The Queer Review | Issue 2 - Queer youth

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The

Queer Review

issue #2

book reviews · opinion · features · tv & film


WELCOME YAIZA CANOPOLI Editor-in-chief

W

e somehow made it through the aftermath of the first issue of this little magazine. I had no idea what to expect when I sent it off to print. Would the colour look right? How many typos would there be? Would anyone actually buy it? Now it's time for issue #2, and as the sun has finally decided to show itself, we want this issue to be colourful and vibrant, with enough recmmendations of fun YA reads to get you ready for the summer. Hence the change from the quiet purple of issue #1; this issue is all about happiness, about growing up queer and not being afraid to do so. We have some interesting opinion pieces coming up on page 15, as well as cool stuff in the TV & film section. Stay queer!

BEVERLY A. DEVAKISHEN

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Deputy editor

’ve never really been that familiar with young adult fiction, and the last time I had read a YA book was seven years ago. So I was really excited to learn about all of the queer literature that exists in the realm of YA for this issue. To my surprise, I found that there are more LGBT+ books in YA than in any other genres I had read. While reading Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta, I also discovered that there is something sweetly nostalgic, as well as hopeful, about these novels. It’s almost as if they offer you a way to communicate with your younger, but already very queer, self, allowing you to reflect on things you might not have come to terms with yet at that age.

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Book reviews

Aristotle and Dante Lies We Tell Ourselves They Both Die At The End The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda Under the Udala Trees

Opinion

Banning books in schools Are coming-out stories still needed? The contamination of children Sexuality as a plot twist Intersectionality in queer YA lit Is diversity a trend? The importance of #ownvoices

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Features

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TV & film

Queering YouTube Tumblr and gay culture Online resources

Blue is the Warmest Color Love, Simon But I'm a Cheerleader Skam Banana Pretty Little Liars

UE 18 S S T I R 20 X NE MBE E T P SE Š Lettering by Beverly A. Devakishen


BOOK REVIEWS


BOOK REVIEWS

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Openly Straight by B. Konigsberg is a complex character, and Mortier

Most queer YA novels are about coming out; this one is about going in. Bill Konigsberg’s Openly Straight follows Rafe, a teen who becomes tired of being nothing but “the gay kid” in his old high school, and in an unusual premise decides to change schools and go back into the closet. Everything goes according to plan until he falls in love with his new best friend and has to make a choice: either come out again and possibly lose a friend, or stay quiet and continue his new life as “one of the straight guys”. Konigsberg brilliantly explores ideas of acceptance, staying true to yourself, and fitting in, all in the context of LGBT+ youth. - OLA JANKOWSKA

My Fellow Skin by Erwin Mortier

My Fellow Skin traces the life of a gay Flemish boy, Anton, from the time he is a toddler up to his adulthood. The first-person narrative effectively allows readers to get a glimpse into Anton’s mind at all stages of his mental growth, which is particularly interesting when Erwin Mortier is detailing the thoughts of Anton as a child. Mortier treats the gay relationship as a central focus in his novel, although he is relatively subtle about the romantic and sexual relations between the two boys. Anton

doesn’t let his sexuality define him.

This is a rather refreshing take on a young gay couple; their sexuality is not a big deal, and the novel is not characterised by the fact that theirs is not a conformist, heterosexual relationship. - BEVERLY A. D.

The Art of Being Normal by L. W.

The Art of Being Normal follows Kate and Leo's unlikely friendship as they learn to navigate high school and grow confident in their identities. The book has its merits and explores themes of friendship and body dysphoria in some depth, Kates’s thoughts on the topic of menstruation being especially interesting. However, transgender issues are side-lined by high school drama, and the characters feel heavy with tropes. Lisa Williamson’s writing lacks in imagination and conveys Kate’s gender through an abundance of gender stereotypes that serve to remind the reader that Kate is a girl, and consequently prevent the characters from feeling organic. These gendered signifiers grow problematic when Leo refers to Kate as a ‘she’ only when she is in female clothing, leaving the book feeling regressed and insensitive. - SARA LAPIN

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BOOK REVIEWS Ari and Dante by B. A. Sáenz

One of the landmark novels of queer YA literature, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe should be read by everyone. Benjamin Alire Sáenz crafts a slow-burn romance that feels and reads like a caring friendship for most of the book, and then surprises you with its romantic undertone. It is one of the few instances when queerness as a plot twist is done right and feels natural, not shoved in for sales, but like a completely believable development of the two boys’ friendship. Hiding the romantic aspect of this relationship for the sake of a plot twist feeds into harmful queer tropes, so I’m going to say it openly: Ari and Dante make a wonderful couple, and one that every teenager should know and read about. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

Lies We Tell Ourselves by R. T.

It’s 1959, and Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students at Jefferson High School in America. She faces racism from both the teachers and the students, including Linda, the daughter of an abusive segregationist, who is paired with Sarah on a school project—and then falls in love with her. At times, Lies We Tell Ourselves is

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a heavy read; Robin Talley certainly doesn’t shy away from portraying what the real-life people who inspired this story had to suffer, including the use of racial slurs. But by the end you’ll find yourself rooting for Sarah and Linda to learn, grow, and fight for their own happy ending, as they confront harsh truths about race and power. - ISABELLE SIDDLE

The Miseducation by E. M. D.

