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Queer pop goddesses are dominating (and I’m loving it)

Author:
kesha

By Christiana Paradis

There are a fair amount of music snobs in the world and while I love many of them, I find myself constantly having to defend the amount of female talent that exists in current pop music. “Autotune? Ew.” “It’s just teeny bopper crap.” “Are there any real instruments in that?” “Why don’t you listen to real music?” First, I do listen to real music, but that’s beside the point.

We are living in a time where queer (and out) female pop artists have been stunning us with their impressive vocals for multiple years, but many are struggling to receive recognition for their talents. For those of you naysayers out there I have compiled a list of the top five queer and out female pop icons, so that you don’t have to spend even one minute looking (because that’s literally all it would take) for proof that we have some queer goddesses roaming around the world of pop. So, stop what you’re doing and read, watch and listen. (List is in no particular order).

  • Lady Gaga: Since her first single release Lady Gaga has dominated current pop music. Though it took a lot of weird outfits to get much of the media to notice her, true monsters knew she was legit from the start. When she arrived on the music scene in 2009 she was openly out as bisexual. In the last two years Lady Gaga has rarely performed anywhere that she hasn’t received critical acclaim, but just in case you still need proof, check out Born This Way being performed acapella. Yeah acapella.
  • Halsey: Newer to the pop scene, Halsey’s start came from… YouTube. Though many of us have been there since the beginning or jumped on the bandwagon when Badlands released, a lot of people are most familiar with her song Castle which was used in the trailer for Snow White and The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Halsey, born Ashley Grangipane has been openly bisexual for much of her career and recently released her newest album hopeless fountain kingdom. Need proof her voice is flawless? Check out this stripped down version of the song Eyes Closed from her new album. Additionally, you can find plenty of queer friendly songs on her new album including Bad at Love and Strangers, which was recorded with Lauren Jauregui, also a bisexual pop star.
  • Kesha: Constantly lumped into the pop genre and reduced to “party music” at best, Kesha has long been underrated as an artist. Not to mention the ongoing legal battle with Sony Music after asking to be released from working with the producer who she has consistently claimed sexually and emotionally abused her. Despite many pop stars, including Kelly Clarkson, coming to Kesha’s defence it took several years for these court proceedings to come to an end with Sony finally beginning to nudge Dr. Luke out this past April. Throughout these series of events Kesha remained strong, she played at Pittsburgh’s Pride Festival as an out bisexual artist in 2016 and just released an anthem that has resonated with sexual assault survivors across the world in less than 24 hours. This is the Kesha we have seen all along and the one we’re glad the rest of the world is seeing now for the true artist that she is.
  • Miley Cyrus: Whether you agree with her tongue wagging or not, one thing is for sure you never quite know what Miley Cyrus may say or do next, but you can be assured she really doesn’t give a crap about what you think. Since her escape from Disney, she has continued to do what she wants and that has included being an out pansexual pop star that is not letting the rest of the world define her. Often seen as just another Disney star gone rogue, she has continually been reinventing herself over the past several years. She received a ton of positive feedback from her appearance on A Very Murray Christmas, and for her folk cover of Jolene. Perhaps it’s time we move on from her performances years ago and start giving Miley a real listen.
  • Sia: Though she first caught the attention of many during her performance at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, Sia has been stunning audiences for years. Breathe Me released in 2004 has been used in countless movie soundtracks not to mention the endless slew of songwriting credits she has earned throughout the years. Often getting attention for her ability to remain predominately unseen through various wigs, costumes, etc. Sia has long been a powerful musical force. Self-identifying as queer, Sia has being open about her struggles with alcohol and drug addiction and has released several songs that chronicle these addictions. With one of the most unique and haunting voices in music today, just close your eyes and let her voice touch your soul.

Bureaucracy and Bi-exclusion in the LGBT+ Community

Author:
The_bisexual_pride_flag_(3673713584)

By Pip Williams

Content note: biphobia, mentions of rape, stalking, and intimate partner violence

A tweet by bisexual women’s magazine Biscuit came to my attention earlier today, sharing parts of an email exchange between editor Libby, and organiser Patrick of London LGBT Pride.

Libby’s email politely points out Pride’s glaring omission; a bisexual marching group, and goes on to ask for the opportunity to register for this opportunity to be reopened. The part of Patrick’s response essentially dismisses Libby’s “demands”, suggesting that they will “tire [the] long-suffering Parade volunteers.”

Following my discovery of this tweet, I, and in turn many of my LGBT+ friends, engaged with London LGBT Pride’s Twitter account over the course of several hours.

