Tag: stories

Scenes from a Gender 04: Stories of Trans Love

Scenes from a Gender 04: Stories of Trans Love

These scenes are written submissions from our staff and Autostraddle readers, illustrated by trans artist Bishakh Som. You can read more Scenes from a Gender here.

Two humans cuddle on a couch while a cat sits with them.

Submission from reader Felix Grego.

My name is Felix. My wife’s name is Leo. We met through mutual friends before the pandemic. By May 2020, everything felt uncertain except our love. Leo was working with the public, but with no health care. I work for a company that pays for my health care. We decided to get married that month to share my benefits.

The local county clerk’s office offered exceptions to help keep weddings small—the wedding just needed one adult to officiate and two witnesses. My queer neighbor officiated, and our two friends witnessed. The ceremony took place in our apartment building’s parking lot. We now felt ready for anything, including my upcoming top surgery.

After months of delays, I was finally getting the mastectomy I had dreamed about for years. Leo and I were nervous about the added stress of her taking care of me on top of working with the public in a pandemic. We found that the setting created tender moments. Soft touches, loving looks, and the feeling of safety around each other sparked an even deeper love.

I’ve since healed from my surgery and now pounce on any opportunity to take care of her.

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I thought I would be unlovable if I transitioned. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to fit in with lesbians. I thought I wouldn’t be attractive to anyone. I tried to convince myself that I was unlovable.

But this experience has taught me that everyone is worthy of love.

Two people lay on a bed nude, with one person lying on top of the other. They are looking into each other's eyes.

Submission from reader Lana Pham.

I met Niko on Grindr. I had gone out with and spoken to other trans guys before, but had never been intimate with any until him. Many I knew or had encountered were either stuck in toxic masculinity or simply incompatible with me. I’m a slight narcissist, so I prefer guys similar to me — quiet, soft, playful, and mischievous. Niko met those requirements, and he was beautiful too.

I wasn’t nervous my first time with Niko and just hoped my cis-dick sucking skills translated well. In the dim light of my room, I could feel his packer underneath rough denim. I was lost in his soft kisses.

He suddenly undressed before me. And when I reached down again, his packer was gone. My hand instead met his wet excitement. After briefly rubbing each other, Niko directed his attention to my breasts with his mouth. He was gentle but firm, then slowly trailed his way down to taste more of me. He enveloped me fully, and I grew harder with every movement. I didn’t want him to stop, but I was excited to return the favor. After fumbling on my own, I directed Niko to sit on my face and take control. He forced my tongue between his lips. When he was finished, the makeup around my mouth had smeared off. I was erect, and he pulled me over to lie on top of him. I felt the full heat of his body as we continued kissing. With a simple shift, I slipped inside him.

I felt tense for a moment, but focused on the pleasure of our bodies instead. Internalized transphobia conditioned me to associate Niko’s parts with femininity, and after sex, I was left to ponder the hypocrisy in that. I was a trans woman who had spent years searching for self-love and sexual enjoyment despite the limitations of a cisgender world. I had allowed myself to remain confined instead of looking beyond what I had been taught. With Niko, I was experiencing my body without any scripts leading me. Enjoying each other’s bodies was the only guide. With most cis men, I have to align myself with cis women to accommodate their understanding of me. My efforts in doing so end up getting in the way of my own satisfaction. I didn’t have to perform with Niko. My body could just be. He was still masculine, and I was still feminine, regardless of what our bodies were doing. Niko widened my imagination to the possibilities of sexual intimacy. And unexpectedly, I was a little more healed.

A masculine person sits in a chair as another masculine person stands over them, shaving their hair. The two are reflected in the mirror.

Anonymous submission.

He told me that he decided to become a barber when he got kicked out of a barbershop at a young age. The shop wouldn’t serve someone they saw as a girl or queer. After that, he knew he wanted to make a safe space for trans and queer people. He’s about 20 years older than me, so he’s as much a mentor as he is a friend. Even after all the years of transphobia and marginalization he’s experienced, he wears his identity with pride and lifts other trans people up too.