Unusually blunt for a young adult novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows a young girl as she moves in with her conservative aunt and grandmother, forgetting all about the time she kissed a girl back home. She learns to deny who she really is in the name of fitting in and making her new life as easy as possible. However, when a new girl moves into town, Cameron cannot help but fall back into liking girls: Coley is perfect. The novel is plenty long, a whole 470 pages, and it altogether reads more like literary fiction than a young adult exploration of sexuality. Emily M. Danforth evokes the heat of the summer and the details of her setting with vivid prose. Whether you enjoy the typical style of YA fiction or are looking for something different, this novel is brilliant. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

- ©6Covers - by Simon & Schuster, MIRA Ink, Penguin



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\THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END They Both Die at the End introduces readers to a world and system known as Death-Cast: an organisation which calls people at midnight on the day they are going to die. In Adam Silvera’s novel, readers follow two teenage boys, Mateo and Rufus, who connect with one another through the “Last Friend” app, designed to help people to find others to spend their last day with. Mateo is an introverted and seemingly isolated individual, who wishes to be taken outside of his comfort zone. Along comes Rufus, someone who, despite some trauma earlier in his life, gives a contrasting impression to Mateo of having a large support group and makeshift family surrounding him. Whilst I ached to learn more about the inner workings of Death-Cast and the wider society in which it functioned, Silvera provided enough information for the system to be understandable without taking away from his focus of dealing with death and grief. Readers see Rufus and Mateo build a bittersweet relationship, as they begin to fall for one another but ultimately know that their day will result in death. Through his characters, Silvera displays the importance of making

the most of your time alive. Mateo and Rufus’ relationship shows the beauty of sharing a deep connection with another person, and that love is not always about how long you’ve known someone, but how well you understand one another. Throughout the novel, we see third person narratives from other characters, many of whom have also received the Death-Cast call on the same day as our two main characters. These alternative perspectives demonstrate how much the lives of people residing in the same area can be linked, even if certain individuals never meet. Without spoiling the events of the novel, these perspectives provide a beautiful reminder of how much two lives can, unknowingly, positively impact each other. One of my favourite perspectives was from Deidre, a queer teen who is contemplating suicide due to homophobia, but decides not to go through with it. It was incredibly powerful to see a queer character taking their own agency when Deidre could have so easily been killed. Although They Both Die at the End is a challenging novel, its messages were uplifting and widely relatable, and it could be recommended to anybody. - ELLIE ROBSON

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© Cover by Simon & Schuster


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BOOK REVIEWS

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BOOK REVIEWS

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Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

feel cliché, the adventure accompanyAbigail Tarttelin explores the complex ing it easily makes Guide a must-read. issues surrounding gender and sexuali- - OLA JANKOWSKA ty through the life of Max, an intersex boy. The novel opens with some pretty Everything Leads to You by N. L. graphic scenes, cleverly jolting its read- Everything Leads to You is surprising er into a strong sense of injustice and and wonderful in its subtlety. The main sympathy for the main character. One character is queer, but the story Nina cannot help but become emotionally LaCour crafts is not one of coming out; invested in Max’s journey of self-dis- it is about designing a breathtaking movcovery as he deals with being intersex, ie set, and about finding love. In the and although the plot can seem flat span of one summer, Emi has to make and simplistic at times, Golden Boy is something epic happen in her brother’s a relatively good exploration of what apartment, and when she meets Ava, intersex people go through in real life. the long-lost (and incredibly beautiful) - BEVERLY A. D. granddaughter of an American movie star, she knows she is on the right track. The Gentleman's Guide by M. L. - YAIZA CANOPOLI In The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee takes us back Every Day by David Levithan to 18th century Europe to tell the sto- A unique exploration of gender and ry of Henry Montague, who sets out identity, Every Day exists somewhere on a tour of the old continent with his between fantasy and real life. A, the main bi-racial best friend and unrequited character, wakes up in a different body love Percy, to escape his abusive fa- every day, and needs to adapt to new ther and indulge in earthly pleasures feelings when they wake up to meet their while he can. While painting vivid pic- girlfriend. David Levithan created a landtures of beautiful locales, Lee doesn’t mark novel of queer young adult literastray away from portraying period-typ- ture, and proves why he is one of today"s ical homophobia, racism, ableism, and most celebrated writers in the genre. sexism. Although the romance may - YAIZA CANOPOLI

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BOOK REVIEWS

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Juliet Takes a Breath by G. Rivera erature than your average YA romance,

Juliet Takes a Breath is a book I wish I'd read when I was younger. It follows a justout lesbian of colour as she goes to work as an intern for her favourite author; in other words: the dream. It's primarily a novel about deconstructing feminism in order to find a place in it for yourself, and Gabby Rivera tackles intersectionality well throughout the story. Plus, it's delightful to see a community where the dominant demographic is queer women through Juliet's eyes—a refreshing subversion when they are so often sidelined. - CHLOE MURRELL

Simon VS. by Becky Albertalli

The YA novel upon which the upcoming film Love, Simon is based, Simon VS The Homosapiens Agenda is a sweet, typical love story for teens, in which the protagonist Simon falls in love with the mysterious Blue through personal emails, whilst not yet ready to come out. It may be a bit predictable, and Becky Albertalli's writing can be a little awkward, but that’s the point: this book is hopefully the beginning of a long chain of novels that fit a classic genre perfectly with a queer protagonist. It shouldn’t have to be higher lit-

and it isn’t. It’s just brilliantly gayer. - JUDITH HOWE

If I Was Your Girl by M. Russo

An #ownvoices novel with a transgender model on the cover, Meredith Russo"s If I Was Your Girl has a lot to offer in terms of representation. It follows Amanda, the new girl in school, as she falls for a boy and contemplates sharing her biggest secret. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

