Dr. Rachel Levine has been confirmed in a bipartisan Senate vote to be assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Levine’s historic nomination has now also earned her the distinction of being the first transgender federal official to be confirmed.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined all Democrats in voting yes.
“Dr. Levine’s nomination represents a historic first for the transgender community in the United States,” said Equality PAC Co-Chairs Reps. Mark Takano (D-CA) and David Cicilline (D-RI). “Through all the transphobic attacks and bigotry that Dr. Levine endured during her confirmation process, she persevered, and the work and her determination paid off. We want to extend our enthusiastic congratulations to Dr. Levine on this amazing achievement and we thank President Biden for his decision to appoint Dr. Levine to this important post.”
“As we continue to battle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we could not think of a better, more capable person to help lead the Department of Health and Human Services.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) went on an anti-transgender tirade when questioning Dr. Levine during her nomination committee hearing, using demeaning and insulting language.
Nominating Levine signaled the importance of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for the Biden administration. As surgeon general of the state of Pennsylvania, she led the state’s response to the pandemic, at times facing heavy criticism – and straight-up transphobia – from conservatives in her state.
“Dr. Rachel Levine is a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people,” said Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a statement. “President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with her to meet the unprecedented challenges facing Americans and rebuild our country in a way that lifts everyone up.”
Her appointment also signals the Biden administration’s commitment to end attacks on LGBTQ health. HHS was at the center of numerous attacks on LGBTQ people during the Trump administration.
“Today, with Dr. Rachel Levine’s historic confirmation, transgender Americans will be able to see themselves in a position of profound leadership,” Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, said. “Dr. Levine’s confirmation is more important than ever. Her leadership and expertise will help guide our country out of the COVID-19 pandemic into healthier, brighter days.
“Dr. Levine’s confirmation is significant on many levels. In recent years, HHS has served as a tool to target LGBTQ – especially transgender – healthcare rights. Dr. Levine will be able to bring new skillsets and empathy into this position to help protect LGBTQ healthcare rights.”
While she was confirmed three times by the GOP-controlled state senate during her tenure at Pennsylvania’s Department of Health, she faced an unprecedented deluge of transphobic attacks as she tried to get Pennsylvanians to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Did you know that in the 1970s, queer social workers were quietly placing queer youth with queer foster parents, in defiance of state laws? They were “were creating something radical: state-supported queer families in an era of intense discrimination,” asserts a fascinating new article on the subject.
In “The Untold Story of Queer Foster Families” at the New Yorker, Michael Waters takes us back to the 70s to show how queer social workers in several states matched queer youth in need of homes with queer adults willing to foster them. Some of these were solo efforts; others were done with the help of the National Gay Task Force (now the National LGBTQ Task Force), but all were done “without national coordination,” asserts Waters.
When New York became the first state to enact a policy of nondiscrimination toward LGB adoptive parents in 1982, he says, “It was a breakthrough made possible by the quiet acts of radicalism performed by social workers in the previous decade. Social-services agencies had acknowledged for the first time that queer people could serve as parents; this ultimately encouraged the agencies to write new, inclusive policies regarding queer families.”
Some of this story has been told before, in academic papers and books, but it’s a part of our history that many of us queer parents don’t know, or don’t know in full. (Another important piece, though, was the movement in the early 1970s to help lesbian mothers involved in custody battles with former husbands. This was also roughly the same time that two-woman couples and single women increasingly began to start their families together through pregnancy.)
As the article points out (and as I’ve written about before myself), the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a case that will determine whether taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies—and possibly any provider of government-contracted services—can cite religious beliefs as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others. And only 25 states protect against discrimination in foster care on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; another five have protections for sexual orientation alone, according to the Movement Advancement Project. At the same time, queer youth are overrepresented in foster care and same-sex couples are seven times more likely than different-sex ones to be raising an adopted or foster child, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute. What was radical in the 1970s is therefore still radical now, Waters says, and I agree. Yet when the history of out LGBTQ parents goes back to just after World War II, there are decades of proof (and dozens of studies) that show our children are doing just as well as anyone else’s. We need to draw on those two strands—our radical activism and the mundane, average, everyday lives of most of our families—to push for even more inclusion and equality in the future.
While representation of gay characters in TV series has come a long way in the last couple of decades, it has been a painfully slow process to get to this point.
This year, GLAAD’s “Where We Are On TV” report found that of 773 series regular characters scheduled to appear on broadcast scripted primetime television in the US this season, 9.1 percent are LGBT+. However, with 20 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 identifying as LGBT+, there is still a long way to go.
