No one is brave enough to say what we’re all thinking, so I have to: 2006 cinematic tour de force Aquamarine is gay Aquaman, which means it’s astronomically better.
The latest movie to splash into the DC universe is the James Wan-directed Aquaman. As the first origin story since 2017’s extraordinarily successful Wonder Woman, the superhero movie was one of the movies to see over Christmas. As a fan of DC, and Nicole Kidman and Amber Heard, who both star in the movie, I begrudgingly went to see the movie and was superbly disappointed—and my hopes weren’t too high to begin with.
Jason Momoa stars as the titular character, who is probably the most beastly, toxically masculine, and unlikeable superhero to ever grace a DC or Marvel movie. I felt pressed by his aggressive, testosterone-on-overdrive presence throughout the movie, and couldn’t help but feel resentful that Momoa was even allowed to play the role, given his previous disgusting jokes about rape. Knowing that he once “joked” about getting to “rape beautiful women” as Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones, it was hard to watch him repeatedly disobey Mera (Heard), and then watch her fall for him. He consistently treats her like garbage, does the opposite of what she asks, and insults her, and yet we’re supposed to find his unwieldy behavior endearing. Like, even Tony Stark is lovable, and he’s a piece of shit. Momoa’s Aquaman just had zero redeeming qualities. The movie, as well as his performance and character, were the antithesis of Wonder Woman and Gal Gadot’s character, which was jarring to watch.
On the other hand, what admittedly makes Aquaman special, what makes it stand out from all other superhero movies, is that it introduces us to a whole new underwater world. It’s unlike any other DC or Marvel movie, because it takes us into the trenches of the ocean, introducing us to new creatures, technology, and cities, while all other superhero movies are bound to Earth or space. And while the movie was aesthetically and visually stunning, I was plagued with one thought throughout the ceaseless 2+ hours of the film: Why didn’t I just stay home and rent Aquamarine?Aquamarine offers a similar landscape, plus it stars Emma Roberts, JoJo Levesque, Arielle Kebbel, and Sara Paxton, features kind feminine energy, and has zero aggressive male behavior. The choice is obvious, but hindsight is 20/20.
Sure, Aquamarine doesn’t take us underwater into unexplored territories, but I’d rather watch a movie with Emma Roberts than cheap Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson knockoff Jason Momoa. Aquamarine is insultingly underrated, and is basically a cornerstone of LGBTQ history thanks to its cast, music, and thematic elements (oceans are canonically queer, as is mermaid magic). Plus, you can rent the movie for only 99 cents right now on Amazon Prime. Why did I waste $15 watching Jason Momoa act like he’s better than bisexual queen Amber Heard, which isn’t even remotely believable and is basically homophobic, when I could’ve stayed home and watched Sara Paxton dance to “Island in the Sun” with crimped hair?
If you’re unfamiliar with the 2000s teen classic, get familiar: Aquamarine is about two best friends, Claire (Roberts) and Hailey (JoJo), who are about to be separated in five days when Hailey’s mom will move to Australia. Hailey prays to the ocean god (obviously) for a miracle that will prevent her mom from leaving. As a result, a mermaid named Aquamarine (Paxton) washes ashore and befriends the girls. And if you help a mermaid, they’ll grant you one wish. Aquamarine tells the girls that she needs to prove to her father that love exists, and if she fails, she will have to go home to Atlantis and marry a man she doesn’t love. So, they help her find love.
First of all, that’s basically Nicole Kidman’s character’s exact storyline in Aquaman; Atlanna (Kidman), queen of Atlantis washes ashore and falls in love with a human man, but is forced to return to her arranged marriage, when the man she really loves is an earthling. Is Aquamarine the Atlanna origin story? Probably.