I'll Give You the Sun by J. Nelson

The first part of I'll Give You the Sun is told by 13-year-old Noah, a young artist who falls in love with the boy next door, Brian. Noah’s twin sister, Jude, tells the second part of the story after a threeyear time jump. During these three years, their relationship has been torn apart by jealousy and tragedy, and now Jude must find a way to piece her family back together and save Noah from himself. Jandy Nelson writes colourfully and electrically, filling her story with unpredictable plot twists and a wealth of captivating characters that you will fall for almost as hard as Noah falls for Brian. - ISABELLE SIDDLE

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© Covers by Riverdale Avenue Books, Flatiron Books, Balzer + Bray, Walker Books



The Queer Review

UNDER THE UDALA TREES

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nder the Udala Trees is a unique piece of historical fiction, told from the point of view of a lower-class Igbo girl called Ijeoma. Her childhood is shattered by the Nigerian civil war, and the novel traces the effects of this event through Ijeoma’s story. Not only is Under the Udala Trees an important book that contributes to the limited body of fiction about the Nigerian civil war, it also gives a voice to a marginalised group that we don’t usually get to hear about: the LGBT+ community in Nigeria. Ijeoma’s first romantic relationship, with a young, orphaned Hausa girl called Amina, is one of the most compelling parts of the novel. Tensions between the Igbo and the Hausa people are high during and after the civil war, so Ijeoma and Amina’s relationship is doubly transgressive. Before the introduction of Amina, the novel seems to portray (northern) Nigeria, where most Hausa people live, in a negative light, although this could simply be due to the fact that our narrator is an Igbo girl living in Biafra. Although Amina and Ijeoma’s relationship doesn’t work out, their strong love for each other is still a sign of hope for the

Nigerian LGBT+ community, and for unity between different ethnic groups. The lesbian relationship was the most pleasantly surprising aspect of the novel. The plot is predictable, events becoming obvious at least two chapters before they actually occur, and foreshadowing is done in a painfully obvious way. However, while the novel’s predictability dampens the thrill and the suspense, it does make for a relatively easy read. On the other hand, Okparanta’s style allows Ijeoma’s voice to be conveyed clearly and with raw emotion; it is as if the author has stepped aside to let Ijeoma tell her own story. While the novel is clearly a criticism of the oppression of the LGBT+ community in Nigeria, activism doesn't overpower Ijeoma’s story. The tone of the novel is personal, contemplative, and intimate; it offers an inside look at how homophobia, sexism, and war can affect ordinary people’s daily lives. Despite its flaws, it is a moving work of historical fiction that doesn’t shy away from the realities that LGBT+ people face in postwar Nigeria, and the issues it deals with are still relevant today. - BEVERLY A. D.

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© Cover by Granta Books


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Why is the presence of queer books in school libraries important? Is the time for coming-out stories long gone or are they still needed? What kind of damage does the sexualisation of queerness do when it keeps queer media from young people? Why is intersectionality so present in young adult fiction? Is there a negative side to the new trend of diversity? And, finally, why is #ownvoices literature so important?


OPINION

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Banning books in schools

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eing a queer adult is a struggle. Whether you live in a suburban home with your two children or in an apartment paying off your student loan, whether you have the job you always dreamed of or are stuck somewhere making the best out of the situation, there are always going to be issues. Some co-workers might be rude. Your landlord might be a jerk. Adulthood does not automatically make life easier for queer people. But the fact remains that, while it might get complicated in new ways, the actual struggle of being queer weighs heavier on the shoulders of teenagers and young people.

in the better cases are just quiet about sexuality and gender. And asking your friends for gay media recommendations is not exactly a safe option when you cannot foresee their reactions. That’s where the importance of queer literature in school libraries comes in. Libraries are free and wonderful places. They stock books that are educational, that are appropriate for the age of the students, and that will, hopefully, have a positive impact on them. Excluding queer literature from these shelves says a lot more than is often meant by the gesture: it sexualises queerness to the extent of making it inappropriate even in its most innocent form, and it marks the students seeking these books as perverts. If your own school, the place supposed to educate and prepare you, thinks you shouldn’t have access to books about yourself, your identity, your love, who do you turn to for information without feeling like a criminal? How do you sort through the confusion without putting yourself at risk?

Most of the time, schools provide a very limited education around queer identities. They might get a mention in the sociology textbook, and your teacher might say a few words on accepting everyone the way they are. Bullying might be taboo, and your teachers might stand up for you if you report any discrimination. But this doesn’t clear up the mess that being queer can often create in a young person’s life, the confusion and anger and feeling of being completely The importance of stocking queer literalone and out of place. For many teen- ature in schools cannot be understated. agers, families are not supportive, or - YAIZA CANOPOLI

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© Lettering by Beverly A. Devakishen


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OPINION

Are coming-out stories still needed?

