Tag: star

Queer Elders and Grandparents Star in New Picture Books

Queer Elders and Grandparents Star in New Picture Books

There have been very few picture books featuring queer elders and grandparents, but several new ones are adding to the list!

Roger and Matthew

Roger and Matthew, by Canadian singer/songwriter Michel Theriault (Fitzhenry & Whiteside), is a poetic, gentle story about the lives of a retired, White, two-man couple. “Everyone in the village knows them. They are part of the neighborhood,” we read. They have known each other since elementary school and “don’t need words to understand each other.” They live in a home with sunlight, flowers, and “sleepy cats.”

They are “two kind gentlemen,” but “because they were different people were often mean to them and sometimes hurt them”—nevertheless, “they weathered these storms with pride and courage.” Now, they are happy and their home is full of love. They are kind, we read again, and the book concludes, “Roger and Matthew are in love.” The story was originally a song called “Roger et Mathieu,” from Thériault’s album Drôle d’oiseau. It then became a picture book in French, Ils sont…, which was translated by Pamela Doll to create this version.

Although bias against the couple is mentioned, the focus is on the happiness they found together and on their quiet strength. Magali Ben’s limited-palette watercolor illustrations are simply gorgeous, perfectly capturing the quiet tone of the words and the everyday details of the couple’s life together. This is a beautiful story with a vision of growing old as a same-sex couple that we rarely see. There’s no indication of the men ever raising children, but nevertheless, children with same-sex grandparents as well as queer children wondering what their future might look like may particularly appreciate it. Having said that, this tender story should be enjoyed by all.

Katy Has Two Grampas

Katy Has Two Grampas, by Julie Schanke Lyford and Robert A. Schanke, with illustrations by Mariia Luzina (Wise Ink), takes its title fairly obviously from Lesléa Newman’s classic Heather Has Two Mommies, but is based on an incident that happened to Lyford’s own daughter (and Schanke’s granddaugher) Katy. Katy, a White first-grader who has a lisp, is often misunderstood by her classmates and teacher, but is excited about inviting her grampas to school on Grandparents’ Day. When Katy draws a picture and tells her teacher that it is of her grampa and grampa, however, her teacher tries to convince her that she meant to say “grandpa and grandMA.” Katy becomes upset and decides she doesn’t want them to come to class with her after all, since she doesn’t want to introduce them in front of the class and be misunderstood. Her big sister explains to the teacher that their grampas are “married to EACH OTHER,” and the teacher apologizes and says that both men are welcome.

On the day of the event, Katy summons her courage and announces, “These are my grampas and know what? They’re married … TO EACH OTHER.” At the end, her grampas praise her and say they’ll take her out for ice cream. The narrative could use a little tightening—it feels a little wordy for a book with a first-grade protagonist—but this is an earnest and heartfelt story that many should like for its depiction of a two-grandfather couple.

Like so many other picture books with same-sex relatives, though, it emphasizes a child getting upset when someone misunderstands about her family (in this case compounded by the teacher’s assumption that Katy’s lisp is the problem), even if the situation later resolves happily. For children who really encounter such questioning of their family structures, such books can offer comfort—but when so many picture books with queer characters have similar storylines, one may long for more stories in which the characters’ queerness is only incidental and doesn’t have to be explained. Nevertheless, it’s great to see one more story among the very few with queer grandparents.

On the promotional site for Katy Has Two Grampas, in fact, the authors say it is “The first children’s book featuring married gay grampas.” It is not, however, the first children’s book to feature a two-grandfather couple. Heather Smith’s A Plan for Pops (Orca, 2019) includes two grandfathers who are obviously a couple, settled into a routine indicative of a long relationship—and the publisher’s website clearly tags the book as having LGBTQ content. True, A Plan for Pops never uses the term “married” to refer to the men—but to see their relationship as anything less than a marriage seems disingenuous. (My full review here.) Additionally, David Hyde Costello’s Little Pig Saves the Ship (Charlesbridge, 2017), also includes a two-grandfather couple; their coupledom is less obvious here (so count it or not as you wish), but Costello confirmed it in a 2017 radio interview. There is power in words, though, and some readers may prefer the explicit ALL CAPS reference in Katy that the grandfathers are married to each other; those looking for a story in which the same-sex relationship doesn’t lead to a misunderstanding may favor the other titles. (Or try them all and see which resonate with you.)

