TV Shows LGBTQIA+ Movies Pop Culture

45 best queer movies and TV shows that you should watch right now

Happy Pride Month! To spread some queer cheer, we’re sharing a list of our favorite TV shows and films featuring LGBTQIA+ characters. So call up your friends, your boo, cuddle your plants and pets closer to stream the ultimate Pride watch list!

1. The Half Of It

The Half Of It
[Image description: Ellie Chu watching movies with her dad and best friend] Via The Half Of It

What it’s about: Ellie Chu is a small town loner, helping her father with his station master duties and running a business writing essays for her classmates. She insists on keeping to herself until Paul Munsky, a jock, asks her for help writing a love letter to their classmate Aster Flores. Here is our full review of the film.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

2. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
[Image description: Soonam Kapoor anxiously gazing at her reflection] Via Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga

What it’s about: The film title translates to “I Saw A Girl And Felt This Way,” and is Bollywood’s first rom-com starring lesbian love interests. Sweety Chaudry must juggle living in conservative Punjab, impending expectations of marriage (to a boy) and a playwright who develops a crush on her (not realizing he’s not Sweet’s type). 

Where you can watch it: Netflix

3. Moonlight

[Image description: Juan, played by Mahershala Ali, teaching Chiron how to swim] Via David Bornfriend/A24

What it’s about: Split up into three parts, this coming of age film follows the main character through different phases of his life in Miami, Florida where he struggles with his sexuality and identity. Moonlight won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture and stars Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, and Trecante Rhodes. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

4. Love, Simon

love simon
[Image description: Simon leaning in for a kiss underneath the mistletoe] Via Love, Simon

What it’s about: Simon Spier is a closeted 16-year-old, secretly writing letters to an anonymous friend he’s fallen in love with online and carefully hiding his sexuality from everyone. Simon’s carefully crafted life is endangered when a blackmailer threatens to out him to his whole school. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

5. Euphoria 

[Image description: Rue staring at Jules] Via Euphoria

What it’s about: HBO’s Euphoria follows a group of high schoolers. The main story is that of 17-year-old Rue, a drug addict fresh from rehab with no plans to stay clean. Circling in Rue’s orbit are Jules, a transgender girl searching for where she belongs; Nate, a jock whose anger issues mask sexual insecurities; Chris, a football star who finds the adjustment from high school to college harder than expected; Cassie, whose sexual history continues to dog her; and Kat, a body-conscious teen exploring her sexuality. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

6. The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl
[Image description: Lili Elbe, played by Eddie Redmayne staring at her reflection] Via The Danish Girl

What it’s about: Loosely based off of one of the earliest recipients of sex reassignment surgery, this film tells the story of 1920s Danish artist, Lili Elbe, played by Eddie Redmayne. It follows Lili’s transition as husband Einer Wegener to the wife of Gerda Wegener, a tentatively supportive painter.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

Shop Blue Sky Today!

7. Orange Is the New Black

[Image description: The cast of OITNB standing in the prison cafeteria] Via Orange Is The New Black

What it’s about: A dramedy set in a minimum-security federal prison, this series follows various prisoners as they navigate life under lock and key. Piper Chapman is completely unprepared to see her ex-girlfriend locked up with her, as she is responsible for tearing Piper away from freedom and her fiance, Larry.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

8. Killing Eve 

Killing Eve
[Image description: Eve, played by Sandra Oh, a knife pointed at her by rival Villanelle] Via Killing Eve

What it’s about: This UK thriller comedy show tells the story of two female spies and their increasing obsession with each other. Eve, played by Sandra Oh is a bored MI5 agent until she is recruited by MI6 to hunt down international assassin Villanelle. Both women begin to lose focus in their initial assignments and become more interested in learning more about each other. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

9. Sense8

[Image description: The sensates cheering and dancing in victory] Via Sense8

What it’s about: A sci-fi Netflix series, Sense8 tells the story of eight individuals inexplicably connected to each other from birth. Called “sensates” for their extraordinary ability to experience what the others in the group are living through, they must stay alive long enough to find out why a secret government organization wants them dead. Shot on-location in cities like Berlin and Mumbai, Sense8 boasts diversity and an inclusive cast. 

Where you can watch it: Netflix

10. Sex Education

sex education
[Image description: the student body shocked and amused in Sex Education] Via Sex Education

What it’s about: Otis, played by Asa Butterfield, is an insecure virgin and the teenaged son of a sex therapist. After successfully administering sex therapy to a fellow classmate by accident, Otis becomes his school’s most sought after resource as everyone seems to be struggling with “sex problems”. Helping him navigate this new attention is his openly gay best friend Eric and savvy new business partner, Maeve Wiley. 

