The Queer Review | Issue 5 - Queer non-fiction

Page 1


Queer Review i








book reviews · opinion · film · youtube



on-fiction is genuinely my favourite genre, so this was right up my alley. I really appreciate when information is presented to me with precision and clarity; it makes the whole confusion of being a queer Asian a little less overwhelming. I turn to nonfiction for guidance, for knowledge and for inspiration. LGBT+ fiction stories are beautiful, but our raw realities also deserve to be portrayed through memoirs, essays, and documentaries. We as a community have a lot to offer to the academics and theorists, and our experiences are worthy of scholarly attention. Nonfiction may appear to be dry on the surface, but it’s actually just as moving as any other genre. Happy reading! Š Photography by Shee-Danielle Silvers

YAIZA CANOPOLI Editor-in-chief


on-fiction is probably my favourite genre; there's nothing quite as gripping as someone's real story. Thai Braddick discusses on page 24 why memoirs are so valuable in a specifically queer context, and of course we have lots of bookish recommendations waiting for you. We also recommend and discuss writings of queer history, as well as some wonderful essay collections. If you are overwhelmed with course reading and would rather chill with a good documentary, we have plenty of those starting on page 27. Some great movies based on real events can be found there as well, followed by our writers' favourite queer YouTubers. Finally, make sure to come along to our Queer Lit Festival!

The Queer Review



Book reviews

Fun Home Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Queer Singapore Boy-Wives and Female Husbands Bisexuality in the Ancient World Logical Family A Cup of Water Under my Bed And the Band Played On Hunger Bi Any Other Name


Queering history Studying queerness All about labels





Paris is Burning Colette Dreamboat How to Survive a Plague Before Stonewall + After Stonewall The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson Pride Imitation Game Milk + Times of Harvey Milk

Queering YouTube



The Queer Review

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Detailing Maggie Nelson's story of dating and starting a family with someone who is gender-fluid, this book is hailed as a landmark memoir about queer love and family-making. Also discussing the limitations of language and set in a context of art and writing, this is highly recommended for people interested in queer theory from a personal perspective. It is philosophical but not pretentious, and a book that requires your attention in a gentle way. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

Moving Truth(s) ed. by Aparajeeta Duttchoudhury

This essay collection was born out of the purest intentions. Aparajeeta Duttchoudhury wanted to help desi parents accept and support their LGBT+ children. She aimed to show that desi family values were not actually at odds with queerness and gender non-conformity, contrary to many of the common narratives. The essays are laced with the experience of being queer, South Asian, and an immigrant, and each story is deeply moving. The book successfully fills the gap left by the lack of representation for queer South Asians striving to be accepted within their desi families, and it is a rare treasure. - BEVERLY A. DEVAKISHEN

- 4Š Covers - by Melville House UK, Flying Chickadee

The Queer Review

BOOK REVIEWS sexuality is overshadowed by the revelation that her father is also gay, which in turn is overshadowed by the news of her father’s subsequent death, which Bechdel concludes wasn’t an accident, but a suicide. Bechdel uses literary allusion as a framework to help her understand her complicated history and her emotionally complex relationship with her father. Bechdel explores the ramifications of how her father’s obsessive work restoring the family’s Victorian home consumed him with a passion, which made the house feel more like a set than a home.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, which, as the subtitle suggests, is equal parts funny and heart-breaking. It takes us back to Bechdel’s adolescence, exploring her strained relationship with her father. At college, she comes to terms with her sexuality after finding herself in the queer books she reads, and nervously comes out as a lesbian to her family. However, her revelation about her

While her father was obsessed with creating a fiction of the self, to make things appear to be what they were not, Bechdel beautifully contrasts this with how she uses stories to live her truth. The memoir's labyrinthine structure moves in non-linear ways to uncover the mysteries and complexities of her personal history. The simple yet distinct black line illustrations complement the story and add detail to the fragments we get of her past, which gives us a complicated though achingly real family portrait. Tyler Oakley - LUCY PEAKE



The Queer Review

Twelve Views From the Distance by Mutsuo Takahashi

Translated into English for the first time by Jeffrey Angles, this 1970 memoir by Japanese poet Mutsuo Takahashi recounts his childhood within the rise of the Japanese Empire and World War II. Set for the most part in poor, rural Japan, the book explores a region not often portrayed in literature, and especially not in relation to a young boy's rising awareness of his attraction to men. A highly unique memoir, this is one for fans of poetry and history. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

50 Queers Who Changed the World by Dan Jones

This little book is a delightful read. Each page details the life of a queer person and their contributions to the community, accompanied by a lovely illustration. While the 'world' that these queer icons have changed mainly refers to the West, the book is generally fairly diverse. You'll find some well-loved entertainers amongst its pages, such as Freddie Mercury and RuPaul, alongside activists such as Sylvia Rivera and Frida Kahlo. The book maintains a light-hearted tone, and allows its readers to gain strength from narratives of queer people that aren't riddled with tragedy. - BEVERLY A. DEVAKISHEN


Š Covers by Houghton Mifflin Company, University of Minnesota Press, Hardie Grant

