What Can a Queer Film Series Accomplish?

For decades, Outfest was one of the most prominent and well-respected queer film festivals in the world. But after laying off nearly their entire staff last fall and halting programming, a gap was left in the Los Angeles festival scene and the queer film world at large.

Many have wondered what would fill this gap and some festivals have explicitly tried. But possibly the most exciting replacement is one that’s not aiming to be a replacement at all. Rather than continuing this legacy, it’s beginning one of its own.

Queer Rhapsody, organized by the UCLA Film and & TV archive with lead programming by former Outfest employee Martine McDonald, is not a film festival. It’s a community-based film series. “I don’t want an event to feel like just a screening or just a Q&A,” Martine told me. “I want it to be an invitation to follow a filmmaker’s work throughout the year.”

With hybrid docs about queer Olympians and shorts programs named things like Laughing Through Fire and Queering Memory, Queer Rhapsody aims to be a different kind of film event. But that doesn’t mean the series isn’t still highlighting work recognized by major festivals like The Queen of My Dreams and Desire Lines. There’s a variety — a celebration of many different facets of queer film.

I spoke with Martine about the goals of the series and the fraught (yet hopeful!) state of queer media.


Drew: How did this festival come about?

Martine: Well, we’re calling it a film series, which was to highlight the fact that it’s community driven and not a competition or about any kind of festival framework. And so it really was May (Hong HaDuong) at the archive reaching out to different community partners emphasizing that we need queer film regardless of what institution is hosting it. From there she brought me on and we worked with the programmers. It’s been very organic from how invested and flexible our partners have been to what we’re most passionate about.

Drew: I love that distinction between film series and film festival. You’ve obviously worked with festivals in the past. What do you think can be gained in this format that can sometimes be lost in a festival format?

Martine: One of the things we encouraged in notifying the filmmakers about being selected was not only promoting their own film but other artists they’re passionate about and inspired by. We hope to foster the sense that you’re not in competition with anyone. This is just being in conversation with the community. And also because the archive is the center of it, May and the archive are inviting all of these films to be officially filed in the UCLA Film and TV archive which is the largest in the country. That will be a really nice thing for people in the beginning of their career and for people who are mid-career. It’s a unique part of it.

Drew: How do you feel queer film festivals, film series, and film culture have evolved over the last ten years?

Martine: This is a big question.

Drew: (laughs) I think you’re up for it!

Martine: Here we go. Right now, we have to ask, what is it for? What’s the festival structure for? Is it to maintain or move forward the film industry? Is it Academy qualifying or something like that? I think it’s become more about being on a circuit, being in a community, rather than competition. Sponsorship and all those pieces are a big part of film festivals, but film series are more about public education and public inspiration. And that’s the way I tend to lean even in festival structures.

I think it’s also about being more innovative with what stories you’re willing to share with audiences. Not making assumptions about their capacity to ingest a complex narrative or a more artful, meditative film. But we tried to keep it broad. There are lots of different genres. It’s continuing to evolve and be defined by the audience. You’re not there for the institutional definition of what queer community is or what queer stories are. It’s always in conversation and response to the community as we all evolve.

Drew: You touched on this a bit, but what do you and your programming team look for in queer media?

Martine: May and I sparked this Queer Rhapsody theme. You know, we love a complex drama. We love all interesting, emotionally driven stories. But this was focused on expansive joy. What does rhapsody mean? There’s a film that’s a rageful, vengeance story, but told from a joyful perspective. What are the ways we express ourselves? We really looked for that. And, of course, it’s always such a hard decision. That’s nobody’s favorite meeting when we have to narrow it down. But we really looked for a balance of international films that show voices and talent you don’t typically see in LA, as well as retrospective work like Darby and the Dead. The last four years even, pandemic to now, what have we maybe missed the opportunity to celebrate in community?

I’m most into poetic wonder — that’s my jam. We have folks on the team who are more into dark comedy. A couple more genre-based pieces. It’s also a good mix of documentary. I’d say about half the programming is documentary, particularly hybrid docs. There’s lovely, transcendent storytelling happening.

Drew: What queer work do you feel still gets ignored in the larger conversation?

Martine: Experimental work. That’s something we don’t know where to fit in public conversation. When it’s someone who has typically done narrative or documentary, it’s framed as practice. It’s not their career trajectory. But challenging the audience and even distributors on what can find a wider audience.

And beyond that, maybe this is cliché, but I always want more romcoms. Quality, deeper romcoms. And I think Sisters is really fun and has a unique story about intimate friendship and queer relationships.

Drew: I always want more queer romcoms and want work that fits into this theme of queer rhapsody, but I think a lot of time the work that gets made that’s adjacent to that genre or joyful in some way then lacks — this is so hard to quantify — but lacks a sort of queerness. It’s palatable and I don’t think joy has to be palatable. There’s so much room to have work that still feels of the community but is, you know, fun.

Martine: Definitely. I mean, I love a coming out story, but a lot of the mainstream distribution projects we see right now are still situated there. It’s fun to look for queer voices who are also exploring different aspects of queer life.

Drew: There was this shift from the studios in the 2010s where there were more queer movies and way more queer shows. But then the pandemic happened and the streaming bubble burst. And the first thing to go was the “diversity” — even though that work often makes money. So when I look around I see a generation — and I don’t even mean that in age — of queer filmmakers who had the carrot dangled in front of us to be like this is possible, only for many of those opportunities to disappear. And, as a result, I’m seeing a lot more exciting indie work that’s even better than a lot of what was happening pre-pandemic. I don’t have a lot of faith in the ability to pay one’s rent via filmmaking right now, but I do have a lot of faith in the work that’s getting made on lower budgets.

Martine: Definitely. Our community has always made a way out of no way. So that’s pivotal. I wish it wasn’t at odds with having the structural support we all deserve. But I have seen a lot of submissions that were single room location. And good for you for finding a way to make it happen. I’m biased because I always lean toward indie spaces and programs and creators. And being a programmer I see people in this situation and observe how they’re navigating their career.

Actually, Natalie Jasmine Harris is one of our programmers this year and she’s also an incredible filmmaker. We’re showing two of her films. She is so skillful at navigating the industry.

Drew: She’s amazing.

Martine: It’s been really fun getting her perspective as a filmmaker, a community member, and now as a programmer. What does this system look like? How can it support her work?


Queer Rhapsody runs from July 19-July 28 in Los Angeles.

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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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 Knock LA. 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 564 articles for us.

‘Melissa Etheridge: I’m Not Broken’ Is Heavy On Inspiration and Soft On Prison

I initially suspected that I’d spend the entirety of Melissa Etheridge: I’m Not Broken in tears. The film was grainy but the grass was vivid as we traveled down a two-line country road to the Topeka Correctional Facility and saw the barbed-wire fencing outside it from every available angle. Melissa was singing “I’m The Only One” to a crowd of female inmates in navy blue and maroon t-shirts — many of whom, themselves, were crying. Old butches with buzzcuts and tattoos, middle-aged women with weather-beaten skin and french braids, younger girls with no interest in the concert but clearly just happy to be outside and entertained. It could’ve been any Melissa Etheridge show, really, and I’ve been to a few. It’s really nice, you know, to be in community with your people singing your intense lesbian country-rock ballads with a truly iconic pioneer. She’s still up there, and she’s still giving it her all in her raw, wide-open, unmistakable voice.

melissa etheridge playing at the prison

Luckily for the skin that surrounds my eyeballs, I didn’t, ultimately, cry through the whole thing. Eventually my emotions leveled out. The docuseries was moving and heartwarming and deeply empathetic, and a must-watch for Etheridge fans. But I found myself wondering an awful lot where the line is between “imposing my personal political agenda on a work of art” and “wanting a work of art to portray the world it represents with responsible accuracy.”

But let’s not start there.

Instead, here: Etheridge grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas, an area replete with prisons, and in fact performed for inmates as a very young budding folk musician. She recalls the audience at her local correctional facility making her feel like “a female Johnny Cash,” and for that reason and many others, had hoped to perform for incarcerated audiences again some day. For this documentary, Etheridge corresponded by letter with five inmates of the Topeka Correctional Facility, using their stories and her in-person conversations with them as inspiration for a new song, “Burning Woman,” which she performs in the aforementioned concert.

Each of those five residents get a solid chunk of time to tell the story of the circumstances that landed them in prison. It’s a big-hearted point of view that never passes judgment on its topic — believing, truly, that everyone is worth more than the worst thing they’ve ever done. Etheridge, who lost her son to opioid addiction in 2020 — and speaks with clarity and wisdom on how she’s approached living with that grief and channeling it into advocacy — notes that most of these women’s stories begin with drug addiction. Most also begin with abuse and neglect.

“I know there’s so much wrong with the penal system in general,” Etheridge tells the women, but then she goes on to say that the warden and employees she’s spoken to have expressed a desire to heal and release their inmates, which gives her hope. This perspective on this specific facility is echoed by the shared personal stories and interior footage. Scenes are shot in a cheery, well-stocked library, a nursery and play area with themed rooms for when children come to visit, a neatly organized supply room, a prison bunk decorated with dozens of crocheted teddy bears. They talk about their jobs in prison (we don’t hear about the $1.05 a day they’re paid to perform them) and we see inmates walking down empty corridors and doing interviews in empty rooms, no sign of the overcrowding that has plagued the facility. We meet people like Classification Administrator Meghan Davis, who explains victimization statistics (whereas men are less likely to be the victims of crime as they age, women remain just as likely) and her philosophy of healing that trauma, stressing the importance of treatment that’s proactive (community services) instead of re-active (e.g., prison). I wish conversations like that had gone a bit further, to address the numerous interventions that could’ve turned things around for these women before they became another cog in the prison-industrial complex.

I’d love to believe that the Topeka Correctional Facility is exactly as it is portrayed — full of caring, devoted Correctional Officers, overseen by competent, fair leadership; full of opportunities for enrichment, learning and progress; well-staffed with doctors and therapists; free of drugs and a healthy place for women to detox.

I’d love to believe that this is not the same place where prison staff mocked, rather than helped, a resident who was unable to walk and required medical treatment, and threatened to write up inmates who tried to offer aid, an incident that NPR noted is consistent with patterns of medical mistreatment by private oft-fined contractor Centurion, a for-profit corporation who serves Kansas prisons including this one. The Topeka Correctional Facility for Women was isolated as the site of the most frequent source of medical care violations in the entire state. Just last month, six inmates filed suit alleging deliberate indifference to their safety and health via the food provided by notorious prison food supplier Aramark Food Service, an open flow of dangerous drugs, and exposure to toxins and molds in an environment lacking ventilation.

I’m not arguing for any of those topics to be the subject of, or even mentioned within, this documentary. I also imagine the producers of the film and Etheridge herself were abiding by whatever agreement was necessary to give them the freedom to film there at all. And for an audience not already inclined to see the residents as full humans deserving of empathy and consideration, the documentary does a great job changing that.

But for those of us for whomst that is a foregone conclusion, it’s tough to ignore the docuseries’ own foregone conclusion — that prison is a productive place to put people who have engaged in criminalized behavior, even when those crimes are a result of poverty and drug addiction, problems better solved with financial support and medical treatment than with incarceration. That prison is a place for introspection and redemption, an opportunity that the individual has the choice to accept or deny. It certainly can be a chance to turn it all around — Etheridge also catches up with the truly charming and inspirational Leavenworth mayor, Jermaine Wilson, himself a convicted felon who eventually became determined to end the cycle for his own son. In prison, Wilson sobered up, took community college classes and leadership training and now is, you know, the mayor!

But logic suggests and research has shown that incarceration is more likely to cause harm than to help — severing inmates from friends and family, subjecting them to dangerous and unhealthy conditions including physical and sexual abuse, failing to shield them from drugs, leaving them more traumatized than before they came in. Options that aid, rather than punish, are often more effective and less expensive. Not to mention the barriers to employment, housing, and education faced by inmates upon release, as well as challenges specific to female inmates. The danger in narratives that suggest a “rock bottom” like prison must be met in order for change to occur is that more money is funneled into incarceration instead of into the services that could prevent it.

I hope the documentary turns people onto The Etheridge Foundation, Melissa’s non-profit dedicated to advancing new treatments for opioid use disorder. Etheridge has long been an advocate for marijuana decriminalization, which is one way to reduce incarceration rates. 

That all said, within the current system, it’s important and inspirational, to see artists like Etheridge making public efforts to connect with female inmates and push back against the stigma of incarceration and drug addiction. Etheridge said she visited the facility to inspire and empower the women, and she does that handily. “A lot of people say they care,” says Leigh, who is serving 15 years for possession with intention to distribute. “But we don’t see that, you know? It’s kinda rough. So I’m just like, really grateful that she gave a shit, you know? It means a lot, really.”

There’s a chorus in “Burning Woman” where Etheridge invites them to sing along in a call and repeat — I might have fucked things up, Etheridge yells. But I can make a change! the woman volley in return. I can only hope and pray that the world gives them every chance to do so. That, in fact, would be truly unprecedented.

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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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 3225 articles for us.

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The Best Lesbian Movies According to 78 Queer Writers, Actors, and Filmmakers

Your Fav's Favorite Lesbian Films against a red background with black and white face images of Devery Jacobs, Margaret Cho, Lena Waithe, Lea DeLaria, and Ayo Edebiri

When I first took on the task of revamping Autostraddle’s best lesbian films list in 2019, I thought I could see every lesbian movie ever made. How many could really exist in the world? 200? 300? But as I continued my research I discovered more and more, each year more and more being made. (I’ve now seen over 600.) The question of what constitutes a lesbian film also came into question. What was subtext and what was text? What if subtext sometimes is text?

The 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 editions of the list were voted on by our team of writers with my voice being the most prominent since I had seen the most films. But this year that felt insufficient. Canon-making cannot be the work of one individual, nor even a handful of individuals. Even with its recent number one pick, the famed Sight & Sound list is never as cool to me as the individual ballots that determine its ranking. There is value in the aggregate — there’s even more value in the specificity of each individual’s knowledge and taste.

That’s why this year’s update was decided beyond our team. At first, I wanted to just expand to anyone with an Autostraddle byline. Then, to anyone Autostraddle has ever interviewed. But as I chatted with queer artist and critic friends about this project, the enthusiasm from people to share their own picks of the best lesbian movies was impossible to resist.

Every list has its limits. There are so many more queer critics and queer artists who I’m sure we’ll add in future versions. But what a gift to get the input from these 75+ queer people each with their own perspectives. I decided early on not to provide any guidelines and you’ll see that reflected in the ballots below. There are shorts and features, documentary and narrative, lesbian classics and movies that will have you asking, “Wait how is that a lesbian film??” It’s all part of the fun!

If you want to see how these ballots came together for the top 100, check out Autostraddle’s The 100 Best Lesbian Movies of All Time. And if you want even more lesbian films check out our ever-evolving lesbian film encyclopedia.


Anna Margarita Albelo

Director, writer, actor [Hooters: The Making of Older, Wiser Lesbian Cinema, Who’s Afraid of Vagina Woolfe?]

Fiction:
Born In Flames
Go Fish
Je Tu Il Elle
Mosquita y Mari
Wild Nights with Emily (and also Madeleine Olnek’s other films)
Yentl

Docs:
Dykes, Camera, Action!
Hooters! The Making of Older, Wiser, Lesbian Cinema
Last Call at Maude’s
Lavender Limelight: Spotlight on Lesbian Filmmakers
Paris Was a Woman

More Documentary Shout Outs (All on Kanopy):
The Aggressives
Female Misbehavior
Framing Lesbian Fashion
Krudas
The Same Difference: Gender Roles in the Black Lesbian Community
Shinjuku Boys
Venus Boyz

Personal Bonus:
A Lez in Wonderland: Dinah Shore


Valerie Anne

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

All Cheerleaders Die
Bit
Booksmart
Crush
D.E.B.S.
The Fear Street Trilogy
The Half of It
I Can’t Think Straight
Imagine Me & You
Jennifer’s Body


Kristen Arnett

Author [Mostly Dead Things, With Teeth], Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline
Autostraddle interview 

1. Bound
2. But I’m a Cheerleader
3. The Handmaiden
4. Bring It On
5. Charlie’s Angels (2000)
6. Drop Dead Gorgeous
7. D.E.B.S.
8. Foxfire
9. Friday the 13th
10. The Virgin Suicides


Jamie Babbit

Director, producer [But I’m a Cheerleader, A League of Their Own (2022)]
Autostraddle interview 

Born in Flames
Bottoms
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader (to keep the streak going)
Carol
Fucking Åmål
Go Fish
Heavenly Creatures
High Art
Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Michelle Badillo

Writer, actor [One Day at a Time, A League of Their Own (2022)]

1. But I’m a Cheerleader
2. Heavenly Creatures
3. Jennifer’s Body
4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
5. Black Swan
6. Gia
7. Bound
8. The Runaways
9. The Watermelon Woman
10. Mosquita y Mari


Juan Barquin

Critic, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

The Adolescence of Utena
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Blue is the Warmest Color
Bound
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Carol
The Duke of Burgundy
The Handmaiden
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Nitrate Kisses


Elise Bauman

Actor [Under the Christmas Tree, One More Time]

Aftersun
Alice Júnior
Appropriate Behavior
Cruel Intentions
Dirty Computer
Foxfire
House of Hummingbird
I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing
The Novice
The Queen of My Dreams
Tomboy


Riese Bernard

Autostraddle co-founder, senior editor
Autostraddle byline

All Over Me
Blockers
Bottoms
But I’m a Cheerleader
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Handmaiden
Happiest Season
Love Lies Bleeding
Professor Marston & the Wonder Women
Saving Face


Drew Burnett Gregory

Filmmaker, Autostraddle senior editor
Autostraddle byline
Autostraddle interview

1. The Watermelon Woman/Dyketactics
2. Desert Hearts/Saving Face
3. Persona/Mulholland Drive
4. Multiple Maniacs/Bound
5. House of Hummingbird/Aftersun
6. Carol/Portrait of a Lady on Fire
7. Glen or Glenda/MURDER and murder
8. Born in Flames/In Between
9. Princess Cyd/Alice Júnior
10. Je Tu Il Elle/The Joy of Life
11. All About My Mother/Mars One
12. Mädchen in Uniform/Olivia

I get to cheat as my reward for putting this project together. :)


Ruth Caudeli

Director, writer [Second Star on the Right, Petit Mal]

1. Appropriate Behavior
2. Carmen y Lola
3. Carol
4. Imagine Me & You
5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
6. The Kids Are All Right
7. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
8. D.E.B.S.
9. But I’m a Cheerleader
10. Certain Women


K-Ming Chang

Author [Bestiary, Organ Meats]
Autostraddle interview

Aquamarine (dir. Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum)
Bottoms (dir. Emma Seligman)
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
Bride Wars (dir. Gary Winick)
But I’m a Cheerleader (dir. Jamie Babbit)
Carol (dir. Todd Haynes)
The Handmaiden (dir. Park Chan-Wook)
The Other Woman (dir. Nick Cassavetes)
Spider Lilies (dir. Zero Chou)
Who’ll Stop the Rain (dir. Su I-Hsuan)


Nea Ching

Filmmaker, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

But I’m a Cheerleader
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The Favourite
The Forest of Love: Deep Cut
Knife + Heart
The Lure
Mulholland Drive
Showgirls
Tár
The Watermelon Woman


Margaret Cho

Comedian, actor [All-American Girl, Fire Island]
Autostraddle interview

All About Eve
Basic Instinct
Bound
Carol
The Hunger
The Killing of Sister George
The Matrix
Monster
Personal Best
Showgirls


Peaches Christ

Drag performer, filmmaker [All About Evil]
Autostraddle interview

1. Bound
2. But I’m a Cheerleader
3. Heavenly Creatures
4. Mulholland Drive
5. The Color Purple (1985)
6. Desperate Living
7. Love Lies Bleeding
8. The Watermelon Woman
9. Bottoms
10. Monster


Daemonum X

BDSM educator, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Benedetta
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Daughters of Darkness
Desert Hearts
The Duke of Burgundy
The Favourite
The Handmaiden
School of the Holy Beast
The Watermelon Woman


Davey Davis

Author [the earthquake room, X]
Autostraddle interview

1. Kamikaze Hearts
2. Desperate Living
3. Set It Off
4. But I’m a Cheerleader
5. Mulholland Drive
6. BloodSisters
7. Showgirls
8. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
9. The Watermelon Woman
10. The Bride Wore Red


Lea DeLaria

Comedian, actor [Edge of Seventeen (1998), Orange is the New Black]
Autostraddle interview

But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Desert Hearts
Gia
Go Fish
The Hunger
I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing
Lianna
Rebecca
The Watermelon Woman


Zackary Drucker

Filmmaker, multimedia artist [The Lady and the Dale, Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl]
Autostraddle interview

All Over Me
Born in Flames
Bound
D.E.B.S.
Desert Hearts
The Girl (2000)
Fucking Åmål
High Art
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
Saving Face


Natalie Duggins

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Pariah
2. Saving Face
3. Rafiki
4. The Watermelon Woman
5. The Handmaiden
6. The Half of It
7. Mosquita y Mari
8. Imagine Me & You
9. Blockers
10. Set It Off


Gabe Dunn

Filmmaker, author, podcaster, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Set It Off
2. Desert Hearts
3. The Handmaiden
4. Disobedience
5. The Watermelon Woman
6. Appropriate Behavior
7. Good Manners
8. Bound
9. But I’m a Cheerleader
10. Being John Malkovich


Ayo Edebiri

Actor, writer, director [Bottoms, The Bear]

Desert Hearts
Orlando
Pariah
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Rafiki
Saving Face
Saint Maud
Tár
The Watermelon Woman
Working Girls

Honorary Picks: White Chicks, ep. 3 of Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy


Rhys Ernst

Director, writer [She Gone Rogue, Adam]

1. Mulholland Drive
2. Kamikaze Hearts
3. Fucking Åmål
4. But I’m a Cheerleader
5. The Watermelon Woman
6. Bound
7. Born in Flames
8. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
9. Pariah
10. Go Fish

Honorable Mentions:
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Carol
Dyketactics (and many other Barbara Hammer films)
Liquid Sky
Young & Wild


Gretchen Felker-Martin

Author [Manhunt, Cuckoo]
Autostraddle interview

1. Showgirls
2. The Handmaiden
3. Knife + Heart
4. Heavenly Creatures
5. Rebecca
6. Ammonite
7. Shiva Baby
8. The Neon Demon
9. Carmilla (2019)
10. The Hunger


Sarah Fonseca

Researcher, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Anaïs in Love (dir. Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet, 2021, France)
Circumstance (dir. Miriam Keshavarz, 2011, France/Iran/USA)
Clouds of Sils Maria (dir. Olivier Assayas, 2014, France/Germany/Switzerland)
Duet for Cannibals* (dir. Susan Sontag, 1969, Sweden)
Greta (dir. Neil Jordan, 2018, USA/Ireland)
The Heiresses (dir. Marcelo Martinessi, 2018, Paraguay)
The Ladies Almanack (dir. Daviel Shy, 2017, USA)
Love Lies Bleeding (dir. Rose Glass, 2022, UK/USA)
Prodigal Sons (dir. Kimberly Reed, 2008, USA)
Shakedown (dir. Leilah Weinraub, 2018, USA)

*An anecdote about this broad selection: Sontag regularly told friends in passing that Adriana Asti, who plays Francesca in Duet, was the great (unrequited?) love of her life. Sontag later directed her in a play some decades later… all fun to consider when viewing this one.


