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Harry Potter and the Search for the Wizarding World in the UK

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I’m certain that about 70% of people in their twenties are still waiting on their Hogwarts acceptance letter (and viewing every owl they see with suspicion), so I’ve run down the five best places in the UK for curious muggles to scope out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Harry Potter series, but I mean… the last movie came out in 2011… you should be caught up by now.

Platform 9 ¾: Kings Cross Station, London , England

Courtesy of JoJo-Bean/Flickr

We’ve come a long way since Harry Potter first arrived at King’s Cross and the entrance the Hogwarts Express platform is now marked with a sign for Muggle-born first years or those who are travelling without their parents.

Right beneath the sign, is a luggage cart that is stuck in the wall which cannot be removed with any Muggle tools; many suggest that this is, in fact, the work of notorious prankster George Weasley. Rumour has it that if any Muggle is able to move the cart, they’ll be awarded an honorary certificate from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but as of yet, no one has achieved this.

This spot on our Harry Potter tour is completely free to visit and you can pose for photos with the luggage cart wearing a Gryffindor scarf before visiting the Harry Potter-themed shop to purchase your very own wand and robes.

Hogwarts Express: The Jacobite Steam Engine, Fort William, Scotland

Courtesy of 96tommy/Wikimedia

For those who don’t manage to slip through the barrier at King’s Cross, there is another way onto the Hogwarts Express and all it requires is a short trip up to Scotland.

Here in Fort William, you can board the Jacobite Steam Engine (Hogwarts Express), ride on the Mallaig route which will take you over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, also known as The Bridge to Hogwarts.

Although you won’t meet the Trolley Witch (she only rides the train with the students), you can enjoy high tea aboard the train (they prefer pounds sterling to Galleons).

Please note: This route will not drop Muggles at Hogwarts because, for them, Hogwarts does not exist. In order to deter unwanted visitors, Headmistress Minerva McGonagall cast a spell on the school buildings so that they appear to be dotted around the country rather than all in one place.

Hogwarts Castle: Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England

Courtesy of Richard Croft/Geograph

This Northumberland castle is the exterior of Hogwarts, and it is in these very gardens where Harry Potter rode a broomstick for the very first time, catching the attention of Flying Instructor Madam Hooch and Gryffindor Quidditch Captain Oliver Wood to become the school’s youngest seeker in a century.

Here you can take an on location tour of the Hogwarts grounds but remember not to venture off into the Forbidden Forest. It’s strictly off-limits.

Hogwarts Library: Duke Humphrey’s Library, Oxford University

If you’d prefer to read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with Hermione, then perhaps a visit to Oxford University would be more your cup of tea. Here you can explore Hogwarts Library and the Infirmary, located in the 15th Century Divinity School, on the same guided tour. Just stay out of the Restricted Section and don’t drink the Skele-Gro.

The visitors’ entrance to the Ministry of Magic: Great Scotland Yard, London

Courtesy of Shazz/Wikimedia

For those curious about the Wizarding World outside of Hogwarts, I recommend visiting the Ministry of Magic but obviously they won’t let muggles inside (with the possible exception of the Prime Minister)…sorry about that.

Although you won’t be able to find the phone booth that wizards use to enter, as it’s under an invisibility spell, you can still stop outside the visitor’s entrance and see if you can spot an Auror leaving work for the day. Bonus: if you visit in 2019, you may even spot then-Minister for Magic, Hermione Granger.

What do you think of the list? What other locations would you include?

If you’ve visited any of these locations, then let me know in the comments and share your pictures.

Originally posted 2017-08-01 11:32:25.

Emma is a queer British freelance writer specializing in politics, travel, and entertainment. Barack Obama (yes, that one) follows her on Twitter and she’s never been sure why. She takes her coffee seriously and wears odd socks because life’s too short.

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Danica Roem Earns Seat in Virginia’s State Legislature

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I’ve previously written about Danica Roem and how she, a transgender woman, made history by winning Virginia’s Democratic primary in June. She’s done it again! On November 7th, Roem defeated Bob Marshall, a man who once referred to himself as “chief homophobe,” in Virginia’s House of Delegates election.

Who is Danica Roem?

