Happy Pride: Queer Media to Help You Celebrate

Pride month is here again and to celebrate I have put together a list of comics, tv series, and games that feature and support people of LGBTQIA community. Pride is a wonderful month dedicated to honoring these beautiful, resilient, and powerful humans and their history, so I figure a great way to support is by enjoying and promoting queer art and stories.

Pride is also about remembering queer history and recognizing that we, as a society, still have so far to go in terms of equality and treatment of LGBTQIA people. Instances such as the attack on two transgender woman, London Jade and Jasmine Infiniti, in Brooklyn just last week shows how little we have actually progressed.  For any allies reading this list, recognize that the best way to support the community this month (and every month) is by showing up…

Go to Pride; vote for LGBTQIA congressional candidates like Danica Roem; speak up and stop harassment when you see it anywhere (online or in real life); check your privilege when necessary and use it to make space for those who need it this; educate other cisgender, heterosexual people about how to be a true ally; and, most importantly, let those close to you know you love them for who they are always.

And without further ado, here is the list!

Comics

Lumberjanes

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This series from Boom was only meant to be an eight part series, but was thankfully kept on for more due to critical acclaim. And rightfully so, Lumberjanes is an incredibly fun and empowering comic series. The story centers around five young scouts (Jo, April, Molly, Mai, and Ripley) attending “Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.” The Roanoke Cabin scouts happen upon some strange occurrences in the woods near their camp and it spurs them on countless adventures as they try to solve the mysterious surrounding them.

Lumberjanes also happens to feature quite a few queer characters in its leading cast. Jo is a trangender female and is the leader of the scouts; a first for a major comic series. Two of the other scouts, Molly and Mai, are in the cutest relationship ever depicted in a comic. Seriously look at this…

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How can you not fall in love with them? Just do yourself a favor and go have some fun with the beautiful humans of Roanoke Cabin.

Fun Home

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Written by none-other-than Alison Bechdel herself, Fun Home is a memoir and examination of Bechdel’s life and relationship with her father. Fun Home is a powerful narrative that explores sexual orientation, family dynamics and dysfunction, gender roles, and emotional abuse. The graphic novel is a labyrinth of memories that Bechdel traverses with certain stories being told and re-told as she allows more of herself and her family to be exposed.

A large portion of the memoir deals with Bechdel’s own struggle with her sexual identity and how she was able to come to accept that she is a lesbian. This exploration is juxtaposed to her father’s own repressive tendencies and his inability to admit to his homosexuality. Fun Home is a fascinating graphic novel that deserves a place on anyone’s self.

Midnighter

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I talked about this comic last year in a “Comics You Should Be Reading…” post.  Steve Orlando’s recent Midnighter series is an exhilarating ride and by far one of my favorite series to come out of DC’s New 52.  Originally created in 1998 as part of the Wildstorm universe by Warren Ellis, Midnighter is actually one of the first openly gay superheroes and is an all-around badass. He is essentially a combination of Kato, Batman, and the Punisher.

Orlando’s run with Midnighter does an excellent job of depicting intimate and natural relationships between gay men while also being a thrilling scifi, superhero romp. The series was so successful that DC asked Orlando to bring the character back for a mini-series starring Midnighter alongside his long time boyfriend and demigod, Apollo.

QU33R

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QU33R is an anthology of legendary, as well as up and coming, alt-queer comic book writers and artists. The anthology is edited and curated by Rob Kirby and features 33 exceptional comics that all speak to present queer experiences. Here is an except from the introduction to the anthology:

QU33R is composed of all-new work from 33 of the best alt-queer comics creators working today, a snapshot of life as we see it, as only we can see it, here at the dawn of the two thousand and teens. The artists themselves are of varying statistics and life views – some of whom may not necessarily identify as queer artists, some challenging even what queer is…”

QU33R is a necessary book that catalogues a wide variety of queer narratives and distinct art styles. I think I’ll let these panels speak for themselves…

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If you have the opportunity and the funds, pick up this beautiful anthology ASAP!

Video Games

Life is Strange

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An episodic adventure series that follows the story of Max Caulfield who discovers that she has the ability to rewind time at any given moment. Max uses her new found abilities to help stop a number of tragedies throughout the fictional town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. The series examines themes of sexual violence and emotional trauma as Max and her best friend, Chloe Price, uncover that young women are being kidnapped and killed in their hometown.

Life is Strange is also a coming-of-age story and follows the journey of a woman trying to figure out who she is. The series is known for its focus on self-exploration and finding one’s values; it makes you question what you truly love most, your hometown or those closet to you.  Throughout the episodes, players are able to develop an intimate, and possibly romantic, relationship with Chloe. In the end, players must decide how important this relationship with Chloe is to them. It is a compelling series that often leaves you question whether or not you truly made the right decision.

Gone Home

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Another game that features a prominent, lesbian coming-of-age story. You play as Katie Greenbriar who comes home after being overseas only to find that her family home is vacant. As the player you are given no hints or clues as to what you need to do within the home. The game starts you off with finding a note from your sister Samantha who asks you not to investigate what happened. For all the obvious reasons you ignore your sister’s request and begin exploring the house.

The story of the Greenbrair’s gets told as you discover notes, photos, and other items scattered throughout the house. Upon further exploration, you learn about Sam’s romantic relationship with a young woman named Yolanda. As you discover more notes and information, family memories begin to play out in front of you.