Grandad's Camper

Grandad’s Camper, by Harry Woodgate, an upcoming book from the partnership between GLAAD and Little Bee Books, also depicts a two-grandfather couple. (It comes out April 6 but is available for preorder). Every summer, a child (with brown skin and dark brown hair) goes to stay with her grandad (who is White) by the sea. Her favorite activity is hearing his stories of the “tall and handsome” Gramps (who has brown skin and black hair) and how they explored the world in their camper. Woodgate’s lush illustrations take us with them through cities and jungles, and show us the loving, fun relationship between the two men and between the girl and Grandad.

The child observes that she can see “how much he loved Gramps.” She asks why Grandad doesn’t go anywhere now, and he replies, “Since Gramps died, I just don’t feel like it.” The girl then convinces him to fix up the camper with her. Grandad suggests they pack some snacks and go camp on the beach, just like he and Gramps used to. And so they do.

I like this sweet story a lot. I do wonder, however, about the entire scope of their family. The girl visits Grandad during the summer, so she presumably lives with her parent or parents the rest of the year. We can assume that one of those parents is the child of Grandad and Gramps. We hear and see nothing about those parents in the story, however. Did Gramps die before Grandad even became a father? If so, it feels a little odd (though not completely out of the question) that the girl would call him Gramps, since her parent on that side of the family would probably not even have called him father. If Gramps and Grandad became parents together, however, and Gramps died after their child(ren) grew up, one might assume they’d have used the camper to take trips with their child(ren). In that case, one might think there would have been at least one mention or image of that in the story. Maybe Gramps died after their child(ren) came into the family but before they were old enough to go traveling with them? Did that mean Grandad raised his child(ren) as a single dad during a time when such things were even less common than they are now? If so, all credit to him for that. In a book of this length, I know one can’t go into too many background details, but I would have loved to see just a hint of the family thread—the “love through the generations” touted on the back cover.

Perhaps I’m wanting too much here. Readers may prefer filling in the gaps of the story with their own imaginations. (Clearly, it sparked mine.) Regardless, this is a lovely story about the relationship between a girl and her grandfather and how people in a family continue to have an impact even after they are gone. Gramps is shown on many pages together with Grandad; this isn’t a case of making their relationship invisible (though there’s a different sort of impact in seeing a child interacting with both grandparents in a same-sex couple, as in some of the stories mentioned above). A rainbow flag waving from the camper (on the cover and one interior page), and a pink triangle on Grandad’s shirt in images from his younger days mark this as a queer-inclusive book without making it “about” being queer, which is terrific.

There are only a few other books I know of that include queer grandparents: George Parker’s Bell’s Knock Knock Birthday (Flamingo Rampant, 2017), in which a child welcomes their nonbinary “Grandmani” to a party, and j wallace skelton’s The Last Place You Look (Flamingo Rampant, 2017), set at a Passover seder hosted by a two-bubbie (grandmother) couple. Clearly the queer grandfathers have a slight numerical edge overall; let’s hope we soon see some more about queer grandmothers and nonbinary grandparents, too. Very often, as Grandad’s Camper makes clear, elders and grandparents are the storytellers of the family (or of the community). Surely there are even more stories they could be telling us.

Fired Mandalorian star Gina Carano teams up Ben Shapiro for film project

Headshots of Gina Carano and Ben Shapiro

Gina Carano (L) and Ben Shapiro. (Getty)

Gina Carano, who played combative shock trooper Cara Dune on The Mandalorian, is attempting to bounce back by… working with right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro.

Carano, a 38-year-old actor and mixed martial artist, fuelled months-long fan backlash with her incendiary social media presence throughout her stint on the Disney+ show.

One included putting “boop/bop/beep” as her Twitter pronouns – an act that users felt belittered trans rights, which she sought to deny.

