Rachel Scanlon Is Here To Fulfill Your Butch ‘Gay Fantasy’

Rachel Scanlon Gay Fantasy feature image photo by Eliot Xavier

Rachel Scanlon, known also by the nickname Ray, is a comedian, writer, and the co-host of the internationally touring podcast Two Dykes and a Mic with fellow comedian McKenzie Goodwin. It’s easy to be envious of Scanlon’s comedy career. She has filmed sets for Don’t Tell Comedy, Just For Laughs, Comedy Central, and Netflix Is a Joke, all while co-hosting a wildly successful podcast. And now she’s released her second comedy special Gay Fantasy.

In a way, the special itself is a gay fantasy. It’s a display of queer joy and celebration of self without any caveats or discourse or apologies. The special is a reflection of what Scanlon has been able to accomplish in her 10 years doing comedy, which is to find humor in both the struggles and triumphs of the queer community. Her material is rooted in personal experiences — her upbringing, her identity, her relationships — but her jokes are also widely relatable. She’s not interested in spending an hour convincing us how she’s different from us or has a better opinion on something than we do. No, she’s much more interested in using that hard-earned stage time to remind us that despite our many differences, we all have something truly special in common: being gay.

Scanlon enters the stage in an outfit plucked straight from one of those “Soft Butch Starter Pack” memes that were super popular a few years ago.​​ On her left hand, she has a friendship bracelet stacked on a gold Casio watch but keeps it simpler on her right hand with a single pinky ring. She knows what she’s doing. She proudly wears a Gucci belt around the waist of purple cargo pants and a carabiner full of keys sits on her hip, which she later jingles as part of her “lesbian mating call.” There’s not a single sleeve in sight, as God intended. She’s dressed like the lesbian that will steal your girl at an invite-only Pride event — and will have you believing she can and will do just that — until she reveals she has a girlfriend at the 50-minute mark in what can only be described as a menacing display of confidence. It’s the kind of charm you expect and want from a butch lesbian. She remains flirtatious throughout her set but not because she’s flirting with us, because we want her to be flirting with us.

It’s this effortless flirtation and familiarity that allowed me to really tune out the rest of the world around me and just be entertained for an hour. The world is burning around us, literally and figuratively, and each day that I am conscious, I find new ways as to why people hate me and therefore, why I should hate myself. As queer and trans people, we always have to be on. We have to know what bills are being passed and which places are safe to exist in and who of our friends or loved ones have betrayed us. It’s exhausting. When I turned on Gay Fantasy, I got an hour of my time back from the world.

Make no mistake: Scanlon’s omission of big sweeping political statements and hot takes does not devalue the representation, nor does it make the special any less smart. What it does is, quite literally, provide us with a gay fantasy where we can focus on only the fun of being queer and not be constantly reminded of the threats against us. It’s not to say Scanlon is incapable of having these conversations or holding these values as a queer person with influence. Instead, it’s to remind us there are alternatives to trauma porn and doom scrolling and existentialism,  and it’s okay to indulge in them. In fact, we should.

The closest we get to anything resembling discourse in this special is Scanlon’s discussion of her fat family back home in Minnesota. She doesn’t punch down at her family or the families of midwesterners in her audience. She’s not there to make jokes at others’ expense, but she explains that this isn’t always clear at her shows in Los Angeles where folks are often offended on behalf of her family. “There’s nothing wrong with being fat,” she says to a rapturous crowd, “fatness is beautiful and strong and powerful and if you have a problem with that, that’s a reflection on you.” And then she moves on to more fat jokes. It’s not a source of pain or shame or trauma for her; she feels a great pride and joy about it, and that’s reflected in the comedy.

Even when Scanlon moves on to joke about her religious upbringing, it’s not to discuss how traumatic or challenging it was like most of us queers know it can be. We pretty much know how the story goes when a queer person is raised in a religious home or area, and while it’s important in dismantling homophobic and abusive systems, it’s not the story that Scanlon has to tell. She instead confesses that growing up, she wanted to be Jesus on account of the androgyny and attention from women. She even roleplays being a priest and handing out wafers during communion and gets herself excited thinking about the power that comes with granting forgiveness. She somehow found the queer joy in Christianity, which is apparently gender envy and domming.

My favorite moment in the special, and perhaps selfishly so, is when Scanlon makes observations about the coming out boom during the pandemic. I came out as queer far before the world shut down, but it was during those quarantine days that I came out as trans, quite literally through TikTok. I’ve heard many different takes on the influx of queer folks coming out during this time, and many of them are critical and a little self righteous. Not for Scanlon, though. “I think the definition of what it means to be queer has changed and expanded and I think it’s the best,” she says, “I think it’s a beautiful time because we now get to be exactly who we are.”

Often, I am made to feel a little less cool or less queer or trans because of when and how I figured it out for myself. There’s an instinct, I think, for older and cooler queer and trans folks to position themselves away from my graduating class, so to speak. And while Scanlon goes on to share how she’s been out since the Bush administration, it’s not to position herself as better than anyone, it’s simply to contextualize her own experience. It’s a great skill for a comic to draw comparison without taking a side, and one Scanlon possesses well.

Comedy is a fantastic way to distract from, cope with, or draw attention to harsh realities or big truths, and it has been that way since the dawn of time. It’s especially true now. Hannah Gadsby’s Gender Agenda was created in response to Netflix platforming transphobia, Jerrod Carmichael came out to a live audience in Rothaniel, and Wanda Sykes recorded her latest special I’m An Entertainer after living through a global pandemic and years of political unrest as a Black, queer parent. But comedy is just as effective in celebrating and uplifting joy as it is in making some kind of statement about the world we live in. That’s exactly what Scanlon accomplishes with Gay Fantasy. After watching it, you’re not left to make a conclusion about your life or the world around you. Instead, you step away from Gay Fantasy with a renewed sense of self and silliness.

More than anything, you’ll be kicking your feet and twirling your hair saying to yourself “Man, I love butches.”

Gay Fantasy is now streaming on Prime Video, Roku, Google TV, and Apple TV+

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Motti (they/he) is a New York born and raised sorority girl turned writer, comedian, and content creator (whatever that means these days). Motti has been featured on We're Having Gay Sex Live, The Lesbian Agenda Show, Reductress Haha Wow! Live, the GayJoy Digest, and even played the role of "Real Life Lesbian" on Billy on the Street. In 2022, they wrote about how clit sucker toys are a scam, sweet gay revenge, chasing their dreams, and getting run over by a pick up truck in their now-abandoned newsletter Motti is An Attention Whore. Motti has a Masters in Public Administration and Local Government Management, you'd never know it from the shit they post online (see previous sentence), but occasionally he'll surprise you with his knowledge of civic engagement and electoral processes. They live in Brooklyn with their tuxedo cat, Bo, and their 20 houseplants.

Motti has written 23 articles for us.

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