But for most of TV history, LGBT+ characters have been totally absent, or have appeared fleetingly as the butt of a joke or as a victim of violence.
When did the first gay character appear on TV?
In 1971, the year after the first-ever Pride parade in the US and when homosexuality was still considered a disorder, All in the Family became the first American sitcom to show a gay character on TV, in only its fifth episode.
The episode subverted gay stereotypes, as Archie Bunker mocks a man who he considers effeminate, but turns out to be straight. It is later revealed that his macho, football-loving drinking buddy Steve is actually gay.
A year later, in 1972, US sitcom The Corner Bar included the first-ever gay series regular on American TV. While the ABC show stuck around for just 16 episodes, it made history with the character of Peter Panama, played by Vincent Schiavelli.
Rich Wandel, then-president of the Gay Activists Alliance, called Peter “the worst stereotype of a gay person I’ve ever seen”.
While most early gay characters were sidelined, not given their own storylines or love interests, eventually same-sex couples began appearing on TV.
During the same year as The Corner Bar, Australia also saw its first gay series regular – Don Finlayson portrayed Joe Hasham on the serial Number 96 between 1972 and 1977. He had several same-sex relationships, and even lived with his boyfriend Dudley.
In 1975 ABC’s Hot l Baltimore featured the first gay couple on US network television. George and Gordon, played by Lee Bergere and Henry Calvert, were a middle-aged gay couple that appeared on the show, which was so controversial that it was dropped by the network after six months on air.
It wasn’t until 1981 that a TV show with a gay lead character was shown on primetime US television, when NBC’s Love, Sidney aired. However the show’s titular character Sidney Shorr, a single gay man, remains in the closet for every one of the 40 episodes.
The UK trailed behind in its LGBT+ TV representation, and an openly gay character was not shown on TV until 1985, when the Liverpool-based soap Brookside introduced Gordon Collins, played by Nigel Cowley.
In 1989, the first Black lesbian relationship on US TV was broadcast by ABC in the series The Women of Brewster Place.
When was the first same-sex kiss shown on TV?
One of the first same-sex kisses shown on TV anywhere in the world is thought to have been on the Australian soap opera The Box, in 1974.
Vicki Stafford, played by Judy Nunn, is a bisexual reporter who, in the very first episode of the show, shared a same-sex kiss with Felicity, played by Helen Hemingway.
In the UK, Eastenders broadcast the first gay kiss between Colin Russell (Michael Cashman) and his partner Barry Clark (Gary Hailes) in 1989.The first kiss between two women on a UK TV series was aired in 1994. The iconic Brookside lesbian kiss was followed the same year by another same-sex smooch on Byker Grove.
In the US, the first same-sex kiss on network television was between two female lawyers on LA Law in 1991. NBC received multiple complaints and advertisers pulled their ads from the network, however the show ran for eight seasons and won multiple Emmys.
What’s next for LGBT+ representation on TV? It’s hard to say, but things are definitely going in the right direction – even if there is more to be done.
An LGBT+ History Month seminar for under-18s was interrupted by a cyber attacker who shouted homophobic, transphobic and racist slurs.
Education non-profit Academus Education was hosting a digital think tank event in celebration of LGBT+ History Month when it was “attacked by a group of 15 cyber terrorists”, managing director Emily Shaed told PinkNews.
Academus, a free education service for students who haven’t had access to Classical education, had been online for just 15 minutes before the attack.
Shaed said the hackers “took over all our controls and began spreading messages of hate” – sharing antisemitic imagery, searching the internet for pornography, shouting “just about every slur you can imagine” and spamming the chat.
Shaed and her whole team were “devastated and disgusted” by the hate they saw. She said: “Academus is supposed to be a safe space for people to come together in celebration of one another.
“So, to see someone take advantage of our platform in such a vicious way is heartbreaking.”
The non-profit, which is supported by UCL Department of Greek and Latin, offers free virtual events including think tanks, roundtables and a summer school to provide young people aged 13 to 18 an introduction to the Classics. The 11 February event was due to bring LGBT+ education to the forefront of a field which tends to be incredibly heteronormative, elitist and white.
‘This is why LGBT+ history month is so important’
Yentl Love, who runs the LGBT+ blog The Queer Classicist, was one of the guest speakers during the event. She was invited to decode the gender binary in academia around Dionysus – the ancient Greek god of wine, winemaking, grape cultivation, fertility, ritual madness, theatre and religious ecstasy.