Marya E. Gates

Critic, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Antonia’s Line
Appropriate Behavior
Blue Jean
Desert Hearts
Je Tu Il Elle
Mädchen in Uniform
Pariah
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
The Summer of Sangaile
The Watermelon Woman


Nico Hall

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

All About Eve
Arsenic and Old Lace
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
The Handmaiden
Heavenly Creatures
Mulholland Drive
Multiple Maniacs
The Watermelon Woman

Bonus: Twilight


Natalie Jasmine Harris

Writer, director [Pure, Grace]

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
2. Pariah
3. Saving Face
4. But I’m a Cheerleader
5. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
6. Carol
7. Hearts Beat Loud
8. Shakedown
9. The Color Purple (1985)
10. Desert Hearts


Annette Haywood-Carter

Writer, director [Foxfire]
Autostraddle interview

Aimee & Jaguar
Ammonite
Boy Meets Girl
Breakfast on Pluto
Carol
The Danish Girl
Elisa and Marcela
The Favourite
Girl (2018)
Orlando


Gabrielle Grace Hogan

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

Bloodsisters
Bottoms
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Cloudburst
D.E.B.S.
The Handmaiden
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
Pumping Iron II: The Women
The Watermelon Woman


Heather Hogan

Former Autostraddle editor
Autostraddle byline

1. The Half of It
2. Nimona
3. D.E.B.S.
4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
5. Pariah
6. Carol
7. Wild Nights With Emily
8. Saving Face
9. Rafiki
10. Desert Hearts


Devery Jacobs

Actor, writer, director [Reservation Dogs, Backspot]

1. The Watermelon Woman
2. Saving Face
3. But I’m a Cheerleader
4. Thelma and Louise
5. Shiva Baby
6. Thelma
7. Bottoms
8. Kajillionaire
9. Blue is the Warmest Color
10. Jennifer’s Body


Chase Joynt

Director, writer [No Ordinary Man, Framing Agnes]
Autostraddle interview

Born in Flames
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
A League of Their Own (1992)
Lost and Delirious
The Queen of My Dreams
Rafiki
Regarding Susan Sontag
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
The Watermelon Woman


Ingrid Jungermann

Director, writer, actor [The Slope, Women Who Kill]

1. Mulholland Drive
2. The Favourite
3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
4. Desert Hearts
5. High Art
6. Benedetta
7. The Kids Are All Right
8. Disobedience
9. Thelma
10. Bound


Aamina Inayat Khan

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

Bend It Like Beckham
Black Swan
Bottoms
But I’m a Cheerleader
Jennifer’s Body
Juno
The Kids Are Alright
Little Women (2019)
Mean Girls (2004)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Kirsten King

Writer [Crush (2022), The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy]
Autostraddle interview

Aftersun
Bottoms
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Desperate Living
The Favourite
Jennifer’s Body
Mulholland Drive
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Princess Cyd


Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Author [Helen House], Autostraddle managing editor
Autostraddle byline

1. The Watermelon Woman
2. Bound
3. Multiple Maniacs
4. Good Manners
5. Appropriate Behavior
6. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
7. The Handmaiden
8. Olivia
9. Mommy Is Coming
10. The Hours
11. Love Lies Bleeding


Grace Lavery

Author [Please Miss: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Penis]
Autostraddle interview

The Aggressives, dir. Daniel Peddle (2005)
Baise-moi, dir. Virginie Despentes (2000)
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1972)
A Bit of Scarlet, dir. Andrea Weiss (1997)
Carol, dir. Todd Haynes (2015)
아가씨 [The Handmaiden], dir. Park Chan-Wook (2016)
Raw, dir. Julia Ducournau (2016)
The Skin I Live In, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (2011)
The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos (2018)
Portrait de la jeune fille en feu, dir. Céline Sciamma (2019)


Andrea Lawlor

Author [Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl]

All Over Me
Born in Flames
Bound
Heavenly Creatures
High Art
Saving Face
Set It Off
She Must Be Seeing Things
Show Me Love
Stranger Inside


Analyssa Lopez

Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Saving Face
2. Bound
3. Pariah
4. Desert Hearts
5. The Handmaiden
6. Imagine Me & You
7. The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love
8. Jennifer’s Body
9. Foxfire
10. Black Swan


T Kira Madden

Author [Long Live the Tribe of the Fatherless Girls]

Appropriate Behavior
Bottoms
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Fried Green Tomatoes
Kajiliionaire
Now and Then
Water Lilies
The Watermelon Woman
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken


Carmen Maria Machado

Author [Her Body and Other Parties, In the Dream House]
Autostraddle interview

1. Desert Hearts
2. Fried Green Tomatoes
3. Heavenly Creatures
4. Bound
5. But I’m a Cheerleader
6. Mulholland Drive
7. Carol
8. The Handmaiden
9. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
10. Love Lies Bleeding


Shayna Maci

Filmmaker, programmer, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Desert Hearts (1985)
2. Bloodsisters: Leather, Dykes, and Sadomasochism (1995)
3. Born in Flames (1983)
4. The Watermelon Woman (1996)
5. The Joy of Life (2005)
6. Bound (1996)
7. Simone Barbes or Virtue (1980)
8. D.E.B.S. (2004)
9. Welcome to the U.S.A. (2019)
10. A Comedy in Six Unnatural Acts (1975)
Shorts: Janine (1990)/If Every Girl Had a Diary (1990)/Dyketactics (1974)


Annie Rose Malamet

Writer, lesbian vampire expert

1. Je Tu Il Elle
2. Working Girls
3. The Watermelon Woman
4. The Handmaiden
5. Bound
6. Water Lilies
7. Mädchen in Uniform
8. Daughters of Darkness
9. Kamikaze Hearts
10. Gia


Miss Malice

Drag performer

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Born in Flames
Bound
Bloodsisters
Cat People (1942)
Daughters of Darkness
Flaming Ears
Mulholland Drive
Multiple Maniacs
Olivia

HM: If These Walls Could Talk 2 (second vignette only)


April Maxey

Director, writer [Work]

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
2. Pariah
3. Mosquita y Mari
4. Desert Hearts
5. Bound
6. Set It Off
7. Saving Face
8. The Watermelon Woman
9. Water Lilies
10. Circumstance


Ashni Mehta

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

Bend It Like Beckham
Bottoms
But I’m a Cheerleader
Crush
D.E.B.S.
The Favourite
I Can’t Think Straight
Jennifer’s Body
Love Lies Bleeding
Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Fawzia Mirza

Director, writer, actor [Signature Move, The Queen of My Dreams]

Appropriate Behavior
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Chutney Popcorn
Circumstance
Love Lies Bleeding
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Saving Face
Set it Off
Shiva Baby


Motti

Comedian, For Them community manager, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Bound
Below Her Mouth
Best in Show
Booksmart
But I’m a Cheerleader
D.E.B.S.
The Favourite
Love Lies Bleeding
This is Where I Leave You
The Watermelon Woman


Sari Navarro

Film programmer
Autostraddle interview

1. Love Lies Bleeding
2. But I’m a Cheerleader
3. Mosquita y Mari
4. The Watermelon Woman
5. Desert Hearts
6. Bound
7. Bottoms
8. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
9. Mulholland Drive
10. Certain Women


Jenni Olson

Filmmaker [The Joy of Life, The Royal Road], film historian
Autostraddle interview

Bottoms
Bound
By Hook or By Crook
Carol
Circumstance
D.E.B.S.
Desert Hearts
The Half of It
Fucking Åmål
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
She Don’t Fade


Olivia Peace

Artist, filmmaker [Tahara]

1. The Watermelon Woman
2. Dirty Computer
3. D.E.B.S.
4. Nope
5. Rafiki
6. Jewel’s Catch One
7. Set It Off
8. The Color Purple (1985)
9. Saving Face
10. The Handmaiden


Carmen Phillips

Former Autostraddle editor-in-chief, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Pariah
2. How to Blow Up a Pipeline
3. The Watermelon Woman
4. Set It Off
5. Mars One
6. Bessie
7. Saving Face
8. But I’m a Cheerleader
9. Passing
10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Honorable Mentions: A Simple Favor, Bodies Bodies Bodies


Jennifer Reeder

Artist, director, writer [Knives and Skin, Perpetrator]

Daughters of Darkness
Fire
Heavenly Creatures
High Art
The Hunger
Morvern Callar
Pariah
Personal Best
Rebecca
Silkwood


Eva Reign

Actor [Anything’s Possible], Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

Appropriate Behavior (dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2014)
Bessie (dir. Dee Rees, 2015)
Bodies, Bodies, Bodies (dir. Halina Reijn, 2022)
High Art (dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 1998)
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (dir. Maria Maggenti, 1995)
Love Lies Bleeding (dir. Rose Glass, 2024)
Pariah (dir. Dee Rees, 2011)
Set It Off (dir. F. Gary Grey, 1996)
Thelma and Louise (dir. Ridley Scott, 1991)
The Watermelon Woman (dir. Cheryl Dunye, 1996)


Jen Richards

Writer, actor, producer [Her Story, The Acolyte]
Autostraddle interview

Better Than Chocolate
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
The Handmaiden
Imagine Me & You
Love Lies Bleeding
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Saving Face
Signature Move


Stef Rubino

Autostraddle team writer

All About My Mother
Born In Flames
Bound
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Desert Hearts
High Art
Kajillionaire
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Princess Cyd
The Watermelon Woman


Mey Rude

Journalist, critic, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Love Lies Bleeding
2. Pariah
3. But I’m a Cheerleader
4. Saving Face
5. The Watermelon Woman
6. Bound
7. Bottoms
8. Black Swan
9. The Handmaiden
10. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women


Dua Saleh

Musician, actor [Sex Education]
Autostraddle interview

Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Chutney Popcorn
Fingersmith
Love Lies Bleeding
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Rafiki
The Watermelon Woman


Nic Sam

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

Blockers
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Crush
Dirty Computer
The Half Of It
Imagine Me & You
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Professor Marston & the Wonder Women


Tanya Saracho

Playwright, screenwriter, producer [Looking, Vida]

Ammonite
Blue is the Warmest Color
Bottoms
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Gia
Go Fish
The Incredible True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
Love Lies Bleeding
Mosquita y Mari
Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Daniel Sea

Artist, musician, actor [The L Word]
Autostraddle interview

Born in Flames
Circumstance
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Heavenly Creatures
A Litany for Survival
Mädchen in Uniform
Persona
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Times Square
The Watermelon Woman


Jourdain Searles

Critic, programmer, comedian, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Desert Hearts
Go Fish
The Handmaiden
Loving Highsmith
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Shirley (2020)
The Watermelon Woman
When Night is Falling


Sa’iyda Shabazz

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Imagine Me & You
2. Fucking Åmål
3. Ellie and Abbie (And Abbie’s Dead Aunt)
4. D.E.B.S.
5. Gia
6. Kissing Jessica Stein
7. Under the Christmas Tree
8. Crush
9. The Half of It
10. But I’m a Cheerleader


Sarah Schulman

Author, screenwriter [Mommy Is Coming, Let the Record Show]
Autostraddle interview

Blue Jean (Georgia Oakley)
Bound (Lily and Lana Wachowski)
Gently Down the Stream (Su Friedrich)
Je Tu Il Elle, Les Rendez-vous d’Anna, and Sloth (Chantal Akerman)
Nellie and Nadine (Magnus Gertten)
Persona (Ingmar Bergman)

Lesbian films I worked on: The Watermelon Woman, Mommy Is Coming, The Owls (Cheryl Dunye)

Special award for my personal sentimental favorites: Hooters: The Making of the Owls, Who’s Afraid of Vagina Woolfe? (Anna Margarita Albelo)

Special Big European Budget Award: Joan of Arc in Mongolia (Ulrike Ottinger)


Vivek Shraya

Artist, author [The Subtweet], screenwriter, actor [How to Fail as a Popstar]
Autostraddle interview

Bound
Carol
Disobedience
Fire
Love Lies Bleeding
Passing
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Tár
V for Vendetta
“Telephone” music video


Lauren Ashley Smith

Writer, comedian [A Black Lady Sketch Show]

Carol
The Color Purple (1985)
The Favourite
Happiest Season
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
The Kids Are Alright
Pariah
She Hate Me
Suicide Kale
The Watermelon Woman


Quiniva Smith

Attorney, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Desert Hearts
2. The Favourite
3. Pariah
4. The Handmaiden
5. Mulholland Drive
6. Notes on a Scandal
7. The Watermelon Woman
8. Doubt
9. All About Eve
10. Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Erin Sullivan

Screenwriter, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Bottoms
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
D.E.B.S.
The Handmaiden
I Can’t Think Straight
Jennifer’s Body
A League of Their Own (1992)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Water Lilies


Stewart Thorndike

Director, writer [Lyle, Bad Things]
Autostraddle interview

Bound
Desert Hearts
The Favourite
High Art
The Kids Are All Right
Mulholland Drive
Shiva Baby
Thelma
The Watermelon Woman
Working Girls


Jes Tom

Comedian, writer, actor [Crush, Our Flag Means Death]
Autostraddle interview

1. Bound
Black Swan
The Children’s Hour
Disobedience
The Favourite
Fingersmith
Imagine Me & You
Pariah
Saving Face
V for Vendetta


Andrea Torres

Film programmer

At Land
Blue is the Warmest Color
Fucking Åmål
Je Tu Il Elle
Mädchen in Uniform
MURDER and murder
Nathalie Granger
Simone Barbès, ou la Vertu
Spacked Out
With Beauty and Sorrow


Christina Tucker

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Desert Hearts
2. High Art
3. The Watermelon Woman
4. Bound
5. The Handmaiden
6. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
7. Imagine Me & You
8. But I’m a Cheerleader
9. Saving Face
10. Set It Off


Carly Usdin

Director, writer, author [Suicide Kale, Monét’s Slumber Party]
Autostraddle interview

All Over Me
Bottoms
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
D.E.B.S.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Love Lies Bleeding
Pariah
Set It Off
Suicide Kale


Lena Waithe

Writer, actor, producer [Twenties, The Chi]
Autostraddle interview

1. The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
2. The Color Purple (1985)
3. Set It Off
4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
5. The Watermelon Woman
6. Blue is the Warmest Color
7. Saving Face
8. The Women of Brewster Place
9. Imagine Me & You
10. Heavenly Creatures


D.W. Waterson

Director [Backspot]

1. Saving Face
2. Bend It Like Beckham
3. Blue is the Warmest Color
4. Bottoms
5. The Runaways
6. The Watermelon Woman
7. Coyote Ugly
8. Circumstance
9. Kiss Me
10. Imagine Me & You


Em Win

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Raya and the Last Dragon
2. Everything Everywhere All at Once
3. Carol
4. The Half of It
5. Mean Girls (2024) (not because it’s a good movie but because it made me more gay for more people)
6. Dumplin’
7. Little Women (2019)
8. Black Widow
9. Desert Hearts
10. Frozen 2


Alice Wu

Director, writer [Saving Face, The Half of It]
Autostraddle interview

Top Ten Lesbian Films formative to my becoming a lesbian (and a filmmaker):

All Over Me
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
D.E.B.S.
Fucking Åmål
Go Fish
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
The Joy of Life
Tank Girl
The Watermelon Woman


Laura Zak

Writer, actor, producer [Her Story, Twelve Forever]
Autostraddle interview

Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Desert Hearts
Disobedience
The Handmaiden
High Art
Imagine Me & You
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Signature Move


Jess Zeidman

Writer, producer [Tahara, Summer Solstice]

1. But I’m a Cheerleader
2. The Watermelon Woman
3. Bound
4. Water Lilies
5. Carol
6. Desert Hearts
7. Fucking Åmål
8. Jennifer’s Body
9. Princess Cyd
10. She’s the Man

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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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 Knock LA. 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 564 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. Surprised Erin didn’t cast 10 votes to Carol. And a bit sad that Summertime (la Belle saison, 2015) didn’t make it in anybody’s list but the experts have spoken.

    • Summertime is so good! I’m also surprised it didn’t make any lists.

  2. Love everyone not picking their own films and then Jamie Babbit including But I’m a Cheerleader :)

  3. Love that we get to see these! Am going to read through in more detail when I get a sec and add everything I haven’t seen to my watchlist.

    Thanks for all the work you’ve put into this huge project! Are you going to write about your methodology for ordering the top 100 or was it purely a case of adding up the numbers from these ballots? (Sorry if you’ve already explained elsewhere – like I say, I need to digest it all more thoroughly when I have the time.)

    • Thank you for asking , because obvi I thought about this a lot! Many of the ballots included the same films so when the votes were tallied, there were lots of ties. I decided that the more people who have seen a film the higher chance people would have to put it on a list, so I settled ties using obscurity as judged by Letterboxd views. Not a perfect system, but I think it had mostly good results!

  4. Most of these lists seem pretty rote, but it’s really fun to see some unusual choices: Greta, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (a childhood favorite, that haircut was truly formative), Coyote Ugly, Black Widow (presumably the Debra Winger/Theresa Russell movie rather than Marvel, I hope), This is Where I Leave You. All great and at least vaguely gay movies!

Comments are closed.

2024 Emmy Nominations: Just The Gay Parts

It’s a slim Emmy year after last year’s strikes, but our hearts go on, just like in the movie about the boat. How has the LGBTQIA+ community fared this fine year? Let’s discuss.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

Abbott Elementary
The Bear
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Hacks
Only Murders in the Building
Palm Royale
Reservation Dogs
What We Do in the Shadows

What a fine assortment of nominees aside from Palm Royale which I personally thought was a massive waste of incredible talent! The Bear stars out queer actor Ayo Edebiri. The queer, Indigenous creative team behind Reservation Dogs includes writer Tommy Pico and actor/writer/director Devery Jacobs. Hacks is both super-gay as a show and stuffed with gays, from lead Hannah Einbinder (whose character is also bisexual) to characters played by queer actors Megan Stalter and Poppy Liu. Abbott Elementary‘s had a gay lead from the start, introduced a minor lesbian character this season, and has our very own local favorite Brittani Nichols on its writing and production team. What We Do in the Shadows is centered on a group of pansexual vampires. Queer filmmaker Jamie Babbit is an Executive Producer of Only Murders in the Building.

Outstanding Drama Series

The Crown
Fallout
The Gilded Age
The Morning Show
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Shogun
Slow Horses
3 Body Problem

This category is straight as fuck but does include The Morning Show, whose lesbian storylines both giveth and taketh away. I think there was a non-binary character in Fallout for like five minutes.

Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series

Baby Reindeer
Fargo
Lessons in Chemistry
Ripley
True Detective: Night Country

We turned out big-time here — first of all, Baby Reindeer, about a bisexual comic, his stalker (played by queer actress Jessica Gunning) and his on-again-off-again girlfriend, played by trans actress Nava Mau. Ripley is based on The Talented Mr. Ripley, based on a gay book (The Talented Mr Ripley) by a gay author (Patricia Highsmith). There’s a gay male character in Lessons in Chemistry. Drew’s favorite show True Detective: Night Country stars queer, Two-Spirit actor Kali Reis and lesbian actor Jodie Foster. Jodie’s character has a queer daughter.

Outstanding Reality Competition Program

The Amazing Race
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Top Chef
The Traitors
The Voice

Everything here includes gay people because we are real and we love to compete! From The Traitors, hosted by bisexual icon Alan Cumming with queer contestants including Peppermint and Parvati Shallow to RuPaul’s Drag Race literally being about gay people to Kristen Kish‘s arms on Top Chef, we are all over this.

Outstanding Talk Series

The Daily Show
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Late Night with Seth Meyers
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

We will be rooting for Seth Meyers who has always rooted for us.

Outstanding Television Movie

Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie
Quiz Lady
Red, White & Royal Blue
Scoop
Unfrosted

First of all, Unfrosted is the worst movie I have ever seen, but I did enjoy Scoop (starring bisexual goddess Gillian Anderson). Second of all, congratulations to gay royals fan-fic TV movie Red, White & Royal Blue, based on a book by queer author Casey McQuiston that I fucking adored! Also nobody told me that it was Mr. Monk’s last case! WHAT WILL HE DO NOW????


Okay now for a brief sprint through the actress categories!

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Quinta Brunson — Abbott Elementary
Ayo Edebiri — The Bear
Selena Gomez — Only Murders in the Building
Maya Rudolph — Loot
Jean Smart — Hacks
Kristen Wiig — Palm Royale

Ayo Edebiri is queer and Selena Gomez’s character is bisexual.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Jennifer Aniston — The Morning Show
Carrie Coon — The Gilded Age
Maya Erskine — Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Anna Sawai — Shōgun
Imelda Staunton — The Crown
Reese Witherspoon — The Morning Show

Reese Witherspoon’s character is gay. What if I was like “Jennifer Aniston is gay.” My head would explode. (She’s not, don’t @ me)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie

Jodie Foster — True Detective: Night Country
Brie Larson — Lessons in Chemistry
Juno Temple — Fargo
Sofía Vergara — Griselda
Naomi Watts — Feud: Capote vs. The Swans

Jodie Foster is gay and Sofia Vergara’s character is bisexual.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Carol Burnett — Palm Royale
Liza Colón-Zayas — The Bear
Hannah Einbinder — Hacks
Janelle James — Abbott Elementary
Sheryl Lee Ralph — Abbott Elementary
Meryl Streep — Only Murders in the Building

Hannah Einbinder is bisexual and so is her character.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Christine Baranski — The Gilded Age
Nicole Beharie — The Morning Show
Elizabeth Debicki — The Crown
Greta Lee — The Morning Show
Lesley Manville — The Crown
Karen Pittman — The Morning Show
Holland Taylor — The Morning Show

Holland Taylor is gay.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie
Dakota Fanning — Ripley
Lily Gladstone — Under the Bridge
Jessica Gunning — Baby Reindeer
Aja Naomi King — Lessons in Chemistry
Diane Lane — Feud: Capote vs. The Swans
Nava Mau — Baby Reindeer
Kali Reis — True Detective: Night Country

Lily Gladstone is queer and so is their character in Under the BridgeJessica Gunning is queer and Nava Mau is trans. Kali Reis is Two-Spirit and queer.


Other gay tidbits of note:

  • Fellow Travelers, a gay historical thriller about the decades-long gay romance between two men who first met at the height of McCarthyism’s gay witch hunts in the 1950s, was nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. So were Baby Reindeer and Ripley.
  • Girls5Eva, which stars lesbian comic Paula Pell, earned a nod for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, as did Hacks, Abbott Elementary, The Other Two, The Bear, and an episode of What We Do in the Shadows called “Pride Parade.”
  • Queer actress Sarah Paulson got nominated for Drama Guest Actress for Mr and Mrs Smith,
  • Lesbian chef Kristen Kish was nominated for Host for a Reality/Competition Program, as were queers Alan Cumming (The Tratiors) and RuPaul Charles (RuPaul’s Drag Race)
  • Girls State, about a program for young aspiring politicians, including a very cool queer aspirant, was nominated for Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph was nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy Series for her queer role in Only Murders on the Building.
  • Stephanie Allyne was nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series for Tig Notaro’s Hello Again.

Anyhow, I am really looking forward to another year of the Autostraddle TV Awards, in which we pay attention to so many queer shows and actors that were overlooked!

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 3225 articles for us.

2 Comments

  1. queer actress and Academy award winner, Ariana Debose got nominated variety special for hosting the 76th annual Tonys . This is her second Emmy nomination .

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No Filter: Reneé Rapp Gets Slimed!

Hello and welcome back to No Filter! This is the place where I find all the best/funniest/strangest/hottest content from Queer Celebs on Instagram, and put it here, for your benefit! Let’s go!


Cynthia always serves such lived in cat mom content, a blessing!


Gam gam city bitch!!! Come on LEGS!!


Few things intrigue me more than the celeb + assistant relationship, and I am loooving this one.


Lesbian Jesus spotted in a LDR? Likely place for her to be!


Even though it hurts my feelings that I was not here to hang with Mae and Parvati and Alanis, I am glad it happened to someone I GUESS.


Okay fine this is very sweet, I am back on board with the whole group outing.


One thing about me is that my ass will be parked in the theater for Twisters!! Summer blockbuster heads where ya at?!


Liv seems to have a very woods and chill focused life and I love that for them!


Not to be extremely 90s kid, but man there is something comforting about famous people covered in slime!


I love that Meg’s brand is so gf forward, it’s really beautiful to see!


No choice but to tip my hat respectfully to the folks at Quinn who dreamed this up, this is excellent work!


Janelle I would simply never stop you from doing what you need to do!!


Stunning as ever but also— I just remembered they are dating Rami Malek, so I have to think about that for the next three hours!

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Christina Tucker

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

Christina has written 293 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. the one-two punch of Mae and then Katy really has me thinking about doing the big chop again!!

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Power Ranking Chappell Roan’s Most Iconic Queer Looks

feature image art by Autostraddle / photo of Chappell Roan in EAT ME shirt by Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

As much as she’s known for her sexy, catchy lesbian pop songs, Chappell Roan’s fame is also defined by her looks. Often harnessing touchstones of New Romanticism, Chappell’s fashion pays tribute to queer and drag history, to camp, to her theater kid roots, to horror, and of course, to the Midwest where she’s from. The looks are over-the-top but also more trashy and inventive than they are “stylish” or elegant, a collision of highbrow/lowbrow aesthetics.

Frequent collaborator Genesis Webb —who also hails from the Midwest —has frequently styled Chappell for the stage and shoots, and apparently their partnership on serving extreme cunt was a match made in heaven: “We both have a trashy, less defined sense of fashion than high fashion,” Webb told Vulture in an interview. “When I was dressing her, we immediately went into this mode of, ‘Eh, who cares about the label and politics. I just want you to look sick.’”

The results are striking, memorable, and —much like Chappell’s music —simply sexy and fun.

From some looks from her music videos to her on-stage drag tributes to the costume themes she curates for fans to follow, here are Chappell Roan’s most iconic queer looks, power ranked.


17. Chappell in the “HOT TO GO!” Music Video

I feel like in this screengrab in particular, she’s recruiting me into the cult of Chappell. And it worked, bitch! Loving the gay Ringling look. My sequin queen!

16. Chappell as Horror Doll at Bonnaroo

Photo by Erika Goldring / Contributor via Getty Images

I feel like this one goes out to all the girls who shopped at Hot Topic, and I mean that absolutely as a compliment because I have been that girl.

15. Chappell in the “My Kink Is Karma” Music Video

If I had to imagine a closet of Chappell’s staples, I’m pretty sure this is what I’d imagine: red bra, something leopard print, and tights. That’s all a girl needs, really!

14. Chappell as Football Player

She really took football and made it gay and glam. The fully bedazzled shoulder pads alone are instantly iconic.

13. Chappell as My Kink Is Karma at Boston Calling

Photo by Astrida Valigorsky / Contributor via Getty Images

Chappell often assigns themes to her live shows for her fans to dress to, and this is a great execution of her own My Kink Is Karma theme, which is all about black/red contrasts, a mixture of textures like leather, fur, and velvet, and almost harlequin-esque touches. She looks like the goth girl at prom, and I love it.

12. Chappell as Blue Pony Club

Photo by Boston Globe / Contributor via Getty Images

Whether intentional or not (since I believe this was from a show prior to Chappell establishing her official themes), this look takes the elements of her Pink Pony Club Theme but then executes them with the color palette of her Mermaids theme. Chappell is constantly collaging with her looks!

11. Chappell as White Swan on Jimmy Fallon

Photo by NBC / Contributor via Getty Images

Though its black counterpart ended up ranked much higher, I gotta give flowers to this pristine white avian look. That headpiece alone! It’s very impressive to me that she did a televised performance with literal feathers sprouting from her eyes.

10. Chappell in the “Pink Pony Club” Music Video

This is a wild card for the 10th spot on the list, as it ended up beating out some more over-the-top glam looks, but the gay cowboy glam of Chappell’s “Pink Pony Club” music video deserves a top ten spot for harnessing one of Chappell’s greatest fashion weapons: combining midwestern rural aesthetics with gay glam. Initially, she looks “out of place” in this honky tonk, but by the end, she’s far from it, her infectious aesthetic infiltrating the space. Even in lo-fi hair and makeup, Chappell slays.

9. Chappell as Taxi at Gov Ball

Photo by @luxxienne

Not quite as good as the full Statue of Liberty look I ranked higher, but playful and fun nonetheless!

8. Chappell as Poor Things on Stephen Colbert

Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images

My love of Poor Things and especially its costumes meant there was no way this look wasn’t making the top ten. Webb told Vulture this was the first look they actually had budget for, and it shows! It was explicitly inspired by Poor Things, particularly by the women who worked in the brothel in the film.

7. Chappell as Butterfly at Coachella

Though her other Coachella look won out as my favorite, it’s hard to deny the sheer scope of this butterfly look, a custom design by @jackalopeland. I have no idea how she was able to perform in wings spanning six feet. (She did eventually detach them on stage, but still.)

