Like most things, the literary sphere is mostly dominated by straight white cis men, with LGBTQ folks struggling to have their voices heard (so to speak). That’s not to say that there haven’t been to amazing queer literary giants, from Sappho to Oscar Wilde and so on. Still, you might be hoping for some people who are currently working today.
First off, if you’d like to hear Mariko Tamaki’s full life story (and see some baby pictures that look like author photos), I’d highly recommend watching her keynote address at the 2017 Queer & Comics Conference. You can also read this Canadian graphic novelist’s incredible works, Skim and This One Summer (both with her cousin Jillian Tamaki). Both show incredible grace in telling coming-of-age stories, and talking about girlhood, among other issues. Tamaki has a brilliant way of writing about growing up that is honest and authentic without ever coming across as patronizing. You can check out all of her thoughts on her blog.
I first came across David Levithan when I read his 2003 novel Boy Meets Boy. I remember I was about thirteen or fourteen, and it was the first gay book I had ever read. As a queer kid, I was so excited to see myself represented and to see the characters in his book not be outliers or horribly depressed or oppressed but simply being themselves, be they gay, bisexual, trans, or anything. While Levithan has occasionally veered out of the young adult genre with some excellent titles like The Lover’s Dictionary, he is most famous for his young adult works featuring LGBTQ characters including Boy Meets Boy, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and The Realm of Possibility. You can find out more about him on his website.
Kai Cheng Thom
According to her website, Kai Cheng Thom is a “fiery writer, performer, spoken word artist, and drag dance sensation.” Throughout her career, she’s written countless essays for Everyday Feminism, BuzzFeed and many more on everything from trans identity to race to privilege. She also wrote the novel Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir, and the children’s book, From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea, and has also had some of her poetry published. You can see more of her work and lear about her at her website.
While queer women are underrepresented in literature in general, literature created by and about queer women of color, particularly black queer women, is almost non-existent. That’s part of what makes Fiona Zedde’s work so exciting. Much of her work, from her brilliant short stories to her delightful romance novels, center around queer black women, dealing with relationships, lust, family drama, and, occasionally, some vampires or other supernatural elements, living their most honest lives. Zedde has published twelve novels and two short story collections. You can read more about her work on her website.
If you’re looking for an intense yet beautiful coming-of-age story, I would have to recommend Shyam Selvadurai’s 1994 novel Funny Boy, which is set in the 1970s and ’80s in Sri Lanka, and is based partly on Selvadurai’s own experiences growing up gay amidst tensions and civil war in the country. Selvadurai has also written several other novels concerning similar themes of sexuality, love, diaspora, and youth, including the books Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, Cinnamon Gardens, and The Hungry Ghosts. Selvadurai’s work is superb, understated, and contains some of the best character writing I’ve ever seen. He’s also written numerous articles for various online publications, and edited an anthology of Sri Lankan fiction and poetry. You can find out more about him at his website.
While in recent years representation of LGBT people as a whole in media has been on the rise, this hasn’t been true for every letter of that acronym. In particular, bi and trans people have been mostly left out. Very few characters are actually referred to as bisexual even if they are shown to have relationships with people of different genders. They are often depicted as being promiscuous and having no interest in serious or monogamous relationships. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with either of those things, but obviously not every bisexual person wants the same thing. Bisexual women in relationships with other women are usually seen as going through a phase, being wild, or “turning into a lesbian.” Bisexual men on screen are almost non-existent. Even while coming up with this list, I found it hard to find characters who say in canon that they are bisexual and are shown in relationships with people of different genders. However, there are a few bright spots of positive representation. Here are some of the best bisexual heroes in TV, Movies, and Comics.
Dr. Remy “Thirteen” Hadley from House, MD: First introduced in season four and known only as “Thirteen”, this badass doctor (played by Olivia Wilde) was known for her secretive nature and sharp wit. While at first she was shown to be wild and promiscuous, this was later shown to be a result of having a terminal illness. When she later comes to terms with her diagnosis, she is shown to be perfectly capable of engaging in serious relationships with both men and women. Strong and confident, Thirteen refuses to let any one box her in and makes a point of identifying herself as bisexual, not as straight or gay.