I feel so much safer in his chair than with the cis guy I used to go to. He has never made me feel bad about being anxious around being touched. (I get a little shaky sometimes.) I know I can trust him enough to relax. He approaches me with sincere care and warmth, and an almost paternal sense of affection. He always makes sure to tuck an extra towel into the back of my shirt so the little hairs don’t get into my binder, because he knows from experience that it’ll drive a person crazy. He fist bumps me sometimes which is silly but also somehow very validating? I couldn’t explain why, but it’s good stuff. He always uses my pronouns right and compliments me with masculine terms, which no one else ever does. I leave the shop with the biggest grin on my face, and it sticks for hours.

The conversation flows so easily. I appreciate having someone who just gets it and let’s me gripe about getting deadnamed at the doctor’s office, or chased out of a public restroom. He’s someone who will celebrate the progress of my transition with me. The solidarity is life-saving. It’s wild because the town I live in is pretty traditional and conservative, and somehow I’ve managed to find this amazing little refuge.

It’s so rare that I feel completely understood and valued, and I feel like only another trans person is truly capable of that.

Three people hold hands against a shining, sparkly background.

Submission from contributor Adrian White.

When the three of us are together, the air fills with magic. Wynn, Lysi and I are all non-binary, but we relate to our genders in very different ways. These differences are part of what made it possible for us to love each other so well through our transitions—a name change for me, HRT for Lysi, difficulty coming out at work for Wynn, pronouns and top surgery for all of us. We asked each other good questions, gave each other needed time and space, and gently pushed each other when we were scared.

Our trans love story is one of friendship, partnership, and family. Wynn and I are married, and Lysi is very much our chosen fam. The three of us feel like our own little organism, and each pair has its own independent dynamic, too. Though Wynn and I moved to Nashville from Dallas, we still find ways to be present for each other and continue to support each other through the lifelong journey of transition. Because of them, no matter what happens in this transphobic world, I can keep trans joy at the center.

A few months into the pandemic, Lysi drove through Nashville to visit family in Ohio, as their grandfather was in failing health. It had been months since I had looked forward to anything, and hugging them in the parking lot, masks covering our smiles, felt like coming home. We went to the patio area in our apartment complex and Wynn grilled bratwursts and vegetables. There was an ease of being together, in a time when absolutely nothing felt easy. Wynn and I have good friends in Nashville, but it’s different to spend time in physical space with someone who truly knows you. We covered a lot of conversational territory, but I couldn’t tell you specifics. I just remember feeling settled in my body and a deep sense of the way the three of us belong to each other and the joy of sharing a meal with another human being in the sunshine. As the pandemic continually draws me toward despair, I remember that evening and know that soon enough we’ll be together again.

The Ultimate Lesbian Books List; 75 Lesbian Stories to Read ASAP

The Ultimate Lesbian Books List; 75 Lesbian Stories to Read

Lesbian literature is an extensive genre-spanning over 2,500 years. Though the ancient Grecian poet Sappho is credited with producing the earliest forms of lesbian writing, the genre as we know it today began taking shape in the 19th century. Works from this period relied heavily on subtext and most often ended in heartache or tragedy, while the early 20th century saw the arrival of specific references to lesbianism in literature. The Well of Loneliness, published in 1928, is considered the first English language novel with explicitly lesbian themes. Lesbian literature surged in popularity during the ’50s and ’60s with the publication of pulp fiction novels and Women’s Barracks, Tereska Torres’ dime-store novel about World War II was the first of its kind. The foundational texts of lesbian literature were written in the latter 20th century. Today, the genre has expanded to include a more diverse and intersectional representation.

Overwhelmed with the myriad of great titles to choose from? Hungry for more lesbian literature? Use this list to find the best lesbian books in any genre.