Also, Aquaman is—surprise surprise—written and directed by men. It’s meant to be brimming with traditionally “masculine” energy, and overflowing with testosterone, which is a total nightmare. If I wanted to seek out Bad Male Behavior, I’d log on to Twitter and check my mentions. On the converse side, Aquamarine was directed by a woman and written by the legendary Jessica Bendinger, the writer behind 2000s classics like Bring It On,Stick It, and First Daughter; she’s essentially teen movie royalty.
So, the cast of Aquamarine is phenomenal, the movie is written and directed by women, Jason Momoa isn’t in it, and it has a phenomenal soundtrack: Teddy Geiger, Vitamin C, the Mandy Moore cover of “One Way or Another,” which fucking rips, Atomic Kitten (!!!), and the Jonas Brothers. What does Aquaman have? Sigur Ros? A cover of Toto’s “Africa” by Pitbull?? I’m not even joking, it really has a fucking Pitbull cover of Toto. I’m telling you, this movie is homophobic!!
Finally, Arielle Kebbel plays the bitchy queen bee popular girl in Aquamarine, and as we all know and talk about all the time, every movie in which Arielle Kebbel plays a nasty woman is basically Oscar-worthy (see: Fifty Shades Freed, John Tucker Must Die). Aquamarine is serving blue hair streaks, ocean magic, storms, shopping montages, conch phones, pop music, and an A-List cast. What more could you even want from a movie?
Save what’s left of 2018 by doing yourself a favor: Skip the toxic masculinity of Aquaman and instead rent Aquamarine, the Atlanna prequel, on Amazon Prime.
We’ve come to the end of the film year, and as awards bodies ramp up to hand out their trophies, we’re left to survey the dust. Or, since we’re gay, the glitter.
It was a fairly gay film year, one that perhaps benefitted from low expectations. Without a Big Gay Movie like Call Me by Your Name, Carol, or Moonlight, more movies were able to surprise, either with a surprising amount of queerness, or for deftly using gay supporting characters to better flesh out their worlds. Along the way, there were some disappointments: Boy Erased wound up being more of a gay movie for straight people, and nothing Timothée Chalamet did this year could quite match the gay quotient of CMBYN.
To commemorate the year, I’ve assembled the top 10 gayest movies I covered this year in my But How Gay Is It? column. I’ve also included (lightly edited) answers to the titular question from each column; if you want to read each full review, they’re linked to each movie title. Enjoy!
Honorable mentions: Ultimately, Ocean’s 8 just wasn’t gay enough, despite giving off all the right signals. We lament that we didn’t get a queerer version — one in which Debbie Ocean and Lou Miller’s past was a romantic one, and more true sexual sparks flew between Debbie and Tammy. Also, I didn’t cover Disobedience for But How Gay Is It? — blame another, slightly bigger movie that came out that weekend — but it’d absolutely make the top 10 if I had.
But how gay is it? More gay than you’d think, in large part because Rodriguez’s Anya is gay. She doesn’t have a big romantic plot or anything — none of the other supporting characters do, and Lena’s is only told in flashback. But her sexuality is explicitly mentioned, and that’s not nothing.
But how gay is it? There are no gay characters, but simply assembling a collection of gay icons like this is absolutely qualifies it as pretty gay. Plus, their stories will sound all too familiar: Diane Keaton meets a rich daddy who wants her to lie to her family and meet him at his fabulous home in the desert? Relatable to literally any twink who’s found his way into an older man’s pool in Palm Springs. Candice Bergen goes out on Bumble dates and hooks up with a man in the back of her car? Iconic! Jane Fonda struggles with finding love and prefers to just have one-night stands? Honestly, these women are doing gay dating culture better than we are.
But how gay is it? It is a solid Gay. I was worried there would be a tinge of no-homo to all of it, a gay-but-not-that-gay vibe. And I was wrong about that. In addition to Simon and Blue, there’s Ethan, an out-and-proud gay kid who routinely reads his classmates to filth. (At one point, he says a straight bully’s outfit looks like he was “gangbanged by a T.J. Maxx,” and I haven’t stopped screaming about it since.) I wish the movie had more time for him, but he was a new character for the film as-is, so I appreciate how much of him we get.