The Queer Review

BOOK REVIEWS The Truth About Me by A. Revathi

In South Asia, a Hijra largely refers to transgender women, eunuchs, and intersex people. A. Revathi writes a brutally honest account of her life as a hijra, and documents the discrimination, abuse, and pain that she was subjected to while trying to live a dignified life. She does not hold back on the rawness of her experiences, and the book can be emotionally tough to read. It does not shy away from the reality that a hijra faces. The pace of the book changes drastically from section to section, which may be a stylistic choice that mirrors the unpredictability and chaos of Revathi's life. She gets to write her own story, asserting her identity through her writing. - BEVERLY A. DEVAKISHEN

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson

A highly celebrated exploration of gender norms, this memoir sheds light on something that is perhaps uncommon to read about: the public response to transitioning, inevitable when one is famous. Juno Dawson, a writer of both fiction and books such as This Book is Gay, guides the reader through her personal experiences and her resulting opinions of ideas surrounding gender. This book is not just about being trans, but about how gender norms ruin everything for everyone. Including excerpts from various activists and online personalities, this is a personal and accessible introduction to the damaging discourse surrounding gender. - YAIZA CANOPOLI



Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson’s first work, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), was a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up as a lesbian inside the household of her very religious, abusive adoptive mother. In her 2012 memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Winterson offers us the darker narrative of her childhood, which she

The Queer Review

could not originally bring herself to write. She reflects on the need she had felt to create a narrative which was in her control, reconsidering what it means to write her truth. Winterson describes a mother who hated life and excitedly anticipated the Apocalypse – a mother who resented her own daughter’s being, who would punish young Jeanette by starving and locking her outside overnight. The importance of feeling wanted haunts the text, especially in terms of what this means to one who is adopted. In an unflinching portrayal of how love had been denied to her, Winterson documents her process of reconfiguring love not as loss, but as healing. Winterson describes how her mother banned her from owning books, but how she fell into them anyway and found an alternative home there. Her memoir is for readers like her, who find courage and strength in reading. Her incredibly crafted metaphors process her own personal history and catch the reader off guard in their strangeness and beauty, uncovering something truly remarkable within language. - LUCY PEAKE

-© Cover 8byPenguin Global, Two Roads, Knopf Canada

The Queer Review


Queer Singapore ed. by Audrey Yue

Queer Singapore is a collection of essays that fills the obvious gap in scholarship around uniquely Singaporean queer identities and experiences. The book is divided into two sections. The first one is about how the LGBT+ community in Singapore exists in the postcolonial state, under a government that has yet to abolish the colonial-era law that criminalises homosexuality. The

variety of essays here is impressive; there are essays which focus on specific laws and events, and others that are centred on what it means to subscribe to a certain label in Singapore. The essay that I found most brilliant was Shawna Tang's ‘Transnational Lesbian Identities: Lessons from Singapore?’ Using the complex collective identity of the Singaporean lesbian, Tang challenges many binaries that are usually present when discussing Asian queerness, such as modern vs. traditional, global vs. local, and conservative Asia vs. liberal West. The second part of the book is centred on queer media and cultures in Singapore. To read about LGBT+ Singaporeans creating small communities and carving out their own spaces (both physical and social) was empowering, especially after a series of essays about the oppressiveness of the State. An interesting essay in this section was about queer Singaporean Indians and internet technology. Overall, this collection challenges its readers to see queer identities in a way that differs from the usual global gay discourse. - BEVERLY A. DEVAKISHEN



The Queer Review

Boy-Wives and Female Husbands ed. by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe

arguing with people such as Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s famously homophobic former president, who stated that Africans are inherently If you are fed up with the common not gay, it is reductive of identities belief that homosexuality is a western that differ from our contemporary import, and that pre-colonial societies understanding of ‘queer’. were the personification of the term cishet, this book is for you. Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscue successfully gather essays and historical evidence to back up the argument that homosexual practice has, in fact, existed in African societies for a very long time. Each section of the book explores different aspects of queer sexualities and genders, painting a fairly comprehensive picture of silenced pre-colonial practices. However, what this book has been greatly criticised for is its insistence on the labelling of people who had no identification with Western ideas of sexuality and gender. In compiling evidence for homosexual activity, it fails to recognise that practice does not equal identity, and that the modern idea of the ‘homosexual’ is indeed a western construction, a medical attempt at classifying the deviant. While this is a great text for

If you therefore want something less intent on labelling, perhaps check out Neville Hoad’s African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality, and Globalization instead. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

- 10 -

© Covers by Hong Kong University Press, Palgrave Macmillan

The Queer Review

BOOK REVIEWS Lives of Great Men by Chike Frankie Edozien

In a tentative yet hopeful collection of personal experiences of men who love men across Africa and the diaspora, Chike Frankie Edozien explores romance, asylum seeking, and the politics of Africa's homophobic colonial legacy. Addressing the harmful laws originally imposed by colonial authority and now utilised in populist politics, this book stands as a plea for acceptance. As the blurb states, however, it is also a love-letter to Africa and Nigeria especially. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

Gay Life and Culture by Robert Aldrich

A comprehensive and international book, this heavy tome collects the history of homosexuality across the world, focusing on both varying regions and historical periods. While a good general overview, its wide scope makes it impossible to go beyond the surface of each section, and it remains slightly superficial, dedicating the longer and more thorough chapters to the west. It also, like many other queer history books, falls into the trap of labelling those who should not be labelled with western terms and ideologies. It does have its merit, but it is a book to be approached with caution. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

- 11 -


The Queer Review

paid to men increased once she realised that the widespread male homosexuality in these ancient cultures must have had an impact on the female experience of love.

