Celebrities Pop Culture

Are your favorite celebrities breaking gender norms, or just queerbaiting?

As gender roles blur, and sexuality being fluid, there have been allegations around some artists queerbaiting.

Queerbaiting can be defined as the practice of implying non-heterosexual relationships or attraction, to engage or lure in an LGBTQ+ audience without ever explicitly showing such relationships or sexual interactions. The term queerbaiting is used to critique the practice of queerbaiting as an attempt to capitalize on and take advantage of the appearance of LGBTQ+ relationships when there is no actual real LGBTQ+ representation.

Queerbaiting can be seen in TV shows where interactions between two same-sex characters are suggestive of sexual attraction or relationship, but the characters are never in such a relationship. This is especially so when their sexuality is not depicted or mentioned. For instance, Tegan and Michaela, in the TV series How To Get Away With Murder. Yes, Tegan is a mentor to Michaela, but why do we get a closeup when Michaela expresses a devasted face when Tegan chooses to spend time with Annalise. It is subtleties like these that insinuates that there is more to the relationship of the two characters.

[Image description: Tegan and Michaela holding hands] Via ABC
[Image description: Tegan and Michaela holding hands] Via ABC
While the Oxford English Dictionary recently recognized the term in March 2021, it has been used in the cultural lexicon for decades. The use of the term queerbaiting dates to the early 1950s, where it was first referred to as the encouragement of anti-LGBTQIA+ hatred. However, since the 2010s, the use and meaning of the term have changed and, is used in reference to opportunistic acts that aim to appeal to LGBTQIA+ audiences. Although the word “queer” has a history of being used as a slur, it is now used in its reclaimed sense, in the context of LGBTQ+ identities. The word queer is used to describe and refer to things involving people whose gender identity or sexual orientation falls outside the heterosexual mainstream.

In June and towards the month of July 2021, accusations of queerbating surfaced in our pop-cultural discourse at many celebrities, such as Madonna, Billie Eilish and repeat offender Harry Styles. The allegations were that non-queer artists were ‘appropriating’ queer culture and aesthetics in efforts to secure the monetary support and the support of LGBTQ+ fans without having to identify themselves outright openly as queer. This portrayal allows them to brush up alongside the seeming edginess of queer identity, without having to pay the price of openly being themselves in a queerphobic society.

In her music video for the song “Lost Cause”, Billie Eilish is having fun and dancing with other women, in a manner that some see as sexually suggestive. When Eilish shared photos from the video with the message “I love girls”, that was read by some as being indicative of a sexual attraction towards women. Critics, including those of the LGBTQ+ community, defended Eilish and rejected the accusation of queerbaiting and, emphasized that no one should be pressured in having to disclose or clarify their sexuality.


The central principle of the queerbaiting critique is targeted at celebrities who are often on the fence about announcing their sexuality. Comments that have brought on widespread criticisms of queerbaiting range from Harry Styles who draws on a feminine and playful ambiguous display of himself to, the comparison made between Madonna’s 2003 VMA kiss with Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera and, Rapper Lil Nas X’s performance at the BET Awards in June 2021 where he kissed one of his male back-up dancers. Several cultural moments that were seen as groundbreaking at the time are now being scrutinized, as real queer representation is being shown on screen.

Much of the criticism can be taken from a celebrity’s queerness being valid only if said explicitly in public spaces and interviews, or if represented to expectation. Ambiguity is seen as a wrongful act. In Harry Style’s case, this displayed itself as frustration that he portrays himself to be bisexual and continues to be winked at rather than explicitly proving or declaring that he does have sexual relations with other men. In as much as it may be seen as queerbaiting, we cannot accuse him of it without specifying that he is in fact not queer. Our assumptions about his relationship with queerness are only just a leap in the dark.

It can be said that the argument around queerbaiting, recognizes a material injustice and that many queer people are in a fight for their lives and livelihoods. While the sour double standard of praise is given to stars such as Styles, those who originate this aesthetic are faced with daily violence and exclusion. However, forcing one to out themselves as queer can also be seen as violent as it takes away the choice to be candid about their sexuality from the get-go. So maybe some people would like to have their queer cake and eat it too!

Not allowing others to self-determine their sexuality and even doing so vaguely falsely assumes that the queer identity or is rigid, contained and dictated when it is not.

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LGBTQIA+ History Gender Inequality

The history of non-binary genders is longer than you know

When Joan of Arc dressed for church, they wore men’s clothing.

When they took the sacraments, they had their hair short and wore pants.

When they fought for their God, they wore armor.

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it. The newness of a label is often used to allude to the idea that it is an invention – something that is not true, but rather made up. This is the criticism that many people are applying to non-binary genders.

However, something that has been around since the 15th century cannot be rejected by society’s supposed perception of its “newness.”

As people assigned female or male at birth celebrate their androgyny, the patriarchy is fighting back, declaring gender identity a new construct that is fabricated by those who strive for a difference. It’s important to acknowledge that the newness of the term “non-binary” is not an indictment on its existence, but rather a celebration of its acknowledgment. 

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it.

History is no stranger to the tales of people who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) who dress in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

For many people, the Disney adaptation of the myth of Hua Mulan might be the first time they consider nonbinary identities. While the term “non-binary” is never used in the family-friendly flick, in the title song, “Reflection,” Mulan proclaims, “I will never pass for a perfect bride or a perfect daughter…That if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart.”

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A 20-year-old movie certainly doesn’t indicate the newness of betraying gender roles, nor does the 1700-year-old source material.

Even earlier, in 1400 B.C.E., Hatshepsut ruled as Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. Often regarded as one of the few female pharaohs to take the throne, the statues that survive her celebrate the strength of her rule.

She is depicted in a few different ways, from a woman wearing men’s clothing to a feminine face upon a man’s body. Hatshepsut defied the strict gender roles of ancient Egypt, and the statues that still stand are evidence of their defiance.

These examples are anecdotal, and often follow a common theme, of a person assigned female at birth (AFAB) defying the gender roles assigned to their sex to achieve something greater. However, even these examples hardly hold a candle to the rich history outlining people of a third gender.