Lesbian Fiction Books

The Price of Salt (1952) – Patricia Highsmith

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The critically acclaimed film Carol is based on The Price of Salt, one of the earliest lesbian romance novels with a happy ending. In a tale of infatuation at first sight, discontent department store worker Therese is instantly enamored with Carol, an elegant older woman who purchases a doll for her daughter. Carol leaves her address so the doll may be delivered which Therese uses to send Carol a Christmas card. Carol, who is in the midst of a bitter divorce, responds. As Carol and Therese begin spending time together, their attraction intensifies.

Read the Book // Watch the Movie

 

The Color Purple (1982) – Alice Walker

lesbian-books-color-purple

Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Color Purple tells the story of Celie, a poor girl living in the rural South under bitter conditions. Celie is abused by her father then married off to another abusive man, Mister. Mister’s mistress, a sultry jazz singer named Shug, comes to stay with Celie and Mister while recovering from an illness. Celie and Shug develop an intimate relationship.

Read the Book // Watch the Movie

 

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (1987) – Fannie Flagg

lesbian-book-cover-fried-green-tomatoes

While visiting her mother-in-law in an Alabama nursing home, bored housewife Evelyn Couch strikes up a friendship with Ninny Threadgoode, an elderly resident. Ninny tells Evelyn about her childhood in the 1920s when Ruth Jamison, a pious and proper young woman came to live with the Threadgoodes in order to tame rambunctious tomboy Idgie. Idgie and Ruth become inseparable and develop an unspoken attraction. To Idgie’s dismay, Ruth must leave Whistle Stop at the end of summer to marry Frank Bennett. Years later, Idgie and Ruth reconnect.   

Read the Book // Watch the Movie

 

Stone Butch Blues (1993) – Leslie Feinberg

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Jess struggles to navigate life as a butch lesbian in1970s upstate New York. She finds refuge and community in gay bars and is taken under the wings of older butches. Cops raid the bar, harass and arrest everyone inside, and the bar closes down leaving Jess homeless. In a harrowing tale of survival, Jess searches for another place to fit in and finds herself along the way.

Read the Book

 

Fingersmith (2002) – Sarah Waters

lesbian-book-cover-Fingersmith

Sarah Waters is a prolific writer of lesbian historical fiction. Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet, her two most prominent works, were adapted into BBC mini-series. Fingersmith follows Sue, a pickpocketing orphan raised on the streets of Victorian London. One night, she is approached by a con man who seeks her assistance in defrauding the heiress Maud Lilly and having her committed to an insane asylum. Sue agrees and poses as a maid to gain Maud’s trust. When they form an unexpected bond, Sue begins regretting her involvement in the con man’s scheme, but it may be too late.

Read the Book // Watch the Movie

 

Sing You Home (2011) – Jodi Picoult

lesbian-book-cover-sing-you-home

Zoe and her husband Max want to have a baby but are unable to conceive. They try in vitro fertilization and give up after multiple unsuccessful attempts. The couple’s fertility issues strain their marriage leading to divorce. Later, Zoe meets Vanessa Shaw. The two women fall in love, get married, and decide to have children using the frozen embryos from Zoe’s previous marriage. But first, they need permission from Max, now a born again Christian uncomfortable with his ex-wife’s new relationship.  

Read the Book

Other titles to check out: The Well of Loneliness, Patience and Sarah, Orlando, Zami: A New Spelling of my Name, The Hours, Middlesex

Young Adult Lesbian Books

Annie on my Mind (1982) – Nancy Garden

lesbian-book-cover-annie-on-my-mind

Annie on my Mind was one of the first young adult books to portray a lesbian love story between teenagers. Annie and Liza are two seventeen-year-olds coming of age in New York City. Annie lives in an upscale neighborhood and attends a private school while Liza comes from a lower-class background. Despite their differences, Annie and Liza meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on one fateful rainy day and fall in love.

