Nex Benedict Loved Cats and Video Games and Reading

I cannot stop seeing their face. Their sweet round cheeks and bright eyes. The slopes in their wavy brown hair. The way that they smile with their lips pressed in front of their teeth, like I used to do to hide my braces. There’s a dimple in there, too. In one photo, they are making a peace sign and wearing glasses. In another, they’re standing proud in a vest and a white button down, their hands shoved into their pocket. Their hair always seems a bit messy, but in the cool way, like they just ran their hands in it. Because they probably did. Because kids are always on the move. Because they were a kid. Sixteen. A child. Nex Benedict was a child. And when the announcement of their death reached me on Monday, from the second I first saw their sweet face, my stomach dropped. It fell out of my gut and then wrapped itself somewhere around my knees. I have thought of very little else since.

Nex loved to draw. They loved reading. Their favorite video games were Ark and Minecraft. They would have done absolutely anything for their cat, Zeus. They were a straight-A student. Of course, being a straight-A student isn’t the reason Nex still deserves to be here, being a human walking this earth did that. But I hope we remember this little Minecraft loving nerd for more than how they died. I hope we remember that they loved friendship bracelets first.

Nex died earlier this month following a physical assault that took place in their Owasso, Oklahoma high school bathroom. According to Sue Benedict, Nex’s grandmother and legal guardian who spoke with The Independent, both Nex (who identified as gender-fluid) and another transgender student were attacked in the bathroom by three older girls. During the attack, Nex suffered head injuries.

In a statement provided to The Cut, a representative from Owasso Public Schools said that the students in question “were in the bathroom for roughly two minutes, and that the altercation was broken up by fellow students and a bathroom attendant, at which point the involved students were escorted to the assistant principal’s and nurses offices, where statements were taken.” It was determined that, per district protocol, ambulance services were not needed. Though they recommended that one student be taken to the hospital by their guardian for care.

The statement continued, “the loss of a student, a member of the Ram Family and Owasso community, is devastating. We recognize the impact that this event has had on the entire school community and it is our priority to foster an environment where everyone feels heard, supported, and safe.”

Benedict says that when she arrived at the school, she found Nex to be visibly bruised and with scratches on the back of their head, and that the school had not called an ambulance or the police. Instead, she says that school officials informed her that Nex would be suspended for two weeks (presumably, due to the school fight). Benedict then took Nex to the Bailey Medical Center in Owasso on her own, where they spoke to a school-resource officer and was discharged. The Owasso Police Department confirmed both the “physical altercation” and Nex’s head injuries; in a statement to The Advocate they also confirmed that they were not informed of the incident by the school until Nex had arrived at the hospital later that day.

The next day, Nex collapsed in the family living room. By the time the EMT officers arrived, Benedict said that Nex had stopped breathing. The hospital declared them dead on the evening of February 8.

According to Benedict, Nex had been bullied at school since last year. In 2022, the anti-trans hate-filled social media site Libs of TikTok posted a video mocking an Owasso High School teacher for supporting queer and trans students. That teacher, who Benedict says Nex looked up to, resigned following outcry from Libs of TikTok’s post. Chaya Richik, who runs Libs of TikTok, denied any wrongdoing related to Nex’s death on Twitter. Following Libs of TikTok’s 2022 video, Oklahoma governor Kevin State signed an anti-trans bathroom bill into law in 2023. Last month, Chaya Raichik was appointed by Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters to supposedly “make schools safer” in the state.

Sue Benedict raised Nex since they were two years old. “Nex did not see themselves as male or female, Nex saw themselves right down the middle,” Ms. Benedict told The Independent. “I was still learning about it, Nex was teaching me that.” According to their grandparents, Nex was patient in correcting if they misused a pronoun or called them by the wrong name. “When you’re old school, you don’t always understand it, Sue’s husband Walter said. “But it would be very boring if we were all the same. It’s on the inside that matters most.”

Nex’s sister, Malia Pila, who also identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, told The Independent that Nex’s gender identity was well known and “not an issue or anything that anybody cared about” within their family.

In the days since Nex’s passing, their grandparents have found themselves thrust in front of a lot of press, in some of which they misgendered Nex. On a GoFundMe created by a family friend to help cover Nex’s memorial services (note before clicking: the site uses Nex’s incorrect name), Ms. Benedict apologized: “We are sorry for not using their name correctly and as parents we were stil learning the correct forms… we are sorry in our grief that we overlooked them. I lost my child, the headstone will have correct name of their choice. The rest of monies will go to other children dealing with the right to be who they feel they are, in Nex Benedict’s name. God bless.”

It’s clear that Nex was surrounded in love at home, which I hope was a comfort. I hope that they knew and was comforted by how much they were treasured and cared for, not only by their immediate loved ones (though certainly, most importantly by them) — but also by so many countless strangers in this queer and trans family who did not know their name or story until their passing, but have thought of very little else since.

Our editorial team struggled with how and when to write about this. We knew that we didn’t want to add to sensationalizing a trans kid’s death. We didn’t want to fear-monger for clicks, or jump to conclusions that might harm especially our trans readers amidst so many conflicting accounts of Nex’s last hours and days (though it’s worth remembering that the school’s account, at least, does not make logical sense in the context of everything else that’s known). And I apologize if in our thoughtfulness, it took us even a minute longer than it should have to get this piece published.

But what we know is that Nex Benedict deserves to be remembered. They deserve to have their story told in as many queer spaces and trans spaces as possible. They deserve to be held in our heart, a reminder that we have to fight with steel in our backbones for trans kids and queer kids to be able to continue growing up safely, held close and nurtured, above all else. And I hope we do this not because Nex deserves to be some type of martyr — but because they were honestly, deeply, and unequivocally, loved by each and every one of us reading this page.

I hope that when we think of them, it’s the tucked away dimple that we remember first. I hope it’s their eyes and their cheeks, those hands shoved into their pockets and how sharp they looked in their vest.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 681 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. This has haunted me since I first heard about it Saturday night. Thank you for your thoughtful and compassionate coverage.

    • Thank you for this beautiful article that you should have never had to write Carmen. Rest in power young one. You should have had so much more time 💔

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Pop Culture Fix: Lesbians With Sleep Disorders, Listen Up! Kehlani Is Making a Lullaby Album

Kehlani and Jhené Aiko Are Teaming Up for an R&B Lullabies Project

Kehlani holding a microphone on stage

Steve Jennings / Contributor via Getty Images

Kehlani and Jhené Aiko will collaborate on a new album as part of Aiko’s Sleep Soul project, which seeks to make R&B-influenced lullaby music. Quite literally for babies! “Our goal is to create more variety and diversity in the baby sleep music space,” the Sleep Soul website reads. Diversity in the baby sleep music space! I really do genuinely love it. And as a queer mom, Kehlani is a perfect candidate to be tapped for this project.

The album will be the fourth release from Sleep Soul, and friends, as someone who used to experience acute insomnia and who does regularly rely on auditory experiences to chill the fuck out, I just streamed the hell out of some Sleep Soul and can verify: It’s not just for babies! It’s for sleepy but sleep-challenged dykes, too! It’s even just a vibe for working from home, but I recommend only trying that if you’re heavily caffeinated otherwise you WILL be nodding off at your desk.

Other lullabies are boring compared to this tbh, so if you want to have a cool baby 🍼😎, you gotta get them on the Sleep Soul train! I’m already hooked and can’t wait for what Kehlani brings to the table on February 22 when Sleep Soul Volume 4 comes out.


Other Queer Pop Culture Stories For Your Day:

+ Apparently, Parvati Shallow Didn’t Bring Enough Headbands to The Traitors. Are you caught up on our coverage of The Traitors? And speaking of:

+ ‘The Traitors’ Ushers in the Golden Age of Queer Villains.

+ Give it a listen: Ethel Cain Shares New Song “من النهر,” (“From The River”) For Palestine.

+ I’ll go ahead and spoil the answer to the question posited in this Refinery29 article — Is Karol G and Young Miko’s “Contigo” Music Video Queer Baiting? — by telling you it’s a resounding nope! The post does a good job of articulating a lot of the problems I have with people incorrectly lobbing accusations of queer baiting at artists. “Celebrities don’t need to come out to their queer fans, and coming out doesn’t make a queer person any more queer. Even more, demanding a formal ‘coming out’ might be old-fashioned in the queer-friendly society we aim to create. It assumes that everyone is straight by default. Also, there’s simply no denying this music video is queer AF.

+ The latest Kristen Stewart fashion moment? White tights.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 762 articles for us.

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Alabama’s Anti-IVF Ruling Quotes God To Conclude Embryos Are People and Queer Parents Are F*cked

There are only five fertility clinics in all of Alabama. This isn’t an absurdly low number, necessarily. Only 1.5% of the U.S. population — around 5 million people — live in Alabama. So, if fertility clinics were distributed proportionately to population, then in a country with around 500 fertility clinics, Alabama ought to have 7.5, which isn’t a ton more than five. But, for comparison, I live in Los Angeles, where there are 36 fertility clinics with 47 locations to serve a population of 3.85 million residents, and it can still be incredibly difficult to find a clinic that has an appointment in the near future and takes your insurance (not that insurance actually covers fertility treatments, but insurance usually does cover the appointments you have about those treatments). Alabama doesn’t have the lowest ratio of clinics to population in the country, but it does perform, proportionately, less ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) procedures per year than any other state and reports the second-lowest number of ART births per year. There are many reasons for this, I imagine, but without getting into all of those, let’s tackle the most obvious one: ART is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor that’s already inaccessible to many parents who might benefit from it.

This week, many prospective Alabaman parents are worried that what was once a difficulty will become an impossibility, due to a shocking state Supreme Court ruling in which the justices decided to go with God and rule that IVF embryos are people because God said so. This has especially alarming implications for hopeful queer parents, who in most cases cannot conceive via sexual intercourse, and in Alabama, already faced a lot of adversity as parents. As of today, The University of Alabama-Birmingham has already paused all IVF procedures in light of the ruling, meaning parents who had already scheduled embryo implantation procedures will not be able to go forward.

How did we get here? Well, it begins with a patient sneaking into a “cryogenic nursery” and dropping a bunch of embryos on the ground and ends with a violently conservative Judge who hates women quoting the Bible in a court ruling. Let me explain:

So A Man Walked Into a Cryogenic Nursery…

Three straight couples were doing IVF with a fertility clinic in Mobile, Alabama. In IVF, eggs are transferred out of a uterus-having person’s ovaries and fertilized with sperm (from their partner or a donor) in a laboratory, thus creating embryos. Then, one or more viable embryos are popped into the body of the hoping-to-be-pregnant person, in hopes of — you guessed it — getting them pregnant!

Often, one round of egg retrieval and fertilization can create multiple “good” embryos, but usually, only one embryo is transferred into the hopeful parent. Thus, extra embryos can be frozen and stored in case the first transfer doesn’t result in pregnancy, or if the parent wants to have more children later. If the parent’s done having kiddos, they’ll then choose to destroy, donate, or sell their remaining embryos.

So, there were three couples — the LePages, the Fondes and the Aysennes — who’d all had two successful IVF pregnancies each at the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Mobile, Alabama. They also all had extra embryos, which they’d stored in the clinic’s “cryogenic nursery.” Somehow — and honestly this is a really wild part — a patient at a hospital connected to the clinic “wandered” into the chambers, which were left unlocked, removed several embryos and then, because of the subzero temperatures the embryos were stored in, freeze-burned his own hands. The shock of the burn caused him to drop the embryos.

Obviously, the parents were upset, which is totally understandable, and they wanted some compensation for their losses. Each round of IVF requires a lot of the human body as well as a ton of time, and a ton of money — up to $30k per round. It’s unclear what the parents’ exact circumstances were, but it’s certainly possible these lost embryos destroyed their chances of having additional children. Thus, they pursued litigation.

When five parents in California lost embryos in 2018 due to malfunction in a fertility clinic, they successfully sued the clinic for $15 million dollars. They managed to do this without doing what the plaintiffs in this case did — which was sue for Wrongful Death of a Minor, which would require proving the embryo is a full person.

The Clinic Argues Plaintiffs In Alabama IVF Case Have Anti-Choice Agenda

The clinic argued that the plaintiffs’ “true motives are not about compensation for their loss, but about making a larger statement about abortion rights,” because, they say, if it was really about compensation, they would’ve instead filed “the more logical claims of breach of contract and bailment against the clinic.”

They also argued that the plaintiffs were contradicting themselves by claiming the that embryo destruction was murder. The Fondes signed a contract to automatically destroy embryos frozen for over five years, the LePages agreed to donate extra embryos to medical researchers for projects that could result in their destruction, and the Aysennes agreed that any abnormal embryos created through IVF could also be used for research and consequential destruction. The court determined that it didn’t matter because the defense hadn’t yet invoked “waiver, estoppel or similar affirmative defenses.”

It is truly unclear where the plaintiffs stand in all this or what their role was in taking this specific approach to the case, and I’m not legally fluent enough to understand the breadth of their options. It doesn’t make sense that they’d knowingly engage in a process that would stop other parents from building a family with IVF, as they were able to do. They’ve not been pictured or quoted anywhere.

Alabama Supreme Court Concludes Embryos Are People Because God Said So

The case was dismissed by a lower court on the grounds that “in vitro embryos do not fit within the definition of a ‘person’ or a ‘child,” and thus the plaintiffs took their case to the supreme court, where they found great success.

In his majority opinion, Justice Jay Mitchell wrote that there’s no exception for frozen embryos under an 1872 law allowing civil lawsuits for the death of children (probs ’cause there was no such thing in 1872, but whatever!), writing it’s not the role of the Court to craft a new limitation based on their own view of what constitutes public policy, especially in a state that recently passed an amendment “directly aimed at stopping courts from excluding ‘unborn life’ from legal protection,” referring to the 2018 amendment to the Alabama constitution recognizing ‘the rights of the unborn’ that prohibited state funds from going towards abortion care.

Chief Justice Tom Parker (a big fan of the confederacy!), in his concurring opinion, quoted the bible ten thousand times, eventually concluding that:

“even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory… The People of Alabama have declared the public policy of this State to be that unborn human life is sacred. We believe that each human being, from the moment of conception, is made in the image of God, created by Him to reflect His likeness.”

Justice Greg Cook was the only judge to file a full dissent, arguing that the Wrongful Death Act does not define the term “minor child.” He asked the Alabama legislature to address this discrepancy, writing that “no rational medical provider would continue to provide services for creating and maintaining frozen embryos knowing that they must continue to maintain such frozen embryos forever or risk the penalty of a Wrongful Death Act claim for punitive damages.”

Planned Parenthood Alabama president Stephen Stetson found the ruling “extremely alarming” and “judicial overreach” as well as “part of a concerted long term plan to justify government intervention in people’s bodies.”

