Is it because we’re all swimming together in the toxic Trump pool that makes every new addition to the LGBTQ cultural canon feel like an act of rebellion? Probably. But even if we were living in a queer-friendly political era, 2018’s (they’re calling it #20GayTeen on the Internet, just FYI) pop culture output would still be impressive. And not just among ourselves – the mainstream took notice and we didn’t have to dilute or code ourselves to make a splash there. The receipts:
1. Pose on FX forever smashed ideas about how much trans is too much trans for one show. TV mogul Ryan Murphy stepped back, let transgender actors, writers and directors take over, and it made the show more true, heartfelt, and emotional than we even dared to hope for. And over on Viceland, the documentary series My House went into the real 2018 ballroom scene and let audiences know exactly what has changed since Paris is Burning.
2. Janelle Monae’s “PYNK” and its accompanying video served as a deliriously gorgeous and hypnotic ode to women of color – both cis and trans – loving other women of color, and it turned into a launching pad for best friends Monae and Tessa Thompson coming out, Thompson as bisexual and Monae as pansexual. If you’re confused by the difference, there’s always Google.
3. The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Boy Erased, together, formed one solid movie about the toxic world of anti-gay Evangelical conversion camps for LGBTQ young people. Miseducation had a queer director in Desiree Akhavan, which informed the film’s ability to get the anxiety and power of teenage desire just right, but Erased, based on author Garrard Conley’s lived experience in the church, dove deep into the terror and abuse of fundamentalist belief. See them both.
4. Broadway went old school this year with revivals of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy (closing in January of 2019 and beginning a national tour) and the groundbreaking drama The Boys In The Band, starring Jim Parsons. They’re a reminder that within the lifespan of most members of Generation X, the American public’s perception of queer people has shifted in ways that make the word “dramatic” quite an understatement.
5. Love, Simon took heat for being about a relatively affluent suburban gay white boy, but as a mainstream multiplex entry with very long legs (its budget was somewhere around $15 million and over its run raked in over 65), this teenage coming out and coming-of-age story was the sweet John Hughes-esque comedy Hollywood hadn’t yet bothered to make.
6. Vida was the Starz network’s queer Latinx show you haven’t watched yet, but when you do it will become your very favorite thing. About two Mexican-American sisters in East Los Angeles, it’s a dramedy about identity and the making and breaking of family bonds. Go stream it!
7. About a transgender woman going for and getting everything she knows she deserves in the face of much adversity, Chilean film A Fantastic Woman won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and made a rising star of Daniela Vega.
8. Listen, we still like Queer Eye even if we think Tan’s fashion advice is a bit too transparently product placement for Bonobos and overly reliant on shirts that are only half tucked in (don’t blame France for it, dude). We’re into Jonathan’s gleefully defiant attack on the masc4masc aesthetic. All day. Every day.
9. Here for lesbian drama: Disobedience with Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams had the hottest sex; Skate Kitchen had better skateboard skills than Mid90s; Lizzie had the best violent attack on the patriarchy; and The Favourite had the fanciest, iciest, lady-on-lady seduction in the biggest royal costumes and tall wigs. All of them matter.
10. Haley Kiyoko was MTV’s Push Artist of the Year at the 2018 VMAs. Do you know her yet? You will when you go watch her video for “What I Need,” which features queer singer Kehlani. Then you’ll wonder why this story of young women running away to be together wasn’t a feature-length film. Neither of these young ladies came to play, and you’ll soon be seeing and hearing more from both.