Bisexuality in the Ancient World by Eva Cantarella

Eva Cantarella’s Bisexuality in the Ancient World explores and compares the cultures around bisexuality in both Athens and Rome. While much of the book focuses on the sexual and romantic experiences between two or more men, Cantarella states that the aim of the book is to ‘understand the key points in the development of the female condition in classical antiquity’. The attention

The book features segments on homoerotic poetry, slavery, courtship, and the relationship between philosophy and literature in their presentations of sexuality. The narrative makes the history easy to follow, but if you don’t know much about significant figures of the classical Roman and Greek period, your reading experience will be quite slow and stunted. However, this is a book that is definitely worth spending your time to work through. It is difficult to find bisexual representation and stories from history featuring bisexual people, so it’s exciting to see a work like this. This text contributes to a wider discussion about the validity of bisexuality, which can often be overlooked in the LGBT+ community, and displays empirical proof that bisexuality isn’t something made up by millennials for attention, an argument heard all too often. - ELLIE ROBSON

- 12 -

© Covers by Team Angelica Publishing, Universe, Yale University Press

The Queer Review

BOOK REVIEWS centred around Maupin’s relationship with his biological family, his narrative is greatly enhanced by witty anecdotes about his ‘logical family’. Following Maupin’s conservative upbringing in North Carolina, the memoir weaves seamlessly through his emergence in college as a conservative freedom fighter and his service in Vietnam. Despite its overall quality, the first part of his memoir seems to sadly reaffirm his preoccupation with being the man his father wanted him to be.

I wish Maupin had given as much consideration to his writing towards the end as he does in the beginning, as he appears more Logical Family selective with the material he includes. The ending leaves you by Armistead Maupin Armistead Maupin’s memoir, Logical wanting more, the character-driven Family, bears much stylistic similarity narrative being highly enjoyable. to his ground-breaking Tales of the City. His conversational style is easy The inclusion of Maupin’s iconic to read, and he evidently knows how coming-out letter in the epilogue to engage an audience. It is easy to featured in one of the Tales of see how these serial stories informed the City, ‘used countless times Maupin’s approach to his memoir; it is by those whose own words can’t neatly separated into twenty chapters, adequately explain all they want each depicting a ‘scene’ in his life. to reveal’, is a fitting conclusion. - MEGAN FURR Although the book is in large part

- 13 -

BOOK REVIEWS A Cup of Water Under my Bed by Daisy Hernández

Daisy Hernández compares writing her memoir A Cup of Water Under My Bed to her mother tailoring skirts: ‘I have the story and I am turning it inside out, laying it down on the ironing board, taking it apart with silver dedos, so I can put it back together’. What makes sense for Hernández is not a chronological order of events, but rather the piecing together of her life through different themes. The memoir comprises of eleven self-contained essays, each detailing a significant facet of her life, and oscillates between her childhood and adulthood. While this structure is disconcerting at first, it allows Hernández to make links between different stages of her life that might not have been evident otherwise. As a bisexual Cuban-Colombian growing up in America, Hernández writes of her experiences with immigration, family, race and sexuality. Particularly poignant is her love/hate relationship with language. Despite Spanish being spoken at home, Hernández was sent to an English Catholic school. She is unable to share her ‘life in

The Queer Review

English’ with her parents; English is both a source of pride and alienation from her family. Hernández’s sexuality alienates her further, going against the expectations of her family who want her to assimilate by dating a white American man.

Ultimately, A Cup of Water Under My Bed’ is an honest and heartfelt account of living as a bilingual, bicultural and bisexual woman and feeling torn between two worlds. - MEGGY EBENEZER

- 14 -

© Covers by Harper, Beacon Press

The Queer Review

BOOK REVIEWS Boy Erased by Garrard Conley

Garrard Conley grew up in a highly religious environment, his father being a Baptist pastor and his community of friends and family loving God. At nineteen years old, he is outed to his parents, and faces a choice between Bible-heavy conversion therapy and losing everyone he loves, including God. Recalling Jeanette Winterson's own memoir in matter and undertones, this promises a fantastic screen adaptation. (Make sure to come along to our cinema trip in February!) - YAIZA CANOPOLI

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

According to the authors of this book, the word 'queer' includes heterosexual people who have certain kinks or like pornography. It takes more than half of the book for trans people to even be mentioned, and non-binary people barely feature in it. It is an extremely Eurocentric book, and largely ignores the LGBT+ community from other parts of the world. People of colour are given a page or two, and ‘Asian’ is taken to mean exclusively East Asian. Overall, it does not accurately capture the diversity of queer experiences, and is a rather reductive representation of queer theory. - BEVERLY A. DEVAKISHEN

- 15 -


The Queer Review

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts

the devastation the epidemic had, especially on the LGBT+ community, during the time Shilts was writing. It is a massive undertaking to cover the breadth of such a deep and controversial issue—no doubt this is why this book is over 600 pages.

