From left to right: Janelle Monáe, Jude Law as Dumbledore and Troye Sivan Credit: Hahn Lionel/ABACA, Jaap Buitendijk /Warner Bros, Armando Gallo/ZUMA Studio, Sudowoodo/ iStock / Getty Images Plus; Francesca Roh/Xtra
Podcast
21 min

Xtra’s six queerest pop culture moments of 2018

Praise lesbian Jesus, it’s been one really gay year

From cute celebrity couples (#Janessa) and revolutionary films to political stand-up comedy and a musical homage to bottoming, pop culture served LGBTQ2 realness these past 12 months. Listen to the Xtra team’s first podcast experiment, as we count down the six super-queer moments that had us shook.


Here’s a transcript of our conversation.

Sound clips:

“The space where you used to be.”

“I’m sick, aren’t I?” “I wish everybody was as sick as you.”

“It is time we remind the world who we are.”

“I don’t want this to end but if we . . . Kept living together?”

“Sapphire, will you marry me?”

“I want my story heard. Because, what I would have done to have heard a story like mine.”

Rachel Giese: [00:39] That’s how 2018 sounded to queer ears, from Troye Sivan’s bottoming anthem “Bloom” and a record number of openly gay athletes at the Olympics, to putting the gay in gaming, to a film so powerful it challenged laws. Pop culture served LGBTQ2 realness these past 12 months.

Eternity Martis: [00:58] Just how queer was pop culture this year? Well, earlier in the year singer Hayley Kiyoko named this year #20gayteen. The team at Xtra decided to rank the queerest moments that shook the mainstream.

Arvin Joaquin: [01:10] Our criteria: We wanted to find the distinct moments that challenged and celebrated queerness in all its forms, from subversive moments that made history, representation in unlikely places and revolutionary acts of creativity. I’m Arvin Joaquin, associate editor at Xtra, and believer in Elle Woods.

EM: [01:29] I’m Eternity Martis, senior editor at Xtra, and a recovering emo child.

RG: [01:34] And I’m Rachel Giese, editorial director of Xtra, and I’m just trying to keep this all PG-13. Welcome to Xtra’s six queerest moments of 2018. This is our first experiment in audio and I guess we should start by explaining why six, which is kind of a weird number. Basically it was because we just couldn’t narrow it down any more. This was a super queer year. Eternity, how would you characterize what went on in pop culture?

EM: [02:01] This year was a year of coming out and coming together. Whether it was celebrities like Janelle Monáe or Amandla Stenberg or Brendon Urie or Alyson Stoner, the girl-with-the-moves from Missy Elliott’s “Work It video. (Work it!) A lot of celebrities came out this year, but it was also a year of coming together. There was Twitter coming for Kevin Hart for his anti-gay tweets. There was a Dumbledore’s butt in Fantastic Beasts 2, which makes up for the fact that we did not have a gay Dumbledore.

AJ: [02:47] Yeah I think that this year too is the year of celebration. We can see that the success of Love, Simon and Call Me By Your Name. This is also the year of resistance. The mainstream culture is in shambles. So we found refuge and representation in pop culture.

RG: [03:04] It’s true, it’s also the year of more than one conversion therapy movie — so you know that the year has gone really queer, when the subject is not just tackled in one movie but in a couple of movies. Just thinking about the breadth of visibility that happened this year. Take queer and trans women on television alone, there were characters on shows like Killing Eve, Pose, Black Lightning, Jane the Virgin, GLOW, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, all different types of expressions of queerness, all different types of identities. It was an extraordinary year for queer visibility in pop culture.

AJ: [03:43] Exactly. And speaking of groundbreaking moments, should we just get into it? Okay, coming up in number six. This has a special place in my heart because weddings are cute and stuff, but this one not only represented, but represented and ran with it.

[04:05] “I want to be faithful and jealous if any guy even tries to smile at you. I even want to get in fights with you, to fight and yell and make up. I want to love you until the day that I die.”