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These flashback sequences allow the player to piece together what life was like in the now empty home. The game has been praised for giving players the ability to truly live in someone else’s shoes and its dedication to non-traditional story telling. The game’s developer, The Fullbright Company, received equal praise for their willingness to transcend the typical stories presented to gamers.

This is Where I Want to Die

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More of a visual novel, This is Where I Want to Die puts players in the shoes of a man who is on his death bed. All of the characters are portrayed as black silhouettes and you don’t actually get to see who you are until the end of the novel. Through a series of flashbacks and memories it is revealed how you got to where you are now. You learn that you were out with your boyfriend, Brad, and best friend, Ann, before being attacked by homophobic assailants. The novel’s developer, Marcel Weyers, wanted to create a story and experience that spoke out against homophobia.

TV Shows

Steven Universe

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This critically acclaimed animated series from Cartoon Network has been unanimously praised for its progressive story telling and representation of LGBT characters. It is one of the only mainstream animated series to feature prominently queer themes. The show revolves around the adventures of three humaniod aliens known as the Crystal Gems (Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst) and Steven who is a half-Gem.  The show maturely depicts lesbian relationships through the characters of Ruby and Sapphire. The pair are romantically involved throughout the show and actually fuse to create Garnet.

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The show often plays around with androgyny as well through Steven and his friend Connie. Their fusion into “Stevonnie” is a representation of all their qualities both shared and unique.

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It also serves as a potent metaphor for puberty and teens entering their first intimate relationship. Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar explains in an interview with i09:

Stevonnie challenges gender norms as an individual, but also serves as a metaphor for all the terrifying firsts in a first relationship, and what it feels like to hit puberty and suddenly find yourself with the body of an adult, how quickly that happens, how it feels to have a new power over people, or to suddenly find yourself objectified, all for seemingly no reason since you’re still just you… and they are still just them..

Steven Universe isn’t afraid to openly explore themes of gender, sexuality and queerness. It happily goes out of its way to make queerness a natural and integral part of its universe. Lets hope shows like Steven Universe continue to be the norm for cartoons going forward.

Sense8

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One of Netflix’s more unique offerings, Sense8 is a scifi series that details the lives of eight people from across the world who become mentally and emotionally connected. Sensate can literally feel and inhabit the bodies of those connected to them, allowing for sensate to see and understand each others’ experiences. They can grant each other access to their individual skill sets; such as how Sun offers her martial arts abilities in hairy situations and Lito brings his signature charm to play a quick con.

The show features a few LBTQ lead characters including Lito and Nomi. Lito is a Spanish actor who attempts to hide his homosexuality and relationship with his boyfriend, Hernando. Nomi is a trans woman hacktivist who has a beautiful relationship with a woman named Amanita (seriously one of my favorite relationships in a tv show). The series liberally examines and features sex and sexuality. There is even a scene in season one where all of the Sensate experience sex together via their mental link thus alluding to a communal sense of bisexuality.

Unfortunately the series was recently cancelled by Netflix since it was expensive to produce and wasn’t pulling a large enough audience to justify the cost. Maybe we can encourage all our friends to binge this show… the more people watching, the more we can encourage Netflix to bring this pivotal and much needed series back for season three.

Sailor Moon

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While character story arcs and relationships were altered upon its US release, Sailor Moon is one of the first animes to feature openly gay characters. Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune have a deep romantic love for one another, but the characters were rewritten to be cousins when brought to the US since the producing company, DiC, wanted to appease Western audience sensibilities. The translation is awkward and uncalled for, so thankfully when VIZ Media gained the rights to Sailor Moon they reversed the translation. Viz Media’s 2014 remake, Sailor Moon Crystal, presents Neptune and Uranus as the lovers they were always written to be.

Sailor Moon Crystal also restores a number of LGBT antagonists that were rewritten following its Western transition. Many of Sailor Moon’s foes were originally written as either trangender, bisexual, or gay, so it is refreshing that all of these characters get to exist as they were meant to.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

 

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If you haven’t watched Joss Whedon’s unanimously praised horror fantasy series, do yourself a favor and binge watch it now! Buffy is one of the best things to come out of the late 90s and presents not only a strong female lead, but one of the first depictions of a lesbian relationship on mainstream television. While studying witchcraft and becoming more in tune with her powers, Willow falls for another witch named Tara Maclay. The two quickly become the most positive relationship in the series and are praised by fans for being an excellent portrayal of a lesbian relationship.

I won’t go into anymore details since what happens between Tara and Willow is heart-breaking and I’d rather not give anything away. Let’s just say that Buffy the Vampire Slayer cements Willow as one of the more complicated female characters to grace mainstream television.

Honorable Mention:

Open world and dense rpgs like Skyrim and the Dragon Age series – more and more rpg games are allowing players to develop same sex relationships with NPCs. The problem is the options in-game for such relationships are limited and depictions of LGBT characters are often boiled down to stereotypes. Most of these games do an excellent job of presenting lesbian characters and relationships, but fall short when it comes to representing gay, transgender, or other queer characters.

And that is it for my list. I’m hoping this inspires many of you to take the time to support stories and experiences positively portraying the LGBTIA community. If there is anything we need right now it is art, media, and narratives correctly depicting the experiences of queer people and other marginalized groups.

What are some of your favorite pieces of queer media? Anything you think I’ve missed?

Sound off in the comments and have a wonderful year of Pride!!!

 

 

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