Justice Parker Claims Other Countries Are Already Restricting Embryo Creation So Why Can’t We

Parker writes that Cook’s fears of IVF ending in Alabama are unfounded because other countries have found ways to permit IVF without freezing extra embryos. In Australia and New Zealand, he claims “prevailing ethical standards dictate that physicians usually only make one embryo at a time.”

I see no such recommendation in the literature he refers to, which merely recommend only transferring one embryo at a time into the body to avoid the potential increased risk of multiple pregnancies. It doesn’t say anything about creating multiple embryos. I might be missing something (and please correct me if I am), but I can’t imagine any doctor ethically recommending a parent endure more egg retrievals than necessary. In its Amicus Brief, the Alabama Medical Association lays out multiple reasons why the ability to cryopreserve additional embryos is beneficial to the health of parent and their potential children.

Parker then celebrates Italy’s (former!) position on creating multiple embryos, as if Italy was not a radical outlier on this issue due to the influence of the Catholic Church. In 2004, Italy passed a law restricting embryo creation to three per cycle, all of which have to be implanted into the potential parent because none can be frozen. Italy also outlawed donating sperm or eggs. The result: LGBTQ+ parents and single parents could not have children, most parents with infertility issues could not have children, many Italians traveled elsewhere for IVF, and success rate at IVF clinics in Italy plummeted. These provisions were eventually overturned, but single people and same-sex couples were still barred from using fertility treatments. Things in Italy are pretty dire for same-sex parents at the moment!

“Such limitations on embryo creation and transfer necessarily reduce or eliminate the need for storing embryos for extended lengths of time,” Cook, who is NOT A DOCTOR and hates women, concludes in his section about how Europe and Oceania are better at embryos than we are.

The 19th, reporting just before the overturning of Roe v. Wade, cited Italy as a cautionary tale regarding what could happen if embryos are considered people in the U.S., leading to limitations being placed on the number of eggs that can be retrieved in a cycle or banning embryo preservation: IVF treatment success will decrease, and “patients will have to endure — and pay for — more IVF transfers.”

As Mamie McLean, a physician at Alabama Fertility Specialists told The Washington Post, “If we are to say, ‘Okay, I can fertilize two eggs instead of 10,’ we may not end up with any embryos or end up with an unhealthy embryo, so patients may need multiple egg retrievals to achieve the same pregnancy rate that we were trying to achieve with one retrieval. Multiple attempts at retrieval will cost more money.”

It also bears mentioning that it costs more to do IVF in the United States than anywhere else on the planet, particularly for LGBT couples.

In Conclusion, We Are F*cked

Although the majority of articles about this issue have focused on opposite-sex couples with infertility struggles, this ruling will have a massive impact on queer parents specifically, as we often are unable to have kids without the services offered by a fertility clinic. IVF isn’t the only method of assisted reproduction available through fertility clinics — IUIs remain a thing — but it is the one with the highest success rates. For many parents, due to age or fertility, IVF is the only procedure with any reasonable chance of success at all.

Abortion is already entirely outlawed in Alabama, even in cases of rape or incest. This doesn’t only impact pregnant people who don’t want children, it also impacts pregnant people who do, because abortion restrictions also place limitations on miscarriage care, and force parents to carry to term babies with a life-limiting diagnosis. This in and of itself made pregnancy risky for any hopeful parent in Alabama.

Doctor Paula Amato, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, told the New York Times she predicts eventually “modern fertility care will be unavailable to the people of Alabama.”

I’d like to end this piece with a quote from God: “be fruitful and multiply, as long as you don’t freeze any embryos in the process because that’s bad!!!”

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3148 articles for us.

After Watching J.Lo’s “This Is Me…Now” I’m No Longer Sure Who Is Me…Now

“This Is Me…Now” is one third of a self-financed multimedia project by multihyphenate ultra-celeb Jennifer Lynn Lopez, comprising a studio album, this genre-defying film, and a documentary about the making of and inspiration behind this genre-defying film.

“This Is Me…Now” is a narrative visual companion to an album with a loose and expansive definition of the word narrative.

“This Is Me…Now” is 66 minutes of strung together music videos.

“This Is Me…Now” is a fictionalized meta contemplation on J.Lo’s long-dissected reputation as a serial monogamist, all her past relationships lined up like dominoes ready to be toppled by the media frenzies they engendered.

All of these things are technically true, and yet, to attempt to describe “This Is Me…Now” — directed by Dave Meyers, and written by J.Lo and Matt Walton, based on the story J.Lo, Meyers, and Chris Shafer initially conceived — is to attempt a definition of the undefinable. It’s to attempt to catch a hummingbird by the wings.

Now, I’m admittedly high on cold meds right now, but I bravely watched the film in a state of total sobriety, and my conclusion then is the same as it is now: “This Is Me…Now” is art. As a writer of autofiction, who am I to judge her uncanny approach of changing enough details to make it a work of fiction (and fantasy?) while remaining thematically true to her own self-mythology and persona?

Let’s rewind back to the beginning and break down the project beat-by-beat. Because again, I’m high on cold meds, and I need to talk about every frame of this cinematic curiosity.

We open with an explanation of the film’s guiding mythology, the Puerto Rican folktale of Alida and Taroo. Star-crossed lovers and all that business. Hummingbirds are important symbols in the love legend. J.Lo is on the back of a motorcycle driven by a man I think we’re meant to understand as the Taroo to her Alida. She informs us, and then reminds us later on, that when she was a little girl, she used to say when she grew up, she wanted to be a woman in love. That’s funny, because when I was in second grade, I wrote in my school journal that when I grew up I wanted to be Jennifer Lopez. Not kidding. I still have it somewhere.

While Jennifer Lopez — the real her, not the her as presented in the film, although I’m not sure drawing such distinctions is all that meaningful when it comes to celebrities whose blurred lines between person/persona are illegible to us voyeurs on the outside — does seem to have achieved her childhood ambitions of being a woman in love many times over, I have not achieved my own childhood ambitions of becoming Jennifer Lopez. I simply do not possess the mental capacity to make an art project like “This Is Me…Now,” which feels like it belongs on a different plane of existence.

Anyway, the motorcycle crashes. She lives, mystery man does not.

We’re suddenly in a…factory? A dystopian factory? Where everyone is dancing but also completing inscrutable factory tasks involving red flower petals and a mechanical heart. The choreography is good, zombie-like (complimentary). We learn this is the “heart factory,” and we also learn this is merely a recurring dream, as explained by J.Lo to her therapist, played by Fat Joe. Still with me?

a "heart meter" that reads WARNING: PETAL LEVEL LOW

please, my heart! it needs more…petals

Astrology is very important to “This Is Me…Now” and presumably therefore very important to Jennifer Lynn Lopez. Her character in-universe is obsessed with signs — signs from the universe and using signs to categorize and understand the behaviors of herself and others.

In the wake of the death of her motorcycle man, she has a new Libra boyfriend who looks like he was generated by AI and who is also abusive! We’re now in a song and dance about domestic abuse, and it takes place in a glass house occupied by other couples, also seemingly in abusive situations. The choreography here hinges on the couples being literally bound together by wearable rope, and uh, I think there are some obvious conclusions to be made here about it being Bad that this section seems to be visually equating abuse and BDSM and also it being Bad that the only time queerness really appears in this film is here, in this…song and dance about domestic abuse? This is not an essay though. Go read someone who isn’t high on cold meds if you want that!!!!!!!

two queer women kiss on a bed, bound by ropes

“babe, do you ever think about how crazy it is that we only exist inside the imagination of a fictional rendering of a celebrity in the form of a very on-the-nose and yet also perhaps troubling metaphor for bad relationships?” // “shhhh babe just kiss me”

The song does end with J.Lo literally shouting “fuck Libras,” and I think that’s neat. (Sorry to my Libra friends.)

Here is where another important piece of the film’s mythology emerges. We’re introduced to The Zodiacal Council, a governing body of anthropomorphized star signs, all played by famous people who are those signs IRL. It’s important you know exactly which famous people are playing which signs, so here’s a rundown:

Aries: Jay Shetty
Taurus: Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Gemini: Jenifer Lewis
Cancer: Sofia Vergara
Leo: Post Malone
Virgo: Kim Petras
Libra: Trevor Noah
Scorpio: Keke Palmer
Sagittarius: Jane Fonda
Pisces: Sadhguru

(While most of these choices are excellent, platforming Sadhguru is a misfire.)

Keke Palmer in This Is Me...Now, playing Scorpio

wait, she’s spending HOW MUCH of her own money on this?????

They are in space. They are seemingly tasked with the hyper-specific job of…sending signs to exactly one human (Jennifer Lynn Lopez) in order to nudge her in the direction of her…soulmate? It is canon that the Zodiacal Council all watches Vanderpump Rules, established by a very long interlude on Vanderpump Rules. Everyone is honestly giving great performances, but Keke Palmer really understands the assignment. Awards!

J.Lo is getting married! She’s wearing a wedding dress with heart cutouts directly above the coochie and below the coochie, and actually I have no notes about this fashion choice. And now…she’s getting married again. Ahhh, I see what we’re doing. This song and dance sequence features her marrying three interchangeable hunky men. For context, prior to her current marriage to Ben Affleck IRL, J.Lo was married three times, to Ojani Noa, Cris Judd, and Marc Anthony. We’re doing a little homage to her triptych of marriages, which indeed has been a point of much media discussion. After the singing and dancing, we see her in couples therapy with each of these men. She ultimately leaves each of them, too.

I know people like to hyperfixate on the multiple marriages number, but my favorite piece of J.Lo data, which doesn’t really come up in the film, is that she has been engaged SIX times. That’s an iconic number of engagements! And I say this as a perfectly normal and well-adjusted person who bought herself a set of rings that say Jennifer Lopez on them to celebrate J.Lo and A-Rod’s engagement

It’s at this point that her friend group in the film — who seem to hate her guts — stage an intervention and accuse her of love addiction. By now, she’s seeing a character who seems to perhaps be an amalgam of Casper Smart (the younger backup dancer she had an on-and-off relationship with) and Sean “Diddy” Combs? I think? Because the character has a gun, and J.Lo and Diddy had a little situation with a gun when they were together.

Anyway, her friends are like “you’re a relationship addict,” and she’s all like “well that’s better than being SHIT at relationships like you lot.” It should be noted that her friend group is made up of mostly nameless people? Without many defining traits? One is a klepto, and that’s her whole thing. At first I thought perhaps this was evidence of J.Lo…not having a lot of meaningful friendships in real life or perhaps being self-obsessed to the point of flattening her friends into this weird indistinguishable chorus of characters. But now that my cold meds are REALLY kicking in, I’m able to unlock a more symbolic reading which is that perhaps the friends are meant to merely represent the press. They do indeed say a lot of the things the press likes to say about J.Lo, criticizing her tendency to hop from one long-term relationship into another.

a beagle in This Is Me...Now

“thank you Fluffy for satiating my lifelong need for longterm companionship” // “I’m literally just a dog named Fluffy who isn’t Fluffy”

While I do think the press has often been sexist and infantilizing toward Jennifer Lynn Lopez wrt her relationship patterns, I do find it hilarious that this film is positioning “being a romantic” and “believing in soulmates” as…marginalized identities.

J.Lo has a dog now, named Fluffy even though he is not a fluffy dog, and that’s pretty avant-garde of her. There’s a time jump marked mainly by Fluffy going from puppy to senior dog very quickly. J.Lo has finally agreed to go to Love Addicts Anonymous, where she doesn’t really spill her heart out but does do some excellent chair choreography. And I love chair choreography.

J.Lo, soaking wet in a ballgown in her new house which is not the glass house from before but does look like an elaborate computer screensaver, is burning love letters between her and motorcycle man. You know, for closure or something. A hummingbird shows up, but she doesn’t see it. Only Fluffy does. And he doesn’t tell her about this divine sign, because he is a dog.

One of her friends who hates her knocks on the door. He’s inviting her to his wedding, so he can’t hate her THAT much. Also, this is notable because he was always the Cynic About Love, which basically makes him a monster in the context of this universe in which not believing in love is a moral defect.

It’s time for J.Lo to tell Fat Joe about another dream she had. This one isn’t set in the heart factory. It’s in the Bronx — specifically in Castle Hill, the neighborhood J.Lo grew up in IRL. The block of “Jenny From the Block,” if you will. In the dream, she’s walking through her past, haunted by a spooky presence who turns out to be her literal younger self, but all covered in cuts and bruises because she hasn’t been loved enough by HERSELF. Her younger self is very mad at her for loving everyone else but her younger self. J.Lo has to literally now heal her inner child by singing and dancing with her throughout the Bronx. We’re back in the heart factory, baby, because the heart is healing!

J.Lo in This Is Me...Now looking at a heart combusting in the heart factory

J.Loppenheimer

The Zodiacal Council is supercharged by love or something, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson provides a lesson on love in nature.

We’re at another wedding, inexplicably set in the dessert and under a…hollowed out statue of a man with bells inside it? I think?

a strange statue thing with bells inside it from This Is Me...Now

what in the wicker man

Jennifer Lopez is singing and dancing and giving main character, even though this apparently isn’t even her wedding! It’s the cynic friend’s! And she didn’t even bring a date to the wedding, because she’s practicing #SelfLove.

The only thing I like more than chair choreography? Rain choreography! And we get Singin’ in the Rain (Jennifer’s Version) at film’s end. She’s not only singing and dancing in the rain but singing and dancing in the rain WITH a hummingbird.

Also, in case you were wondering if J.Lo’s “soulmate” was featured in the film, yes, yes he was. But Benjamin Affleck does not appear as one of the many husbands in the film, no of course not. He is indeed the motorcycle man, whose face we never actually see. And then he is also…a news pundit named Rex Stone?? Seen occasionally in the background, ranting about love and people no longer believing in love.

Ben Affleck in This Is Me...Now as Rex Stone, asking if astrology is real

What a choice! On so many levels! I, for one, did not actually clock that Rex Stone was played by Ben until it was revealed during the end credits. Why did she make the love of her life wear THAT WIG!!!!!

The more I think about it, the more I think there’s no better person to craft a story about celebrity and about the folklorish narratives we develop about celebrities than the celebrity herself. Not because J.Lo is able to actually shed any light on her life and choices or even really display any genuine vulnerability, but because with all the artifice and spectacle of a project like this, therein lies a certain authenticity. This is exactly how J.Lo wants to be perceived. Through a lens of dreamscape and lore. “This Is Me…Now” isn’t an explanation so much as an abstraction.

I have attempted to recap the un-recappable, because even if you have read all of this, you will not understand “This Is Me…Now” until you watch it, and even then will not really understand it either.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 762 articles for us.

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Anonymous Sex Diary: A Couple Rekindles Their Sex Life with “Intimacy Boot Camp”

Welcome back to our Anonymous Sex Diaries series where queer and trans people from around the world let us into a seven day snippet of their sex, love and dating lives.