6. Chappell as Penelope for “Good Luck Babe” Cover Art and Grammys After Party

Photo by Gilbert Flores / Contributor

Designed by special effects makeup artist Tyler Green, Chappell’s “Good Luck Babe” prosthetic nose is a nod to the 2006 film Penelope, in which Christina Ricci plays the titular young heiress born with a pig snout due to a curse placed on her family by a witch. Combined with the headpiece, there’s almost an underworld glamor to this look.

5. Chappell as Prom Queen for Tiny Desk Concert

I like Chappell’s Tiny Desk look, because it feels like the next evolution of her Prom Queen aesthetic from the album cover for The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. There’s a wild mix of elements here, but it all comes together into a cohesive vision. Chappell’s looks often reference each other, and here I can see touches of not only her album cover look but also connections between the butterfly clips and her big butterfly look at Coachella and her eye makeup here and then her eventual eye makeup at Kentuckiana Pride when she dressed as Divine. With Webb, she’s building an arsenal of looks that all talk to each other. That’s just great artistry.

4. Chappell as the Statue of Liberty at Gov Ball

Photo by Marleen Moise/Getty Images

I tend to favor Chappell’s trashy/freaky looks over her pretty ones, but this Statue of Liberty look was so pretty while also maintaining a sense of strangeness due to, well, her entire body being painted glitter-green. She wears it well (Wicked Broadway run when?), and I love just the sheer idea of transforming a symbol of American patriotism into a slutty queer camp persona. She was wearing this look when she announced she would not perform at the White House Pride parade as a political statement, and that also sends this one up in the power rankings.

3. Chappell as EAT ME at Coachella

Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This look ended up higher in my rankings than I originally anticipated, but it’s just a perfect distillation of Chappell’s trashy, campy aesthetics, and I love that she wore it specifically for her Coachella debut because it feels so distinctly her. It’s textural chaos, and I love the mix of hardware and gemstones. Chappell’s commitment to a leopard print is aspirational, and there’s something almost clown core about this, but like a slutty weird clown. The EAT ME top with the boob-highlighting cutout is just the cherry on top. Webb cites Vivienne Westwood as an influence here, and it shows!

2. Chappell as Black Swan on Jimmy Fallon

Photo by NBC/Contributor via Getty Images

“My stylist Genesis Webb and I pull from drag, horror movies, burlesque, theater. I love looking pretty and scary,” Chappell said in her Jimmy Fallon appearance, underscoring exactly why I love her looks so much. Horror, burlesque, theater? You’re speaking my goddamn language, babe! This bird-like look (and its white counterpart from further up the list) was made possible by a whole team of collaborators, including hairstylist Dom Forletta who’s responsible for that Carole Kane ass mane, makeup artist Andrew Dahling on the eye feathers, and of course those fucking incredible nails that Chappell gay-clicked throughout her interview, executed by Juan Alvear.

1. Chappell as Divine at Kentuckiana Pride

This one’s the winner. Chappell’s two-look tribute to drag icon Divine at Kentuckiana Pride was technically simple but flawless in its execution. Paying homage to the queen of filth at her attendance record-breaking headlining show at a Pride festival in the Bible Belt is queen shit. The clash of red between the Pink Flamingos-referencing gown and her mess of fiery curls! The leopard-print one-piece! The blue eye shadow (with Andrew Dahling on the makeup again, made extra special since he’s from Kentucky)! This right here is exactly why I extra appreciate Chappell’s artistry. There’s a real reverence for the queer art that has come before her, especially queer art that centers drag performers. She indeed looks divine.

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 870 articles for us.

The 100 Best Lesbian Movies Of All Time

Top 100 Best Lesbian Movies white text against a purple background with heads of famous lesbian film characters in black and white surrounding the text

Here at Autostraddle we want every lesbian, every queer woman, and every nonbinary person to know that movies should include us and do include us. We want you all to see our lives on screen, through the best lesbian movies, with the variety and quality we deserve.

It’s about more than representation. We believe that the best lesbian movies rank among the very best movies, period. Our stories matter and have too long been ignored. This list, created based on ballots submitted by over 75 current and former Autostraddle writers, other critics and programmers, other queer writers, queer filmmakers, and queer performers, aims to create a canon of the very best lesbian movies of all time. Past lists, we’ve made rules about what constitutes a lesbian film — but with this wide swath of voices, we let the numbers decide. From serious art films to gross-out comedies, this list has it all.

There is a world of cinema and a world of queer cinema. There are films from the last hundred years waiting to be discovered and new films yet to be made. So grab some popcorn and join us. And if you’re looking for even more lesbian movies to watch, check out the individual ballots to be released later this week, as well as the Autostraddle Encyclopedia of Lesbian Cinema.


100. The Queen of My Dreams

dir. Fawzia Mirza, 2023
Our Review // Unreleased

Best Lesbian Movies #100: a close up of Amrit Kaur sitting on a plane

Fawzia Mirza’s long-awaited directorial debut feature hasn’t even been released in the U.S. And yet, it’s a testament to the film’s power that it still made this list thanks to festivals and Canadian viewers. Combining a queer coming-of-age movie with a tribute to Bollywood and mothers, this is a film as fun as it is poignant. There is certainly not a lack of queer cinema about mommy issues, but few films have approached this key relationship with such a complicated tenderness. With its fractured narrative structure and bold stylistic swings, Mirza’s film is the work of a confident queer artist stepping fully into their voice.


99. Hooters: The Making of Older, Wiser Lesbian Cinema

dir. Anna Margarita Albelo
Unavailable

Close up of Anna Margarita Albelo holding a fake owl next to text that says Lesbians Over Forty

More than a making-of featurette for Cheryl Dunye’s The Owls, Anna Margarita Albelo’s behind-the-scenes documentary is a snapshot of queer cinema at a turning point. A decade post-New Queer Cinema, but before the influx of recent film and television, Dunye and her team were rightly questioning where queer cinema — and specifically lesbian cinema — should go next. It’s rare to see discussions from queer artists that are this blunt and possibly even rarer to witness the kinds of generational conflicts on display. For fans of lesbian cinema, this documentary is essential.


98. Bodies Bodies Bodies

dir. Halina Reijn, 2022
Our Review // Watch It

The cast of Bodies Bodies Bodies huddled together dripping wet with makeup running

With sharp direction, a perfect cast, and a script from phenomenal playwright Sarah DeLappe, this turned out to be a whodunnit as smart as it is funny. This film is a masterclass in prioritizing character and entertainment and ending up with a clear political message as a result. It may seem like the satire is aimed at Gen Z NYU students — and they do receive some hilarious jabs — but it’s more pointedly a critique of true crime media and the audiences who love it. Oh and it starts with a close up of a queer makeout involving nonbinary movie star Amandla Stenberg.


97. Thelma and Louise

dir. Ridley Scott, 1991
Watch It

Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon sit on the edge of a convertible.

The best part of putting this list together via individual top ten lists rather than a team vote was the opportunity to redefine what constitutes a lesbian film. There is great value in queer filmmakers telling explicitly queer stories — there is also value in subtext. Ridley Scott’s feminist masterpiece has long been labeled an ode to female friendship. But is there any surprise that many read more than friendship onto Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis’s titular characters? Yes, they kiss on the lips before the famous final moments, and, even more than that, their chemistry together has a depth of intimacy that easily blurs with the erotic. (It helps when both actresses are stunning and look gradually gayer as the film goes along.) In a world against women, these two had each other. What’s more lesbian than that?


96. All About My Mother

dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1999
Watch It

A cis woman tends to an injured trans woman in a colorful living room.

Often considered Pedro Almodóvar’s crowning achievement, All About My Mother is a tribute to women — to actresses, to mothers, to trans women, to sex workers, to lesbians. With his trademark style of bright colors, raunchy humor, and gorgeous melodrama, Almodóvar’s film is a reminder of the communities we form. The boundaries between family and friendship and lovers are as fluid as the boundaries of sex and gender. Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Penélope Cruz, and Antonia San Juan lead a cast of women that feel real even as they play in Almodóvar’s heightened imagination. This is not usually considered a lesbian film, but probably only because several of its queer women relationships involve trans women. Since its release the film has held a place in the canon of world cinema — it’s time it takes its rightful place in the canon of best lesbian movies as well.


95. Monster

dir. Patty Jenkins, 2003
Watch It

Best lesbian movies #95: Charlize Theron lights Christina Ricci's cigarette in Monster

Bleak and devastating, Patty Jenkins’ portrayal of Aileen Wuornos does right by Wuornos’ life of trauma. Charlize Theron went beyond the prosthetic makeup in her truly remarkable — and Oscar-winning — performance as Wuornos. Her chemistry with Christina Ricci provides a much needed levity — until it makes what happens even more painful. The film doesn’t judge Wuornos or romanticize her, but simply portrays the life-altering effects of abuse.


94. Benedetta

dir. Paul Verhoeven, 2021
Our Review // Watch It

Virginie Efirie looks up while tied to a wooden stake being burned while a crowd gathers behind her.

Admittedly, I did not give Paul Verhoeven’s latest a positive review for this very website. But the outpouring of love for this naughty nun picture from voices I trust and respect has me eager to give the film a second look. Virginie Effira is one of our most consistently great actors and the power — and fury — of her titular performance is undeniable. Maybe I went into the film wanting to be shocked at its taboo, when instead I should have been appreciating what it was doing beyond its Virgin Mary statue dildo. Even upon my first viewing, I admired its games of manipulation, its bursts of violence, its social commentary once it moves beyond the walls of the abby. People have never agreed on Paul Verhoeven’s work — and, hey, maybe that’s exactly what makes him such an important filmmaker.


93. Fried Green Tomatoes

dir. Jon Avnet, 1991
Our Review // Watch It

Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart-Masterson stand next to each other in wide hats.

While less explicitly gay than the book upon which its based, there’s no denying the romance between Ruth and Idgie. They flirt, they gaze, they start a business, they raise a child, they have food fights, and they build a life together. What is left unsaid due to 1991 Hollywood — or, generously, due to the hetero narrator — is usurped by the chemistry between Mary Stuart-Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker, the sensuality of their connection over food, and the very gay outfits worn throughout by Idgie. Maybe some straight people could watch this movie and see a tribute to good friendship, but queer audiences in 1991 and queer audiences today could and can see that these gals are more than just pals.


92. Passing

dir. Rebecca Hall, 2021
Our Review // Watch It

A black and white image of Tessa Thompson looking at Ruth Negga in period dress.

There’s a distance and a hyper-stylization to this adaptation of Nella Larsen’s masterpiece. Every choice Rebecca Hall makes as a director and writer is deliberate, some — such as the casting — to make the story feel current, others — such as the dialogue, 4:3 aspect ratio, and black-and-white photography — to pull the story back to the past. This is a film of contradictions, somehow both cold and sensual. It emphasizes the queer subtext of the novella without making it more explicit. It is a film of obstruction, of withholding, of glances. It’s the performances of Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga that ground this puzzle — it’s in how they look at each other. It’s a mix of love and hatred, lust and repulsion, envy and superiority. Glances destined for tragedy.


91. Certain Women

dir. Kelly Reichardt, 2016
Watch It

A close up of Lily Gladstone driving a truck.

Renowned lesbian auteur Kelly Reichardt brings her famous touch of melancholy from her usual setting of Oregon to the plains of Montana. This triptych of stories about lonely women includes Reichardt’s most explicit work about queer women. Lily Gladstone is remarkable as a rancher who falls hard for a law professor played by Kristen Stewart. The infatuation is fairly one-sided, but it’s powerful to watch Gladstone’s shy character follow her heart and yearn for more. Like most of Reichardt’s films, this is a quiet and meditative piece, but its nuance will haunt you long after it ends.


90. Orlando

dir. Sally Potter, 1992
Watch It

Best lesbian movies #90: Tilda Swinton as Orlando looks at the countess in the snow

Considering Virginia Woolf wrote her gender-bending classic as a tribute to her lover Vita Sackville-West, it’s no wonder Sally Potter’s film adaptation holds a special place in the heart of many lesbians. Led by a career-best performance from Tilda Swinton and gorgeously crafted by Potter and her team, this is the rare literary adaptation that captures all the magic of its source material while elevating it for the cinematic form. Arguably lauded more as a feminist film by some and a trans film by others, it nevertheless deserves its spot here as a lesbian film — turns out lots of feminists and trans people also happen to be dykes.


89. Knife + Heart

dir. Yann Gonzalez, 2018
Our Review // Watch It

A blonde woman with a bob and teary eyes reaches toward a movie screen.

This explicitly queer take on Giallo is as bold and stylish as the genre demands. The heartsick lesbian at its center is flawed in ways that some may find interesting and others simply cruel — either way Vanessa Paradiso’s performance is compelling to watch. It’s a messy movie in plot and theme, but it’s certainly not boring. And it has a dildo knife used as a murder weapon so that’s something.


88. The Duke of Burgundy

dir. Peter Strickland, 2014
Our Review // Watch It

A woman sits in a chair with her legs crossed as another woman crawls on the floor.

This is one of the very few non-porn films about queer women BDSM and that alone makes it noteworthy. But it’s also a gorgeous and strange film with alluring performances from Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna. While it’s at times formally unmotivated and certainly not devoid of male gaze, it’s still a fascinating film showing an underrepresented aspect of many lesbian lives.


87. Blue Jean

dir. Georgia Oakley, 2022
Our Review // Watch It

A close up of a blonde woman with short hair sits at a bar with a cigarette dangling from her mouth.

Queer people can exist in every shadow; not in every spotlight. Set in 1988 England, Georgia Oakley’s debut feature follows a familiar story of a closeted teacher torn between her job and her life. Elevated by sharp writing and acting, the film also distinguishes itself with a willingness to hold conflicting truths, to push for moral courage while acknowledging its limitations. It may be a period piece, but with the latest anti-trans moral panic leading to book bans and teacher firings, this film is, unfortunately, all too relevant to today.


86. House of Hummingbird

dir. Kim Bora, 2018
Watch It

A young girl lies her head on a table with her arm outstretched and looks toward the camera.

The only thing gayer than karaoke first dates, shitty families, and friend breakups are loving teachers. Well, Kim Bora’s remarkable 1994-set coming-of-age debut has all four. Ji-hu Park plays the lonely and sensitive Eun-hee who is stumbling through her adolescence in an abusive home. This is a difficult film that’s filled with tragedy and hardship, but it’s far from bleak. In fact, an optimism and hopeful spirit runs deep throughout even its toughest moments. Adolescence is challenging — queer adolescence especially — but one person can make such a difference in showing us a way forward. This is a movie for all the queers who ate lunch in a teacher’s room, this is a movie for all the queers who wondered if a future was possible and then, one day, stopped wondering and started to believe.


85. Good Manners

dir. Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra, 2017
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #85: A white woman with long hair leans forward and licks the mouth of a Black woman with short hair who leans away.

The best werewolf fairy tale horror lesbian movie musical ever made. Yes, this movie is all of those things and it’s a commentary on race and class differences in Brazil and a story about the nuances of queer motherhood. There’s a lot going on but somehow it all just works. It’s a gorgeous, at times terrifying, at times sexy, movie that is unforgettable to say the least. This isn’t the first movie to find horror in pregnancy and motherhood, but there’s something explicitly queer about this portrayal — and with that a fresh perspective. It deserves as prominent a spot in the canon of horror cinema as it does the canon of lesbian cinema.


84. Mars One

dir. Gabriel Martins, 2022
Our Review // Watch It

Two Black women cuddle on a picnic blanket in a park.

This is an ensemble film about a lower-middle class Black family in Brazil right after Bolsonaro’s election. There’s Tércia, who after a traumatic event believes she’s cursed, her husband, Wellington, four years sober and soccer-obsessed, and their son, Deivenho, who is fulfilling his dad’s soccer ambitions while secretly dreaming of astrophysics. And then there is their daughter, Eunice, a college student ready to leave home and even more ready to explore her sexuality. Because it’s such a thorough portrait of the family, Mars One manages to do something with its queer story that’s rarely seen. While movies have often centered straight people’s reaction to their queer family member, this film lets us know the straight family intimately and then centers the queer person’s experience of herself. There’s a specificity to Eunice’s interaction with her family that shows the stakes of their support — there’s an equal specificity to the love story with her girlfriend Jo. Mars One accomplishes the rare feat of acknowledging the realities of heteronormativity without slipping into painful cliches. This is just one tender achievement in a film full of them. It’s a film about family, a film about dreams, and a film about the societies that fail both.


83. Alice Júnior

dir. Gil Baroni, 2019
Our Review // Watch It

A trans teenager looks in the mirror with a hand toward her lip.

In some ways Alice Júnior hits all the regular beats of the teen movie genre — new student, bullies, quirky friends, mean teachers, nice teachers, a desire for a first kiss. And yet the film is a totally fresh take on the queer girl coming-of-age story. Not only is Alice trans — a detail that is all too rare — but her journey towards queerness is more of a pleasant surprise than an inevitability. In order to survive in the world as a young trans girl, Alice has built up a wall of total self-awareness, total self-confidence, and a delightful stubborn streak. These qualities make her such a fun character to watch. But even the most self-aware teen doesn’t know everything. And while she’s busy crushing on Bruno, Bruno’s girlfriend Taísa is busy crushing on her. The joy and specificity director Gil Baroni and writer Luiz Bertazzo bring to the film makes this a wholly unique work of trans cinema — but its fluidity regarding sexuality make it a unique work of queer women cinema as well.


82. I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing

dir. Patricia Rozema, 1987
Watch It

A woman with short red hair looks at her refracted reflection in a tiled mirror wall.

Bursting with creativity and experimentation, Patricia Rozema’s debut is a remarkable film about finding one’s artistic voice. Sheila McCarthy’s Polly is a strange protagonist — uncertain and passive — but Rozema places us excellently inside her point of view. The movie’s queerness is handled casually as if the film is not about queerness per say, but rather the delayed maturity that many queers experience. The movie is so funny and charming that its emotional core sneaks up on you. The whole journey makes for a unique work of queer cinema.


81. Fire

dir. Deepa Mehta, 1996
Unavailable

A woman rests her head on another woman's shoulder with an orange background.

Deepa Mehta’s gorgeous film is about two women who refuse to simply be the wives of terrible men. Radha and Sita find love and desire in each other and remain true to that desire in the face of hardship. Their love feels real and their sexuality consuming due to Mehta’s artful gaze and the performances of Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das.


80. Wild Nights with Emily

dir. Madeleine Olnek, 2018
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #80: two women lie in bed in period dress and make eye contact

Shaking off almost two centuries of misrepresentation, Madeleine Olnek reclaims Emily Dickinson clarifying that gay does not equal old maid and homebody does not equal self-serious. Molly Shannon plays Dickinson and along with Olnek’s very funny script adds humor and sex appeal where it’s long been hidden. The fun of the movie is the entire point. It’s a fitting tribute to Dickinson’s life and work and a statement about the historical erasure of queer women.


79. Personal Best

dir. Robert Towne, 1982
Our Review // Watch It
A woman holds her leg while sitting on the ground while a man crouches on one side and a woman on the other side.

With realistic and intricately captured scenes of athleticism, this queer woman classic is one of the best sports movies period. It’s imperfect, with some racist jokes, and it may disappoint anyone in it for the love story, but it’s a noteworthy film about two fiercely competitive women who bond over their ambitions. Come for the sweat on perfectly toned muscles, stay for the specificity of a Cap4Cap romance.


78. Bessie

dir. Dee Rees, 2015
Our Review // Watch It

Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith leans against a wall.

Dee Rees is one of the very best filmmakers around and she elevates her biopic about Bessie Smith beyond the usual HBO movie. The costumes and all the period detail are stunning, but Rees’ film is ultimately a tribute to a queer Black woman artist who refused to compromise — refused to cater to white people or any men — made by a queer Black woman artist at the beginning of her career determined to do the same. Rees is aided by what is truly one of Queen Latifah’s best performances. It’s a perfect combination of material, filmmaker, and star.


77. Shakedown

dir. Leilah Weinraub
Our Review // Watch It

Studs and femmes dance at a club as a dollar bill floats in the air.

The only movie to have streaming premieres on PornHub and The Criterion Channel, Shakedown is a documentary both erotic and important. A portrait of the Black lesbian strip club of the same name, Shakedown chronicles the club from 2002 to 2004 when it was shut down by the police. It’s a celebration of Black lesbian sexuality and a condemnation of our racist and homophobic police state that always has and always will attempt to restrict freedoms. There is so much joy in the club itself and so much melancholy in its demise. It’s a snapshot of this specific queer space and a rallying cry to build and protect spaces like this today.


76. Simone Barbès or Virtue

dir. Marie-Claude Treilhou, 1980
Unavailable

A female bartender looks at another woman sitting at the bar with her head down.

Marie-Claude Treilhou’s debut film is split into three sections. The first introduces the titular lead, played by Ingrid Bourgoin, at her job as an usher at a porn theatre. She barbs and commiserates with her coworker as they rip tickets for an eccentric collection of (mostly) men. When her shift is over at midnight, she goes to meet her girlfriend at the lesbian bar where she works. This isn’t your average lesbian bar. There’s live music and live sword fights and, yes, plenty of astrology talk and dyke drama to go around. And, finally, at the end of the night she has an unexpected car ride with another lonely stranger. This nocturnal journey through the hidden corners of Paris is alternately casual and heightened, an odyssey with no destination but plenty to see along the way. The middle section provides a unique snapshot lost in most 20th century cinema and Simone is a heroine we still rarely see on screen.


75. Signature Move

dir. Jennifer Reeder, 2017
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Best lesbian movies #75: Sari Sanchez and Fawzia Mirza laugh at a bar.

A late in life coming-of-age movie, this captures a very common queer experience — through the very specific lens of a Pakistani-American woman obsessed with Lucha-style Mexican wrestling. Fawzia Mirza stars and co-wrote the script and her natural likeability, impeccable comic timing, and chemistry with Sari Sanchez make this movie endlessly endearing. It’s part romcom, part family dramedy, and both threads feel nuanced and real. Also, lesbian wrestling!!


74. Chutney Popcorn

dir. Nisha Ganatra, 1999
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Nisha Ganatra and Jill Hennessy stand next to each other.

Before Nisha Ganatra was directing several of your television faves, she co-wrote, directed, and starred in this film about queerness and family. The film shows the intimacy and conflict within biological and chosen family structures, searching for new ideas around parenthood. It’s funny and sweet and always living in the reality of its well-drawn characters.


73. Suicide Kale

dir. Carly Usdin, 2016
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Lindsay Hicks, Brittani Nichols, and Jasika Nicole stand around laughing.

This dramedy farce is anchored by four stellar performances, a natural real-life queerness, and an if-mumblecore-was-well-shot aesthetic. Brittani Nichols’ script is astute in its portrayal of queer relationships and sharp in its humor. There’s a casual DIY quality to this movie that makes it seem effortless, but if you’ve watched a lot of low-budget indie films you’ll know that’s not the case. It takes a level of talent, vision, and specificity to make a movie this good and it should be sought out and celebrated as much as any big budget fare.


72. MURDER and murder

dir. Yvonne Rainer, 1996
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Two older women with short hair sit next to each other on the subway.

If you’re looking for a lesbian movie that begins with a 60-something lesbian saying to her straight friend, “I love eating pussy,” then look no further. A celebration of the ups and downs of a partnership, Yvonne Rainer’s last feature follows Doris and Mildred as they navigate their relationship — through the mundane and through Doris being diagnosed with breast cancer. They are accompanied by a Greek chorus of Doris’ mother, Mildred’s younger self, and Yvonne Rainer the filmmaker. It’s a complex, experimental, and ever so sweet film. The movie more or less takes the stance that all women can be and should be lesbians, and while that may not be true, Rainer is certainly convincing. Also Congressperson Pete Hoekstra used it as an excuse to cut funding from the NEA which is unfortunately always a good sign.


71. Bend It Like Beckham

dir. Gurinder Chadha
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Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra stand next to each other in soccer jerseys.

The 90’s and early 00’s were filled with movies that should have been gay. Often, the romance between the female leads was projected onto a male love interest so audiences could be reassured that the obvious subtext wasn’t so obvious. That’s exactly what happens in this movie about a British Punjabi girl who wants to play soccer despite the wishes of her family. She befriends her teammate and then they both fall for their (male) coach. There are lots of jokes and misunderstandings where people think the girls are lesbians and there is an explicitly gay male character, but otherwise this movie appears to be straight. But maybe a lesbian movie isn’t just what’s on-screen — maybe it’s also what’s in the hearts of the viewers. And in 2002, when options for mainstream lesbian films were limited — especially lesbian films with non-white leads — it’s not difficult to understand why so many people still consider this part of the lesbian cinema canon.


70. Everything Everywhere All at Once

dir. Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, 2022
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Best lesbian movies #70: Stephanie Hsu dressed in white with a pink wig walks through glitter.

For some, the Daniels’ audacious, genre-defying crowd-pleaser is about a woman played by Michelle Yeoh, who runs a laundromat and is filled with regret. For others, it’s about her husband, a man of optimism who wishes the world would be a kinder place. But for most of the people reading this, it is about their daughter Joy, a queer woman acutely aware of the gap between tolerance and embrace, a queer woman with a simmering hurt that could tear apart the multiverse. The film doesn’t align with any of its main characters, instead giving each of them a moment, a voice, and then accepting balance. The result is a one-of-a-kind action movie with originality and practical effects that’s also a stellar family drama. As Joy and as Joy’s multiverse alterego Jobu Tupaki, Stephanie Hsu is alternately relatable and larger than life, often at the same time. True to its title, this is a film that encompasses so much — the everything includes big gay feelings.


69. Mommy is Coming

dir. Cheryl Dunye, 2012
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A woman with short hair points a condom covered gun at her masc lover's head in the back of a cab.

Cheryl Dunye’s most recent feature is a sex-filled romp through Berlin. Papi Coxx plays Claudia/Claude, a hotel clerk trying to rediscover the spark with her girlfriend Dylan played by Lil Harlow. They end up on separate sexual odysseys with Claudia genderbending while Dylan has a threesome with her best friend. The silliness and sexiness escalates when Dylan’s mother comes to town and some unexpected twists arise. Dunye’s film doesn’t take itself seriously, but its refusal to bend to respectability politics gives it an air of importance. It’s a reminder from Dunye that queer cinema can still be queer and a reminder that she’s an icon for a reason.