Where you can watch it: Netflix

11. The Rocky Horror Picture Show 

rocky horror
[Image description: Dr. Frank N Furter and castle servants performing] Via The Rocky Horror Picture Show

What it’s about: A musical comedy production like no other, this film opens on a dark and stormy night when a naive, newly engaged young couple’s car breaks down. They seek help from a nearby castle, whose owner turns out to be Dr. Frank N. Furter, a mad scientist and alien trans woman that has managed to create a muscle man. Dr. Frank N. Furter and the castle servants begin to seduce the innocent couple separately. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

12. High Fidelity

high fidelity
[Image description: Rob, played by Zoe Kravitz] Via High Fidelity

What it’s about: A Hulu original starring Zoe Kravitz, High Fidelity follows the romantic life of Brooklynite and struggling record shop owner Rob. Freshly full of heartbreak, Rob cracks a scheme to come to terms with her love life, determined to track down her Top 5 failed relationships to ask her partners why they left her. 

Where you can watch it: Hulu

13. Queer Eye

Queer Eye
[Image description: The Fab Five of Queer Eye] Via Queer Eye

What it’s about: This Netflix reboot launches a new Fab Five, queer makeover experts that tour the US in search of nominees in need of a confidence boost. Tan France serves as the stylist, Antoni Porowski is the food expert, Karamo Brown is the culture extraordinaire, Bobby Berk is responsible for design and Jonathan Van Ness is the team groomer. 

Where you can watch it: Netflix

14. Modern Family

Modern Family
[Image description: The cast of the mockumentary assembled in the living room] Via Modern Family

What it’s about: A mockumentary following an extended American family, this sitcom is set in suburban Los Angeles. So named “modern”, among the show’s family members are a gay couple on their journey to becoming fathers. Mitchell and Cameron were one of American TV’s earliest depictions of wholesome gay dads. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

15. How Gay Is Pakistan?

how gay is pakistan?
[Image description: host Mawaan Rizwan standing in a crowded street of Pakistan] Via How Gay is Pakistan?

What it’s about: This BBC documentary film investigates gay culture in Pakistan, where the punishment for being openly gay is up to ten years in prison or the death penalty. In spite of the law, this film follows eager and comedic British Pakistani Mawaan Rizan on his quest to find the gay scene in his homeland. Along the way, we learn about Pakistan’s gay dating culture, the large trans community, and meet various gay rights activists. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

16. But I’m A Cheerleader

[Image description: Two young women stare at the camera, shocked.] via Lionsgate Films
[Image description: Two young women stare at the camera, shocked.] via Lionsgate Films

What it’s about: When Megan’s friends and family begin to suspect she’s gay, her parents intervene and enroll her in a weird residential conversion therapy program. It’s a camp ’90s classic of John Waters-like proportions with a message of self-acceptance and community at its heart.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

17. 52 Tuesdays

52 Tuesdays
[Image description: A pair embracing framed in sunlight] Via 52 Tuesdays

What it’s about: This Australian coming-of-age film shares the experience of a teenage girl struggling to deal with her mother transitioning to a male identity. Billie is sent to live with her father, whom her mother Jane divorced for the year that Jane is transitioning to James. The only time Billie gets to see James is on each Tuesday of the week. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

18. Call Me By Your Name 

call me by your name
[Image description: Elio and the graduate student he falls in love with] Via Call Me By Your Name

What it’s about: Starring Timothee Chalamet, this film is set in the summer of 1983 in Northern Italy. 17-year-old Elio becomes involved with his father’s 23-year-old graduate student. As the summer goes on, the two fall in love with each other, remaining closeted and keeping their relationship a secret, despite everyone knowing. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

19. Broad City

broad city
[Image description: Ilana Gazer and Abbi Jacobson] Via Broad City

What it’s about: This television sitcom follows the lives of two twenty-somethings as they try to “make it” in New York. Based on a popular web series and inspired by the leads’ real-life friendship, Broad City explores the bonds and sometimes-cringe humor between the women. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

20. Pose

[Image description: NYC’s ballroom culture in the 90s] Via Pose

What it’s about: Featuring a largely Black and Latino cast, this series focuses on the ballroom culture of New York City in the 80s and 90s. Most notably the show centers the AIDS crisis of the 90s, showing how hard the community was hit by how frequently characters attended funerals. The series also traces the popularity of dance styles and the various contributions of the LGBTQIA+ community to mainstream pop culture. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

21. Gentleman Jack

gentleman jack
[Image description: Anne Lister and Anne Walker] Via Gentleman Jack

What it’s about: Inspired by the real-life diaries of the lesbian landowner and industrialist Anne Lister, this historical drama series is set in Yorkshire in the early 1900s. While restoring her uncle’s estate, Anne Lister meets Ann Walker, an unusual lady landowner with whom she begins a secret and dangerous romantic relationship. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

