a transgender woman and teacher, is suing Prince George's school district because nothing was done to stop the abuse that she suffered for years from students, other staff members, and parents, according to Into More.

The abuse began in 2011 when Eller announced that she was transitioning. Her students called her a pedophile and the human resources representative who was assigned to help her through her transition insisted that she present as a male and even told her that a note from her therapist regarding the transition is "garbage." The school also refused to update her email address to reflect her gender identity. Because of the abuse mentioned above, Eller was afraid to go to work every day as she did not know "where the next attack would come from." She was also not allowed to wear a dress and when she transferred to Friendly High School, the abuse worsened. 

In Friendly High School, which is very ironically named, Eller was subjected to threats of rape from students and ignored reports of abuse from school principal Raynah Adams. One uncooperative student referred to her as a man and said that an earthquake was a punishment from God for the school hiring her. 

The school canceled its transgender sensitivity training program in 2015 and never reinstated it.  After transferring to James Madison Middle School, Eller continued to face discrimination and abuse and ultimately had to seek out outpatient psychiatric help from a therapist at a local hospital. She resigned during the next year. 

Eller is suing the school district because the abuse she suffered violated her rights under the Equal Rights clause in the Constitution, as well as the Civil Rights Act and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act. She is seeking unspecified damages and back pay from the district. She is now acting as a youth counselor for the United States Navy's Child and Youth Programs. 

I hope that Eller gets the justice that she deserves because nobody should have to go through such abuse and have it ignored. The fact that it had to get so bad that she needed psychiatric help should be a wakeup call to many people about how transgender people are still treated in the United States and around the world. 

h/t: Into More

With Only Weeks Left In Office, Ohio Governor Bans Transgender Discrimination

Ohio Gov. John  Kasich Wednesday issued an Executive Order, 2018-12K, changing the anti-discrimination policy for state employees to include "gender identity or expression,” reports local NBC News affiliate, WCMH.

With just weeks left in Kasich’s term as governor, the order bans discrimination based on "gender identity and expression" in state personnel decisions.

The new language replaces the executive order put in place by Kasich when he took office in 2011, which included race, color, religion, gender, national origin, military status, disability, age and sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans says the executive order makes Kasich “the first Republican Governor of a state without statutory protections for LGBTQ people to issue an executive order protecting state employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.”

An outspoken critic of Donald Trump, Kasich has indicated he’s considering a 2020 challenge for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020, and this may be an attempt to show GOP voters a more moderate side of the Republican Party.


A statement from Equality Ohio applauded the move:

This leadership has never been more important. At a time when the basic rights of transgender people to exist in public, to serve in our military, and to access basic health care are at risk, we applaud Governor Kasich for his recognition of our shared humanity with common-sense protections.

Although Kasich’s successor, Governor-elect Mike DeWine (R), could rescind the order when he takes office next month, Freedom for All Americans reports he has “expressed an openness to preserving Kasich’s executive orders.”


(h/t WCMH, Freedom for All Americans - photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr - CC License)