Following the emergence and development of the AIDS epidemic, Shilts’ investigative journalism certainly adapts well in book form, as it does not read like research, but instead provides information in a highly enjoyable manner.

Shilts allows the reader to experience an in depth unfolding of the epidemic, successfully exploring the contradiction between the official story and the reality. - MEGAN FURR

There is no denying that Shilts’ book, first published in 1987, is a demanding read. However, this shouldn’t deter any prospective readers, as the content is immensely important.

Proceeding chronologically, Shilts lays out the course of the AIDS epidemic, and does a great job of showing the ways the political and media agenda, personal testimony, and the role of the medical community intertwine. As the chapters are separated into years and dates, the book reads as almost like a diary, following the progressions of events, and making the book feel both informational and deeply personal. It further adds an extra dimension to read this book retrospectively in our current day and age, knowing

- 16 -

© Covers by Riverhead Books, Icon Books, St. Martin's Griffin

The Queer Review

BOOK REVIEWS explores her relationship with food, untangling her own confusion in the process. Eating, and being big, makes her feel safe. She recounts dieting, and how losing weight instantly makes her vulnerable. Her trauma from the assault has left her with a variety of things, the most prominent one being the acute need to protect her body.

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Collections such as Bad Feminist have marked Roxane Gay as a staple writer to reach for when exploring topics such as queer womanhood. However, while her essays get her international fame, it is her personal writing that really touched me. The author, having been sexually assaulted as a child, writes of the walls she has built around herself, protecting her body. Her main defence mechanism: eating. She

Gay’s writing is absolutely stunning, and her frank recounting of her darkest moments is at times harrowing, her honestly so vulnerable that it makes one feel intrusive. Her relationships are oftentimes confusing, her actions impulsive and contradictory, yet there is no attempted justification of irresponsibility, just a tender exploration of her own behaviour, an attempt at perhaps understanding it herself. These attempts fail more often than not, and by the end of the book there is a feeling of still being in the middle of something. While the memoir shows an incredible amount of healing, it also reminds us that trauma is not something you resolve in a day, but something that lives with you, and that you work alongside to find happiness. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

- 17 -

BOOK REVIEWS Bi Any Other Name ed. by Loraine Hutchins

Edited by Loraine Hutchins and Lani Ka'ahumanu and first published in 1991, this book is a collection of personal essays, poetry, and artwork on the topic of bisexuality, and how coming out affects people’s lives, from their family relations to their spirituality.

The Queer Review

endeavor. It is the result of the editors' realisation that there was a lack of understanding of bisexuality, and serves as an attempt to remedy this. The collecting of these essays took years, partially due to the editors’ desire to create a comprehensive and diverse portrayal of bisexuality. The result is a rich collection, showcasing people of all genders and backgrounds who came out at different points in their lives. It also takes into account the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, and the discrimination and fear that accompanied it, as well as the biphobia present within the LGBT community. This is in part shown by the fact that it was nominated for “Lesbian Anthology” in the Lambda Literary Awards, for lack of a more appropriate category.

Bi Any Other Name was one of the first books to depict bisexuality from an everyday, unsensationalised perspective. It shows bisexual people finding their place in a society where they do not yet have one. This anthology is a beautiful collection that is both enlightening and encouraging, The writing and publication of and in many ways ahead of its time. - LUCY CARADOG the book was a long and arduous

- 18 - © Covers by HarperCollins, Alyson Books

OTHER RECS A Little Gay History by R. B. Parkinson SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century ed. by Ng Yi-Sheng Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha The Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin Whipping Girl by Julia Serano The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp

© Covers by British Museum Press, Math Paper Press, Arsenal Pulp Press, It Books, Crossing Press, Alyson Books, Vintage, Seal Press, Penguin Classics

The Queer Review

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p

i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i

n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n

i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n



The Queer Review

Queering history

ueerness has always existed in human history. As members of the LGBT+ community today, we are privileged to be able to find role models in people who openly identify as queer. This desire to identify queer role models has seeped into the study of history — many of us find comfort and pride in knowing that our favourite historical figures may have identified as queer. However, many of these people existed in a time where discourse around queer identities was radically different, and categories used today did not have the same significance that they do now. Due to the dangerous nature of homophobia, people had to keep their non-normative identities largely hidden from the public eye in the past — it is not easy to distinguish what someone who lived in that era identified as if they were queer. Individuals are very much a product of their cultural and material realities. Some may claim that using the correct label for such historical figures is important and

empowering, but it still silences the subjects themselves. They did not fit our current understanding of any non-normative category, as our current labels carry with them a set of images that are applicable almost exclusively to our modern society. Not only are these labels situated in the social context of recent centuries, they are also largely Western. Certain non-Eurocentric identities simply cannot be explained through Western queer discourse. For example, there are five genders in an Indonesia-based ethnic group called the Bugis, and none of them translate to 'transgender' or 'intersex'; these five genders simply exist independent of the Western gender binary. Unless someone uses a specific term to identify themselves, we are not in a position to retrospectively, or externally, dish out labels. Having historical role models can be empowering, but one must be able to accept that they may not have experienced their queerness in the exact same way that we do. - BEVERLY A. DEVAKISHEN