Read the Book

 

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (1985) – Jeanette Winterson

lesbian-book-covers-oranges-are-not-the-only-fruit

Though not a memoir, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is semi-autobiographical and details Jeanette’s experience coming of age in an evangelical household in England. Because of her staunchly religious upbringing, Jeanette is an outcast at school. She begins a relationship with another girl which makes her an outcast at church as well and complicates her feelings about faith.

Read the Book // Watch the Movie

 

Keeping You A Secret (2003) – Julie Anne Peters

lesbian-book-covers-keeping-you-a-secret

Peters is a well known YA writer whose books feature LGBT characters. Other prominent titles include Luna, Between Mom and Jo, and Rage: A Love Story. In the novel, 17-year-old Holland is crushing her senior year of high school—she has a great boyfriend; she’s Student Council President, and she’s headed to an Ivy League. But the arrival of new girl CeCe makes Holland question everything.

Read the Book

 

The House You Pass on the Way (2003) – Jacqueline Woodson

lesbian-book-covers-house-you-pass-on-the-way

Staggerlee has never fit in: she’s biracial in a predominantly black town and her grandparents were killed in an infamous racist bombing. As a result of unwanted attention, Staggerlee is quiet and keeps to herself. All that changes when Trout, her outspoken cousin, comes to visit. They spend a transformative summer together helping each other come to terms with their identities.

Read the Book

 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2012) – Emily M. Danforth

lesbian-book-cover-the-miseducation-of-cameron-post

In 1990’s Montana, 12-year-old Cameron Post loses her parents in a car crash and is taken in by her religious aunt and grandmother. While processing her parents’ death, Cameron begins questioning her sexuality and falls in love with her best friend Coley Taylor. Cameron’s conservative aunt finds out and resorts to drastic measures in order to “fix” Cameron. The novel was turned into a 2018 film which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

Read the Book // Watch the Movie

Other titles to check out: Rubyfruit Jungle, Everything Leads to You, Juliet Takes a Breath, If You Could Be Mine, You Know Me Well, Boyfriends with Girlfriends, Little & Lion

Lesbian Fantasy Books

Ash (2009) – Malinda Lo

lesbian-book-cover-ash

A dazzling retelling of Cinderella, Ash is the story of a teenage girl forced to live with her cruel stepmother after her father’s death. Ash finds solace in fairy tales and wishes a fairy would steal her away. One night, she is approached by a fairy prince with the power to grant her wish, but the next morning she meets the King’s Huntress Kaisa and falls quickly in love with her. Now, Ash is faced with a difficult decision: go with the fairy prince or stay with Kaisa. A prequel, Huntress, is set in the same universe.  

Read the Book

 

Of Fires and Stars (2016) – Audrey Coulthurst

lesbian-book-cover-of-fire-and-stars

Denna has been betrothed to the prince of Mynaria since childhood, but she has the ability to conjure fire which and magic is forbidden in Mynaria. As future queen, Denna must learn to ride warhorses and her teacher is none other than her betrothed’s sister: Mare. Denna and Mare do not get along, but when an assassin strikes, they must team up for the fate of the kingdom.

Read the Book

Other titles to check out: Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins, Labyrinth Lost, Girls of Paper and Fire, The Abyss Surrounds Us, The Dark Wife, The Warrior’s Path

Lesbian Vampire Books

Carmilla (1872) –  Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

lesbian-vampire-book-cover-carmilla

Carmilla is one of the earliest vampire stories, even predating Dracula. When a mysterious girl named Carmilla arrives in town unexpectedly, Austrian teenager Laura is happy to have a new friend. The two become close, but Carmilla’s sudden mood changes and refusal to divulge anything about her past drives a wedge between them. Meanwhile, girls in nearby towns are dying from an unusual ailment. The book inspired the popular lesbian web series Carmilla and a movie of the same name. The entire novella can be read online at Project Gutenberg.