AJ: [04:23] That was a clip from Connor and Oliver’s wedding on How To Get Away With Murder. It’s a show produced by Shonda Rhimes. Connor and Oliver, they’re a gay interracial couple, but it did not end there. Throughout the series, their relationship evolved from a random hookup to the point where they’re in love. Oliver is living with HIV and the episode before the wedding he actually came out to his mom, a Filipino mom, about his HIV status. It just brought it home for me.

EM: [05:26] I think it’s very rare to find queer Asian representation especially in this form. Usually when you do have people of colour or characters of colour they’re usually very one-dimensional. This is a Filipino character and they brought in religion and stuff like that, and I thought that was very well done and sophisticated — and they were one of the best couples of 2018.

RG: [05:45] To what Eternity was saying, it’s queer characters that aren’t stock figures, but queer characters who have a whole history, a whole story, they’re intersectional, they have broad experiences.

EM: [05:57] Okay, so moving on, here’s number five. 2018 has been a big year for queer women in music: whether it was Kehlani, Hayley Kiyoko, aka lesbian Jesus, or King Princess.

[06:13] “Your pussy is God and I love it. Gonna kiss me real hard, make me want it.”

EM: [06:18] But it’s been a pretty big year for one queer artist in particular. All I’m gonna say right now is: vagina pants.

[06:25] “Pink like the inside of your, baby

Pink behind all of the doors, crazy

Pink like the tongue that goes down, maybe”

EM: [06:39] That was “PYNK,” from Janelle Monáe’s third album Dirty Computer, which she worked on with Prince. One of the queerest things and the greatest things about this song, especially the music video, were these vagina pants. Full disclaimer: I tried to replicate these vagina pants for Halloween, they are very intricate and hard to do. These pants were so feminine and it was all about womanhood and vaginas, and vaginas are still so stigmatized. And so I love that there’s a group of Black women, some of whom are queer, marching around in vagina pants.

Earlier in the year, Janelle Monáe came out to Rolling Stone that she’s been in relationships with both men and women, and she considers herself a “free ass motherfucker.” This is a Black woman in America, coming out as queer, and coming out initially as bi, and then pansexual, but then also kind of talking about vibing with Tessa Thompson, she’s another actress. There are rarely times for Black women to be able to express themselves sexually but also express their sexuality. So to see these two Black queer women coming together and saying, we are queer and we are here and we’ve got pussies on our pants, we’re here to stay. I think that is such a defining moment for so many of us.

RG: [08:00] Okay, so let’s move on to number four. He was the reason we all tuned into the Olympics, even if we hated sports.

[08:09] “I know I’m my mother’s favorite skater and the only thing I regret about the Olympics is that I feel like the judges didn’t fully take that into consideration.”

RG: [08:22] That was Adam Rippon, America’s figure skating sweetheart, talking to Ellen DeGeneres after he won the world’s heart and a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in South Korea in February. Adam was the first openly gay American athlete to qualify for the Winter Games and he’s not just openly gay. He is super extra gay, super undeniably gay. He quoted Kennedy Davenport from RuPaul’s Drag Race in a tweet saying “I’m a glamazon bitch, ready for the runway.” He was political. He criticized Vice-President Mike Pence’s homophobia. He was very candid about his own experience with an eating disorder.

Usually when queer public figures have a certain amount of prominence, they try to act straight or acceptable, and it’s really rare to see nelly gay guys in the mainstream. He is, you know, overtly and obviously gay in a whole new way for the mainstream. He talked about sex, he was campy and he wasn’t trying to be a role model or a hero. He was just trying to be himself. And I think in doing so he actually then became a role model and a hero, just by being unafraid to be exactly who he was.

RM: [09:40] Yeah. And I think in keeping with coming together, his Oscar leather harness, that was epic and it was everywhere. And Twitter loved it. Tyra tweeted a photo of Adam Rippon, with the line “Ho, but then make it fashion.” It was so good! It really was a powerful moment. And he’s just there like “this is me,” right? Take it or leave it, I’m in a leather harness at the Oscars.