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t is 2018, and coming-out stories are flourishing in queer literature and on social media. Yet the argument that coming-out stories are no longer necessary seems more prominent than ever.

going through similar thoughts being more powerful than one realises. It is a necessity to portray coming-out stories, not only for those struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality and/or gender, but also to normalise the intricate experiences that Indeed, from one perspective, this are unique to the queer community. argument does hold an element of truth. With the progress that has YouTube is a popular platform that been made, queer people are being happens to have a large source of more and more accepted every day. coming-out videos. Nowadays faThere is, then, arguably, no need mous YouTubers, such as Tyler Oakfor people to come out, let alone ley and Connor Franta, are amongst share coming-out stories. To take a many who have released videos dequote from the newly released Love, tailing their coming-out stories. These Simon: “Why is straight the de- videos can be comforting, educationfault?�. So, why then are coming-out al, and extremely helpful to those stories still a popular topic today? coming to terms with, understanding, and accepting their identities. Coming out is much more than just telling your loved ones that your The portrayal of coming-out stoidentity does not conform to the ries is a necessity in queer media heteronormative world we live in. It and literature, to not only normalis a personal process, one that can ise the LGBT+ community, but result in a difficult journey. Queer also the process of questioning, literature and media can be helpful accepting, and feeling the freeresources on the road to coming dom of the choice to come out out, having a portrayal of someone - JULIETTE REY

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OPINION

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The contamination of children

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oung Adult literature is becoming more and more inclusive of the LGBT+ community. However, queer stories remain removed from children’s literature, and kept out of reach of a non-sexualised target audience. Queer romance is presented as inherently sexual, and therefore not child-friendly. Such a way of perceiving queer stories is incredibly harmful for queer children, teens, and adults alike. Keeping these stories out of the reach of children leaves them lacking in resources, which could help them discover and accept themselves by connecting to stories, and knowing that they’re not alone, not ‘broken’, not ‘dirty’ just for being ‘different’. It could also help curb bullying of queer youth if straight and cisgender children see queerness represented as often and as well as they see themselves. All children, queer or otherwise, can benefit from seeing how LGBT+ stories can be just as non-sexual (or sexual) as non-queer stories, and having them normalised, especially at such a young age, when people

are susceptible to learning prejudices or acceptance, is important. Lack of queer stories in children’s literature can lead to queer youth believing that their desires and feelings are of a lesser value than those of their straight-cisgender counterparts, and they can suffer immense levels of shame and low self-esteem as a result. This makes the already difficult task of discovering one’s identity even more of a challenge, and even terrifying for some. This particularly applies to those of a religious background, since the implied inherent sexuality of queerness can be viewed as a filthy sin. If there was more representation in children’s literature, it would become removed from this idea of sin and filth, and therefore could be seen as something to carry on into the future. Which leads to another important point: if children see themselves represented in stories, they can believe in their own future. They can believe that they have one, because they have a present that can get them there. - TOIBA BLUMSTEIN

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The Queer Review

OPINION

INTERSECTIONALITY IN QUEER YA LIT

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ecently, queer young adult literature has been flourishing. Queer and transgender characters are getting the spotlight in these new novels, with many of them being the protagonist of the book. But the most incredible part is that queer YA fiction is becoming one of the most intersectional genres to exist. Queer people of colour, queer disabled people, queer people with mental illnesses, and those who belong to more than one of those categories, are seeing themselves represented in YA literature, arguably more than in any other genre.

intersectional characters in an empowering way—we’ve had queer wizards, queer superheroes, and even queer vampires, many of whom are also people of colour or disabled. YA authors are able to create a society in which these doubly, or sometimes triply, marginalised groups are properly seen. Anne-Marie McLemore, author of Wild Beauty, for example, told the Chicago Tribune that it was “incredibly freeing” to create “queer and trans characters into a world with magic”, adding that she was excited to write There are a couple of reasons why about “queer this could be so. Firstly, YA fiction Latina girls in falls into the fantasy and sci-fi genres a ball gowns”. lot of the time, which teenagers love, and which is a direction that creates YA authors a lot of potential to feature underrep- are also beresented groups. Authors make use c o m i n g of imaginary worlds to portray queer, more aware

© Artwork by Isabelle Siddle

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OPINION of their audience. There’s a general movement in the YA community toward helping the next generation find their representation in the books they read, and these authors genuinely care about their readers. Mackenzi Lee, author of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which includes queer characters with epilepsy, did extensive

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research on the problematic attitudes towards the illness before writing her novel. Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows features queer characters with mental illnesses and disabilities, while Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End follows two queer Latinx boys, one of whom has social anxiety. Neither Bardugo nor Silvera write their characters as if they’re ticking off diversity boxes, instead making them complex and multi-dimensional. This kind of sensitivity to their audiences’ needs is getting more common in the YA community. The developing inclusivity in YA literature means that one day, every queer teen may be able to see themselves being represented in some way or another. We’re hoping that YA authors continue with this uplifting trend of intersectional queer literature. - BEVERLY A. D.


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OPINION

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else, and that we deserve to be treated equally. But as we begin seeing more representation in mainstream media, it is easy to worry about production teams and authors falling into the pitfalls that come with diversity.

a trend?

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or anyone enjoying new films, TV shows, and YA novels, the surge of people of colour and LGBT+ characters in western media in recent years would be difficult to miss. With the financial success of Black Panther, and the recent releases of Call Me by Your Name and Love, Simon—both queer romance films, one of which was recognized at the Oscars, and the latter produced by Fox Pictures—it seems this trend may continue gaining traction among large studios. Knowing this, we may get optimistic about the future of entertainment, which for the first time ever might not be looking all-white and allstraight. The importance of the representation of minorities cannot be overstated, as it is seeing ourselves in media that teaches many of us that we are just as normal as anyone

