Orphan Black

Orphan Black features a lot of just plain weird shit. If you like clones, mystique, and secret organizations, this show is for you. It’s currently completed, so you can even binge the entire show in a few sleepless nights. (I do not recommend this. Personal experience talking.)

The show features Felix, a gay man and the adopted brother of the main character. He is a modern artist, sex-worker, and  the (occasional) voice of reason. There is also Cosima and Dr. Delphine, a couple of lesbians, the first is one of the clones of the main character and the other an undercover doctor turned to the light side. One of the clones, Tony, is a trans man.

All clones are played by the remarkable Tatiana Maslany.

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Bob’s Burgers

The show is a great adult cartoon with a fun family dynamic that doesn’t rely on the “I hate my spouse and children” trope for all of its storytelling. It focuses on the Belchers working their family restaurant and going through their ridiculous lives together.

A lot of queer people tend to like it because of the subverting of those tired tropes a la Married… With Children. But there’s also some fun with it when it comes to representation.

A group that almost never gets the chance to be shown on screen is trans women sex-workers. The first of the group introduced is Marshmallow, a woman described by Bob, the main character, as “comes and goes as she pleases, she answers to no-one and she is truly free.” The others in the group of recurring trans sex-workers are GlitterMarbles, and Cha-Cha.

Glee

We knew this was coming. We need to have that talk.

Glee.

The word itself now feels chaotic.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I watched almost all of it in high-school. My mom, brothers, and I piled into my mom’s bedroom and watched it together because what else do you do with dumpster fire shows? We did the same thing with Lost. I was much more invested in the show than they were, but I didn’t know why yet.

There’s a lot that Glee did wrong. We know that. There’s a lot they did right too. But something that I think we can all appreciate is that it was there with constant gay drama when no one else was. We got Kurt from the very beginning with all his twink power. Rachel with her two dads. Santana and Brittney loving each other so much.

But there was one scene that got me in more ways than one.

Unique definitely lived up to her name. While her character wasn’t always handled well, this scene struck a lot of chords in a lot of people. Especially during the time when bathroom bans were the norm. She was a complex character. The writing for her was on par with everyone else. Which means that while she may have done some questionable and Not Good things, it was always something that literally any other character could have done. It was her struggle that set up the conversation about transphobia and how we can stop it. And that we aren’t alone in the fight.

The show opened up a lot of doors to a lot of conversations. From stress to STDs to transphobia to rape culture. It wasn’t afraid to try to talk about topics that are frankly relevant to a lot of American highschoolers. Granted it is way more over the top than my (and nearly anyone else’s) high school experience ever was.

The representation in this show led to a lot more of an understanding in how queer characters should be treated. Either because the show did things very well or because they clearly had no idea what they were talking about. And the nice thing is that as weird as it sounds, we were able to see break-ups. We were able to see how it is to be the only queer kid in your grade and have to deal with regrowing after high school because now you can be you. We see kids coming out and being accepted. We see them not. The queer kids were given the same treatment as the straight ones. They got to sing out their drama just as much as anyone else did.

Rant and Rave: Ru Paul’s Drag Race

Despite the adamance in the trans community that drag is no longer in the same place it was thirty years ago or even ten years ago, somehow drag is more prominent in what producers have decided is Good Representation™. And even though people have called out RuPaul on his transphobia, he’s held up on a pedestal more than likely because of how long he’s been in the active in the gay community. And he has done good work.

His roles and cameos in queer film has always brought more viewers to movies that would have otherwise never have really been able to spread. And undoubtedly, there was a time where his stances on things were considered socially acceptable in his circles.

However, there still needs to be a critical eye at the culture that has developed about drag because of him. We live in a world where people have zero problem with referring to drag queens by she/her pronouns, using their drag name in place of their birth name, praising their fashion. But then those same people will turn and have trouble with referring to trans women by she/her pronouns even after years of knowing someone, using their correct name in conversation, and criticizing butch trans women on their choices in style when it isn’t hyper-feminine.

Of course this doesn’t all rest on Ru Paul’s shoulders; he isn’t the only person in the world who has been transphobic. But he has put drag on a pedestal that he has said belongs to gay men without remembering that drag was also a way for trans women to explore and express themselves through their dress, shows, and culture. The fact that he discounts trans women’s role in drag has trickled into how other people respond to drag in the same way that misinformation spreads; it leads to young queers thinking that drag is only for gay men, nevermind that there are drag kings, a high amount of non-binary folk who do drag, and the trans women who develop performances that critique life as it is.

Queer-wise: Gwen and Grace

Gwendolyn is a student at Texas A&M University. She is a trans woman who powers through her long distance relationship with the upmost passion and willpower to not pick-up and run out of state to her girlfriends. Grace is also a student at Texas A&M University, focusing on her art work. Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her friends and doodle. Due to certain circumstances involving their varying level of “out of the closet,” their names have been changed. The following interview has been transcribed word for word, for better or worse.

What movie or show growing up was really important to you?

Gwen: What’s the max age you’ll accept for growing up? [Yes.] Fucking.  Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It was a huge part of the development of my sense of humor. I barely remember growing up, so please be nice to me.

Grace: Absolutely Teen Titans. It was the only show I recorded on DVR.

Looking back what do you think about it would still impact you?

Gwen: Like, now? It makes me think of like rejecting masculinity and what was expected of me going my own way. Do I cry watching it sometimes? Yes, I have.