But for Lucasfilm, the production company behind the Star Wars show, the flashpoint came during a rant where Carano appeared to compare being a Republican to being Jewish during the Holocaust. She was later fired and ditched by her agency as a result.

On Friday (12 February), Carano told Deadline that after being ousted from the series she is now set to collaborate with the conservative website The Daily Wire in an open challenge against what Shapiro called the “Hollywood left”.

Gina Carano: ‘The Daily Wire is helping make one of my dreams come true’

The Daily Wire is helping make one of my dreams — to develop and produce my own film — come true,” Carano said in a statement to the outlet.

“I cried out and my prayer was answered. I am sending out a direct message of hope to everyone living in fear of cancellation by the totalitarian mob.

“I have only just begun using my voice which is now freer than ever before, and I hope it inspires others to do the same. They can’t cancel us if we don’t let them.”

The film will be released exclusively on The Daily Wire as part of its collaboration with Bone Tomahawk producer Dallas Sonnier.

Gina Carano as Cara Dune in The Mandalorian in a body-armour style outfit, hiding behind a barrell
Gina Carano, The Mandalorian’s Cara Dune, was accused of mocking trans people. (Disney)

Shapiro, who once threw a tantrum over Harry Styles wearing a dress, said: “We could not be more excited to be working with Gina Carano, an incredible talent dumped by Disney and Lucasfilm for offending the authoritarian Hollywood Left.”

Carano was turfed by Lucasfilm after uploading a now-deleted post shared to her Instagram Story which read: “Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbours…even by children.

“Because history is edited, most people today don’t realise that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbours hate them simply for being Jews.

“How is that any different from hating someone for their political views.”

A representative of Lucasfilm announcing her termination said: “Her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

American Gods star reveals how show inspired her to come out as bisexual

American Gods

Yetide Badaki plays the goddess Bilquis in American Gods (Paul Butterfield/FilmMagic/Getty)

American Gods actor Yetide Badaki has revealed how her role on the show helped her feel comfortable enough to come out as bisexual.

The Nigerian-born American stars in the Neil Gaiman fantasy series as Bilquis, the legendary Queen of Sheba and ancient goddess of love.

Interviewed by Digital Spy ahead of the third series, Badaki spoke of how the “empowering” role helped her find the freedom to be open about her own sexuality.

“I feel like this show is always willing to have these conversations, and always willing to open it up,” she said. “I’ve experienced personally how that kind of open discourse allows for personal freedom.

“I came out as bisexual last year. I would say it’s very much thanks to this show, and the discussions they’re having.”

As she approached the role Badaki found a sense of symbiosis with her character and often found herself asking: “What would Bilquis do?” The discussions she had as she explored this question helped her to “own” her sexuality.

“I was so happy to be having conversations about sexual empowerment and sex positivity, because I think there is so much that goes on in the silence, in the darkness. That’s where things go in the cracks,” she mused.

“But when we are able to own our own sexuality, and actually have conversations around it, that becomes something that’s healthier for everybody involved. I always say that regression comes from repression.

“When you’re actually able to face whatever it is, that’s when growth and evolution can occur. So that’s been something that I’m very proud to be a part of.”

She hinted at what’s to come from season three of American Gods, promising viewers will see “more than one side” to Bilquis – and even a major fight scene.

“I love that we are cementing this idea that love is not passive. It’s not just something that rolls over,” she said. “There is a lot of fire behind love, and there’s a lot of passion behind love. And that love does work to move things forward.”

American Gods season 3 airs on Starz in the US, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

Caitlyn Jenner tipped to star in Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That

Caitlyn Jenner tipped to star in Sex and the City

Caitlyn Jenner is being tipped to make an appearance in the Sex and the City reboot. (David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty)

Caitlyn Jenner is being tipped to star in HBO Max’s upcoming Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That in an effort to bring some diversity to the show.

The reboot of the classic series was confirmed on 10 January, with Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis all set to reprise their roles – but Kim Cattrall, who played fan-favourite Samantha Jones, will not be making an appearance.

Much has been made of the lack of diversity in the original run of Sex and the City, which closely followed four white, cisgender, middle-class women as they explored relationships and sex in New York City.