History is no stranger to tales of people who are assigned female at birth dressing in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

This third gender, sometimes defined as neither a man nor a woman, is present in several ancient cultures, including Mesopotamia, the progenitor of written history.

During that time, people of the third gender, or Hijra, were in service to the gods they celebrated. In various cultures throughout history, from Hijra priests to eunuchs and virgins in the temple of Artemis, holiness has transcended gender.

It’s easy for detractors to rebut this by pretending that nothing of the sort took place in our current understanding of Western society. The notion of a third gender or “Mahu” is part of Polynesian culture. It can mean a gender between male and female, or gender fluid. In Hawaii and Tahiti, the Mahu people were highly respected in the indigenous culture as keepers of oral traditions and historical knowledge.

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Mahu people exist not only in the past but are an important part of queer culture in Hawaii today. 

The Navajo are a Native American people of the Southwestern United States. The Navajo people have a gender category called Nadleeh, which can refer to transgender people who have transitioned in one direction along the gender binary (having been assigned male at birth, and now identifying as female, or assigned female at birth and now identifying as male), gender-fluid people, and, of course, those whose gender presentation falls “outside” of the gender identity norms imposed by society at a large. The Nadleehi have a spiritual function and are inherently respected as tribal members within the Navajo culture. 

This stark difference in acceptance and perception was noted by Anglo-Saxon American anthropologists as early as the 1920s. In fact, Author William Willard Hill was surprised that Navajo society considered a transgender person “very fortunate,” unlike his understanding of Western culture, for which gender fluidity caused anxiety in mainstream society.

Gender has been used as an oppressive instrument for centuries.

It’s been used to highlight the difference between people, rather than highlight the inherent strength in us all. Strength of character is not something that is defined by maleness or femaleness. Strength is an attribute of the human condition to thrive when tested and fight for what we believe in.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself.

That human condition is what drives people to discover what gender means to them. They are able to transcend the baggage of strict gender roles to achieve greatness.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself, which leads one to question why people are so threatened by the nonbinary identification overall.

Why is it that the rich history of gender fluidity needs to be constantly torn down by censors and patriarchs of today’s “binary” culture, and rejected because of its newly-found public acceptance?

Perhaps, Joan of Arc and Hatshepsut knew something that everyone else did not.

Perhaps it’s important for us all to remember the wisdom they passed on through their life stories:

That to transcend gender is to harness the power of the gods themselves.


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Shopping Under $25 Style & Beauty Last Minute Gift Ideas

5 queer-owned make up brands to support beyond Pride Month

Pride is a beautiful time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. And to support queer friends and family in all their endeavors (which we should do year-round). So much beauty and creativity flow through the rainbow, and it’s a shame they are lost in the current of huge corporations doing rainbow washing Pride campaigns. Today I want to tell you about some of my favorite make-up products from small, queer-owned businesses that I think you should know about. Let’s get started!

1. DandyLionsCreations’s Dirty Martini Vegan Pressed Matte Eyeshadow Chartreuse

[Image description: a mustard-colored matte eyeshadow.] via Etsy
Dandy Lions Cosmetics produces beautiful, vegan eyeshadows: your eyes will feel like they’ve been kissed by nature. And your pets will definitely want to wear it, too( it’s vegan).

Get DandyLionsCo Products here!

2. MichaelFoxit’s Natural Liquid Foundation Free Cosmetic Sponge No dye

[Image description: beige-colored foundation.] via Etsy
Harmonize your skin with these foxy foundations! Michaelfoxit products have your skin glowing: feel like a celebrity from the 1960s. Hairspray we’re coming!

Get MichaelFoxit Products here!

3. Moonrise Comestics’ Natural Mascara Botanical Blend Black or Brown Earth

[Image description: a black mascara and a sunflower backdrop. The sunflower has yellow petals and black pollen.] via Etsy
Make everyone howl at the moon in these illuminating natural products. No flakiness, no clumpiness.

Get Moonrise Comestics Products here

4. FinalGirls Comestics’ A horror-themed beauty company by FinalGirlCosmeticsUS

[ Image description: an eyeshadow palette with the colors blue, green, gold, and pink.] via Etsy
Because we’re always ready for Halloween. FinalGirls Comestics offers highly pigmented eyeshadow palettes that grace the world with unconventional colors. And more after the credits!

Get FinalGirl Comestics Products here!

5. Diamanté Cosmetics’ Melting Rich Matte Liquid Lipstick

[Image description: a shiny, reflective lipstick covering.] via Etsy
Transport yourself into the world of diamonds with Diamante Comestics. Rihanna would be proud: you’ll shine bright like a diamond. All of the products are of high quality.

Get Diamanté Cosmetics Products here!

Makeup is a beautiful form of art. And you deserve high-quality products. Shop at these lovely queer-owned businesses!

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Style Fashion Beauty Lookbook

This is how you can be conscientious with your spending this Pride month

It’s Pride Month, which means companies big and small are showing up and out for the LGBTQIA2S+ community. While clothing, beauty, and accessory brands are now selling rainbow merch galore, what does the commodification of Pride do for the LGBTQIA2S+ community? Well, depending on which company you’re buying from, nothing. And we have rainbow capitalism to thank for that.

Rainbow capitalism is when businesses capitalize off of the LGBTQIA2S+ rights movement through marketing campaigns and product collections. Much like white feminism, rainbow capitalism tends to be performative and fails to address real issues harming the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Capitalism isn’t always a tide that raises all ships. And this is still the case even if the tide is rainbow-hued. In capitalist U.S. society, the tide is typically man-made and designed only to raise the ships of white people, including minorities like white women and most white members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Capitalist greed is usually the reason why corporations prefer to stay quiet on some of the biggest issues harming the community.

Ghaith Hilal of AlQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, states, “You cannot have queer liberation while apartheid, patriarchy, capitalism, and other oppressions exist. It’s important to target the connections of these oppressive forces.” But most companies aren’t interested in fighting these oppressive forces. It’s easier to change a logo to a rainbow flag than to actively work to end homelessness, the criminalization of sex work, the carceral system, and the violence against Palestinians. In addition, police brutality, climate change, and gentrification disproportionately affect BIPOC and the LGBTQIA2S+ communities— and yet I can guarantee that almost none of the companies waving Pride flags this June will speak out against any of these issues.