© Lettering by Beverly A. Devakishen

Paramount Pictures’ new TV series based on the 1988 film Heathers is guilty of portraying diverse characters as the school’s popular teens and subsequently bullies who terrorize the “normal” kids, and goes as far as mocking minorities for wanting to be respected. So far, only the pilot episode has been released, making it difficult to judge the series as a whole, but its approach to diversity does not seem promising. Diversity being as popular as it is nowadays, it becomes increasingly easy to ruin all the good work that has been done, and to include minorities and poorly researched intersectionality in the name of sales and views. For now, it would be best to give creators the benefit of the doubt; diversity is inherently a positive feature of modern media, and a much needed one. We must believe that good representation will persevere, and vote with our wallets for that to happen. - OLA JANKOWSKA

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OPINION

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The importance of #ownvoices

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don’t know if anybody else has seen that compilation of YA book covers, all featuring similar girls in long dresses, sometimes with added angel wings. It cracks me up every time. It pokes fun at YA fiction that usually follows a young, white protagonist, and their mission to save the world. There’s nothing wrong with that structure, but the way it is usually executed is indicative of a wider problem; mainstream YA fiction is simply not representative enough. We need more queer characters, more characters of colour, more disabled characters, and we need those stories told accurately. That’s where #OwnVoices comes in.

tween fantasy creatures and real people. Whilst not every member of a marginalised group has the same experiences, they tend to have the depth of experience needed to do that character justice. If you’re looking for accurate representation, an #OwnVoices novel is your best bet.

That being said, nobody is trying to stop authors from diversifying their novels. If you’re straight but want to make your next protagonist gay, then go ahead. But do your research, and make sure you’re handling your subject matter with sensitivity and accuracy. On top of that, promote marginalised writers at the same time; use your position of This Twitter hashtag was first coined privilege to make these stories more in 2015 by Corinne Duyvis, a YA mainstream and accessible for the SFF author, in response to her own people who need them the most. wish for recommendations of diverse YA fiction written by diverse authors. In Duyvis’ own words, #OwnSome like to argue that part of being Voices isn’t about discouraging an author is to write about anything people to write outside of their and anyone you want. And yes, while own experiences. It’s about liftauthors like Tolkien can write about ing up those who are ignored. hobbits, there’s a big difference be- ISABELLE SIDDLE

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QUEERING THE

© Lettering by Beverly A. Devakishen


FEATURES

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QUEERING YOUTUBE

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ouTube has never been more diverse. As a platform where people share everything from cat videos to personal thoughts and media reviews, it is open to anything, and no matter what you're into, there is guaranteed to be a niche for you.

boiled down to the website censoring videos about gender and sexuality, speaking out about things that not everyone might consider, but that are ultimately important, is now crucial.

After some issues YouTube creators were facing a while back, which

There is a palpable division between inclusive queer YouTubers, and those that believe their own identity is the only acceptable one. Arielle Scarcella, once a popular lesbian creator, showed her true colours when she turned her video into a hate parade against trans women. That is why we have compiled a list of some wonderful people who will add some diversity to your subscription feed. Buckle up for some queer content! - YAIZA CANOPOLI

Rowan Ellis (queer: media and opinions)

Unsolicited Project (lesbian best friends: media and culture)

Riley J. Dennis (trans: media and opinions)

Amber's Closet (lesbian and POC: entertainment)

Jen Campbell (bisexual and disabled: book reviews and opinions)

Rose Ellen Dix (lesbian couple: entertainment)

This diversity is more obvious than ever with people such as Rowan Ellis and Riley J. Dennis making videos about sexuality, gender, feminism, politics, and the queerness of media. Ellis in particular is outspoken about issues of representation in TV and film, posting one controversial discussion after the other.

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FEATURES

Tumblr and gay culture

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ho didn’t waste away years of their teens on Tumblr, reblogging political posts, rainbow flags, texts about visibility and intersectionality, and following every single blog that seemed remotely gay? I have certainly had my fair share of Tumblr hours, and I’m glad the website doesn’t count them. My blog morphed over the years, starting out as a place to share pictures of Oliver Sykes, Taylor Momsen, and Jeffree Star, then going through a bizarre phase of hippy outfits and photos of sunflowers, and finally settling on the queer for a while. (I now only dedicate it to reblogging memes, but that is beside the point.) However cringey Tumblr may be, and however much of a ‘hell site’ (as affectionately called by its many users) it may have become, the positive impact it had on my perception of my own identity cannot be denied. I can’t remember a time when I ever believed that there was something wrong with not conforming to society (I was a very rebellious child), but I don’t think I would have been so calm about being

bisexual without all of the overly dramatic posts I reblogged when I was 14. I identified as completely straight up to the age of 16. I was perfectly aware of queer people, and I passionately watched videos about the many different identities out there. But I wasn’t into girls. This was not denial—I just simply wasn’t. When I turned 16, my identity slowly started to change, and this is where all the years of queer media came in handy. I was not scared of my own identity; I had had a long time to be exposed to it and accept others for who they are. It was no difficulty at that point to apply the same rules to myself. I calmly told my friends, and I knew that they wouldn’t care much either, because I had been sharing all those Tumblr opinions with them over the years. So, whatever your opinion of Tumblr may be, it has undeniably shaped the generation of queer young adults living in the world right now. It may be a 'hell site', but that's where we're all going, isn't it? - YAIZA CANOPOLI

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FEATURES

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Pink News A varied website full of interesting and up-to-date news from and about the LGBT+ community in the UK. Stonewall Home to one of the largest UK organisations offering support and advice to the LGBT+ community. LGBT Foundation A large charity established in 1975, which helps queer people improve their life skills and wellbeing. Switchboard A helpline fo the LGBT+ community to listen, as well as provide information, support, and referrals. It's Pronounced Metrosexual A fun site full of educational things around being queer, including a long list of terms and definitions.