Ever since its original run, fans have been criticising the show for its general failure to represent LGBT+ characters and people of colour in meaningful ways – and many have wondered if And Just Like That will right those wrongs.

Caitlyn Jenner would be ‘perfect for an appearance’ in reboot

Now, an insider has told The Mirror that bosses working on the show want it to be as diverse as possible – and Caitlyn Jenner is being touted as a perfect fit to appear in the new series in an effort to make it more inclusive.

Caitlyn has been a media fixture in one way or another for going on 50 years. She’s really perfect for an appearance.

The insider said that Caitlyn Jenner, who came out publicly as transgender in April 2015, could have a cameo appearance in the Sex and the City reboot.

“Caitlyn has been a media fixture in one way or another for going on 50 years,” the insider said. “She’s really perfect for an appearance.

“They want new faces for the show, but they want people viewers actually know and care about too.”

The news comes as Jenner revealed that she hasn’t become a “spokesperson” for the trans community because many see her as being too “controversial”. 

In an interview with The Skinny Confidential Him & Her podcast, Jenner, 71, said that her background and political beliefs meant she did not receive the warm welcome into the trans community that other public figures, like Elliot Page, did.

Jenner remains a Republican, despite the fact that Donald Trump dedicated much of his presidency to rolling back LGBT+ rights.

Sex and the City spin-off will be made later this year

And Just Like That will comprise of 10 half-hour episodes and is scheduled to kick-off production late spring in New York City, US. Parker, Davis, Nixon and Michael Patrick King will executive produce.

“The new Max Original series is based on the book, Sex and the City, by Candice Bushnell and the original TV series created by Darren Star,” a statement from HBO Max’s parent company WarnerMedia read.

“The series will follow Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte as they navigate the journey from the complicated reality of life and friendship in their 30s to the even more complicated reality of life and friendship in their 50s.”

Discovery star reveals she is ‘queer and proud’

Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery‘s LGBT+ crew just grew a little bigger as actor Mary Wiseman confirms she is “queer and proud”.

Wiseman, a powerhouse actor who plays fan-favourite Ensign Tilly, revealed that she has loved “people of all genders” in a recent interview with StarTrek.com.

That small detail almost wasn’t published as the Zoom call’s audio cut out just as Wiseman started to say “I’m not straight”. Some shrewd lip-reading prompted writer Dawn Ennis to follow up with Wiseman, who happily confirmed it in a Twitter DM.

“I did say this! It’s not a big deal at all, I just didn’t want to say I’m straight when I’m not!” the star wrote, adding that before she met her husband Noah Averbach-Katz – who played Ryn the Andorian – she “dated and loved people of all genders.”

She went on to explain why she keeps fairly quiet about the topic, saying: “I never liked it when straight-presenting women dominated conversations about bisexuality/pansexuality when I was with women, so I try not to do it now, but I also don’t want it to feel like I’m hiding anything because I’m queer and proud!”

Wiseman’s far from alone on a show that’s won widespread praise for its strong LGBT+ representation, both in its cast and script.

The show’s co-creator Bryan Fuller also identifies as queer, as do actors Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, Blu Del Barrio and Ian Alexander – all of whom play LGBT+ characters themselves.

Together Del Barrio and Alexander took on the first trans and non-binary roles in the franchise’s 54-year history, and their characters form an adorable queer family with gay couple Hugh and Paul.

“I’m proud to say that we are bringing you the queerest Trek in history!” Wilson Cruz said ahead of the launch of season three. With Mary Wiseman on board, we’re hoping season four will follow in an equally queer direction.

Star Trek: Discovery is available to watch now on Netflix in the UK and CBS All Access in the US.

Corrie star disagrees with screenwriter on gay actors

Russell T Davies Peter Ash Coronation Street

Peter Ash waded into the debate around whether straight actors should play gay roles after Russell T Davies said he cast queer people in It’s a Sin for “authenticity”. (Peter Ash (L) (Twitter) and Russell T Davies (R) (Ken Jack/Getty)

A straight Coronation Street star, who plays a gay man on the soap, has decided that he is the authority on whether queer roles should be played by queer actors.