Anti-Racism Daily’s Nicole Cardoza writes, “there’s no excuse for brands to ignore the LGBTQIA+ community the rest of the year while only providing rainbows as acknowledgment in June. It seems like some corporations think yearly superficial appeals to the LGBTQIA+ community will allow them to tap into this market, while making real commitments to the community would prove too costly.” Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos agrees, stating: “Brands promoting gay pride and the LGBTQ community may not always be consistent in actually supporting the LGBTQ community, but they still capitalize on the help that people want to give that community.”

Similar critiques have inspired some brands to do more than just launch a Pride collection. Last year, companies standing with the LGBTQIA2S+ community included ASOS, who supported GLAAD; Nike, who partnered with 20 organizations like Campus Pride, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the National Gay Basketball Association; MAC Cosmetics, who donated 100% of the proceeds from the Viva Glam lipstick to efforts to end HIV/AIDS; among others. However, brands like Nike have been accused of human rights violations, making their Pride partnerships and donations contradictory. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are a part of every single global society, so putting any group at risk is an LGBTQIA+ issue.

This year, brands once again are teaming up with organizations. For example, Converse’s 2021 Pride collection is in support of It Gets Better Project, Ali Forney Center, BAGLY, and OUT MetroWest; Reebok is donating $75,000 to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project; Levi’s is making its annual donation to OutRight Action International; Crocs made a donation to GLAAD; Dr. Martens is donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project, and NYX Cosmetics partnered with the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

There’s also the much-talked-about Pride line from Target. The collection is the retailer’s 10th year in partnership with GLSEN, with this year’s donation amounting to $100,000. TikTok decided to turn everyone’s For You Page into a runway for the collection. But instead of clapping politely, most users were aghast at how ugly, questionable, or unable to read the room most of the pieces were in the collection. Walmart, Hot Topic, Spencer’s, and more received similar critiques.

While publicly supporting the LGBTQIA2S+ community is important, and donations to charities and organizations are a plus, buying from these Pride collections only further lines the pockets of the abovementioned brands and corporations who may or may not be helping the LGBTQIA2S+ community year-round. These brands might seem like they’re putting their money where their mouth is to support the LGBTQIA2S+ community, but their actions elsewhere prove otherwise.

According to GLAAD, more than “40% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and almost 90% of transgender people have experienced employment discrimination.” These stats are extremely high and show why companies have to do more than change their logo in June. If the above brands and corporations genuinely support the LGBTQIA2S+ community, then they will make sure they’re paying their workers’ respectable wages, offering healthcare and benefits, creating a healthy work environment for everyone, and fighting against discrimination with proper training and policies.

Wired’s Justice Namaste argues rainbow capitalism and “rainbow-washing allow people, governments, and corporations that don’t do tangible work to support LGBTQ+ communities at any other time during the year to slap a rainbow on top of something in the month of June and call it allyship.” Wired’s Emma Grey Ellis adds, “A decent share of these corporations could take another lesson in allyship. Being an ally is like being a wingman: If you make it about you, you’re doing it wrong!”

No one is saying brands shouldn’t support the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Discrimination and hate crimes still happen today, and brands publicly standing with the community are important. But solidarity needs to happen year-round and in acknowledgment of intersectionality. Brands need to realize rainbow capitalism isn’t always doing the most good, since most of the profits do not reach the bank accounts of members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community.

This is why it’s better to bypass most Pride collections and instead shop straight from local and small businesses owned by members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Big-name brands and corporations could have done this by hiring artists, designers, and creatives from the LGBTQIA2S+ community to design their collections or sell their merch in-store.

Rainbow capitalism comes down to the fact that many corporations benefit socially and economically from Pride merchandise and branding. Historically, Pride has been about protests, rights, and liberation. Unfortunately, there is still much to protest in order to achieve rights and liberation for many groups in the LGBTQIA2S+ community. The Human Rights Campaign called 2021 the “worst year in recent history for LGBTQ state legislative attacks,” with transgender people targeted by more than 100 bills introduced in 33 states in the United States.f In addition, there are still 14 countries around the world that criminalize transgender people. How are Pride-celebrating companies working to oppose this legislation?

While Pride is a celebration, there is still much work to be done globally to help liberate the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Rainbow capitalism isn’t the solution.

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LGBTQIA+ Sexuality Life

Compulsory heterosexuality is yet another thing I had to unlearn from my youth

I often get life realizations while watching videos on TikTok. Most of the time, I either feel attacked or seen by the subject of the video or by the tone of the creator. However, on rare occasions, I feel understood. These TikToks in particular cause me to think deeper beyond scrolling through the app.

For example, the videos I found on TikTok discussing “compulsory heterosexuality” not only validated my bisexuality but also caused me to rethink binary ideas around sexuality I internalized from childhood. Namely, when I was younger, I molded myself into a person who was more appealing towards men.

I did this because I thought seeking male approval and attention was what was expected of me as a “straight” woman. In turn, I frequently entered romantic relationships with men, falsely believing they were my only option. Looking back, I was clearly lying to myself for years, which greatly damaged my self-esteem. And it seems many other women had similar experiences.

On one hand, it’s comforting to know I wasn’t alone in navigating this conflict. But I find it disheartening so many others felt pressured to prove they were heterosexual when they weren’t.

Though, because of the revelations I got from these TikTok videos, I felt inspired. So much so, I wanted to further research “compulsory heterosexuality,” and discover where it came from. Turns out, the phrase was coined in 1980 by Adrienne Rich in her book titled,  Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.

In the piece, Rich argues the idea of heterosexuality within a white supremacist, patriarchal society serves as a social and political institution, specifically imposed on women to make us subordinate to men. Rich critiques the use of heterosexuality as a means for control and rejects the false perception that men have a right to the physical, economic, and emotional access of women. 