68. TÁR

dir. Todd Field, 2022
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A low shot of Lydia Tàr conducting

Beloved by some, despised by others, Todd Field’s portrait of an domineering lesbian conductor Lydia Tár has certainly stirred conversation. Is it a sharp indictment of an abusive egotist? Or a shallow critique of “cancel culture” in defense of singular brilliance? Perhaps, it’s something in between. What everyone can agree on is Cate Blanchett. While Field may be better equipped to write his protagonist as a conductor than as a lesbian or a human being, Blanchett grounds the character and makes her come alive. It’s the kind of performance that’s only possible when an actor is both uniquely talented and has had decades honing her craft. The movie starts with a recreation of a New Yorker Festival talk on conducting and, with Blanchett at its center, it’s as riveting as an action movie.


67. Aftersun

dir. Charlotte Wells, 2022
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Frankie Corio rests in Paul Mescal's arm that has a cast.

Exactly what Charlotte Wells is doing in her feature debut remains elusive for most of the film’s runtime. The mix of camcorder footage and patient 35mm cinematography. The hazy combination of past and present and an imagined third space somewhere in between. So much of the movie feels casual — a father and his twelve year old daughter on vacation, a slice of life in Turkey — its bold strokes seem incidental. Until they don’t. This is the rare coming-of-age movie about a queer kid who doesn’t yet understand that queerness. Her self-discovery we witness is not first love — it’s deeper knowledge of her parent and therefore half of her herself. This results in a story of queer youth unlike anything we’ve ever seen.


66. All About Eve

dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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Bette Davis and Anne Baxter face off as the rest of the cast looks on.

Considering Joseph L Mankiewicz’s classic won Best Picture at the competitive 1950 academy awards, its placement in the canon has long been agreed upon. However, its placement in the queer canon continues to be debated. Most agree that George Sanders’ prickly theatre critic is coded as gay. But what about Eve herself? Is her obsession with stage icon Margo Channing merely professional? Or does she desire Margo’s body as well as her career? There are explicit hints such as some of Eve’s wardrobe and a moment when Eve walks upstairs with her “roommate.” And yet I think a more compelling case for its queerness can be found in the unquantifiable: the way Anne Baxter looks at Bette Davis, the inherent lust of envy.


65. Blockers

dir. Kay Cannon, 2018
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Best lesbian movies #65: Ramona Young and Gideon Adlon talk to each other in prom attire

The rare big budget Hollywood comedy that’s thoughtful, progressive, emotional, and beyond fucking hilarious. Kay Cannon’s first film feels effortless in its perfection — filled with great comic performances from its trio of adults and its trio of teens. Virginity pacts are a staple of teen comedies, but never has one been treated with such intelligence and sex positivity. Gideon Adlon plays Sam’s awkward queerness with a funny and sweet authenticity and the movie’s inclusion of her is refreshingly casual. She hasn’t come to terms with her queerness at the film’s beginning but she’s given the space to go on a journey of self-exploration — aided by her friends, family, and a massive crush. It may only be a third queer, but that third is great enough to place it among the best lesbian movies. It’s certainly one of the funniest.


64. Rebecca

dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1940
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Mrs. Danvers displays Rebecca's clothes to the second Mrs. DeWinter.

Alfred Hitchcock is responsible for some of the most interesting queer characters in Old Hollywood — of course, they were all villains. And yet the complexity granted to these damaged — often murderous — individuals made them transcend the one-note villains that dominated classic cinema. Nowhere is that clearer than in Mrs. Danvers as played by closeted queer actress Judith Anderson. While the film may be about the passive second Mrs. DeWinter, it’s Danvers who runs the household. In her attacks on the second Mrs. DeWinter, we feel her love for her former mistress Rebecca. To her, this new woman cannot measure up, because no one can measure up to the object of a lesbian’s affections. There’s a perspective on this story where Danvers is a sympathetic, grief-stricken widow of sorts. That’s not the primary story being told, but it has simmered beneath the surface for queer audiences for over eighty years.


63. Kajillionaire

dir. Miranda July, 2020
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Gina Rodriguez stands next to Evan Rachel Wood in glasses and long straight hair.

Queer multi-hyphenate Miranda July has made a career out of entertaining, challenging work that adds depth to what some might dismiss as quirky. Of her three films, none is as challenging — nor possibly accomplished — as her tale of Old Dolio, the sheltered adult daughter of two scammers. Played by Evan Rachel Wood, Old Dolio is a difficult protagonist who hides in baggy clothes and long straight hair and speaks in deep mumble. But as July’s story unfolds — and Old Dolio falls for a woman played by Gina Rodriguez — it reveals itself to be a relatable and painful story of a queer person leaving behind her controlling family. It’s not a film for everybody but if you’re patient and get on its wavelength, it just might steal your heart.


62. Crush

dir. Sammi Cohen, 2022
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Rowan Blanchard and Auli'i Cravalho talk at a party in turquoise light

A mere ten years ago it may have seemed impossible, but this coming-of-age romcom lets its queerness be an afterthought. That’s not to say its gay romance isn’t uniquely gay — sorry but falling for your crush’s sister, being a teenage artist, and track are all canon gay — it just exists in a world that’s homoneutral if not homonormative. With a young queer cast led by Rowan Blanchard and Auli’i Cravalho and queer people behind the camera, this is a low-key work of wish-fulfillment. It may not be the most radical work of queer expression, but in many ways it feels like the streaming boom at its best: accessible queer stories ready to be discovered by gays of all ages.


61. Thelma

dir. Joachim Trier, 2017
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Two young women kiss against a black background.

This beautiful coming-of-age thriller actualizes queer shame and repression. As Thelma navigates adjusting to college — and gay feelings — apart from her religious upbringing, she begins to have seizures and visions and potentially telekinetic powers. As the tension builds, the scope of the film widens with more imagery and plot twists. But at its core is simply a girl navigating her identity and trying to find herself separate from her family.


60. Ammonite

dir. Francis Lee, 2020
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Best lesbian movies #60: Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet look at one another

While dismissed by some upon its release — including yours truly — due to it seeming like a middling entry in the lesbian period piece romance subgenre, its defenders have wisely emphasized that its strengths lie beyond its love story. This isn’t a tale of grand passion, but of two lonely people finding unlikely connection. The coldness of Kate Winslet’s archaeologist, her lack of obvious chemistry with costar Saoirse Ronan, are not flaws but virtues. The central character is a lonely woman, stuck between her desire to focus on her career and her desire to have more than what career women were granted at this time. This younger woman is not her soulmate or even a hot affair — she’s a life raft, a chance to stop drowning in her misery.


59. Persona

dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1966
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Bibi Andersson with a blood nose confronts Liv Ullmann

Maybe about two women, maybe about one woman, maybe beyond narrative analysis, Ingmar Bergman’s avant-garde masterpiece is sexy, unsettling, and thought-provoking. Bibi Andersson plays Alma, a nurse assigned to the care of Liv Ullmann’s Elisabet Vogler, an actress who has suddenly stopped speaking. They seclude themselves at a beach house and their interactions increase in eroticism, violence, and unreality. This is definitely one of the hornier arthouse classics even if the women never consummate their attraction.


58. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

dir. Angela Robinson, 2017
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A woman embraces another woman dressed in Wonder Woman garb with a glowing gold light behind them.

Angela Robinson’s career has been defined by injecting revolutionary queerness into film and TV with a casual touch. This is a biopic about the creator of Wonder Woman — as polished and neat as one might expect from the genre. But this is also a story about polyamory, about BDSM, about three individuals fighting to define their own lives and loves. There is power in completely disavowing mainstream forms and there is a different kind of power in mastering them and subverting them from within. Luke Evans and Bella Heathcoate are great as William Marston and the Marstons’ new partner, but Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth Marston truly astounds. The movie doesn’t ignore the complications of their relationship — the external and the internal — but instead allows the relationship and these characters an understanding they were never granted. There’s a reason Wonder Woman is such a popular character: these lives aren’t so rare after all — only on our screens.


57. Dirty Computer

dir. Janelle Monáe & others, 2018
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Janelle Monáe and Tessa Thompson gaze at each other dressed in pink in the desert.

Janelle Monáe has called this unique work of art an “emotion picture” and it’s easy to see why. Yes, it’s on a movie list, but it doesn’t easily fit within the box of feature film or any box really — just like its creator. Monáe and her team created a masterpiece that is at once a sci-fi epic, a visual album, a public coming out, a celebration of queerness/Blackness/femaleness, and an ode to everybody different. It’s also so sexy?? We may never know the details of Monáe’s relationship with Tessa Thompson, but whatever connection they shared is captured on-screen — the love, the sex, the finding yourself through another. Most of us didn’t have to come out under public scrutiny, but we can all use a reminder to be a “free-ass motherfucker.”


56. Desperate Living

dir. John Waters, 1977
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Jean Hill and Susan Lowe look at Mink Stole

With his film most squarely focused on lesbians, John Waters also finds some of his most audacious cinema. Mink Stole is great in all of her many Waters collaborations, but here she’s at the center. Whether playing a bourgeoisie housewife or a violent rebel, Stole is remarkable throughout the film’s winding journey. This is an uncomfortable film featuring rape and transphobia and lots of grotesque imagery — it’s also a hilarious good time. It’s the peak of Waters’ boundary-pushing before he moved onto a more refined (for him) approach. There was nowhere else for him to go. Almost fifty years later, there’s still nothing like it.


55. Foxfire

dir. Annette Haywood-Carter, 1996
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Best lesbian movies #55: Angelina Jolie stands in the girl's bathroom while the other girls argue behind her.

Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, Annette Haywood-Carter’s coming-of-age tale about a feminist girl gang is great for a lot of reasons, but short-hair leather jacket wearing knife wielding Angelina Jolie is definitely at the top of the list. She’s so good and so gay and can do so much with a look. It’s no wonder the other girls follow her lead. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch them wreak havoc on all the awful men in their lives, even as things start to cross a line. There’s a real intimacy between the girls when it’s platonic and when it’s romantic.


54. Working Girls

dir. Lizzie Borden, 1986
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A group of women chat in a kitchen with one wearing a towel.

One of two Lizzie Borden masterpieces on this list is the rare film to show sex work as, well, work. Focusing on a day in the life of lesbian Molly, Working Girls reveals the boredom and mundane difficulties of working at a Manhattan brothel. The film doesn’t romanticize sex work or sensationalize it — instead it just lets it be like any crappy job. The dynamics between Molly and her boss, her co-workers, and her clients are all compelling as they reveal more about her, the job, and society’s relationship to sex work. This is a landmark work of cinema that’s finally getting its due and a landmark work of lesbian cinema as well. All of the sex we see may be with men, but Molly’s identity isn’t tied to her job. Like so many queer people, Molly is doing what she has to do to pay the bills, so she can get home to her girlfriend, so she can someday spend her time on something other than work — any work.


53. I Can’t Think Straight

dir. Shamim Sarif, 2007
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A woman embraces another woman from behind.

While certainly hitting all the expected tropes, lesbian filmmaker Shamim Sarif’s semi-autobiographical romcom stands out for its cultural specificity, truly stunning leads, and endless charm. Sometimes you just want to watch beautiful women defy their families in the name of love and have gorgeous sex montages.


52. Olivia

dir. Jacqueline Audry, 1951
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A woman hovers over a young girl sitting on her bed.

Long ignored, this recently restored classic of lesbian cinema deserves all its newfound praise and more. It’s one of many films on our best lesbian movies list that involve student/teacher relationships, but it’s the only one to treat that dynamic with the level of nuance it deserves. Audry encourages us to enter Olivia’s point of view, falling just as hard for her teacher crush, only to emphasize how painful the experience is for the young girl. Sometimes fantasies are meant to remain fantasies.


51. Kamikaze Hearts

dir. Juliet Bashore, 1986
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In a screenshot from Kamikaze Hearts, two women with mullets (one blonde, one brunette) are pressed up together against a wall. The blonde mullet has her arms grazing the shoulder and face of the brunette. It's the 1980s, with 1980s style bright make up included.

Recently restored, this hybrid documentary has already received newfound acclaim. The film is about real-life lesbian couple Sharon “Mitch” Mitchell and Tigr, Mitch a seasoned porn performer and Tigr more of a novice. And yet the film being made that this film documents is not real. This film is not real. But what is real? What does that mean? What’s not real about a group of people playing themselves, acting out their dynamics for a camera? How is that less real than the self-awareness subjects bring to a more straight-forward documentary? This is a unique film that provides a window into queer lives, and asks questions about reality in sex, in porn, in love, in life. It’s not a film that provides answers. But thirty-six years later, its questions still demand to be asked.


50. Shiva Baby

dir. Emma Seligman, 2020
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Best lesbian movies #50: Rachel Sennott and Molly Gordon walk on a suburban street.

This is officially a comedy, but with its horror movie score, claustrophobic cinematography, and premise of running into your sugar daddy and your ex-girlfriend at a shiva, it’s safe to say this is one of the scariest movies on this list. Rachel Sennott stars as Danielle, a 20-something on the precipice of college graduation who has no idea what to do with her life — career-wise or otherwise. Writer/director Emma Seligman excellently captures a specific type of Jewish culture and the simmering anxiety it induces. The cast — that includes Dianna Agron! — is excellent, especially Sennott who excels equally in moments where she’s living a nightmare and in moments where she is the nightmare. This is bisexual Jewish chaos at its absolute best.


49. The Joy of Life

dir. Jenni Olson, 2005
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The Golden Gate Bridge framed by two buildings.

Like most of Jenni Olson’s singular work, The Joy of Life is a cinematic poem filled with horny longing and a deep engagement with the world at large. This is a film about San Francisco and about suicide and also about having crushes on girls. Narrated by Harry Dodge, it’s an affecting portrait of navigating lesbianism and lesbian community outside the binary. It’s a film you sink into, a film full of patience and wisdom and pain. And yet its title is not ironic — there is joy in life amidst the pain. The beauty of this film is proof enough of that.


48. Dyketactics

dir. Barbara Hammer, 1974
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A black and white close-up of intertwined bodies

Dozens of films from experimental lesbian cinema icon Barbara Hammer would be deserving of a spot on this list. But I’m still happy her most famous — and, yes, one of her best — made the cut. At just four minutes, this film holds so much of what made Hammer’s work so special. The beautiful abstraction of bodies, the unapologetic portrayal of lesbian sex, the emphasis on the natural world. Much of her later work is more overtly political, but even in this film there is a firm stance. With art, with beauty, lesbianism is shown to be the most natural thing in the world. Watch this film, then watch the rest of her extensive body of work.


47. Showgirls

dir. Paul Verhoeven, 1995
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Elizabeth Berkeley holds her nails up to Gina Gershon

Dismissed and maligned at the time of its release, time has been kind to what many consider to be Paul Verhoeven’s masterpiece. Queer people can recognize the camp — and the feeling beneath the camp — in this Las Vegas riff on All About Eve. Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon are fantastic, boldly performing at the heightened frequency of the film’s tone. Is this movie really so bad it’s good? Or is it just, well, good? For queer people, those lines can often be blurred. But, one thing is certain, Showgirls is more than a punchline. It’s a portrait of sex and ambition and excess filmed with sex and ambition and excess. It’s a true work of queer art still underestimated by even some of its fans.


46. Daughters of Darkness

dir. Harry Kümel, 1971
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Delphine Seyrig with blonde hair holds the back of a man's hair as he kisses a woman

If this movie only had Delphine Seyrig as its glamorous villain, that would be enough to make it stand out in the canon of lesbian vampire movies. She’s beautiful and sexy and frightening — bringing her talent as one of the best actors ever to this genre that is often dismissed. But the movie around her is worthy of this talent. It takes the conventions of a heterosexual couple usurped by a queer vampiric force and complicates it with a tone as dark as the visuals are vibrant. Many films in this subgenre are frenetic — this one lulls in its viewers with the same seductive force as its countess.


45. The Kids Are All Right

dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 2010
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Best lesbian movies #45: Annette Benning and Julianne Moore sit next to each other on a couch and laugh.

Dismissed by much of the lesbian community, this Oscar-nominated movie from lesbian filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko is due for reevaluation. While some were put off by one of the film’s married lesbians having an affair with a man, the messiness of the affair and the family dynamic all contributes to the film’s themes about marriage and queer families. It’s a funny movie with great performances from Julianne Moore, Annette Benning, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson. It might not be the most groundbreaking film, but ten years later its missteps feel a lot less worrisome.


44. The Hunger

dir. Tony Scott, 1983
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Catherine Deneuve gives Susan Sarandon a drink cloaked in shadow.

Frenetic editing, heavy symbolism, and vague plotting make for a dreamy whirlwind of bisexual vampirism. Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon are all at their hottest as they fuck and bite their way to immortality. The sex scene between Deneuve and Sarandon is especially iconic — there’s a reason this is what Cameron Post and Coley Taylor watched before having sex.


43. Princess Cyd

dir. Stephen Cone, 2017
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A femme with long hair leans in to kiss a nonbinary person with a mohawk and shaved head.

As sensual as its protagonist and as thoughtful as her aunt, Stephen Cone’s understated masterpiece finds the balance between pleasures of the flesh and mind. Cyd Loughlin is a teenager freely exploring her pansexual desires who spends a summer with her novelist aunt Miranda who is more preoccupied with intellectual discussion, friendship, and food. As Cyd and Miranda challenge each other’s beliefs — and Cyd falls for a hot barista — the film becomes a celebration of the many ways to find enjoyment and connection in life. There’s little plot and minimal drama — just sink into this pleasant world and you’ll find whatever you needed most.


42. Multiple Maniacs

dir. John Waters, 1970
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Mink Stole puts a rosary in Divine's ass in church.

John Waters lives up to his title Pope of Trash with this raucous celebration of counter-culture deviancy. The movie opens with a group of cishet normals making their way through a free exhibit titled The Cavalcade of Perversions — and then Divine robs them at gunpoint. Waters starts his filmography with a statement and never lets up. This is the only movie on this list where a drag queen is fucked with a rosary in a church. It’s a remarkable sex scene with a level of queerness rarely seen on screen. And, hey, if straight actresses can appear on a list of best lesbian movies then so can drag queens!


41. BloodSisters: Leather, Dykes, and Sadomasochism

dir. Michelle Handelman, 1995
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A dyke holds another dyke's head as a third dyke puts needles in their face.

First screened at festivals in 1995, this documentary about leatherdykes and BDSM communities was buried for decades after it became a point of contention in congressional hearings about the National Endowment for the Arts. Finally restored and released in recent years, it’s found a new audience of queers cherishing this snapshot of our history and showing BDSM with a complexity and celebration still largely absent from our screens. It’s essential viewing for queer people in contemporary versions of these communities and queers who are not. This film is hot and interesting — it’s also quite sweet. One interviewee sums it up: “She stuck her fist in my cunt and I knew I was home.”


40. Black Swan

dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2010
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Best lesbian movies #40: A close-up of Natalie Portman with bloodshot eyes as she looks at a feather.

Perfectionism, mommy issues, and lesbianism haunt Natalie Portman in Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar-winning ballet horror movie. It’s frightening and beautiful and, yes, has a sex scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. Bordering on camp with its heightened style and emotion, this is the rare Hollywood movie about queer women that’s allowed to be properly unhinged. The line between beauty and body horror disappears and every second is a thrill.


39. The Color Purple

dir. Steven Spielberg, 1985
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Celie smiles as she makes eye contact with Shug

Like Fried Green Tomatoes, the removal of explicit lesbianism from this adaptation did not prevent it from finding a place within the canon of lesbian cinema. Whether queer audiences brought the context of the book or simply filled in the gaps from what is shown, the love between Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) and Shug (Margaret Avery) remained palpable. Even in 2024, it’s still rare for lesbian cinema to feature romance between two Black women. Maybe that’s why nearly forty years later, this imperfect yet deeply moving film is still beloved. The Hollywood of the 80s wasn’t able to give us the version of Alice Walker’s novel people deserved — in fact, the Hollywood of today is still struggling — but the performers and the source material rise above these limitations. There is still a kiss and another kiss and a smile and another kiss. And then there’s a longer kiss as the camera pans away. Many lifetimes of Black queer identity and Black queer affection held in the twinkling of a wind chime.


38. The Miseducation of Cameron Post

dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2018
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Forrest Goodluck, Sasha Lane, and Chloe Grace-Moretz smile in the back of a truck.

The best adaptations capture the essence of their source material with a new set of tools. That’s exactly what Desiree Akhavan’s movie of Emily M. Danforth’s contemporary classic accomplishes. Akhavan focuses on the second half of the book, changes the ending, and alters lots of details, but at their core both works are about the ways queer people are brainwashed to doubt their identities. Chloë Grace Moretz is perfect as Cameron. She’s dykey and angsty and headstrong with that depth of vulnerability always peaking through. This is a quiet movie, Akhavan trusting Ashley Connor’s cinematography, Julian Wass’ score, and her actors’ faces to tell the story. Akhavan never lets the seriousness of the subject matter overwhelm the moments of humor and joy — the suggestion that our best hope for holding onto ourselves is to find community.


37. Disobedience

dir. Sebastian Lelio, 2017
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Rachel Weisz spits in Rachel McAdams' mouth.

There are a lot of other things to celebrate about this quiet drama about two Jewish women navigating their love within an Orthodox community. But let’s be honest. This is the movie where one very famous Rachel spits in another very famous Rachel’s mouth. Specifically Rachel Weisz spits into Rachel McAdams’ mouth and it’s just one part of a very hot sex scene. It’s made even hotter by their characters’ history, their forbidden desire, their connection, and their need for one another. This is a movie about faith, about the past, about the desire for community, and the desire to escape. The plotting is messy, but so is life.


36. Gia

dir. Michael Cristofer, 1998
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Angelina Jolie in glamour makeup with a bridge behind her.

Telling the story of model Gia Carangi’s troubled life, this Angelina Jolie vehicle alternates between delicious and devastating. Jolie is so sexy, but her performance proves she’s more than just a sex symbol. As Carangi’s life turns toward inescapable hardship, Jolie remains impossible not to watch. Special shoutout to her sex scene with Elizabeth Mitchell that is truly unforgettable.


35. Water Lilies

dir. Céline Sciamma, 2007
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Best lesbian movies #35: Two teen girls lie in bed next to each other.

Céline Sciamma is one of the best filmmakers working today — lesbian or otherwise — and her talents were already clear in this first film. With a color palette of blues and greys and a moving camera that knows just where to land, Sciamma and cinematographer Crystel Fournier create a visual language that’s poetic and pointed. This is a film about teenage friendship as much as it is about teenage love — a lesbian film at its core. Synchronized swimming has never looked so beautiful and brutal. Being a teenager has never looked so beautiful and brutal. Sciamma is a brilliant lesbian artist and every film from her is a gift.


34. Mädchen in Uniform

dir. Leontine Sagan, 1931
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A black and white image of woman kissing a girl on the mouth.

The lesbian movie that started it all. With its boarding school setting, central age difference, and near-suicide ending this first known work of explicit lesbian cinema can be credited with shaping the entire lesbian film canon. But it’s more than just a work of history. While its age difference might be too much for some, the film places us squarely in the perspective of new student Manuela. Her love for teacher Fraulein von Bernburg becomes our own adolescent crush as we understand her confused place in gay life. At the dawn of the Holocaust the Nazis tried to burn every copy of this film — they failed. It’s a testament to the scope of queer history, a glorious time capsule, and, simply, a stunning work of art.


33. All Over Me

dir. Alex Sichel, 1997
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Leisha Hailey with pink hair stands in front of a microphone on stage

A film doesn’t have to be campy to be formally queer. Alex Sichel was given a grant to make a movie about the riot grrrl music scene and instead she made a riot grrrl movie. Even the cinematography and sound design feel dykey. The soundtrack does not disappoint, of course, and this movie has both a painful “in love with my straight(?) friend” storyline and a “first love with a dyke in a band” storyline. And the dyke in the band is played by Leisha Hailey with pink hair! Alex Sichel never got to make another feature, and this film is currently very hard to find, but this was made for dykes and if it’s going to finally get the recognition it deserves that has to start with us ranking it among the best lesbian movies of all time.


32. Blue is the Warmest Color

dir. Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013
Our Review // Watch It

Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos look at art.

This Palme d’or winner is certainly one of the more divisive lesbian movies. Some despise its extended sex scenes drenched with male gaze while others admire its genuine sensuality and emotion. Reports of on-set abuse only make matters more complicated. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the beautiful performances from Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, and easy to appreciate its portrayal of first love. For many, this is a movie that no longer belongs to its male writer/director, but to its lead actresses and to their own past selves who in 2013 saw something familiar.


31. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

dir. Marielle Heller, 2018
Our Review // Watch It

Melissa McCarthy stands in a bookstore with a glass of whiskey.

Based on Lee Israel’s memoir about her time forging literary letters, Marielle Heller’s melancholy film is concerned with the mundane loneliness of queer lives in a way rarely seen. Lee’s homosexuality, and her friend and accomplice Jack’s homosexuality, are integral to the story but not the focus. Lee and Jack are given the freedom to be deeply flawed, yet still human, and it makes for an emotionally resonant story. Bonus points for properly capturing the importance of a queer woman’s cat.


30. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant

dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972
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Best lesbian movies #30: a woman holds a baby doll by a phone while two other women are behind her and a mural behind them.

Gay german auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder was known for his brutality on and off screen and this film is no different. Taking place entirely in the apartment of Petra von Kant, we watch as she treats her assistant Marlene cruelly and falls miserably for model Karin. It’s a cruel movie about cruel women, but the camerawork, costume design, and incredible performances from Margit Carstensen, Hanna Schygulla, and Irm Hermann make it worth it.


29. Je Tu Il Elle

dir. Chantal Akerman, 1974
Our Review // Watch It

A black and white image of two women naked in bed together.

Chantal Akerman’s debut narrative feature is when she first established her cinematic language of depression. The first half hour of this movie finds a woman named Julie played by Akerman herself remaining entirely in her room. She moves around her furniture, she eats sugar out of a bag for sustenance, and she writes and rewrites a letter to a mysterious someone in her life. She finally leaves, but her time hitchhiking with a random man does not feel like an escape. She is still trapped in her own isolation even when around others. The only moments of release are when she finally arrives at her ex’s apartment — her ex the potential recipient of her letter — and they have sex in an extended ten minute sequence. But they are still exes and these moments can’t last. Whether or not Akerman is focusing on queer women characters, there’s a present queerness in how she views homosexuality and heterosexuality. She really did make movies for the sad gays and what a rare gift in the canon of arthouse cinema.


