October 11 is National Coming Out Day and newsfeeds everywhere are filled with artistically themed rainbows, photos of same-sex couples kissing and heartwarming coming out videos. It’s a beautiful expression of pride and it’s enough to make any queer person want to announce their sexual orientation.
But you don’t have to come out today.
If revealing your sexuality will put you at risk for violence, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.
If the thought of announcing your gender identity makes you want to hurt yourself, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.
If you’d lose your home or financial security due to your queerness, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.
If you just aren’t ready yet, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.
Only come out when you feel comfortable. It’s a highly personal and extremely delicate process that can never be rushed. Not all people are privileged enough to reveal their sexuality or gender identity but that doesn’t make them any less queer. You are not defined by the number of people who know you’re a member of the LGBTQ community. You are defined only by how you view yourself.
It took me 21 years to come out to myself, 23 years to come out to my family and 27 years to come out to the world. In fact, this is actually my first time publicly celebrating National Coming Out Day. I know how isolating today can be for those who desperately want to claim their queer identity but lack the ability to do so safely.
From oversexualization and being the neutered best friends to complete invisibility, people of color are often denied the multidimensional agency of their white queer counterparts.
There are characters here and there, but very few series are designed or centered around non-white queer folk. Additionally, people of color are rarely afforded the opportunity to head an entire program. Who wants to see that, right? Here, we’re going to acknowledge series germane not only to Queer people of color but, by proxy, to people in the LGBTQ community more broadly.
Noah’s Arc was the first scripted television show for the newly cemented, queer-focused network, Logos. It premiered in 2005, right after George W. Bush used his opposition to gay marriage to win the 2004 presidential election. Noah’s Arc redefined the way we tell stories of non-normative queer people.
Created by Patrik-Ian Polk, an openly gay black film director and writer, Noah’s Arc followed the lives of four queer men of color: Noah, a sensitive writerly type working in Los Angeles as a screenwriter; Ricky, a promiscuous Latinx man who owned a clothing boutique on Melrose; Alex, a femme, married HIV/AIDS educator who served as the comedic center; And Chance, a stiff, elitist by-the-books economics professor with a blended family.
The series showed how they navigated love, career and friendship through the prism of their sexuality and the experiences it both afforded and kept from them. It touched on gay marriage, othering, being denied employment, the rigid world of Hollywood, straight-identified men who sleep with men, toxic masculinity, the Continue reading “How Queer POC are Represented in Media”→
Bisexual people are often confronted with discrimination from both members of the LGBTQ community and the heterosexual community.
We have to embrace our bisexual sisters, brothers and non-binary relatives in order to build a genuinely inclusive community. So, here are 7 of my favorite bisexual characters on TV!
1) Rosa Diaz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
This bad ass detective came out as bisexual in 2017 and all the queer girls swooned. While Rosa’s sexuality was immediately accepted by her coworkers, her family wasn’t as understanding. Both Rosa’s mother and father insisted that her bisexuality wasn’t real and that she’d end up married to a man in the end. Despite loving their child deeply, Rosa’s parents couldn’t understand the concept of choosing to be with a woman if you could be with a man.
2) Rich Dotcom, Blindspot
The TV show Blindspot is quickly becoming one of my favorites (and it’s not just because I find Jaimie Lauren Alexander stunningly beautiful.) The plot is riveting, the characters are diverse and sexual orientation isn’t seen as a big deal. This is most noticeable in the portrayal of Rich Dotcom, a notorious criminal, who is openly attracted to both men and women. When he’s not hitting on Jane Doe, Alexander’s character, he’s flirting with FBI agent Kurt Weller. Rich makes no attempt to obscure his sexual orientation and openly discusses his escapades regardless of who’s around. He’s unapologetically bisexual and I’m here for it.
Not only did this movie deftly navigate the fine line between comedy and suspense, it actually delivers on queer representation. Unlike other movies that hinge their promotions on queerbaiting (*cough* pitch perfect *cough*), A Simple Favor doesn’t shy away from depicting the sexual tension between Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) and Emily (Blake Lively).
Their chemistry is evident from the second the pair meet. Emily, sporting a three piece suit, walks in slow motion toward Stephanie, whose reaction is literally the definition of gay panic.
It doesn’t take long for Stephanie and Emily to develop a close relationship that is laden with heavy flirtation and intense eye contact. (To be honest, if Blake Lively called me baby that many times in a 15 minute period while sipping a martini, then I would have literally burst into flames.)