AJ: [10:13] Speaking of fashion, coming in in number three. September this year, during New York Fashion Week, Los Angeles–based underwear designer Marco Morante of Marco Marco fame staged his runway and cast 34 trans models.

Just to set the scene this is New York Fashion Week. Every major designer staged a show there. You always see the exact same models walking the runway, so this was monumental because Marco Morante cast 34 trans people: Gigi Gorgeous, Carmen Carrera, Pose’s Angelica Ross, and my personal favorite Laith Ashley. That man quenched my thirst this year.

RG: [10:13] One of the things that is so extraordinary about this show is the celebration of trans bodies. This was an underwear show. And this was an unabashed homage to the beauty of trans people. It wasn’t a token effort of, you know, casting one trans person to be edgy, but rather really shifting ideas of what is beautiful, and what is sexual, and what is sexy, and what is stylish.

EM: [11:37] I think that in terms of the bodies that we see on runways, there are usually a certain body, right? It’s a certain shape and it’s a certain gender. And I think this was also a major moment because it also shows that perhaps those are not the only bodies that people want to see.

RG: [11:56] And it’s interesting that this year is also the year when the head of Victoria’s Secret said that he wouldn’t cast trans women in a Victoria’s Secret show because he felt that trans women could not sell a fantasy. And so to have an entire runway, an entire cast of trans models, really pushes back against those biases in the fashion industry.

EM: [12:27] Our number two queerest moment of 2018 goes to my favorite Hollywood writer, producer, actor and total boss who made a major red carpet statement this May.

[12:36] “- You look amazing. This outfit, I gotta know, I gotta know, tell me!

– Well in my Emmy speech I mentioned, you know, putting on imaginary capes. Tonight this cape is not imaginary, it’s rainbow colored and we got the black and brown. You know, I’m repping my community and I want everybody to know that you could be whoever you are and be completely proud, and be doing it. So we go let’s do it!”

EM: [12:57] That was Lena Waithe at the Met Gala, which is hosted by Vogue’s Anna Wintour and attended by fashion designers, models, movie stars. And by Beyoncé and Rihanna, because they get their own category of super badass. This year’s theme was Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. And Lena just scorched the kingdom by wearing a giant rainbow flag cape on top of a tux.

RG: [13:23] Often when we see queer women in the public eye often it’s femme women. And to see masculine woman in that space was like truly phenomenal.

AJ: [13:34] And if you look at Lena Waithe’s career, too, she’s really like out there, not only trying to make a statement herself, but also bringing other people and giving them platforms.

EM: [13:45] Yeah. She’s just totally this like boss Black lesbian who takes no shit. And she’s like, I’m going to come up but I’m also gonna help you come up, and I’m gonna do it by disrupting the fashion industry in the film industry. And God bless you.

RG: [14:01] Okay, so before we announce Xtra’s queerest pop culture moment of 2018, which is very exciting, we polled a few people in our office for their favorite queer moments of 2018.

[14:18] “The winner of Celebrity Big Brother is . . . Courtney!”

Mitchell Cheeseman: [14:28] For me the year of 2018 has really been just the year of the drag queen Courtney Act / Shane who was a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother UK Season 21 and ended up winning the entire season. For people who’ve watched Big Brother before, there don’t tend to be a lot of queer winners in general, let alone a drag queen. The most exciting part about that was that in the final two she was up against Ann Widdecombe, who’s a really conservative politician with a history of voting against LGBT interests. And it was kind of a nice clash between this drag queen and a conservative politician in front of a huge UK audience and the drag queen won.

[15:20] “Every guy in this room is staring at him right now. Or maybe they’re staring at you.”

Corey Misquita: [15:29] I used to play this game called The Last of Us when it was first released and the reason I got back to it was because this past year they released a trailer for part two, which included one of the main characters Ellie kissing a potential love interest who also happens to be girl. And I was like, “Oh shit, a queer character I’m gonna play that.” This was a big moment because this is one of the first times we get to see an openly LGBT character in a major blockbuster game. Most of the time we see some characters or subplots with people who are trans or bisexual or queer in general, but they’re never the main character of the game.