However, Love was left “sick and outraged” after the attack. She wrote on Twitter that the incident proved why LGBT+ History Month was so important.
Love said: “If anyone wondered why [LGBT+ History Month] was so important, the speakers and participants of [Academus Education]’s LGBTQ+ ancient history online talks were just attacked by a user shouting homophobic, transphobic and racist slurs, and showing disgusting explicit images.”
“Can’t put into words my emotions right now, feel so sick and outraged and s***ty.
“My heart is with the incredible organisers, the other speakers and everyone on the call.
“To everyone I asked to come and watch me present, I am really, really sorry.”
If anyone ever wondered why #LGBTHM21 was so important, the speakers and participants of @academuseducat1‘s LGBTQ+ & Ancient History online talks were just attacked by a user shouting homophobic transphobic and racist slurs, and showing disgusting explicit images.
Shaed told PinkNews that for all 71 students in attendance at the event, “it was a terrifying experience and made people feel so violated and unsafe in their own homes”. She said the organisation contacted the police about the attack, reporting it as a cybercrime and hate crime.
But Shaed said the police do not appear able to investigate the horrific event. She explained: “From the stance of cybercrime since we did not lose any money, and our internal security does not seem obviously compromised, they have told us that there is nothing they can do.
“From the perspective of hate crime, the local constabulary has said that they cannot fully investigate the case because of its widespread nature and realistically it would take every single attendee reporting it to their local police force for the case to be escalated.”
Shaed was told the police will report the matter, and has been offered the opportunity to speak to somebody from a victim support team.
She said Academus Education is also conducting an internal investigation to ensure that “our audience is not exposed to such horrific events again” and has advised any attendees to contact them if they need support.
Shaed shared that they plan to re-run the event in the future to share the guest speaker’s works and discuss Classics education through the queer lens.
“We will not let these hateful people silence the good work we are doing,” Shaed said. “We will continue to provide education, continue to celebrate diversity and come together stronger than ever to host future events.”
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I am a queer coparenting mama to Dickens Jr. Doodler by day, 911 dispatcher by night. All my favorite shows look better on Tumblr. I am two years and 450K words deep into constructing a fanfic called Ages and I’m never giving up on it. Bering & Wells.
February is the month we celebrate LGBTQ history month. For us all year long is an LGBTQ history lesson, but this month many charities, organisations and companies share their support in the history of those that paved the way for families like ours.
This year I thought I would share something a little different. Our not so little dude is 8 now and a little sponge of knowledge. He has attended the LGBTQ youth group I volunteer at and taken part in LGBTQ studies during the first lockdown. So I thought I would pose him some questions and share his honest answers and then reflect on it each year.
So, M…. what does LGBTQ History Month mean to you?
Erm.. er… something about the history of LGBTQ.
Do you think it is important we know about LGBTQ history? and why?
Yes. Because um, um, pardon? (question repeated) …. because it is history and is important to you, mummy and me.
Do you know what LGBTQ stands for?
Er, L Lesbian, B Bisexual, Gay, Trans, and i don’t know what the Q is. The plus is the other ones.
Do you know any history about LGBTQ people?
Er some, but I don’t know how to say it. Er Stonewall or something, erm marriage.
Do you think they should teach children about LGBTQ history in school?
Yes, because children should know about it.
What do you know about the Stonewall riots?
That it was an inn and they paid police to not arrest people in there and that stopped. Because the police stopped doing it a riot started.
Have you ever been to Pride?
Yes lots of time, at Bournemouth pride we walked in the pride thing with the Scouts.
Do you think Pride is important?
Yes very important, it is a chance to be treated respectfully and be happy.
How many countries in the world do you think it is illegal to be gay in?
Do you know what illegal means?
If you do it you might get arrested or worse?
What date do you think same sex marriages became legal in the UK?
1914 or something?
Would you be shocked if I told you it was during your life time?
Yes, definitely. Because it wasn’t that long ago.
Why do we have a Pride flag?
Er…. because all of the colours and their meanings er.. are good things for Pride.
Do you know, what an LGBTQ ally is?
Erm, (C walks into the room and shares the answer), someone who might not be gay but supports Pride?
What year do you think the first Gay Pride Rally in London was?
Do you know what homophobic means?
People who go against pride.
and finally….. Do you have any questions for me?
Erm… yeah, what do the colours on the rainbow on the flag mean?