Korra and Asami Sato from Avatar: The Legend of Korra: This show, like its predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender was nothing short of groundbreaking during its run, particularly considering the fact that it was an animated series largely meant for kids. Dealing with heavy topics like discrimination, sexism, war, and trauma, both shows could always be counted on to tackle sensitive issues with nuance and grace, without ever losing their humor. In the last episode of The Legend of Korra, Korra and Asami were seen entering a spiritual dimension called the spirit world together while holding hands and looking fondly at each other. The scene was later interpreted by fans and confirmed by show co-creator Bryan Konietzko to mean that the two characters who had only been shown with male partners had fallen in love and were beginning a relationship.
Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire: A prominent character for the fourth season of Game of Thrones and in the third book, A Storm of Swords, this bisexual badass (played by Pedro Pascal) was also known as the Viper and was explicitly shown to have interest in both men and women, and was in a committed polyamorous relationship with his lover Ellaria Sand (Indria Varma), who also happened to be bisexual. Swaggering and hell-bent on revenge for his family, Oberyn was (spoiler alert) taken from us in a particularly brutish death. RIP Oberyn, we hardly knew ye.
Rachel from Imagine Me and You: There are very few romantic comedies for queer people as media tends to either avoid queerness altogether or write depressing stories of death and discrimination. Luckily, Imagine Me and You avoids both these pitfalls and provides us with protagonist Rachel (played by Piper Perabo), who begins the film with her wedding to Hector (played by Matthew Goode) but falls in love with her florist, Luce (played by Lena Headey). Rachel’s love for Luce is never portrayed as a strange deviation nor is her love for Hector ever dismissed or diminished in this sweet, funny film.
Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood: played by John Barrowman, the good captain was first introduced as a sexy futuristic con man who was, to quote The Doctor (at the time, played by Christopher Eccelston), “a bit more flexible when it comes to dancing.” While Jack was shown to enjoy flirting with people of multiple genders in both shows, Jack eventually began a serious relationship in Torchwood with Ianto Jones, who was also shown to be bisexual. The two went from being more or less friends with benefits to eventually embarking on a full-fledged, loving, supportive relationship.
Kelly from Black Mirror: While pretty much every episode of this British anthology series is depressing, creepy, and generally pretty down on technology and humanity, the episode ‘San Junipero’ is the lovely, heartwarming exception. One of the main characters of this episode is Kelly (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who enters a relationship with Yorkie (played by Mackenzie Davis). Kelly tells Yorkie that she is bisexual and used to be married to a man who later died. San Junipero is generally considered one of the most poignant and beautiful episodes of Black Mirror, and it’s not hard to see why.
Lorraine Broughton from Atomic Blonde: Honestly, Lorraine (played by Charlize Theron) being bisexual is probably the least exciting thing about her. She is badass, sneaky, and a damn good spy. The film makes a point of noting in the beginning that a deceased male agent was her former lover, and shows her engaging in a brief love affair with fellow secret agent Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella). But like I said, the movie is so full of twists and turns and Lorraine beating up bad guys that you don’t have that much time to even revel in how easily the movie gives us a bi heroine.
Ilana from Broad City: Played by and based on a loose version of the show’s co-creator Ilana Glazer, Ilana is a fun-loving, hedonistic, pot-smoking young Jewish woman in her twenties roaming around New York with her best friend Abbi (played by series co-creator Abbi Jacobson). In season two, Ilana sees her doppelganger Adele (played by Alia Shawkat), and the two begin a sexual relationship where Ilana tells her, “I have sex with people different from me. Different colors, different shapes, different sizes. People who are hotter, people who are uglier. More smart; not more smart. Innies, outies. I don’t know, a Catholic person.”