Read the Book // Watch the Movie

 

The Gilda Stories (1991) – Jewelle Gomez

lesbian-book-The-Gilda-Stories
Told through a series of vignettes, The Gilda Stories depicts the many lives of a black lesbian vampire over a 200 year period from 1850 to 2050. The novel won two Lambda Literary Awards, one in fiction and one in science fiction.

Read the Book

Other titles to check out: The Midnight Hunt, Women of the Bite: A Lesbian Vampire Anthology

Lesbian Comic Books

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2007) – Alison Bechdel

lesbian-books-fun-home-comic

Adapted into a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Fun Home is a graphic memoir of Bechdel’s relationship with her emotionally distant father who ran the town’s funeral home. When her father dies mysteriously, Bechdel uncovers his hidden gay past while also discovering her own sexuality. Bechdel is the recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Award. Other works include a second graphic memoir Are You My Mother and Dykes to Watch Out For, a lesbian comic strip that ran for 25 years.

Read the Comic

 

Lumberjanes (2014) – Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooklyn A. Allen and Noelle Stevenson

lesbian-comics-LumberJanes-comic

In this comic book series, Lumberjane Scouts Mal, Ripley, Molly, April, and Jo realize they got more than bargained for when they discover mythical creatures and supernatural phenomena at summer camp. The gang decides to solve the mystery of these strange occurrences, earning scout badges along the way. Noelle Stevenson is also behind Nimona, a sci-fi/fantasy graphic novel about a mad scientist’s shapeshifting sidekick.  

Read the Comic

Other titles to check out: Skim, Batwoman: Elegy, Bingo Love

Lesbian Romance Novels

When Katie Met Cassidy (2018) – Camille Perri

lesbian-books-when-katie-met-cassidy

Successful lawyer Katie Cassidy must reevaluate her ideal of a perfect life when her fiance suddenly dumps her. Reeling from the breakup, Katie agrees to have after-work drinks with a coworker, the confident and dapper Cassidy. Katie and Cassidy push each other out of their comfort zones and a sexy game of cat and mouse ensues.  

Read the Book

 

The Gravity Between Us (2013) – Kristen Zimmer

lesbian-book-cover-gravity-between-us

Payton and Kendall have been best friends since childhood, but Kendall is a rising starlet poised to become Hollywood’s next “it” girl. To keep herself grounded, Kendall moves Payton to Hollywood with her. Payton has been harboring a secret: she is in love with Kendall and terrified her feelings won’t be reciprocated. Payton must pluck up the courage to confess her feelings even if it might ruin the friendship they both cherish.

Read the Book

Other titles to check out: Blend, Waiting in the Wings

Lesbian Short Stories

Her Body and Other Parties (2018) – Carmen Maria Machado

lesbian-books-body-other-parties

A lyrical debut combining multiple genres of speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, fabulism), this collection uses magical realism to center women and their experiences in society. Each story examines what’s inflicted upon women’s bodies whether it’s sexuality and sensuality or violation and violence.

Read the Stories

 

Trash: Stories (2002) – Dorothy Allison

lesbian-short-stories-trash

In this collection, Allison interrogates the South’s troubled history with evangelicalism, social class, racism, sexism, and homophobia in raw and realistic detail. These stories offer a visceral portrait of heartache and humanity’s darkest impulses that are difficult to encounter but impossible to ignore. Allison is also the author of the novel Bastard out of Carolina.

Read the Stories

Other titles to check out: Am I Blue, Missed Her, Valencia, Felt in the Jaw

New Lesbian Books

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) (2018) – Amy Spalding

lesbian-books-Summer-Jordi-Perez

Out 17-year-old Abby Ives runs a plus-size fashion blog and dreams of making it big in the fashion world. When she has the opportunity to intern at her favorite boutique over the summer, Abby feels like her dreams are finally coming true. Complicating matters, Abby starts crushing on Jordi Perez, a fellow intern she’s competing against for a paid position at the boutique.

