Queer media broaches conversations on queer existence and resilience, and gives the opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community to see themselves represented in an accurate way. Here, we’ve laid out some of our favorite and most poignant examples of queer representation through various mediums.
OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, album by SOPHIE
SOPHIE was a Scottish trans woman musician, and her tragic and untimely death earlier this year was painful for many of her fans and the LGBTQ+ community. SOPHIE’s legacy and artistic genius will forever reside in one of her most well-known works, “OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES.” Released in 2018, this album is emotional, genre-bending and magnificent. Even three years after its initial release, the album continues to sound fresh and post-contemporary, unlike anything that is currently being released. “OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES” is a distorted, beautiful and impassioned album that explores themes of self, body and love.
Some of my favorite tracks off this album are “Is It Cold In The Water?” and “Not Okay” and the iconic “Immaterial.” The gritty, chaotic and pop-electric maximalist style of these songs showcases SOPHIE’s ability as not only a producer but also a songwriter. Pushing through the boundaries of the definitions of electronic and pop music, SOPHIE defined herself as a leading figure within the music industry. Her artwork, artistic vision and influence will not be forgotten.
“Paris is Burning” (1990), movie directed by Jennie Livingston
“Paris is Burning” was directed by Jennie Livingston and released in 1990. The film provides an honest, blunt and raw depiction of the lives of queer people and drag queens in New York City in the late 1980s. It follows the ballroom scene in New York City and the origins of voguing.
In the film, Livingston shows the importance of having queer spaces and communities for people to explore and create identity. The film shows how spaces like these are crucial, as they provide a system of support for those who are discriminated against and disowned for identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Much of LGBTQ+ history is not taught in school, and while positive progress is being made, queer history must be sought out independently by those in the community.
This film is important as it depicts queer history. At its core, the documentary reveals a section of history and a perspective of the LGBTQ+ community that was never taught to me. “Paris is Burning” is a film that I hold close, as it shines a light on the experiences of those who came before me. I highly recommend everyone watch this classic and important film; it will make you cry, so have some tissues close by.
“The L Word” (2004-2009), show directed by Ilene Chaiken
“The L Word,” a Showtime series that ran for six seasons from 2004 to 2009, was, frankly, light-years ahead of its time. This series, a television drama cinematizing a group of lesbian and bisexual women in Hollywood, was a breath of fresh air to watch as a young adult. Years later, I’m still marveling at its grandeur.
The diverse group of women and their lives illustrated in “The L Word” hold a candle for queer women everywhere, as it deviates from the predominantly white, cisgender male characters in queer media. Think “Love, Simon” or “Call Me by Your Name,” which are both excellent films but lack in the inclusion of queer female perspectives.
In 2019, “The L Word: Generation Q” premiered as a sequel to the original and has completed two seasons, both of which I’m absolutely delighted by.
“Milk” (2008), movie directed by Gus Van Sant
Based on the life of pioneer Harvey Milk, an openly gay man intent on transcending artificial barriers constructed by a heteronormative society, "Milk" depicts a life of service and courage. Milk was a gay-rights activist and the one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S., breaking new ground in California and beyond for the LGBTQ+ community.
This life story of Milk, as illustrated in this film, is absolutely riveting as it is sensual and queer and abundant with humanity. Throughout the film, we see Milk present in multidimensional forms — as a politician, a businessman, a queer person and lover. Youth today can look to Milk for examples of LGBTQ+ individuals taking up space.
If you are as enamored with biographical films and LGBTQ+ history as I am, “Milk” is the movie for you.
“All the Young Men,” book by Ruth Coker Burks
“All the Young Men” is a biography of Ruth Coker Burks which will enthrall you in a way that imaginatively catapults you to the thick of the 1980s AIDS epidemic — a crisis which disproportionately impacted LGBTQ+ communities — and the enduring resilience of the people it impacted.
Coker Burks instills pride and activism in readers as she relays her experiences advocating for young men afflicted by AIDS in Arkansas. This narrative is a sensitive and impassioned look back at one woman who valiantly campaigned to educate the public on AIDS and bring dignity and empathy back to those it affected.
Queerness in media is incredibly important and representation is still lacking across all platforms, but we hope this short selection of queer media has piqued your interest and cracked open the closet door for you.
Rebecca Hobart is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rjhobart
Joseph McKee is the design director at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @josephdmckee