Hey, straight cis people aren’t the only ones who need a vacation! Of course they generally don’t have to wonder if they might get beaten or killed on vacation just for holding hands with their partner or wearing clothes closest to their own gender identity. Still, LGBT tourism has becoming a thriving new business advent with cities around the world hoping to capitalize on wealthy queers looking for a fun getaway. In fact, many tourism websites of major cities now feature small blurbs about things for the LGBT traveler to enjoy. So whether you’re looking for international drag scenes, gay history, museums, nightclubs, or all of the above, here are six of the best gay cities to visit.
Prague, Czech Republic
While not quite as flashy or expensive as some other European tourist destinations, Prague is still a popular city for tourism due to its long history and breathtaking architecture. However, despite the breadth of history on display, Prague is still a remarkably progressive city within a country that has been generally progressive since the fall of communism, especially when compared to some of its close neighbors. Registered partnerships for gay couples were first introduced in the Czech Republic way back in 2006, and Prague held its first Pride Parade in 2011. Not to mention, the Czech Republic has been home to the huge annual multi-city queer film festival, the Mezipatra Queer Film Festival, for the last 17 years.
Prior to the Nazis, Berlin actually had a vibrant LGBT scene, with famous cabarets and a cosmopolitan flair for the diverse, not to mention the Institute for the Science of Sexuality (whose papers of groundbreaking research on gender and sexuality were all burned in 1933). It was a hub for gay European expats and artists such as the famous English writer Christopher Isherwood. Today, Berlin has revived this spirit with museums, arts institutions, clubs, and many queer bookstores.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio has always been a popular tourist spot in general, especially for LGBT folks. In fact, it’s been estimated that around a million LGBT people visit Rio de Janeiro every year, and it’s not hard to see why. With its incredible beaches, rich nightlife with clubs and bars, many shops, luxury hotels, and historical neighborhoods, Rio de Janeiro has earned its well-deserved spot on many lists as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. Rio also has one of the biggest Pride Parades in the world and even gay-specific activities during the famous Rio Carnival.
Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa is frequently cited as being one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Africa. Indeed, the post-apartheid constitution, written in 1994, outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation and in 1998 the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that a law prohibiting consensual gay sex was unconstitutional, and South Africa has had marriage equality since 2005. Within Cape Town you can find beaches, nightclubs, and other fun attractions. Additionally, since 1994 Cape Town has hosted the Mother City Queer Project, a yearly costume festival meant to celebrate the multiple and diverse queer communities in Cape Town.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
You might think that the much larger tourist attractions of cities like Guadalajara and Acapulco would be on this list, but in recent years Puerto Vallarta has become a beacon of LGBT tourism in Mexico, attracting both international visitors as well as domestic tourists. Sitting right on the western coast of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta boasts beautiful beaches, pride celebrations since 2013, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.
On February 5th, 1981, Toronto Police raided four major gay bathouses in Toronto, leading to over three hundred men being arrested. It is an event often considered the Canadian version of the events at Stonewall in 1969, and indeed the raid was the catalyst for the first Pride March in Toronto. Back then, Toronto Pride was a riot, a protest. It was the year before the AIDS crisis would begin to ravage our community. It was well before legal gay marriage would become a reality. And, of course, it was a far cry off from Pride of today, which feels more like a month-long party, expensive and inaccessible, and catering almost exclusively to white cis gay men.
Which isn’t to say that we should return to where we were as a community in 1981. We have made extraordinarily amazing progress as a community in the years since the first Pride. The problem isn’t really how far we’ve gotten, it’s who we’ve been leaving behind, and what history we are forgetting.
How many people really know the history behind Pride? How many of us know who the major players were? Or, perhaps worse, simply don’t care? And this lack of care is what leads to, for example, the exclusion of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both trans women of color, from the 2015 film Stonewall, even though both were extremely integral to the actual riots, much more so than the fictional cis white gay man who the movie makes out to be the instigator.