22. Carol 

[Image description: Carol and Therese in Carol’s living room] Via Carol

What it’s about: Set in 1952 New York City, this romantic drama tells the story of Therese Belivet, an aspiring photographer and the glamorous Carol Aird. Therese and Carol are both struggling with their respective male partners when they meet each other and instantly have a connection. Against the charming backdrop of Christmastime in New York, this film tells the story of a budding romance. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

23. Before Stonewall

before stonewall
[Image description: An LGBTQ+ march for equality] Via Before Stonewall

What it’s about: Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community is a 1984 documentary film about the LGBTQIA+ community before the events of the Stonewall riots. This film outlines the struggles and challenges the lesbian and community faced leading up to Stonewall. 

Where you can watch it: Amazon

24. Portrait of a Lady on Fire 

[Image Description: Two women embrace each other just about to kiss.] via Portrait of a Lady on Fire
[Image Description: Two women embrace each other just about to kiss.] via Portrait of a Lady on Fire

What it’s about: Set on a remote shore in Britain in the 18th century. Marianne, a young painter has been commissioned to paint a portrait of a young woman named Heloise, who will soon marry. The director, Celine Sciamma, doesn’t hold back while she explores the growing passion between Marianne and Heloise.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

20%, 50%, Up to 70% Off On Dresses, Clothing, Shoes & More!! -

25. Brokeback Mountain

[Image Description: Two cowboys content in each others arms.] via Brokeback Mountain
[Image Description: Two cowboys content in each other’s arms.] via Brokeback Mountain

What it’s about: During the summer of 1963, two cowboys start a sexual relationship after they are both hired to look after sheep in the secluded Wyoming mountains. The movie follows the rest of their lives as they attempt to forget their romantic past and move forward in their respective heterosexual relationships, despite an enduring and intense infatuation with one another.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

26. A Very English Scandal

[Image Description: A man in a suit stands with his hand on his hips worried.] via A Very English Scandal
[Image Description: A man in a suit stands with his hand on his hips worried.] via A Very English Scandal

What it’s about: This incredible TV series is based on the true story of 1970s British politician Jeremy Thorpe. He has a secret: he’s gay. Like many men in his position he solicits sex from naive victims then dumps them when he’s done. However, the mini-series takes a twist when he’s charged with conspiracy to murder.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

27. Pride 

[Image Description: A pride march going through London Bridge. A man in a leather jacket sits in other protestors shoulders with a megaphone.] va Pride
[Image Description: A pride march going through London Bridge. A man in a leather jacket sits on other protesters’ shoulders with a megaphone.] via Pride

What it’s about: After Joe is cast out of his family home, he joins an up-and-coming activist group led by a charismatic gay rights campaigner, Mark. Based on a heartwarming true story, the group correlates their struggle with that of the striking miners and head off to a mining village in Wales to try and establish a political coalition against the Thatcher government with them.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

28. RENT

[Image description: Angry men and women stand together in an array of different clothing colors and identities.] via Sony Pictures Releasing
[Image description: Angry men and women stand together in an array of different clothing colors and identities.] via Sony Pictures Releasing

What it’s about: Loosely based on Puccini’s 1896 opera La Bohème, seven friends living in the East Village of New York City in the ’80s form a group bonded by economic hardship, a love of the arts, and an ongoing battle against the AIDS crisis. It swings from sad to absurd, and has a killer soundtrack full of iconic musical favorites!

Where you can watch it: Amazon

29. Hedwig and the Angry Inch

[Image Description: A transgender woman with long blonde hair and a microphone performs on stage.] via Hedwig and the Angry Inch
[Image Description: A woman with long blonde hair and a microphone performs on stage.] via Hedwig and the Angry Inch

What it’s about: This rock musical explores the life of Hedwig Robinson, a trans East German rock singer, who tours the US with her band while she tells her story. It explores the origins of love, sexuality, and the ever-fluctuating gender of its campy yet endearing title character. Hedwig assists all who watch, in guiding them through what finding that “other half” really means, whether it be love, identity, or a punk persona within all of us.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

30. Dallas Buyers Club 

[Image Description: A man and drag queen sit on bench facing away from each other.] via Dallas Buyers Club
[Image Description: A man and drag queen sit on a bench facing away from each other.] via Dallas Buyers Club

What it’s about: Set in 1985, this film tells the story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas cowboy whose life is turned upside down when he finds out he is HIV-positive. He ends up establishing a way for fellow HIV-positive people to get access to treatments for the disease.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

Try 5 Frames Before You Buy

31. Philadelphia

[Image Description: Courtroom scene. Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington sitting next to each other.] via Philadelphia
[Image Description: Courtroom scene. Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington sitting next to each other.] via Philadelphia

What it’s about: This movie was one of the first Hollywood movies to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia. The story is to-the-point yet powerful: fearing it would compromise his career, lawyer Andrew Beckett hides his homosexuality and HIV status at a powerful Philadelphia law firm. But his secret is exposed when a colleague spots the illness’s telltale lesions. Fired shortly afterward, Beckett resolves to sue for discrimination, teaming up with Joe Miller, the only lawyer willing to help. 