Danica Roem was born in 1984 at Prince William Hospital in Manassas and went to Catholic school for thirteen years of her life. She attended St. Bonaventure University where she majored in journalism. She graduated in 2006 and reported for the Gainesville Times and eventually for the Prince William Times. Danica also wrote about schools, development, business, and transportation. In 2012, she started her transition and in December of 2013, she began hormone replacement therapy. Her name changed occurred in 2015 and her coworkers were supportive of her. She was eventually hired as the news editor of the Montgomery County Sentinel in Rockville Maryland, where she worked from August 2015 until the end of 2016. After, she left her position at the newspaper to run for office.

A major victory for trans rights

By defeating long-standing Republican and firm social conservative Bob Marshall, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender official to be elected in Virginia and made history by being the first transgender person to be seated in a state legislature. This is a huge step for LGBTQ rights, as transgender individuals are heavily discriminated against in many forms, such as workplace discrimination and discrimination in regard to using public bathrooms. By electing Roem and ousting Marshall, Virginia, a traditionally conservative state, is showing that more and more Virginians are moving toward positive change.

So who exactly is Bob Marshall, the man that Roem defeated? Marshall was elected to the House of Delegates in the early 1990s and has run and won every single election until this year. He authored Virginia’s 2006 “One man, one woman” bill that supports the idea that marriage is defined as a union between one man and one woman, is anti-abortion and opposes tax funding of Planned Parenthood, purposely uses disingenuous language to undermine the struggles of the LGBTQ community, is against gay men from serving in Virginia’s National Guard because he believes that there would be an increase in the spreading of STDs, and is in favor of legal discrimination against LGBTQ people. He is very clearly anti-LGBTQ and holds views that go counter to the direction that this country is heading in.

A way forward for Virginians

In contrast, Roem is in favor of raising the minimum wage in Virginia, making preschool more accessible, vows to increase teacher pay, wants to decrease bullying and discrimination in schools and promises to create a more inclusive Virginia by making sure people do not get singled out based on sexual orientation, race, gender, or disability. Her experience as a journalist helped her gain excellent listening skills. Because of that, Roem is able to listen to the residents of Prince William County and help achieve what needs to be done. According to her bio page, she promises to tackle public issues the way she wrote news stories: by researching, questioning, listening, and reporting. By electing her, the residents of Virginia showed that they were tired of Marshall’s antiquated (and frankly) bigoted views and wanted a real change. Bob Marshall won fourteen consecutive general elections which definitely displayed Virginia’s views but this year created a huge change. In the wake of all of the tension within the United States government, Danica Roem offers a much-needed and refreshing perspective on how people view transgender people. Hopefully, this will be a crucial catalyst in the fight for transgender and LGBTQ rights and an important stepping stone in the fight for equality.  

Originally posted 2017-11-14 15:36:41.

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#FiveFilms4Freedom LGBT+ Film Festival

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The #FiveFilms4Freedom 2017 film festival is travelling across the pond this November. Originally hosted in Britain this past March, it is the first and largest LGBT+ film festival, and has featured independent LGBT+ short films from around the globe.

The film festival began in 2014 in Britain, sponsored by the British Council and the British Film Institute. It is a part of the larger BFI Flare film festival, which began in 1986, and is sponsored by the Love is GREAT Britain Campaign. .

This year’s #FiveFilms4Freedom festival marked 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain. As such, all five films were created by UK filmmakers.

After the films premiered in the UK in March, they were brought to Washington, D.C. on November 1, and will be shown in Los Angeles on November 13 and in New York City on November 16. The festival will also feature a panel of prominent LGBT+  rights advocates from the US and the UK, as well as two participating directors.  

The films focus on a range of LGBT+ relationships and issues. The majority of them are love stories; Crush tells the story of a young girl who finds herself smitten with another girl she sees at a train station, Heavy Weight deals with a young male boxer and his reaction to the arrival of a new fighter, and Jamie is a very modern story about a man who bravely decides to meet with the man he has been talking to on a dating site. The other two films explore very different experiences in the LGBT+ community. Still Burning is about a young migrant living in Paris who shows his brother the exciting and freeing voguing movement. The title is taken from the film Paris is Burning, a documentary about the voguing movement in New York City and its effect on the African American, Latino, gay and transgender communities. The final film is a documentary set in Scotland, entitled Where We Are Now, and focuses on a transgender parent and her bisexual daughter.