Day 1
You’re sitting on the bed, your auburn hair in a messy ponytail. I wrap a blanket around you, and kiss your cheek. You sip your ginger/turmeric/peach tea, and I light the fir/pine/cilantro candle I bought you. There are many holy trinities. I want tonight to be special. As I was making us latkes earlier for Hanukkah, you got a bit melancholy and cynical talking about this week of rekindling our love and sex life. You expressed feeling pressured by the time constraint, by how busy our lives are, but recognized these feelings were influenced by PMSing and a stres...

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Posts published as anonymous are not necessarily by the same author.

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No Filter: Happy Aquarius Season to Megan Thee Stallion!

feature image photos of Megan Thee Stallion via Megan’s Instagram

Hello and welcome back to No Filter! This is the place where I tell you what the queer famous people have been up to in the last week! Let’s absolutely party.


I missed Valentine’s Day content because of our publishing schedule, so let’s start with some love! Look at these two! Good for them!


Thankfully, my Auntie has already posted a tbt for Valentine’s Day, because her love is that real!


I love when a new Bridgerton season is on the way, because we get more Golda out and about, looking stunning.


Another slay from the Queen herself!


My GOD! Let me catch my breath!


One thing Kate is always gonna do is post with a pet!


Happy Belated Birthday, Meg Thee Stallion of my heart!

For the astrology heads — Aquarius Sun, Taurus rising, Leo Moon. Stunning big three, imo!

Happy Lunar New Year from my wife and I!


Okay so Thom Browne is officially THEE designer for the Gods now, right???


Because Keke is a consummate professional and also a 53 year old woman in a 30 year old’s body, I do love when she posts like an actual 30 something.


Would looove to know what Gigi and Halle chatted about.


Well Cynthia this makes me feel QUITE old so I hope you are happy!


Amandla logs on for contractual obligations only, and boy do I respect it.

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Christina Tucker

Christina Tucker is writer and podcaster living in Philadelphia. Find her on Twitter or Instagram!

Christina has written 273 articles for us.

Uncommon Pairings: Age Your Wine!

feature image by kelllll via Getty Images

Welcome back to Uncommon Pairings, a series all about wine! Today, we’re talking about why people age wine and how to age wine for a fraction of the (often) triple-digit cost by doing it yourself.


Have you ever considered buying a bottle of wine with an older vintage and then balked at the price tag? Me too. I know that vintage matters; it’s just that if I’m running into a wine shop for a last-minute dinner wine, I’m probably not going to think about whether 1975 was a dry year for the Loire Valley. I’m going straight to the $25-and-under section and looking for something I know I’ll like.

But older wines are special! The aging process allows more subdued flavors to step forward and helps wine transform into a more mature, complex version of itself. I’m not here to convince you to buy the old wine. I’m sure if it’s on the shelf at my local wine store, it’s fit to drink, and I trust that it’s worth every penny. But I also think maybe — if you’re just dipping your toes into the whole aging process — maybe you could save some of those pennies and age wine yourself. You probably won’t be able to resell the wine for $500,000 (or any money, really), and you might wind up with something mostly undrinkable and covered in a thick layer of dust, but there’s a chance you might wind up with something really special.


Why age wine?

Besides the science of it all (which is very cool, and I promise we will talk about that in a second!) I think one of the best reasons to age wine is to commemorate something. I’ve heard of people buying whole cases of wine when their children are born (with the same vintage as the child’s birth year), and then slowly drinking their way through the case as their child grows up. Obviously, that’s a lot of commitment — both financially and from a space perspective — but it’s a beautiful way to mark a big life moment.

A smaller stakes way to approach this might be to get a few bottles with a vintage of note. If you got married in 2022, for example, you could buy a few bottles with that vintage and then open each one a few years apart.

Wine changes as it ages. While it’s young, it might be fruit-forward, but as it matures, some of that fruitiness disappears and the previously understated flavors take center stage. At the heart of this process is oxygen. You know how wine “turns” after a few days once it’s open? That’s oxidation. The cork helps slow down oxidation considerably. Aging is just controlled oxidation through the cork. You want the wine to mature, but not so much that it’s undrinkable!

Picking a wine to age

Technically, you can age any wine, but some survive the process better than others! If you have a favorite picnic wine (think anything light and easy, like a summer rosé or a sparkling natural blend), it’s best to drink that soon after you buy it. But a “bigger” wine like a Nebbiolo or a Cabernet Sauvignon can stand up to the aging process pretty well! In general, you’re looking for wines with high acid, high tannins, and/or high sugar. All of those things come into play during the aging process!

You don’t need to spend a ton of money here, either! I mean, if you’re aging a five dollar bottle of wine, I wouldn’t expect miraculous results, but I think you could find something to age within the $25-35 range — maybe a Bordeaux! To really track the wine’s evolution over time, I’d recommend getting a few of the same bottle. Drink one immediately, then slowly open the rest and note how the wine changes as the years progress.

How to age wine

The pros might have temperature-controlled wine cellars, but as long as you have a damp, cold basement (or just a part of your home that is damp and cold!) you’re totally fine. Scope out a dark area and make sure that the wine can rest on its side. TBH even if you aren’t aging your wine you should still be storing your wine this way!

If you’re an “out of sight, out of mind” person like I am, consider adding a reminder to your calendar every year to check on your wine. The last thing you want to do is to leave a perfectly good bottle of wine to age past its prime, like this bottle from 325 CE! You might also want to label the unopened bottles with the year that you plan to drink them in, especially if you’re tracking how the wine progresses over time.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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ashni

Ashni is a writer, comedian, and farmer's market enthusiast. When they're not writing, they can be found soaking up the sun, trying to make a container garden happen, or reading queer YA.

ashni has written 45 articles for us.

Mini Crossword Is Perhaps a Little Too Curious


All the sailors were marooned.

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Darby is a queer crossword constructor and graduate student living in St. Louis.

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Salons and Divorce Doulas: How Queers Are Fighting the Trauma and Stigma of Divorce

“Queerness offers the promise of failure as a way of life… but it is up to us whether we choose to make good on that promise in a way that makes a detour around the usual markers of accomplishment and satisfaction.”

J. Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure

Gay marriage has been legal in the US in Massachusettes since 2004, Maine, Maryland, and Washington since 2012, and in all (well, at the time of this writing) US states since 2015.

So, while queer people have always found ways to bind themselves legally (or semi-legally) and assemble some of the legal protections and benefits provided by state-sanctioned marriage piecemeal, we have had access to the ability to gay marry for just the blink of an eye. That said, queer and trans marriage is not only same-sex marriage. Queers who are bisexual have married members of different genders, trans people have been able to marry partners in various ways —through “passing,” not “passing,” legally transitioning and more. There have been lavender marriages, where queer men and women and trans people married each other in hopes of concealing the queerness of one or both partners as a means of societal protection. And that’s nothing to say of the various marriages to cis heterosexuals that perhaps don’t work out for the queer or trans person in said marriage. Which only means that queer people have certainly been getting divorced since…forever. The early mid-century lesbian and queer history of Reno, NV, a longtime destination for divorce-bound individuals, points to as much.

In the United States, across all genders and sexual orientations, about half of first marriages end in divorce — statistics that only escalate for second and third marriages. So, it stands to reason that as more LGBTQ people legally marry, there are going to be more LGBTQ divorces, something that judges, lawyers, systems, and most importantly — queer people — aren’t used to.

When we started the work of planning Divorce Week, we envisioned talking to queer divorce lawyers, to couples counselors who work with queer and trans people on their relationships. We put out a call for experts; but within the pile of super enthusiastic responses, a couple of curious replies stood out. One was from a queer and trans psychotherapist, Morty Diamond, who ran something we hadn’t heard of, something he came up with, in fact — an LGBTQI Divorce Salon. Another reply was from AJ, a queer and trans divorce doula. What’s a divorce doula? Well, we can tell you that every divorced person on the team said that the service sounded like something they wish they’d had when going through their own queer divorce, so while we define it properly later, there’s that.

We came together to discuss both new methods and the now percolating sense that there are queer people out there who are finding the gaps in community support for queers going through divorce — and making an effort to find new ways to fill them. We suspected that, as with many instances of queers doing anything — divorce included — that our experiences would vary from the cishet norm.

Isolation is central to the trauma of divorce, of queer divorce, especially. So then, how can we in each of our own lives and communities contribute to and build a space where it’s safe to break up, where there can be accountability for harm that looks like repair and not punishment? And how can we prepare ourselves to approach interpersonal relationships from a perspective that prioritizes care, especially in divorce —and all the family and straight expectations, the state and the law, the financial institutions and legacy of the queer communities being under-resourced that come with it? Can we unpack our own internalized desires for retribution, punishment, and a clearly defined “right and wrong” while we’re doing it?

How do we show up for each other in ways big and small, and how do we navigate systems that maybe afforded us some value, but are also systems of oppression?

It was personal experience with the weight he carried while getting divorced that inspired Morty to create his Divorce Salon. “I actually literally was just on a walk, thinking about my divorce, and just really coming to this organically in a way, like, ‘Wow. It would’ve been so cool to be able to just pop into a salon and be like, ‘Ah, these things are happening between me and my ex. And she’s doing this and this and I really need help with [blank]. And has anybody dealt with this?’’ And I just basically agreed right then and there to make that happen for other people.”

Morty’s a trained psychotherapist, but he makes it clear that the salon runs differently from traditional group therapy, “I like to say at the beginning of the salon, ‘We’re all just showing up as ourselves.’ Some of us here are just starting the divorce process, and some of us have been divorced for years but are still struggling with it. And we’re just showing up as ourselves.”

“I like to start the salon by saying, ‘Please come and go as you please. Go get your tea, get your kombucha. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself.’ And then I really just say, ‘Who would like to start chatting? Who’s got a hot button thing on their mind that they want to start talking about?’ And that usually just gets us going into a topic.”

When AJ went through their first divorce, they were “surprised at how bad the people who loved me most were at supporting me, speaking frankly.” In addition to their work as a divorce doula, they also serve as a death doula and an abortion doula. They see connective tissue in all three, “These are things that I think are pretty scary in society or seen as not very good…And I think that can cause us to feel shame or isolated from community. And I think these are all just fundamentally good things. I think dying is good. I think abortions are good. And I think inter-divorce is a societal good, personal good. And I hope I can continue to change the narrative on that.”

AJ describes being a divorce doula as being a “cheerleader.” Who among us, going through a divorce, wouldn’t want someone who was there, no matter what, to tell you that it’s hard but you’re doing a good job, getting through? While therapy is a part of coping with divorce, it’s not the same as a doula, who combines being a listener with a guide and a mentor. A divorce doula is someone you can turn to when the paperwork is too hard, or you don’t know how to talk to your family, someone who is in your corner to support you no matter how “big” or “small” your concerns, without bringing biases to the conversation.

When it comes to queering divorce, both the idea of a salon, an intentional space for coping and healing as well as a doula, a guide and a cheerleader, are steps toward healing wounds caused by the alienation of late stage Capitalism. There are the societal expectations surrounding any marriage, any divorce. For everything that’s changed about the role of marriage over the past several decades, there is still immense pressure to tie the knot. The pressure can come from family, media, a desire to belong. But there’s also health insurance, medical care, inheritance and property rights, tax breaks — an array of motivations dangled by a capitalist machine to relegate people into nuclear families, so they can consume adequately and raise more workers.

As AJ points out:

“Because of a highly medicalized and sterilized and racist and Capitalist society, at least in this colonized one, we have become alienated from the process of death. Most people who die have never seen a dead body. It feels very scary. I think more broadly, we have become alienated from a lot of collective experiences and we believe that we have to do it all on our own. And that is a terrible feeling. We just feel more and more alone and more and more ashamed.”

“I think that grief is supposed to be something we experience collectively, together.”

***

“It can be difficult for queer people to escape the pull of cishet expectations…or of the acceptance of cishet family that can come with engagement and then marriage,” AJ explains, “you’re finally doing the thing that they still wanted you to do and you’re finally having kids. That was definitely part of my experience. And I had a kid, did the thing. And then you get a divorce. And so there’s this…I almost achieved — for some people.”

Morty dug into the shame and stigma that queer people who’ve finally reached that point of acceptance feel, on a family level, but also on a society level. Plenty of queer and trans people have felt the first pangs of real, serious acceptance as an adult in the family upon getting engaged or married. While LGBTQ+ people can have a Peter Pan air about them, seemingly perpetually youthful while cishets hurtle toward their ideals of age and “steadiness,” marriage is a tradition understood by our parents, our grandparents, our aunts, uncles, cousins, workplaces and coworkers, strangers — everyone. “A lot of people come into the salon and say, ‘I feel such shame… because getting married allowed my mom and dad to accept me as a fully fledged adult who’s adulting and doing great things in the world. And now that I’m getting a divorce, they really do see me as failed.’”

“I think we often have a desire to prove that we’re normal,” said AJ. “I don’t want to digress too much, but I think one of the biggest problems with HRC and the gay marriage movement… is the movement tried to say we’re really like cishets, and so you should give us the right to get married as opposed to saying, ‘We’re fucking awesome as queer people and get used to it.'”

Morty agrees, “There’s something really interesting about the shame around divorce, because we are already seen as lesser than in the broader sociopolitical… I mean, you know what’s happening, especially for trans folks across our country. It’s just hideous what’s happening in terms of our rights being stripped of us. So a lot of people in the salon have said, ‘I have literally fought for queer marriage. I was out there on the streets, and now look at me. Look at me. I feel such immense shame that I couldn’t do the thing that I literally fought so, so, so hard to get as a community, as a broader community and as a personal thing that I really, really wanted.'”

For queer people who come out as part of their divorce, the tumult is only compounded. But for queer or trans people who’ve already come out, who’ve dealt with feeling like they’ve deviated from the norm already, some of the social ramifications of divorce may feel familiar.

It’s a perhaps unexpected advantage. Whereas for cis straight people, often, a divorce is the first time they’ve left their prescribed path, queer people have been here before. As AJ framed it, “if you’ve never really in your life deviated. If this is the first time that you’ve done that, that can be hard. So in that way, I think that queer and trans folks, we’re way more resourced, have some experience in that already.”

There’s a reason, after all, that Torrey Peters dedicates Detransition, Baby! to divorced cis women:

“How do I figure out how to care about people and not be bitter, not see myself as a victim, not go back to some illusory idea of a Prince Charming saving me? The people who know how to do that are divorced women. Once I understood that, TERF arguments online, or questions of like, ‘Am I a woman or not?’ fell away. The actual practice of living for me is the same as for them. I felt that not in an intellectual way, but in my body and my heart. In my soul is this way of being a woman that I see all around me. Look what these other women are giving me. When I dedicated it to them, it wasn’t an olive branch, it’s the most classic form of dedication. It’s an homage.”

Here, in divorce, a “failure” to live up to heteronormative expectations, we find something like the queer or trans experience — a before, an after, a need to find a way to keep on going and to decide what comes next for ourselves.

***

Both AJ and Morty felt a need for their services because they saw people left isolated and unsupported during the divorce process — and they experienced as much themselves. Divorce, like death, is something that few want to talk about in depth. Or, it’s something you can’t relate to unless you’ve gone through it or currently are.