- 22 -

The Queer Review



Studying queerness

eing called a “homosexual” in 2019 would make most queer people cringe. There is an inherent understanding that it’s an outdated term that shouldn’t be used anymore. The American Psychological Association agrees that words like “homosexuality” have been associated with pathology and should therefore be avoided. And true enough, back in 1952 when the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published, “homosexuality” was listed as a disorder, and it took 20 years of research to have it removed. Looking back, we could say the need to research queer identities is fetishizing or alienating. Our identities should not need to be confirmed as “safe to the public” to be normalized. But we could also argue that it was the research that allowed for normalization. Once no proof was found that queer people were not inherently dangerous or mentally ill, many homophobic arguments began collapsing, and societal attitudes

began shifting, slow as the change was. More recently, research on the socalled “gay gene” brings back all the controversies related to studying queer identities. On one hand, the existence of a gay gene could prove that our sexuality is not our choice, and just a part of our DNA. Even among the LGBT+ community there are surely many of those who would like to understand why exactly queer identities are a minority and what makes straight and queer people different. But that in itself could lead to discrimination based on having the “wrong” genes, and a return of people advocating for eugenics. It could be argued that whether or not queerness is genetic is irrelevant because it should be accepted as part of the norm one way or another. Othering as it may be, research helps us understand what makes us who we are, and as long as it’s done respectfully and humanely, it could be used to help raise acceptance. - OLA JANKOWSKA

- 23 -



The Queer Review

All about labels

e’ve all seen the ongoing debate on identity labels. On the one hand, the benefits of labels and markers for queer identities are clear; we use them to establish global support networks, to claim our rights, to unify the community, and, on a much more personal level, to give a name to our feelings. We use labels to establish an identity to be proud of, to know that we’re not alone in the world, to feel included. For me, the self-hatred and confusion I felt as a young teenager began to end when I read the words ‘gay’, ‘queer’, ‘bisexual’, and saw my feelings defined right there in front of me. But labels can do harm, too. What happens when you can’t find a definition that you clearly fit under? Or when labels become too outdated? What about when the label you use is still considered a slur by many? It’s often questioned whether labels divide more than they unify. They are often criticised for being too rigid, or for being based on

a Western understanding of sexuality and gender that do not apply globally. Critics create acronyms that are more inclusive than the standard LGBT+. I’ve lived both sides of it; growing up and coming to terms with my sexuality, I needed labels to give me a sense of belonging. Nowadays, I don’t subscribe to any particular label, but that gives me a certain comfort. Maybe one day I’ll settle on something that feels right, but for now, umbrella terms like queer suit me just fine. They come with a community and an identity that I’m still proud of. That’s the main benefit of labels for me; the community they create. Shared identification links people together and, for better or worse, labels spark conversations and encourage evolving debate around identity and oppression. Activist Sian Ferguson puts this into words: 'without the vocabulary to discuss privilege, power and oppression, silenced minority groups will continue to go unheard.' - ISABELLE SIDDLE

- 24 -



The Queer Review

Paris is Burning Few documentaries have sparked as much discussion within the LGBT+ community as Paris is Burning. Following mainly African-American and Latino queer communities in New York, the documentary provides a honest portrayal of the lives of these marginalised groups, looking at issues of race, gender, and class, against a backdrop of fierce competition of ball culture. The ball scene is the central focus of the film, showing a subculture which has developed its own values and norms, imitating the more dominant culture. This is also shown through the highly structured house system, which has at its apex a ‘drag mother’ providing support for those who were often rejected from their own families. It is amongst the ball culture

those involved share their own personal testimonies and struggles. Thanks to the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Paris Is Burning is fortunately finding a re-emergence amongst the new generation. It is a landmark piece of media for giving a voice to a community and type of lifestyle that was still ‘relatively taboo, invisible to society.’ - MEGAN FURR

- 26 -

The Queer Review




travelled an hour and a half to see Colette over the break, and while I wish I was exaggerating, I don’t regret it in the slightest.

'Colette is definitely one that will remain in the queer canon'

Keira Knightley as usual makes an excellent period character, playing a witty, charming, and bold Colette, who is delightful to watch after years of the usual stereotypes of queer women in film. The costume design is a merit on its own. The film overall feels like a kind of new, modern period drama, particularly in the soundtrack and its general lightness. It is very refreshing when most period pieces are melancholy or just not emotionally relatable. It’s aesthetics with substance.