Our exchange was, for the most part, unproductive. London LGBT Pride insisted that the responsibility for this oversight lies with the bisexual groups who failed to register before the event’s deadline, and refused to acknowledge that an exception ought to be made to allow at least one bisexual group to register, maintaining that this would constitute “special treatment”.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but first I’d like to address London LGBT Pride’s reliance on the excuse of bureaucracy to excuse their bi-exclusion. When the system is put in place by you, there’s no excuse for not modifying it when it’s shown to be ineffective or exclusionary.

It’s not unreasonable for LGBT Pride attendees to expect to see all groups mentioned in the acronym represented. An event that markets itself as LGBT pride is falsely advertising if it fails to deliver on this representation – L, G, B, and T. Something tells me that were only bisexual groups to have registered, the first-come-first-served policy might have been modified somewhat.

In a situation like this, where there is a complete absence of applications from a specific group, organisers would do well to consider the circumstances in which this has occurred. Applications to march at pride are not happening in a vacuum, and there are plenty of reasons why bisexuals might feel less than welcome.

Bisexual people, and particularly those in relationships read as heterosexual, are often regarded with suspicion on entry to explicitly queer spaces. This suspicion – which can often progress to outright hostility – is a major barrier to bisexual inclusion in community events. The validity of bisexual queerness is determined in relationship to a bisexual’s current partner. If they are in a relationship that does not appear visibly queer, they are immediately excluded.

http://moosopp.tumblr.com/post/119651915767/a-little-bi-furious-warglepuff-m4ge

If entering into a “heterosexual” partnership truly absolved bisexual people of all the disadvantages and marginalisation of a queer identity, the vitriol might be easier to understand. Alas, this is not the case. A 2010 study revealed that 61.1% of bisexual women, for example, have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. 89.5% of this violence was conducted by male partners. This means that 54.7% of bisexual women in the study had experienced violence at the hands of a male partner, compared to 35.0% of straight women.

It’s true that the marginalisation bisexual people face differs from that experienced by other members of the LGBT+ community, but that doesn’t make it any less real or important. The experiences of gay men and lesbians are not the benchmark by which the validity of LGBT+ experiences should be measured, and should not determine whether or not we are welcome within the community. After all, there’s a B in the acronym for a reason.

This lack of inclusion on a community level is probably a major factor in why no bisexual groups applied to march at London LGBT Pride. Conveniently, it also means that London LGBT Pride are unlikely to be held accountable for failing to rectify this, when what they ought to be doing is working to counter it. Outreach projects and a commitment to education of lesbian and gay groups to prevent bisexual exclusion would be a great place to start. Trying to pin the blame on the bisexual community is not an appropriate response. If bisexual people don’t feel welcome at your LGBT event, that’s a sign that something has gone very wrong indeed.

What Larry means to us

Author:
larry

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

It’s 2am on 12th May 2017. Harry Styles’ debut album was released into the world just two hours ago. It feels like a major shift has occurred in the earth’s atmosphere. It is entirely possible that with these 10 songs, Harry has ended global warming. If anyone has the power to do so, it’s this man.

Fans across the world are lapping it up, of course – although One Direction going on hiatus was (and still is) entirely The Worst Thing Ever, the idea of a solo album from Harry has always been appealing. I am enjoying watching people’s reaction videos and reading their tweets about each song just as much as I am enjoying the actual album.

The one thing I’m not enjoying is the arguments amongst two camps of the fandom. These are always present, unfortunately.

Such arguments centre on one specific topic – that of Larry Stylinson. If you have never heard this term before (though, if you’re reading about One Direction, how is that possible?), it refers to the ‘ship’ of Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson’s relationship. Some would say, a non-existent one.

larry1

It was inevitable that an album entirely written by Harry would come into this debate – although, honestly, this fandom can make ANYTHING come into this debate – especially as he has spoken about it being pretty personal.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with people’s speculation. I am a Larry, seven years strong, and I will no doubt spend the next few days dissecting every word, every note change on this album for Larry content. It’s fun. It’s part of our exploration of this piece of art. That’s okay.

Equally, I really do not care if people don’t believe in Larry. I don’t care whether or not they read the same things into these lyrics as I do.

What I care about is the way that ‘anties’ attack larries for being larries. Why? One, because the fandom is supposed to be like a family – a massive one – and it’s supposed to be fun. But ultimately, it upsets me because it completely misses the point.

The point is not whether Larry is real or not. Maybe it is. Maybe it once was. Maybe it never has been. WHATEVER. Believe what you want to believe.