To make more sense of how compulsory heterosexuality affects your daily life, here are some of the characteristics of the phenomenon:

  1. To deny women their own sexuality: the destruction of sexuality displayed throughout history in sacred documents.
  2. Forcing male sexuality upon women: rape, incest, torture, a constant message that men are better, and superior in society to women.
  3. Exploiting their labor to control production: women have no control over the choice of children, abortion, birth control, and no access to knowledge of such things.
  4. Control over their children: lesbian mothers are seen as unfit for motherhood, malpractice in society and the courts to further benefit the man.
  5. Confinement: women unable to choose their own wardrobe (feminine dress seen as the only way), full economic dependence on the man, limited life in general.
  6. Male transactions: women given away by fathers as gifts or hostesses by the husband for their own benefit, pimping women out.
  7. Cramp women’s creativeness: males are seen as more assimilated in society (they can participate more, culturally more important).
  8. Men withholding attainment of knowledge: “Great Silence” (never speaking about lesbian existence in history), discrimination against women professionals.

Ultimately, the influence of patriarchy penetrates so deeply into our society that being heterosexual is seen as a default. Because of this, however, compulsory heterosexuality is extremely damaging to queer youth because it propagates being heterosexual as the norm.

This also means positive representation in media matters, as it can be queer children’s first exposure to understanding their identity. Unfortunately, LGBTQIA+ representation in media often rings hollow or is nonexistent altogether; what’s more, children and young adults are all too often exposed to downright harmful stereotypes.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, in an act of censorship by Hollywood elites, the Hays Code was implemented to help avoid scandals. In turn, movies had to uphold certain standards of “respectability” for the film to be seen, particularly by white and conservative audiences.

Any queer-coded character(s) had to be portrayed as evil or weak and had to die by the end of the movie to show good Catholic values always prevail. Decades later, the Hays Code is no longer in effect; however, the negative impact of the guidelines remains in the public’s subconscious. 

As someone who was raised Catholic, I was often exposed to hateful rhetoric surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community. It took a lot of time to realize how wrong these views were and the effect preconceived ideas and oppressive systems had on me and continue to have on others.

Unlearning things you were taught while you were younger will always be difficult. We put a lot of trust in the media we intake, our parents, our peers, our education system, and our life experiences to shape how we should navigate the world. And although it might be hard to acknowledge things you were taught about sexuality were false, short-sighted, or narrow-minded. It’s an even better feeling to realize you can grow and become more knowledgeable on the infinite spectrum of sexuality that doesn’t solely revolve around cis-men.

So, we must combat our comfort zones and be proactive in our learning. In this case, we must collectively stop assuming heteronormativity as the only way to exist. We have progressed from viewing women as property to us gaining our rightful autonomy and being independent of men. We can continue striving for equity and equality for all women and queer folks by subverting compulsory heterosexuality.

We now know, not everyone will be or is straight, so we shouldn’t pigeonhole LGBTQIA+ youth or create environments wherein we portray queerness as abnormal. 

I’m glad TikTok has become a safe space for different people to talk about topics that would otherwise go unnoticed or be considered inappropriate by other forms of media. Ultimately, learning from other’s personal stories helps make the world feel less small and filled with so many more options and opportunities.

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Shopping Clothing Shoes Accessories Outfits Lookbook

19 spectacular statement pieces to wear at Pride this year

Pride events take place throughout the summer all over the world. It’s a celebration of queer sexuality and identity in a world that abhors it.  Queer people get decked out in Pride gear and display self-love in the most beautiful form.  This list is for everyone attending: get ready to show the world you’re here, you’re queer and you’re not going anywhere.

1. A Pride Backpack (Etsy)

[A Pride Backpack with the colors of the rainbow: blue,purple, red,orange, and blue.] via Etsy
Carry your pride in a fun and colorful backpack.

Get it here for $58.07+

2. A Pride Brooch (GAP)

[A pride brooch. It is silver and says the word love and the letter  ‘O’ is replaced with studded and rainbow colored-heart.] via Banana Republic
Don’t be afraid to be aBROOCHable throughout the day.

Get it here for $$38.00+

3. A Pride T-Shirt (ASOS)

[Image description: a T-shirt that says they/them, she/her, he/him and we with a rainbow background. the rest of the t-shirt is white.] via ASOS UK
Because we can’t let anyone forget our pronouns at PRIDE, right?

Get it here for $35.00+

4. A Pride Hat (ASOS)

[Image description: a green hat that says ‘Reclaimed’ in rainbow colors.] via ShopStyle
Reclaiming queerness, reclaiming style.

Get it here for $20.21+

5. A Pride Rainbow Bow Tie (Etsy)

[Image description: a rainbow tie.] via Etsy
Because who wouldn’t want to be choked by the rainbow?

Get it here for $22.95+

6. A Pride Anklet (Etsy)

[A  rainbow pride anklet.] via Etsy
 Pride runs from the feet to the head.

Get it here for $8.86+

7. A Pride Scrunchie (Etsy)

[ A rainbow scrunchie.] via Etsy
Rainbows lie above the head after all.

Get it here for $5.18+

8.  A Pride Headband (Etsy)

[Image description: a mickey mouse themed Pride headband. It is white with colorful mickey mouse imprints all over it.] via Etsy
Because queerness isn’t just in the head.

Get it here for $8.00+

9. A Pride Ring (Etsy)

[Image description: a gold ring with star and bead rainbow designs.] via Etsy
You can’t go wrong with rings as the perfect Pride accessory.

Get it here for $24.65+

10. A Pride Mask (Etsy)

[Image description: a black mask with the inscription ‘Be Gay, Do Crime.] via Etsy
Because the gays need a chic mask moment.

Get it here for $11.23+

11. Pride Earrings (Etsy)

[Image description: rainbow beaded earrings.] via Etsy
Because studs are never a dud.

Get it here for $32.00+

12. Custom Pride Flag (Etsy)

{Image description: custom LGBT flags to represent the spectrum of sexuality.]

Different flags. Same mission.

Get it here for $15.00+

13. A  Personalized Pride Water Bottle (Etsy)

[Image description: a white water bottle with the name Poppi on it.]
It’s important to come prepared. And to keep your water bottle safe.