Besides, is Pride even for us, as in the LGBTQ community? It’s doubtful. Over the years, Pride has gone from a sense of protest and demanding of inclusion, and has become more corporate, more exclusive, and those who try to remind Pride of its roots in protest are shut down. Isn’t BLM trying to bring Pride to a place of tolerance, where black and brown queer people don’t feel like they are being pushed out of their parade for the “feelings” of some police officers? Besides, nobody’s saying police can’t show up as civilians out of uniform, just as proud as any of us. Instead of pushing themselves into a parade, wouldn’t it be more productive to actually try to build a better relationship with the communities they are meant to help? Police chief Mark Saunders apologizing for the bathhouse raids was a good first step, but much more needs to be done.
A Pride full of TD floats, ever-flowing booze, and non-stop partying isn’t exactly made for a history lesson. I’m not saying that Pride shouldn’t have parties. The celebratory aspect is wonderful. But it has consumed Pride to the point where wanting anything else makes you feel like you’re not a real part of the community.
Not to mention, when the feelings of corporations are prioritized over actual queer people, then you have a problem. After all, it’s a lot easier to pitch a float than make real change. I reached out to several queer people around Toronto and asked them their thoughts, and many stated their outright discomfort with the level of corporate involvement in Toronto Pride. As, Laura, a bisexual cis woman told me, “I feel like pride has become very commercial, especially with corporations being involved. A bank with a rainbow flag on its door doesn’t really increase acceptance of [LGBTQIAP] individuals, just increases liberals patting themselves on the back for not really doing anything other than saying ‘I don’t hate gay people.’” Similarly, L. G., who identifies themselves as queer, enjoys “Participating in collective resistance” but dislikes the “Corporatization…straight ‘allies’…onlookers occupying space ignorantly…[I] often feel like Pride is for cis white gay men with money”
Still, any learning is impossible if the history gets lost in a party, and if Pride only lives inside one month of corporate parades and parties for rich white gay cis men. Progress is rarely made by those who get to feel comfortable in their position, and indeed this is the case for LGBTQIAP history right here in Toronto.
Celebrating queer identity in its many forms is a wonderful thing, but partying can’t be the centre of Pride, or the only thing that it offers. Pride needs to be inclusive for all and a way to connect with our shared past.
Some time last year, 2017 came to us like a lover we abruptly fell in love with at a social function because it seemed so fresh and put together. It was one smooth operating sonofabitch. It promised to meet us at the corner outside, next to the deli with all the colored flowers, under the streetlight where it’s parked a fast ride to the future, baby. We had a feeling that, together, we could be someone. Well, it didn’t work out so well. We got in the car and it drove us straight to a fuckboy of a new year made of what is increasingly turning out to be a frat party prank of a reality.
And believe it or not, we still have two thirds of 2017 left to go! More miles and ditches and road stops ahead in which all kinds of shenanigans will take place to the tune of craziness on television. But let us contemplate on what we rode past so far in this prelude to Fury Road.
Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief: After the madness of 2016, this year hasn’t been the year we were all hoping for. Reports of Chechnya allegedly detaining more than 100 men for being gay. According to the Independent, many have been tortured and at least four men have been killed. Yes, it’s no secret that with the many advances for the LGBT community there are still places in the world where being out is not an option. During my visit to Germany, I took a tour a of a former concentration camp where both Jews and Gay men were held, and the stories the guide told us were horrifying to say the least. It makes sick to think that this kind of abuse is still going on today.
Natasha Grodzinski, Arts & Culture Contributor : If a person were to receive multiple allegations of sexual assault, be fired from their high-profile job, have the allegations taken to court and then be acquitted but have a reputation in ruins, what would be the best thing for them to do? Probably, as the kids say, go away quietly. Not Jian Ghomeshi. He now has his own podcast. The only possible explanation I could give on why this is happening is he must be an egomaniac. Even if you look aside from the number of women who came forward with sexual assault allegations concerning Ghomeshi both inside and outside of the workplace, the podcast itself (called The Ideation Project) is just bad. It’s him talking about some new-age “opening a conversation” stuff over trippy music. Listen if you want, but personally, I think I’ve heard enough from him.
