A Look Back At How Gay 2018 Was
By J Matthew Cobb
Love it or loathe it, but 2018 will go down in history for definitely being unforgettable. A year stacked with breakthroughs and setbacks, plus plenty of resilience, most of us survived it and learned ways to thrive in it. As the New Year rears its head and the countless resolutions begin to hopefully materialize, we pause and reflect on some of the memorable highlights that made 2018.
Let the Winter Gaymes Begin
Unlike any other Olympiad, the XXIII Winter Games proved to be a watershed in queer history for the number of LGBTQ athletes who participated. And so many of them made us proud for winning medals in their respected fields. We followed snowboarder Gus Kenworthy and ice skater Adam Rippon probably the most, more than any other athletes. With the help of their infectious bromance and being so easy on the eyes, the pair dominated news headlines and our social feeds like they were Kardashians. Kenworthy gave his boo a kiss on nationwide TV; Rippon turned down a visit with Vice President Mike Pence due to conflicting views. And even after the games ended, the two remained culturally relevant. Rippon – retiring from competitive skating for good – being dubbed “America’s sweetheart” and going on to win the mirrorball trophy on Dancing With the Stars, even hosting the juniors version of that show; Kenworthy recently showed up as a guest judge on one of his fav programs, of course, Drag Race.
Taste the Rainbow Wave
With the Trump administration chopping away bits of Obama’s legacy (even failing to acknowledge Pride month and rolling out a slew of anti-LGBTQ policies), it mattered the most that Americans rushed to the ballot box in November to make a powerful statement. And that happened. Across the country, the Blue Wave was realized, allowing progressive Democrats – a coalition of diversity that included younger, browner candidates – to take back the House from the tightly-controlled GOP. That also included queer people. In Arizona, winning a seat once occupied by the outgoing Rep. Jeff Flake, Krysten Sinema, who identifies as bisexual, defeated in a surprise victory over her Republican challenger, Rep. Martha McSally. Colorado voters elected Jared Polis as governor, becoming the nation’s first openly gay governor. In Vermont, Christine Hallquist became the first transgender person to win a major party’s nomination for governor, following in the footsteps of Danica Roem in Virginia, who in 2017 became the first openly trans person elected as a state legislator. In deep red Texas, fourteen of the 35 LGBTQ candidates running for public office during the midterms came out victorious. In all, over 400 LGBTQ persons ran on the midterm ballots in 2018. This January, a new historical high of 134 openly LGBTQ state house members will take office, ushering in a new precedent for the future of politics.
Funny political moment: When Gus Kenworthy put out a thirsty trap tweet about elected Alabama representative Neil Rafferty, an openly gay former Marine who won the seat once occupied by former state rep Patricia Todd, the state’s first gay legislator. “I have another seat for him,” Kenworthy wrote.
Strike a ‘Pose’
Ryan Murphy kicked out ‘Pose’, a glorious portrait of ‘80’s urban ball scene and following the Houses of Abundance and Evangelista, left us all voguing for more. Although the FX series struggled at first to gain a satisfying rack of ratings, word eventually got around and it quickly became a critics’ fav. Thank the rainbow angels above, a second season was greenlit.
The Perfect Exit Strategy
The inescapable meme of the year award goes to Miss Vanjie. Everywhere you turned, you heard it: “Miss Vanjie, Miss Vanjie, Miss Vaaanjiie.” Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, who was eliminated first on season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, went down in herstory for pulling off the most memorable exit line and catchphrase. It went viral, became a frequently used meme and gif, even showing up plentifully in the chat on the mobile app trivia show HQ.
Queer Eye of the Tiger
The world simply couldn’t get enough of the reboot of Queer Eye on Netflix. The series, which follows the Fab 5 (Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk), took a different turn from its predecessor as it took on stories in the Deep South, providing glorious cultural intersections while upholding the sweetness and charm of the original run. Two seasons dropped on us and left us binge-watching and shedding many a tear. It also nabbed four Emmy nominations, winning three of the four including Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program.
Lights, Camera, More Action
What a year it was for LGBTQ cinema! Love, Simon blessed us with the first gay teen rom-com fully backed by a mainstream studio. Call Me By Your Name, a coming-of-age romantic drama won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and also netted three other nominations. Gay conversion stories like Boy Erased and The Miseducation of Cameron Post were also told on the big screen, raising awareness on this dangerous practice that’s still legal in a number of states.
Goodbye, Tumblr. Facebook, You’re Next
If we needed to know what Doomsday might actually look like, just turn your eyes to the new era of Tumblr. When the popular social networking website announced it was removing all adult content from its platform, the world stood still, shattering the scroll action of many naughty nights for the masses. Facebook, already plagued with enough Zuckerberg drama, did a similar dirty deed by announcing its newly-updated Community Standards rulebook, which included the banning of select sexual convo in its public space. In essence, the Book of Faces is putting a halt to content that “facilitates, encourages or coordinates sexual encounters between adults” and bars “sexually explicit language that may lead to the solicitation.” So that means no mention of being “top, bottom or vers.” You can’t say “send nudes.” Now you can do it in the chat on Messenger, but not on status. Of course, no one is happy with the new rollout, especially since any sign of disobeying the new law comes with a strike on your account and being placed temporarily in Facebook jail. Ehh, time for Facebook to get hit with the five G’s: “Good God get a grip girl.”