As one America magazine writer explains, “using an abuse and accountability scandal to scapegoat Catholic queerness is not okay.” In fact, blaming homosexuality for sex abuse just enables the church to avoid addressing the actual problem. Attributing this issue to those evil, inherently disordered gays, is a far easier pill for certain religious people to swallow than confronting the fact that their institution has been complicit in truly horrific crimes and requires systemic change.
I personally witnessed the effectiveness of this destructive narrative last week. I have to be vague for the sake of privacy, but I will say that I was in a professional setting when
In the 1960s, this prejudice was predominately associated with the civil rights movement. The plight of the X-Men, who were discriminated against simply because of their genetics, underscored the importance of racial equality. However, as time passed, other groups began to identify with the baseless disdain mutants were forced to endure, including the queer community.
When I watched X-Men: First Class, the fifth installment of the film series, I couldn’t stop thinking about Mystique saying the phrase: “mutant and proud.” [And it wasn’t because I’m in love with Jennifer Lawrence…although that definitely didn’t hurt]. I found myself writing it on sheets of paper, whispering it at random and replaying it over and over in my head. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this phrase offered me the ability to safely contemplate my sexuality. I could look in the mirror and say that I was a mutant without fear of accidentally outing myself. To me, it was synonymous with lesbian but, unlike the latter, I could say mutant as loudly as I wanted. In fact, repeating it so often was the precursor to finally being able to write that I was gay and proud at the end of a 13 page coming out letter to my parents. [Can’t ever claim I’m not thorough…]
Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of the X-Men. So, when I heard about The Gifted I binged all 13 episodes in a single weekend. (Judge me)
As expected, it was absolutely drenched in queer metaphors.
10 ways The Gifted is super gay:
The Gifted centers around the Struckers, your typical family living in a sleepy, nondescript American suburb. Reed, the father, works for a governmental organization that prosecutes mutants while Caitlin, the mother, works in the medical field. However, their perfect life is completely uprooted after discovering their son (Andy) and daughter (Lauren) are mutants.
The Gifted expertly evokes the confusion, sadness, elation and terror queer people oscillate between during the coming out process.
Just imagine these scenes a little differently.
1) When a loved one says something homophobic for the first time
It doesn’t even have to be malicious. Just an offensive joke, an offhanded comment or an ignorant observation, stings deeply when you’re not out. The night before I came out I had to endure arguments about how homosexuals are “just unnatural,” caveated by insistence that the argument wasn’t anti-gay. In this scene, I can literally feel Lauren’s fear of being rejected by her family.
2) The terror you experience around religious extremists
In The Gifted, purifiers believe that mutants are a threat to society and must be stringently monitored or eliminated entirely. Sound familiar to those religious arguments about how gay people are destroying the fabric of society? It’s no accident the purifiers are wearing massive crosses on their chest. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard people claim, in the name of God, that queer people are worthy of death.
3) Realizing your sexuality or gender identity during puberty
Not in the conventional sense. My tormentor wasn’t fond of physical restraints. Her fits of rage never left me with cuts, bruises or broken bones. In fact, there wasn’t a single visible sign of the pain she inflicted…and that’s the way she preferred it.
To an observer, I was completely free and yet I lived in utter captivity.
And yet, after enduring two years of torment, I couldn’t help but wonder: how did I miss it? If it’s so common, then why wasn’t I able to recognize the signs?
They had been drilled into me since I was a child. “Don’t date a man who tells you what to wear, where to go or who to hang out with.” “Don’t let a man pressure you into sex when you want to say no.” “Find a nice guy, someone who respects you and treats you well.”
And that’s when I realized it.
I was only prepared to recognize the hallmarks of heterosexual abuse. As a lesbian woman, who was raised by two heterosexual parents in an exceedingly heterosexual community, I had no reference for a healthy lesbian relationship. My knowledge of queer romances stemmed solely from fleeting displays of affection on TV. [Hands up if you remember Alex and Marissa on the OC].
While these teen dramas were on the forefront of pushing LGBTQ representation in media, many inadvertently normalized toxic behavior. They depicted women as innately more emotional than men, so two women together was just a powder keg of uncontrollable emotion. As a result, intensity and obsession was considered to be romantic or desirable in lesbian relationships. The lack of positive, realistic and healthy queer romances left me with no idea of what abusive behavior actually looked like between two women.
I didn’t discuss it myself. Not even when I was a crumpled mess, sobbing on the kitchen floor unable to trust my own thoughts. I didn’t tell anyone. I even made up lies about how well she was treating me.