28. Rafiki

dir. Wanuri Kahiu, 2018
Watch It

Two women kiss, one with pink braids.

Filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu has committed to a style she describes as Afrobubblegum, presenting a “fun, fierce, and fantastical representation” of Africa. This film — initially banned in its home country of Kenya before Kahiu sued — fulfills this promise. It’s a beautiful, colorful celebration of Black queer love. It’s honest about harsh realities, but overwhelms them with its moments of joy.


27. Circumstance

dir. Maryam Keshavarz, 2011
Our Review // Watch It

Sarah Kazemy and Nikohl Boosheri lie next to each other looking up on a red bedspread.

This is a film of stark contrasts, of sensual close-ups and repulsive close-ups, of freedom and restriction, of great joy and tragic horror. Nikohl Boosheri and Sarah Kazemy are incredible as two young women pushing the boundaries of society in Iran. The moments of freedom between them are so joyful, on a beach, in a bed, in the living room singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It makes the repression all the more painful. One moment this film is devastatingly sexy, the next it’s just devastating.


26. Mosquita y Mari

dir. Aurora Guerrero, 2012
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Two girls lie down with their heads resting against each other.

Quiet and big-hearted, Aurora Guerrero beautiful coming-of-age story focuses on straight A student Yolanda and new rebel girl in school Mari. As the two girls navigate their families’ expectations, they grow closer, crushes turning to friendship turning to something more. Like many of the best lesbian movies, this film never takes melodramatic turns, instead trusting the grounded truth of its characters. When we’re young the smallest moments mean so much — Guerrero gives these moments the weight her young protagonists deserve.


25. The Half of It

dir. Alice Wu, 2020
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Best lesbian films #25: Leah Lewis sits in a small body of water wearing a shirt and glasses.

A decade and a half after her landmark debut, writer/director Alice Wu returns with another gay romcom — but this time it’s not a love story. This lesbian take on Cyrano de Bergerac focuses on Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) a shy, Chinese American 17-year-old who splits her days taking care of her grieving father and writing essays for her peers for extra money. When a sweet and goofy football player hires her to write love letters to his crush she develops feelings of her own — and all three form an unexpected bond. This movie goes beyond the expectations we place on teen comedies, romcoms, and queer movies. It understands the messiness of adolescence, of love, of queerness. It’s a perfectly imperfect movie and confirms Wu as one of the most confident voices in lesbian cinema. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait as long for her next cinematic treasure.


24. Go Fish

dir. Rose Troche, 1994
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Guinevere Turner kisses V.S. Brodie.

Low-budget and largely plotless like so many American indies of the era, Rose Troche’s debut film provided a first glimpse of representation for a generation of queer women. Guinevere Turner’s baby gay Max is adorable with her backwards hat and confused love life and the supporting cast feels so casually gay. This movie is certainly a time capsule, but it’s still funny and relatable decades later.


23. The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love

dir. Maria Maggenti, 1995
Our Review // Watch It

Laurel Holloman with short hair kisses the top of Nicole Ari Parker's head.

Before she was Tina, Laurel Holloman played heartthrob soft butch Randy Dean in this iconic 90s comedy. Paired with Nicole Ari Parker as Evie Roy, Holloman is earnest and charming and bursting with teenage energy. Randy and Evie are adorable together as they fall in love and field hilarious — and painful — responses from their friends and family. All these years later this movie is still just as cute and fun — and it might even make you like Tina.


22. Appropriate Behavior

dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2014
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A close-up of Desiree Akhavan on the subway.

Shirin thought she met the only person in the world as sad and cynical as herself. She thought they were meant to be. Now in the wake of her break up she’s spiraling in a flurry of bisexual chaos. Writer/director/star Desiree Akhavan is a once-in-a-generation talent and her humor makes this an easy movie to watch even as Shirin is seeped in melancholy and crisis. Since The Slope, Akhavan has made work that feels deeply grounded in a casual queer perspective. There might be a lot of semi-autobiographical films about people trying to master adulthood, but there’s only one Desiree Akhavan and this film is as special as the filmmaker herself.


21. Jennifer’s Body

dir. Karyn Kusama, 2009
Our Review // Watch It

A demonic Megan Fox smiles.

Poorly marketed and unfairly maligned upon its release, Karyn Kusama and Diablo Cody’s already cult classic has finally started to get the praise it deserves. With Cody’s signature wit and Kusama’s sharp style, this horror-comedy/rape-revenge/queer-teen-girl-friendship movie is a deadly delicious treat. Megan Fox is excellent in a role that plays with her celebrity and the expectations placed upon her and Amanda Seyfried is perfect as her best friend literally named Needy Lesbian — okay, fine, Needy Lesnicki. The original film was supposed to be more explicitly gay but even with the studio-influenced version we still get one steamy make out and lines like: “Do you buy all your murder weapons at Home Depot? God you’re butch!”

20. Fucking Åmål (Show Me Love)

dir. Lukas Moodyson, 1998
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Best lesbian movies #20: two girls sit against a wall, one out of focus, one in focus.

Mean-spirited, angsty, and oh so sweet, Lukas Moodyson’s grainy coming-of-age romance captures all the complications of teenagehood. The characters can be cruel — like teenagers tend to be — but it comes from insecurity, awakenings, and romance. Beyond the sour feelings, this is really a triumphant take on love. The moments of joy feel all the more satisfying bursting out of Moodyson’s realism.


19. Heavenly Creatures

dir. Peter Jackson, 1994
Our Review // Watch It

Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey sit on opposite sides of a bathtub.

Peter Jackson is probably responsible for the misguided romantic choices and various kinks of hundreds (thousands?) of queer women around the world. Who among us didn’t watch this movie about two teenage girls falling in love, inventing their own fantasy world, and deciding to murder one of their mothers and think… hmm maybe? Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey play the parts of instigator and instigated so well and it really is bursting with as much imagination as it is toxic queer angst.


18. High Art

dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 1998
Our Review // Unavailable

Radha Mitchell looks at Ally Sheedy in a car.

Mirroring the energy of the drug-addicted lesbian photographer at the film’s center, Lisa Cholodenko’s debut film is sensuous, measured, and simmering with a sense of danger. Ally Sheedy plays Lucy with a toxic allure that barely masks a depth of sadness. We understand why Radha Mitchell’s Syd is so drawn to her and like Syd we hope for the best while expecting the worst. This is a movie about lost innocence and the decades that follow.


17. Born in Flames

dir. Lizzie Borden, 1983
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A group of Black women sit behind a microphone.

Radical, revolutionary, and still all too relevant, Lizzie Borden’s speculative masterpiece deserves its underground reputation and newfound celebration. Taking place ten years after a socialist revolution in America, Borden’s film examines the ways in which even leftist political structures leave women, people of color, and queer people behind. This is a complicated film that engages in complicated discussions — never afraid to confront the true nature of the issues we face as we attempt to build a better society. Ultimately, the film shows the power of mutual aid and a suggestion that to create real change communities will have to take care of ourselves. This world contains a multitude of revolutions, but Black queer women are at the center of the ultimate revolution. In Borden’s world — our world — change is possible, but the work continues.


16. The Favourite

dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018
Our Review // Watch It

Emma Stone adjusts the collar of Olivia Colman.

This movie about Queen Anne of England is not your average period piece — it’s not even your average gay period piece. Yes, it takes place in 1704 and is based on a true story and features all sorts of royal intrigue. But here that royal intrigue revolves around two women trying to finger their way to power. Olivia Colman plays Anne with a hilarious desperation — totally unstable and totally captivating. Rachel Weisz is Anne’s second in command — and lover — Lady Sarah, the real source of power in the court. Enter Emma Stone’s Abigail, a down-on-her-luck newcomer who quickly realizes the key to Anne’s favor. Watching Abigail and Sarah fight over Anne is delicious even as the film — or especially as the film — gets more and more twisted. Yorgos Lanthimos can be counted on for his dark sensibility and that’s certainly the case here even with the plot revolving around a queer women love triangle. The movie that sparked a thousand lesbian tweets asking Rachel Weisz to run them over with a truck, you’ll at least want her to fire a blank into your heart.


15. Imagine Me & You

dir. Ol Parker, 2005
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #15: Piper Perabo smiles with her back to Lena Headey

Out of all the lesbian romcoms, this might be the one that most successfully takes your standard hetero romcom and queers it. Not the deepest, not the most interesting, but the truest to the genre with lots of jokes, lots of heart, and all the right story beats. Piper Perabo plays gay once again and once again steals our hearts, but it’s Lena Headey’s confident gay florist that really makes the movie. Be careful. It just might make you believe in love at first sight.


14. Set It Off

dir. F. Gary Gray, 1996
Our Review // Watch It

Queen Latifah sits on a roof next to Kimberly Elise, Vivica A. Fox, and Jada Pinkett Smith

An absolute masterpiece of a heist movie. F. Gary Gray’s story of four women who decide to rob a bank is as excellent a drama as it is an action movie. We care so much about the women played by Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise and it makes the suspense all the more suspenseful. Queen Latifah is absolutely iconic as Cleo, the lesbian whose confidence is as dangerous as it is sexy.


13. Mulholland Drive

dir. David Lynch, 2001
Our Review // Watch It

A fractured image of a brunette covering her face and a blonde looking on.

A cinematic masterpiece and one of David Lynch’s finest works. Naomi Watts gives an all time great performance as Betty, the wide-eyed actress who moves to Hollywood and falls for the mysterious amnesiac Rita (Laura Harring). Of course, there’s more to the story as this is a Lynch film, but more than any other work of his each thread of surreal oddity clicks together to tell this painful love story between two doomed women. Some accuse it of male gaze, but if you’re gonna pick a male’s gaze you could do worse than David Lynch.


12. Love Lies Bleeding

dir. Ross Glass, 2024
Our Review // Watch It

Kristen Stewart looks at Katy O'Brian before throwing a burning bottle.

Kristen Stewart has been playing queer characters since before she came out. And yet Rose Glass’ sophomore feature about a gym employee and the bodybuilder who catches her eye still feels like the beginning of a new era for Stewart — and a new era for lesbian cinema. It’s not just that this film is gay — it’s the unapologetic eroticism and physicality and queer specificity allowed in a film centered around one of the world’s biggest movie stars. Stewart is wonderful, as is relative newcomer Katy O’Brian, and Glass doesn’t hold back in supporting their performances with bold formal choices. There’s nothing respectable about this film — not in queerness, not in form — and still it ends up being a crowd-pleaser. Queer filmmakers have been making bold cinema for decades, but, in terms of mainstream work with bigger budgets, we someday might look back at lesbian cinema as before Love Lies Bleeding and after Love Lies Bleeding.


11. D.E.B.S.

dir. Angela Robinson, 2004
Our Review // Watch It

A group of girls in schoolgirl outfits hold up guns.

Some movies seem to arrive from an alternate dimension — a homonormative utopia where queer audiences get what we deserve. Angela Robinson’s debut is exactly that kind of movie. We can indulge in the subtext of silly action movies all day long, but Robinson makes it the actual story. Why shouldn’t a campy movie about a group of girl spies also be a lesbian romcom? There was no movie like this when it came out and there haven’t really been any since. There’s a casual gayness to the movie that’s responsible for turning countless women queer — aided, of course, by Jordana Brewster as supervillain Lucy Diamond.


10. Pariah

dir. Dee Rees, 2011
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #10: A close-up of Adepero Oduye wearing an askew hat.

Dee Rees’ debut feature is a stunning cinematic achievement. Her artful direction and poignant, specific writing melts into Bradford Young’s remarkable cinematography, the impeccable soundtrack, and a collection of phenomenal actors led by Adepero Oduye. Oduye gives the kind of performance that should be talked about until we stop talking about cinema — finding layers in the realism, lightness in the pain. This is an at times difficult film, but it’s far from maudlin. Rees gives us those first moments of love, those first moments of self-discovery and identification — even if they’re met with rejection and isolation and difficulties. This is a film explicitly about Black queerness — not a single white person appears on screen — and it’s a towering achievement from a Black lesbian filmmaker who’s already left her mark and is only just beginning.


9. Bottoms

dir. Emma Seligman, 2023
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #9: Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott sit in the front seat of a car with Havana Rose Liu in the back. They all look surprised.

With most mainstream lesbian movies split between tragic and wholesome, Bottoms arrived like breath of deliciously sour air. It’s not just that Emma Seligman’s sophomore feature is funny — and it is — it’s that it finds its humor through irreverence. It has more in common with Anchorman than But I’m a Cheerleader. Respectability isn’t just subverted, it’s ignored altogether. Its lesbian leads aren’t predatory like the trope — they’re predatory like misguided horny teens of any sexuality and gender. With perfect performances — especially from Ayo Edebiri, Havana Rose Liu, and co-writer Rachel Sennott — and a story that feels at once fresh and familiar, it’s no wonder this movie has quickly become so beloved.


8. Saving Face

dir. Alice Wu, 2004
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #8: Michelle Krusiec and Lynn Chen dance

Plenty of gay romcoms attempt to fit queerness into the genre, but Saving Face goes beyond what any of its straight counterparts have ever accomplished. Alice Wu’s only film for sixteen years is funny and romantic — it’s also a moving tale of family and community. Michelle Krusiec plays Wil, a Chinese American lesbian surgeon forced to house her mysteriously pregnant mother just as she’s falling for her boss’ daughter played by Lynn Chen. Krusiec and Chen have a timeless chemistry. It’s so fun to watch them flirt and fall in love and navigate how their lives could possibly merge. Joan Chen also gives a really special performance as Wil’s mom. This movie isn’t content to just tell one love story — its ambitions are to show the unpredictable nature of the very concept. Specificity makes for better storytelling and it doesn’t get much better than this enchanting film.


7. The Handmaiden

dir. Park Chan-Wook, 2016
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #7: Kim Tae-ri holds an umbrella over Kim Min-hee in the rain.

A cinematic miracle pairing two seemingly discordant visions to create one dazzling masterpiece. Park Chan-Wook’s adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith keeps the source material’s tight plotting and well drawn characters and combines them with Park’s always remarkable style. Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri crackle with chemistry — no matter who is the cat and who is the mouse in any given moment. This is a thrilling, sexy, horrifying, ultimately romantic and hopeful movie and the whole thing is an absolute ride. It’s a masterful example of what’s possible when queer women are included in genre storytelling.


6. Desert Hearts

dir. Donna Deitch, 1985
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #6: Patricia Charbonneau leans back on a bed.

A period piece decades ahead of its time, Donna Deitch’s sweeping romance is a classic that earns that word in quality and burns past it with an ever-present spark. Helen Shaver plays Professor Vivian Bell who’s staying at a Nevadan ranch while she waits for her divorce to finalize. She has taken the first step towards independence, but isn’t sure what’s next. The answer? Cay Rivers. Patricia Charbonneau as Cay has so much easy tomboy femme charm, a sexy dedication to self, and wears pants and shorts unlike any other on-screen character. Their romance is fraught, but absent is the melodrama one might expect from a film made in the 80s about the 50s. It’s a quieter, more grounded affair — that still finds time for an iconic kiss in the rain. You don’t have to believe in love — let one of the best lesbian movies of all time do it for you.


5. Carol

dir. Todd Haynes, 2015
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #5: Cate Blanchett holds Rooney Mara naked in bed.

Todd Hayne’s gorgeous adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt is a poignant coming-of-age movie masquerading as a grand period love story — or, possibly, vice-versa. Therese Belevit is working at a department store for the holidays, spending her time with a man she doesn’t care much for, and daydreaming about being a photographer. Carol Aird is ten to twenty years her senior, going through a divorce, and worried that as a lesbian she’ll lose her daughter. And yet despite all their differences Therese and Carol connect. Therese finds a spark for maturity; Carol finds comfort and an escape. Phyllis Nagy’s script, Carter Burwell’s score, Ed Lachman’s cinematography, and every other technical aspect of the film is just perfect. Rooney Mara as Therese, Cate Blanchett as Carol, and Sarah Paulson as Carol’s friend Abby are all alluring and heartbreaking in their own specific ways. You’ll never think about a Santa hat, leather gloves, or creamed spinach the same way again.


4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

dir. Céline Sciamma, 2019
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #4:a woman in a green dress looks out at crashing ocean waves.

An immediate landmark of lesbian cinema, Céline Sciamma fulfills the promise of her first three features with a gorgeous work of lesbian art that pushes the boundaries of how our gaze appears on screen. This is a movie about love and a movie about creation – specifically about women, specifically about lesbians. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are exquisite, giving performances that challenge the very notion of audience watching actors. Claire Mathon’s cinematography is as beautiful as it is pointed — the stunning images always motivated. There is so much eroticism and love and also a push to view these concepts in a way separate from heteropatriarchal structures. Céline Sciamma wants our cinema to be our cinema and with this monumental work she succeeds.


3. But I’m a Cheerleader

dir. Jamie Babbit, 1999
Our Review // Watch It

Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall in pink shirts look at each other while scrubbing the floor.

Jamie Babbit’s campy lesbian classic received bad reviews upon its initial release. The largely straight male critics just didn’t understand why someone would make a comedy about a subject matter this serious. But this film isn’t for them. This is a biting satire that mocks homophobia and the people and institutions that uphold it — all the while featuring relatable gay characters and joyful queer romance. Natasha Lyonne first earned her crown as honorary lesbian with her hilarious performance and Clea DuVall is a total heartthrob as her love interest. The rest of the cast includes Melanie Lynskey, Michelle Williams, Cathy Moriarty, Mink Stole, and RuPaul — each one of them falling into the movie’s specific tone with perfection. Camp is often associated with gay men, but this movie is explicitly lesbian camp. This is a queer movie made by queer people about queer experiences through a queer lens for queer audiences.


2. The Watermelon Woman

dir. Cheryl Dunye, 1996
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #2: Cheryl Dunye in sunglasses and tan shirt over a white tank looks up smiling.

Mockumentary, romcom, buddy comedy, alternate history, Cheryl Dunye’s debut feature is a work of Black lesbian cinema highly aware of its place within film history. Dunye is so funny and charming — and sexy with love interest Guinevere Turner — the depth of this singular work of lesbian art is only evident with its final title card. It has jokes, it has a video store meetcute, it has a hot sex scene, but it is also a declaration of an artist’s stubborn autonomy. Dunye isn’t content just to mock or pay tribute — she understands that being a filmmaker with several marginalized identities doesn’t allow her that casual dismissal or easy celebration. She understands the importance of history and that sometimes you have to create your own history. And she’s determined to have fun along the way.


1. Bound

dir. Lana and Lilly Wachowski, 1996
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #1: Jennifer Tilly grabs Gina Gershon's shoulder as she kisses her neck.

The Wachowskis’ take a classic film noir story with classic film noir archetypes and queer it in form and content. Gina Gershon plays Corky, the soft butch everyman ready-made to get wrapped up in things that don’t concern her. This, of course, arrives in the form of Jennifer Tilly’s femme fatale Violet. There’s a deep understanding of the genre that allows them to subvert it — holding onto the excitement and sex appeal, but prioritizing lesbian love and delicious misandry. This is as stylish and exciting as any of the Wachowski’s bigger budget fare and it has some of the best sex scenes of all time choreographed by Susie Bright. This is a fitting recipient of the title best lesbian movie ever — a genre masterpiece by two queer trans women whose love of cinema is matched only by their love for lesbian culture.

The morning after hooking up with Violet, Corky says, “I can see again.” That’s how it feels every time I revisit this movie. I can see again. Lesbian cinema’s past, lesbian cinema’s future. Bound lets me see it all.

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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 Knock LA. 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 564 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. These lists are the best things ever!
    One thing- in the old list, the Rafiki description had a link to an Autostraddle interview with the actors. But when I clicked on the link, it didn’t work. I read the interview via the Wayback Machine, and it was really good. Esp nice to see international stuff on Autostraddle. Is it possible to put the link back up?

  2. Great choices – all my faves are here.

    But I’m wish EEAAO were ranked in the top 20 – sure, the movie centres around Evelyn, but Joy is central to the latter part of the film. Her relationship with her mother, her queerness and longing for familial aceeptance informs the *entire* plot.

    Also, I felt like I died and went to heaven on seeing Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh as lesbo lovers in the *hotdog fingers* universe. Hilarious and poignant.

  3. Love the list! I’m surprised Bottoms made it but Book Smart didn’t though. I think they’re comparable films and I do appreciate both to be sure. But Book Smart seems the stronger of the two to me. I don’t think you have to replace one with the other, but I’m just kind of shocked Book Smart didn’t make it, really. Thanks for the stellar list though. Great resource!

  4. As a relative newcomer (trans woman, felt like trespasser in lesbian culture before finding myself), this is a great list of movies I haven’t seen, for the most part 😅 Surprised how many are from the last century, and how many are from male directors. But I’ll happily enqueue the lighter fare, at least, and give it a watch. It’s been a long time (and a gender) since I watched a proper romcom. Maybe I’ll even clean out the popcorn machine and fire up the projector, make an evening of it with the other Mrs.

Comments are closed.

‘My Wife Is in the Early Stages of Transitioning, and I Feel Weird About Keeping Her Identity a Secret’

Q:

My wife has been in the early stages of transitioning for a while now. She is currently only out to her friends and some trusted family members. As such, she doesn’t feel comfortable correcting people or letting me correct people when they misgender her. She also only feels comfortable going femme in certain specific settings.

I know it’s probably extremely selfish but most of the time we’re together I’ve felt like I have to hide myself too.

Since most of the time I’m not free to use female pronouns, I am constantly focussing on side-stepping gendering her. Sometimes I even have to gender her as male when we’re in mixed company. I hate this not only because 1. I am denying her identity but 2. I am effectively closeting myself.

I have a few work events coming up and I think she would have fun at them. But I know that if I bring her along, she’ll play the role of husband. Whenever we go anywhere that is not ostensively “trans-friendly” we put on the mask of heterosexual married couple or queer friends or bisexual married couple (if we’re lucky).

I know it shouldn’t matter how my coworkers or strangers or family that we’re not even close to perceive us but I hate feeling like I am hiding this aspect of myself.

It feels like she’s never going to be fully out and that this is just how the rest of our life together is going to be.

Is this just how it has to be, or can I somehow balance being supportive while also not feeling like I have to hide myself?

A:

Hi there,

I feel eminently qualified to take this question because I’m trans and shared a fair few experiences like the ones your wife is having. A lot of the stuff she’s going through sounds like many trans women’s experiences, with one key difference: She has an adamantly supportive partner.

I’m mentioning your efforts to support and affirm her because I think they’re contributing to how you feel: trapped, closeted, and concealed. That’s certainly not the only reason you feel frustrated, and I’d never tell you to support your trans partner less. I just think there’s room here for you to feel comfortable while looking out for her.

Restraint and uncertainty in a transphobic world

When I read your post, my main thought was: The real enemy here is transphobia. Systemic discrimination against trans people drives us into hiding, because disclosure brings uncertainty. Uncertainty about public reactions, bodily safety, and visibility, just to name a few.

There are two branches here I’d like to discuss. Firstly, how you can support her while managing your feelings of confinement. Secondly, your wife’s need to transition at her secure pace.

Living with a partner in transition isn’t a one-sided process. Our partners often have to transition with us. Gender transition presents new joys and stresses that the whole relationship needs to navigate. That doesn’t mean you should be a font of limitless resilience. The complexity of your situation means you need to see to your own well-being even more.

It’s clear to me that the impact of societal queerphobia and transphobia are weighing on you. It’s present in your desire to correct people who don’t yet see the vibrant woman you see. It’s evident in your dislike for putting on the heterosexual mask. The proverbial closet is an airless place, and you want out.

I don’t think your position is ‘extremely selfish’ at all. I think it comes from a place of wanting you and your wife to live the open and happy life you deserve. Again: the real enemy here is transphobia.

Some practical thoughts that came into my mind while writing this:

  • Your strength becomes hers: I believe that you want to support her and are feeling stretched, so it’s imperative to remember that your support for your wife is at its strongest when you’re feeling capable.
  • Play the game: It hurts to conceal your united identity, but remember that your wife is taking it at her pace. She probably feels the same way and is exposed to more risk than you if she’s pushed into public before she’s ready. Playing the misbegotten game of heterosexuality is unpleasant, but her risk assessment has probably told her it’s the safe option.
  • Discuss your fears: The fact that she’s transitioning in your presence is an indicator of her trust in you. I think you two have a sturdy relationship that can confidently take a difficult topic like the stresses of supporting a trans partner. If you break the news to her in a way that makes clear that she’s not at fault, you can even connect over that common enemy.

One of the most important principles of a happy gender transition is self-determination. As in, the right and ability of a trans person to dictate their transition at their own pace. Starting a transition is an enormously risky (and often costly) process that we don’t take lightly. Before transitioning, most of us lived as pressure cookers. We built pressure against a world that deprived us of gender and bodily autonomy since birth. Agency is an antidote and release valve for that.

I know it’s frustrating you can’t be as outwardly queer as you want, but I’ll ask you to consider how new she is to queerness. I’m guessing she was raised masculine and lived to that script for much of her life. I’m guessing your relationship began as a heterosexual coupling. She may be new to queerness and the personal discovery that comes with it. At least, she’s definitely new to being trans. Honestly? She sounds like a baby gay. Not only that, she’s upending her entire sense of self and gender while going through that.

That’s a tough process, so I hope you see why she might want to take it slowly.

I don’t think this is going to be your relationship forever. Because it already isn’t. Based on what you wrote, she’s actively expanding the scope of her trans identity. She’s out to close friends and trusted family. She relaxes into herself in trans-friendly spaces. Those are the steps that every trans person takes when we start probing this hostile world for security. As her partner, the best way to further your goal is to keep supporting her. Because as long as she stays this course and sees you by her side, she’ll keep making progress.

A story

I’ll close with a story from my early transition, because your account reminded me of it.