Then there are the additional layers of isolation that can come uniquely from within queer communities. For one, in “more radical” circles, there can be a sense of “What did you expect?” as Morty puts it. Sympathy is not always afforded to folks who bought into heteropatriarchal Capitalist institutions and found that they didn’t work out.

“That was my personal experience as well,” Morty shared. “I knew one person, a trans guy who had gone through divorce. And all my other friends were like…not in a mean way, but they were like, ‘Why did you get married in the first place?’ And I was like, ‘I needed health benefits!’ It’s not like I wasn’t in love with my partner. I was. But I think that a lot of people are really judgy around marriage in certain communities.”

“And yesterday,” Morty told us, “I got an email from a lesbian-identified person of color who’s gone in and out of the salon a couple of times and sent me this really heartfelt email that said, ‘I wish that we had a salon this week because something is happening with my ex-wife where she’s denying my parenting rights around this, this and that. It’s really destroying me and I can’t talk to anybody in my community. They just don’t get it. They don’t understand. I really need the salon this week.’ And I just felt so bad! Because we didn’t have the salon [that] week.”

It’s difficult to engage your community if your community by and large has never experienced divorce. Queer friend groups present further complications. While a cishet couple going through divorce may tend to split along man / woman lines — going with “the girls” or “the boys” during a separation — queer friendships can be much more entangled with multiple lines criss-crossing and intersecting. This might make things tense, or even particularly devastating in some cases.

“People coming to the salon saying, ‘I’ve been ostracized, people don’t even know my side of the story. And they just stopped talking to me because they’ve talked to my ex.’ This is stuff we need to grapple with,” Morty explained., “We’re talking about something I’ve talked about for 25 years, which is how we support each other in our communities, basically by not making somebody a pariah.”

“Even if they have done something, like I’m also…for seven years I did substance use counseling, specifically substance use counseling at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. And you would imagine how many people said, ‘I was just ostracized, completely ostracized from my community because I had a really bad meth use problem.’ We tend to have an issue about who to keep in community.” For queer and trans people who’ve often already experienced disownment and isolation, to lose a found family, a friend group, a community is devastating.

In conversation with Morty and AJ, the same questions came up: how do queer and trans people navigate a divorce in their community? How do we decide where we offer our support, to whom, and how much? If someone cheats, should they be excommunicated in the same way a sexual predator might? If not, why does that still occur? Who is allowed to speak their truth? Who is not allowed the space to speak at all? Is the practice of taking sides beneficial to the way we relate to each other in the long run? How do we take a restorative justice approach to being in community with someone who may have caused harm to their partner? Where should we, if at all, draw lines?

In the anthology Beyond Survival, adrienne maree brown writes about the harm of community ostracization within a restorative justice framework, asking “What can this lead to in an imperfect world full of sloppy, complex humans? Is it possible we will call each other out until there’s no one left beside us?… In the back of our minds is the shared, unspoken question: when will y’all come for me?”

When reviewing Beyond Survival for Autostraddle, Abeni Jones takes brown’s questions further, noting, “Crucial to this approach: it acknowledges, too, that someday the person on the outside could be us!” For those living by the principles of restorative justice, ostracization is “just a punishment that has the effect of severing rather than building relationships, it can only exacerbate issues rather than resolve them.”

***

There’s also the fact that many queer people are polyamorous. When a poly person goes through a divorce, AJ describes what follows as a ripple effect. Not only does the divorce affect the couple divorcing, it also touches other partners, and then their partners (the divorcee’s metamours), too. “Let’s say you’re monogamous and you’re getting a divorce. Most people don’t date right away. They’re like, I’m going to just focus on myself. Which is also a really good strategy. It is really hard to be going through a divorce and have other romantic partnerships to be taken care of. You’re exhausted, you’re grieving. And so something that I recommend to poly people going through a divorce or the people supporting them, is that your partner is just going to be a little unhinged for a year.” At this point, communication can seem like a trite word when it comes to relationships, but nonetheless it’s paramount to maintaining polyamorous relationships while a partner (or two) goes through a divorce.

AJ provides a personal example, “​​I have this long-distance partner, Seattle to Portland, so not that far. We could drive to see each other. And then my marriage, that was local obviously. My long-distance partner and I would see each other once or twice a month, it was very regular… That partner, he’s pretty-much just a structured human being. And as I’m going through this divorce, I start rescheduling our dates a lot, and our trips, and I’m like, ‘Oh, can we move this or can we move that?’…I was such a chaotic mess in this divorce and eventually he was like, ‘I’m getting really exhausted switching up my schedule.’ And he has a husband too, and he’s like, ‘This is affecting me. It’s affecting my husband. It’s affecting…This is really hard for me.’”

“One of the things that I had said to this partner was, ‘I really need a lot of stability right now,’ but I was talking about my spouse that I was divorcing. But this partner was like, ‘I’m hearing you say you need stability and I’m trying to provide that for you, but you’re just always rescheduling.’ And after I thought about that, I [realized], ‘Well, what I need from you is actually a lot of flexibility. Can you provide that for me? Or again, without judgment, should we pause trips for a while because I’m not capable of being stable right now. I’m just not capable of keeping plans at all. I’m sorry. And I hate that that affects you, but I would be lying to you if I said I will be feeling the same way next week, or that something isn’t going to come up with my kid.’”

Once AJ and their partner were able to have honest communication, AJ noted “he was like, ‘Oh, shit. Yeah, let me work on being more flexible.’” Eventually, about six months after their discussion, AJ was able to return to “the homeostasis of having a pretty stable relationship. And I’m so grateful we’re still together that he was able to be flexible there. And so I think expecting your romantic relationships to just go through some tumult and trying to keep your eyes on the long-term goal of we love each other, let me support you.”

Polyamorous divorcees also come up against biases from their monogamous friends and family. “A lot of times, the unsolicited advice people give is you could probably avoid your divorce if you weren’t polyamorous or have you considered breaking up with the other people?,” AJ warns.

Often relationships that begin as monogamous and then “open up” can end in divorce. But, as AJ notes, that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself —and it doesn’t necessarily mean that closing down the relationship is the solution, either. Sometimes, it’s just time. “Often divorces with poly people are because the transition didn’t work. And I find it really difficult to get that kind of well-intentioned, but not helpful advice.”

So, what if you wanted to do better by a friend going through a divorce, of any kind? On a 1:1 level, it’s really simple. Above all, both Morty and AJ stressed listening, without judgment, without suggestions unless you’re asked, and without bringing your own biases about marriage and divorce to the conversation.

“Don’t tell them…’Oh, you should have done this. You should have gone to this attorney. You should have’…No, no, no, no, no, no. That often feels, again, doubly shaming,” Morty warns. “It can be tempting to try to help a friend navigate all the complexities, but the thing they might need the most is to actually be heard because in conversations with family, with their ex, with people bringing judgment with them — being heard is probably the need being met the least.”

Also, be prepared that the divorced person in your life is often going through an uproar of conflicting emotions which can be difficult for family and friends to witness. AJ’s work with clients frequently touches on this topic, “these friends, these beloveds who care about my clients so much are really struggling with the back and forth. And they don’t want to be, they love this friend. But it’s exhausting to be like, yeah, fuck that person one week, and then we support you the other week. And [as a person going through divorce] it is a really important need to feel like you have the space to do that, to want to flip-flop.”

“Often I play that role. I’m like, come talk to me about how unsure you are or that you actually called your ex one over and slept at their house. People are invested in us and our well-being, and it can be really emotionally exhausting to be the friend that just watches you ping pong. So [as a divorced person], figuring out what your needs are and then who is resourced to meet those needs and making those adjustments I think is really important.”

When going through a divorce, it may seem basic but it’s a good idea to map out one’s support network and to really, intentionally, look at who can support, in what ways, and how much. Then make those needs clear — and to focus on bringing certain conversations or needs to the right people. Morty also warned, for example, that after multiple experiences of witnessing fellow queer and trans people face severe financial consequences in divorce, it might be worthwhile to avoid mediation unless the divorce is actually non-contentious. Mediation can seem like the “queerer” route, but when one half of the splitting couple drags their feet or creates a lot of back and forth, it can cost more than just hiring an attorney would have.

It’s also important to attempt radical honesty with oneself. The people around us can only support our changing needs if they know what those are. Maybe a friend you met for brunch a couple times a month when things were stable would be happy to support you by spending a Saturday afternoon helping you pack boxes with pizza and beer. It doesn’t mean that you will never go back to carefree meetups, but for now, you have different needs. Maybe your need for alone time will increase and you’ll want to see people in-person less frequently, but text more. Maybe it’s the opposite. You might need to see your therapist more often, if affordable, or tell your mother that, no, you can’t talk about the divorce with her even though you normally talk about “everything.”

When we think about queering what it looks like to get support during your divorce, or to support someone else going through one, one thing becomes clear — we have to look at the thing that freaks us out, right in the eye. Embracing sticky truths, complexities, and the moral gray areas of life that make us uncomfortable allows us to show up for each other in new ways. We can hold space for queer and trans people to be supported, less alone, and to be better able make decisions with an eye toward the future, as opposed to with a grip on fear.

Queering divorce means divesting the idea of divorce from the notion of failure — or embracing The Queer Art of Failure. We use the systems we must to survive, marriage included. But what if we did our best to disallow those same systems from punishing us when we, as queer people, don’t fit a mold that was never made for us in the first place?

“I think the most successful marriages are the ones that end when they’re supposed to.” — AJ, a divorce doula


Divorce Week is a celebration of taking a life-changing step, of coming out the other side of devastating trauma and being all the better for it. It’s co-edited and curated by Nico Hall and Carmen Phillips. Remember, you may be divorced, but you’re not alone.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 681 articles for us.

Nico Hall

Nico Hall is Autostraddle's A+ and Fundraising Director, and has been fundraising and working in the arts and nonprofit sector for over a decade. They write nonfiction and personal essays and are currently at work on a queer fiction novel and podcasts. They live in Pittsburgh. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram as @nknhall.

Nico has written 215 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. I loved this article— I never heard of a divorce doula before but now I want to get one for everyone I love. This was thoughtful and gave me so much to think on about how to show up. One of my favorite pieces from AS, thanks for all of the deep diving

    • L.M. – this means so much, thank you! This week was, for all it being about the dissolution of relationships, a real labor of love and I am so glad that you found this article helpful and thought-provoking. Here’s to showing up for each other!!

  2. Hey y’all!
    This is Morty Diamond the therapist who runs the LGBTQIA Divorce Salons. If you’d like to hang out in the salon please go to my website:
    https://www.mortydiamondlcsw.com/divorcesalon
    You need to fill out the questionnaire first (the link is on the webpage). This is my way of weeding out the haters/trolls. Thank you!

Comments are closed.

Editor’s Notes: Divorce Week

Autostraddle Divorce Week

Welcome to AF+ Editor's Notes where we invite members into the behind-the-scenes of making a series on Autostraddle happen. Here, Carmen and Nico, co-editors of Divorce Week, share our brainstorming and thought processes, the inspiration behind visual elements, and how we're feeling now that it's all published and we're on the other side.

Carmen

Famously, I am not a divorced person. In fact, famously, I haven’t succeeded in making a romantic relationship last longer than roughly six months. That feels weirdly vulnerable to write, especially in the context of Editor’s Notes (you’re here to learn a little behind-the-scenes of how we put this package together, not an unsolicited therapy session on my love...

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 681 articles for us.

Nico Hall

Nico Hall is Autostraddle's A+ and Fundraising Director, and has been fundraising and working in the arts and nonprofit sector for over a decade. They write nonfiction and personal essays and are currently at work on a queer fiction novel and podcasts. They live in Pittsburgh. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram as @nknhall.

Nico has written 215 articles for us.

Brittney Griner’s Jersey Retired at Baylor in an Overdue Homecoming Fitting of Her Greatness

Feature image of Brittney Griner at her Baylor University jersey retirement ceremony by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images The day Brittney Griner was slated to arrive on campus at Baylor University, she couldn’t get there quickly enough. She’d chosen Baylor intentionally — its campus in Waco, Texas was just three hours away from her family’s home in Houston — but on this particular day, the drive seemed to take considerably longer. The college freshman couldn’t wait to start this new chapter of her life and to embrace all the independence that college offered. Four years later, after a national championship, a slew of individual accolades, and turning Baylor into a women’s basketball powerhouse, Griner couldn’t wait to leave. She’d built a life for herself in Waco, she even found a chosen family there (including her future wife, Cherelle), but she was ready to go. And, as Griner describes it in her 2014 memoir, In My Skin, the feeling seemed mutual. Almost immediately after their NCAA loss to Louisville, Griner was pushed out the door of the program she helped build. “I felt abandoned, like I was no longer important because I was out of eligibility,” she wrote. What’s more, Griner longed for a life outside the rigidity imposed by Baylor’s program. She was one of the most well-known female athletes in the world but she felt like no one really knew her. Griner admitted, she “wanted to live openly and express myself freely.” She wanted to be seen. Last Sunday, a dream that Griner dared not dream more than a decade earlier was finally realized. The university that once made her hide who she was, gave her its biggest embrace: ahead of a nationally televised game, they took her jersey and hung it from the rafters. Griner is now immortalized at Foster Pavilion; never again will another Baylor Bear wear the No. 42. “It means everything. I feel seen,” Griner said. “You give so much to the organization, to the school. And then, for them to honor you and appreciate who you… you just feel seen.” From the day that Nicki Collen was hired at Baylor in 2021, this was always the plan. She’d coached against Griner as a head coach and assistant in the WNBA. When she arrived in Waco, Collen was adamant about restoring ties with the program’s most decorated alum. On Sunday, Collen wore a gold blazer with No. 42 affixed to the back and Griner’s accomplishments stitched on the sleeves. Baylor’s celebration of Griner isn’t over yet: later this month, Baylor+, the official content platform for Baylor Athletics, will debut an original documentary about Griner called “Bigger Than Life.”
“All I wanted was Brittney to feel loved by our team, by our university, by our community,” Collen acknowledged in the post-game presser. “Whether this is healing or whatever, I just think she’s a part of our family, and I’m so grateful that we were able to get this done.” It’s clear BG felt the love. Every outtake from the weekend, every interview, showcased Griner flashing her mega-watt smile and her eyes shining brightly. The emotion and the joy were palpable. Former teammates and past and present coaches turned out to fête one of basketball’s greats. And, as a fitting tribute to the three time Defensive Player of the Year, the Baylor Bears put on a defensive clinic: holding Texas Tech to 29.5% shooting, out-rebounding them 42-26, and forcing 29 turnovers. Griner stood on the sidelines, cheering, throughout the game. It felt like an amends was made: the place that Griner had once loved, the place that she found love, would finally feel like home again. “I want to say this: I know there were a lot of years that I was not around but I never forgot any of y’all,” Griner told Baylor alumni on Saturday. “Never once did I forget anybody that was here, supported me, helped me, gave me advice, showed up to the games. This was really a home. This was my home. I love the fact that I am here right now and I love the fact that y’all are here right now with me at this moment. I wish I could just go back in time to be back here again but I will promise you this: you will see me more. I will be on campus more, I will be at games more, and I will be here.” Here is a place she always should’ve been. Griner is the most decorated player to ever suit up for the Baylor Bears. That she was denied this opportunity, that she was robbed of this home, for even a day longer than was necessary is a stain on the legacy of Baylor’s past leadership. But perhaps it is, as Griner posited during an in-game interview, a part of some cosmic plan: maybe she was supposed to be here at precisely this moment. And it’s hard to argue with Griner because the truth is awing: two years ago — almost to the day — Brittney Griner was detained at a Russian airport and today, she has reclaimed her home.
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Natalie

A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. You can follow her latest rants on Twitter.

