just how queer was 2018?
From Miss Vanjie and #20gayteen, to the advancement of LGBTQ rights around the world and the fight against transphobia, we look back the LGBTQ highs and lows of 2018.
Like a hormonal teenager unsure of their own body, as the 2000s have reached their adolescence, society as we thought we knew it has been trampled, Trumped and turned upside down. Looking back over the last year, as the 2010s head toward adulthood, it’s safe to say that things are getting more and more batshit crazy.
One good thing that has come out in the last decade or so, however, is the power of the LGBTQ community. In fact, as each year passes it seems that the world gets more and more queer. From the advancement of LGBTQ civil rights, the realisation that basically everything is a little gay (seriously, everything is gay), the deconstruction of gender norms and the umpteenth comeback of Cher, the world is really queer.
So, as 2018 comes to a close, it seems fitting to reminisce about the last 12 months and ask the question: just how queer was 2018?
2018 was the year that we got three (!) seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race (All Stars 4 premieres 14 December) and the year that the show grew exponentially. Drag is officially mainstream.
However, the biggest, most impactful thing to come out of Drag Race this year has to be Miss Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. Eliminated in the first episode of Season 10, her exit was the most memorable and viral moment any queen could ask for. As she exited the stage walking backwards, she recited her name three times like she was delivering Hail Mary’s. “Miss Vanjie, Miss Vanjie...Miss...Vanjie.”
Miss Vanjie didn’t just affect the rest of Season 10 -- RuPaul could be found giggling about the moment constantly -- but the words “Miss Vanjie” became a battle cry for the LGBTQ community. It was a term of endearment tossed around gay bars, and it was shared incessantly on social media. Most of all, though, “Miss Vanjie” came to represent resilience in the face of adversity, a reminder that lemons can always make lemonade. It was well needed considering those transphobic comments made by RuPaul…
Music and the year of #20gayteen
Before 2018 had even had a chance to get started, the Lesbian Jesus herself, Hayley Kiyoko, had dubbed it #20gayteen. And like a true prophet, the prediction that this year in music would be hella gay most definitely came true.
We had Troye Sivan’s self-assured strutting in the My! My My! video, Janelle Monaé’s ode to vaginas with Pynk, MNEK’s criminally underrated album Language, Years & Years’ Sanctify, a song about seducing straight men, SOPHIE’s electronic agitation, Shea Diamond’s soulful soul searching, Rina Sawayama’s pansexual pop, the return of the Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, Nakhane’s You Will Not Die, Ryan Beatty’s youthful lust, Brockhampton’s redefining of the concept of boybands and Hayley Kiyoko’s slick and sexy bops.
It’s also worth noting that Tyler, the Creator took more steps towards embracing his queer life, too. The Odd Future co-founder, whose music used to embody homophobic lyrics, has since explored same-sex attraction on his 2017 album Flower Boy and this year was found switching up the pronouns used in his song Sometimes. Then there’s also his rumoured relationship with Jaden Smith...
If all that fabulous LGBTQ representation wasn’t enough, the gay gods opened up the heavens and it poured. After a stint in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Cher decided to do the gayest thing possible and record an album of ABBA covers. Then Robyn returned with her first new solo album in eight years. Christina Aguilera made her musical comeback, Kylie Minogue went country (via a performance at Berghain), Cardi B literally threw a shoe a Nicki Minaj while also pushing out numerous bops, Britney Spears performed in front of 50,000 LGBTQ people at Brighton Pride, Carly Rae Jepsen released a wank banger and Ariana Grande taught us, love, patience and pain, while reminding us all that she’s so amazing. Yeah, music in 2018 was pretty gay.
A step forward for LGBTQ rights
Globally, LGBTQ rights took a step forward. Thanks to the hangover of colonialism, draconian laws regarding the legality of homosexuality are still rife. Still, in September India officially legalised gay sex, ruling that discrimination based on sexual identity is a violation of rights. In fact, India recently held its first (legal) Pride march. Likewise, homosexuality was also decriminalised in Trinidad and Tobago, with a judge ruling that the colonial-era law banning same-sex activity was unconstitutional.
The horrors of transphobia
One of the ugliest things about 2018 has been the relentless transphobia. Whether it’s legislative, like the Trump administration’s continued attempts to roll back recognition and the civil rights of trans people, the British media’s obsessive transphobic rhetoric, the TERFs of Mumsnet or even transphobic behaviour from within the LGB community (shame on you), this year is proof that now more than ever we need to stand with the transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming communities in support and solidarity.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 22 transgender people were either shot or killed by violent means in America in 2018 (although, it’s likely that number is higher). Trans people’s lives, especially the lives of trans people of colour, are at risk. It’s a reminder that there is no “trans debate” to be had -- this about people’s right to live. In 2019, if the LGBTQ community is to thrive, we need to fight back against transphobia. We are stronger together.
Pose, Queer Eye and Love, Simon
Although Hollywood’s need to straightwash queer narratives still found a place in 2018 (see Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, accused of sanitising Freddie Mercury’s relationship with men, or Scarlett Johansson accepting, then backing away from, playing a trans man in the upcoming film Rub & Tug), over in TV, this year’s GLAAD “Where We Are on TV” report found that there were more LGBTQ characters on primetime American television than ever before. In fact, for the first time, LGBTQ characters of colour outnumbered white LGBTQ characters.
It’s true: TV and film have been waving that rainbow flag this year. Thanks to Ryan Murphy, we had American Crime Story: the Assassination of Gianni Versace and Pose. The latter made history: Janet Mock became the first trans woman of colour to be hired as a TV writer (she also directed an episode), and the show, which focuses on New York’s ballroom scene in the late 80s, put trans actors and queer people of colour centre stage in an way that they’ve never been represented on television before.
Streaming services also got gayer. Netflix unleashed the revamped Queer Eye on the world, making immediate celebrities out of the new Fab 5. Antoni and his avocados, Karamo’s words of wisdom, Tan’s French tucks, Jonathan’s self-care tips and Bobby’s building skills were put to good use, while also humanising gay people in parts of America where being LGBTQ can be difficult.
Netflix also went after the teen market, too, with Spanish murder mystery Elite. While all the characters were good, the romance between Ander and Omar struck a chord with fans in the same way Isaac and Evan did in Skam.
On the silver screen, Love, Simon became the first gay teen movie produced by a major movie studio. The film, based on the YA novel by Becky Albertalli, was a sweet coming out story that was groundbreaking because it made it all so normal. There were also two films that shone a light on the tortures of conversion therapy, The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Boy Erased.
So just how queer was 2018?
Looking at all the evidence above (plus all the things I missed while compiling this list), 2018 is pretty darn queer. And with 2019 the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, we can rest assured that next year will be even queerer.