We then googled and discussed the colours, according to pride.com the colours are said to celebrate:
Hot pink = Sex Red = Life Orange = Healing Yellow = Sunlight Green = Nature Turquoise = Magic/Art Indigo = Serenity Violet = Spirit
We hope to touch back on these questions next year and see how much M learns over the year. We try and discuss our history and include him as part of the history we are creating.
California has elected it’s first ever openly bisexual state lawmaker – 25-year-old Asian-American Alex Lee, who’s the youngest state legislator in eight decades.
Rising star Alex Lee made history in in Santa Clara County where he won the 25th District Assembly race by a landslide, receiving more than 72 per cent of the vote. His competitor, Republican Bob Brunton, took home just under 28 per cent.
He celebrated his hard-earned victory after a campaign where he had to take a part-time gig economy delivery job to make ends meet as he refused to accept corporate campaign money.
“I have the distinction and responsibility to be a lot of firsts in California,” Lee said after the result was announced.
“I’m the first openly bisexual state legislator in California, the youngest Asian-American state legislator and first Gen-Z state legislator. That is an immense responsibility to make sure that more young people and more progressives are elected after me to break and shatter those records.”
Alex Lee, who was endorsed by senator Bernie Sanders, already has years of experience with the state assembly having worked for five different lawmakers, either as an intern or a paid aide.
He was just 23 when he decided to run for office, and by his calculation has since knocked on 30,000 doors seeking voters’ support.
“I think voters were very encouraged that a young person like me has so much experience in policy making and governing,” he told CBS Local.
“I would run into folks when we were door-knocking who are 80 years old, who would say, ‘Our generation screwed it up so it’s time for you all to fix all these problems for us.’ And they said it in a very encouraging way.”
After years of working behind the scenes of politics while experiencing housing and financial insecurity, he now hopes he can be a force for change.
He was heavily involved in the Black Lives Matter protests back in June and was actually arrested after San Jose enforced a city-wide curfew.
“We were trying to explain what we were doing, we weren’t doing anything wrong,” he told ABC7 at the time, describing the “abrupt and aggressive” behaviour of the police as they zip-tied his wrists and threw him into the back of a wagon.
“I’m very frustrated that this curfew is being used as an excuse to suppress protestors and repress freedom of expression.”
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done a roundup of kids’ books on LGBTQ history and there have been many new ones in that time! Here’s a fresh list of old and new for LGBTQ History Month—including an upcoming picture book about Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera!
I’m focusing here on books that delve into the history of Pride and LGBTQ people more generally; ones that look solely at the experience of a Pride march or the colors of the rainbow flag can be found in my roundup of Pride Books for Kids. Also, as far as I know, all the authors below identify as White; I wish there was much more diversity of authorship among these books that chart our diverse history. (I know there are LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books by authors of color; I’m speaking just of history books here.) Publishers, you can do better than this.
An Upcoming Picture Book
Let’s start with one book I haven’t reviewed previously.Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution, by Joy Michael Ellison and Teshika Silver (Jessica Kingsley, 2020), isn’t out until November 21, but I’d be remiss not to mention it here. It tells the story of Stonewall icons and transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera by focusing on their close friendship and how they cared for their community in the face of harassment by police and others. We see them at the heart of the Stonewall Rebellion, then opening a home for homeless trans girls and continuing to fight “for the survival and rights of transgender people.”
Some of the violence during the riots has been tempered for the age group and a few historical details could be argued, but as the authors note, this is only one retelling of what happened. What comes through clearly, though—and is probably most important for this age group—is the bond between Sylvia and Marsha and the overall sense of how they worked to help those in need. A few of the narrative transitions are a little jumpy, but the thread of Sylvia and Marsha’s friendship helps hold things together.
The back matter offers additional details on the two, a glossary, discussion questions, and activities. There are a couple of errors in the two online resources listed, though: “Queer Kids Stuff” should be “Queer Kid Stuff,” and “The Family Equality Council” should be just “Family Equality.” (Also, I would have added PFLAG and Gender Spectrum as key resources, since they do a lot of work with families of trans kids.) Those are minor issues, though. This inspiring story of friendship, community, and revolution rightly gives Sylvia and Marsha their place on our kids’ bookshelves alongside the mostly White and male figures who have dominated LGBTQ picture book biographies.
Other Elementary School Books
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution, by Rob Sanders (Random House, 2019), uses the perspective of the Stonewall Inn itself to create a simple yet compelling story that focuses on the people in the neighborhood. Jamey Christoph’s evocative illustrations capture their diversity of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. (Full review.)