Get it here for $26.64+

14. A Pride Bracelet (Etsy)

[Image description: A beaded rainbow Bracelet.] via Etsy
 In my opinion, bracelets and are the easiest way to show off your sexuality and identity.

Get it here for $5.61+

15. A Pride Pin (Etsy)

[Image description: A Pride Pin.] via Etsy
These are perfect on purses and backpacks. And on your mailbox, because the queers have an agenda, of course.

Get it here for $7.00+

16. Pride Heart Stickers (Etsy)

Image description: rainbow stickers in the shape of a heart.] via Etsy

You never know when you need to stick it to a homophobe.

Get it here for $4.25+

17. Pride Shoes (Etsy)

[Image description: white running shoes with a heart filled in with a rainbow.] via Etsy
Run away from homophobes in these cute sneakers.

Get it here for $59.99+

18. A Pride Scarf/ Bandana (Etsy)

[ Image description: a Pride Bandana.] via Etsy
Live out your Bridgerton fantasies in this scarf.

Get it here for $12.99+

19. Pride Sunglasses (Etsy)

Because the sun won’t leave Pride.

Get it here for $12.99+

Pride means solidarity. The louder you are, the more people hear you. Everyone deserves to be heard and experience a safe support system —that’s what Pride means. Have a safe one!

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Book Reviews Books

“Jay’s Gay Agenda” explores coming of age in a sex positive, queer context

From debut novelist Jason June (he/him/she/her) comes the coming-of-age, sex-positive, LGBTQA+ Young Adult novel titled Jay’s Gay Agenda. Jason June, who is previously known for writing books for children and teens, matures his storytelling abilities, utilizing the YA genre to illustrate the complexities of growing up at the intersections between queerness, adulthood, and adolescence. 

The novel follows Jay Collier, an 18-year-old high school senior whose life is guided by his lists, otherwise known as his “Gay Agenda.” Jay is originally from a small town in rural Washington where there aren’t any openly queer students, which leaves Jay feeling alone as he watches the rest of his peers experience their “firsts” surrounding sex and relationships

However, the future for Jay suddenly becomes brighter when his mom gets a work promotion, resulting in Jay and his family moving from their rural town to metropolitan city Seattle. There, Jay will be able to meet other LGBTQA+ kids, be immersed in an accepting queer community, and (hopefully) meet a boy he can romantically connect with.

Once in Seattle, Jay is finally able to have friends who understand him and his identity on a deeper level. He’s also able to date a boy now that he’s not the only openly gay kid in his school anymore. However, his move to Seattle doesn’t come without difficulties. Over the course of the book, Jay must learn to balance old and new friendships, romantic prospects, and who he once was versus who he is becoming.

Jay’s Gay Agenda definitely explores coming of age using a queer lens; however, the novel still demonstrates the awkwardness of approaching adulthood that most teenagers experience. For instance, readers follow Jay as he navigates his first time dating other boys, his first time seeing a drag show, and his first time being able to cross items off his “Gay Agenda.” Though, Jay stumbles through all of these “firsts” as most teenagers do— clumsily. 

And as briefly mentioned, the novel is also very sex-positive, which I appreciate, often getting candid about Jay’s budding sexual desires. Notably, because 1) he’s a teenager going through puberty and 2) he’s finally open with his sexuality and is likely experiencing a second or even new phase of adolescence now that he’s able to present to the world as his authentic self. 

Jay’s “Gay Agenda” provides readers direct insight into our protagonist’s desires such as wanting to lose his virginity and having his first kiss. I value the openness in this book regarding the talks of sex as well as topics and feelings related to sex because it normalizes such conversations amongst adolescents; something that was consequently treated as a taboo when I was in high school.

At the same time, Jay’s lists reveal things much deeper such as his inner conflicts and ways he’s trying to come up with solutions to solve life’s mess. For example, how to come out to his friends and family or how to break some bad news to an old friend. 

Correspondingly, one thing I noticed is the novel is candid about how romanticizing versions of your life without conflict are mere fantasies. Jay still has his struggles after moving to Seattle because hardships don’t simply disappear when you move away and try to become someone different. In some instances, new problems may even arise. 

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This conveys to young readers who (for whatever reason) may be experiencing the same longing Jay felt to leave home in hopes of suddenly having a better life that doing so won’t magically eradicate your struggles; again, a lesson that’s specifically important to highlight for teenagers. 

Ultimately, the takeaways from this book are ones any reader, of any age, can relate to. At the same time, however, certain aspects of the story feel like an ode to the queer community. Namely, scenes like Jay’s time spent in a drag bar while a drag queen belts Tina Turner’s (iconic) song “Proud Mary.” The overt queerness of the story keeps the novel grounded and connected to what is likely the original purpose of the book’s existence.

In her reader’s note at the beginning of the novel, Jason June states, “I never thought I’d see a day where queer love and expression could be so openly celebrated.” And I have to say, I’m also more than glad to see it and definitely excited for what other quirky and fun YA stories Jason June has in store for us.

All in all, Jason June wonderfully adds to the loveable, list-obsessed, rom-com protagonist with Jay’s Gay Agenda. See: Jenny Han’s To all the Boys book series, Talia Hibbert’s Get a life, Chloe Brown, and Joya Goffney’s Excuse me while I ugly cry. The book also makes sure to add some unapologetic queerness, not just to the aforementioned rom-com niche, but to the YA genre entirely. And we’re here for it!

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Book Reviews Pop Culture

“Meet Cute Diary” is the happy trans love story we’ve all been waiting for

Let me begin by saying – if you like cute love stories and popular romance tropes, this book is for you. Meet-cutes, fake dating, friends to lovers… if you have an itch for romance, Meet Cute Diary will definitely scratch it. The book by Emery Lee follows Noah Ramirez, a 16-year-old trans teenager who runs a blog named ‘Meet Cute Diary’. It features meet-cute love stories and is something of a haven for trans people on the Internet. It gives the community (and Noah himself) hope that one day, they too will bump into someone special at an ice cream shop and have the perfect love story

The problem? All the stories are fake. 

An Internet troll figures this out and decides to come for the blog, picking apart each post and pointing out inconsistencies that prove the lie. Noah becomes determined to do anything to save his blog.