It is always satisfying when films about writing intersect with LGBT+ themes, It relates the story of the French and it’s exciting to see that more writer Colette at the turn of the historical queer films are being made. twentieth century, through her relationship with her big-cheese Colette is definitely one that will husband taking credit for her writing, remain in the queer canon and on the and then giving it all up to be a radar, and hopefully its mainstream gay mime (the dream). I’m being production will encourage directors facetious, but the tone of the film is to create more movies like this, very much about being entertaining which is a sorely underrated, and uplifting, despite its subject. and currently small, category. - CHLOË MURRELL

- 27 -



The Queer Review


ollowing a variety of queer men on a cruise ship, queer documentary Dreamboat is one of a kind. The camera quite literally follows the men around the boat, chronicling both the movements of the group as a whole, and focusing on them one by one, interviewing each man to delve into his story. It is diverse in the purest and simplest way, the men on the boat coming from all over the world and speaking different languages. Each language and accent is portrayed as equally beautiful, and each man's history is unique and deeply personal. While the documentary is not particularly important in its subject matter, following men who are at least privileged enough to be on a cruise ship in the first place, its effect on the viewer is surprising. It is moving in its simple approach, in its recording of real conversations between people who have wildly different experiences of sexuality. One particularly memorable scene

shows two men in the gym, discussing what it means to come out to your family, and how the relationship between identity and cultural values feeds into that decision. One of the men believes keeping your true self hidden is unfair and equal to lying to your parents; the other says hurting your family with this information is objectively more harmful. The varying walks of life the men on the boat come from make the documentary feel short and fresh, jumping from young to old, German to Middle Eastern, promiscuous to monogamous. While a great part of it consists of colourful latenight parties and seductive dancing, it also allows for more tender moments: quiet scenes between long-term partners and outpourings of emotions long hidden. Dreamboat explores the excitement of a holiday where queerness is the norm, without overshadowing the loneliness hidden within. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

- 28 -

The Queer Review



How to Survive a Plague

n a recent video, Rowan Ellis (see our Youtube section!) called this documentary ‘not just griefporn’, which succinctly describes why How to Survive a Plague is different – it’s primarily about the people fighting back.

'governmental bodies can be so estranged and downright abhorrent' Based in New York from 1985 to 1995, at the height and hub of the AIDS epidemic, it is composed of footage from protests, meetings, and home videos, interspersed with present-day interviews of those involved, only twenty years older. This alone really hammers home how the

© Artwork by Chloë


history chronicled in this film didn’t happen in the deep past, but just on the other side of the millennium. It is greatly due to Act Up that an entire generation of queer people wasn’t wiped out by, as Larry Kramer put it, a plague. It’s simultaneously uplifting to see people stand together, and disturbing that governmental bodies can be so estranged and downright abhorrent. The image that has stuck with me is that of writers and artists self-learning chemistry, biology, and medicine, in order to find a cure themselves, and be able to go to meetings with drug companies. If you don’t know much about the actual chronology of the AIDS crisis, How to Survive a Plague is an invaluable piece of filmmaking, showcasing how it was solely on the backs of the people who protested relentlessly in the face of complete hopelessness that the queer community was able to continue becoming what it is today. - CHLOË MURRELL

- 29 -


The Queer Review

Before Stonewall + After Stonewall


his documentary pair is a must-see if you want to get to know the foundations of Western queer history in three hours. Before Stonewall came out in the eighties and looks back at events preceding the Riots, and After Stonewall was made fifteen years later to look at what happened afterwards. It’s a great dive into a rich history of LGBT+ figures and events, in a community where so often the only event people know about is Stonewall itself. Rita Mae Brown and Allen Ginsberg make appearances, and both films put people in the spotlight who should be just as well-known for the role they played. By giving names and faces to people, these documentaries make huge, vaguelyoutlined movements concrete. They allow viewers the realisation that t h o s e were real people with real lives that they were risking by fighting against injustice.

But it’s not entirely focused on the individual: Before Stonewall starts in the 1920s and covers how the Second World War affected queer women in particular, then jumps up the decades as community tension rises. It’s a simple and effective retelling of the whole century, making for very easy and engaging watching, especially with Brown’s narration. The fact that it has a sequel at all is unusual, and a testament both to the quality of the documentary and how much queer history there is to cover to achieve a fairly comprehensive knowledge. The two can of course be watched separately in their own right, but we put them together because they’re two sides of the same coin: if you don’t know where to start in learning more about LGBT+ history, these two documentaries give a great overview to then go down the rabbit hole of whatever interests you. - CHLOË MURRELL

The Queer Review


The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson


arsha P. Johnson was an extraordinary and well-loved person. This documentary does justice to her legacy and shows its audiences the true impact that Marsha had on the LGBT+ community. She had a leading role in the Stonewall riots, and the entire film was a breath of fresh air after Roland Emmerich's Stonewall movie, which essentially ignored the trans community and positioned a fictional white male at the head of the movement instead.

'It was brilliantly done and extremely compelling'

Marsha's easygoing and kind nature. The protagonist of the film, Victoria Cruz, a trans activist who works at the Anti-Violence Project, provides the audience with a unique point of view: she is investigating Marsha’s death. Police claim her body floated up in the river after she committed suicide, but the facts do not add up. The apathy of the police is paralleled with similar cases of trans women of colour facing physical assault that had been ongoing in 2013, giving the documentary a more political edge. It was brilliantly done and extremely compelling.