The point is that Larry symbolises something more to us.

The majority of Larries are LGBTQ+ fans. That is a fact.

larry2

From the very beginning, it was seeing two boys being openly very affectionate towards one another. It was seeing them being completely comfortable in that – they didn’t care what people thought. That was inspiring for many young LGBTQ+ fans who were just coming to terms with their sexuality, closeted, or in difficult environments. It normalised queerness. It sent a message that we were okay. That these people that we cared so deeply about would never ostracise us for who or how we loved.

From there, we found friends. Within the fandom, we could find other queer people. We could be safe. We could explore our own sexualities and possibilities about them, particularly through the realm of fan fiction. We could be supported in our questions and concerns and confusions.

And for those of us who were so uncomfortable with our own realities that we couldn’t overtly explore them? There was a distance that Larry provided us with. I have connected with many young queer girls over the years who used writing and reading Larry fic – between two young queer boys – to think about the possibilities before they were ready to confront their own identities. For many of us, it has helped us to disentangle ourselves from internalised homophobia.

Larry is so much more than Louis and Harry – and Harry knows this, too. He knows that their relationship – real or not – is a symbol of hope to many of his fans. He knows that it’s complicated. Which is why he is continuously telling us to interpret the songs however we want to. He has never insisted upon a single meaning. He has never shut us down, and for that, I am thankful.

The wider world may not get it. Heck, the rest of the fandom may not get it. But Harry gets it. That’s nice.

In defence of fanfiction

Author:
fanfics

I have been reading and writing fanfiction since I was 13 years old – I am almost 20 – and I am unashamed of that fact. I believe in the power of this medium. Middle-aged white men may not see the value inherent in fanfic, and the rest of the world may ridicule fangirls and our “creepy/obsessive/weird” hobby, but I know that doesn’t mean anything. After all, aren’t some of the best things about the modern world widely misunderstood and undervalued? Aren’t selfies seen as proof of the ‘fact’ that young women are shallow, vapid creatures? Isn’t YouTube culture deemed as evidence that entertainment is in decay? And yet, think of the brilliance and importance of these things, of how selfies can promote self-love, and of how YouTube allows anyone (with access to a computer – still a massive privilege, of course) to be a creator? Fanfiction has similar value. Trust me, it’s played a significant part in shaping my life and who I am.

As a young teenager, I felt incredibly isolated. I had friends at school, but for several years I was unable to be honest with them – about my emotions, my sexuality, about anything substantial. Thankfully, there was the internet. More specifically, there was the One Direction fandom. It was whilst the band were on The X-Factor UK in 2010 that I found a community for myself, and I am immensely grateful for that. I remember very clearly the evening I went on Twitter, as usual, and one of my mutual followers posted about wanting to write a fic featuring female characters based on herself and a bunch of her fandom friends. I ended up being one of them – the fic concept being of us, as a girl band rivalling One Direction on the X-Factor (but being super close friends with them all, of course!). Each of us in that group ended up writing our own fics, and we all included each other in them. I remember feeling like I belonged, like I finally had a place. That circle of friends – and the stories we created together – was integral to my survival at that point. I was more than a bit miserable at school, but I knew that at the end of every day, my computer was waiting for me. I had something to escape into – the latest chapters of my friends’ fics, and the chatter that followed reading. And I had a purpose – I had my own fic to write, and people who wanted to read it, people who wanted to know my thoughts. Although it was fiction, my group all inserted real life issues into our stories – I remember vividly how one of my friends wrote my character’s body image issues, and finding so much comfort in reading it. The comfort that ‘I’ was given in this fictional world translated into real life. I eventually lost touch with those girls, but I never lost what they gave me. I will always value their friendship, and I will always value the way that fanfiction brought us together.