Read the Book

 

Stray City (2018) – Chelsey Johnson

lesbian-books-stray-city

After a drunken hookup with a man, 24-year-old Andrea Morales discovers she is pregnant. Though her tight-knit group of queer friends express concern, Andrea decides to keep the baby. 10 years later, Andrea’s daughter Lucia wants to know more about her father.

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Other titles to check out: The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali, Pulp, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, Just for Show

Bisexual Books

Empress of the World (2003) – Sara Ryan

bisexual-books-empress-of-the-world

Nicola attends the Seigel Institute, a college preparatory summer program and quickly fits in with a group of new friends. Nic is inexplicably drawn to one of them, the beautiful Battle Hall Davies, and their dynamic soon evolves from friends to something more.

Read the Book

 

Queens of Geek (2017) – Jen Wilde

bisexual-books-Queens-of-Geek
Three best friends and proud geeks attend the popular fan convention SupaCon. Charlie, a vlogger and actress who just had a public breakup with her costar Reese has her eyes set on the con’s surprise guest: Alyssa Huntington.

Read the Book

Other titles to check out: Under the Udala Trees, Love in the Time of Global Warming, Not Otherwise Specified, Corona, The Life and Death of Sophie Starks

 

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Why We Need Queer Holiday Stories – The Lesbrary

Why We Need Queer Holiday Stories – The Lesbrary

Photo of a book and holiday mug with a Christmas tree in the background

I have a little collection of sapphic Christmas books that I save up to read in December. It isn’t a long list, but I try to make room for at least one every year. At first, I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. I don’t feel a strong pull towards Christmas books in general—although I celebrate, I’m not exactly a deck-the-halls-er. Usually my celebrations are a little more quiet, and the highlight is our family stocking exchange. The few times that I have attempted a straight/cis/allo M/F Christmas romance, I was left wanting. So why do I save up queer holiday stories, especially F/F romances, when I’m not usually much of a romance reader?

I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one. I run a bi and lesbian books tumblr, and every year, I see requests for queer holiday books, especially YA ones. Unfortunately, although there is a modest collection of queer Christmas romances and a handful of other holidays, queer holiday YA is very difficult to find, and any genre other than romance is thin on the ground. It’s frustrating to see so much demand for this and not see publishing houses prioritizing these titles—it’s not that no one is writing these stories, it’s that they’re not being picked up and promoted.

Which brings me back to my original question: what is the appeal? Why is there such demand for queer holidays books, especially for teens? In one respect, it’s simple: lots of people like themed reading, and queer people are no exception. It’s not unusual to want to prioritize horror books at Halloween or Christmas books in December, if that’s what you celebrate. I don’t think that’s the whole story, though.

Holidays are complicated for many queer people. It’s a time of family, togetherness, and tradition—and for many queer people, those have been difficult to come by. Biological families aren’t always accepting of their queer relatives, and whether that means ties are severed completely, or those relationships are made complicated, it affects how we think of holidays. Many people have to be closeted around their family or change their gender expression. They may be misgendered or face microaggressions when they get together over the holidays. Others have made their own chosen families, or are still seeking where they belong.

Tradition is also a sticking point for many queer people. Tradition can mean familiarity and happy memories, like exchanging stockings is for my family, but it can also be suffocating. It can be a reason to stifle someone’s gender expression, or an excuse to keep another family member unwillingly in the closet. Tradition can be used to reinforce repressive gender roles, or even to turn away from financial realities—it’s tradition for everyone to give everyone else a gift, regardless of who lost their job this year!

That tension between traditional depictions of holidays—as a mostly harmonious gathering of biological family—and the reality of many queer people’s lives doesn’t negate the appeal, however. In fact, I think that the fact that it doesn’t always match that vision of the holidays can make us long to have our own version. We want to see our own possible futures, and that’s even more important for teenagers. A queer holiday book, especially a sappy romance, can make us imagine that we can keep all of the good parts of the holidays without having to put up with the bad parts.