Where you can watch it: Netflix

32. The Birdcage

[Image Description: A man with a painted face and red lipstick, clutches his tie in worry.] via The Birdcage
[Image Description: A man with a painted face and red lipstick, clutches his tie in worry.] via The Birdcage

What it’s about: This hilarious, over-the-top comedy centers on a gay cabaret owner and his drag queen partner, who agree to pretend to be straight so that their son can introduce them to his fiancee’s conservative parents. The results of this, as might be expected, is a hilarious disaster.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

33. Boys Don’t Cry

[Image Description: Hilary Swank looks off into the distance, sitting on a bench.] via Boys Don't Cry
[Image Description: Hilary Swank looks off into the distance, sitting on a bench.] via Boys Don’t Cry

What it’s about: This movie is based on the tragic true story of Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old trans man who lost his life after his gender identity was outed by the woman he’d fallen in love with. The story flows in a gritty and hard-hitting style, and makes sure Brandon’s life and impact will never be forgotten.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

34. Mysterious Skin

[Image Description: A transgender woman with long blonde hair and a microphone performs on stage.] via Hedwig and the Angry Inch
[Image Description: A young man looks intensely in the distance.] via Mysterious Skin

What it’s about“The summer I was eight years old, five hours disappeared from my life. Five hours, lost, gone without a trace…” These are the words of Brian Lackey, a troubled 18-year-old plagued by nightmares and under the belief that he was the victim of alien abduction. On the other end is Neil McCormick, a young man that moves to New York in an attempt to forget the childhood memories that haunt him. Now, 10 years later, Neil’s pursuit of love leads him to New York City, while Brian’s voyage of self-discovery leads him to Neil — who helps him to unlock the dark secrets of their past.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

35. Ma Vie En Rose

[Image Description: A young boy wearing a white dress wears a veil.] via Ma Vie En Rose
[Image Description: A young boy wearing a white dress wears a veil.] via Ma Vie En Rose

What it’s about: In this Belgian movie, six-year-old Ludovic believes that he was meant to be a little girl, and waits for the mistake to be fixed. Where he waits for the miraculous, Ludo finds only rejection, isolation, and guilt from those in his family and community. It’s a truly powerful movie, and one that comes with its own difficult backstory.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

36. A Single Man

[Image Description: Colin Firth looks despondently at a bookshelf.] via A Single Man
[Image Description: Colin Firth looks despondently at a bookshelf.] via A Single Man

What it’s about: Colin Firth plays an English professor unable to cope with his day to day life after the death of his boyfriend. He decides to commit suicide, but the story changes as his day unfolds. As he tries to survive, he encounters a Spanish immigrant, then his best friend, who just so happens to be in love with him. As a result, he begins to rethink life.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

37. High Maintenance

[Image Description: A man on the phone looks to the distance.] via High Maintenance
[Image Description: A man on the phone looks to the distance.] via High Maintenance

What it’s about: This TV show provides a glimpse into various New Yorkers who are all linked by a common thread: their weed deliveryman. Each episode focuses on clients from every class and borough as they call on The Guy for deliveries.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

38. Margarita With a Straw 

[Image Description: A woman sucking on a curly straw.] via Margarita with a Straw
[Image Description: A woman sucking on a curly straw.] via Margarita with a Straw

What it’s about: A young woman with cerebral palsy moves from India to New York City to attend NYU on a semester abroad. There, she meets a blind girl of Pakistani-Bangladeshi descent and falls in love.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

39. Life Partners

[Image Description: Two friends sit on a bed laughing and having fun.] via Life Partners
[Image Description: Two friends sit on a bed laughing and having fun.] via Life Partners

What it’s about: Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs play codependent friends whose friendship is tested when one of them starts to get serious with a guy. Sasha, played by Meester begins to feel neglected after her best friend’s love life seems to be doing better than her own.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

40. 120 BPM

[Image Description: A young man looks away while another man tries to kiss him.] via BPM
[Image Description: A young man looks away while another man tries to kiss him.] via 120 BPM

What it’s about:  It’s the early 1990s in Paris, and anti-AIDS pressure group ACT UP is fed up with the government’s lack of interest and active censorship of the AIDS epidemic across France. We closely observe the group and their radical acts of protest, whilst also following the brief but beautiful relationship between HIV-negative newcomer, Nathan, and HIV-positive veteran, Sean.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

41. Fire

[Image Description: Two Indian women hold each other warmly, while smiling.] via Fire
[Image Description: Two Indian women hold each other warmly while smiling.] via Fire

What it’s about: Two women abandoned by their husbands find love in each other. This movie caused much controversy when it first came out in India, and theatres were attacked by Hindu fundamentalists because of the lesbian storyline.

