“The 9”. News Curated Weekly. Queer Skittles, sex with ferns and a lot of China

As usual… 5.5 minutes to read. Your guide to the queer media circus. A weekly digest of the most important queer news in your backyard!  Exclusively for paid subscribers every Monday, “The 9” is curated weekly by Taylor Abbot + the GenZ editorial team.

 This week, Chinese dresses were confiscated, and then:

Discrimination has risen in Middle Eastern countries. Photograph: Jordan Bryon.


Iraq has reportedly prohibited media outlets from employing the term ‘homosexuality’, mandating the use of ‘sexual deviance’ instead, as per a Reuters report. The Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC) has issued a document stating that the term “gender” is also banned. The commission has directed all phone and internet companies under its licensing authority to refrain from incorporating these terms into any of their mobile applications. The regulator’s Arabic-language statement instructs media organizations not to utilize the term ‘homosexuality’, but rather to use the accurate phrase ‘sexual deviance’. According to data from Our World in Data, more than 60 countries criminalise homosexual acts, whereas over 130 countries have decriminalized same-sex sexual activities. How about Americans’ arrogance and bringing democracy to Iraq?


Rainbow dresses are said to be seized by security personnel at concerts in China, as supporters of Taiwanese vocalist A-Mei share their experiences on social media. Accounts from concert attendees at Beijing’s Cadillac Arena suggest that attendees were required to reverse their shirts to conceal the rainbow displayed on the front. This clampdown on rainbow hues coincides with a surge in limitations imposed on the LGBTQ+ community in China – a nation that is progressively censoring queer content in public domains. For better or worse the Beijing gay bars we know are still there.


The Skittles limited-edition packaging specially crafted by LGBT+ artists for Pride month, showcases slogans such as “black trans lives matter”, “joy is resistance”, “be generous with your love”, and “express urself”. Skittles has stated that its objective is to “amplify” and “celebrate” narratives from the LGBT+ community. However, this move has drawn criticism from right-wing circles on social media, who accuse the brand of directing activism towards children and embracing a “completely woke” approach. We’re fond of the new designs featuring a few youngsters skateboarding on a halfpipe, adorned with phrases like “skate & live”, “joy is resistance”, and “black trans lives matter”. Apparently, we have good taste, that being the one provoking the most calls for a boycott from far-right supporters.

Zheng Bo, Pteridophilia, installation, 2016 ongoing. Supported by Liverpool Biennial 2021, Kyoto City University of Arts Art Gallery, the 11th Taipei Biennial, Villa Vassilieff and Pernod Ricard Fellowship, and TheCube Project Space. Courtesy of the artist.


The exhibition curated by Zheng Bo in Timișoara, Romania, has sparked a comical lawsuit initiated by a Christian organization. Linking queer plants with queer individuals, “Pteridophilia” delves into the realm of eco-queer possibilities. In this artwork, six young men from Taiwan venture into a forest, disrobed, and engage intimately with ferns. They form emotional and physical connections with these plants, which are abundantly found in Taiwan. While indigenous communities highly regard ferns, they hold less significance for Japanese colonists and the Nationalists. Zheng Bo is a widely recognized Chinese eco-queer artist, showcased in various biennials, including the Berlin, Istanbul and Venice Biennales. It will be intriguing to witness how they explain the concept of a “sexually explicit encounter with a fern” to the judge.


Horny queer men helped the Chinese company Grindr Inc. rake in huge profits in 2023. In a report to its shareholders, published on Monday (14 August), Grindr’s chief executive officer, George Arison, announced the app’s “strong performance”. It has credited improvements such as faster load times and higher-quality pictures for the massive growth, but it’s also due to so many horny queer men using the app to hook up. The app’s success also follows the rolling out fresh features, including a newly designed home screen and a subscription plan called “weeklies”. Grindr Inc. reports second quarter 2023 revenue growth of 32% and second quarter revenue $61.5 million. Horny guys make lots of profit for this Chinese company.