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno (Random House: 2018), is an inspiring biography of Milk that stresses his friendship with Gilbert Baker, who designed the rainbow flag as a symbol of hope and inspiration. It does mention Milk’s assassination, although as gently as possible, but parents should still be prepared to address kids’ concerns there. (Full review.)
Sewing the Rainbow: A Story About Gilbert Baker (Magination Press: 2018), written by Gayle Pitman and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, flips the perspective Sanders used, and takes us along with Baker from his childhood, through adversity, to the request by his friend Milk to create a new symbol for their community. A few rough transitions may take adult explanation, but all will be inspired by this story and how Baker regained his lost sparkle. (Full review.)
The Harvey Milk Story, written by Kari Krakow and illustrated by David Gardner (Two Lives Publishing: 2001), conveys Milk’s significance with warmth and appreciation. It is wordier and more detailed that Sanders’ book, and probably best for older elementary students. Unfortunately out of print and only available in used versions; see if you can find a cheap one or seek it in a library.
The Fighting Infantryman, by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (Little Bee, 2020), is the story of Albert D. J. Cashier, an immigrant, Union soldier in the U.S. Civil War, and a transgender man—though as Sanders notes, he probably wouldn’t have used that term. Terminology aside, Sanders reinforces that “His identity fit him as snug as his suspenders.” (Full review.)
Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Levi Hastings (Henry Holt, 2020), takes us from Buttigieg’s birth in Indiana to his announcement of a groundbreaking run for president. “Only time will tell” who he will become, it concludes. It’s a smart way to end a book that was finished in May 2019 and fast-tracked for publication, as Sanders confirmed with me—well before Mayor Pete won the Iowa Democratic Caucuses but shortly thereafter dropped out of the race. It may inspire young readers on their own journeys of self-discovery and service. (Full review.)
For Spacious Skies: Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful,” by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Olga Baumert (Albert Whitman), tells of Bates’ childhood during the Civil War, her dedication to study, and her work to address social injustices, as well as the trip that inspired her most famous poem. It mentions “the home she shared with Katharine Coman”; an afterward calls their relationship “a close companionship,” though as I explain in my full review, it was likely more than that.
Be Amazing: A History of Pride, by “Drag Kid” Desmond Is Amazing (Farrar Staus Giroux, 2020), is less a detailed history than a short overview of the Stonewall Riots and the first March one year later; brief biographies of Stonewall icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera; and a description of the influence of Pride on Desmond’s life. A mention of President Obama’s 2009 declaration of Pride Month makes it (incorrectly) seem as if that legitimized the observance. What it lacks as a history it makes up for with dazzling illustrations from Dylan Glynn and an enthusiastic message to “Be amazing.”
Harvey Milk,Ellen DeGeneres, and RuPaul Charles from Little Bee Books (2020) with no stated author, illustrated by Victoria Grace Elliott, each offer simple takes on these figures’ lives, though not as simple as the board book format might imply. (Full review.)
Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle, by Robin Stevenson (Orca, 2020), is an updated edition of her 2016 Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community, which blends a history of the event with a broader look at the struggle for LGBTQ equality, along with a look at what it means to come out, what to expect at Pride events around the world, a glossary, and an explanation of gender identity. The new edition places a greater focus on activism and activists, as the need for such work has grown over the past few years.
Gay & Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights, by Jerome Pohlen (Chicago Review Press, 2015), starts with Sappho, Alexander the Great, and other figures from distant history, but then focuses mostly on U.S. social and political history. A series of activities throughout the book add fun and engagement. Despite the main title, Pohlen is inclusive of the LGBT spectrum.
Stonewall: Our March Continues, by Olivia Higgins, illustrated by Tess Marie Vosevich Keller (self-published, 2019), straddles the picture book/middle grade line as it tells the tale through the eyes of young LGBT people in the 1960s seeking community in New York City. It’s an engaging approach, but the undifferentiated first-person narrative, intended to convey perspectives from different people, may be confusing. Young readers might also need adult guidance so they are not scared by the line, “My parents demand that I change or leave home forever.” (Full review.)
Young Adult Books
Queer There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World, by Sarah Prager (HarperCollins: 2017), aims for the teen audience, but adults will also learn much from her engaging profiles. Prager offers a thoughtful exploration of historical terms for what we now call “queer” identities, an overview of queerness around the world, and profiles that are both informative and entertaining.