42. Faking It

[Image Description: A blond and brunette girl embrace and kiss each other.] via Faking It
[Image Description: A blond and brunette girl embrace and kiss each other.] via Faking It

What it’s about: A romantic comedy TV show about two best friends who love each other — in slightly different ways. After numerous failed attempts to become popular, the girls are mistakenly outed as lesbians, which launches them to instant celebrity status. Seduced by their newfound fame, Karma and Amy decide to keep up their romantic ruse.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

43. This Is Not Berlin

[Image Description: A man with gay written in red multiple times on his body.] via This is not Berlin
[Image Description: A man with gay written in red multiple times on his body.] via This is not Berlin

What it’s about: It’s 1986 in Mexico City, and we meet seventeen-year-old Carlos. He doesn’t fit in anywhere: not in his family nor with the friends he has chosen in school. But everything changes when he is invited to a mythical nightclub where he discovers the underground nightlife scene: post-punk, sexual liberty, and drugs that challenges the relationship with his best friend Gera and lets him find his passion for art.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

44. The Bold Type

[Image Description: Three women wearing luxury dresses.] via The Bold Type
[Image Description: Three women wearing luxury dresses.] via The Bold Type

What it’s about: This amazing show is inspired and produced by Cosmopolitan editor in chief Joanna Coles. Revealing a glimpse into the outrageous lives and loves of those behind the global women’s magazine, “Scarlet”, this incredible show centers around the rising generation of women finding their own voices in a sea of intimidating leaders. Inspired by the life of former Cosmopolitan magazine editor-in-chief (Joanna Coles), the series weaves together the stories and struggles of some truly badass women.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

45. The Color Purple

[Image Description: Whoopi Goldberg sits on a chair with her hands on her face.] via The Color Purple
[Image Description: Whoopi Goldberg sits on a chair with her hands on her face.] via The Color Purple

What it’s aboutAn epic tale spanning forty years in the life of Celie, an African-American woman living in the South who survives incredible abuse and bigotry. After Celie’s abusive father marries her off to the equally debasing “Mister” Albert Johnson, things go from bad to worse, leaving Celie to find companionship anywhere she can. She perseveres, holding on to her dream of one day being reunited with her sister and finding her identity in the meantime.

Where you can watch it: Amazon

Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
LGBTQIA+ Gender & Identity Music Pop Culture

How Janelle Monae’s ‘Dirty Computer’ helped me come out to the world

Let me tell you the story of how Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer literally helped me come out. 

“[Redacted] takes her straight (unless you have something to tell me) friends to Pride.” 

When I saw the name of the group chat my best friend had added me to organize a group of us “straight friends” to accompany her to Pride the summer after my sophomore year of college, I knew I had a decision to make.

I had first thought that I was maybe bisexual in late middle school or early high school – but I hadn’t had an oh shit, I’m definitely queer moment until I was surrounded by people who were openly queer and comfortable in who they were in college. Even then, I’d only said the words out loud once or twice, preferring to stay in the safer space of being a slightly too enthusiastic “ally” to the queer community on campus.

I knew I had a decision to make.

After mulling it over, I exhaled a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding and typed out a message to my friend: “Lol ok so…” 

It was one of the best decisions I’ve made – having someone else to talk to about being both queer and Asian helped me find power in the intersection of my identities instead of conflict. Coming out to the rest of my close friends was easier after that. But I still wasn’t out out, and definitely not to the Muslim community. I had loosely toyed with the idea of coming out around graduation but hadn’t given it much actual thought.

That changed after I met Mohammed Ramzan, a fellow student who started as a freshman at Northwestern my junior year. Mohammed was loving, exuberant, intensely curious, and proudly Muslim. He was the first openly queer Muslim I’d met, and I found myself wondering why I was so afraid.

Being Muslim and being queer weren’t just not contradictory identities – they were complementary. They gave him a level of empathy for the oppressed and motivation to answer Qur’anic calls to strive for justice that was unparalleled. When he was taken from us in a rowing accident after just a few short months of our knowing him, I promised myself – for Mohammed, for myself, for my community – I was committing to coming out.

“Serendipity” is a funny word. It’s also exactly what I felt was at play when, in the spring of my senior year, just before my self-imposed deadline, Janelle Monáe dropped her iconic “emotion picture” album, Dirty Computer.