When I began transitioning, I lived as my guy self publicly even though I was radically changing things behind the scenes. Like your wife, I announced my transition to trusted people in my life. I also made it clear I would be living as a dude and nothing needed to change about my public life. In fact, I preferred if people didn’t do anything while I…rearranged the backroom.

During this time, I attended a social event hosted by a very queer-friendly group, run by all kinds of gays and including all kinds of gays (and straights!). I was there to play board games and be outside. What I didn’t know was that a then-friend who saw my announcement was also present. And they’d notified the organizers about my new identity without talking to me.

When I got there and started introducing myself, people started addressing me by new pronouns and names without my input. I found the experience really violating. I wasn’t in any danger. It was a queer-friendly event, and the people there were going out of their way to affirm me. The violation comes from the fact that I dictated a personal boundary about my transition and somebody ignored it in ‘support’ of me.

I felt embarrassed because I didn’t feel ‘like a woman’ yet. I felt disempowered because this wasn’t the pace I wanted to take things at. I felt anxious because I didn’t want to engage with my gender at this event. I just wanted to play board games.

When I think back to my transition, it went really smoothly. I basically did a speedrun of the whole thing: a year and a half from realization to living out as my lovely self. My girlfriend was (and still is) fervently supportive of my decisions. My friends and work are great. I even got my parents on board. But when I think of times in my early transition where I felt violated, that story still sticks out. Even if the intentions were good, I was effectively outed before I was ready, and it hurt, especially coming from another queer person.

My reminders from that story are:

  • The closet isn’t a binary (hah) state: Queer people are simultaneously closeted and ‘out’ as our situation and safety demands it. Your wife adjusts her public identifiers as necessary. Following along by gendering her masculine in some settings isn’t misgendering her. It’s gendering her correctly in that situation.
  • Trust us to know our comfortable pace: She’s the expert on her situation and, believe me, she’s probably over-thought it already. The pace she’s taking things at is the one she believes necessary and pushing that will harm the progress being made.
  • We’re with you too: Being the person who is going through the transition, we know full-well how stressful it can be. If you’re a supportive factor in our life, we also want to talk to you about your feelings. We’d often prefer it, actually.

I hope that all of this helps you. You’re doing well to look after your wife’s needs, but I just think there’s room to extend that care to yourself. I think it’ll strengthen an already-good relationship even further.


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

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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 40 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. Make sure you take care of yourself and not just your spouse. You can still be an out and proud queer person (or bi or lesbian or however you identify) and not out your spouse! I imagine it is a lot to keep track of as far as which name and pronouns to use in which setting. That sounds really hard! Do you have any queer friends that you can talk to (or a therapist?) because you also deserve to be supported!

    • “You can still be an out and proud queer person (or bi or lesbian or however you identify) and not out your spouse!”

      I came here to say the same thing.

      I’m in a different situation, but I’ve also had to figure out how to be visibly queer without relying on my spouse to help me look queer, because I’m a bi+ woman married to an awesome cis straight man. I use a combination of wearing pride jewelry and talking about the cool queer stuff I’m in to to be visible, at least to my fellow LGBTQIA+ folks and at least some perceptive straight people.

  2. LW, when you say “My wife has been in the early stages of transitioning for a while now”, that phrase “for a while now” is doing a lot of work. What does that mean? Six months? A year? Two years? Eight years? Has your wife been in transition for most of your married life?

    The answer to what “for a while now” really means would change the tenor of my advice. For example, if she hasn’t been in transition for more than two years, and you’ve been married for twenty years I would advise you to be supportive of her pace, communicate respectfully in regards to your own feelings as they occur, and be patient.

    But to use another example, if she’s been in this so-called early transition for eight years and you’ve been married for nine years, that’s the majority of your married life that she has been asking you to pretend she’s your husband, and you would be within your rights as a partner to press her more firmly on what her timeline is on being honest and public about her transition… and expect to receive a real answer from her.

    Because even though her transition is her story, and she should get to decide when and where and how her story is told, I don’t think she can reasonably ask you to stay in the closet with her forever. It’s not respectful from her end to ask you to continue keeping secrets and lying. Practically speaking, if you aren’t willing to continue pretending she’s your husband, both you and her might have to accept that there are some contexts where she won’t be able to accompany you (e.g., the work events).

    If you haven’t yet had a conversation with her about how all this is making you feel, please do so as soon as possible at a time when you are both calm and relaxed. Communication really is key. I wish you both the best of luck.

    • “yes, but”….

      There are ways to be out without outing her, if you’re bi/pan or able to cope with generic pride. You can dress/present as queer as you like, etc.

      I agree that the timeline does matter, to some degree (a trans hatching and coming out occurs at its own pace, when it is ready), but I do want to add a caveat to keep in mind. Regardless of timeline, if your discussions and decisions ever make it feel to her like she’s taking a transition step for you instead of for herself, that is the path to resentment. And resentment is a pernicious foul seed in a relationship.

      But question asker: you’re doing great, thank you on behalf of my sister in transness. And Summer: excellent writing as always, and great advice.

  3. Summer, what a beautiful, insightful and gracious answer to this very relatable query! I have been through this exact journey with my wife, and while it wasn’t always easy, the key really is time and team work. Those early transition days can be so strange and awkward, but we look back on them tenderly now.

    If the question-asker reads this: I want you to know that it gets better. My wife and I went through many of the exact scenarios you described. Now, we have made it to the other side, and after slowly coming into comfort and joy in our identities, neither of us has to hide our queerness anymore. I wish you all the best, and take good care of yourself too!

Comments are closed.

More Elliot Page Is Coming Your Way in Trans Movie “Close to You” and Final Season of “The Umbrella Academy”

Choose Your Own Adventure: Elliot Page is Coming To Your Big and Little Screens Soon

Elliot Page in The Umbrella Academy

This week, Netflix dropped the trailer for the upcoming fourth and final season of The Umbrella Academy, which features Elliot Page’s Viktor working with his siblings to save the world…or, at the very least, not destroy it themselves.

In case you haven’t been following along with the comic-book-inspired show, Page’s character came out as a trans man last season without fanfare; there were some really brief and lovely coming out scenes, his siblings showing a range of emotions from supportive to indifferent, and then everyone moved on with their “tiny badass brother” Viktor, back to (chaotic) business as usual. I’m excited to see what the final chapter of this series has in store for Viktor, and his powers that he doesn’t seem to quite have a handle on just yet.

And if movies are more your jam, you’re in luck, because The Umbrella Academy isn’t the only place you can find Elliot Page these days. He’s coming back to his roots on the silver screen in the movie Close to You, in which he stars in a story he co-wrote and co-produced. The story is about a trans man, Sam, who goes back to see family for the first time since he transitioned, after four years away. The cast also includes gender-fluid actor Sook-Yin Lee. The movie hits theaters on August 16th.

Both of these Elliot Page ventures will be available next month.


More News for All Your Screens

+ Billie Eilish’s Chicken Shop Date with host Amelia Dimoldenberg made the internet sweat a little (I don’t watch this show, is the flirting always this ramped up??? Phew!)

+ Reneé Rapp got slimed at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards (and took thirst traps about it after)

+ Stranger Things dropped a Season 5 behind-the-scenes sneak peek video, with a brief glimpse of Maya Hawke

+ Queer actress Isabela Merced is in upcoming Alien: Romulus and says it will scar kids for life if they see it

+ And speaking of miss booked and busy, Isabela Merced is also going to be Hawkgirl in the upcoming Superman movie

+ A Lilith Fair documentary is coming our way soon

+ Check out this cute little gay webseries about a science sleuth whose computer likes to turn on bisexual lighting at just the right moment

+ There’s something called Catnado coming, and while the content might not be queer in nature, it did feel like something the community needed to know about

+ Related, there’s also a movie called Hundreds of Beavers (that is apparently delightful…but not about what I thought it was before I clicked)

+ The cult classic musical TV show SMASH is now streaming on Peacock, likely in anticipation of the upcoming Broadway musical based on the show

+ JoJo Siwa is coming back to reality television…on a show made by the same people who created the show she grew up being publicly abused on

+ Billie Eilish is going to read a bedtime story to kiddos on a BBC children’s show

+ Katie McGrath is going to star in the second season of Ex-Wife on Paramount+

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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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 573 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. Re the flirting in Chicken Shop Date – the premise of the show is that Amelia’s looking for love and going on dates with all her guests, so she’s always flirtatious to some degree or another. But the dynamic really depends on the other guest – Billie was definitely one of the more flirtatious guests and the vibe between them was more flirtatious than it often is. They’re always fun and interesting to watch!

  2. I was actually a little let down with how not a big deal it was for Viktor to come out. Not in the sense that i wanted there to be a Family Overcomes Transphobia storyline but rather that i think they should have explicity touched on the whole being brainwashed as a child thing in relation to his coming out. There could have been some great commentary there about who exactly is doing the brainwashing of children when it comes gender. I mean, it could have been such an easy plot point to connect ‘my sister brainwashed me as a kid to think i am absolutely normal, so being miserable and depressed about my gender is just how everyone feels’, to realizing ‘oh wait, being misable and drepessed about your gender is not normal’. Still have his siblings be supportive of him coming out but also more overtly acknowledge how his father had a hand in preventing him from coming out.

    Anyway, missed opportunity, i guess that’s what fanfiction is for.

  3. Drew calls Close To You “the most disappointing” narrative film at Toronto International Film Festival. Probably gonna skip that one.

Comments are closed.

For Many Queer People, Cutting Off Family Is Hard but Vital

My wife, novelist Kristen Arnett, hasn’t had any real contact with her parents for about eight years, a situation that involved a long period of strain before shifting into what she describes as their current state of “total estrangement.” When we got married in February, her parents weren’t there; we hadn’t invited them.

Like so many queer adults, Kristen had been forced into a place where she had to choose her own mental health over maintaining contact with her family. Because of our wedding and the questions we got about her family’s absence leading up to it, I’ve been thinking a lot about parental estrangement lately — the stigma around it, how it feels, how we can care for each other in light of it, and how so many queer people reach that breaking point. So I spoke to Kristen and six other  LGBTQ+ humans who, like my wife, are also estranged from their families, and while there were recurring themes and feelings, it’s clear estrangement can look like a lot of different things for queer and trans folks. But for all of them, the choice to cut off contact was ultimately the best for their well being and mental health, despite being extremely difficult because of the ways we’ve been told repeatedly that family is the most important bond in life.


For Kristen, there’d been tension in her relationship with her parents her entire life. She grew up in central Florida in an Evangelical Southern Baptist community that exerted total control over her actions: what books she could read, what music she could listen to, how she spent her time. Their family was also extremely conflict avoidant, never wanting to dig into anything hard or complicated.  It was not exactly an environment in which Kristen’s queerness could flourish.

She didn’t come out of the closet so much as she accidentally fell out of it — while under anesthesia for a tooth surgery in their late twenties. “When I came out of my anesthesia, I was coming out to my mom,” she says. “That’s the only way that my mind would let me do it: because I didn’t know it was happening.”

My own family knows about Kristen’s situation, and yet some relatives still asked if their parents would be invited to the wedding. It was a well meaning question with no judgment attached, but I was surprised and could feel myself slipping into defensiveness, advocating for my partner. Even without judgment, I still felt there were certain assumptions being made. To us, it didn’t make sense to invite people to the wedding who we don’t have a relationship with. But there’s a pervasive societal pressure on people to “mend fences” or otherwise “make compromises” with family, especially when it comes to big life events like weddings.

It was this same philosophy that pressed Kristen, prior to cutting her parents off, to make concessions like attending Christmas Eve service with her parents. She was expected to show up to family events, “and kind of sit in a corner and not talk about anything.” At their family’s mandatory Sunday lunches, Kristen stayed silent while her family spoke freely.

“At those lunches, I’d get done with them and I’d have these depression spirals or be sitting there and just feel like I was losing it, because they’d be talking about all kinds of stuff, like ‘It’s really important we don’t let trans people into bathrooms’ or it’d be like, ‘Oh, we need to make sure that the state of marriage stays same,’” Kristen says. It didn’t feel like a compromise when she was the only one who had to give something up to be there.

“It doesn’t actually mean compromise,” Kristen says. “It means me not rocking the boat, and that’s not compromise.”

Indeed, “making compromises” often amounts to queer people having to make all the sacrifices while their family members continue to speak and behave however they want to. This disparity wore away at Kristen until she stopped attending Sunday lunches altogether.

“And then I realized the more I wasn’t going, the better I felt mentally,” Kristen says. “And I was like ‘well, this isn’t right. I shouldn’t feel better not seeing my family.’ But I truly did.” She felt relieved.

That sense of relief then showed them that perhaps going “no contact” was the right path after all. Taking things further than just skipping out on Sunday lunches came with its own challenges though, especially because she lived in the same town as them at the time. Her parents would sometimes stop at her house unannounced, and she would pretend like she wasn’t home. “Which is such a weird thing to have to do with your family,” they say, “hiding from a person coming by trying to sell you something.”

And in a way, her parents were trying to sell her something. They were trying, again, to sell her this false idea of family and love. Kristen says the mentality of her parents was very much “we love each other, so we can love each other despite,” language Kristen describes as very loaded and also counterintuitive even to the Southern Baptist values her parents supposedly ascribe to. She was told so often that love is a verb, an action. “If you’re going to argue that this kind of level of compromise is love because we love each other, I’m like, you’re not showing me what love is,” she says.


My friend T Clark hasn’t spoken to their dad in six years. Even though they rarely spoke leading up to that, it was after T reached out to him about transphobic jokes he made on Facebook that things took a more severe turn. After that, their dad called them on their birthday. “In that phone call, I told him I was hurt and more or less came out to him,” T says. “And he said, ‘I don’t think that was reason enough not to talk to me.’ And that’s the last time we spoke.”

T is actually open to hearing from their dad, but they don’t expect it. In 2019, they tried friending him on Facebook after he apparently blocked them, but he didn’t accept. They don’t know for sure if it was intentional, but that’s been the only real instance of attempted contact in the past six years. “He could easily find me if he wanted to,” T says. They say the thought of actively engaging feels exhausting, so they’re just waiting to see if he’ll initiate.

My friend Kim Selling’s story reveals how estrangement can shift, intersect, and twist into a complicated matrix. Kim hasn’t spoken to their brother since 2010 because he physically abused them when they were kids and has an abuse history with other family members. Their mom subsequently disowned Kim for cutting out their brother and then started speaking to them again in mid-2011 after Kim’s grandmother died. She then denied ever disowning Kim. This past January, Kim stopped speaking with their father because he gave their phone number and address to their brother and told him Kim wanted a relationship with him again, which was untrue.

“It’s maddening to have my boundaries fucked with,” Kim says, adding that they know a lot of other friends who are estranged from family who have similarly had their contact information given out without consent.

Kim says queerness isn’t a direct reason for the estrangement, but it’s wrapped up in it. “It’s a part of a larger trend in which my experiences are devalued or go unacknowledged or are completely denied because I am the only fat person, the only nonbinary person, the only queer femme of my family,” Kim says. While they have other out family members now, they were the first and only out person in their family for a long time. Like many of the people I talked to, including my wife, they were raised in a religious environment. In their case, it was evangelical Presbyterian, and they say the homophobia and transphobia in their family was “incredibly thick and ever-present” when they were growing up. Their mom refers to Kim’s sexuality as their “activism,” and their dad pretends he’s always been supportive despite having drunkenly criticized them throughout high school. For Kim, so many parts of their identity are wrapped up in their familial dynamics.

Another person I spoke with, Kelso, says she hasn’t had contact with her father for the last 10 years. “When I first tried coming out when I was 8, he physically abused me,” she says. “I quickly learned not to trust anyone with my sexuality.” But it became so stressful to hide it that she tried coming out again after high school. At this point, her parents were divorced, and she was no longer bound by a custody agreement to visit her Dad  on weekends. At first, she tried to manage and preserve the relationship by setting boundaries like not allowing him to ask about her love life. It didn’t really work though, because having to hide she was a lesbian in order to keep her parents in her life was becoming increasingly difficult. Later, in her twenties, there were periods of time when her father would try and reach out, always when she wasn’t actively dating a woman. But even then, as soon as she would let him in a bit, his homophobia would come out, even resulting in him calling her slurs.

Kelso apologizes as she’s telling me about all of this, saying that she doesn’t want to be defined by it or seen as a stereotypical punchline of life as a lesbian woman with a homophobic parent. Kim and others echo Kelso’s sentiment that there can be a lot of guilt attached to estrangement.

“There’s a wild amount of guilt and shame that weighs down a decision like that, to cut out a family member or to separate yourself,” Kim says. “But what matters most is my safety and privacy and security, and that’s worth so much more than placating an abuser. And yes it took me too fucking long to get to that, but now that I do? Bitch, I’m never going back.”

Feelings of guilt and shame about familial estrangement can complicate the coming out process. Amy used to be incredibly close with her maternal grandparents, spending summers with them in Arizona until they moved closer to her family in California, at which point she started seeing them at least weekly until she came out at 30. She came out to them over email, and it took them four weeks to even respond. She talks with her grandmother only occasionally now and only at a surface-level. Her grandfather, who was the first person to encourage her to be a writer and who was her first experience of “chosen” family (he was her mother’s stepdad), hasn’t spoken with her in nine years. “I’ve tried to make peace with the fact that it’s likely he will die without us ever connecting,” she says. It’s their religious beliefs that keep them from accepting her. “This has been one of the hardest parts about coming out,” Amy says. “My joy and freedom led to such loss.”

“It’s essential, as a queer, to recognize that your family has no actual power over who you are,” Kim says. “You only have to trust yourself and know that you can figure your shit out on your own; they have no bearing over how you form and maintain and celebrate your identities. Once I was able to figure that out, my world became a lot more oyster-shaped.”


What does going “no contact” really mean? From the conversations I had, it’s clear that it’s not as straightforward as literally never hearing from another person or never speaking to them. It’s more of a way to describe a firm boundary in which one tries to limit contact as much as humanly possible. You can’t ultimately control another person’s actions. “No contact” can be scary for people considering estrangement, because it sounds so absolute, but it doesn’t have to be a fixed or permanent state of affairs. The rules around contact can change, depending on your situation and your capacity.

It can be exhausting to constantly have to reevaluate these relationships, but sometimes reaching out can provide some clarity, even if that clarity isn’t even close to closure or doesn’t  change anything. “I think it’s best to reach out if you’re wondering, if you have any desire to reconnect, or perhaps miss the familial connection,” says Eggy, a queer person in Florida who doesn’t speak to their mom’s widower and his kids, despite them only living 20 minutes apart. Their mom’s death complicates this estrangement from their stepfather, who Eggy describes as “Trumpy” with homophobic and racist tendencies. Eggy reached out around Thanksgiving once because it was one of their mother’s favorite holidays, saying something genuine about how sad it was that they weren’t still connected, since their mother would have wanted them to be. All they got in response to their vulnerable confession was a simple “happy Thanksgiving.” They haven’t reached out since. But still, the moment gave them some clarity. “The response for me helped solidify that it’s not a connection that serves anymore,” Eggy says.

“I have a tendency to romanticize connections I’ve lost, familial, platonic, romantic,” Eggy adds. “And I find it helps me to stop living in them if I just act on the urge to reach out. It certainly helped settle the ideas I had of reconnecting with them and allowed me to move on more fully when I thought I already had.”

But it’s also completely understandable to not want to reach out and not want to hear from someone at all. In addition to unannounced house visits after the period of time when she stopped showing up for Sunday lunch, Kristen’s parents tried all sorts of ways to get in touch with them. Her mother would text; she had a fraught email exchange with her father.

“In theory, that sounds nice, they want to reach out, but it’s not that,” Kristen says. “It felt like they were trying to persuade me to go back to doing the same thing that I was doing previously, and I was like, I can’t be put into this situation again.”

The reach-outs often felt like they were more for her parents’ benefit than hers, especially since her parents like to pretend the chosen estrangement isn’t actually happening. Recently, Kristen got a text from her grandma: Her uncle had messaged after seeing Father’s Day pictures on Kristen’s parents’ social media and had assumed the pictures meant Kristen was back in touch with the family, which excited him. Her grandma had to explain to him that no, those photos were actually from 10, maybe 15 years ago. Always embodying that classic pattern of avoidance, her parents just don’t acknowledge the estrangement, much like they didn’t acknowledge her queerness even after she was out.

Kristen says she’s “no contact” or “total estrangement,” but short of a hard block, it’s hard to enforce a “no contact” boundary when you can only control your side of the equation. She receives texts less frequently from her mother than she used to, and she hasn’t received a text from her dad in a year. Every couple months, her mom texts. “It’s almost like finding a little crack to squeeze into,” Kristen says.


Queer historical fantasy author Sarah Wallace is estranged from their father, an Episcopalian priest. They used to be close with their dad when their parents went through a divorce, but when he remarried their freshman year of high school, their relationship became strained. They fought all throughout Sarah’s time in high school, and when Sarah told their dad they were going to spend the summer with their mother, he told them to pack up their room. They weren’t welcome to make his house their home if they chose to spend extended time with their mom. Despite multiple invitations from Sarah to visit them in college, their dad never came.

Sarah says they’ve realized their dad’s love is extremely conditional — worsened because they remain unclear about what the conditions even are. Their dad replies to their emails with a litany of personal insults and sometimes sends these derisive emails unprompted. Like others I talked to, Sarah spent a long time feeling guilty for the “failed” relationship. “But a couple of years ago, I realized that I haven’t felt emotionally safe with him since he got remarried,” they say. “And it occurred to me that I don’t owe him my time or my self when he hasn’t created a safe environment for me.”

While some of the folks I talked to arrived at estrangement as either a direct or indirect result of coming out, Sarah’s situation is a bit different: Their father doesn’t even know they’re queer. They’ve hid all Facebook updates from him and avoided conversations about the books they write and publish, which are all very queer. Sarah characterizes their relationship as “no contact” but says they do respond when he reaches out, always telling him they’re too busy to actually meet up. “I don’t have the energy or the interest to pretend I’m someone else when I’m around him,” they say. “And I don’t feel up to coming out.”

Here, the decision not to come out becomes another way to enforce healthy boundaries with family members. I also spoke with some queer people whose familial estrangement didn’t necessarily begin because of their queerness. South Florida-based queer photographer Stephanie Huber, whose parents had her when they were very young, says she’s estranged from most of her family because she was born into a home full of physical, emotional, and substance abuse as well as generational trauma. She got out as soon as she could and never looked back, and she was raised primarily by her paternal grandparents. Her father was emotionally abusive and in and out of jail for domestic violence and DUI charges throughout her life.

Stephanie has considered working on her relationship with her mother, who she is occasionally in text message contact with, but it’s been close to a decade since she’s heard from her father. He tried to contact her throughout her twenties. Even though she had firm boundaries in place, much like Kim’s situation with their father giving their number to their brother, other family members disrespected those boundaries and gave her phone number to her father every time she changed it. She has since stopped speaking to those family members, too.

The last time Stephanie spoke to her father, she told him that she knew he was young when she was born and that while she forgave him for the abuse, she lacked positive memories of him that might inspire her to pursue a relationship now. “He showed me I was right to do so by responding that I would rot in hell for not respecting my father, and that ‘everyone’ thought I was bitch,” Stephanie says. He also said she was brainwashed and re-writing her own childhood memories to make him the villain.

Unfortunately, family members will often resort to this tactic of accusing someone of “misremembering” or “misconstruing” the reality of their upbringing. As Kim puts it: “My identities prevent me from being seen as a reliable narrator of my experiences to my family.”

In 2022, my wife wrote an  op-ed for Time magazine called “I Know What It’s Like to Be a Florida Teen Who Can’t Say Gay. I Was One.” While her parents might not always catch the essays she has published on indie queer websites or in literary magazines, Time is an especially large and mainstream platform. It would be harder for them to ignore this one, and in fact, Kristen received one of those now-rare texts from her mother about it. At first, her mother just wanted to tell her she was proud of her being in Time. She clearly didn’t want to acknowledge that the piece was about how difficult Kristen’s life had been growing up closeted and gay in the home environment created by their parents.

“I was not in a space to receive that,” Kristen says. It was terrible timing; she was forced to process her mother’s words while stuck in an airport after a long trip. Suddenly, she found herself pulled into back-and-forth text conversation with her mom for the first time since the estrangement began. “It was basically me losing my shit over text message with my mother,” they say. “I was basically like, ‘how dare you message me about this when so much of this is about you?’” She was met with her mother negating the narrative of the piece, telling her the things she experienced didn’t happen.

It was six years after her decision to no longer speak with them, and all over again, Kristen was reminded why engaging with her parents was unhealthy for her. She felt manic and wild. “I went to an airport bathroom and cried, and I was like, I don’t need to be feeling like this.”

“If this is what interactions are going to be like, then I definitely had made the right choice,” Kristen continues. “I do feel like my mental health is better when I’m not in dialogue with my family, particularly my parents.”


Early on in our relationship, Kristen told me I’d likely never meet her parents. It didn’t make me sad, especially because I already knew about her history in past relationships where the alternative — her parents dismissing or outright ignoring her partner — was worse. It also  wasn’t the first time someone I loved dearly had a complicated or nonexistent relationship with their parents (in fact, most close friendships I’ve had have been with people who fall somewhere on the parental estrangement spectrum). Because of the shame and guilt that can be attached to estrangement, I wanted to give complete, total, unconditional support.

In 2023, Kristen did reach out to her parents to ask them to meet up, completely on her own terms, an important distinction from the times it was her parents who were the ones to chisel cracks into the foundation of her “no contact” policy. It was shortly before our engagement. Kristen felt she needed to practice what she preaches about engaging in conflict rather than avoiding it like her parents always default to. She picked the location, a restaurant in our neighborhood, one she could easily walk home from if she needed to get out quickly.

The impetus for the meeting wasn’t to magically fix things, and Kristen knew it likely wouldn’t result in an actual change to the boundaries or their relationship. She went in very firmly, not aggressive, but the most direct she’d ever been with them. “I was like, here’s ways that you’ve made me feel, and here’s ways that my life is, and here’s what I need from you if you ever want to have a relationship in the future.”