The majority of the book is set in Denver, Colorado, where Noah is visiting his older brother, Brian, at college. He has to spend his summer dealing with Brian’s annoying girlfriend, the looming threat to the Diary, and missing his best friend Becca whom he has left behind in Florida. Luckily, he meets Drew, who is willing to fake date Noah to lend legitimacy to his stories. (Summer romance? Check! Fake dating? Check! Friends to lovers? You’ll have to read to find out!) 

Noah has a very firm idea of romance, down to the steps every perfect relationship must have – from the meet-cute to the happily-ever-after. I loved the fact that the book chapters actually follow his plan – each chapter is named after a relationship milestone. But as the summer goes on, Noah slowly realizes that life doesn’t really work like a romcom, and things don’t always go according to plan.

Meet Cute Diary is a cleverly written book. It combines classic elements of romance with unexpected twists and turns. Every time I thought I could predict how a particular chapter would end, I was wrong. Emery Lee subverts the classic tropes while still maintaining the essence and cute romance of it all. 

The characters are incredibly well fleshed out. Noah is romantic, idealistic, and a little bit selfish. He is interesting and deeply relatable to anyone who has dreamt of finding true love. Through the stories on his blog, he is a source of comfort to many people – a beacon of hope that says “you deserve to be loved as you are”. But he himself is yet to internalize this message. 

A main thread throughout the book is the need for happy trans love stories. Noah wants his blog to be a haven for trans people, a place where a community can see themselves in the narratives and tropes normally reserved for heteronormative couples. The book Meet Cute Diary itself accomplishes what the eponymous blog sets out to do.

It is also interesting to see the main characters’ lives being distorted in the eyes of the Internet. Each chapter begins with messages or posts from people online reacting to Noah’s blog. The juxtaposition of these comments with his life offline highlights just how precarious online fame can be.

It outlines a cute, coming-of-age story, with a trans boy at its center. The book does not erase the very real struggles of the trans experience, but these only serve as a backstory to the main plot and do not overshadow it. I’ve read classic lighthearted YA romances for years, and although I love them, I can’t really make a case for them in terms of diversity. It was all mostly white, heteronormative stories.

Meet Cute Diary finally gave me common tropes I recognize, but with LGBTQ+ protagonists. The representation is truly heartening. I think it is important for us to have stories where we can see LGBTQ+ protagonists live normal, enriching, funny, and of course, cute lives. As Noah eventually discovers in this story, everybody deserves to be loved.

In the end, Meet Cute Diary ended up being a story that I had both read a million times before, and one I could never have predicted. This itself was enough to make me a fan. Throw in the inclusivity of a POC trans protagonist, meaningful character development, and laugh-out-loud moments (this actually happened, I startled the people in my house), and you’ve got yourself a great YA read!

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Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I learned about sex through fanfiction, and it’s a bit questionable

I love fanfiction. I think there’s something about it that you can’t find in published novels or tv shows, it’s unique and hard to explain. And while it might sound odd, there’s a lot you can learn from fanfics.

Most people don’t realize what’s out in the vast web to be discovered. For example, you might be scrolling through the works of your new favorite tv show and finally decide to brave the uncharted territories of mature-rated fanfics. You’ll click on one with a funny summary and then fall down the fascinating rabbit hole to continue reading more. And in doing so, you might actually learn about sex through fanfics.

That’s what happened to me anyway. You see, I never really had the opportunity to learn about sex in my family. My culture treats sex as taboo and then expects girls to grow up wanting to have babies and get married into a life of pleasing their husband. And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

I went through the basic sex ed in school, but that didn’t explain a lot. Most of what I remember was the teacher telling us to use birth control if it came down to it, but we should abstain from sex. Senior year Biology was where I learned about my body properly; I was finally told about the many changes that the body goes through due to our hormones. But most importantly, I learned about male anatomy. At no point before this had anyone explained what sex is. I knew it was performed between males and females, but not how. Before that class, I thought it was code for lying in a bed with a member of the opposite sex. 

And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

And while that class helped clear up some of my more significant questions, it wasn’t enough. But I had nowhere to turn to for learning more. My parents weren’t an option, and asking someone seemed awkward. So I turned to the internet. For the first time in nearly four years of exploring fanfiction online, I dove into what I thought was the dark side and looked at the selection of M-rated fics. 

Thinking back on it, they weren’t even particularly spicy fics that I stumbled across. I was jumping back into the PJO (Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan) fandom for like the third time, and I had exhausted my supply of tried and true teen and lower fics. These fanfics primarily served as a way for me to learn specifically about sex and what it was, how it worked, in a setting that wasn’t overly scientific. It was all very vanilla, but that was fine back then.

Then I jumped into some Yu-Gi-Oh fandoms and looked around at the selection there as well. And that was the first time I learned about sex being possible between same-sex couples. Then I switched from my usual fanfic website to a more known and better one, Archive Of Our Own. And this was where things got interesting because there were tags for everything. If I wanted to explore a specific kink, I could check the tag for it and look at all the options in every fandom. 

And I did exactly that; I jumped through different fandoms and checked out every type of M or E rated fic that was unique and then added the new knowledge to the ever-growing list of things I knew about sex. I explored lots of different kinks. When Fifty Shades of Grey was coming out, and everyone was complaining that it didn’t show BSDM accurately, I went to fanfics to learn what they were all talking about. I’ve read many an ABO fic and several femdom stories. And I thought by reading all these fics; I suddenly knew everything there was to know about sex.

Then one day, an online friend talked about a time that she was sexually harassed and how some of these fanfictions we read lead her to think that it was normal. And I started to rethink the fics I was reading. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the stuff I’ve been reading wasn’t always safe or consensual. These were works of fiction, and therefore not always meant to be an accurate reflection of reality, but I had spent years normalizing the lack of consent that came with some of these stories. I didn’t even realize until a month ago that it isn’t normal for someone to cry during sex or for most people to get off to that. Many of the kinky fics I read also never really detailed much about the relationship outside of the sex, which made for a very twisted view on things. 