Natalie has written 375 articles for us.

Uncertainty and Disquiet: My Non-Consensual Childhood Circumcision as a Trans Woman

One of my earliest childhood memories was trying to pee with a surgical cast on my penis. I couldn’t stand up due to the pain so my grandmother held me up. She cooed and encouraged me to be brave. I was pointedly uninterested in bravery. I just wanted the burning to stop. And I wanted to feel whole again.

I underwent a penile circumcision when I was a toddler. My family told me I needed a small surgery for “medical reasons.” I trusted this judgment because I had unwavering trust in relatives and doctors. I remember a doctor’s consultation where the grownups talked about it without meaningful involvement from me. Later, I watched hospital ceiling tiles pass overhead as the staff wheeled me into an operating theater. I woke up in pain. That was the next few weeks: of all kinds of pain.

At the time, I didn’t know that I was experiencing a contentious procedure that would leave me physically scarred and emotionally wounded. I did it because I was told I should. Decades later, I learned about assent in a postgraduate research course. As in, children can’t give consent, but they can assent to something by giving unequivocal agreement after being informed. The concept pops up a lot in sensitive research and healthcare. Somewhere in a postgraduate research ethics course, my heart broke. The lecture took me back to my circumcision. I realized that I didn’t assent, much less give full consent.

Circumcisions are commonly performed on children for medical, religious, and cultural reasons. Medical reasons, as a treatment for conditions of the foreskin and reducing lifetime risk of mild infections and STD transmission. Religious reasons, as in many cornerstone coming-of-age practices. And cultural reasons, as in peer pressure from dead people.

None of that information was laid out to me in usable detail, nor was I informed about the procedure and recovery process. To the contrary, my family actively downplayed the scale of the operation and recovery process to convince me to go along.

Therefore, I was misinformed about possible effects. Effects like suture tunnels. See, skin can heal around surgical sutures (stitches). When the sutures are removed, the tunnel can remain partially intact like a piercing. The first time I saw them, I thought I had an infection because there were small holes in my genitals. That horror has passed, but they remain annoying to clean. Narrow tunnels in the flesh have a way of collecting gunk, as anyone with piercings can attest to.

They also didn’t tell me how common it is to end up with more penile asymmetry. My frenulum is a twisty mass of skin that might have developed more symmetrically but was cut and stitched back together. So I’ll never know. I think it looks “weird,” and I’m not fond of it. I would have preferred an intact foreskin, like a little turtleneck.

Both the suture tunnels and penile asymmetry are soft spots in my self-esteem. They make me feel incomplete.

Due to the wide acceptance of circumcision in South Africa, I grew up disliking my penis but didn’t think a circumcision was the root cause of my self-esteem problems. It’s part of local cultural practices. The state actively endorses it to reduce HIV transmission. Even if caregivers don’t care about these reasons, its wide acceptance makes it attainable. I didn’t make the connection between normalization and my self-esteem until I began my gender transition.

Gender transition is an act of agency and choice. Trans people rethink a core part of themselves and build a more suitable life through reflection. We often transgress long-held societal norms while doing so. We do it at risk to our careers, personal lives, and bodily safety.

So when I began picking apart the gendered threads of my body, I had to think about my penis. I had to make some decisions about what I was going to do with it. I chose to keep it. But for the first time, I felt disappointed about the real source of my troubles: that circumcision.

It hurt to realize that someone else made the decisions about my body with so little of my input. Like arriving at a long-anticipated event to learn that someone ordered a meal for you. The wrong meal. I’m not upset about my penis because I’m a trans woman and many of us have genital dysphoria. I’m upset because others made a decision about my body before I could give sufficient input or unequivocally want it.

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the differences between a violation of my bodily integrity (circumcision) and changes I consented to (transition). The difference between unequivocal interest and uncertainty is night-and-day. Coming to a decision with reliable information about risks and outcomes is life-changing. Even though I was too young to consent to a circumcision, it would have been nice to be heard.

I haven’t found a happy ending to this experience. Violation of bodily integrity rarely makes sense or leaves room for recompense. It happened. I feel incomplete. It’s something I have to work through in my own time.

I’ll never give up on the hope of peace. There’s too much of myself at stake to give up. But, that peace hasn’t come quickly or easily.

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Summer Tao

Summer Tao is a South Africa based writer. She has a fondness for queer relationships, sexuality and news. Her love for plush cats, and video games is only exceeded by the joy of being her bright, transgender self

Summer has written 16 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing a truly intimate essay with us. As a child-free adult, I don’t know that I’ve ever learned of the concept of “assent” for children. Given the emotional and physical outcomes of your childhood surgery, I hope that more people consider applying it.

    I’m so sorry that your circumcision has been the source of so much pain. I personally know of people who have experienced similar complications to their circumcisions (one person notably and horrifyingly became unable to urinate due to scar tissue build-up blocking their urethra).

    You are already on a good path towards finding the peace you seek. I admire your honesty and wish you all the best.

    • Thanks so much <3

      Honestly, on the grand scale of things, my circumcision results wouldn't even be considered 'botched'. The results I got are quite routine, which is… concerning.

  2. thank you so much for sharing this piece with us! much like some of the other commenters i had never heard of the concept of assent before so i’m glad i do now! i hope you find peace around the circumcision one day <3

    • Assent is a great way to look at ‘consent’ for children. Namely that they can’t legally consent, but they can meet a different bar by being adequately informed and still exhibiting significant interest in something (and not just lack of resistance or ‘going along with it’).

      I’ll figure my way around this over time, don’t you worry.

Comments are closed.

You Need Help: I Want To Ask My Couple Friends Out but Don’t Know if They’re Poly

Q:

I have a crush on a lesbian couple I know, and I want to test the waters to see if they might be interested in dating, but I don’t want to make it weird if they’re monogamous. I’m not sure how to go about asking about any of it without seeming extremely obvious, which makes me kinda anxious. As far as I can tell, they don’t seem to be on the apps, but I don’t know that not actively seeking a third is the same thing as not being interested when the three of us get along so well. Is there a way to feel this out without just saying “hey, I have a crush on you two together”?

A:

Have you ever met a poly person or couple that didn’t talk openly and often about polyamory and/or nonmonogamy?

All jokes aside, I do think because we live in a society that makes default assumptions of monogamy, there are obvious motives for why people in open or poly relationships make it known to others. I’m generalizing of course, and there’s technically a possibility your friends are open to a third even though they’ve never said they are. But if you’re hesitant to ask because you’re unsure of their relationship situation, then it sounds like you really haven’t gotten any indication they’re nonmonogamous. And you gotta work with the information you’ve got. It sounds like you’re close to the couple, close enough to feel a spark that makes you want to date them. My guess is a poly arrangement, if it were on the table, would have come up!

I don’t think it would be unreasonable or uncomfortable to ask directly if they’re monogamous and what their ideal relationship structure is. This doesn’t have to be asked in a way that centers your crush on them. So instead of making it “hey, I have a crush on you two together,” try something like “are you two in a monogamous relationship?” It’s not rude to ask a couple you’re close with if they’re monogamous. However, they might find it rude if you ask to be their third if they are indeed monogamous. So step one would be to figure that out first. If they are monogamous, then the process sort of stops there. You have to decide though if your crush on them makes it hard to be around them and then adjust your own boundaries accordingly.

If it turns out they’re nonmonogamous and specifically interested in dating someone else together (because that’s also a very specific type of nonmonogamy), step two would be to tell them about your interest in dating them as a couple. But you should approach this the same way you’d approach telling a solo friend you have a crush on them, knowing that if the feelings are not reciprocated it could impact the friendship. Is it worth that risk? Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t!

But you really have to ask the monogamy question first. There’s no real getting around that part.


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 762 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. Hmm, I don’t know whether you have to ask directly whether they’re nonmonogamous – you can just ask them what they think about nonmonogamy and see what they say. Or ask about their ideal relationship structure, as Kayla suggested.

    I have a good friend who had a crush on me (I think?); he knows I’m nonmonogamous and that I currently only have one partner. He asked me whether I could generally imagine dating more people. I’m pretty sure that he was trying to figure out whether I’d want to date him, but he just asked it hypothetically so that there was a way out of the conversation. I’m not attracted to him, and I appreciate that he chose that way of asking!

  2. Obviously everyone has their own comfort level being open about monogamous/polyamorous status, but I would argue that it is fairly entry level information to have. Are you truly in a position to make an informed choice about dating them if there are important things like this that you don’t know?

  3. I have been in basically this situation before–I brought up my feelings about various relationship structures and then asked them how they felt about them. Found out they were mostly monogamous but could kiss other people and had once almost had a threesome with someone. I did end up telling them I would be interested in something with them if they were open to it (in a separate later conversation)–they considered it and ultimately said no but it ended up strengthening our friendship and the way that they handled the situation (honestly and with care) was really healing for me! So my general approach now is that it doesn’t hurt to ask, as long as you are committed to communicating and sitting with some potential awkwardness!

Comments are closed.

Vivek Shraya’s “How to Fail as a Popstar” Makes Failure Look Good

This review contains mild spoilers for How to Fail as a Popstar.


Last year, I made a short film, my first not shot on a phone since I transitioned. When people asked me what I planned to do with the film I was torn between my artistic ambitions and the artistic realities I discovered throughout my twenties.

“Most of my favorite trans filmmakers have mostly (or only) made shorts, so this isn’t a proof of concept or a calling card — this is the work of art,” I repeated again and again. Then I’d add, “But, I mean, I do have two feature scripts ready to go that are tonally similar so maybe…”

To make it as an artist in general is hard. To make it as an artist uncategorizable to the mainstream due to sexuality or gender or race or just the specific idiosyncrasies of your voice is nearly impossible. Especially if you don’t come from money, don’t have connections, and happen to have been born in the “wrong” place. But what does it mean to make it? People are rarely referring to the art itself. The it is not the work, the it is a career, a career of a certain stature. Is it not enough to simply make it, a work of art?

Vivek Shraya has made it. The it I’m referring to is a stage show titled How to Fail as a Popstar that last year was adapted into a digital CBC series of the same name. I’ve been waiting to write about the show until it received a U.S. release, or, maybe, even, was expanded into a full TV show. But why wait? The work exists now. So much of the best queer art requires you to travel to an archive or dig into the depths of the internet — to watch this series outside of Canada all you have to do is download ExpressVPN.

Ultimately, a digital CBC series — the eight episodes range between about 7 and 12 minutes — is the perfect conduit for a story about redefining success. And How to Fail as a Popstar embraces the limitations of its length and budget. Shraya and director Vanessa Matsui have crafted a work bursting with queer creativity, a story of artistic reality alive with artistic possibility.

How to Fail as a Popstar is about Vivek, a South Asian Canadian boy growing up in Edmonton. He lives with his supportive mom, is besties with fellow outsider Sabrina, and dreams of being a popstar. Three actors (including Shraya herself) play Vivek as she tries to win talent competitions, fights for a record deal, navigates bad producers and management, and generally struggles to get noticed.

Like Shraya’s novel The Subtweet, this show pays attention to the minutiae of the music industry. There’s a mundanity to the hardships Vivek faces from racist and homophobic microaggressions to taking out a $20,000 loan only to end up with an EP you hate. Just when all hope is lost, a new possibility arises. No matter that the new possibility only occasionally pays off.

But even as we watch Vivek struggle with the realities of attempted popstardom, there’s a light found in her fantasies of the future. Even when played by the two male actors, present day Vivek appears in musical fantasies — brief glimpses and full music videos — hinting what’s to come. Vivek will succeed at becoming this glamorous, professional singer. After all, it’s Shraya herself in these moments, appearing in scenes shot for a TV show. (Or, you know, a CBC digital series.) The existence of the series itself is its own happy ending.

While The Subtweet focuses on the music industry, this series reminded me just as much of my favorite of Shraya’s books: She of the Mountains. In this book, Shraya weaves together Hindu mythology with a contemporary love story between a man and a woman. Or, rather, two women, one of whom knows he’s queer but does not yet know his womanhood. How to Fail as a Popstar lives in a similarly complicated state of in-betweenness with gender and sexuality. As Vivek’s relationship with Sabrina evolves from friendship to partnership, it’s allowed to exist within bisexuality and gender confusion and impossible career aspirations. It’s so much more complex, so much more deeply felt, than the “gay man dates a woman who becomes his best friend” narrative we’re often shown. Because, of course, Vivek isn’t a gay man.

Nadine Bhabha as middle and older Sabrina links the series’ later episodes. With charm and a deeply felt wisdom, Bhabha creates a character who subverts the role of long-suffering girlfriend. Even when Vivek’s aspirations crack at the seams of their relationship, Bhabha never loses track of the complicated love between Vivek and Sabrina that informs — and will outlast — their romance.

And Shraya and Matsui don’t portray this bond as sexless. One episode opens with a steamy make out between Vivek and Sabrina, asserting that their partnership was not a product of mere confusion. Like She of the Mountains, this is a complicated love story where sensuality and sexuality exist alongside frustration and discovery.

The romance isn’t the only subversive relationship in the series. Vivek’s mother (a lovely performance from Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves) supports Vivek’s artistic pursuits from the beginning. The series presents a middle ground between privilege and rejection. Vivek’s mother may not be able to shell out $20,000 to the music producer, but she will cosign a loan for her child’s dreams.

These two women aid Vivek into becoming her own woman, one who never succeeds at ultimate popstardom, but who does write several books, release a lot of music, and, eventually, create a solo stage show that is adapted into the series we’re watching. These might not be the dreams of youth — they are still remarkable accomplishments.

Toward the end of the series, Vivek is confronted with her influence on a younger generation, an influence she meets with both pride and resentment. Rather than allow this moment to be one of easy inspiration, Shraya lets the mix of feelings linger.

Maybe that’s what being an artist is all about. You create your art, but not enough. You change people’s lives, but not enough. You even become famous, but not enough. You struggle and struggle and struggle until finally you make it, only to realize it turned out differently than you’d hoped.

Vivek Shraya may have failed to become a popstar. But, lucky for us, she became so much more.


