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OnlyFans reverses decision to ban sexually explicit content

LGBTQ performers part of backlash against restricting porn

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The London-based website known as OnlyFans, which has at least 130 million users and more than 2 million people who create and sell content on the site, including sexually explicit performances, announced on Wednesday that it has reversed a decision made less than two weeks earlier to ban sexually explicit content on its site beginning in October.

The reversal came after a groundswell of opposition to the proposed ban surfaced from its performers and customers, many of whom are members of the LGBTQ community who, like their straight counterparts, used the site to generate income over the past year and a half during the COVID pandemic.

OnlyFans stated at the time it announced on Aug. 19 its earlier plan to ban sexually explicit content that it did so in response to concerns raised by banks and credit card companies that in recent years have threatened to stop processing payments to adult websites.

“Thank you to everyone for making your voices heard,” OnlyFans said in a statement released on Wednesday, Aug. 25.

“We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change,” the statement says. “OnlyFans stands for inclusion, and we will continue to provide a home for all creators.”

When asked by CNN whether OnlyFans’ use of the word “suspension” to halt its planned ban on sexually explicit content means that it could reinstate the ban at a later date if credit card companies continue to raise objections, OnlyFans replied by stating, “The proposed October 1, 2021, changes are no longer required due to banking partners’ assurance that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators.”

An official with the Free Speech Coalition, which serves as an adult industry trade association, told the Washington Blade a policy by OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content from its site would have an especially harsh impact on the most vulnerable groups, including LGBTQ people, that rely on the site and other similar sites to earn a living through sex work.

Mike Stabile, the Los Angeles-based Free Speech Coalition’s director of public affairs, said sites like OnlyFans have enabled sex workers to generate a substantial income by performing from their homes rather than working on the streets, in providing content to “fans” or customers who pay them directly to view their performances.

“These platforms have enabled them not just to survive but build equity and thrive,” Stabile said.
In an Aug. 19 statement, Free Speech Coalition said OnlyFans and other sites providing adult content have been targeted over the past two years by conservative religious groups and churches that the coalition says have falsely attempted to link adult websites to sex trafficking of children.

Stabile told the Blade that adult sites have longstanding safeguards in place that prevent sex traffickers from placing content on their sites. He said during the past two years in which the controversial federal law passed by Congress to hold adult sites liable for sex trafficking, known as SESTA-FOSTA, has been in effect, the law has rarely been used to prosecute sex traffickers and has yet to be used to shut down any of the sites used by consenting adults.

He noted that prior to the time SESTA-FOSTA took effect, prosecutors used existing statutes to shut down Backpage, an adult site widely used by sex workers to interact with customers on grounds that the site allegedly allowed sex traffickers to use the site.

Around that same time, Craigslist on its own removed all “personal” classified ads from its site, saying it could not risk being held liable for allegations of sex traffickers using its personal ads under the SESTA-FOSTA law, even though Craigslist prohibited its site from being used for sex trafficking or any nonconsensual practices.

While no credible evidence has emerged that adult sites are in any way allowing sex traffickers to use those sites, Free Speech Coalition has said conservative religious groups that oppose all sex work and want to ban all pornography on the Internet have begun to put pressure on banks and credit card companies to stop servicing the adult sites.

Stabile points out that studies have shown that far more sex traffickers have succeeded in slipping through safeguards to prevent them from posting on sites with Facebook and Twitter than with the adult sites. No online platforms can be 100 percent effective in preventing a few traffickers from getting on their sites, Stabile said, but the anti-trafficking groups hold the adult sites to a greater degree of blame than mainline sites like Facebook.

The adult sites have stated repeatedly they will cooperate with law enforcement officials to identity and help prosecute sex traffickers who target underage people.

“Banks and credit card companies are risk-averse institutions, easily scared by potential bad publicity,” Free Speech Coalition says in its Aug. 19 statement. “Religious groups know this and have made no secret of targeting them in their quest to eliminate sex workers altogether,” the statement says.

“In doing so, companies like Mastercard have become enablers of these anti-porn, anti-LGBTQ, misogynist groups,” the statement continues. “Companies like Mastercard are now accomplices in the disenfranchisement of millions of sex workers, complicit in pushing workers away from independence into potentially more dangerous and exploitative conditions.”

A Mastercard spokesperson told CNN earlier this week that it was not involved in OnlyFans’ initial decision to ban or restrict sexually explicit content from its site.

“It’s a decision they came to themselves,” spokesperson Seth Eisen told CNN.

But Free Speech Coalition and other adult industry advocates point to a Mastercard policy announced in April that requires adult sites to put in place strict safeguards to prevent “illegal content” from being uploaded on their sites. Stabile noted that the new policy comes shortly after Mastercard and other credit card companies stopped servicing Pornhub, the largest of the adult sites after allegations surfaced that sex traffickers were using that site.

These developments have had a chilling effect on the adult sites and sex workers who rely on them to support themselves financially, adult industry advocates have said.

Cyndee Clay, executive director of the D.C. sex worker advocacy group HIPS, which provides support for local gay and trans sex workers, said the OnlyFans decision to ban sexually explicit content from its site, if left in place, would have an especially harmful impact on D.C. sex workers.

“The OnlyFans announcement comes as yet another devastating blow to sex workers’ ability to work and care for themselves and their families in an industry already full of stress and hardship during the pandemic,” Clay told the Blade before OnlyFans reversed its decision.

“Under the threat of SESTA/FOSTA and when platforms like Backpage went down, HIPS saw a 100 percent increase in street-based sex work, because folks turned back to the streets to survive when safer, more autonomous online options were taken away,” Clay said. “We haven’t outlawed all house cleaning services because of a few documented instances of forced domestic trafficking,” she said.

Clay, like officials with the Free Speech Coalition, pointed out that OnlyFans, which launched its site in 2016, became a multimillion-dollar operation through the income it generated by sex workers and their online customers who used the site far more than any other “fans” or content creators.

When it announced its decision to ban or restrict sexually explicit content from its site, OnlyFans said the decision was based in part on concerns raised by banks and credit card companies as well as on its efforts to secure funding from investors who are reluctant to be associated with companies that provide sexually explicit material.

“In order to ensure long-term sustainability of the platform, we must evolve our content guidelines,” OnlyFans said in a statement last week.

“Sites like OnlyFans provided a safer online option for many sex workers during the pandemic,” said HIPS director Clay before OnlyFans reversed its earlier decision. “OnlyFans was a harm reduction alternative for sex workers who were trying to be safe by avoiding personal contact, working in clubs, or working the streets,” she said. “It’s immoral that we are now punishing sex workers for these efforts by taking away this platform.”

Matt Lownik, an OnlyFans performer who lives in London, contacted the Blade to express his concern about the OnlyFans initial decision to ban sexually explicit content before the company reversed the policy change.

Lownik said he currently has 144,000 followers on OnlyFans, one of its rival sites called JustForFans, and on a Twitter account.

“There are performers all across the world who use OnlyFans, and a huge number across the U.S.,” he said. “I’ve met several performers who live in or near D.C., but I would say the majority that I’ve met are from New York or Los Angeles,” he told the Blade.

He said the fees that performers charge for their subscribers vary widely, but most charge approximately $10 to $15 per month, with many performers having dozens or hundreds of subscribers. He said OnlyFans takes a cut of 20 percent of its performers’ earnings.

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California mom claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Jessica Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure

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The Florida State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, the Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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