Why it’s not discussed:
Growing up in a conservative Catholic environment, I was taught to believe that homosexuality was inherently sinful. Gay people, when acting upon their disordered nature, were “tearing their souls” from God. I even had a woman tell me that, “gay relationships only result in depression, drug addiction and suicide.”
When I came out, I vowed to prove them wrong. I wanted everyone to see how much happier I was being open and confident in my sexuality. I wouldn’t settle for anything less than perfect.
So, when my first serious relationship with a woman turned toxic, I refused to admit it. Despite desperately needing help and slowly drowning in a situation I couldn’t control, the thought of admitting the abused I experienced seemed so much worse. To me, it meant that I had failed. I was nothing more than another disordered, suicidal lesbian who got what she deserved.
Many months later, I discovered that this is actually one of the reasons LGBTQ people don’t report abuse. We’re afraid to show a “lack of solidarity” with other LGBTQ people. We view discussing this topic as a betrayal of our community because we think it’ll confirm society’s assumption that same-sex relationships are inherently dysfunctional.
But that isn’t true.
I wish I could scream it from the mountaintops. If you are being abused, then please seek help. It doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, queer, trans, cis, asexual, etc. You do not deserve to endure abuse. You are not betraying your community by coming forward and ending abuse. Being controlled by an abuser is just another closet that you don’t deserve to be in. There is bravery in admitting that you need help.
I met my abuser shortly after graduating from college. I had a job I loved, lived in a gorgeous place and was finally comfortable with my sexuality.
And then I met her.
(For the sake of privacy, I’ll just refer to her as Grace.) She was everything I thought I wanted: interesting, kind, charming, bold and beautiful. She had been out since she was a teenager and I admired her ability to be so brazenly gay. Grace spent her days caring for those with severe physical handicaps, occasionally volunteered with the food insecure and planned on spending her life tending to the sick. She seemed perfect… right? Continue reading “Domestic abuse in LGBT relationships: why aren’t we talking about it?”→
Writers on NBC’s Timeless could have easily allowed Agent Christopher, a senior Homeland Security field agent, to become a one-dimensional character. It’s something we’ve seen a hundred times: a brazenly confident leader, capable of making the tough calls until it comes to his own wife and kids. [Here’s looking at you Oliver Queen]. Agent Christopher is just one power pose away from falling prey to classic stoic white male trope…except she’s an Indian-American woman.
The show’s boss is a middle aged lesbian of color who is in a loving, interracial marriage with a black woman, Michelle, and has two children: Mark and Olivia.
Luckily, Agent Denise Christopher is the solution.
Not only is she a woman of color in a white male dominated field but she wasn’t forced to sacrifice her career in order to have a family. Agent Christopher was able to get the girl, the job and the respect of her employees. Essentially, she is the pinnacle of success for women, people of color and the LGBTQ community.
However, Timeless is careful not to gloss over the challenges that Agent Christopher was forced to overcome in order to earn her life.
I mean Ocean’s 8. (Although, maybe they should consider a name change…) This fourth installment of the Ocean’s franchise, featured a diverse all-female cast who showcased intelligence, bad-assery and, if you exist for homoerotic subtext like I do, lesbian love.
While (tragically) no character was openly gay, there was a near painful amount of sexual tension between Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) and Lou (Cate Blanchett). [Slight spoilers ahead] From the second that Lou’s character is introduced, (in all her pant suit glory) she can’t seem to keep her hands off Debbie. In fact, after a ridiculously flirty exchange that occurs when the pair reunites after Debbie’s release from prison, Lou grabs her “friend’s” head and kisses it with a little too much passion. (Talk about muscle memory, right?)
As the plot begins to unfold, Lou and Debbie’s storyline starts to parallel a classic heterosexual romance montage that’s frequently seen on the Hallmark channel. Ready?
Here’s Debbie slowly and suggestively eating eating her food. [Side note: shortly after this, Debbie refers to Lou as “baby” and the pair make quips about getting engaged. #ClassicUhaulLesbian]
As the meal winds down, Debbie makes intense eye contact with Lou and insist on feeding her. You know, like all straight females friends do…. [Can we talk about the look of pure ecstasy on Lou’s face? There’s literally nothing good on that fork, girl. We know that’s not what you’re excited about.]
Here they are sitting exceedingly close together on a very, very large bench while Lou’s grip is obviously intended to frighten away possible male suitors.