The never-ending debate around whether gay roles should be played by gay actors reared its head once again in the last week, with screenwriter Russell T Davies explaining that he cast queer actors in his new drama It’s a Sin because they would bring an “authenticity” to the show.

Peter Ash, who plays Paul Foreman on Coronation Street, promptly waded into the debate, sharing a screenshot of Davies’ interview, which was published with the headline: “Gay roles should be given to gay actors.”

Ash gracefully took the time to share a definition of acting, just in case Davies – who has created numerous groundbreaking and critically-acclaimed television series – doesn’t know what it is.

“Acting; the art or occupation of performing fictional roles in plays, films or television,” Ash tweeted alongside the screenshot of Davies’ interview.

Coronation Street fans quickly jumped in to agree with Ash. “I believe it should be based on who is the best person for the role 100 per cent,” one wrote.

“Surely a role like any other job should be given on ability and competence?” another tweeted.

One Twitter user replied: “I don’t understand why or how the sexual preference of a real life actor should interfere with how they play the role of a character? If we’re playing a murder, should we have experience of murder? This quote is a joke and a disappointment!”

Russell T Davies said authenticity leads us ‘to joyous places’

Davies ruffled feathers when he told Radio Times in an interview on Monday (11 January) that he wants “authentic” gay representation in television shows.

He said: “I’m not being woke about this… but I feel strongly that if I cast someone in a story, I am casting them to act as a lover, or an enemy, or someone on drugs or a criminal or a saint… they are not there to ‘act gay’ because ‘acting gay’ is a bunch of codes for a performance.

“It’s about authenticity, the taste of 2020.”

He added: “You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t Black someone up. Authenticity is leading us to joyous places.”

The debate around whether straight actors should play gay roles rears its head every few months, and it appears to be a never-ending source of controversy.

In November, bisexual actor Kristen Stewart said she thinks it’s OK for straight actors who are allies to the LGBT+ community to play gay characters – as long as they do the work to understand that experience.

Stewart admitted that she thinks about the debate “all the time”, and added: “I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience.

“Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law.”

“I think it’s such a grey area,” she added. “There are ways for men to tell women’s stories, or ways for women to tell men’s stories. But we need to have our finger on the pulse and actually have to care.”




Golf star Justin Thomas apologises for saying homophobic slur at Sentry

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas of the United States reacts on the 18th green during the third round of the Sentry Tournament Of Champions at the Kapalua Plantation Course on 9 January, 2021 in Kapalua, Hawaii. (Getty/ Cliff Hawkins)

American golf star and world number three Justin Thomas has been forced to apologise after blurting out a homophobic slur live on air at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

On Saturday (9 January), during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, Thomas missed a five-foot putt on the fourth hole.

As he missed, the television microphone picked up his voice as he muttered: “Faggot.”

Sports Media LGBT+, a network group that “advocates for inclusion in both our own industry and across sport in general”, responded to the clip on social media.

The organisation wrote on Twitter: “The casual use of anti-gay language in sports – usually without homophobic intent – is a major reason why many athletes and coaches who are LGBT+ don’t feel they would be made welcome if they came out.” 

Justin Thomas described his homophobic outburst as “terrible”

Afterwards, Justin Thomas, 27, apologised for the homophobic slur while speaking to Golf Channel.

According to Reuters, he said: “There’s just no excuse. There’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible. It’s not the kind of person that I am.”

“I need to do better,” he added. “I deeply apologise to anyone and everybody who I offended and I’ll be better because of it.”

He also told BBC Sport: “It’s inexcusable… I’m an adult. I’m a grown man, there’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible. I’m extremely embarrassed.

“It’s not who I am, it’s not the kind of person that I am or anything that I do. Unfortunately, I did it and I have to own up to it and I’m very apologetic.”

But some golf fans on social media were hesitant to accept his apology, with one writing: “Justin Thomas apologised for GETTING CAUGHT using a homophobic slur.

“No way was it the first time just lack of crowd noise to hide it this time!”

The PGA Tour said in a statement: “As he expressed after his round, we agree that Justin’s comment was unacceptable.”