Claire Ball, Editorial Contributor: United Airlines has been a complete disaster this year, to say the least. The airline has been a part of a slew of recent embarrassments. From a giant showcase rabbit dying, to stopping girls from boarding a flight for wearing leggings, and how can we forget the incident when United aggressively dragged passenger David Dao off of his fight? Honestly, everything about the airline infuriates me. This may be an obvious solution, but maybe United should just stop overbooking flights? Or join the 21st century and change their “dress code” to allow leggings? Regardless, the moral of the story: don’t fly United Airlines.
Hoon, Managing Editor: In the midst of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s allegations that Obama ‘wiretapped’ him — or, as the term came to increasingly denote, surveil him in ways that are if not illegal, unethical —, the Republican House intelligence committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (California) made a secret visit on March 21st to the White House grounds to look at classified information pertinent to the case. The next day, Nunes returned to the White House with cameras to proclaim to a hastily prepared news conference that he’s found information regarding ‘incidental collection’ of information on U.S. citizens involved in Trump’s transition, which, translated, meant that he’s come across documents indicating that legal surveillance of foreign officials on U.S. soil led to incidental collection of U.S. citizens — Flynn, for instance — interacting with them. Why he felt the need to pretend to have found the information by himself and to brief Trump on information the White House presented to Nunes, and what this means regarding the sanctity of U.S. democracy and its capacity to withstand internal political turmoil is still unclear. That the Capitol was a setting for a half-written and dimly acted out spy story, on the other hand, is unbearably clear.
Meg, Contributor: As if unhealthy, sugary drinks weren’t already hard to swallow, the notoriously ‘flat’ Pepsi ad was definitely a WTF moment. What was a sad attempt to encourage people to “join the conversation” was really a massive failure that affirmed the idea that lack of knowledge on inclusivity and global issues is still very much an issue. Pepsi created a campaign centred around supermodel Kendall Jenner who took time off from her bustling model career to save the multicultural mass protest against riot police by sharing a can of Pepsi. While this campaign has set a seriously narrow minded tone, I think the backlash that was received after is indication of the power that the people really can have in speaking out against what is so obviously wrong. After taking the campaign down, the issues surrounding it are still being talked about and addressed in a way that indicates change for how these subjects are approached. A few weeks later, Heineken came out with a campaign focusing on the same issues of encouraging dialogue over social issues but doing so in a way that was more raw and less commercialized. This WTF moment has thankfully turned itself around as other companies prove that careful and compassionate advertising is not lost.
Kimberley, Contributor: Over the years, it has become apparent that the Oscars have become irrelevant. Now simply used as a marketing tool, the Oscars often fail to offer any diversity within their selection of nominees. In 2017, major pictures, La La Land and Moonlight went head-to-head for the”Best Picture” title. After briefly hesitating to announce the award, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway declared La La Land as the winner. The entire cast and crew came up to accept their award, not long before La La Land‘s producer, Jordan Horowitz announced that there had been a mistake. It was later confirmed that Warren Beatty was handed the wrong card, and because of this, La La Land received the award over the rightful winner, Moonlight. I can’t pretend to know what it takes to successfully run an award show, especially one as big as the Oscars. This is certainly one of the biggest WTF moments of 2017, and will probably be mentioned for years to come. I just hope it won’t overshadow the importance of Moonlight as a film and take away from its victory as the “Best Picture” winner.
Adina Heisler, Contributor: While much of the attention has been given to some of the more outlandish, bizarre, and horrifying members and scandals of the White House and the Trump Administration, we shouldn’t forget about the unprecedented level of power and access Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner hold. Both now hold official roles in the White House (Ivanka is an “Assistant to the President” and Jared is a senior adviser), have been present at meetings with world leaders and domestic officials, and seem to have more influence than anyone else in the White House. Their qualifications? Being the daughter and son-in-law of the President. They may not be as flashy as the Donald, but their positions should be viewed with the same level of skepticism and outrage we give him, and his staff and cabinet.