The BFI Flare festival as well as #FiveFilms4Freedom have given the LGBT+ community an excellent place for celebration and representation, especially in the UK. With the decriminalization of homosexuality 31 years ago, British LGBT+ representation is extremely important because it has only been able to exist for a short amount of time. The festival allows filmmakers to make LGBT+ people and relationships extremely public, and continues to encourage and support the idea that LGBT+ people can make and star in incredible pieces of media. The move from showing the films in Britain alone to showing them in the US will hopefully continue to encourage the rise of LGBT+ relationships in mainstream media as well as in independent media.

Tickets for the festival in New York City are still available for reservation here. The festival is on November 16 from 6 – 9 PM at the Barclays-ASK Auditorium on Seventh Avenue. The festival is also currently accepting submissions for next year’s festival here.

Originally posted 2017-11-13 21:00:23.

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Online Dating While Genderqueer #notokcupid

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Anatomy, pronouns, sexual orientation. These suddenly become much more important when talking to cis men online. I often don’t disclose my gender identity or pronouns in conversation because I don’t want to scare folks away. I also figure it’s more of a 2nd date conversation. I do mention my pronouns in my bios, though. I don’t want to hide my gender identity, but I also don’t want to talk about it a lot. There’s more to me than just my gender (or lack thereof), and I’m not interested in teaching Queer Theory 101 courses when we could be talking about movies, or where we grew up, or which Disney Princess is our favorite. It’s an exhausting thing to talk about – there’s a lot of emotional energy and work involved, often met with even more invasive questions, a sense of entitlement, and arguments.

Living in Brooklyn, dating can be exhausting. A major pro is the seemingly endless amount of options/available folks. At the same time, a major con is the seemingly endless amount of options/available folks. There is a lot of sifting and sorting that needs to be done before even meeting someone in real life. Here are three dating apps I’ve used, and my experiences with each.

OKCupid

OKCupid is one of my favorite dating platforms thus far. The expansive options for gender identity/sexual orientation, and the option to not be seen by straight people, is validating and creates a safer space for an already vulnerable venture. OKCupid does require a bit more work – not only in filling out your profile, but when looking for cuties. There is a swipe feature, just like Tinder and Bumble, but OKC is a better platform for folks interested in dating, not just hookups.

Bumble

Bumble has been a recent favorite of mine, simply because of fast results. I get to know within seconds of a swipe if someone also likes me, and I have to message first within 24 hours, giving me the power to initiate conversation. If the other person doesn’t reply within 24 hours, then the connection is lost. I enjoy this feature because I get to set the tone. Getting a dick pic instead of “Hello, I also adore the film ‘Nacho Libre’” is a much less successful and appealing opener. Bumble is not as trans or queer friendly. There are two gender options for your identity and who you are looking to talk to, and you must select one for each. You can also only change your gender once – so you better decide which end of the binary you’d like to claim, and stick with it!

Side note: I’ve also heard that Michael Che is on Bumble. Michael – if you’re reading this, let’s get coffee?

Tinder

OH GEEZ. I had a tinder account for quite a while, and haven’t been back on it in over a year. Apparently, it has gotten more trans inclusive, with a total of 37 gender identity choices. Tinder is the ultimate hookup app. That doesn’t mean one couldn’t find folks seeking other types of interactions, the likelihood might just be slimmer. To me, Tinder feels like a frat party, and I’m not in Greek Life.

When Life Gives You Interactions with Dumb Bois, Make a Hashtag

On any dating platform, you’re bound to have some … interesting conversations. The internet is powerful – it makes people braver, ruder, and sometimes dumber. When I’m getting harassing messages from dumb bois, I feel safer telling them off than I do in real life. I’m less likely to get assaulted, physically and/or emotionally. I also screenshot EVERYTHING. If you feel comfortable talking to me that way, then I’m sure you won’t mind me sharing that with the entire world. Here are some memorable interactions I’ve had that I’ve posted to my personal Instagram:

Notice how he doesn’t deny it… #notokcupid #smelly

A post shared by Sara W (@swhitt17) on

So greedy. #notokcupid

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When he’s a dumb boy but also loves @rupaulofficial ? #notokcupid

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LET THE GAMES BEGIN!! #notokcupid

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… but you're not a feminist? #thingsthatmakeyougohmmm #notokcupid

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Boy, can I relate. #notokcupid

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Originally posted 2017-11-13 18:58:09.

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