Queer holiday stories matter because they reconcile past and possibility. They imagine a family and traditions that are welcoming, that don’t require us to sacrifice parts of ourselves to fit in. I’m lucky enough to have a biological family who is accepting, but many other queer and trans people don’t have that privilege. Queer holiday stories let us immerse ourselves in a world that is gentler and kinder, that never asks us to choose between being our authentic selves and maintaining our familial relationships.

Even for queer people who have accepting biological families, it can still be alienating to see the same cis/het/allo Christmas stories over and over. Queer holiday books fill in those gaps as well as letting us imagine our own future traditions. I hope that soon we see a lot more queer holiday stories hit the market, especially teen ones and stories that depict many different belief system, races, genders, and other intersectionalities. The demand is there, so now we’re just waiting for publishing to pick up the slack!

Looking for sapphic Christmas books? Check out the Christmas tag!

This post originally ran on Book Riot.

Hoping I can post my own fanart on this page…. anyway, She-ra has made such an impact on me. I grew up in a world where stories never represented me. : actuallesbians

Hoping I can post my own fanart on this page....

A place for discussions for and by cis and trans lesbians, bisexual girls, chicks who like chicks, bi-curious folks, dykes, butches, femmes, girls who kiss girls, birls, bois, aces, LGBT allies, and anyone else interested! Our subreddit is named r/actuallesbians because r/lesbians is not really for or by lesbians–it was meant to be a joke. We’re not a militant or exclusive group, so feel free to join up!

Just 2 per cent of recent big budget films include meaningful LGBT stories

Just 2 per cent of recent big budget films include meaningful LGBT stories

Jake Gyllenhaal starred in Brokeback Mountain with the late Heath Ledger. (Focus Features)

Just two per cent of big budget films released in the last decade have had meaningful LGBT+ representation, according to an academic.

Dr Ellie Lockhart, who has a PhD in communications, has been analysing recent films to figure out what kind of queer-themed films do well at the box office.

As part of her research, Lockhart has been analysing LGBT+ representation in small, independent dramas and big budget films – and while representation is lacking in both, it’s especially bad in the major studio releases.

“Here’s the raw truth: I found just under 100 movies to include from 2010 to now,” Lockhart told The Observer. “That’s out of a dataset of 5,000.”

LGBT+ people are ‘very underrepresented’ in big budget cinema, according to researcher Ellie Lockhart.

“Even if we assumed I made coding errors and missed a couple of films, that’s two per cent of films including any major queer character/character who expresses any sort of queerness.”

She continued: “We’re very underrepresented, and we’re even more underrepresented in big budget cinema. I found about 36 films that qualified as not grounded drama films that met the criteria.

“Without drilling down at all into the content of these films, these are the films that fit the movies watched by the majority of people – the actual popular films that have LGBT+ people in them.

Representation in general is important because as a culture we recognise stories define us, for good and for ill.

“That’s bad, and it certainly counteracts any claims about a ‘tipping point’ or the ‘gay/trans agenda’ being in everything,” she said.

In compiling her data, Lockhart searched through IMDB for information on LGBT+ films and compared them to films without any queer representation.

Lockhart only included films that had meaningful LGBT+ representation.

Lockhart also came up with her own criteria films had to meet to be included. They had to have made any amount of money at the United States box office or been released through a major streaming platform, and, crucially, they must have had a major character who is openly identified as LGBT+.

Notably, she also only included films that featured queer characters that engaged in “unambiguous queer behaviour”, such as kissing, sex, talking to others about their same-sex attraction, or being open in some way about being trans.

In short, for a film to make the cut in Lockhart’s study, the LGBT+ representation must be “explicit”.

She chose not to include films like Captain Marvel, saying she didn’t want to reward films where a queer character’s identity could be denied.

Lockhart said she hopes her data will help shine a light on the lack of meaningful LGBT+ representation in big budget films.

“Representation in general is important because as a culture we recognise stories define us, for good and for ill. People feel invisible when they don’t see themselves in stories.”