Monáe’s music had hinted at her queerness for quite some time, but her unabashedly sweet crooning about the raw power of vaginas on the album in songs like “Pynk” and “Django Jane” and her “Make Me Feel” video celebrating bisexuality left no room for questions.

I cried my eyes out watching Dirty Computer. Seeing Monáe boldly proclaim her Blackness and her queerness gave me the jolt I was waiting for. Listening to “Crazy, Classic, Life,” it felt like the burden of the many hyphens in my identity was weighing on me. Seeing friends I hadn’t come out to yet losing it over the energy of the album further pushed that weight damn near the verge of exploding out of my throat.

I finally did the thing and slipped my bisexuality in the middle of a Facebook post about my upcoming thesis poster presentation about a month after the album’s release.

Later that summer, I went to Monáe’s Chicago show, feeling immeasurably affirmed as she once again reiterated her messages of queerness being a central code in our makeup, and the pride we should take in being “dirty computers” in a country with leadership dead-set on viewing our identities as a “virus.”

Two years later, I once again find myself on a precipice.

I thought of Mohammed again and his firm belief that Allah makes no mistakes. No computer viruses, no mistakes – I came home and came out to a few cousins, and eventually my sisters.

Two years later, I once again find myself on a precipice.

I’m out to all the most meaningful people in my life, except for a few notable ones, including my parents. I sit next to them every night as we watch the news and listen to how our government is once again attacking the LGBTQIA+ community, which is particularly dangerous for my trans loved ones.

I talk to my dad about how we’re in the middle of a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting BIPOC, as the Black community rises up across the country to dismantle white supremacist institutions that have no regard for the humanity of queer people, in particular Black trans folks.

And I know that even as I have these conversations with my parents – who have been understanding and accepting of every point I’ve made so far – that I am not being entirely truthful because I am treating these discussions as hypotheticals, rather than as personal to me.

I’m, as Monáe sings, “So Afraid” – of hurting them, of losing them. But I’m also afraid now, more than anything else, of not honoring them by being my full self with them. I owe that to them more in this political moment than ever before.

So this strange yet momentous Pride – what was meant to be my fifth as a proudly queer, clinically depressed, Bangladeshi-Muslim-American woman – I’m removing the final layer of my privacy settings and publicly stating for the record: I am bisexual.

And I’m ready to fight for my communities and those of my loved ones.

I’m listening to Dirty Computer while I’m writing, actually – it’s taken four and a half loops through it to figure out exactly what I’ve been trying to say and how I want to say it because I’ve never fully taken ownership of my identity and written something about it with my name on it.

It’s terrifying because I know as soon as my editors hit “Publish” on this piece, it’s going to be out there, and there’s not really any going back from it.

I’m also afraid now, more than anything else, of not honoring them by being my full self with them.

But I also think that’s exactly what this moment in history needs more of: No more going back, just reckoning and honesty and difficult conversations, over and over, until we build anew. We’ll make mistakes – many of them.

But as Monáe herself says: “We need to go through this. Together… I’m going to make you empathize with dirty computers all around the world.”

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!


I’m afraid of losing touch with my queer identity if I marry a man

As a child, I didn’t really understand the ‘wedding fever’ that seemed to captivate so many of my friends. I didn’t have an opinion on the type of dress I would want, and I had no desire to scroll through Pinterest boards of engagement rings and table décor.

Given that I was a queer kid from one of the only non-Christian families in a small Catholic town, it’s not exactly difficult to imagine why. I was too busy navigating my current reality: classmates who threw things at me, or commented, “something smells like dyke” as I walked past. Friends who abandoned me because they were “taught not to support that”. Adults who felt that instances of child abuse were more acceptable than queer relationships.

As you can probably understand, it took me a long time before I felt secure enough to imagine the thought of my hypothetical future wife on our wedding day. But when I finally let my mind wander there… It was the first time that I too felt connected to the idea of getting married. And it was at that moment that I realized that maybe marriage wanted me, too. It had just been waiting for me to be honest with myself. To acknowledge that the love of my life had the potential to be of any gender identity and expression — it was a truth I was punished for speaking. But it was a beautiful one — beautiful and freeing — and I wore it on my sleeve despite the plethora of harassment it brought me.

Now, in keeping with this — the exact definition of bisexuality — my current partner happens to be a man. As was the last one, and the one before that. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been with women, or that I haven’t been interested in non-binary people. In fact, it doesn’t mean anything more than what it is: that there are men out there and that I have the potential to be interested in them. Some of them have the potential to be interested in me. The same is true of people of all other genders.

That said, I sometimes start to wonder: why did I make myself go through all that if I’m just going to end up marrying a man anyway? And am I betraying the queer community if I do?

Is my current femme presentation just a subconscious effort to be more appealing to men? What happened to the teenage girl with the so-called ‘boy-short’ hair and a closet full of button-downs? Is it possible she’s still around here somewhere?