My only complaint is that we do not get to explore more of Marsha's life in the film. Her history and her background are barely dwelled upon, and more time is given to her contributions to the LGBT+ community. Marsha P. Johnson was a beautiful person, and deserves Marsha's activism is portrayed to have her story be told by more through nostalgic narratives that people, over and over again, so her friends and family recount on that her memory may live on. camera, balanced with a depiction of - BEVERLY A. DEVAKISHEN

- 31 -



The Queer Review


ride tells the story of the unlikely solidarity formed between the LGBT+ community and the mining community in 1984-5. It narrates the beginnings of LGSM (Lesbians and Gays support the Miners), co-founded by Mark Ashton, in aid of the miners striking against Margaret Thatcher’s pit closures. The film is incredibly well-researched. Stephen Beresford, the scriptwriter, based many of the characters on the individuals in a short documentary, filmed by LGSM, called All Out! Dancing in Dulais Pride. It shows that the foundation of the group lay in Mark Ashton’s sympathies towards the miners’ encounters with police brutality, an all too common experience for the gay community at the time. LGSM travelled directly to Onllwyn, a small town in Wales, where they were greeted by the miners with suspicion and a cold shoulder. Peace between the two groups slowly progresses and conciliation seems to be achieved when the

tear-jerking Bread and Roses is sung by the miners’ wives. It is a generally uplifting film, with Billy Bragg’s 'There is Power in a Union' and scenes of dancing highlighting a conciliatory atmosphere. It begs comparisons with films such as The Full Monty and Billy Elliot. However, Pride also talks of the members’ plight with AIDS and the attitudes towards the illness at the time, which Mark Ashton himself was a victim and died of in 1987, at the age of 26. The film reaches an emotional end when the miners lead the 1985 pride march in London. Pride is a rare and fantastic retelling of a period of history that has been covered extensively in British cinema. It does not fall into the trap of being an over-sentimentalised film that trivialises the issues of the time. Instead it immortalises the story of LGSM and the unlikely bond formed when two oppressed groups proudly held up each other’s banners. - JULIETTE REY

- 32 -

The Queer Review



Imitation Game

etween 1939 and 1945, mathematician and cryptographer Alan Turing led a team based in Bletchley Park in breaking the code used for German military messages. It’s believed that Turing’s work shortened WW2 by over two years, saving more than 14 million lives, but his achievements were kept classified until the 1970s. After being prosecuted in 1952 for ‘gross indecency’ with another man, he died of cyanide poisoning in 1954, his post-humous pardon only coming in 2013. The Imitation Game (2014) is a biopic that focuses largely on Turing’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) work at Bletchley, but also jumps between his childhood and his later life. We see how his relationship with his schoolmate Christopher influenced his life and work, and the devastating effect of his criminal conviction. As a historical account of Turing’s cryptographical work, The Imitation Game is fairly accurate. As a biopic of Turing’s

personal life, however, it is not. The tender portrayal of Turing’s declining health due to the chemical castration he was forced to undergo as an alternative to a prison sentence, and the nod the film gives towards the 49,000 men who were similarly convicted, are initially moving. But the handling of Turing’s sexuality and queer identity is not quite as well received. Whilst we see the police investigation and subsequent conviction, Turing’s then-partner Arnold Murray is never mentioned, nor are any of Turing’s lovers. The only person we ever see him attracted to is Christopher, in the context of a pre-pubescent crush. Critic Tim Teeman puts it into words: Turing’s sexuality and queer identity is ‘shown in cinematic parentheses’, placing Turing in the role of a pitiful victim, with the filmmakers falling back on the excuse of not wanting to make ‘being gay’ his defining characteristic. Ultimately, their Turing is gay only to serve his martyrdom. - ISABELLE SIDDLE

- 33 -


The Queer Review

Milk + Times of Harvey Milk


he Times of Harvey Milk, a 1984 documentary by Rob Epstein, begins with the announcement of the tragic event that would change history: 'Both Mayor Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed.' The documentary captures the essence of the political and social environment around Harvey Milk in San Francisco during the 60s and 70s, when the LGBT+ community started to grow. Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected into the Board of Supervisors in 1977. This Academy award winning film includes heartfelt interviews with friends and colleagues, some of the most poignant scenes in the film. Most moving of all is the footage of a silent candlelit vigil of 45,000 people to commemorate Milk. On the other hand, the film Milk gives a more romantic portrayal of

his life. It begins with the same shot of Feinstein announcing his death. Milk is then pictured sitting in his kitchen recording a tape message to be played in the event of his death. His fight against proposition 6, which looked to ban gay and lesbian teachers, and anybody who supported them, from teaching in California’s public schools, play an important role by solidifying his title as a gay activist and a serious politician. The two-time Academy award winning film manages to portray the heartbroken community of San Francisco, also ending with scenes of the vigil, and interweaving them with footage from the real event. Both films construct a faithful image of Harvey Milk as an icon and martyr to the LGBT+ community, hammering home his famous words: 'Hope will never be silent.' - JULIETTE REY