Pop Culture Fix: “Impulse” Star Maddie Hasson Casually Comes Out as Bisexual on Instagram

Pop Culture Fix: "Impulse" Star Maddie Hasson Casually Comes Out

Even though we’ve been living in NYC for many years now, Stacy and I still get a hankering for suburb restaurant chain food — and, well, we just found out we can order Panera to be delivered! Soup in a bread bowl is on its way to my house right now! And this Pop Culture Fix is on its way to you!

+ Impulse star Maddie Hasson casually came out as bisexual on Instagram.

+ Thanks to WNBA players, American democracy has a fighting chance.

+ 😁

+ Meryl Streep, Rashida Jones and Laverne Cox partner with Sarah Jones for sex-industry documentary Sell/Buy/Date

+ Regina King: Long May She Reign.

+ Emily VanDerWerff wonders if Wonder Woman 1984 would work better as a season of TV.

+ Demi Lovato wonder why Diana and Barbara didn’t end up together.

+ Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars talk about its queer, inclusive legacy.

+ A whole new Batwoman poster!

+ When COVID cut off the stage, movies provided much-needed theatre magic.

+ The last fan fiction I ever wrote.

+ How female protagonists in The Queen’s Gambit and Unorthodox carved out space amid a man’s world.

Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She’s a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1076 articles for us.

A Very Queer Holiday star HJ Farr on trans representation at Christmas

HJ Farr, their short bobbed hair dyed to look like a Pride flag, on a Zoom call with Deity Blair, who wears a red jacket and matching red hair

HJ Farr and Deity Blair in A Very Queer Holiday. (YouTube)

Christmas can be a tough time of year for LGBT+ people, and the lack of representation in films traditionally watched over the festive period is only one of the reasons.

Family rejection, having to go back into the closet, having mental health issues exacerbated by Christmas stress, being around alcohol or spending the time alone can all be difficult, and that’s before you throw in the small matter of a pandemic.

For those going to see their biological families, Christmas films can be an awkward watch – the sprinkling of anti-LGBT+ “jokes”, the relentlessly heteronormative portrayals of family and romance, the insidious sexism of the socially accepted drunk uncles on-screen. But a better world is coming: Lifetime’s first ever gay Christmas film, The Christmas Setup, has aired, as has Hallmark’s first gay Christmas movie, The Christmas House.

Kristen Stewart also did some community service this year with lesbian rom-com Happiest Season, and Dolly Parton, in her spare time from funding the coronavirus vaccine, is bringing us Christmas musical Christmas on the Square.

So far, that’s mostly a lot of white gays – and where is the trans representation?

Stepping up to the plate to address this is A Very Queer Holiday, a musical LGBT+ web series that riffs on Hallmark’s signature holiday-themed romantic comedies – and stars HJ Farr as Pax, the first non-binary lead in a romantic comedy on Amazon Prime.

The queer Christmas film that will get even Scrooge into the festive spirit
HJ Farr plays the lead in A Very Queer Christmas. (Supplied)

Asked what they think of playing the lead in a Christmas series, Farr, sporting a flop of rainbow-coloured hair and an undercut, says over Zoom that “Christmas kind of sucks” for them.

“Christmas is not my time of year,” they say. “Holidays in general are… I have a really close relationship with my family, but my mom died when I was really young. So, I have all of the memories of how good Christmas used to be and then all of the like, post-that stuff of still being a child, but now it sucks.”

With their spouse, Farr has made new Christmas traditions – travel, usually, with trips to London and Costa Rica – that are “less about the presents and the old traditions”. This year, they plan on writing letters to friends over the festive break. When the people behind A Very Queer Holiday began putting out feelers, Farr says they were “definitely apprehensive because I don’t like Christmas”.

“But as I read the script, it kind of, put me in a Christmassy mood? I didn’t expect it, at all,” they say, laughing. “And just the fact that it’s representing trans and non-binary characters without the story being about that, or about coming out… shouldn’t be as refreshing as it is.

“I read the script. And it was like when you put on a really cosy sweater, and it fits you perfectly, and you’re like, this feels amazing. This feels like it was made for me.”

