For LGBTQIA+ people, representation in media is constantly expanding. I hesitate to use the words “forward” or “come a long way” – because there’s no such thing as “forward” and “backward” when queer, trans, and other ways of being outside the colonial “norm” have existed forever. It’s more of a return to and growth of what was and is. Even if we’d only arrived on the scene yesterday, we deserve to be seen and heard because we are here, right now.
As these stories are being elevated, I’m finding more things I click with. Things that make me feel seen. And just stuff that I like. From sword fighting queers, to a messy genderqueer monk, to folks singing about Queer Feelings, here is a selection of media I’ve enjoyed in the past year:
TV and Film
Our Flag Means Death
- In my household this is known as the “Gay Pirate Show” but it’s much more than that. It covers racism, toxic masculinity, and an ocean of queer-ness all in a pirate rom-com about a gentleman who becomes a pirate.
- The Untamed has everything: queer rooftop swordfights, men with long beautiful hair, angst, and amazing costumes. Beyond that, it’s just a darn good story.
- Having recently finished season 2, I can say that Gentleman Jack is one of the better English period dramas. Both seasons are about Anne Lister: a queer woman who chooses to live openly as herself. If Season 1 gives an overview of Anne’s world, season 2 fully immerses us in it. The characters are stronger, the costumes and world more vibrant, and the focus entirely on Anne Lister and her wife, Ann Walker. Anne Lister drives the show, literally, Anne seems to almost be running through it. Her character is interesting because her visibility, rank, and riches gives her power while exposing her to scrutiny and violence. The show fully leans into this as she battles everyone to stay married to Ann. It makes for an incredibly interesting watch.
- She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
- Reading this book is to suffer immensely and then spend months recommending it to everyone. The book itself is an adult historical fantasy about Zhu Chongba: a person who takes her brothers identity after both her father and brother die. The book itself is about war and survival. The novel also explores gender through perception: the many identities placed upon Zhu Chongba vs the person she actually is.
- The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
- A sapphic YA novel about two girls with rival henna businesses is something I didn’t know that I needed until this book was released. It’s a beautiful book about love, family, and cultural appropriation. Adiba Jaigirdar is a brilliant writer and the only sad part about this is that it took me far too long to read this one.
- The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
- The Magic Fish is a split between the story of a young Vietnamese American teenager and the stories he and his mother read. It uses bold colours to visually show which story is being told and when. Overall, it’s about life, love, and immigration. It’s beautifully drawn and in classic fairy-tale style, it fluctuates between hope and horror.
Boyfriend by Dove Cameron
- Is this song made for me? It’s sapphic so course not. Do I still appreciate it? Yes. It’s always so refreshing to hear queer folks sing about love and life. The lyrics “I could be a better boyfriend than him” and “Plus all my clothes would fit” are the best.
Gay Street Fighter by Keiynan Lonsdale
- Gay Street Fighter is best listened to while driving. The lyrics are unapologetic and punchy, moving from fighting words to lyrics declaring that everyone, even God, is gay.
For Good – From “Wicked”
- Whether this song is technically “queer” or more “I want this to be queer so it is” is up for debate. For Good is from Wicked, a musical about Elphaba and Glinda two gal pals who go from hate to a very strong friendship. The musical is also about prejudice, propaganda, and how anyone and anything can be hated out of existence. For Good is an amazing song and with lines like “You’ll be with me/Like a handprint on my heart” it certainly feels very queer.
There are so many great books, films, and songs coming out. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. Many folks left out of the frame, but that seems to be changing too. Whether representation does much is up for debate. Representation itself can’t break laws or systems that are aimed at erasing or eliminating people. However, I think stories and songs have power. They can change the minds and hearts of people. They can give people language: for themselves and the world. They can keep hope alive. And they can inspire action which alters the world for the better. And I think that change, big and small, has got to be worth something.
Alexander Te Pohe is a Māori trans man living on Whadjuk Noongar land. He graduated from Murdoch University in late 2020 and joined Entangled Publishing as an editor in early 2021. He is currently looking for speculative fiction submissions across YA, NA, and adult fiction but will consider manuscripts outside this genre if they have a strong voice and an intriguing story. Alexander has a bias for angsty supernatural YA, queer and trans characters, genre bending Indigenous fiction, and anything Ghibli-esk.
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