Did I inadvertently put myself back in the closet?

Why am I even having to ask these questions?

As women, we are often expected to define ourselves with respect to our current relationship status. For bi women, this is true on a whole other level. And so, as an adult, I’m finding that I need to be honest with myself again. Not for my own purposes, but in anticipation of the judgements of others. Because, like it or not, they will come.

“Everyone’s bisexual these days,” a friend once said to me. And unfortunately, I know exactly what she was implying. That we’re all young and dumb and saying it for the attention of men — or that we’re probably just experimenting, but we’ll ‘settle down’ with a man eventually.

Why do I feel the need to prove that I am a ‘legitimate’ bisexual, as if such a thing even exists?

I worry that my queerness is fading somehow. I can feel it slipping away sometimes — and I’m afraid to make it worse. I worry that I’m an imposter — and that marrying a man will reinforce this idea. That all the dismissals of “it’s just a phase” will be confirmed.

Here’s an idea I’ve considered. Can you celebrate your queerness at a seemingly straight wedding? It sort of goes against the goal of focusing on your feelings for your partner — which, to me, is the whole appeal of having the ceremony.

Or does it?

In a way, maybe not. Maybe, as a bi person, it says to your partner, “I could potentially have chosen anyone — anyone in the whole world — and I chose you.”

But even then, what are you gonna do, exactly? Hang a bi pride flag above the officiant’s head? Have your first dance with your husband to a Melissa Etheridge song? Surprise everyone present by having a conga line of potential spouses come parading through, and only then revealing which one you’ve decided to go with?

… Yeah, I don’t think so.

Honestly, I hate the thought of having to make my wedding about me at all. We fought (and are still fighting) to be able to safely and happily be with — and marry — the person we intend to love for the rest of our days. I just want the freedom to do the same — whoever they turn out to be.

Love Life Stories

I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 22 years old

A few months ago, I caught up with a friend I’ve known since I was a teenager. As part of my stream of life updates, I mentioned that I now identify as queer. “Shocker,” they said, straight-faced. “You finally figured out what we’ve all known for years.”

My friend had a point. It should come as a shock to approximately no one that I’m into folks of all genders. I do have short hair, after all. My closest friends since I was thirteen have all been queer or trans. I’ve always identified with and cared about representations of queer women in the media. 

And I’m pretty sure my older brother has known forever. His phone conversations with me in high school always involved the question “So, made out with any cute boys lately?…Or girls! I don’t know!”

Still, it took me until I was about 24 to start calling myself queer. 

In spite of everything, I didn’t feel like I was “queer enough.” Even as I sit down to write this article, part of me doesn’t feel like my personal experience is enough to represent my community. After all, the first girl I ever slept with once accused me of being a “gay tease.” 

She later apologized for making me feel like I needed to prove my queerness to her, but I still think about that experience. Exactly which part of me kissing her and telling her I liked her made her think I was falsely leading her on? It must have just been the fact that before her, I’d only ever been with cis dudes. 

I didn’t have my first kiss with anyone until I was almost 22, but that didn’t stop me from telling people I was straight, or from having people accept my “straightness” at face value. Why is queerness something that we feel like we need to prove?

No one ever asks straight women how long they’ve known they liked men.

There’s a period of discovering and adjusting to new sexual or romantic feelings for every sexual orientation, whether it’s “oh crap I suddenly don’t think boys are gross” or “everybody wants to kiss their best friend, right???”

For me, that period of discovery came a little later than it does for many people. Part of me always knew I liked girls, but another part of me still had heteronormative ideas about what my romantic trajectory should look like. Having lots of queer friends throughout my life and reading plenty of queer theory didn’t stop me from internalizing false narratives. Societal norms told me my feelings for girls and other genders were secondary to my feelings for dudes, and parts of the queer community made me feel like there was only one way to be queer.

I finally decided to start calling myself queer after I started hanging out with a new group of friends who all identified as lesbians. My friend would introduce me to them by saying things like, “This is Hannah. Can you believe she’s straight?”

Every time she said that I felt something itch inside me. I knew that “straight” didn’t describe me, and part of me wanted to correct her. At the same time, I knew my experience was completely different from the other members of that group and I felt like the words “queer” or “bisexual” weren’t mine to use.

For a while, I thought I’d just say I was “not straight.”

I was afraid to date girls because I was afraid of just what that girl would eventually say about me. I was afraid of leading people on. I was also nervous to come out to my queer friends after all these years of them thinking of me as “the straight one.” That fear turned out to be unwarranted.

My best friend from high school who had recently come out as a trans man simply said, “I’d just like to point out the irony that you turn out to be queer and I turn out to be straight.”