Farr, who came out as non-binary after playing a character who was genderless, says that understanding their own gender better has made them a better actor. “There was so much that made more sense when I discovered my own transness,” they say. They play all genders now, reminiscing about playing a teenage boy in a recent production – the dream gig in many ways.

A Very Queer Holiday also features Deity Blair, Adam B. Shapiro (The Normal Heart, Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish), Lateefah Holder (Modern Family, Transparent, Disjointed), Sean Thompson (Sunset Boulevard on Broadway), and John Lehr (Geico Caveman, Friends, Quickdraw, Ten Items or Less, Jailbait).

The series is led by an all-queer female creative team and was, because 2020, filmed entirely on Zoom. But the Christmas message of the series – which goes into queer chosen family, dating and navigating the holidays – is perennial.

As Farr says: “I think the message of the series is that the holidays can be a magical time. Even, or especially, for queer people. Because when we find that chosen family, and if you have your biological family and your chosen family, you can have so much support.

“There’s magic to be found in the holidays. For me personally, I was so anti-holidays for so long. And then my spouse and I found each other right before the holidays. There are a lot of things working against you, but sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and put yourself out there. There is magic to be found in the holidays.”


Two Dads and the Baby They Found in the Subway Star in New Picture Book

Two Dads and the Baby They Found in the Subway

When a man finds an abandoned baby in a New York City subway station, he and his partner unexpectedly end up adopting the child, in a new picture book based on the true story—and perfect for Christmas.

Our Subway Baby

“Some babies are born into their families. Some are adopted. This is the story of how one baby found his family in the New York City subway,” begins Our Subway Baby by Peter Mercurio (Dial). Told from Mercurio’s first-person perspective, it shows his then-partner (now husband) Danny, finding an abandoned baby in a corner of the subway station. The police are called and Mercurio arrives; the media covers the event and the baby is placed in foster care. Eventually, the judge in charge of deciding what to do with the child wants to meet Danny, and suggests that the two men adopt him. Both men are White; the baby is a light-skinned person of color.

The men have hesitations. “Our apartment was tiny. Our piggy banks were empty. I didn’t know if we had what it took to be your parents,” Mercurio relates. They finally decide, though, that “We were meant to be a family.” The judge says they can bring the child home in only three days, just in time for Christmas! Neighbors and relatives, at least two of whom seem to be people of color, help them prepare. The men take the child to their apartment—via the subway, arms around each other and the baby cradled between them.

Mercurio’s text is straightforward but occasionally lyrical as he speaks of their hopes and dreams as a family. The word count places this book at the upper end of the picture-book age range, but the vocabulary and sentence structure feel well suited for that audience. (Adults may just need to explain that the term “Straphanger,” seen in a newspaper headline about the baby’s rescue, refers to a subway rider.) An Author’s Note at the end tells us that in 2012, the child (now named Kevin) had the idea of asking the same judge to perform his dads’ wedding, which she did.

This is a heartwarming story about building a family, made more impactful by its truthfulness. (Here’s the grown-up version that Mercurio wrote for the New York Times in 2013.) Leo Espinosa’s illustrations deftly capture the characters’ emotions and the details of the city around them. Mercurio also takes the time not only to share his personal story, but also to offer some insight into what it means to foster or adopt a child, noting, for example, “We learned that you were placed in a foster home. Some babies stay in foster care for a short time. Some for a long time. Some live in many different foster homes and grow up without a permanent home or family.”

I also love that this is a story about LGBTQ family building that doesn’t focus on “problematizing” LGBTQ identities. Danny does make one comment to the judge that “I know adopting a baby isn’t always easy for two dads,” but the judge quickly says, “It can be.” A note at the end about why adoption isn’t always easy for two dads might have helped adult readers explain this to kids who have questions, but on balance, I’m glad that the focus is on the positive.

My only (small) critique is that I would have liked a clearer introduction about who Danny is to the narrator. It’s obvious as the story goes on that the men are living together and love one another; several images show them with their arms around each other. Yet saying “Danny, my partner” (or “husband,” or however they referred to each other at the time) might have clarified things from the start.

This joyous book about a unique path to parenthood, full of love and warmth, should find a place on many bookshelves.