She says the dinner went “well,” emphasis on the quotes. It wasn’t a disaster. It didn’t result in her feeling manic or crying in the bathroom. But her parents continued to be so conflict avoidant that they just sort of nodded and said yes, without really engaging and without really committing to any kind of change. After the dinner, she’d get a few texts, but it was never about anything meaningful. She realized they didn’t really understand. She has no interest in resuming contact until they are ready to address what she’s told them about how their political beliefs and past behaviors impact her life and her loved ones.

So the estrangement continues, and I continue to have zero interaction with her parents. We met once,  in passing at a family function, but it was incredibly brief and inconsequential. Kristen’s feelings about how I fit into this, again, reaffirm her commitment to her hard boundaries with them.

“I would never want to bring them into your life and have that be something that you have to deal with and something where you’re not being respected,” Kristen tells me. “And if I can’t count on my own partner being respected, that’s just not something I want to ever have to deal with. There’s things where it’s like I know that they want things to be a kind of way they want to have Christmas again or things like that. And I’m like, how could I ever bring my partner into this space?”


As for advice they’d give other people struggling with estrangement or considering estrangement, many people cited therapy as crucial to their journeys. Amy says therapy helped reorient her away from “fixing” the problem and instead toward accepting what it is and dealing with it. She also says writing helps, along with having a supportive partner. She allows for duality, as she puts it. “It’s good and it’s sad,” she says.

Kim adds that in addition to therapy, seeking out people with similar or linked identities to their own has helped.

Beyond therapy, folks also talked about their conscious efforts to unlearn what they’ve been taught about family, about love. “I’ve found family in many other, more fruitful ways by letting go of the idea that family can only exist in the traditional, hierarchical sense,” Eggy says. “Yesterday was two years since my mom passed, and the family that was there for me was the family I chose and built, and it felt more whole and meaningful than I think given family couldn’t ever made me feel.”

Kim similarly says while they thought they never gave a shit about family because of the treatment they received and continue to receive from their immediate family members, they had the realization that they’ve always received support from their grandparents, who treated them with compassion. “Engaging with my cultural heritage through my grandparents, and learning how to exist in the world from them helped me have an anchor that bypassed my nuclear family, and also provided a stepping stone to forming relationships outside my home,” Kim says.

“I think it’s hard with family because we’re told all the time that family is special and more important than other relationships,” Sarah agrees. “But the older I get, the more I assess all of my relationships more equally. It helps me to determine that if I wouldn’t accept a certain kind of treatment from a friend, there’s no good reason to accept it from a family member.”

Even though Kristen knows this is what’s best for their mental health and doesn’t want to return to that headspace she was in at the airport after the Time piece, she of course wishes things weren’t this way. There’s a difference between what you want to happen and what’s best for you, a tension that can make it so hard for people to pull the trigger on “no contact” or other hard boundaries with family. “It’s better for me mental health wise, but it sucks,” Kristen says.

“It’s hard, and it’s something that will be hard for the rest of my life,” Kristen adds. “But I would choose this again in a second versus the way it was before. Because this is still hard, but it’s hard in a way that’s respecting myself and respecting relationships I have.”

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 870 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. I am estranged from my father so I read this with interest. Sometimes I forget that I haven’t spoken to him in years and years and that I never will again, and then it’s like…jesus…what the fuck. I hate that it’s so common and so necessary.

  2. Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences. Going to think about this for a long time: “Here, the decision not to come out becomes another way to enforce healthy boundaries with family members.”

  3. I was estranged from my mother for 3ish years for reasons totally unrelated to my queerness (never ended up telling her), but got back in contact when she was diagnosed with a terminal illness and oh boy, if you thought people were judgemental of going no contact, wait until you tell them you wish you’d stayed away until they died.

    I was worried I might regret it if I didn’t, but it just reinforced that all the reasons I had for staying away were right. Weirdly though, it helped; I can rest easy now knowing I wasn’t the one in the wrong, I wasn’t imagining it or making it seem worse than it was.

  4. Thanks for writing about the guilt associated with estrangement and the ways people make you think you “made it all up.” All the various queer experiences autostraddle writes about are super important and make me feel less alone.

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Las Nubes’ Music Celebrates Queer South Florida in the Face of Attacks on LGBTQ Artists

Photo by Sal Rispoli

Living as a queer and trans artist in Florida has become extremely difficult. Not only are queer and trans people constantly under attack through legislative actions against gender-affirming care, drag shows, and books, among many other laws, but Ron DeSantis also recently slashed funding for the arts in the state. As in all of it. DeSantis vetoed $32 million in arts funding approved by Florida’s legislature for the 2024-25 budget, severely threatening the financial stability of arts organizations and programs throughout the state. In the face of all this, South Florida queer and gender nonconforming music group Las Nubes has a clear message: “We’re not going anywhere.”

Multi-instrumental artists Ale Campos and Emile Milgrim formed Las Nubes in 2014 and are no strangers to the intense highs and lows of living and making art in Florida. In fact, South Florida’s erratic climate —in both the weather sense and the political sense —is baked into their music. Over the past decade, they’ve been producing EPs and albums full of shoegaze-inflected fuzzy dream pop-rock bangers that are as assertive as they are tender. Their debut LP, SMVT, dropped in 2019 and it was clear from the first notes on the album that they were an act to keep watching. Now with the release of their sophomore LP, Tormentas Malsanas (or “unhealthy storms”), it’s obvious that Las Nubes has fully grown into themselves and has fully captured the simultaneously unbearable and joyful reality of living in and loving South Florida.

Released on June 14, Tormentas Malsanas is a barrage of raucous hooks and oscillating emotions, going in and out of the ups and downs of being alive in the world we live in, of experiencing the sadness and strangeness of a pandemic, of lives changing in an instant, of relationships ending and beginning, and of trying to hold onto hope when it feels like such a useless thing to do.

Written and recorded prior to and all throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Tormentas Malsanas is informed by a variety of difficult personal experiences amplified by the pandemic. Campos says, “There were a lot of things besides the intensity of the pandemic that influenced the writing of the songs — a death in the family, one of our supporting band members [Nina] being pregnant on our previous tour, a friend of ours losing their child when they were giving birth.” Milgrim continues, “I kind of had a dichotomy because at first, with the pandemic, I thought ‘This is good because we have time to write this.’ Then, at the same time, when things started to open up again, I came to a point where I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I had a nervous breakdown. I quit my job, and I decided that doing this band and doing music would be the thing I was going to do. A lot of that sentiment went into trying to get this album out.”

Similar to how rough the journey to this album was, the title itself, a nod to the unpredictable weather we experience in Florida summertime, implies these shifts in emotions and these passions straightforwardly. “Being from South Florida, we really relate to epic weather events. When shit hits the fan, my brain makes sense of it as a crazy storm or a hurricane,” Campos says. “In South Florida, we have the most intense summers. Emile and I wanted to do a summer record where the songs sound like they’re happy, but the songs are somewhat depressing. We wanted to represent what South Florida is in terms of terrible weather even though it’s a time of year when everyone’s happy and wanting to go outside. It’s just not the same for us.”

“I’ve lived in different places throughout the U.S. and spent summers in different places, but South Florida is just brutal,” Milgrim adds. “The weather and your own feelings can really turn on a dime. It can go from torrential downpours and thunderclap madness to sunshine and birds in 15 minutes. I’ve never seen that happen anywhere else.”

As a South Floridian myself, I understand exactly what Las Nubes is getting at here. The physical and emotional turbulence of our climate in the summer is becoming more intolerable as the years go by. In the last two years, we’ve suffered catastrophic flooding, property damage, and mass migration in and out of the state all because of summer storms and our state and municipal governments’ inaction. It’s added a new, discomfiting layer to our lives here — we’re not only under attack through legislation, but we’re also suffering from the lack of care for our basic safety.

I’ve been a fan of their work since the very beginning but this new album is reflective of my experiences on multiple levels. After just a quick listen, it’s easy to hear these contrasts and fluctuations alluding to Florida’s weather and psychological climate in the music itself. The album opens with the hazy and hypnotic “Would Be,” a song about the disappointment of growing up and realizing your efforts towards others won’t always be reciprocated. Tension continues to build and, at the midpoint of the album, you get the haunting 10-minute Spanish-language slow burn, “Caricia,” that features swirling, buzzing guitars and airy vocals bringing the album’s suspense to its most restless point. Just before the two joyous closers, we get “The Weeks That Followed,” which takes the revolving instrumentals of “Caricia” and puts them into lyrical form by discussing the struggles of emotions spiraling from one direction to another. Then finally, the sun’s out again as “Canse” and “Drop In – Ya Freaks” blast you to the end of the album with heavy guitars and catchy hooks designed to remind you that even with all the “bad weather,” bliss is always on the horizon.

“My perspective and my outlook is that I might feel terribly about certain things right now, but I know that in the long run, things will get better and nothing is forever,” Campos explains. “I want people to remember that they don’t have to feel awful forever.”

According to Milgrim, there was a cinematic approach to arranging, producing, writing, and recording the album. Gregg Araki’s films The Doom Generation and Nowhere were major influences. “They’re these queer, alternative, wild films about young people that have all of these tragedies and also hopeful moments,” Milgrim says. “They have very stark endings where everything is fucked up, but everything’s going to be okay somehow. To me, that’s how the record feels. It’s big and beautiful and slow but also, everything’s going to be fine even though the world is exploding.”

The album plays perfectly with the structure of a film or short story — there’s the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Campos notes the order was super intentional and took time to plot out. “At first, we were going to make ‘Caricia’ the closing track because I didn’t want to ‘burden’ people with a 10-minute song, but that’s the eye of the storm,” Campos says. “It’s a brief reprieve, then we jump back in with ‘Endreados’ and things calm down by the time ‘Drop In’ closes the album.”

It’s a delicate balance, but one that Las Nubes always hits perfectly, especially on Tormentas Malsanas. Despite all of these disparate emotions, musical styles, and influences, Tormentas Malsanas always feels cohesive and harmonious. Campos credits this to the way her and Milgrim are able to unite the melodies, riffs, and genre homages on the album in addition to the lyrics being vague enough to welcome a variety of interpretations and opinions. “All of the songs come full circle by the end of the track while also still contributing to the whole story of the album,” Milgrim says. “I don’t want to say they’re dealing with universal ideas, but these are cautionary and common tales. People have felt these feelings and understand them. Whether it’s in the lyrics or in the composition, there’s something for everyone on it.”

Outside of their interpersonal struggles and the global conflicts we all have to worry about, as queer and gender nonconforming artists, Las Nubes also produced and released Tormentas Malsanas in this particularly dangerous time for queer and trans artists in Florida’s history. “Already, they were doing so many different things to make just existing as a queer and trans person in this state [difficult], but now they’re taking away the funding that helps a lot of queer and trans artists doing their work,” Milgrim says. “It’s fucked up because it’s already difficult to be an artist in general — let alone a queer artist or a trans artist — and now you can’t get any institutional support because of the place you live.”

Regardless, Las Nubes is determined to keep moving forward despite it all. “I started writing songs in Spanish more mostly as a tribute to my culture and heritage, but it was specifically during the Trump administration because it was a way of saying ‘Fuck you. We’re here. We exist,’” Campos says. “So, choosing to go forward in the face of all that’s happening against queer and trans people here is the same thing. We’re not going anywhere.”

“We are all we have,” Milgrim says. “No one in my general orbit is making things just for the sake of making money or getting paid. Art making, music making, and organizing is about building community. We need to continue to support and perpetuate our community so we have a sense of belonging. We have to continue building relationships with each other through this work because so many things around us are telling us we shouldn’t exist.”

According to Campos, their work is an opportunity to stand up for themselves and what they believe in to the fullest extent: “I’m not a very confrontational person but when it comes to music or art, that’s a space that I want to use as a platform as a place to express myself and represent who we are. I don’t care if it ruffles feathers, especially when it comes to using our art as a place to talk about these issues.”

For now, Las Nubes is focusing on their immediate next steps. On August 2, they’re launching their 14-date tour in San Diego and, CA at The 61st House, then traveling north up the coast.

As for what they hope people will get from the album, Campos and Milgrim agree that they want people to truly see them for who they are and be open to their continued growth. “I hope people can see that we’re super versatile, and we’re able to do whatever we want,” Campos says. “Our first album and this album are vastly different, so I hope people will see that we’re always experimenting and trying to do something new.”

“I think if you’re drawn into a band’s music for any reason, it’s important to keep listening,” Milgrim says. “Bands are kind of like child actors, they’re always changing and growing. Interests change, technology changes, and relationships change and you kind of roll with that. I think this new album might be very surprising for some people. And to us, that’s a good thing.”

Even in this stormy climate for making queer art in Florida, Las Nubes aren’t backing down. They understand that carving out these spaces for their voices is no small thing.

“If you’re given any platform in any way, if you can reach just 20 people, you better be doing it,” Milgrim says. “Because that’s 20 more people who get to share in this experience, have their minds opened further, and share in this exchange of ideas.”

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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Stef Rubino

Stef Rubino is a writer, community organizer, and student of abolition from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. They teach Literature and writing to high schoolers and to people who are currently incarcerated, and they’re the fat half of the arts and culture podcast Fat Guy, Jacked Guy. You can find them on Twitter (unfortunately).

Stef has written 95 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the rec, they are a whole vibe!!

    (Also just wanted to say I tend to really like the music you write about and the way you write about it so please keep the music coverage coming, Stef!!)

Comments are closed.

Quiz: Pick Chappell Roan Lyrics and We’ll Plan Your Staycation

If you’re anything like me, you’ve listened to The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess 18 billion times. We love her, I love her, you love her, we all love her (including the straights?!). Her upbeat, sexy, fun, queer tunes are the soundtrack to the summer. Even though I’m well past the age of summer school breaks, I still take this time to embody the mood of one of those Target summer sales ads: carefree, lots of color, cold drinks, pools, lounging, reading by the beach, a summer fling. Summer is just pride month, extended, so we should treat it as such.

If you’re anything like me, you’re also incredibly broke. For a free-spirit queer who thrives on the finer things in life, this doesn’t really work. I’ve spent countless summers trying to budget for little weekends away or visits to teacher friends who literally have a summer break, but all of it is still so expensive. This summer, I’ve discovered the beauty of a staycation. Sure, it’s always existed, but not with my unique twist on it.

I present to you the ultimate quiz for a queer broke summer; give me your favorite Chappell Roan lyrics, and I’ll tell you what to do on your staycation with your partner.

Pick Some Chappell Roan Things and We'll Tell You Where To Take a Summer Staycation

Pick a relatable lyric:(Required)
Pick your fav sad girl lyric(Required)
What's your summer vibe?(Required)
People describe you as:(Required)
Choose a lyric with no context:(Required)
What lyric sounds like the most fun?(Required)
What are you avoiding?(Required)
Pick a word frequently mentioned in Chappell songs.(Required)
Chappell was “Naked in Manhatten.” Where are you naked?(Required)
What are you doing “After Midnight?”(Required)
Choose your favorite song (difficult, I know).(Required)
Finally, choose a Chappell Roan iconic look:(Required)

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+!

Em Win

Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Em now lives in Los Angeles where she does many odd jobs in addition to writing. When she's not sending 7-minute voice messages to friends and family, she enjoys swimming, yoga, candle-making, tarot, drag, and talking about the Enneagram.

Em has written 73 articles for us.

5 Comments

  1. Spa day, honestly a pretty good answer.

    Also I am so happy I knew most of the references 😅

  2. The “Picture You” erasure on the favorite song question!! 😂 But my gf and I both got museums so, love that for us!

  3. Reading and sleeping for 48 hours? What? The closest thing I’ve ever had to a vacation in my working life? I mean it sounds nice, sure, and I do it all the time.

Comments are closed.

Looking Back on 1970s Lesbian Feminist Film and Sci-Fi To Reimagine the Future

What do you think about when you hear the phrase “second wave feminism”? Is it the stereotype of the bra-burning, angry lesbian feminist? Or consciousness raising groups where women looked at their vulvas with hand-held mirrors? Lesbian separatists creating their own “women-only” communes? Or groups of white, straight, middle class women fighting for their rights, while leaving behind women of color, poor women, lesbians, and trans people?

Jed Samer’s book Lesbian Potentiality & Feminist Media in the 1970s looks at 1970s feminist experimental film, video, and science fiction literature to complicate and expand our understanding of this divisive period of feminist history. Samer’s book points to the limitations of the stories, like the ones I listed above, that have come to symbolize 1970s lesbian feminism. Lesbian Potentiality helps us see how particular texts imagined lesbian feminism and “lesbian” itself as a multiplicitous, liberating concept.

“What ‘woman’ and ‘lesbian’ signified was not a coherent and consistent thing across the thousands of people who made their way to lesbian feminist spaces. That’s a huge impetus of my project,” Samer, an incoming Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at Arizona State University, told me when we chatted in early July.

Like Mairead Sullivan’s book Lesbian Death, Samer wants to expand our understanding of this history beyond sexist stereotypes or generational divides: “My book is in large part a story of how there was so much more. Because feminism was so much more.”

Samer brings feminist film studies into conversation with lesbian feminist theory to explore how experimental film and science fiction expand our understanding of the term “lesbian.” As they write, “lesbian” in these texts signified “the potential that gendered and sexual life could and would someday be substantially different, that heteropatriarchy may topple, and that women would be the ones to topple it.”

In other words, in these texts “lesbian” was not just an identity category that described women who loved other women — it was a force with the potential to help us move towards a more liberatory future.

“Potentiality” is a key concept for Samer. They draw on Italian philosopher Georgio Agamben to theorize the politics of lesbian potentiality. For Samer, lesbian potentiality is not necessarily about what historically has happened to our configurations of gender and sexuality since the 1970s, what should have happened, or what life should be like now, but instead about what could have happened. They write, “These cultural texts engender new space-times from which women might love and live differently than they do in the present but also suggest that the lesbian existence they envision need not come to be, or stay as it is should it come to be.”

In our conversation, Samer explains lesbian potentiality like this:

“Very often when we think about the past, whatever past we’re thinking about, separate of lesbian feminism or feminist past or queer pasts, is that it feels set in stone. Right? It feels like this is what happened, and it happened because this guy did this, and that gal did that, and they wrote this, and these people said that, and therefore X, Y, and Z happened. 

And we experience that sort of certainty and concrete-ness in direct contrast to how we experience our own present, right? We look around the world and we’re like, what’s going to happen tomorrow? What’s gonna happen in the upcoming election? What’s gonna happen in Gaza? It all feels so uncertain. And both in really terrifying ways and, at times, really exciting ways. 

And when we are part of social movements, when we’re at protests, when we’re organizing, when we’re creating queer spaces, there is this sense of possibility of what could come out of such commitments, from listening to one another, to organizing together, to creating art together. We can forget that that was there in the past too. 

And so even as only certain films were made, only certain books were written, if the conversations around such films and such books went certain directions and not others, doesn’t mean that other things couldn’t have happened. 

However thorough our archival research, we don’t know all that was said or done [in the past]. And while certain texts and figures rise to the top of our historical memory, that is often in fact the result of capitalism and white supremacy that allows certain voices to speak for millions. They weren’t the only people speaking and organizing at that time.…

If meaning around this word [“lesbian”] calcified into a more singular unified vision such that it came to appear to many as a very limited framework for thinking gender and sexual possibilities, in the 70s it was so not monolithic. It was so bountiful of meaning and so open to contestation.”

“Lesbian potentiality” is about acknowledging the possibilities of what could have been and what could still come to be. Using “lesbian potentiality” as a framework, Samer wants to move beyond particular narratives (that 1970s lesbian feminism was a white cis women’s movement, for example), to explore the multiplicity the word “lesbian” has held. In doing so, Samer complicates our relationship to the past, present, and future.

Importantly, Samer does not want to romanticize the past as a time of more liberatory potentiality, or to throw it away for its supposed lack of intersectional feminist politics:

“It’s not to say not to criticize limited visions of the past. But maybe it’s more productive, more fruitful to understand ourselves as historical subjects too, where just like those in the 60s and 70s whose visions for the future did not come to be, ours may not too. We’re part of an ongoing movement. There’s ways to both distinguish different political movements across time while also linking them as part of a broader movement for freedom.” They add, “What is the past was once a present, was once a future. Our present is a former future and will someday be the past. Individuals, communities, those organizing, as well as companies and states, everyone is invested in a future. And the future is up for grabs, [and] always will continuously be so.”

Samer often writes in the conditional tense. The conditional tense in English allows us to speculate about the past and future: what could have happened, what should happen, what might happen. Using the conditional tense allows Samer to gesture towards the fact that the past, present, and future are both indeterminate and intertwined with one another. Holding the past, present, and future in conditional tension with one another allows Samer to gesture to the fact that each of these temporalities is open to as yet-to-be-determined meanings; each moment in time is, as they say, “up for grabs.”

While “lesbian potentiality” is theoretically complex, the chapters of the book are grounded in historical archival research. The first two chapters examine feminist independent film and video collectives and feminist prison documentaries of the era. The third and fourth chapters explore science fiction literature: the history of feminist science fiction fandom and an in depth look at the writing of James Tiptree, Jr., the pseudonym of prolific sci fi author Alice Sheldon. Samer interweaves their historical research with their theoretical framework, allowing us to see how each case study illuminates something different about lesbian potentiality.

I was most curious to hear about Samer’s interest in Tiptree, as Samer is hard at work finishing a documentary that complements the book called Tip/Alli about the author. What drew Samer to Tiptree’s writing and Sheldon’s life story?

They shared, “I would love to point Autostraddle readers to James Tiptree, Jr.’s life and work. Read ‘Houston, Houston, Do you read?”, read “With Delicate Mad Hands,” and see in these lesbian feminist futures the varied ways of doing gender. There are trans men and trans women in these lesbian feminist science fiction futures. It might not be apparent because we’re so distracted by the science fiction-ness of it all, the alien-ness of it all, but in fact what’s being imagined in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s by Tiptree is very very differently gendered worlds that are intentionally incomprehensible to our present because they’re so alien and Other, but nonetheless are the results of the imagination of a 70s lesbian feminist.”

The documentary explores the feminist, queer, and trans resonances of Tiptree’s writing, and features interviews with some of the feminist, queer, and trans readers influenced by Tiptree’s stories over the past five decades.

Samer takes much inspiration from the history they study. In Lesbian Potentiality, Samer writes, “I look to the past not for myself or my trans siblings but for a history of the reimagination of gender and sexual existence, which we might in turn pass along.” Samer re-reads the feminist, queer, and trans past not to find a roadmap for the future, but instead for “a capacious commitment to the unknowability of the feminist future” with its “many gendered lesbian potentiality.”

This past is personal for Samer as well. In our conversation, Samer talks about the influence Tip/Alli has had on their own life:

“This dissertation and book was started by someone who understood themselves to be a queer woman and was published by someone who understood themselves to be a queer non-binary trans masc…I think it’s fair to say that Tip/Alli had a huge hand in that evolution. 

Cameron Awkward-Rich writes beautifully about how reading ‘transes’ folks, and that of course is not how the world typically thinks about transness. Right? You are supposed to have known this truth about yourself since you were two and have articulated it consistently across decades and therefore as an adult are granted access to hormones and a life that one has wanted to live all along. 

When in fact, for many of us, we were plopped down in this world and told this is the way it is, and it can sort of feel ‘not right’ forever, but also that not-rightness is not just about you, it’s that this [world] is fucked up, right? It’s not solely about individuals and making individuals accommodated or comfortable or tolerated, but discomfort with the way the world is organized.

Our encounters with others who’ve felt a similar discomfort across time, and have expressed it through different genres and different modes, can enable us to feel our own way towards a future, both in community with those around us and personally. So yeah, would I have transitioned if I hadn’t read Tiptree? Who knows? It might have taken something else later. 

I deeply love this person. I think when I was 25, I thought I was in love with this person, and at 38, I think I now see a lot of myself in them. And that may have in fact been true at 25 and I just didn’t know it, is what I would say. Tiptree, Alli Sheldon, feels like kin to me.

It takes me back to being 17 and coming out as bisexual to parents too, and they’re like, ‘is that just because all your friends are?’ And at the time you want to say ‘no!’, but also, maybe, yes? You have to be introduced to the possibility to consider it. I mean props to those who are three years old and are like, ‘I’m gay.’ But some of us have to meet some gay people, and sometimes those people are people you encounter in books and archives, they’re not your friends, and they’re not even here on this planet anymore physically, but their ideas are, and that’s really powerful.”

While Samer works on finishing the Tip/Alli documentary, they’re simultaneously working on a second book about trans comedy, tentatively titled The Transgender Joke Book. They shared, “I’m curious about this eruption of trans representation in the comedy space, when so often comedy historically has been at odds with transness, and even in the last five years is a central site of transphobic discourse. It’s the irony, or tension, or paradox that some of those given the greatest microphone, literally, around transness and transphobia are comics, but also compared to other cultural corners, comedy is full of trans folks doing comedy.” The book will theorize this contemporary moment in trans comedy as well as how humor as a genre can shape our way of thinking about trans politics more broadly.

While studying contemporary trans comedy is a different project than archival research into lesbian feminist media history, there are some key throughlines here: Samer’s interest in the significance of trans and queer cultural production and what it can mean for queer, trans, and feminist audiences. Perhaps there is (trans?) potentiality in the second book too: what comedy might come to be, if we look to trans comics for its possible futures.

I leave our conversation thinking about the way I’ll teach classic lesbian feminist texts to my Introduction to Queer Studies students this fall. It’s easy to critique these texts for their short sightedness or for their lack of inclusivity. Beyond that critique, what can we take away from 1970s lesbian feminism that is generative, that allows us to see it and our own world anew? Lesbian potentiality, the freedom dream that our sexual and gendered world might have been different and might still come to be, is certainly one answer.

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Lauren Herold

Lauren is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Kenyon College, where she teaches Women's and Gender Studies and researches LGBTQ television, media history, and media activism. She also loves baking banana chocolate chip muffins, fostering cats, and video chatting with her sisters. Check out her website lcherold.com, her twitter @renherold, or her instagram @queers_on_cable.

Lauren has written 16 articles for us.