Here’s Lou explaining how she easily seduced Debbie to their wildly confused friend.
And here’s Lou looking cocky AF the morning after (which I’m sure she earned.)
All joking aside, there are so many hints throughout the film that Debbie and Lou are way more than platonic friends. They refer to each other as “partners,” routinely speak less than an inch apart and clearly share a deep, affectionate bond. At one point in the movie Debbie literally says, “I don’t want a him, I want a her.”
In the United States, Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who have died in service to our country. Social media will likely flood with images of widows and widowers mourning at grave sites, videos of soldiers reuniting with loved ones at airports and stories about selfless acts of valor. This somber, commemorative day is intended to evoke a deep sense of patriotism in all Americans.
But what’s missing from this picture? Would stories about military personnel mourning, rejoicing or sacrificing elicit the same sense of pride if the soldiers were members of the LGBT community? Unfortunately, the military has a long, complicated history with mistreating queer people.
Until President Obama repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, being gay was grounds for termination from the military. This makes it nearly impossible to determine how many queer people made the ultimate sacrifice for our safety. But, being allies and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we have an obligation to remember these unsung heroes with vigor equal to that of their straight and cisgendered counterparts. This blog post is an attempt to highlight the service of these queer voices and depict the hardships they faced throughout history.
Sergeant Leonard Matlovich famously contested the armed forces’ discriminatory policies against queer people in 1975. Matlovich, who had served for 12 years in the Air Force, was a highly respected member of the military. He had received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and shrapnel wounds during the Vietnam War. Simply put, Matlovich was an exemplary member of the military. However, when he chose to disclose his sexuality to his superiors, Matlovich was immediately discharged.
In September of 1975, his story made the cover of TIME magazine and prompted outrage in both proponents and opponent of gay rights. Some called him “a disgrace to the uniform of an honorable service” while others supported his bravery in challenging an outdated system. Tragically, Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988 but used his tombstone as a poignant and permanent reminder of the prejudice he endured. It reads: “A Gay Vietnam Veteran… when I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
Despite the severe repercussions of homosexual activity, some members of the military still risked their lives to have profound relationships with members of the same sex. In 1939, Gordon Bowsher and Gilbert Bradley did exactly that. Before he joined the British Army, Bradley was already in love with Bowsher.
In fact, the two men were so enamored with each other that they exchanged hundreds of romantic letters throughout the war that were only recently discovered. Bowsher and Bradley risked imprisonment and death just to write about their desire for one another and fantasies for their future together. Unlike their heterosexual counterparts who could proudly discuss their sweethearts back home, these men were forced to hide their affection. The hopeful, albeit melancholic, tone of these letters is best summarized in the line: “wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time? Then all the world could see how in love we are.”
In discussing these letters, Peter Roscoe, a gay rights activist, explains that they serve as an important reminder that “there is a gay history and it isn’t always negative and tearful…despite all the awful circumstances, gay men and lesbians managed to rise above it all.”
Two decades after Gordon Bowsher and Gilbert Bradley penned these letters, Fannie Mae Clackum became the first person to successfully challenge her discharge on the grounds of homosexuality from the U.S military. During the late 1940s and early 1950s Fannie served as a US Air Force Reservist and developed a close relationship with fellow Air Force Reservist, Grace Garner. Due to the pair’s intimate relationship, they were suspected of homosexual activity. In an attempt to prove these suspicions, the Air Force arranged for Fannie, Grace and a fellow solider to stay overnight in a motel together. In a cruel act of deception, the fellow solider served as an informant for the Air Force. Shortly after their motel stay, and despite Fannie’s and Grace’s denial of anything romantic occurring, the two women were dishonorably discharged from the Air Force.
Once discharged, Fannie and Grace moved in together, under the pretense of better fighting their dismissal. After eight years of court hearings, the pair finally prevailed in 1960 and the Air Force invalidated their discharges. Both women were awarded back pay for the remainder of their enlistment periods. [It’s important to note that both women denied having a sexual relationship but, considering that they lived together and had a very close relationship, it’s highly likely they were closeted.]
An article written prior to the establishment of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” examined the role of allowing lesbians to serve in the military. The article cited a 1984 study in the Journal of Homosexuality that found gay women were “significantly more likely to have served in the military than heterosexual women” and referenced research that estimated 25% of all woman in the armed forces were gay. Unfortunately, this presumed prevalence of lesbians in the military made all women easy targets for discharge and dismissal.