Now I know it was silly to wait this long to come out.

The word “queer” encompasses anyone whose sexual orientation or gender identity falls outside of traditional heteronormativity. If that applies to you, then you’re queer. You don’t need to look a certain way, act a certain way, behave in a certain way, or prove your identity to anyone. you are enough.

Love + Sex Love

I felt more Muslim when I fell in love with a woman.

On our first date, she asked me if I believed in God.

I told her that I did, but I wasn’t sure about religion.

She, too, was raised culturally Muslim. She told me that she didn’t drink alcohol, that she prayed regularly, and that her relationship with God was very important to her.

I was quite surprised that we were talking about this on our first date. Both of us were comfortably “out” to our friends and were involved in social justice activism – where sexual politics are familiar topics – but I wasn’t used to discussing my relationship with religion and faith in this context.

The first time that I fell in love with a woman, God was with me every step of the way.

From the moment I saw her, I thought she was adorable. There was something special about her that made me want to introduce myself to her. As soon as we started talking, we clicked. It was instantaneous and magnetic and ever since then I just wanted to be close to her. I wanted to get to know her, I wanted to spend time with her. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I didn’t want to lose the feeling that I had with her – a sense of optimism and hope, excitement of what could be.

It wasn’t my first time crushing on a woman, it wouldn’t even be my first relationship with a woman, but there was something with her that I couldn’t explain or articulate. She just got me. We understood each other in a way that I had never experienced. After only a week of knowing each other, she told me that she had never felt as comfortable with another person as she did with me.

Everything was so natural with her. I had never felt so fully understood and appreciated before – and I know how corny that sounds, but when you’re in love you’re corny, and I was happy to embrace my corniness, because I loved her.

Of course, I wanted her in every way that you can want someone romantically. But even when she held my hand or tucked my hair behind my ear, it felt like the most intimate thing in the world to me. I was in love with her, and I think it was mutual.

Being with her made me brave. I experienced the fullness of being loved, and the fullness of my capacity to love another person. It was a short relationship but it was incredibly meaningful to me. I thank God for bringing her into my life.

Breaking up with her was devastating. The day after, I could barely get out of bed. My heart hurt so much I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t sleep on my bed because it reminded me of her. I didn’t want to walk through my neighborhood because every street and every place still had her memory attached to it. What got me through the heartbreak was praying to Allah. I repeated my favorite hadith until the pain stopped: اللهُمَّ لا سَهْلَ إلا مَا جَعَلتَهُ سَهْلا وَ أنتَ تَجْعَلُ الحزْنَ إذا شِئْتَ سَهْلا  “O Allah! There is nothing easy except what You make easy, and You make the difficult easy if it be Your Will”

Faith and spirituality were a huge part of this experience. I never doubted the sacredness of our relationship. Our relationship made me want to be more honest, compassionate, understanding, and generous: values that I believe are inherently Islamic. She was a good person, and being with her made me feel closer to God.

I’m not here to give a sermon about coming to terms with my sexuality. I’ve been aware of my potential attraction to women as long as I can remember. I can’t point to a moment in time where everything changed and I realized “oh, I’m queer!” but I remember when I was about twelve I became more cognizant of my attraction to boys, and then I realized that the feelings I had towards some girls was the same as that.

I tried to convince myself that the bi-curious thing was a phase. Of course you like her, she’s beautiful and kind! It doesn’t mean you’re into girls! Well, it’s been over ten years and the phase hasn’t passed.

Sometimes even now it’s hard to draw the line between “wow she’s a lovely human being – I admire her and want to spend lots of time with her” and “I really want to be her girlfriend.” I think most heterosexual women have experienced the former.

Religion and culture have always been intertwined for me. I could never give up my religion, as it would mean losing my culture and my family too. I would never want to make that sacrifice. I don’t need to be “out” to my family or community for me to feel like I am being true to myself. I think the insistence or focus on being “out” reflects an individualistic, Eurocentric paradigm. I accept myself as I am, and I believe that God does too – that’s what is important to me.

I am Muslim. I identify as such because that’s what makes me feel safe and whole. I have issues with the way our religion has been interpreted and practiced by many, but I believe that my relationship with God is what truly matters. I frankly don’t care what any imam or scholar says about how queer people “fit in” in Islam, whether there is a space for us, or whatever texts may or may not apply to us. My space in Islam is established by virtue of my existence. I am Muslim, so Islam has a space for me. My relationship with God and my sexuality are not at odds with one another. As far as I am concerned, there is no conflict.

Like everyone else, I am in a constant process of evolving and trying to better myself. I think we should learn and grow from our experiences, and my relationship with her made me grow as a person and as a Muslim. I know that Allah is with me and will guide me through my life and my relationships, regardless of the gender of my partner.