7 Comments

    • At the risk of indulging a transphobic troll, a few comments in response to this:
      1) The author I interviewed is a queer, non-binary trans masculine person, as I quoted from their interview above. Additionally, their book explores cultural production primarily created by women and lesbians. Who are the “men” this comment is referring to?
      2) There are men (gay, queer, straight, cis, and/or trans) who work in LGBTQ studies and who write about lesbian feminism, lesbian identity, lesbian history, and/or lesbian media. Some men do engage deeply and sincerely with lesbian studies. This is not a bad thing! Men in educational settings and academic writing absolutely can and do have valid things to say about lesbian culture. Rejecting all of their ideas on the basis of their gender is close-minded.
      3) The book explores the many-gendered possibilities of what “lesbian” means. The phrase “men are not lesbians” is a reductive, transphobic response to this that doesn’t actually engage with the ideas of the text or the piece about it. Read the book and think deeply about its interest in expanding the gender binary, rather than commenting in this reactionary way.

  1. I don’t think I can wrap my head about “lesbian potentialities” right now but I’m delighted that this article exists and look forward to reading it when I’m not recovering from being sick.

  2. Tiptree has a complicated legacy due to her personal life and its end, and though I understand there may not have been time to touch on it in this interview, I hope the documentary does. I know that many disabled people simply cannot celebrate or engage with her work because of the circumstances of her death. Some think it was a mutual suicide pact with her husband, but others see it as a caregiver murder-suicide in which she killed her disabled husband against his will and then herself.

  3. rami fawaz similarly seeks to reassess 2nd wave feminism from a queer pov in queer forms, but i wasn’t totally convinced by his analysis – thought it was a bit blithe in its assessment of the legacies of whiteness in mainline feminist thought. will be interested to check this one out, though!

    (ps – have you read j. logan smilges’s queer silence? not at all related except for also being queer theory, but i’m reading it now and would love to get your take!)

    • There seems to be a revisitation of 1970s feminist writing in queer studies right now, which I think is really interesting! I haven’t read Queer Forms or Queer Silence yet, but they are on my list. Definitely important to hold all of the complex legacies of whiteness and other forms of oppression/privilege alongside the liberatory potentialities.

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Baopu #126: Unexpected

a person in a comic finds a flower and imagines a whole new world

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Yao Xiao

Yao Xiao is a China-born illustrator based in New York City. Yao Xiao creates artwork depicting a poetic visual world where complex concepts and human emotions are examined, amplified, and given physical form. Her work has helped people all over the globe connect at unique moments, from the celebration of the 20 Year Anniversary of the SXSW Interactive Festival, to the grand release of pop singer Katy Perry's single 'Dark Horse.' She has created deeply emotional and beautiful graphics for editorial print publications, pop music record covers, concert posters and book covers. Yao Xiao's serialized comic Baopu currently runs monthly on Autostraddle. It is an original comic exploring the nuances in searching for identities, connections and friendships through the fictional life of a young, queer emigrant. Baopu stands for 'holding simplicity,' a Taoist ideal of wishing to return to a simpler state. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Etsy or her website.

Yao has written 132 articles for us.

1 Comment

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Things I Read That I Love #337: Getting Your Ex Back, Trendy Baby Names, Subway Commercials, Etc

HELLO and welcome to the 337th installment of Things I Read That I Love, wherein I share with you some of the longer-form journalism/essays I’ve read recently so that you can know more about Subway commercials! This “column” is less queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are.

The title of this feature is inspired by the title of Emily Gould’s tumblr, Things I Ate That I Love.


You’re Not Just an Idea in Your Head: A Conversation with Miranda July. Lily Felsenthal and Debbie Ou for the Los Angeles Review of Books, June 2024

I just read July’s new novel All Fours and I fucking loved it. Then I went ahead and loved this too. (If you also love Miranda July, you might love these books too)

We’re So Back. Luke Winkie for Slate, July 2024

“‘These coaches prey on people desperately wanting to get their partner back, say that you ‘need’ to pay for their services, and that they will ‘make a plan’ for you,” said Pimentel. “But in reality we can’t control others. We can only control ourselves.”

Why Do All The World’s Best Athletes Do Subway Commercials? Whizy Kim for Vox, June 2024

Every Subway store is run by franchisees who pass on a mighty percentage of profits to the corporation, which’s a unique element of the Subway business models. Now, with stores struggling to stay afloat as Subway’s product has failed to impress in a new world containing more “healthy” options, better sandwich shops and myriad fast casual options.

Starbucks’ Digital Dilemma. Trung Phan for SatPost,  May 2024

Wild to remember how often I used to go to Starbucks with my laptop in the 2000s, or to meet up with people, and how packed it’d be during the school year, how intimately I knew all the locations in my area of New York. Now Starbucks has moved away from being a “third place” and towards facilitating mobile orders via a very successful app that is also sort of a bank, making novelty pink drinks, and still charging premium prices for it all. Customers are moving to local coffee shops, which is good news. But I always love Phan’s insight on topics like this, I have kept thinking about this piece in the ensuing weeks, and I think you will too.

The Smoker. Ottessa Moshfegh for The Paris Review, February 2023

“I don’t mean that the place smelled of cigarette smoke or old cigarettes or ash or the butts stubbed out on the greasy parquet floor. I mean that there was nicotine syrup soaked into the walls. Have you ever smoked a cigarette in a small room in Providence in the summer, in the still of the night?”

Romance Bookstores Are Booming, Dishing ‘All the Hot Stuff You Can Imagine,’ by Alexandra Alter for The New York Times, June 2024

The Ripped Bodice in LA is so great, the explosion in popularity of queer romance is great, more bookstores existing and thriving is really so great! I love literature.

I Had an Affair With My College Dean, by Olivia Swanson Haas for Autostraddle, July 2024

We told ourselves she was teaching me how to love myself, how to act on my desires. This is what love looks like, we said, and I became adept at anticipating her desires—which I fulfilled, eagerly. She was my audience; I was her secret star.

Reality Bites, by Samuel Ashworth for Eater, November 2019

I was writing about this reality TV show The Restaurant for my incredible TV newsletter available to all AF+ members and then got a little more curious about it which led me here, to this piece about how 20 years after The Restaurant made Rocco DiSpirito the first reality TV chef, “his roller coaster career is sill an object of fascination.”

Between a Hard Rock and a Hard Place, by Joe Nick Patoski for Texas Monthly, January 1987

Then I continued onto my journey — The Texas Monthly is digitizing a ton of their archives, and digging into this piece about Hard Rock Cafe when it was probably like three years away from peaking, and the two men who owned the franchise and also seemingly totally hated each other! But one of them, Morton, also ran Morton’s, which was a huge Hollywood restaurant where Deals Get Made.

Un-Adopted, by Caitlin Moscatello for The Cut, August 2020 (updated June 2024)

Okay it does turn out that in fact, I not only already read this four years ago but I also included it in a TIRTL four years ago, but maybe you forgot it too, anyhow here is what I’d written about this before realizing it was a repeat:  Myka and James Stauffer were parenting YouTubers, content to sell out their children for clicks forever, eager to adopt a child with special needs as it would be a good #content and I wonder if one day we will look back on this time period and think wasn’t it crazy that it was okay back then to use small children for profitable content in this way??? Wow what were they thinking??? Anyhow now it’s a movie.

The Mysterious Tyranny of Trendy Baby Names, by Daniel Wolfe for The Washington Post, June 2024

Wow what a treat for me, a person still stuck in the Sporcle Baby Names game abyss, to come across this wonderful article about trendy baby names and the ways in which parents try but fail to be original and also about suffixes, which is where the primary generational drift takes place. Right now, one in four boys have a name that ends in “n.”

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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.

Riese has written 3225 articles for us.

5 Comments

  1. Reading the trendy baby names article, I was surprised to find that neither of my kids followed any of the modern trends. But then again I spent a lot of time combing literature and history books for the names of historical queers, so apparently, if you want a ‘unique’ baby name, name your kid after the gays.

      • me too! i’m also curious if queer parents tend to pick gender-neutral names more often than straight parents do

    • On that note I’m super curious about data on people who choose their own names! For example is someone who chooses a new legal name likely to pick one that was trendy when they were born? 🤔 We all know there are stereotypical trans names but how common are they really? 🤔

  2. I think there’s a date typo re: the baby names article (June 2024, not June 2024) (unless I’ve time-traveled)

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Apple’s AI Thriller Sunny Puts a Lesbian Mixologist and a Robot in the Most Bizarre Platonic Love Triangle on TV

Apple TV‘s new Rashida Jones-starring AI thriller Sunny asks a time-old sci-fi question: What if robots became too powerful?

The series starts with Jones’ Suzie, an American ex-pat living in Kyoto, learning her roboticist husband Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and young son Zen boarded a flight that then crashed. Masa worked for a big tech company, in the refrigerator department, or so Suzie thought. The tragic crash and the arrival of a “homebot” — a robot programmed to do domestic tasks and supposedly make its owner’s life easier — suddenly unearth Masa’s secret life as a developer of advanced robots, not refrigerators. Soon, it’s clear he was also tied up in organized crime, a whole underworld of the tech black market from robot death matches to hacks that turn homebots into sexbots opening up to an increasingly bewildered, whiskey-slugging Suzie.

In flashbacks, we see Suzie and Masa first connect, but the memories are punctured with fantasy sequences in which Suzie imagines what she wishes she would have said to Masa had she really known. Her rage is palpable from the start, and Jones gives an acidic and yet still often humorous performance throughout.

Suzie’s new homebot is the titular Sunny, a doting, question-evading, and immediately irksome presence in Suzie’s unraveling life. Around the same time Sunny is dropped on her, Suzie also meets Mixxy, a lesbian bartender played by musician annie the clumsy. A strange relationship triangle forms between the three — not necessarily of the romantic persuasion but rather with Mixxy and Sunny competing over a chance to help and fix Suzie, who has intimacy issues through the roof that they’re both desperate to crack. The series’ best scenes usually hinge on these interpersonal dynamics between the dysfunctional trio. Since Sunny is programmed to help Suzie, she’s suspicious of Mixxy. It telegraphs as jealousy.

Suzie is a certified grief monster, often lashing out and inoculating herself against criticism via that grief. She’s a deeply unlikeable character with a wicked wardrobe, a combination I love. There’s plenty of evidence pointing toward Suzie being a miserable bitch long before she lost Masa and Zen. She moved to Japan seemingly with just a cringe American fascination with the culture and then never learned the language, blaming her dyslexia, but it’s clear she never even attempted a real effort, even after having a half-Japanese son and remaining in Kyoto. Her mother-in-law Noriko Sakamoto (Judy Ongg) is a bitch (complimentary), too, and Sunny leans into the idea of them both as imperfect “victims,” while also complicating Masa as the series unfolds. Suzie often doesn’t understand or think about the specifics of Mixxy’s life as a working class bartender. Here’s Suzie with her perfectly curated wardrobe of boxy-fit subtly designer clothes and platform boots and her home that looks straight out of Architectural Digest. Maybe she didn’t know the truth of Masa’s work, but she benefited from it, and on a certain level, did she even want to know about it?

In the best AI sci-fi, when robots become too powerful, it’s because they’re a reflection of the power-hungry humans who created them. As such, it’s not the homebots in Sunny who are the villains but rather ImaTech, their makers, and even the people who think they’re doing good, helping humanity. But when artificial intelligence is created in the ultra violent context of capitalism, it will likely have the propensity to become violent, too, to be weaponized.

Sunny raises questions that, again, have been raised by the genre many times over, but it does so in ways that feel organic and deeply embedded within the actual plot of the show. If a robot is programmed to fulfill the household duties of a domestic partner, can it be capable of love? Or, rather, can it trick the mind into thinking it is loved by this thing that is, at the end of the day, just a program? Even Suzie, ultimate robot skeptic, finds herself slipping into regarding Sunny as a person.

Too often though, Sunny cuts away from its most probing tensions and questions about artificial intelligence in favor of yakuza crime-thriller machinations. Perhaps there’s only so critical and damning of AI a series can be when it airs on Apple TV, given Apple’s recent proliferation of AI tools and services, including, alarmingly, actual home robots not unlike the ones depicted in Sunny. As entertaining as the series often is, it’s difficult not to think of these contextual underpinnings. Positioning the yakuza as the central villains feels like a way to pull focus away from the in-universe corporation developing ultra-powerful robots unchecked which, in a way, feels like pulling focus from the series’ Apple connections altogether. It’s a shame, because Sunny really is at its best when delving into the mess of interpersonal drama and tech dystopia in tandem with each other. When Suzie encounters a tech-based approach to grief therapy, she’s appalled, only to eventually lean on Sunny to help her work through grief. Sunny grapples with the idea that artificial intelligence has become so pervasive that it’s difficult to avoid (Google anything lately?). But unlike great works in the what if robots became too powerful? canon (I’m thinking of The Matrix in particular), Sunny feels less like a warning of the dangers of AI and more like another effort to normalize it. As a grief drama and character study, it’s thrilling. As a tech dystopia, it’s murky.

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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 870 articles for us.

2 Comments

  1. I was hesitant to watch the series, but after reading your review, my doubts were almost disappeared :)
    Thank you for your review. I will definitely watch it.

  2. Not sure how many you watched but I enjoyed the first two, despite my mom somehow starting us off with episode 2. I love the description of Suzie.

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My Friend Expects Me To Hate Their Ex. I Just Can’t Do It.

Does the entire friend group really need to ostracize the cheater after a breakup?

Q:

Hey all. Sooooooo, my friend group is in a major crisis. My friend "Marilyn" (they/them) and their partner "Charlie" (she/her) recently broke up because Charlie cheated on Marilyn. They had been dating for many years, I’ve never known them apart, only as a couple, all the way back to when we all became friends. But it has become sooo very obvious to all of us that the relationship was not working anymore and they were both unhappy. Marilyn wanted Charlie to propose and Charlie was dragging her heels. Marilyn seemed very bossy and actually low key controlling of Charlie sometimes. Not to say Marilyn is a bad person!! They’re a sweet as fuck friend, s...

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‘Sisi and I’ Is a Psychosexual Period Romance About Power, Control, and Lesbian Longing

In the 19th century, women had few options. Most were limited to marriage, the convent, or death. But money and status buys options and for Hungarian countess Irma Sztáray, that means she can be a handmaiden for Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Being an empress allows Elisabeth, nicknamed Sisi, more options too. She can hide away with her handmaidens in Greece far away from her oaf of a husband. But Frauke Finsterwalder’s complex and comic film Sisi and I about the relationship between Irma and Sisi posits that these additional options are still limited. No amount money, no amount of titles, mean total escape. When the film begins, 42-year-old Irma is being handed over to Sisi by Irma’s frustrated and violent mother. She is passed from one domineering woman to another, the hazing of Irma immediate. She’s asked — nay, demanded — to run sprints, then hurdles, then pull-ups all in her heavy dress. Sisi laughs at Irma’s struggle. And yet, in the days to come, Irma can’t help but feel drawn to Sisi’s confused desires. Sisi plays her handmaidens against each other, oscillating between intimacy and repulsion with each of them, switching favorites on a whim. While Sisi would be considered by many queer women at the time to be the luckiest person in the world, it’s clear the expectations of her title and marriage weigh on her even from afar. Her fixation on food and weight — for herself and her handmaidens — at first appears to be regressive humor from the filmmakers, while quickly revealing itself to be a sharp portrayal of disordered eating by someone desperate for any semblance of control. The relationship between Sisi and Irma falls somewhere between abuse and love. The erratic behavior of Sisi is clearly a response to her own circumstances, and yet understanding motive doesn’t make experiencing the treatment any easier for the increasingly love-stricken Irma. Often queer media with this sort of complex relationship dynamic is focused on teenagers — either two teenagers or one teenager with an adult. It’s fascinating to see this configuration play out within a different power imbalance. These are two very wealthy white women in their forties who nevertheless have a large gap in status. I’ve recently bemoaned the amount of period pieces that are imitating Marie Antoinette with their modern soundtracks. Sisi and I is proof that anything can still be done if done well. With songs like “Waiting” by Alice Boman and “Angel” by Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, the film gives its complicated central relationship the immediacy of modernity. It also simply uses its soundtrack with an immense effectiveness beyond any thematic read of the choice. This is a well-written, well-constructed riff on history that would be worth a watch for anyone interested in stories about complicated queer women in period dress. But what — or, rather, who — elevates it to a must-watch is Sandra Hüller’s performance as Irma. The whole cast is great with Susanne Wolff another standout as Sisi — it’s just that Hüller is quickly establishing herself as an actor unlike any other. This was obvious in 2016 with Toni Erdmann and was solidified last year with her performances in The Zone of Interest and Anatomy of a Fall. It’s not only her complex portrayal of human emotion — she’s also so funny! Sisi and I is often quite bleak, and yet Hüller finds humor throughout. I’d watch her do anything and, luckily, in this film she has plenty of worthy material to play with. Throughout much of the film, Irma is happy. She’s happy, because she’s finally been granted the freedom to be gay. It’s a very toxic, borderline abusive sort of gayness, but it feels like home all the same. This may be a semi-true period piece about a countess and an empress, but that core feeling is relatable to many. A lot of us forgave misguided relationships in our early queer years, because we were so excited to be out. Like all good period pieces, Sisi and I captures a human truth still relevant to today. In a world that hates us, we often take our frustrations out on each other.
Sisi and I is now playing in theatres
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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 Knock LA. 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 564 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. Hooooooooooooo boy do I have a morbid curiosity as to what the Hungarian press is saying about queer tinged Sisi

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Trans People Deserve Better Than “Unicorns” and “National Anthem”

This essay was originally published as part of our 2023 TIFF coverage. It is being republished to coincide with the release of National Anthem


We are in an abundant era of trans cinema, but you wouldn’t know it based on the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t an attempt at inclusion. Three documentaries — I Am Sirat, Summer Qamp, and Orlando, My Political Biography — present tender portraits of a wide cross-section of trans people. They’re well done, even if they share a simplicity that aims to educate a cis audience rather than connect with a trans one.

The narrative films are worse. The best, if it counts, is Solo, a powerful drama set in the world of drag that has zero trans characters and no actual drag artists. The worst is Summer of Ecstasy, a movie about a nonbinary investment banker (played by a cis actor) that includes an array of misguided tropes. The most disappointing is Close to You, Elliot Page’s return to cinema, a take on the trans person reconnecting with their family story that’s a blunt mix of exposition and melodrama. And then there’s Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins, a film I was spared from watching because I didn’t realize it had a trans character — it’s supposedly very bad and could’ve been even worse.

But the most revealing trans films of the festival are Unicorns and National Anthem — two films that share strengths and weaknesses. Both films are beautifully shot, but they use these images to tell a story we’ve seen before: A cis man meets a transfeminine person who forces him to confront his presumptions. This storyline came to prominence on-screen in the early 90s with The Crying Game and M. Butterfly. Since then, it has continued to dominate transfeminine representation. Sometimes it’s been done well (Pose, Joyland) and sometimes it’s been done very, very poorly (Anything, Port Authority).

While neither film at TIFF is a disaster, their middling takes on this tired story reveal its limits. If the most interesting thing about a protagonist is that he’s fucking a trans woman, why not just make a movie about the trans woman? I promise the most interesting thing about her isn’t that she’s fucking some guy.

***
Unicorns, directed by Sally El Hosaini and James Krishna Floyd, at least grants its transfeminine character her own storyline and inner life. But first it introduces us to Luke, a white single dad who works as a mechanic. One night he stumbles upon a queer South Asian nightclub and immediately falls for sexy drag queen Aysha. He doesn’t realize she’s not a cis woman until after they’ve made out. There’s a horrifying montage of him realizing she has an Adam’s Apple and soon enough he’s pulling an Ace Ventura and wiping the kiss off his tongue.

He flees to his car, and Aysha inexplicably chases him into the empty street. This is just the first of many times Aysha will put herself at risk — something that could be an interesting character detail if she wasn’t otherwise shown to be someone very concerned about her safety. She will later show up at his work and ask him to drive her to gigs. This is a necessity for the plot but makes no sense in the context of him being a cis straight man with a vaguely threatening aura. Not only is she putting herself at risk; she’s putting her entire community at risk bringing this man into her queer spaces.

To the film’s credit, she does have those queer spaces. Even though she’s still closeted with her family and presents as a boy at her retail job, she has a lot of other queer people and trans women in her life. Many cis-created films and TV shows about trans people isolate the trans character, so this portrayal of community was a welcome change. Unfortunately, it’s undermined by the film’s most traumatic turn that presents a bizarro world where transfeminine people are at risk of violence from other trans women rather than, say, the strange straight man they’ve employed.

Jason Patel as Aysha and Ben Hardy as Luke have a lovely chemistry together. The movie really works when it’s just Luke driving around Aysha as their relationship grows. There’s a version of this film that might not be revolutionary but at least allowed these two disparate individuals to connect in a way that feels grounded in some semblance of reality. There’s a version of the film that doesn’t rely on forced trauma to advance the plot.

The film has its heart in the right place, but it’s too disconnected from the lived experience of a person like Aysha. The filmmakers are fascinated by her relationship to what they deem normal — her traditional family, this straight man — and the double life they’ve created for her. It’s not even clear if Aysha is meant to be a cis male drag queen or a trans woman. Of course, these lines can be blurred, but she’s not portrayed in a way that feels grounded in a realistic complexity. Patel, who is himself a femme queer man, seems to be playing Aysha as a drag queen. The writing seems to think she’s a semi-closeted trans woman — or, worst of all, doesn’t understand there’s a difference.

I wish the filmmakers saw Aysha less through Luke’s eyes and more through the eyes of her trans best friend. She’s not exotic; she’s not a challenge; she’s just a person searching for herself.

***
National Anthem, directed by photographer Luke Gilford, presents a more positive portrayal of queer community — but has an even flatter male protagonist.

Dylan is a shy construction worker in his early twenties who spends all his time working and taking care of his little brother and alcoholic mom. He doesn’t say much but we know he’s not like other boys because his coworkers tease him for not liking when they talk about pussy.

He gets a job working on a queer ranch and immediately falls for a trans woman named Sky. We first see her wearing a flowy dress riding a horse. She gravitates to Dylan, flirting and pulling him out of his solitude. Rather than dismiss Sky as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, I’ll speak more bluntly: She’s an empty vessel of a character who exists only for Dylan’s growth and projections. Early in the film, he asks, “Why do you care about me? I’m pretty boring.” It’s a flash of self-awareness the three male writers have her quickly shut down.

Sky is played by Eve Lindley, who does everything she can to find life in her character. She’s beautiful and charming and does drugs and has group sex, and it makes sense why Dylan falls for her. But there’s no amount of acting talent that explains why Sky falls for Dylan. It’s especially frustrating to watch because Lindley previously played one of the best examples of this trope. On the underrated limited series Dispatches from Elsewhere, Lindley was a Manic Pixie Trans Girl to Jason Segel’s sad sack cis man and actually had a real character. Every story can be told… if it’s told well.

The film is at its best when it explores Dylan’s own queerness. Whether in terms of sexuality or gender or both, it seems likely that Dylan is not a cishet interloper but a queer person getting a first taste of community. This feels like the intended arc and would be far more successful if Dylan was played by a trans actor. Instead, Charlie Plummer seems lost in Dylan’s queerness. When he gets on stage to perform a number in drag, it feels awkward more than it does liberating.

Like Unicorns, the film’s climactic trauma is suffered by the transfeminine character. At least both films spare us death or rape, but it’s still uncomfortable to watch these characters suffer on behalf of someone else’s story.

Gilford based the film on his photo series centered on queer rodeo. As a queer man, it’s clear Gilford’s connection to this community is personal. I just wish he’d found a different story to tell within this setting.

Mason Alexander Park as another resident of the queer commune is given even less of a character than Lindley. If Sky exists for Dylan’s masturbation fantasies, Park’s character exists just to give Dylan pep talks. I can imagine a different movie where Park and Lindley are the ones who have a relationship and that feels far truer to what Gilford hoped to accomplish.

There are worse things than watching beautiful montages of queer people in the desert set to Angel Olsen. I just wish the movie had committed to being a trans Zabriskie Point and dropped the forced plotting.

***
On-screen and in life, there’s a false narrative that trans women are tricking men into having sex with us. Watching Aysha and Sky aggressively pursue these boring men, I realized this is an offshoot of that same narrative.

Even the cis people who don’t see us as traps are still comforted by the idea that trans women are the ones doing the chasing. They can’t fathom the Lukes of the world choosing to watch a trans dancer. They can’t fathom the Dylans seeking us out on a queer commune. They imagine we are forcing ourselves on people when they themselves are proof of the opposite. To paraphrase Mariah Carey and Regina George, “Why are you so obsessed with us?”

Whether it’s to fuck or to make movies, cis people are the ones doing the chasing. Cis people might not share their lusts publicly; cis people who make movies about us might do a bad job. But there is no shortage of cis people who want to own a piece of us — our bodies, our stories, their idea of our stories.

The good news is we’re telling our stories too. I’ll say it again: we are in an abundant era for trans cinema. There are low-key indies like Mutt, Something You Said Last Night, and Summer Solstice. There are dreamy fantasias like L’immensita, Death and Bowling, and Playland. There are documentaries pushing the boundaries of non-fiction filmmaking like Framing Agnes, Kokomo City, Queenmaker, and The Stroll. There are auteurs who have broken into arthouse film culture like Isabel Sandoval and Jane Schoenbrun. There are trans filmmakers who have created incredible short form work who will continue to amaze in that medium and probably move on to features like Tourmaline, Rain Valdez, Nava Mau, and Nyala Moon. There are so many more trans filmmakers in features, in shorts, in television who are telling our stories and telling them well. And, just like there are cis people who do share their romantic desires publicly, there have been movies made by cis directors that are great like The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future, Dos Estaciones, Bad Things, and Alice Júnior. Some cis people actually can see our humanity.

We don’t have to settle for mediocrity. We don’t have to settle for being the catalyst in someone else’s story. I want nothing less than abundance. Let’s demand it.

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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 Knock LA. 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 564 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you as always for this amazing article. I want to stress what you said, cis people do the chasing. All my trans female friends got chased aggressively shortly after transition, by strangers online, and to an even higher degree, by cis men they knew, like old school friends. Everybody seemed to jump on them.These chasers were not shy blossoms. I wasn’t aware of this phenomenon before, and it was pretty astounding. And aldo immediately explaining why trans women need protection and shelters.
    In the olden days, trans gro