Gayle Pitman’s The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets(Abrams, 2019) is organized around 50 representative objects from the era and the event, such as photos, matchbooks, picket signs, and more. Pitman skillfully weaves the stories behind these objects into an accessible and substantial narrative. (Full review.)
What Was Stonewall? by Nico Medina (Penguin, 2019), looks at Stonewall in the context of the broader movement for LGBTQ equality both before 1969 and after, through 2016.
The Stonewall Riots: The Fight for LGBT Rights, by Tristan Poehlmann (Essential Library, 2016) is a solid overview, but only available in a $30 library edition, which may make it a better library pick than one for home bookshelves.
Rainbow Revolutions: Power, Pride, and Protest in the Fight for Queer Rights, by Jamie Lawson (Crocodile Books/Interlink, 2020), takes an more event-based approach to history, in contrast to Prager’s people-based one (see above), offering brief snapshots of significant moments and movements in LGBTQ history from the Victorian age to our current era. There’s a lot of fascinating information in the volume, although Lawson’s choices about what to focus on feels somewhat uneven. (Full review.)
Gay America: Struggle for Equality, by Linus Alsenas (Amulet: 2008), is explicitly limited to gay men and lesbians and a little dated now, but worthwhile within those limits, covering politics, culture, relations between the lesbian and gay rights movement and other civil rights movements, entertainment, the evolution of gay and lesbian identities, and more.
(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Welcome to Screen Gems, Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a rewatch.our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a rewatch.
The Eye-Opener: Gay Sex in the 70s
For most of us, the 1970s represents an idyllic age, a time after Stonewall granted LGBTQ people more visibility and freedom before the scourge of AIDS brought it all crashing down. Gay Sex in the 70s, the explicit documentary by director Joseph Lovett, eulogizes and defies the period, and the explosion of gay sex that came along with it. Featuring interviews with writer Larry Kramer, photo Tom Bianchi, animator Robert Alvarez, and more, the film reconstructs the era when queer culture thrived around bars, clubs and bathhouses, and an attitude of sexual freedom not seen since. For most of us, it’s the closest we will ever get to the real thing.
Nostalgic, sexy and frank, Gay Sex in the 70s offers up a crash course in a chapter of LGBTQ history, and one told in rare detail. We recommend it to anyone that has ever danced to disco…and because we always recommend gay sex to anyone.
Be Gay, Do Comics is an anthology with more than 30 contributors, all discussing some aspect of queer life. This was a refreshingly diverse and thought-provoking collection. Most anthologies in this vein that I’ve read have played it pretty safe: they’ve usually been very white, and mostly focused on gay cis men, with the overarching message being one of acceptance. Be Gay, Do Comics covers a wide range of topics from a lot of different voices, including many artists of color and trans artists, and includes comics about queer liberation and resisting assimilation.
There is a mix of one-page comics and longer pieces, with some being fairly simple one-off jokes or observations and others looking at queer history. I was especially interested in the comics that looked at queer history and culture that is lesser known, including looking at gay characters in Puerto Rican TV shows, comparing that to the history and present state of LGBTQ rights in Puerto Rico. Another explores how LGBTQ people have been treated in the Philippines, pre-colonialism up to the present. There is also a comic including interviews from queer parents raising kids in Malaysia.
Some comics are biographies of queer people in history I wasn’t aware of, including Gad Beck, a gay Jewish spy, and Baron von Steuben, an openly gay military leader in the American Revolution. Some of these figures at larger than life, others are everyday. Others look at events, such as Hazel Newlevant’s comic about queer uprisings that preceded Stonewall, or an explanation of the Lavender Scare, or the history of the rainbow flag.
Of course, there are also a lot of personal stories included. Some talk about exploring their gender, or coming out. One is about being non-binary while taking folk dancing lessons. Another talks coming out in their late 30s, and the pride and embarrassment and mourning of that–mourning for their younger out queer self who never was. While I’m used to LGBT anthologies being mostly cis gay men, there were lots of trans comics in this one, and even an intersex contribution. There was also a variety both in identities and politics, including a comic about gay Republicans, comics about gatekeeping in the queer community, and one about gay liberation.
It’s hard to speak about an anthology like this in a cohesive way, because they are all so different: in art style, tone, topic, and identity. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Although as always there were some comics I liked more than others, there weren’t any that I felt were weak. It’s a great opportunity to be exposed to a lot of different artists as well. This is one I would happily recommend. It’s not focused specifically on lesbians and bi women, but there is definitely sapphic representation. I’m happy to see that queer anthologies are expanding to be a little more challenging and diverse than they were just a handful of years ago.