“Intersex stories have long been left out of mainstream conversation. The new documentary ‘Every Body’ is an important step toward correcting that glaring omission, showcasing three advocates who are boldly speaking out about the continuing medical mistreatment of intersex bodies. In this interview, participant River Gallo talks about the film’s historic theatrical release, the need for allyship, and the lifesaving power of sharing stories.” - Samantha Allen, senior culture editor for Them
For decades, film and television presented a relatively narrow view of LGBTQ+ life. While shows like Will & Grace and movies like Brokeback Mountain set important precedents and made cultural ripples, we have waited a long time for our community to be more fully represented. Case in point: it took all the way until 2022’s Tom Swift for a network TV show to have a Black gay lead. But that slow pace of change has only made the last year of advances even more impressive.
Emboldened by the fight for queer and transgender rights, a new cohort of showrunners, writers, and directors are refusing to play it safe, presenting rawer, realer, and more honest stories about LGBTQ+ life. Whether in the form of documentaries like the intersex-themed feature Every Body or reality shows like The Ultimatum, we’re seeing more of ourselves on-screen than ever before. In this reading list, Them culture editor Samantha Allen looks at some of the most exciting new work on the cutting edge of representation.
SA: To me, Jasmin Savoy Brown feels like the future of LGBTQ+ representation in Hollywood. The Yellowjackets and Scream star is a magnetic screen presence, choosing roles where the full force of her queerness can be on full and unapologetic display. In this cover story for Them’s inaugural Queer on TV package, Brown opens up about finding new love, exploring her astrological chart, and so much more. Plus, it’s got stunning original photography.
SA: This roundtable discussion between three emerging LGBTQ+ TV writers is riveting reading, especially in light of the ongoing Hollywood strikes. Shakina, Zackery Alexzander Stephens, and Michelle Badillo share their approach to well-worn queer tropes and their vision for a more liberatory creative future.
SA: Andrew Ahn’s Fire Island was quietly one of the most moving films of 2022. The Jane Austen retelling not only marked an important step forward for Asian LGBTQ+ representation, it offered an incisive and often hilarious class-based analysis of a popular gay vacation getaway. In this award-winning essay, Them contributor Naveen Kumar puts the film in conversation with his own complicated relationship to Fire Island.
SA: In 2023, trans filmmakers are finally getting the chance to explore sex work, a formative (and often financially necessary) form of labor for many in the community. Producer D. Smith’s award-winning documentary Kokomo City is one of the most revealing looks yet at trans life in the big city, featuring interviews with four Black trans women working in Atlanta and New York. In this conversation, Smith shares how she found her effortlessly charismatic subjects.
SA: Not long ago, you would have been able to count the number of transgender Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestants on one hand. Now, there have been enough to fill out an entire cast. That’s exactly what former Them editor Mathew Rodriguez did in this playful piece imagining an all-trans season of All Stars in which Carmen Carrera could go wig-to-wig with Gottmik. I’m just grateful the most popular LGBTQ+ reality competition of all time is no longer short-changing the T.
SA: Horror has long been fertile ground for LGBTQ+ themes. But in recent years, the genre has grown ever queerer at a rapid pace, with so many exciting releases that some are bound to fall through the cracks. The new Danish film Attachment, released on streaming earlier this year, is proof of how much horror can accomplish. The clever script melds Jewish mysticism with the intensity of new lesbian love, producing an unforgettable watch.
SA: I’m so glad we’ve finally arrived at the era of queer mess. Netflix’s reality show The Ultimatum: Queer Love introduced us to a complex cast of queer women and nonbinary people who probably never should have been dating each other in the first place. It’s no surprise it took the internet by storm. In this playful postmortem, Them’s resident astrologer Jennifer Culp engages in the important queer tradition of analyzing each couple’s birth charts. I’m not spoiling anything by saying there are plenty of red flags here.
SA: In this interview, comedian Hannah Gadsby cracks plenty of jokes in between profound observations on autism and stardom. (“Marriage is just paperwork and jewelry,” they hilariously observe at one point.) The Emmy-winning Nanette comedian remains a vital voice not just in LGBTQ+ comedy, but in the performing arts space writ large.
SA: Heartstopper broke the streaming charts with its story of two grammar school boys in love. But in addition to providing breakout roles for Kit Connor and Joe Locke, the heartwarming YA show introduced audiences to a phenomenon from Manchester in the form of actress Yasmin Finney. In this cover story, Finney opens up about modeling, the influence of Paris Is Burning, and her rise to fame.
Samantha Allen is the senior culture editor for Them, Condé Nast’s LGBTQ+ publication. She is the author of Patricia Wants to Cuddle and the Lambda Literary Award finalist Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States. In 2018, she won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism Article. Her writing has been published by The New York Times, Rolling Stone, CNN and more.