How to Fail as a Popstar is now available to stream in Canada on CBC Gem. If you’re not in Canada, get a VPN! It’s 2024!

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and I Heart Female Directors. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 469 articles for us.

25 Movies Just Perfect for Crying Through Your Divorce

Something that not enough people talk about is the fact that going through immense transitions in your life involves a large amount of crying. And hey, I don’t know you. I don’t know your life. But I know ME — and I like crying to movies. I have an entire genre of films on my Letterboxd account called “sad girl rewatches.” So while I have never been a divorcee, I felt confident that this was my moment to show up with concrete and practical support.

A good crying movie should have the following:

  • Tonality: Some movies can be weepers, but what you’re really looking for are feelings that are bittersweet, wistful, or dramedies. This is key for maintaining your exact level of sad. You don’t want to be yanked out of your emotional state too quickly and cause whiplash, but you also don’t want mistakingly fall deeper into a depression. (It happens.)
  • Aesthetic Vibe: They should be pretty to look at. That can mean a lot of things to different people, but we’re looking for movies that are thoughtfully presented. When you’re eyes are red-rimmed and puffy, you deserve a visual reward for opening them.
  • Themes: The movie does not explicitly have to be on the topic you are sad about! That is a rookie move! Instead think more broadly about what’s going on in your life right now and what will bring you comfort from there. In this instance, not all of the following films are going to be about a divorce, but they I stayed within broader feelings about starting over, rebuilding life, friendship, independence, romance after heartbreak, all those good things.

💍 means that at least one character is either divorced, going through a divorce, or will divorce by the film’s end.

A 💜 means that at least one character is LGBT.

So there you have it! If you’re going through a divorce, welcome you are in the right place! But even if you’re not going through a divorce right now, here are 25 very pretty movies to look back at you while you blow snot bubbles into your t-shirt (no one is looking, it’s fine).

*The broad genre of film that is about starting over after heartbreak or a similar event is verrrrry straight and surprisingly white, so we’re going to do the best with what we have!  Movies for this list were selected with an eye towards queerness when possible, balanced with the overall themes at hand. 

**Two movies on this list are actually TV shows, but they are either gay or gay classics. And I make the rules! Pretend they are a really long movie, sometimes you need something lengthy to binge to while you cry anyway.


Movies Are About DIVORCE

Sure, yes, plenty of movies on this list are about divorce, but these movies are really about divorce. You want to pick apart the minutia of someone else’s relationship as a break from picking apart your own. This is for when you want peak reality, and it should not be entered into lightly. This is for the opposite of escapism. This is Divorce Supreme,TM if you will.

Eva + Candela (2018)

dir. Ruth Caudeli

Evan and Candela stroke each other's faces

💍💜 Here’s what our Senior Editor Drew had to say when selecting Eva + Candela for our best movies of the decade list: “Bless Ruth Caudeli’s debut feature for showing our heartbreak the way it usually occurs in all its messy emotions. Most queer women don’t break up because of queerness. Most breakup because God fucking damnit sustaining a relationship – years with another person! years! – is very, very difficult.”

(Drew privately described this to me as the lesbian Blue Valentine, so prepare accordingly.)

Master of None Presents: Moments In Love (2021)

dir. Aziz Ansari
Lena Waithe dances while folding laundry with her wife in Master of None

💍💜 Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s infamous 1974 divorce film Scenes From A Marriage, Master of None’s third season is a standalone series on its own centered on Lena Waithe’s Denise, previously a side character. As I noted when the series first debuted on Netflix, “Denise has always been written around Waithe’s voice, and never more so than when she now finds herself a successful writer whose fame and wealth has isolated her from her friends and in the throes of adultery and divorce (yes, the comparisons write themselves).”

Master of None: Moments In Love is easily Lena Waithe’s best work on screen, and one of the most beautiful, detailed, messy portrayals of Black lesbians that I’ve ever seen on television.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

dir. Robert Benton
Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman hug in Kramer Vs Kramer

💍 THERE ARE NO WORDS FOR HOW MUCH THIS MOVIE MAKES ME CRY, DO YOU UNDERSTAND!?!?


Movies to Remind You That Every Day Is a New Day to Start Over

Now we are in a category of movies that are not all topically about “divorce” per se (though, in fact, many of these movies are still about divorce), instead what we are going for here are movies that are to a very depressed person going through immense life trauma what a sports movie would be to a teenage softball team watching something together for team bonding night.

These films want you to get back up and try again.

But it’s ok if you can’t get back up starting right now. Stay on the couch. Cry a little more first.

Appropriate Behavior (2014)

dir. Desiree Akhavan

A Persian woman in her 20s is sitting on a toilet and she is very sad

💜 Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior is visceral and gripping, Shirin (also Desiree Akhavan) is going through a messy ass break up that our Managing Editor Kayla called “exploration of cultural expectations, heartbreak, family” and Drew called “a flurry of bisexual chaos.” What’s amazing is that both are true.

Lianna (1983)

dir. John Sayles

A couple holds each other in bed in Lillianna

💜 Lianna (Linda Griffiths) is the young wife of a professor who’s bored with her life and justifiably upset at her husband’s adultery. But watch out because Lianna is going to have an affair of her own with another woman. I’m not going to say that this is a Happily Ever After, but I am going to say that sometimes finally figuring out what you want when all you’ve ever been able to feel before that moment that is frozen and stuck, is so so worth it.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

dir. Martin Scorsese

Ellen Buryston is serving pie in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

After the death of her husband, Alice (Ellen Burstyn) and her son, Tommy, leave New Mexico and head even more west to California, where Alice plans to make it big as a singer. Some money troubles land them in Arizona instead, where Alice takes a job as a waitress in a diner.

I don’t know y’all, I don’t usually hear the words “Martin + Scorsese” and think romantic dramedy? And that alone is worth being on this list.

Sister Aimee (2019)

dirs. Marie Schlingmann, Samantha Buck

Two women in the 1960s in front of a tractor in Sister Aimee

💜 Let me tell you how Drew sold me on this movie: “Aimee fakes her own death, or evaporates according to one follower, and she and Kenny set off for Mexico. She’s too famous for them to simply drive down to the border so they hire a Mexican guide to first take them across the Southwest and then down to Mexico using only hidden roads. The guide’s name is Rey. She’s a woman and she’s hot.”

Are you not entertained!?!?

Grace and Frankie (2015-2022)

showrunners Marta Kauffman, Howard J. Morris

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie

💍💜 And here we have our second and final exception to this “film” list — at least Master of None: Moments in Love is based on an iconic film about divorce, Grace and Frankie is a straight up sitcom. But I dare you to look me in the eye and tell me that a little Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin wouldn’t hit the spot right now. I thought so.

Boys on the Side (1995)

dir. Herbert Ross

Whoopi Goldberg points and smiles in Boys on the Side

💜 After breaking up with her girlfriend, Jane (Whoopi Goldberg) answers a personal ad — aaaawww, the 90s!! — from Robin (Mary-Louise Parker), a real estate agent with HIV who’s seeking a cross-country travel partner. On their their way from New York City to LA, they go to Pittsburgh and pick up Holly (Drew Barrymore), who is trying to escape an abusive relationship. You will laugh. You will reconsider the deep meaning of friendship. You will cry and then also, cry some more.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

dirs. Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Michelle Yeoh protects her family in Everything Everywhere All at Once

💍💜 Everything Everywhere All at Once is such a poetic, dildo-fighting, action-packed reminder that there are millions of us, living our lives on trillions of timelines.

And in a world of never-ending stories, babe you deserve to be happy in this one.


Movies That Are About Starting Over, but Against the Background of a Villa, Ranch, or Any Location That’s Otherwise Really F*cking Beautiful to Look At

Similar to above, these films are still here to remind you that there’s a new life on the other side of your sadness. But maaaaybe what you need if for that new life to come with a better view.

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

dir. Audrey Wells

Diane Lane smiles in the sunlight in Under the Tuscan Sun

💍💜 A fun fact about me is that I have an annual summer tradition of watching Under the Tuscan Sun and making fresh basil marinara from farmer’s market tomatoes. It’s perfect and I cannot imagine a better, simply gorgeous movie to watch as you contemplate starting over again. Plus, there’s bonus Kate Walsh and Sandra Oh being lesbians.

I said: Dr. Addison Montgomery and Dr. Christina Yang. Lesbianing. Together.

Summertime (1955)

dir. David Lean

Katherine Hepburn eats lunch in the French Riviera in Summertime (the film)

Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn), a middle-aged secretary from the Midwest, has never found love. And she’s ready to accept young spinsterhood as it were, but not before using all her savings finance a summer in Venice. On her romantic retreats for one, Jane meets someone whom she believes will be the man of her dreams. Ultimately, she will have to decide whether her happiness can come at the unhappiness of others. It’s gorgeous, it’s Italian, it’s 1950s glam, and it’s Katharine effing Hepburn. What more can you possibly need??

Desert Hearts (1986)

dir. Donna Deitch

Two women in the 1980s walk the desert at sunset in Desert Hearts

💍💜 Heather Hogan put it simply and put it best: “Desert Hearts is the first lesbian movie that made me cry.”

And we mean “cry” in the beautiful way, not the sad one.

Love, Spells and All That (2019)

dir. Ümit Ünal

The silhouette of two women sitting on a cliff with overhanging trees and broad, white sky

💜 Eren (Ece Dizdar), the daughter of an important politician, and Reyhan (Selen Uçer) , the daughter of one of his workers, fell in love as teenagers. After being separated when Eren left for university in Paris, 20 years later Eren returns to the small Turkish town where they grew up. She declares that she never stopped loving Reyhan, but Reyhan, who’s now built a life of her own, remains uncertain — even though it was Reyhan who once once cast a love spell to make Eren love her forever in the first place.


Divorce Movies to Cry From Laughter (Because You Physically Cannot Handle Doing the Other Type of Crying Anymore)

The majority of this list falls somewhere on a scale of “pleasantly bittersweet or wistful” to “outright weeper.” These following films are decidedly not that. These are purely for mindless joy only.

Thinking is not allowed here. I mean it!!

This is a zero thinking zone.

Ok! Dig in.

First Wives Club (1996)

dir. Hugh Wilson

Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, and Bette Milder in 90s clothes looking excellent in First Wives Club

💍💜 Y’all really don’t need me to describe this one. It’s a classic for a reason.

The Parent Trap (1996)

dir. Nancy Meyers

Lindsay Lohan plays two twins at summer camp eating at a table in The Parent Trap

💍 Arguably Lindsay Lohan’s greatest movie not named Mean Girls? Arguably Lindsay Lohan’s greatest movie, including Mean Girls? Yes. Yes it is.

Bad Moms (2016)

dirs. Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn demonstrate one of the messiest ways to make a white Russian in Bad Moms.

💍 It’s very hard to describe Bad Moms. In a list that encourages you to turn off your brain, perhaps no film more requires that central task. Three moms in suburban Chicago get exhausted by the expectations of patriarchal family life and decide to embrace failure as an ethos. There is something beautiful about that, underneath the crass humor and raunchy jokes (though those jokes really do hit). Now if only they had released themselves from heterosexuality, too.

Girl’s Trip (2017)

dir. Malcolm D. Lee

Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, and Queen Latifah laugh in bed together in Girl's Trip

💍 There is not a funk that Girl’s Trip hasn’t clawed me out of, not a depressive episode that it did not give me at least a two-hour reprieve from. I have never laughed harder, or more reliably. But that’s not the real reason it’s on this list. Once upon a time, a friend sold me on the theory that if you watch Girl’s Trip believing that Queen Latifah’s character and Regina’ Hall’s character are college exes — nothing in the movie will tell you that you are wrong.

Knowing that information elevated what was already a near pitch-perfect movie experience, and you deserve similar perfection in your life today.

Death Becomes Her (1992)

dir. Robert Zemeckis

Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep play undead glamorous zombies in Death Becomes Her

💍 Dark, glamorous, and campy — there really is nothing like Death Becomes Her. Madeline (Meryl Streep) and Helen (Goldie Hawn) are longtime rivals who keep vying for the same man, Dr. Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis). There’s a fountain of youth twist that I won’t spoil if you haven’t seen it, but what makes Death Becomes Her so delicious is its ability to take the most superficial takes about expectations of beauty and heterosexuality and instead twist them inside out. Being (un)dead never looked so good.


Divorce Movies in the Aesthetic of a Quiet Luxury Nancy Meyers Kitchen With a Farmhouse Sink Worthy of Envy

Technically “divorce” is not a formally recognized genre of film. But I also promise you that when I said “divorce movies” — somewhere in the back of your mind you imagined Meryl Streep in an off-white chunky sweater in an open floorpan kitchen at sunset. So far be it for me to leave you hanging.

It’s Complicated (2009)

dir. Nancy Meyers

💍 Is It’s Complicated an emphatically and a possibly even brutally straight rom-com? Probably so. It’s central conflict involves a love triangle between Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin. But you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Meryl Streep’s Jane get high and bake chocolate croissants in the middle of the night after a first date. In fact, you’re going to wish that you were her date instead.

Heartburn (1986)

dir. Mike Nichols

Meryl Streep in sunglasses looking depressed in an 1980s supermarket in Heartburn

💍 Another (and our final!) Meryl Streep contribution! With four films, she’s featured more than any other actor. I’m sure there’s a reason for that, something about how women going through divorce are one of the few “well-rounded” dramatic roles about women available in Hollywood — that’s not an official theory, just a sarcastic guess. Ahem.

Heartburn (the film) comes from Nora Ephron’s 1983 novel, Heartburn (the book), which fictionalizes the events of Ephron’s divorce from journalist Carl Bernstein in 1980. In it, Streep stars as Rachel Samstat, a food writer based on Ephron’s work as a culture writer and personal essayist. In the 2013 documentary Makers: Women Who Make America, Ephron describes Heartburn thusly, “I’m really not interested in women as victims; so one of the things I like about Heartburn is that it is basically: Look what happened to me, and guess what? I get to have the last laugh because I get to be funny about it.” Yeah, you definitely are gonna wanna see that.

A Simple Favor (2018)

dir. Paul Feig

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively toast in A Simple Favor

💍💜 “Baby, if you apologize again, I’m going to have to slap the sorry out of you,” Blake Lively was simply born to play the glamorous next door neighbor that you erotically obsess over. And Ana Kendrick does said erotic obsession so neatly that sometimes it’s hard to tell if she was in on the joke of this satire, but it won’t matter because the ride is worth it regardless.

Now I have to be honest with you, I could not technically remember if there’s a divorce somewhere within A Simple Favor, because I cannot remember most of the plot. I only remember Blake Lively’s smirk and that tuxedo she wears and martini glasses. Just as God intended.


Divorce Movies in the Aesthetic of Angela Bassett Blowing Up Her Husband’s Car in the Arizona Sun While Wearing a Robe and Smoking a Cigarette

If by any chance you didn’t think of Meryl drinking a glass of pinot, for sure you thought of Angela Bassett burning her cheating exe’s shit up in a car while wearing an extremely  silk robe and perfectly pressed and curled hair, with Mary J Blige singing in the background.