Colton Haynes and James Scully in Tyler Childers music video ‘In Your Love’ (screen capture)


Tyler Childers’ new video ‘In Your Love’ hailed for showing gay love in rural America. LGBTQ+ advocates and musicians have hailed the new video for Tyler Childers’ song “In Your Love” as a much-needed portrait of inclusivity. The song is the first from Childers’ upcoming album “Rustin’ in the Rain. Childers said he would like to have it be a gay love story, mainly because his first cousin who’s like a brother to him is gay, and he wanted him to see himself in a country music video. The two men are played by out actors Colton Haynes (Arrow, Teen Wolf) and James Scully (Fire Island). Probably it is the first famous country straight singer who dedicated a music video to the LGBT+ community.


A young Barack Obama wrote about his ‘androgynous mind’ and gay sex fantasies. In a letter written to his college girlfriend, Alex McNear, in November 1982, the former president of the United States mused on homosexuality and gender. However, the 40-year-old letter has resurfaced in historian David Garrow’s biography  “Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama”. The letter is currently owned by Emory University, which doesn’t allow anyone to photograph or remove it. To bypass this, Garrow’s friend Harvey Klehr transcribed the paragraphs by hand and sent them to the author. Then, during his second presidential term, he celebrated the legalisation of same-sex marriage after the US Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage in 2015 and legalised same-sex unions in all 50 states. Obama also signed an executive order in 2014, protecting LGBTQ+ people from workplace discrimination, and ordered schools to allow transgender and gender non-conforming young people to use the bathroom facilities that align with their gender identity. Anyway, should we say we told you so? We said the first USA gay president already was a president.


Secret police and security services in Jordan are reported to be abducting, and harassing LGBT+ people in the Middle Eastern country, despite the repeal of anti-gay laws. Human rights groups say activists have been abducted, harassed and monitored, as well as having their sexuality revealed to religiously conservative families. Mounir*, director of an unnamed LGTBQ+ centre, described being forced into a car by intelligence officers, before being interrogated and detained overnight. GID agents then called his parents, he said, and told them that he was homosexual. Fawaz*, a former director of Rainbow Street, said he was harassed and interrogated by the GID on many occasions.  He was warned to stop his activism or criminal charges could be brought against him. The Jordanian government has denied that LGBTQ+ individuals are a target for the security agencies and stated that “no LGBTQ+ organisations exist in Jordan” and that “security agencies in Jordan never interrogated or arrested any LGBTQ+ individuals”.


One of the finest music festivals in Europe occurred from the 10th to the 15th of August on Óbuda Island in Budapest, Hungary. The lineup was, as customary, fantastic, featuring Florence + the Machine, Tom Kenan, Billie Eilish, and more. We also had the opportunity to attend queer parties. Sziget Festival initiated the Magic Mirror in 2001, a dedicated LGBT+ venue, with the intention of introducing queer culture to a broader audience of festival-goers and thereby dismantling barriers. You can read more about these historical parties in our article.


Recommendations from our favourite newspapers. This week NYT.

Celebrate the weekend with frozen watermelon daiquiris.
Spend 36 hours in Palermo, Italy.
Read these novels from the powerful mind of Ursula K. Le Guin.
Watch a scathing satire about dog-eat-dog capitalism.
Play the Spelling Bee. And here are today’s Mini Crossword and WordleYou can find all our puzzles here.

Curated every Wednesday by Taylor Abbot & GAY45 editorial staff. Exclusive for subscribers on Monday through Substack.

Taylor Abbot is a 23 y.o. staff writer for GAY45 and MA student at the University of Oxford. Previously he studied at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is passionate about journalism, contemporary literature, poetry, technology, socio-political involved art forms and queer implications in society. He wrote previously for several magazines as Bay Area Reporter or Männer. Nerdy curious, passionate about the weird parts of life and the good stories written by great journalists. Taylor decided to delete all his social media accounts two years ago. Lives and works between Berlin and London.

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