Your LGBTQ+ cultural recommendations
Our top films, books, music and more in celebration of Pride month.
with contributions from our team and readers - published anonymously
Glossary of Terms
Resource by Stonewall
A resource I have found particularly useful many times in the past, especially when I came out to my family twice (once with my sexuality and once with my gender), is Stonewall’s Glossary of Terms. This is particularly useful in helping people understand the basic words, terms and identities to do with LGBTQ+ society and people. It is simple and easy to understand, laid out as an alphabetical list with descriptions underneath. Although it may not hold every single term, it has the majority, and this simple tool has come very much in handy when trying to educate others.
Film by Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell, 2017
So many LGBTQ+ films I’ve watched miss the mark when it comes to feeling represented. Becks, however, didn’t. Based on the real life of singer/songwriter Alyssa Robbins, Becks (Lena Hall), a musician, moves back home to live with her mother, former nun (Christine Lahti) after breaking up with her girlfriend (Hayley Kiyoko). Yes, Hayley Kiyoko is in this film, and she sings – bonus! The music throughout is brilliant with most tracks being recorded live on set by Hall. Some of the film’s creative team are a part of the LGBTQ+ community which helped to deliver an authentic and real story.
It's A Sin
T.V. series by Russel T. Davies, 2021
It’s A Sin is a must watch if you haven’t seen it already. It's a heartbreaking portrayal of a fictional group of friends living in London in the 80s during the AIDs crisis, tracking the effect of the virus on the lives of the characters over the span of 10 years. It’s funny and heartwarming and educational in the best sense - in that it enables you to both learn about the factual elements of the epidemic and understand the real life impact of the disease. It also covers the homophobic responses to the epidemic, reminding us that even in 2021 there is always more work to be done both at home and worldwide.
If Not, Winter
Book by Sappho, translated by Anne Carson
If you're an academic nerd on a classics hype like me, it's about time you dip into classical literature's most famous Lesbian, Sappho. Read If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho translated by Anne Carson – every existing phrase from the ancient Greek poet is layed out with spaces where the forgotten parts should be. It's fascinating learning how different periods of history — Victorians, I'm looking at you — have tried to explain away Sappho's love for women in her poetry. The gaps in this collection feel like a space to refill with everything we know to be true in the 21st century. Also: reading Sappho on the train feels like some Gay Academia aesthetic, which I dig.
Album by Janelle Monáe, 2018
If you’re looking for music which can help you get in touch with your queer side, I recommend Dirty Computer. Not only is this a fantastic album with elements of pop, rock, synth, R&B and soul, amongst other genres, it is accompanied by an incredible narrative film of the same name. Many of the songs have queer themes and narratives, one of my favourites being Pynk featuring Grimes. The album also has themes of empowerment, with Monáe herself considering the album ‘a homage to women and the spectrum of sexual identities’.
Call Me By Your Name
Film directed by Luca Guadagnino, 2017, based on the book by André Aciman, 2007
Call Me by Your Name follows the heady, humid affection between two young men who share a summer in 1980s Italy. It's beautiful, humbling and intoxicating, and felt like the great big bucks of Hollywood were finally realising non-heteronormative protagonists could resonate with a mainstream audience. While some have criticised the film for brushing over the many of the negative socio-political realities of being queer at the time, (and rightly add that LGBTQ+ representation amongst the film's cast should have been better), I think the film still succeeds in painting human connection and understanding (across all friendship/gender/sexuality lines) as something unmistakably positive.
Playlist by Gal-dem
I've loved listening to this chilled and smooth playlist the last few months, and am so happy it introduced me to so many new artists and several new favourites. Put together by gal-dem in celebration of Valentine's Day, it collects together songs from artists who are both LGBTQ+ and people of colour.) A mini recommendation that will hopefully lead you down the path to many more!
Poetry Anthology by Nightboat Books, 2018
This collection celebrates the diverse, revolutionary voices within the BIPOC queer poetry community. Nepantla primarily centers around the transient feeling of shifting between various communities and identities. It includes a vast range of writing styles and covers over 100 years of poetic development, featuring writers from the 1920s Harlem Renaissance to contemporary poets on the precipice of their literary careers. Whilst in recent years BIPOC queer writers have finally been given a space to share their work, the collection refrains from engaging a narrative centering around the 'discovery' of their voices, as that would belittle their active contribution to the modernist literature. Instead, it does a wonderful job of amplifying their perspectives and stresses their integral part in the discussion of themes such as gender, sexuality, body image, kink, police violence, joy and religion. Despite being one of the first anthologies on the topic, the editors maintain a humble, self-aware tone and acknowledge the difficulties that come with representing such a broad literary community. Nepantla is an amazing collection of talented, poignant writing but its strongest asset is that it reminds the reader that we still have work to do.
T.V. series by Mae Martin and Joe Hampson
Questions about gender identity, repressed bisexuality, PTSD, sexual exploration, and family dynamics are themes that form a rotating constellation in this twelve-part series. Mae Martin’s semi-autobiographical comedy drama spotlights characters who are often on the outskirts of queer spaces. Mae, who at the beginning of the series, is starting to question “her” gender identity, and George, their middle class and repressed “mostly-straight” girlfriend, wade tentatively, chaotically, and sometimes explosively into these uncharted waters.
The result doesn’t always make you “Feel Good”, but it does create a space for the camp of us who are queer - and confused.
Book by Joan Roughgarden
In Evolution's Rainbow, Roughgarden delves into the biggest false justification of transphobia and homophobia – the idea that LGBTQ+ people are somehow 'against nature'. From half the animal kingdom being intersex, to hugely diverse gender roles and the prevalence of non-reproductive sexual practices, Roughgarden sheds a light on the diversity of nature, and crucially puts people inside of that bracket instead of as a separate thing to be judged beside it. Sometimes you have to hear it from a doctor of ecology and evolutionary biology for it to sink in. This book reminds us to 'question who gets to speak for nature'.
Film directed by Céline Sciamma, 2011
Tomboy tells the story of a child who, upon moving to a new neighborhood one summer, seizes the opportunity to experiment with their gender identity. Written and directed by Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Girlhood), Tomboy follows the story of garçon manqué (tomboy) Laure, who’s new peers mistake her for a boy when her family move into a new Parisian flat. Laure becomes Mickaël, a preteen boy whose summer is filled with everything young summers are filled with: annoying siblings, football, first kisses…
Though the film asks more questions than it answers, it’s remarkable in its gentle, tender exploration of gender nonconformity and trans identity. What drew me in about it was how it neither minimises nor forces the violent reactions of the adults, and classmates, surrounding Mickaël. In the UK? Catch it on the BFI player as part of Pride Month (top tip: if you sign up for your trial, you can watch it for free!).
Every Gay Movie
Blog by Owen Atkinson
A resource for more resources! If you're after even more films, check out Owen's blog where he reviews, well, every gay movie. Owen's aim is to assess whether the films have an authentic queer perspective. Not only will this give you brilliant recommendations for where to direct your viewing, categorised by lesbian, gay, bi, trans and +, but the reviews are both on-the-nail and very entertaining reading. Each review also includes a 'Britney Line Time' - a Britney Spears lyric that most fits the film's mood. What more could you want?!