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Johnson & Johnson HIV vaccine fails clinical trials in devastating setback

An experimental HIV vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson has failed at clinical trial stage in a devastating setback to HIV and AIDS research. A mid-stage study called Imbokodo found that the vaccine’s efficacy at preventing HIV transmission was just 25.2 per cent, the National Institutes of Health said in a…

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California Teacher Investigated Over Joking Students Could ‘Pledge Allegiance’ to LGBTQ Pride Flag

California teacher

California teacher
Kristin Pitzin

A California teacher is being investigated by a local school district in response to a video showing her joking that her students could pledge allegiance to the LGBTQ Pride flag.

The issue originated from a viral TikTok video from Newport Mesa School District teacher Kristin Pitzen. In the video, Pitzen explains that the Orange County, CA school she works at has students recite the pledge of allegiance during third period and that she allows students to participate in the pledge in any way they see fit.

“I always tell my class, stand if you feel like it, don’t stand if you feel like it, say the words if you want, you don’t have to say the words,” Pitzen said in the now-deleted clip. When her students chose to stand but not say the words, they expressed that it was “weird” to do so without an American flag present in the room.

Pitzen removed the American flag from her classroom at an earlier date during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it “made her uncomfortable.” When her students brought up the lack of a flag to pledge to, she searched for it but was unable to find it. Instead, Pitzen joked that her students could recite the pledge to another flag hanging in the room, moving the camera to show a Progress Pride flag displayed on the wall while laughing.

The majority of responses to the original video felt in on the joke, but conservative social media users pounced on the clip, claiming it was evidence of Pitzin pushing an “ungodly social agenda” onto minors in her classroom. Pitzin deleted her TikTok account as the school district’s Facebook page became inundated with hateful comments from people calling for Pitzin to be fired.

“Send her to Afghanistan,” wrote one Facebook user. One user posted her home address and phone number, a clear doxxing effort meant to encourage harassment. The doxxing continued as another user posted a picture of what they claimed was Pitzin’s home.

Investigation Launched

The Newport Mesa School District announced Saturday that it launched an investigation into the matter. “On Friday evening, one of our teachers created a personal social media post that caused alarm and concern related to saluting the American flag,” the school district said in a statement. “Showing respect for our nation’s flag is an important value our District instills in our students and is an expectation of our employees. We take this matter seriously and are investigating and addressing it.”

The school district’s statement was met with similar vitriol. Commenters continued demanding Pitzin’s firing, framing her tongue-in-cheek video as an attack on American values and patriotism. Numerous users reiterated that she shuld be sent to Afghanistan “to see how women are treated since she is so uncomfortable to the American flag.”

Speaking to NBC News, a school district spokesperson didn’t offer further details on what exactly Pitzin was being investigated for, but did state that the school district has a policy requiring daily “patriotic exercises,” including the pledge of allegiance. The policy also states that any person who doesn’t want to participate in the pledge for personal reasons may do so.

“While we do not discuss employee related matters, we can tell you that showing respect and honor for our nation’s flag is a value that we instill in our students and an expectation of our employees,” the school district spokesperson said. “We take matters like this seriously and are taking action to address it.”

Pitzin has remained silent in the days since her TikTok spawned the uproar. The school district has not confirmed if she is currently subject to any punishment while its investigation continues.

California Teacher: Previously on Towleroad

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Finland to consider conversion therapy ban after overwhelming public demand

The parliament of Finland will consider a total ban on conversion therapy, after an overwhelming number of Finns signed a citizens’ initiative. The initiative, which would ban efforts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of both adults and children, gathered the necessary 50,000 signatures in just one month…

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Carole Baskin sells Joe Exotic’s former zoo with one very specific condition attached

Carole Baskin has revealed that she has sold Joe Exotic’s former private zoo, and has written a very specific condition into the deed. Exotic, the notorious star of Tiger King who is currently serving a 17-year prison sentence for a host of animal abuses and plotting to murder animal rights activist Baskin, used the…

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Reese Witherspoon's Company Teams With Bumble, Baileys on Queer Short

First Date

Queer actors including Shalita Grant, Shannon Woodward, Gaby Dunn, and Vico Ortiz appear in a romantic “Meet Cute” short film. 

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Evan Rachel Wood gives Marilyn Manson the finger after Kanye West ‘slapped survivors in the face’

Evan Rachel Wood gave the finger to Marilyn Manson during a moving performance after Kanye West “slapped survivors in the face” by bringing her alleged abuser on stage. Last week, West faced huge backlash after bringing Manson, along with homophobe DaBaby, onstage with him at a listening party for his tenth…

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Yes, Playboy Supports Emerging and LGBTQ+ Artists


Playboy is launching a new NFT grant exhibition series that gives emerging and underrepresented digital artists new opportunities.

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First look at Married at First Sight UK’s historic same-sex wedding teases trouble at the altar

Married at First Sight UK has given an early look at its first-ever same-sex grooms, although it looks like there could already be trouble ahead for the couple. The “social experiment” reality series sees couples matched by experts meet for the very first time on their wedding day. As they navigate married…

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Country's Hayden Joseph Honors Tradition (And His Truth) With A Joyous Queer Anthem

“Backwoods Bougie” is a song that “plays into country music stereotypes, but also stays true to me,” said the Nashville musician.

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WATCH: Queer movie genius Todd Haynes dives into ‘The Velvet Underground’

The Velvet Underground

Academy Award nominee Todd Haynes has just teased his latest cinematic outing, a deep-dive expose on the rock band The Velvet Underground.

For the uninitiated, The Velvet Underground burst onto the music underground in the mid-1960s. Lead by guitarist/singer (and noted bisexual) Lou Reed, the group became a favorite of artist Andy Warhol and pioneered work on the idea of concept albums; that is, albums that tell a loose story about a group of characters, and that mediate on different real-world themes. Despite the art-house cred–and the support of popular musicians including Marianne Faithful and Mick Jagger–The Velvet Underground never quite found mainstream stardom and disbanded in 1970. That didn’t stop the group’s music or members from becoming widely influential, particularly in the Glam Rock genre. Lou Reed, in particular, would prove highly influential to David Bowie.

Related: Lou’s Legacy: 7 Queer-Ass Velvet Underground Songs

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Haynes, director of Velvet Goldmine, Carol and Far From Heaven, now chronicles the rise and fall of the band in the director’s first-ever documentary. Utilizing new interviews, archive footage and rare concert materials, Haynes retraces the origins of the band, their avant-garde rise, and the tensions that eventually force them to disband.

Given Haynes’ love for queer rock in the films Velvet Goldmine, I’m Not There, and Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, we are so ready to see him cut loose with the Underground.

The Velvet Underground arrives on AppleTV+ October 15.

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