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Š Lettering by Beverly A. Devakishen


The Queer Review

Positive representation on screen is crucial. Queer films tend to be tragic or highly sexualised, and their focus is more often than not closeted, sad adults. Teens and young adults are underrepresented in the realm of queer TV & film. So, of course, here are some wonderful things to get you started!

Š Lettering by Beverly A. Devakishen


TV & FILM

The Queer Review

FILM: GET REAL Get Real is a film that could have been made last year, but was actually released in 1998. Aside from the aggressively 90s' aesthetic (the hair, the slang, the subpar British education experience), it has aged very well. It's funny, (surprisingly!) real, and still a top choice when it comes to MLM films on Netflix. It's the classic queer story of an underdog harbouring a crush on a jock, while his one friend in the world laughs at him in the background. This is perhaps what makes it so good: it's familiar. Steven (the tentatively gay kid) and Linda (the

best friend) are both relateably downtrodden, and it's interesting how the more negative aspects of their lives are shown through the lens of a rom-com— Steven's whole situation with staying in the closest for his own safety, for one. As with all good coming-of-age media, it's emotive without detracting from the humour, and definitely deserves its 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. Even if, to my chagrin, none of my queer friends have seen it. - CHLOË MURRELL

FILM: BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR This French movie portrays love in its most consuming and fiery form. It follows the relationship between high-school teenager Adele and bluehaired, blue-eyed university student Emma. Despite the slow-moving plot, the intense love between the two women has compelled audiences all around the world. The movie explores the issues that couples face, of which only some are unique to same-sex relationships. There are many running motifs—the intensity of the colour of

Emma’s hair, for example, mirrors the intensity of their love. The movie is also extremely aesthetically appealing, and the cinematography is incredible. Last but not least, there is a steamy sex scene that may be one of the most sensual things you ever watch. It’s rare for a movie with a sex scene between two girls to make it as big as Blue is the Warmest Colour has, but we’re glad that at least one of them has gotten the recognition it deserves. - BEVERLY A. D.

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The Queer Review

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TV & FILM

FILM: LOVE, SIMON

ove, Simon has been a hit worldwide, and not just because it's one of the few LGBT+ films to come out through cinemas instead of independently—it really is great. Adaptations from book to screen are tricky, but Love, Simon found its own feet, and managed to stand on them well. It follows the story of 17-year-old Simon, as he struggles with coming out to his friends and family and develops feelings for another closeted gay kid in his year, the hook being that he doesn't know who he is because they met online. However, it's not just about Simon's character growth and acceptance of his sexuality, but also about the community around him coming to accept him, which differentiates this from a lot of other coming-out films, where the protagonist faces it all alone. This is one of its greatest triumphs; there a r e

© Artwork by Isabelle Siddle

few gay films, particularly regarding young queer people, where the overwhelming majority of the characters are wholeheartedly in support of the LGBT+ arc. Of course, Simon works through internalised homophobia, and there are a few instances with close-minded bullies, but this is resolved into an undeniably happy ending that didn't leave a dry eye in the theatre. Watching Simon unapologetically crush on guys, as well as his whole school year quite literally cheering him on as he goes to meet the mysterious Blue, was incredibly uplifting. It is a well-needed step in normalising queer identities onscreen, and it was done in a way that desexualises queerness and makes it clear that children and young adults can absolutely be a part of it. Love, Simon is part rom-com, part family drama, part coming-of-age story, and it will probably leave you with your faith in the world restored—but also slightly weepy. - CHLOË MURRELL

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TV & FILM

The Queer Review

FILM: BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER A classic among classics, But I’m a Cheerleader is an absolute must-watch for any queer movie fan out there. It takes a fresh (yes, even today it is still fresh) spin on the dark topic of conversion camps and therapy, and pokes fun at all the cliches that surround coming out, such as the concerned families, the ‘root’ of gayness, the ‘perverse’ habits being a result of the loss of traditional gender roles, etc. With a cast of diverse and interesting characters, the stereotypes of gay culture come to life. The mix between creepy music

and the dollhouse setting, the overtly bright colours and feeling of artificiality to the entire surroundings, makes the film simultaneously uncomfortable to watch and absolutely hilarious. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the main character is played by none other than Natasha Lyonne, nowadays one of the better characters of Orange is the New Black. But I’m a Cheerleader lacks nothing, and it is to this day the best teen lesbian film out there. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

FILM: BOYS DON'T CRY Although Boys Don’t Cry does not star a trans actor and fails #ownvoices in that respect, it is nonetheless a brilliant film, and an important one in the history of queer media. It is based on the true story of Brandon Teena, a trans man who, when discovered by his new friends, is assaulted and brutally murdered. Hilary Swank does a fantastic job of portraying Teena, and his girlfriend offers some caring and loving lines that give the audience a glimmer of hope in the midst of the

horrifying events. The film captures the loneliness of being trans and of hiding this identity, not just through Teena’s story, but through the loneliness of the vast countryside. Short road trips and drug-infused drives through dark, deserted roads make the seemingly eternal emptiness seem oddly claustrophobic, and add another layer of anxiety to the story. There are multiple trigger warnings to flag up here, so go into this film with caution. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

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The Queer Review

TV & FILM

REINVENTING TEEN DRAMA

S

kam, Norwegian for ‘shame’, premiered online in 2015, and quickly grew to worldwide fame before it finished last year after its fourth season. It follows a group of teenagers attending the same high school in Oslo, with all the difficulties that this brings.

es in the world. These characters are so genuine, from how they’re written to how they’re acted, that you can’t help but connect with them.