The Race War Within the Rainbow
With social justice movements like Black Lives Matter urging us all to continue much-needed conversations about race and conversation still brewing about updating the gay flag, we fully discovered the underbelly of racism in our own backyard. At the top of the year, Burkhart’s, a popular Atlanta gay bar, closed its doors due to racist comments from its owners. And the Monster, a NYC West Village gay bar, got into major trouble during the week of DragCon when its bar manager disapproved of an event flyer that he said promoted “black night” and would be “bad for business.” In both instances, social media erupted and the drag queens protested. Monster was able to survive the backlash after several of its staff members quit and its owner ordered that employees undergo racial sensitive training. Local NYC drag queen Honey Davenport resigned on the spot, telling Paper magazine that “racism is a cancer in the LGBTQ community” and the idea of returning to the bar was out of the question unless the “cancer is eliminated…only if it’s 100% gone.”
How can we forget those two weekends when Beyonce ushered in a Beymergency to her Beyhive with her two-hour long sets at Coachella. The power-packed event, loaded with agile dancers, swag-heavy marching band, superstar guest appearances (Jay-Z, Solange, J Balvin) and a surprise reunion with Destiny’s Child, left us all gagging. We all saw a masterclass of high-level performance, artistry and epic entertainment. And the superstar, an LGBTQ ally, went down in history for becoming the first black woman to headline the famed music festival and for pulling off a performance that became the most-viewed live streaming performance on its YouTube channel.
A Star Is Reborn
Lady Gaga made her film debut in the Bradley Cooper-directed remake of A Star is Born, and left us all stunned. Not only does the film soundtrack possess some of the best songs of her career (“Shallow,” “Always Remember Us This Way,” “I’ll Never Long Again”), but her raw performance as Ally left us all mesmerized, pointing at the possibility of more theatric roles to come. The film, which grossed over $100 million worldwide at the box office and remains a huge Oscar contender, even tossed a bone to her devout fanbase of gay Monsters with a storyline featuring drag bar scenes and memorable scenes including Drag Race alums Shangela and Willam Belli.
Netflix, Our Steady Late Night Companion
In 2018, the hashtag #NetflixAndChill got a major gay upgrade with the arrivals of Dumplin’, a Dolly Parton-loving film starring Friends icon Jennifer Aniston and Drag Race personality Ginger Minj, a docu-series following the life of Drag Race diva Alyssa Edwards (Dancing Queen) and an ambiguously gay for-adults-only cartoon powered up with Powerpuff Girls glitter (Super Drags) starring the voices of Shangela, Trixie Mattel, Willam Belli and Ginger Minj.
Thank U, Ariana Grande
We all got our life when Queen Ari dropped the music video to “Thank U, Next,” a promo single unrelated to her chart-topping 2018 album Sweetener. Although the lyrics deal with her publicized breakup with SNL star Pete Davidson, the music video itself felt like a love letter to the gays. Out.com wrote that the music video was “gay rights,” going on to add that it might be the “gay event of the year…maybe the century.” Along with celebrating how each scene pays homage to Mean Girls and rom-com classics, much of the media buzz surrounded the casting (Kris Jenner playing Regina George’s mom) and Grande talking about her ex’s eggplant. And the media went wild over some of the vid’s biggest mysteries. “I hear she’s a lesbian now and dating some chick called Aubrey,” Troye Sivan says during his brief appearance.
Jaden Smith, LGBTQ Troll of the Year?
We still don’t know how true this is, or if Will Smith’s son Jaden is trying to troll us. But an onstage outburst from the teen star went viral after announcing he had a boyfriend. And that person was named: the highly controversial bisexual rapper Tyler, the Creator. Later on, pop superstar Justin Bieber got in all the hubbub, joking that he was Jaden’s boo. “Thought I was your boyfriend,” Bieber wrote on Instagram. Smith, who rapped on Beiber’s 2010 hit “Never Say Never,” later responded: “You know that you are.” Wow, these are definitely strange times we are living in.
2018 was totally a great year in queer music: Australian twink Troye Sivan transforms into a crossover pop star after releasing his refreshing debut album Bloom; Janelle Monae, who came out as queer, dropped a critically-acclaimed album (Dirty Computer), continues to be compared with Prince and has snagged several Grammy nods. And the list goes on and on. But Cardi B, who you may not know is bisexual, is the boss ass bitch we’ve been waiting our whole life for. Atop the Grammy nominations for her debut album and for putting out contagious bops all year round with tracks like “Bodak Yellow,” “I Like It” and “Money,” she dropped a music video for “Money” in December that cemented her in queen status. The lewks in that video alone were paramount. Watch out Queen Nicki; she’s comin’ for ya throne…again. Hopefully no more physical altercations from these two in the New Year.
We Got You, Babes!
Among the 2018 honorees at the Kennedy Center Honors, which once again did not include an appearance from Trump, was Cher and Reba McEntyre, two icons of music that gays absolutely live for. Brooks & Dunn, Lady Antebellum and Kelly Clarkson serenaded the country legend with “Why Haven’t I Heard from You” and “Fancy” while Lambert and Cyndi Lauper turned back time on moving performances of “I Got You, Babe,” “If I Could Turn Back Time” and “Believe.” The latter, packaged in ballad form and performed by Lambert, totally mesmerized the room, leaving Cher to wipe away tears. It deserved to be released as a single. Like seriously.
Out of the Box
A good number of actors, athletes and popular professionals shared their coming out experiences with the world this year. On the short list were British actor/model Zander Hodgson, Glee’s Kevin McHale, Grey’s Anatomy star Jake Borelli, swimmer Abrahm DeVine and pro golfers Tadd Fujikawa and Mel Reid, who all came out as gay. Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie announced earlier in the year that he identified as pansexual.