How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)

dir. Kevin Rodney Sullivan

💍 How Stella Got Her Groove Back stars Angela Bassett in a Terry McMillan fictionalized memoir about a woman in her 40s who goes on vacation and falls in love with a man roughly half her age. But what is most devastating to me is that until I made this very list you are reading right now, I could have sworn that Whoopi Goldberg plays a lesbian in this movie. Sadly, she does not. She’s just Angela’s bestie. But I feel confident we can all pretend anyway.

Waiting to Exhale (1995)

dir. Forest Whitaker

Angela Bassett blows up her husband's car in Waiting to Exhale

💍 Do I even have to say it?? Right. I don’t think I do.

(But I will add the two following points: First, Terry McMillan, Nancy Meyers, and Nora Ephron are the GOATs of crafting divorce stories, put respect on their names. Second, bi-con Whitney Houston! You’re welcome.)


It’s Literally Just Carol

When I was assembling together this list, I ran it past a panel of experts, by which I mean other Autostraddle editors. Our Senior Editor, Drew, added Carol to the list and then immediately after it put “I’m sorry.”

But you know what? She was right. And she should say it.

Carol (2015)

dir. Todd Haynes

Cate Blanchett smokes a cigarette as Carol in the film Carol

💍 Every day is lesbian Christmas if you wish it hard enough.


Divorce Week is a celebration of taking a life-changing step, of coming out the other side of devastating trauma and being all the better for it. It’s co-edited and curated by Nico Hall and Carmen Phillips. Remember, you may be divorced, but you’re not alone.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 681 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. I couldn’t fit these fun stats into the article proper, but in case anyone was interested, there are a lot of repeat players in the genre broadly known as “blow up your life and start it all over”:

    Meryl Streep — 4
    Angela Bassett — 2
    Whoopi Goldberg — 2
    Goldie Hawn — 2

    In terms of directors, Nancy Meyers is also on this list twice. Two of these films take place in Arizona (and two take place in Italy), which statistically probably isn’t a lot, but somehow still feels significant to the general proceedings.

  2. Love these suggestions! Thank you for sharing these great ideas, the themed categories are so perfect. Also there are many films I haven’t come across before (I am embarrassed to admit I basically only knew Carol). I can’t wait to watch these. Creating myself a film playlist for these now.

  3. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once does feature divorce! The husband, Waymond, is planning to divorce Yeoh’s character and when she finds out, it strains their relationship throughout the movie.

  4. I know exactly what you mean by the way you’ve described these types of films, and though I’m not going through a divorce, I definitely need this list! And a lot of these I haven’t seen, so thank you!

    Also – The Parent Trap is my favourite film of all time, so I absolutely agree that it’s Lindsay Lohan’s best film, *including* Mean Girls

Comments are closed.

Pop Culture Fix: Kristen Stewart Had a Great Time Terrifying Conservatives With Her Gay-Ass Photo Shoot

Conservatives Are in a Tizzy Over Kristen Stewart’s Rolling Stone Cover

kristen stewart on a love lies bleeding red carpet holding up her gay hands

Is this the kind of pose queer people do in their dating profile photos? (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Maybe it’s me but I swear I’ve heard Kristen Stewart talk more during this press run for Love Lies Bleeding than I have for all her other movies combined. This is not a complaint.

Everyone is all abuzz about Love Lies Bleeding, which comes out next month, and it’s what director Rose Glass calls an “anti-romance.” Specifically she says, “I think we liked the idea of doing a romance that was an anti-romance, pushing against the idea that romantic love is this aspirational thing that brings out the best in people.” Which I think is fair because I’ve watched people become the worst versions of themselves with specific partners despite claiming to be in love. (I guess it should be noted here that I’m generally on team “Love is A Lie” though I’m not opposed to a well-told love story here and there. I’m just… harder to convince, and not putting a rose-colored filter over it is a good way to start in my book.)

In a Deadline article about this press tour, Kristen Stewart was asked “whether the film had helped set a new standard in her mind for how queer stories are told, and how [gay films] don’t always need to be framed as coming-out stories.” Say it louder for the straight filmmakers in the back!

And after Kristen Stewart’s Rolling Stone cover story, which surely you’ve seen by now, dropped, part of the Love Lies Bleeding press tour has also involved Kristen Stewart defending her choices, praising the cover, and thinking it’s ironic that the article was called “uncensored” but that’s exactly what’s happening to her. Right wing conservative men are all in a tizzy because they can’t handle the fact that Kirsten Stewart is obviously not aiming to please them. She doesn’t exist for their enjoyment, and she doesn’t care if the sight of her in a jockstrap makes smoke blow out their ears.

Some of these conservatives are blaming Hollywood, pointing at the arc of Elliot Page’s life and career (they don’t mean it is a compliment) and assuming Kristen Stewart is also going to come out as trans at some point. Which, maybe she will, and if she does we’ll obviously support her! But also maybe she won’t. Just because she doesn’t fit someone’s outdated and narrow view of what a particular gender should look like doesn’t make her trans. Gender non-conformity exists both inside and outside of transness, and to say otherwise would be a disservice to both gender non-conforming cis people and trans people alike. Also just… leave people alone? It’s actually none of our business where she is in her gender journey and it’s actually very gracious of her to be sharing any of it. This extremely queer cover of a world-famous magazine doesn’t affect a straight person’s life in the slightest. All they have to do is not buy it, throw it out, scroll away, stop clicking on it.

But it very well COULD change a queer person’s life. It could show them that it’s okay that they don’t feel like they fit the stereotypes being thrust on them every day. It could give them hope.

If you want to hear her say it herself, here’s Kristen Stewart defending her Rolling Stone cover, because fuck the male gaze.

@apnewsentertainment

Kristen Stewart defends her Rolling Stone shoot, which was critiqued by some conservative media outlets, while promoting “Love Lies Bleeding” in Berlin. #kristenstewart #berlinfilmfestival #rollingstone

♬ original sound – AP Entertainment – AP Entertainment


More News That Is Like, So Gay, Dude

+ Laverne Cox looked amazing while hosting the People’s Choice Awards

+ True Detective: Jodie Foster had an epic season finale

+ Midori Frances, Rivkah Reyes and Heather Matarazzo are in an upcoming gay film called Complicated Order

+ I saw Madame Web and it wasn’t nearly as atrocious as people made it out to be. (It wasn’t gay but nonbinary actor Celeste O’Connor was great, and Syndey Sweeney is in it who has played queer before, and Isabela Merced who will be queer character Dina in the upcoming The Last of Us Season Two was also great.) Dakota Johnson is hilarious (and so is her press tour.)

+ The intense-female-friendship to lesbian-lovers to partners-in-literal-crime pipeline seems to be going strong in the movie Langue Étrangère

+ This is sort of old news but I only just saw the trailer for the Tarot movie today and a) it has my girl Humberly González in it and b) it has Avantika from Mean Girls looking cozy on the couch with another girl

+ Lots of gay shows on this list of shows that were canceled too soon

+ My friend Nic had sent me a link to an Instagram post about Evelyn Brochu’s upcoming romcom with Zach Braff and Vanessa Hudgens and I was like “oh no”.. but then I saw that Vanesa Hudgens was Evelyn Brochu’s ex in the movie and I was like “oh yay!”… but then I actually watched the trailer and landed at “oh gods why”!! Layne Morgan summed it up perfectly

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 532 articles for us.

Rumors of Our Lesbian Divorce Rates Have Been Greatly Exaggerated (But They’re Still Pretty True)

You may have heard that lesbian divorce rates are exceptionally high, and perhaps you may have found yourself wondering — are they really? And also — if so, why? If you’re searching for more information on this topic, you might even notice that the idea that lesbians are hot for divorce has been incorporated into the search-engine-optimized copy of numerous divorce lawyer websites around the web, all seeking a piece of the lesbian divorce market. These websites have made claims like “the lesbian divorce rate is 72%,” which is a misrepresentation of the available data as well as a misuse of the term “divorce rate.”

A closer look at the numbers reveals they’re not quite as alarming or definitive as they seem at first glance — but they definitely do seem to suggest, at the very least, that lesbians are more likely to divorce than gay male couples are. So let’s get into that data!

All The Actual Data We Have on Lesbian Divorce Rates

Firstly, data on divorce, even for straight people, has always been difficult to interpret and is often misinterpreted. We’re not even using the term “divorce rate” correctly, most of the time.

Secondly, same-sex marriage hasn’t been legal quite as long as opposite-sex marriage has, and various bureaucratic data-gathering institutions have struggled consistently over the years to accurately count how many gay people exist at all. So we simply don’t have the decades and decades of divorce data that straight people do. Even if you take into consideration the lack of numbers overall, it’s already incredibly challenging to compare patterns of dissolution of straight marriages to same-sex marriages because we also have a whole different set of cultural expectations and the added artificial factor of so many same-sex couples marrying not when they felt ready to, but when finally became legal.

Thus, aside from a very small study in 2011 that found we don’t get divorced as much as straight people do (yet!), we don’t have a lot of data comparing lesbians to straight people. Also, that study may have been debunked.

The primary study that created this “72% lesbian divorce rate” concept comes from England and Wales (where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2014), which found that 72% of divorces between same-sex couples in 2019 were between lesbian couples. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that 72% of lesbian marriages (in England and Wales!) end in divorce, just that (in England and Wales), lesbian couples are nearly three times more likely than gay men to get divorced. However, 56% of all same-sex marriages tracked in that time period were between women, so some of that higher number can be accounted for by the fact that more of us are married, period — but certainly not all of it.

Data analyzed in the Netherlands found that of all couples married in 2010, 26% of lesbian marriages had become divorces by 2020, significantly more than the percentage of gay male marriages that had ended in divorce (14%) and straight ones (16%). Also in the Netherlands, a 2015 analysis showed that in the ten years since the Netherlands began allowing same-sex civil partnerships in 2005, 15% percent of the 2005-married gay male couples divorced, compared to 30% of lesbian ones.

In Belgium, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2003, 11% of female-female married couples had filed for divorce by the end of 2010, compared to 6.7% of male-male couples.

Now, there are several law firm websites who’ve claimed that “lesbian couples have a 34% divorce rate.” Those that claim this cite a source cite their source as… another law firm website, and that website doesn’t provide a source for its own data. Where does this number come from? What does it mean? I wish I could tell you!

Why Are Lesbian Couples More Likely to Divorce Than Gay Male Couples?

Even though the implications of the above data are limited, it does paint a pretty clear picture — clear enough for us to feel, as a community, that lesbians are more likely to divorce than gay men.

This is, I suspect, because those numbers are telling a story that already feels true. It feels true anecdotally, it feels true based on what we see amongst our own friends, or on social media, in the stories we read and surround ourselves with — hell, it feels true when looking at celebrity marriages and divorces. It just feels like more lesbians are getting married and more lesbians are getting divorced. Despite same-sex marriage only being legal for a bit under ten years and me not having very many friends in general, I’ve already been to more than one lesbian wedding that has since faced into divorce and know multiple lesbian couples who’ve divorced and in many cases, already remarried. (But — I am a lesbian, which means of course I’m more aware of and invited to goings-on in our own community!) Does it feel true to you? If so do you think that might be because we all have agreed that…

Lesbians Get Married Sooner and More Often

You may’ve heard that joke about the U-Haul? The one about how we, the lesbian community, tend to rush into various levels of legal commitment with startling velocity? This is the first place the mind goes when considering higher divorce rates — we tend to make major commitments more hastily, and unions predicated on shaky ground are more likely to dissolve into it. (That said, a divorce isn’t synonymous with “failure”! Marriages don’t have to last forever to be considered successful, fulfilling or healthy! That’s a heteronormative belief we should all let go of.)

Lesbians are on average getting married younger. The 2019 American Community Survey Data found the mean age for first-time married same-sex couples was lower for women (33) than for gay men (38). (For straight people, the mean age was 29, and the list of reasons why their numbers are so much lower than ours would be an entire additional article.) A 2017 survey by The Knot and Q Digital of 812 same-sex married couples had more extreme numbers for the age at which one got married — 46 for men and 36 for women.

In 2016, same-sex married couples in the U.S. were 55% women and 45% men. By 2020, a survey of available data by the U.S census found that of all same-sex married couples in the U.S, 53% were female-female and 46% were male-male, and female-female married (and unmarried) households continued to outpace those of gay men in 2022.

The numbers are often more dramatic in other countries. In Norway, Brazil, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg and Taiwan, over 60% of same-sex marriages are between two women. Apparently, in Canada, lesbian and gay women aged 25-64 are twice as likely to be married as gay men.

Do Lesbians Want To Get Married More Than Gay Men Do?

Obviously, “really wanting to get married, period,” can be a motivating factor for a person to get into a marriage that ultimately doesn’t work out, as anyone who has seen Love is Blind could tell you.

So I figured the overall lesbian desire to get married (especially because we’re more likely to have or want children, which tends to involve marriage) might be much higher than it is for gay men, and thus a contributing factor to our divorce rates. This specific hypothesis of mine, however, did not bear exceptional fruit. We’re a bit more eager to get married than gay men, but not overwhelmingly so.

A 2013 Pew study found that 56% of gay men, 58% of lesbians, and 45% of bisexuals would like to get married someday if they could. The rest were uncertain or gave a “no.” However, lesbians did give the least “no”s (12%), while gay men gave the most (18%)! What I probably failed to consider when expecting more dramatic numbers was how much the fact that many lesbians are often categorically opposed to governmental, heteronormative and patriarchal structures in general might have played a role in these findings.

In a 2022 survey of Australian youth, LGBTQIA+ women were a few percentage points more interested in marriage than gay men — although neither approached the level of heterosexual interest.

Do Lesbians Get Divorced More Because Women Are Involved?

In the UK, women petition for two-thirds of all total divorces — meaning women in general are simply more likely to want a divorce, and thus two women means two more divorce-prone humans angling for the exit. According to a divorce lawyer who spoke to The Economist in 2020, “women are much less likely to tolerate marital infidelity than men,” as apparently evidenced by Dutch women citing infidelity as a reason for divorce more than men. That said, straight women are perhaps more socialized than gay women to forgive (or even expect) infidelity from a male partner — whereas lesbians might be less inclined to push on.

But also, gay men tend to be the most open group to extramarital sexual activities in general — somewhere between 30% and 60% of gay male couples practice some form of non-monogamy (the statistics on this are so all over the place, I don’t even know where to begin with citing sources!). Data is mixed on whether open heterosexual marriages are more or less likely to end in divorce, but the gendered expectations of it would really make it impossible to draw gay conclusions from straight data.

Maybe Lesbians Divorce More Because Lesbians Make Less Money

The top cause of stress for married couples and households are finances. It’s what married couples are most likely to fight about, worry about, and fall to pieces over. Researchers analyzing the National Survey of Family and Households determined that “arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce.”