The first season centres around Eva and her troubles with her boyfriend. It focuses heavily on girls supporting other girls; a memorable scene inThe show’s unique format is what makes cludes Sana explaining to Vilde why it so different; each season, scenes are calling other girls ‘sluts’ is wrong. The uploaded in real time over a few weeks, second season deals with much darkgiving the show a more realistic feel and er themes—including sexual assault, a better pace for its rel- “Seeing Isak struggling eating disorders, and violence—but always atively short episodes. to come out to his par- with great care and conThe show starts off fo- ents struck a chord sideration. The fourth cusing on friends Eva with me personally ... season then gives a masterclass in diverse (Lisa Teige), Noora (Josefine Pettersen), Sana having Isak come out storytelling with Sana, (Iman Meskini), Vilde the other side stronger a Muslim, facing dif(Ulrikke Falch), and sends a hopeful mes- ficulty reconciling her Chris (Ina Svenningdal), beliefs with her crush sage to any queer kids on a non-Muslim boy. five wonderfully individual characters who, in the same situation.” despite their many flaws, are striving Despite the success of the other seato be good people and find their plac- sons, it is Skam’s buzzed-about third

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TV & FILM season, focusing on Isak (Tarjei Sandvik Moe), a friend of the girls, as he meets and falls in love with classmate Even (Henrik Holm), and his exploration of his own identity, that is the jewel in the show’s crown. Isak, like the other characters, is a flawed individual; he can be childish and dismissive of his own feelings and other people’s, but Tarjei plays Isak in such a way that his gentleness really shines through. Seeing Isak struggling to come out to his parents struck a chord with me personally. I was transported back to a time when I was going through the exact same thing, and having Isak come out the other side stronger sends a hopeful message to any queer kids in the same situation. On top of this, Skam depicts Even’s bipolar disorder with accuracy and sensitivity, portraying the truths of mental health issues in a way I have never seen on a teen show before. With multiple awards under its belt and an American adaptation on the way, it’s clear Skam has made a lasting impression, and although the original show has sadly ended, here’s hoping its legacy of diversity and honesty continues to influence teen drama for years to come. - ISABELLE SIDDLE

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The Queer Review

FAKING IT: worth cancelling? Faking It lived a short life. MTV cancelled it after only three seasons, disappointing a lot of fans. While it was undoubtedly not the most amazing thing on TV, it did some good work on screen, being one of the few shows to represent an intersex person in a positive light. Originally about two girls who fake being a couple to get attention at school, the show became more interesting when it extended its attention onto the rest of the cast; families, money, friendships, gender, it all came together at the centre, and suddenly the girls' drama seemed secondary. Amy’s step-sister definitely made for the best character of the show, starting out bitchy and as the most predictable cliche of newly joined families, only to become a fully fleshed-out person with an interesting story. The typical gay best friend was a bit of a fail, but in many other aspects Faking It was valuable, and it is a pity that it's not around anymore. - YAIZA CANOPOLI


The Queer Review

TV & FILM

B

anana is part of the Banana/ Cucumber/Tofu trilogy, single-season shows about gay life written by the brilliant Russell T. Davies, whose work includes Doctor Who and Queer as Folk. This show was something like divine intervention into a world of otherwise stiflingly straight media in 2015. It is made up of interlinked vignettes, which showcase the lives and struggles of different LGBT+ characters, making it essentially an anthology about young queer people.

“It is basically required LGBT+ viewing”

The cast really brings the slice-of-life story to, well, life. Letitia Wright, a part of Banana before Black Mirror and Black Panther brought her into the public eye, is as wonderful as ever. As is Fisayo Akinade, who somehow brings the comedy and still rises to meet the more serious elements of the story. The cameos are also worth mentioning: Freddie Fox, Hannah John-Kamen, Luke Newberry ... it all gives the air of the shows being a love-project of Davies', made solely for a queer audience's enjoyment. It is basically required LGBT+ viewing, not simply because there are so few queer-focused shows (like Queer as Folk and The L Word) out there, but because it's engaging in its own right. Banana is funny, down to earth, at times heartbreaking—and free to access thanks to All4.

As the cliché goes, there's something in it for everyone, with various orientations and ages being included, although the focus remains on young people (as opposed to the middle-aged protagonist in Cucumber). That being said, it is a bit more A than Y, but it's defi- Oh, and yes, you're not imaginnitely still accessible—perhaps just not ing the innuendos in the names. something to watch with your parents. - CHLOË MURRELL

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The Queer Review

TV & FILM

A

SKINS

mongst drugs, alcohol, and a good old dose of uncomfortable teenage moments, Skins has a lot to offer. One of the many British shows to change its cast every other season, we got to follow a wealth of characters while it was still running, all of them incredibly different from each other. The first group of people we are introduced to includes Tony, a mostly straight but fairly curious young man, who pisses everyone off with his reckless and carefree attitude, but somehow manages to secure a place in the viewer’s heart even now, as well as Maxxie, a sweet and pure soul who is openly gay. Seasons three and four, while arguably the worst ones, allow us to root for Emily and Naomi, a complex lesbian couple with a variety of issues. The first half of their relationship deals with coming out and Emily learning to accept who she is, while season four tackles the typical relationship problems a young couple faces: the future, uni-

versity, and how to grow up together. Seasons five and six received very mixed reviews, some people claiming they got bored with it immediately, while others absolutely adored it. Season five is arguably not the most interesting one, but by the beginning of season six, the real drama starts to unfold, and it quickly becomes the most intense, as well as interesting, part of the show. One of the best characters from this latter third of Skins is Franky, an androgynous girl with two fathers, who starts off timid and quiet, but later transforms into a powerful figure, sexual and loud. She becomes unlikable, aggressive, and callous, but ultimately remains fascinating to follow. Another queer character of this chapter is Alex, who becomes a kind friend to Liv especially. Skins made plenty of teenagers fall in love with its characters and variety of representation, and it is to this day a wonderfully complex show for fans of queer media. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