- 34 -

Š Artwork by Megan Furr

The Queer Review


QUEERING YOUTUBE Rowan Ellis Rowan Ellis creates both anecdotal and educational videos about the LGBT+ community. She brings an academic approach to her well-researched and informative videos, which range from the discussion of LGBT+ history to her own coming-out story. Rowan has mentioned how she doesn’t mind being referred to as ‘the gay YouTuber’, because she doesn’t find that label limiting and hopes to be someone others can look up to when facing questions about their own sexuality. Amongst her most popular videos are the ones in which she discusses pop culture and takes a feminist approach to well loved films and TV shows. - ELLIE ROBSON

Savannah Brown A poet and novel writer, Savannah Brown’s channel blew up with her video What Guys Look for in Girls, not only establishing her as a popular YouTuber, but as a talented poet. Populated with poetry and writing updates, her channel is highly inspirational for anyone who dreams of being a published author. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

- 35 -


The Queer Review

Jen Campbell If The Queer Review does not contain quite enough book recommendations for you (believe me, we get it), why not try some Booktube? Jen Campbell, bisexual author and book reviewer, will be sure to give you lots of literary and non-fiction to add to your ever-growing wishlist. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

Jessica Kellgren Fozard It’s rare to find a YouTuber whose videos are both easy to watch and full of food for thought, and Jessica certainly stands out in this category, her iconic style first and foremost. She makes videos about queerness, disability, religion, and vintage fashion, and talks about everything with such a positive charm that it almost spoils you for other YouTubers. I especially love her videos on being openly gay in school, which isn’t part of a lot of people’s stories, and the relationship between this and her disability, which again isn’t something widely talked about. - CHLOË MURRELL

The Queer Review


Riley J. Dennis Riley J. Dennis, a non-binary, lesbian activist, creates some of the most insightful content about feminism and queer culture on YouTube. Her educational videos, which are always accessible and never condescending, are evidence of the amount of research and effort she puts into her content; her vlogs provide a fun, light-hearted balance to the more serious topics she discusses. Videos I recommend starting with include ‘Male and female are binary, but people aren’t’, ‘The problem with only supporting ‘legal immigration’’ and ‘Why we need alcohol free queer spaces.’ - LUCY PEAKE

AConMann Connor Manning, or AConMann, has been on YouTube since 2010. Now a proud bisexual and genderfluid/non-binary person, it’s been truly an honour to witness their discovery of identity through deeply personal vlogging on mental health, addiction, gender, sexuality, healthy relationships, and more. Their videos are both deeply introspective and also incredibly relatable, and with their willingness to be vulnerable, they have created a truly kind community in their corner of the internet. They are perfect to watch for those times when you feel as though no one could possibly have felt the way you do. - JUDITH HOWE


The Queer Review

Rose and Rosie Rose and Rosie are two married girls who create content across three channels. On Rose and Rosie, they focus on their reactions to queer music videos, TV partnerships, as well as collaborations with other YouTubers. Their vlogging channel is where they post videos throughout the year, such as their trips away and channel series like BISEXY. Their third channel finally is all about gaming. Due to their success, they have toured the UK twice and published a book and documentary titled Overshare. In 2017 they were also awarded Best British Vlogger during the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards. - TASHA HARRIS

Strange Aeons Strange Aeons rose to fame last year with the viral video ‘What a Lesbian’s Hair Means’, which we probably all watched to find out what our hair is saying. Since then she seems to have invented a new genre of commentary channel. Her videos are mainly critical, with her infamous series of Deep Dives looking into all the mostly weird, not so wonderful parts of the internet, bringing an unapologetically queer, female perspective to everything. She’s also made a number of videos specifically about her lesbianism, and seems to have tapped into the niche of WLW who have migrated to YouTube from various dying social platforms. - CHLOË MURRELL

Unsolicited Project Are you a bitter single lady who is tired of all the lesbian couples taking over YouTube? Do you just want some wholesome queer friendship, perhaps with a discussion of queer media? Unsolicited Project is the right place for you! Buckle up for rants about The L Word and videos mocking lesbian stereotypes. - YAIZA CANOPOLI

- 38 -



February 8th to 15th Queer art exhibition & issue launch Friday 5 pm, the Hive City bookshop crawl Saturday 1 pm, The Book Hive Blind date with a book at the Makers' Market Monday 11 am, the Hive Queer academic panel Tuesday 5.30 pm, Arts rooms Creative writing workshop Wednesday 5 pm, Arts rooms Cinema trip: Boy Erased Thursday afternoon, Vue Open mic night Friday, 5.30 pm, Bookable rooms For more info and to stay updated about venues, find us on Facebook!



Miles Atkinson (artist), Megan Furr (copyeditor), Beverly Anne Devakishen (deputy editor), Yaiza Canopoli (editor-in-chief), Chloë Murrell (TV & film editor), Isabelle Siddle (artist)

NEXT ISSUE Fantasy & sci-fi Coming May 2019

Want to contribute? E-mail us or join The Queer Review on Facebook!

Twitter @queerreviewmag © Festival flyer by Chloë Murrell

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

Millions discover their favorite reads on issuu every month.

Give your content the digital home it deserves. Get it to any device in seconds.