[16:15] “I know the legend of the warrior called She-Ra. They said she would return to us in the hour of our greatest need. There’s something you should know.”

Tera Mallette: [16:25] She-Ra is a remake of a 1980s cartoon series about a girl who is abandoned in the woods, raised by this evil conglomerate/army called The Horde who are bent on taking over the entire planet of Etheria. She discovers a sword, which informs her that she is this demi-goddess meant to save Etheria from the clutches of evil, the clutches of evil being the people who raised her. She’s believed one thing all her life and is now coming to believe that those things are wrong. But the nice thing about that is, if you think about the coming out experience a lot of people have, there is a lot of that crisis of faith. I remember being 16 and grappling with how I was going to handle my own transition. Going to a Catholic school, I mean, it really made me question everything and it put me on this path to completely change my moral centre. I really enjoyed seeing a journey that reminded me of becoming myself.

RG: [17:30] That was Mitchell, Corey and Tera on their queerest moments. And now, our pick for the queerest pop culture moment of 2018. This wasn’t easy, but it was unanimous. This was a queer moment that was also part of a political movement. It was a film that challenged local laws and made waves around the world.

[17:56] “Let’s make a pact that we will never be like any of them down there. Instead, we’re going to be something real. Yes. Something real.”

RG: [18:08] That was a scene from the film Rafiki. It’s a Kenyan movie about two young women who become friends, despite the fact that their fathers are political rivals. And then they eventually fall in love. It was directed by a filmmaker named Wanuri Kahiu, whose work was really influenced by Afro-futurism. The film is very beautiful, it’s really stylish, and the movie is also monumental. It was the first Kenyan movie to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. But initially it was banned in its own country because there are these colonial era laws that make homosexual sex illegal. But Kahiu wanted to submit her film to the Oscars as the best foreign language film. And so she sued the country’s film classification board and she won.

[18:52] “What the head of the Classification Board said is that if we make a film like Rafiki and a film like Rafiki is released, it would mean that people in same-sex relationships could be accepted in the country that they live in.”

RG: [19:10] The film was allowed to screen for seven days in order to qualify it to be submitted to the Oscars. And on those seven days it blew up. People lined up around the block to see the movie. Extra screenings had to be added because the film was so enormously popular. It smashed through box office records. It was the second highest grossing Kenyan film of all time. Unfortunately it didn’t end up being nominated for best foreign language film. But it has become this global phenomenon.

EM: [19:42] I think that this is a great example of the ways that pop culture can change our culture and our society and politics. A lot of times we just see films for what they are but they do very much have this ability to change the way that society works. This is a perfect example of that.

AJ: [20:00] And I think what’s beautiful too is that it really brought home like the theme of this year, pop culture as a form of resistance, that regardless of what the mainstream does pretty much, queer people and queer voices won’t be silenced. And we’re here and we’re here to stay.

EM: [20:20] It’s coming out and coming together.

RG: [20:23] You planned that!

EM: [20:25] I did not! It was a beautifully natural thing that just came out. It was right. It felt right.

AJ: [20:31] Just to wrap the gift, with your little bow.

EM: [20:35] My holiday gift to you.

AJ: [20:36] Thank you so much Eternity!

That was Xtra’s queerest moments of 2018. What do you think? Did our top moments match yours? Let us know. Tweet us @dailyxtra and tell us what you think were the queerest moments of 2018.

AJ: [20:54] I’m Arvin Joaquin.

RG: [20:55] I’m Rachel Giese.

EM: [20:57] And I’m Eternity Martis.

AJ: [20:58] And Happy New Year!

All: [20:59] Happy New Year.

(Featuring Arvin Joaquin, Eternity Martis and Rachel Giese. Produced and edited by Corey Misquita and Riley Sparks, with help from Rachel Matlow.)

This story is filed under Pop Culture, Queer, Podcast
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