None of this means that I plan to stop reading smut fics. I’ve come to recognize that most of what is in these stories is simple fantasy. I should have never expected it could replace the learning that comes from talking to people about their experiences or having sex myself. 

But if anyone else out there is like me, then now is as good a time as any to look a bit more critically at the fics you read and made the conscious distinction between them and reality. I know it’s awkward to talk to others about sex, and let’s not lie on the internet, it can be dangerous

I don’t claim to know all the answers, and there’s no right way to learn about sex. But at the very least, I think it’s better not to put all the eggs in one basket. When you want to learn about something you should look at several different places. I’ve begun taking a more thorough route to my own learning, one which involved properly researching whatever sexual topic comes to mind in fanfics but outside as well with the help of google or asking some very close friends who I can trust.

This new system has been working so far, and I find myself enjoying some of the conversations I can have with people about these topics as well.

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The Environment Science Now + Beyond

Climate change is a feminist issue, and here’s why

In the past year, we’ve seen wildfires devastate Australia and parts of the United States. We’re seeing cities and islands disappear under rising sea levels, torrential rains flood large parts of Europe, and entire regions drowning in smog. With temperatures soaring to new levels, increasing numbers of natural disasters ripping communities apart, and rising sea levels displacing populations, it is unthinkable to deny that climate change is threatening us all. Despite repeated warnings from scientists and experts, there are very few practical solutions being implemented to combat it and secure life on this planet for all. As governments continue to ignore or water down climate justice treaties and enact policies that cause environmental destruction, few stop to think about how climate change and gender interact with each other.

Climate change impacts those who are the most marginalized–and in most communities, they’re women. Women are more likely than men to be impoverished and they face high risk during climate change-related disasters. In fact, women constitute 80% of those displaced by climate change. Women and children are actually 14 times more likely than men to die during a disaster. With migration expected to increase due to climate change (increased sea levels, inhospitable temperatures, and a loss of arable land), women are be the most vulnerable to violence, exploitation, and other harm. This is already noticeable in current migration patterns, where 50% of migrants are women and girls, facing gender-based violence.

LGBTQIA+ individuals, who already face disproportionate violence and disenfranchisement, are also at risk due to climate change, particularly with shelter and health. Even without climate concerns, many are forced to leave their homes and communities from fear or insecurity about their safety. But in climate emergencies, when housing is destroyed or limited, the need for support increases manifold. LGBTQIA+ individuals who would be displaced in the process of extreme weather conditions would find their marginalization increasing, as might violence toward them and a lack of advisory services.

Climate change has also been a result of extractivist, colonial activities by many global North countries. The drive for increased profits has long been at the expense of communities who find themselves in an unequal power dynamic with corporations and governments. In those communities, where gender dynamics are already skewed and where resource exploitation drives down the quality of life, women face additional or exaggerated burdens. Women, commonly positioned as primary caretakers, find themselves struggling to support their communities and families when the water goes bad, the crops don’t grow, and people fall ill. For this reason, many women human rights defenders are actively agitating for solutions to climate change that involve the dismantling of economic structures that prioritize extractive industries over environmental protection.

Despite all of this, women and LGBTQIA+ communities rarely find themselves afforded a space at the negotiating table to be a part of climate justice solutions. In the European Union, for example, only one-fifth of ministers who handle issues relating to the environment, transport, climate change, and energy are women. This is in line with historical trends, where women have not been included in key decision-making bodies. Many climate justice agreements do not address gender equality, women’s rights, or minority rights. The enhancement of present policies and the building of future ones to effectively reflect gendered realities is vital if marginalized communities are to be served well by climate justice solutions.

A feminist approach to climate justice can lead the way for concrete change. Here are some steps we can take for that:

  • Gendered perspectives must be included at every step of the decision-making process, including disaster mapping and mitigation solutions.
  • Feminist activists, women human rights defenders, LGBTQ+ activists, and other key leaders representing marginalized communities must be included in the research, review, and policy crafting processes. Their inputs can be based on lived and directly observed experiences, which in turn would increase the efficacy of policy solutions.
  •  Ensure that climate justice solutions do not pit one marginalized community against another. Intersectionality–the consideration of gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, age, and other factors–must be the foundation of any effective climate justice framework.

As we all struggle to survive in a world where the greed of corporations is hindering the quality of our lives and contributing to climate injustices, let us band together to turn back the clock!

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Music Life

“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga taught me to love myself and others

The iconic album Born This Way by Lady Gaga is regarded as one of her best bodies of work by fans and critics alike, nine years after its release. The album still resonates with listeners because it boldly experimented with the confines of pop music and dared listeners to take chances while living unapologetically. The album’s blend of genres illustrates the multifaceted identities of its intended audience, expertly blending pop, glam rock, heavy metal, country, and techno all into one coherent body of art. Born This Way particularly speaks to marginalized people and challenges the constraints placed on those who don’t fit in an oppressive, white supremacist, patriarchal society.  

Born This Way was released at the start of a new decade, in an ever-changing social and political climate. It feels like there is symbolism in the album being released at the beginning of the 2010’s with me having also just begun my teenage years. My body’s changing, my mind is evolving and the world around me is pushing for more equality, representation, and freedom. 

I was 13-years-old when the album came out, starting my awkward teenage years and just finishing seventh grade. Like most people coming into adolescence, I was an extremely insecure, self-conscious, and anxious individual. Learning how to love myself was proving difficult in a world that made it hard for young black girls to do so. There were times I felt becoming truly confident was hopeless. However, the power of art prevailed because in May of 2011, Lady Gaga released her second studio album titled Born This Way. The album is an anthem of self-love and acceptance that I desperately needed at the time. It greatly helped me learn to unapologetically love every facet of myself, even the parts I didn’t yet understand. 

The album takes a note from its own book and experimented with its marketing, song releases, and visuals. Around the time of its release, aspects of Born This Way were misunderstood by music critics, including but not limited to the album cover which displays Lady Gaga as the head of a motorcycle. Critics mocked the imagery, ignoring Gaga’s illustration and commentary of being made into a machine by oppressive industry standards.