Women, you may have heard, make less money than men, and therefore two women, together, will often have less financial power than a male-male or male-female couple. (They’re also more likely than gay men to want to marry for financial reasons.) According to the 2022 U.S. Census, 8.6% of same-sex female married couples had a household income below $35k, compared to 6% of male-male couples and 8.7% of opposite-sex couples. The median household income of same-sex female couples was $111k, compared to $138.7k for male-male couples and $109.7k for opposite-sex couples.

Children can also add to that financial stress, and 27% of female-female married couples have children in the household, compared to 8.1% of male-male married couples.


In conclusion, love is love and divorce wins!

Divorce Week is a celebration of taking a life-changing step, of coming out the other side of devastating trauma and being all the better for it. It’s co-edited and curated by Nico Hall and Carmen Phillips. Remember, you may be divorced, but you’re not alone.

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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3 Comments

  1. Totally fascinated by these stats, thank you for sharing. Side note, why haven’t we gotten the queer ‘ Love is Blind’s we all deserve?!

    • i knowwwww it would be so delightfully chaotic! my assumption is that they’re not sure how to construct the show without having like, the girls house and the boys house because if everyone is dating each other they cannot intermingle, but surely there’s a way to make the show work without that dynamic at play!

  2. Monogomy is simply not natural and the divorce statistics bear that out. A lifelong partner? How boring.

    • “Monogamous” does not mean “lifelong”, though it may be implied to be so by people who idealize both. It’s possible to be monogamous (in the sense of only bonding sexually and/or romantically with only one person at a time) without it being for life, in fact it’s rather common when no-fault divorce is legal. It’s also possible to be in a lifelong polyamorous relationship, but it’s very unusual for that to happen with every single one of your partners.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed this. As a data nerd, you literally answered all of my questions in the order they arose WITH sources, and I was delighted. Thank you, as always, for the combo of
    research and entertainment!

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I Didn’t Know Existential Therapists Were a Thing Until I Got One

I didn’t know existential therapists were a thing until I recently got one. Who knew they had therapists who studied De Beauvoir and Camus, who worked with people like me; people haunted by the concept of eternity since age seven, by the perennial cosmic disaster of Sunday afternoon, and by the capital V void, the edge of which I have spent most of my life peering masochistically over?

I walk the therapist through my personal existential classics. Am I derivative? Am I of use? Am I who I think I am or am I someone else entirely? She explains to me why, for my whole life, I’ve been seeking myself. The reasons are various—ego formation and childhood messages I did and didn’t receive—but I know what she means. I’ve spent years looking for clues that I am who I suspect I might be. You look for these clues, she says, in others. Vigilant as I am against codependence, existentialism allows that self cannot be fully revealed or witnessed without the other. The friend, the lover, the person who can see you like you can’t.

Examples of things I know about myself without further evidence: I am unreasonably excited by lipstick. When I do something like peel an orange I am forcefully reminded of my belief in God, which is at once a belief in something nameless and expansive, and also a belief in God, specifically. The faces of squirrels make me emotional. Rotisserie chicken makes me feel at home. My crushes are numerous and bottomless and largely evergreen. My love of music is downright prayerful. A fancy pajama set makes me feel like a luxurious grownup. I am melodramatic and cavernous of mind, haunted of skin and crystalline of heart, soft in places but bristled in others. An indoor kid with outdoor yearnings who has spent years looking at turns masculine and feminine and both and neither.

I mean, I tell my existential therapist. It’s not like I don’t know myself pretty well. I’ve been around myself for well over forty years. It’s not nothing. Also, though: it’s far from everything. And she’s right. Sleuthing myself has become a kind of second nature. Looking for clues.

Existential clue-hunting is, of course, not news: It’s a time-honored queer tradition.

Clues like the way my partner looked at me when I checked off ‘cis woman’ under the identity options on an application I was filling out a few years ago, like I’d just ordered a burger with no bun. You’re not cis, they said. I blinked. They were right, of course. Ever since age twenty-one, when I dreamed I was a gay man prancing languidly in a circle with other gay men, incidentally including Rupert Everett, all of us clad only in white sheets, I have moved through the world in nonbinary ways. My gender has always felt at once alien to me, and also so skin-familiar it eludes the words I might use to describe it.

So, others have described it. Gentleman? I’ve asked lovers, as if pleading for more dessert, and they’ve granted me yes. Handsome, boychik, starlet, prince. Muppet, pigeon, barmaid, femme, another place, another time, or this one. Gentleman. The kind of thing where blushing isn’t about embarrassment; it’s about inhabiting yourself slightly more than you did yesterday. It’s about something coming back to you so quick it shows in your face.

Clues like when I ask my friends if they think I have a gay face. I think I have a gay face. They say yes, but they are biased. Walking down the street in Warsaw once, I clocked someone as queer and inarguably hot, and I felt myself do the things: the Stride, the Look, the Head Cock. Am I legible to you, my body was asking? But I don’t speak any Polish, and I’m not sure my body was asking the right question either.

Clues like how an ex called my writing “a cross between Cheryl Strayed and Isaac Bashevis Singer.” I agreed with neither comparison, but I was still pleased he’d caught an angle, some little shred of what I recognized as aesthetic evidence. Another ex once drew a representation of my brain as a weedy and overgrown swamp, and unflattering though it seemed at first blush, I was not inclined to disagree.

Or clues like the fight my partner and I had in a hotel room, at the apex of which I disappeared my own face into the recesses of my hoodie and wailed I just want to be seen! In this case, I think, being “seen” meant being heard, and being heard meant being responded to. Soon, we were laughing. Now, in the aftermath, I feel quite seen when my partner recounts that night, how direly I wailed, and how fully I disappeared my own head. They caught that, I think. They get it after all.

Honestly, sometimes the clues are just sex. That apex of benevolence and wickedness I find in me when I can be all prowess, stripped of myself and utterly inhabited, lit by something feral. Any name I still proudly call myself originated in the first wash of that light, starkly revealing me not only to my lover, but to myself, growling and just barely unashamed of my hunger.

In my grad program, I was older. I laughed as loud as I wanted at all the readings, and invariably laughed first. The other students told me it gave them permission to laugh, too. My cackle, a horn of permission. It permitted me too, by escaping me without my notice and preceding me, I should have told them. A clue.

And of course there are the nights I have spent on Google, trying, as they say, to find myself on the internet. Sleuthing myself into being. Searching “OCD without the CD” and “am I a good cat parent” and “intrusive thoughts” and “how do I know if I’m really in love” or “how do I trust myself when I am in fact only an echo of those who came before me” and sometimes I do find myself, but sometimes, honestly, Google is stumped. Not because I’m exceptional; just because I don’t know the words yet.

Sometimes it’s like instead of looking for clues, I’m planting them. Like when the guys from Chabad try to give me Chanukah candles or ask me if I’ve heard the shofar yet and I say good yontif, gmar tov, revealing myself. I know the words, I am telling them. I used to be Orthodox but I no longer look the part, so they raise their eyebrows, though it is Brooklyn, so they don’t raise them much. Seeing them see me, even fleetingly, lights me, like we’ve met and danced in some much older forest much farther away.

You’re such a convener, says a friend, sitting at a table I’ve festooned with roses and honey and challahs I haven’t baked but have lovingly picked out. Three other friends nod, agreeing. Convener feels like someone catching something about me that I almost missed. I hold the descriptor like it is the golden key to everything. Something I didn’t think I was but was always reaching for, and maybe reaching is a kind of being, too. I imagine myself ladling warmth into bowls, imagine myself shimmering in a doorway, imagine myself to music others can hear, too.

In a piece in The Atlantic, Caleb Madison points out that “seen” isn’t so much a feeling as a passive verb. But the efforts we make to be seen, I think, are active. They’re the leaning away from the gutter, standing up to pop through the sunroof. Why do I want a certain song playing when you come into my home? Why do I want to hand you your cocktail just so? I’m an easy host, a rake, a card, I’m bejeweled, I have a gay face. I want to love and be loved. If reaching is a kind of being, it’s a reaching toward.

After all, I’ve been hunting for clues since I was an Orthodox Jewish pre-teen. Scouring the YA shelves for books where best friendships between boys shimmered with projected sexual tension. Obsessing over my people’s ancient stories, the ones where intimate friendship between men and men, between women and women, intimates something else entirely. David loving Jonathan, he says, more than the love of women. Ruth telling Naomi she will follow her wherever she goes. Stories that bore the evidence I existed, that my desire was not fabricated nor derivative, and also that it was intricately fabricated and incredibly derivative, the way desire is always only made from all desire that precedes it.

Maybe it will only ever be refractions. Maybe I will lose sleep. I will gather people sometime soon at a tableful of pleasure and interruption and someone again will nod at me like I’m where I should be. Someone will recognize me from the old world forest. But also maybe agility grows in the reaching toward, the leaning away from the gutter. Maybe it is just that I am looking at you and you are looking at me and in that shimmering constellation, we are exactly who we suspect we might be, if only briefly.


Temim Fruchter’s first novel, City of Laughter, is available now from Grove Press.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Temim Fruchter

Temim Fruchter is a queer nonbinary anti-Zionist Jewish writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Maryland, and is the recipient of fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Vermont Studio Center, and a 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award. She is co-host of Pete’s Reading Series in Brooklyn. Her debut novel, CITY OF LAUGHTER, is out now on Grove Atlantic.

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Twenty Years Later, “The Lion King 1 ½” Is Still the Gayest Disney Movie

What if Shakespeare’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were a wise-cracking meerkat and a kind-hearted gluttonous warthog? That’s the basis of Timon and Pumbaa, the insect-loving comedic duo who stood out in The Lion King. During Disney’s Michael Eisner era, any animated movie that broke the box office received additional flicks for the home video market and sometimes even a television series. In the 90s, Timon & Pumbaa had near Minion-level popularity, spurring a spin-off series from 1995-1999. Then, in February 2004 –– 20 years ago, jeez––a feature-length direct-to-DVD spin-off graced them: The Lion King 1 ½ (or Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata for ya European readers).

Inspired by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (yes, the Tony award-winning Tom Stoppard play) and framed in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 format, The Lion King 1 ½ follows Timon and Pumbaa as they recount the events of The Lion King from their perspective. The movie reveals how they were present at every plot point — while exploring the origins of their budding, affectionate relationship.

There’s no better way to put this: The Lion King 1 ½ is the gayest Disney movie of all time.

From the get-go, the film establishes Timon as a gay-coded, Jewish-coded — his mother calls him a meshuggah at one point — Disney princess. He’s tired of his meerkat species living in the clos– er, I mean, underground and at the bottom of the food chain, in fear of hyenas. Like every quintessential Disney princess, Timon even sings his own “I want” song: “That’s All I Need,” which had The Lion King’s original music scribes Elton John and Tim Rice returning to pen. Wanting to break free from his provincial surroundings, like every queer midwesterner in a hetero-filled hometown, Timon moves out and embarks off on a quest to find his forever home in paradise.

On his journey, Timon encounters Pumbaa, whose protective instinct kicks in upon seeing Timon small and alone. Timon, at first, embraces Pumbaa as his protector from predatory animals. But, as they comically trek across all the recognizable settings and plot points from the original film to find Timon’s home, their bond deepens.

During their most intimate scene, Timon learns Pumbaa himself doesn’t have a home and just won’t admit it. Timon insists Pumbaa stay with him and says he’s his best friend in the world. They look into each other’s eyes lovingly. Andrew Haigh, take notes, sir.

Timon and Pumbaa have an affectionate bond unlike any other Disney comedy duo. Their synonymous Hakuna Matata-fueled lifestyle and shared interests in eating insects and living fancy-free with each other makes them feel like a gay, old, married couple. Timon and Pumbaa are outcasts who find solace in each other’s company. They’re each other’s home and, by the night’s end, Timon snuggles himself on top of Pumbaa’s belly as if it were his bed.

Timon’s voice actor, Nathan Lane, is indeed a gay icon, and his rapport with Pumbaa’s Ernie Sabella is jovial and buoyant. Even if they are at odds, they never resort to violence, even for slapstick. They’re big softies, using their wits and farts to overcome any situation.

That is until they decide to rescue Simba, who challenges them to a new level. To quote Timon’s narration directly, “Rescuing Simba was a cinch. Then came the really scary part… *dramatic sting* parenthood.” The flick frames Timon and Pumbaa as Simba’s two gay dads. Through a series of comical montages,Timon acts like a bossy mom tending to all Simba’s needs as the enforcer and protector. As Simba grows up, he calls Timon “pops”. Need I say more?!

The queer subtext isn’t the only reason the movie transcends the direct-to-DVD Disney franchise movies of the time. Long before Deadpool, The Lion King 1 ½ felt fresh with its meta format. At least, it taught me the definition of a 4th wall break. (Sorry, I was born after Animaniacs was canceled.) Timon and Pumbaa’s constant riffing on and offscreen through their varying comedic stylings keeps the film moving in perfect rhythm. It has long-winded gags, decent slapstick, musical theater references––like Timon and Pumbaa starts singing the opening verses to “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof — and somehow it all works.

Plus, as a very “ahead of its time” topper, the film’s credits close out on Raven Symoné’s stellar neo-funk cover of The Friends of Distinction’s version of “Grazing in the Grass.” One of my formative childhood memories was watching the music video on my The Lion King 1 ½ DVD. My late dad went on Limewire and burned the song — among other childhood favorites — onto a blank CD. I titled it “Rendy Mania,” a riff on the DisneyMania albums from back in the day. Elton John and Raven Symone on one soundtrack? That’s queer culture!

As Disney still stumbles through their “exclusively gay moments,” The Lion King 1 ½ is a reminder that sometimes subtext is better — especially when it’s this texty. Two decades later, it’s time we declare The Lion King 1 ½ a queer animated classic worth revisiting or watching for the first time. To quote Timon and Pumbaa’s iconic phrase, “Hakuna Matata”

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Rendy Jones

Rendy Jones (they/he) is a film and television journalist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. They are the world's first gwen-z film journalist and owner of self-published independent outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics' Choice Association, GALECA, and a screenwriter. They have been seen in Vanity Fair, Them, RogerEbert.com, Rolling Stone, and Paste.

Rendy has written 7 articles for us.

5 Comments

  1. I appreciate this review and the writer dusting off an old classic! I swear there is a REASON why so many of us queers had crush-feelings activated by these animated characters. So much hidden queer storytelling, or at least queer-adjacent outcast stories.

  2. “diggah tunnah” is a song that gets sung by the two gay moms in my house. i babysat for a kiddo who was obsessed with this movie, and i have to agree that it’s Disney camp at its best.

  3. Well now I have to watch this. 😅

    I do remember as an adult finally realizing that most of the Hakuna Matata song was setup for a fart joke.

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Mini Crossword Is a Pink Lady

I thought it was a crash course.

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Emet Ozar

Emet is a queer and genderqueer program manager, crossword constructor, and married parent to four children.

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