I am an 80’s kid and I still love the 80’s today. How could you not, there were awesome sitcoms, some of the most iconic movies of the last 20 years, came out in the 80’s/ The fashion was fun, the language was on its own plateau, and video games were taking over every mall, strip mall, restaurant, and grocery store. Hell, even cell phones got their start in the Totally Tubular 80’s. It had also been just over thirty years since the events at Stone Wall, we were still considered the cast-off minority, the groups like ACT UP were starting, the battle for rights were ramping up to a massive peak, and GRID (AIDS) was the silent mass murderer of our people. If you were a rural gay kid like me, the options for role models were very limited. Gay male representation on television was left to the ascot wearing, pearl clutching flaming next door neighbor. Lesbians had the complete leather and denim wearing, mullet haired diesel dyke ready to kick in your face as opposed to talk to you. The Transgender community was often cast as the bad makeup wearing, and cheap clothes buying ladies of the night. What about Bisexuals? Forget it, you were lucky enough to be cast as either a gay or lesbian.
Where did we draw our strength to survive and become the fierce people we are? As a gay kid, I fell to drawing my strength from strong female characters. I didn’t have to worry about hiding the fact that I loved the Golden Girls or Designing Women, because they were a part of family TV. Watching the Facts of Life allowed me to deal with issues internally because I could understand the roles of Jo the tomboy and Blair the beauty queen. I had a Wonder Woman and Princess Leia doll when I was a kid and I played with my sister and her barbies more, sometimes, that I did my own toys. Basically, we learned to become strong from the strong characters we surrounded ourselves with. We would sing and dance to Female musicians like Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson, and so many more. Getting lost in novels like Little Women or Wuthering Heights.Actresses like Bette Davis, Judy Garland, and Meryl Streep. These were the defining pieces of who we wanted to become, they allowed us to see strength when we were being made fun of and lacked the courage. They gave us abilities to pattern after and the presence we needed to survive. Now this is speaking from a young gay male perspective, obviously. But does that stand true still?
From roughly 1869 to now, we have watched our fight for rights build momentum, gain some ground, and even backslide a little bit. The one thing that our fight has done is allowed for some pretty amazing people to become a part of our history. We now have role models like Harvey Milk, that are none by all, as role models for young LGBTQ children. There has been massive increases in actors/actresses, television shows, movies, authors, artists, musicians, and books for us to pattern after and look to for inspiration. So why is it that since we now have such a wide range of people bringing talent to our communities that we don’t support them? Is it that we don’t see them because mainstream music still pushes popular artists and not give enough time for the smaller ones? That is a very good argument, but I also feel it is because we are condition to consume what others tell us is popular, good, or en vogue at any given time. We, as LGBTQ consumers, should be looking to our own communities for music, tv, books, moves, and etc. That isn’t to say that we should abandon people like Bruno Mars, Shawn Mendes, Vin Diesel, Gal Gadot, or the many others simply because they are straight. However, they are artists that may not exactly understand what it means to be LGBTQ. There are plenty of artists out there that come from similar backgrounds as us and don’t simply pay us lip service because it is in fashion now, to do so. So, let’s take a look at some of the artists out there and see what they have to offer. First up would be Cameron Hawthorn, a gay country musician who currently has four singles out that are worth checking out. The most popular is Dancing in the Living Room.This song speaks of the love between two people being who they are at their most intimate, dancing. Not worrying about anyone or anything else in the world. Just sweet dulcet tones over love song style country music. Looking for something a bit more Top 40, check out Wils and Open Up Babe. His voice is somewhere between a Shawn Mendes and Ed Sheeran. If R&B is more your style the Kehlani has what you need. Sultry voice with smooth beats reminds me of the days of En Vogue, TLC, and SWV. Good Life and CRZY are two of my favorites by her. Last visit into music would be the trans star SOPHIE. While she is labeled as pop, to me they are a bit more reminiscent of KPOP meets Trance. Their song It’s Okay to Cry does have a bit more pop flavor to it while Immaterial definitely goes to the further extremes. All are bright and poppy while playing with styles as much as blurring gender lines.
Authors can be a bit more confusion to pull. It would be easy enough to go back to Armistead Maupin the author of Tales in the City that took place in a small apartment building in San Francisco during the 80s-90s and mirrored many of the current events going on like the AIDS epidemic. I point him out only because they will be rebooting his series again for a new generation. I feel it is more relevant to be able to showcase authors that may speak to the people of this era and what they are living through, even though the classics are still important. Let’s start first with Michael Cunningham’s book A Home at the End of the World. This book is about two Cleveland, Ohio born men, one gay one straight, who decide to raise a child together with the help of a surrogate mother, Clare. This group decided to live in a house outside of New York as a threesome. This book challenges all preconceived notions of sexuality, polyamorous relationships, and child rearing. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is an autobiographical novel about Alison and her siblings growing up in the home of their funeral director father who is also a closeted homosexual. This story documents the struggles Alison had with coming to terms with her own sexual identity. Perhaps you fancy something a bit more in the darker side? Look no further than Exquisite Corpse. This serial killer thriller was written by none other than transman Billy Martin, better known as Poppy Z. Brite. Many of you may know Poppy from her horror stories days with vampires and witches being some of the main characters. This book is about a serial killer who resembles Jeffrey Dahmer and falls in love with an HIV+ radio show host. Originally published in early 2000s is Michelle Tea’s Valencia. This book covers San Francisco subculture from sadomasochism to coming of age stories and focuses primarily on the lesbian area of Mission District. This book is 21 stories based on the author’s life. Lastly, if you prefer to read a book that does not hold to any gender identification, let me introduce you to Sphinx by Anne Garetta, this experimental novel is written without ever disclosing the genders of the main characters and only refers to them as “I” and “A.” This is a romance novel that is sure to leave you captivated and enthralled.
It is easy to keep going and show you so many ways you can support the LGBTQ community. The end point is remembered to support those that fight the fights with us. Standing strong together as one community allows us to support each other. Investing in people like we are shows that we cannot be driven by mass consumerism and what the media tells us is popular. We started our culture so many years ago with specific ways of speaking, modes of dress, hanky codes, symbols, and neighborhoods we chose to live in, why have we walked away from it. It is time to reclaim our homosexuality and show our love and strength, after all no one else will look out for our best interests. If there are musicians, authors, artists, and etc. you think should be showcased or just attention brought to, drop me a line or leave me a comment. I would love to hear what drives your passions.