Controversy also surrounded the second song on the album and one of the album’s awaited singles titled, “Born This Way” (named after the album). Among other criticisms, the song stirred controversy at the time for its reference of trans individuals on a mainstream song from a mainstream artist. Consequently, critics attempted to project their internalized prejudice onto a body of work that existed freely and challenged others to do the same, contradicting the entire purpose of the album. 

Admittedly, at 13 I wasn’t entirely knowledgeable about gender identity or expression. However, that didn’t stop me from resonating with the message of the song. When I listen to Born This Way, even now, I feel free from marginalization; for 4 minutes and 20 seconds, I simply feel unfiltered, uninterrupted fun. I especially remember the announcement for the song. Lady Gaga stood on the stage at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, dressed in her now legendary meat gown, belting “I’m beautiful in my way ‘cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way.” Unbeknownst to 12-year-old me at the time, this moment would change my life forever. 

In a 2016 article for Dazed, Jake Hall analyzed Born This Way’s impact years after its release. Regarding what the album meant for Lady Gaga as an artist while also being a pivotal pop-culture moment he states, “[Born This Way] was the moment that [Gaga] stopped being branded an artificial pop behemoth and started to become the searingly honest, sometimes over-emotional human being that we now know well.” From 2000 to 2009, pop music was very traditional in the sense that female pop artists had to conform to society’s hyper-feminine, heteronormative expectations of women. At the start of the 2010s, Lady Gaga deliberately sought to not just challenge those oppressive norms but obliterate them.

At the 2011 VMAs, Lady Gaga performed another album single from Born This Way titled, “Yoü and I.” During her performance, she played the role of Jo Calderone, acting as the male love interest in her own song, which further defied the expectations of what was expected from women in pop. These subtle normalizations of gender identity and expression as well as uplifting messages of finding perfection in uniqueness and marginalized identity helped me begin to slowly understand the world outside of myself.

At 13, I didn’t have it all figured out right away. I was still struggling with finding my confidence, but Born This Way laid the foundation for me to become the outspoken, open-minded, risk-taker I now am at 22-years-old. There’s a reason this album still resonates with fans almost a decade later. An album that encourages others to confidently become the best, most honest version of themselves without permission will never get old.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

Asexual erasure in media causes ace people to feel like an outlier

The first time I saw any semblance of (canon and canonically explored) asexual representation was the character Todd from Bojack Horseman. In the first few seasons of the show, Todd would become awkward or uncomfortable when engaging in relationships, romanticism, or sex. Thus, characters in the show as well as viewers might have initially suspected Todd was gay because of his reluctance to be with a woman sexually. However, in the fourth season, Todd eventually realized and accepted he was, in fact, asexual. 

Although Todd’s asexuality could have been explored a bit more in the show, I appreciated the show’s creation and acknowledgement of an asexual person. Todd’s realization that he was asexual helped me discover I too was asexual. I had never realized (or even considered asexuality) because for so long it seemed that having sex was the norm and anything else was non-existent. 

Correspondingly, the voice actor of Todd, Aaron Paul, who is also known for his role as Jesse in Breaking Bad, told Buzzfeed in 2019, “So many people [have been approaching] me saying, ‘I didn’t know what I was. You have given me a community that I didn’t even know existed,’ which is just so heartbreaking, but also so beautiful, you know?”

The journey of Todd’s discovery that he’s asexual was slow, and at times frustrating for Todd, but overall a realistic portrayal of what it’s like coming to terms with your sexuality. Viewers learned of Todd’s sexuality as he learned more about himself; in turn, it helped me and so many other fans of the show feel comfortable with our own asexuality and seen without shame of who we are.

Unfortunately, there is very little asexual or aromantic representation in mainstream, western media. People who are aro/ace, especially young people, often won’t know for so long because asexuality tends to get left out of LGBTQ+ representation. To add insult to injury, many movies and TV shows perpetuate the narrative that non-sexual activity is taboo. There are entire movies dedicated to characters losing their virginity because it’s somehow so weird that a person is not having or has never had sex. 

Think of movies like Superbad, The Forty-Year-Old Virgin, and American Pie, all of which revolve around forcing characters to engage in dating or sexual activity in order to adhere to societal norms. 

Asexuality in film is typically illustrated through the comedy medium and treated as a concept that is not by one’s own choosing, needing to be cured by having sex. And though I love all the aforementioned films, these movies treat asexuality or aromanticism as a joke or punchline, as if not engaging in sexual acts is laughable or even pathetic.

In addition, asexuality and asexual people are portrayed as binary monoliths. Superbad says you’re asexual because you’re a nerd; The Forty-Year-Old Virgin says you’re asexual because you severely lack social skills; and American Pie says you’re asexual because you’re awkward and desperate. 

The other half of the spectrum regarding asexual and aromantic tropes displays ace people as “uptight, self-serious, and cold-blooded,” says Julie Kliegman in an article for Bustle. Think of characters like Varys or Joffrey from Game of Thrones.

Notably, many of these character’s asexuality is either head-canon or confuses an absent sex and romantic life as asexual or aromantic. As a result, the erasure, disregard, or misrepresentation of asexaulity and aromanticism in mainstream, western media causes people on the ace spectrum to feel like an outlier. Asexual people already have difficulty navigating our personhood within a hyper-sexual, hetero-normative society, making us feel alone and misunderstood by most. 

Not to mention, when ace people “come out,” we’re gaslighted and made to feel confused due to lack of understanding surrounding asexuality and aromanticism and how the two exist on a spectrum like most other sexual orientations.

More diverse media representation for LGBT+ and queer identities aids in de-stigmatizing and normalizing all ranges, possibilities, and intersections of identities to create a more safe and inclusive world for all. However flawed Bojack Horseman’s exploration of Todd’s sexuality was at times, it still served to be an important representation for a community that is so often overlooked. 

Todd helped so many people, myself included, feel seen and most importantly validated as well as helped people learn about asexuality and aromanticism for the first time, whether they were asexual or not. Therefore, hopefully the future continues to see asexual representation that continues to improve over time, so asexual youth don’t have to wait until they’re adults watching an animated show to finally see themselves properly represented for the first time.

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