Grace: Ah geez. Teen Titans was like the example of good friendship and I think that’s why I watched it so much. Since I didn’t have that good of friendships and I was home alone all the time. And it was like a supplement and now it feels really nostalgic like old friends which is why I hate revamps and all that nonsense. I’ve never thought about why I liked Teen Titans so much and I kinda want to cry now? So thanks.

What’s the best queer representation you’ve seen recently?

Gwen: Do indie virtual novels count? [I technically didn’t elaborate and that’s on me.] In mainstream stuff, the answer is going to be Prey, I think. In it there’s a lesbian couple on the station and they’re some of the last survivors of the Incident. They die, but like. They’re alive for a bit and I love them. Additionally, if you play a female main character, you had a relationship with a woman called Mikaela a couple months before the game starts. She’s there regardless of your gender. Both of them are treated like super casually and it makes me happy to see.

Grace: I think the best representation I’ve seen is in this super cute webcomic that has a whole variety of relationships, and it’s really nice. This webcomic just had good representation all around! Different body types and skin colors and handicaps. It’s just really, really good. It’s called Always Human.

How long have you been openly queer?

Gwen: I’m not openly queer so like, negative eight years.

Grace: I’m not really open to anyone at home. I think actually it’s like four people total who know because I’m still figuring literally everything out.

How has being queer changed how you see movies and TV?

Gwen: Uh, fucking. I feel like I appreciate like characters and stuff more. Like maybe it’s not just being afraid of emotions and stuff. Also shipping is a thing now, so I feel less creepy about being gay. What with the not wanting to look like the creepy dude reblogging wlw (women loving women) fanart.

Grace: I notice a lot more when different relationships are included, and I notice it a lot more when they’re not. And because I’m pan I still don’t see myself specifically a lot because it presumes that they’re with one or the other, then they’re with only that. And they’re mostly side characters so you don’t really find out, you know? I ship a lot more characters than I used to because there’s like double the options now.

Queer-Wise: Taylor, Alex, and Victor

Today I get the pleasure of interviewing three incredibly queer folks in a poly relationship: Taylor, Alex, and Victor. Taylor is a trans woman, Alex an agender lesbian, and Victor a nonbinary ace. Taylor is a full time student at Texas A&M University; Victor is on sabbatical for a year; Alex is finishing up their last year of high school. The following has been transcribed word for word, for better or worse.

What movie or show growing up was really important to you?

Taylor: Scooby-Doo and Zombie Island where they- [Victor: Hex Girls!] OOoooo yes! They were my gay awakening! That’s when young me decided to become the big tiddy goth GF of my dreams.

Alex: 50 First Dates – but NOT for Adam Sandler. I liked watching Drew Barrymore because she was really hot. My mom told me when I was little I would sit with my hand in my diaper watching it.

Victor: I genuinely can’t think of any one thing. Ha, you guys think I have good memories growing up!

Looking back, what do you think about it would still impact you?

Taylor: The Hex Girls. They’re still really hot.

Alex: I had my gay awakening at a very young age, and I think that really impacted me. I mean Drew Barrymore is still really hot.

Victor: I can’t think of anything! I’ll think of something later!

What’s the best queer representation you’ve seen recently?

Taylor: Tipping the Velvet. It’s got the Gayest Feels of twenty-gay-teen.

Alex: Probably Queer Eye. I haven’t seen a lot of queer things.

Victor: [Alex: Me, bitch.] Sure! Um… okay. Recent would probably have to be Rock and Riot. It’s on Tumblr.

How long have you been openly queer?

Taylor: Mmm. My senior year of high school. I came out that year as trans and queer. And getting gayer every year.

Alex: I came out in seventh grade after falling in love with my best friend. [Taylor and Victor: Gay!]

Victor: I’ve been out since sixth grade. I came out as lesbian. And in eighth grade I came out as not cis. I’ve been open ever since.

How has this changed how you see movies and TV?

Taylor: There has to be queer in a show to watch it! Come on! There has to be queer!

Alex: Since coming out, I’ve been more critical of heteronormativity in TV shows, and I look forward to queer-centric stuff.

Victor: Excellent Gaydar. It’s perfected my Queerdar.

The PowerPuff Girls (Classic)

Quite a few of us will remember the disaster train that was HIM from the PowerPuff Girls. However, when we were little kids watching these girls beat the ever living snot out of evil, we maybe didn’t notice how it was a disaster train. HIM like quite a few queer coded characters was larger than life, flamboyant, and effeminate. In fact it took me ages to realize that HIM was actually meant to be a man at all, despite the explicit use of he/him/his pronouns.

HIM
HIM of PowerPuff Girls fame

The thing is? HIM was never intended to be queer coded. The entire show revolved around feminist ideas and blending society’s ideas of gender-conformity. We see other characters like the Professor wearing his signature pink ruffled apron while doing household chores just as often as we see Mojo Jojo.

So why do we assume that another gender non-conforming character is meant to be representation when nothing else in the show is immediately held to the same standard? Maybe it’s because of how we’re used to expecting trans representation in TV and film. We expect the worst, so when a character looks and moves like the worst, then it must be another line on the list of shitty things we have to deal with. There has even been a point where straight cis people have assumed that HIM was an explicitly transphobic caricature instead of just another character rejecting gender norms.

The Professor
Professor Utonium doing his cleaning around the house.

For a show in the late 90s and early 2000s the ideas behind it all were really great and progressive. But the fact that the literal devil comes off as a caricature of a queer man is less than ideal to say the least in both how society is used to consuming trans characters and in the execution of HIM’s character design. Whether we like it or not, society has decided for us that HIM is trans representation and it’s terrible.