Fanfiction has not only helped to connect me to others, it’s helped me to connect to myself, too. I have never been comfortable in my sexuality, never really sure of ‘where I fit’ in regards to labels. Bisexual is the word I used to define myself for many years, but it was never quite right, and that always inhibited me considerably. This discomfort only intensified as I began to surround myself with queer friends, people who were out and proud and sure of their sexuality – as I became more and more immersed in queer culture, the more of a fraud I felt. Fanfiction was the thing that began to change that, because it was through fanfiction that I first came across the labels that I felt a true connection to. It was in fanfiction that I came across the concept of asexuality, and suddenly there was a possibility in the back of my mind that I wasn’t ‘failing’, that my general disinterest in sex did not necessarily mean that I was inherently lacking. However, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I ‘fit’ asexuality, because I did not 100% ‘meet the criteria’. For a few months, I was more confused than ever before, and it was immensely distressing. I began to strongly believe that I was defective – sexuality being one of many things that I felt I did not have ‘a fixed place’ in, one of the many things that left me in a grey area. And then came the fic that changed my life. I’m not even exaggerating. This was a high school AU, and in this fic, the two main characters – Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson – defined as grey-ace and demisexual, respectively. I had heard of the latter, but not fully understood what it meant, and – having a friend who defined this way – I wanted to. The former, on the other hand, was a term I had never come across before – intrigued, I looked it up. The results of my Google search were like a slap in the face. Except, pleasant. It was the first time I had sighed with relief at a simple word, the first time that I did not feel like I had to reach for a label and clutch desperately at it. It was the first time I’d latched onto something – not only in regards to my sexuality – that felt natural, easy. It was the first time I realised something important, that I am not defective, and what I feel (and don’t feel) is completely valid. It continues to amaze me that something so monumental in my life was a result of reading fanfiction, and serves as a reminder that doing what you love can have some huge results, beyond anything you could possibly imagine.

Fanfiction has been many things for me over the years – a place of community, of creativity, and of self-discovery. But perhaps the simplest and most important thing that fanfiction has done for me is given me a place to call home. Of course, that’s fandom in general – in the worst of times, One Direction have always been my retreat, my safe place – but fanfiction is perhaps a particularly special extension of that. As a life-long book nerd/story obsessive, it is the part of fanfiction that matters to me most because it encompasses all of myself, and it provides me with an escape of multiple dimensions. I will never understand why the rest of the world can’t see the beauty in that, but I’m not too bothered about that anymore. I know that I am never on my own in what I believe in and care about, and the proof is in this fandom.

What is queer fiction?

Author:
IMG_7257

By Anna Hill

When I first started my search for mirrors in the form of queer books I was often recommended entirely non-queer books. I think this is because people have fundamentally misunderstood what queer fiction is and how good and valuable representation works. Here are some of the problems I have found:

One [side] character does not a queer book make

Throughout my journey the recommendations people made to me simply reaffirmed some of the things I already knew – that only white men are gay enough, or even interesting enough to be represented; and that if you are a lesbian or worse – a bisexual woman – you do not exist. I was recommended good books, but not good queer books. Books with straight girl main characters and straight romance pushed as the most important aspect of girls’ lives, with sad, buried gays and sick pitiful gay friends, but never part of the main story.

The lie that a queer book is one with a glimpse of a queer person has been spread, for example by lists like this. Books like Weetzie Bat and The Perks of Being a Wallflower have been put on it, but it’s Weetzie Bat’s best friend who is gay, it’s Charlie’s best friend that is gay! The main character in both these stories is straight. On other lists people have suggested Liberty’s Fire, Remix or Letters To the Dead – all of which have queer side characters, brothers or friends, but are lead by heterosexual and heteromantic love stories.

Queer books should be intersectional

On top of that the number of queer books I was recommended to begin with normally told the stories of white, cisgender, male characters. From Will Grayson, Will Grayson to lesbian classics like Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Carol or Fun Home (all of which do count as queer fiction), all are overwhelmingly whitewashed. The queer literature we continue to celebrate often simply reaffirms the idea that there is an acceptable, palatable type of queer and the majority of the queer community are not it.

The moments when you finally find those books that make you feel seen and validated are radical and nourishing. They are so important that, without them, I don’t think I would have survived. Being able to claim a historical and literary ancestry helps to centre queer survival and power today. Suggesting so-called queer fiction which doesn’t centre intersectional queer main characters allows all queers to be disempowered from their own narratives; we are not important or valid enough to be the heroes of any stories, even our own.

A quick counter-list of 15 queer books to read:

(I have yet to read any aromantic or agender books :()

KEY:

* are for poc

b is for bisexual characters

a for asexual

I for intersex

t for trans

  1. The colour purple by alice walker*
  2. Snapshots of a girl by beldan sezen*
  3. Huntress by malinda lo*
  4. Aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin alire saenz*(b)
  5. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson*
  6. The song of Achilles by madeline miller
  7. Far from you by tess sharpe (b)
  8. She of the mountains by vivek shraya*(b)
  9. Not otherwise specified by Hannah Moskowitz*(b)
  10. None of the above by I.W Gregorio (i)
  11. Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis*
  12. Pantomime by Laura Lam (i)
  13. From under the mountain by Cait Spivey*(a)
  14. A safe girl to love by Casey Plett (t)
  15. If I was your girl by Meredith Russo (t)

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