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The Queer Review

TV & FILM

E

mily Fields can be found on countless websites listing the best queer characters in mainstream TV shows. She is a well-written, strong-willed Asian lesbian, who is defined by more than her sexuality and race, and she has the perk of staying alive throughout the entire show. Unfortunately, while Pretty Little Liars did a pretty decent job with her, it failed a lot of other queer characters, as well as those of colour. Everyone dies in Pretty Little Liars. New secondary characters? Better not get attached to them— they will be dead by the end of the season. However, the main girls’ partners and families seem to magically make it through everything. Aria and Ezra, de-

spite being a problematic and obsessive couple, get their happy ending. Spencer, while not ultimately in a relationship with Toby, gets him back after believing he had died and switched to the enemy’s side. Hanna and Caleb are the absolute fan-favourite couple, and nothing can really keep them apart (not even that awkward ghost plotline no one wants to talk about). The partners the girls get in-between, while fighting or completely broken up with their loved ones, never die, and instead move away or just somehow disappear. The first dead partner we get served is Maya, a black lesbian Emily spends a few seasons getting over; even Emily’s boyfriend from before her c o m ing-out


TV & FILM

The Queer Review

just changes schools and is never seen again. Other dead characters include Shana, a lesbian of colour in love with Jenna; Sara Harvey, a girl who pretends to have feelings for Emily to keep an eye on her; Yvonne, a black woman later married to Toby, whose death has no further purpose than to make him fragile and bring him closer to Spencer again; Lyndon, a black man who is revealed to have murdered Maya; and Emily’s father. Then, of course, there is the infamous Charlotte.

accepted as ‘cured’. Charlotte, however, goes one step further, and is represented as sadistic, getting enjoyment out of the physical pain of others. This shift to physical torture, as opposed to the mental and psychological war that Mona was waging, is uncomfortable when paired with the fact that Charlotte is revealed to be transgender, and that her entire revenge plot is based on her identity. The physicality of Charlotte’s torture is uncomfortably reminiscent of the sexualisation of queerness.

When I first watched Pretty Little Liars, I thought the inclusion of a trans character was brilliant. There are very few transgender people on TV, especially teenagers and young adults. The addition of one to a show that already had queer Asian representation could only be a good thing then, right? Unfortunately, the writing of Charlotte, her negative portrayal, her mental illness, and her pointless death ultimately do more harm than good. She is the absolute evil of the show, a mentally disturbed girl who obsessively tortures the main characters to the point of locking them in a real-life dollhouse. Mona, who was the first stalker, and terrorised the girls throughout seasons one and two, is ultimately forgiven and

Charlotte is not good representation. The portrayal of the only transgender character in a teen TV show as mentally ill and dangerous is not a step forward. Moreover, while Emily gets to date Alison in the end, her high school crush of many years, and, technically, a queer woman returned from the dead, it does not make up for the killing of her first love, and of the various queer people and people of colour. As the main lesbian of the show, the constant death surrounding her is troublesome, and when paired with Charlotte’s ending, it feels like a terror on queerness. What is an enjoyable, interesting show is shamefully dampened by the failed attempt at good reprsentation. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

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© Artwork by Miles Atkinson. Lettering by Beverly A. Devakishen


The Queer Review

Are you

'under the gaydar'? Recently, authors, readers, and publishers alike have started talking about books that are 'under the gaydar'. Not every teenager, or even every adult, can afford to be seen reading obviously queer literature, be it due to pressure from society, family, friends, or any other kind of community. The focus on promoting and publishing queer literature is very much on being 'out and proud', and the fact that queerness sells doesn't help. While very openly queer books are a wonderful and necessary thing, having books that quietly include queer characters, without making a fuss of it, is important too. It might also be the ideal solution to the problem of 'is diversity a trend?', which Ola Jankowska explored on page 21. If queer literature is necessary for reasons of representation and normalisation, but its popularity leads to misrepresentation, appropriation, and exploitation, is the silent inclusion of queer characters a perfect ending? For now, we recommend making your way around the internet for some 'under the gaydar' books—they can be hard to find, but they are worth the trouble. Why not start with some Adam Silvera, recommended by Ellie Robson on page 8? If you know any 'under the gaydar' books that you think we should all read, let us know on our Facebook page—we are always looking for recommendations!


SEE YOU SOON

YOUR COMMITTEE

Chloë Murrell (TV & film editor), Isabelle Siddle (artist), Chloe Ann P-H (proofreader), Miles Atkinson (artist), Yaiza Canopoli (editor-in-chief), Beverly Anne Devakishen (deputy editor)

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QUEER MEN Coming September 2018

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Twitter @queerreviewmag © Photography by Sylvie Tan


Š Cover artwork by Megan Furr. Lettering by Beverly A. Devakishen. Logo by Isabelle Siddle


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