This is a commercial teen movie, so you’re not going to get the most impressive queer theory or experimental characters. It’d be unfair to expect that, frankly. But generally, I was impressed by how unafraid of its gayness the movie is. Is it a little white, a little homonormative, a little cheesy? For sure. But for the first big, studio film with a lead gay character, this is a solid first step.
But how gay is it? Obviously quite gay! And different shades of gay, too. You get a pretty diverse coalition of young queer people at the conversion therapy camp God’s Promise. It’s not exuberantly gay, but soberly and bracingly gay.
But how gay is it? Colette is somewhere on the bisexual scale, interested in women and having an affair with an American heiress, though obviously, considering that the film is period, she’s not given an exact label for her sexuality. There’s a lot of sex in the film, and credit where it’s due, the vast majority of it has some element of queerness to it.
But how gay is it? Shockingly gay. While all three girls make a pact to have sex, one of their paths is blocked by a particularly difficult element: Hunter’s daughter Sam is gay. She’s still coming to terms with it a bit, but between her lack of interest in her date, Chad, and her crush on class quirky girl Angelica, it seems obvious. Particularly impressive in this is how Hunter takes it: He knows instinctively that his daughter is a lesbian, and not for one second does he judge her. When she does finally talk with him about it, it’s an incredibly sweet, earnest scene.
But how gay is it? Just the absolute gayest. It’s ABBA songs. It’s Colin Firth as a gay dad. It’s Hugh Skinner as baby Colin Firth comparing losing his virginity to a woman to “Waterloo.” It’s Christine Baranski saying all men are trash while pouring tea. It’s horny legend Andy Garcia. It’s motherfucking Cher. This is our gay fantasia on national themes, and we need it now more than ever.
But how gay is it? Emily is bisexual, admitting to a threesome with her husband’s female TA in one of her first chats with Stephanie. We get plenty more shades of her flexible sexuality in other scenes, too, and another character shows a queer bent as well — though to go too far into them would be getting into spoilers. What’s refreshing, though, is that the character’s bisexuality isn’t made into a nefarious detail about her. Scandalous, sure; Stephanie is shocked when she first hears. But what makes Emily shady is everything but her sexuality. It’s a play on the harmful Depraved Bisexual trope that, in my opinion, works as a subversion.
But how gay is it? Oh, it’s just about gayest thing you’ll see this year. Lee Israel is a lesbian who embarks on a flirtation with one of her female buyers, and is still very much recovering from her breakup with a serious ex. Grant is also gay, and has a fling with a much younger man. Moreover, the film’s sensibility is remarkably queer. It’s got the kind of bitter warmth that feels way too familiar to me as a former gay New York resident. You know what I’m talking about: the camaraderie of reading your best friends, shading your nemeses, and doing it all over drinks at Julius. (New York’s oldest gay bar prominently features in the film, acting as the setting for multiple scenes.)
I can’t quite describe it; it’s just a familiar, wonderful feeling. Can You Ever Forgive Me? has a great story, but its mood and setting are, to me, its greatest strengths.
But how gay is it? Oh my god, so gay. Gayer than a bunch of twinks on Fire Island. Gayer than a coterie of lesbians at the Dinah. Gayer than fucking Palm Springs. Some of that is content, yes; Abigail and Sarah are not just competing for Anne with personal favors, but also deeply intimate ones. Even gayer, however, are the movie’s aesthetic and language. Nicholas Hoult’s Harley is a bitchy queen with plenty of reads for all his female rivals, and the mascara to match. He obsesses over appearance and tells one of his party members that his men must be “pretty.”
Meanwhile, Abigail and Sarah brutally drag each other with a viciousness only otherwise found at a drag bar on a Friday night. Reader, I was expecting this movie to be fun; I had no idea it would be, right next to Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the gayest movie of the year.
LGBTQ rights advocates in Malaysia are calling for justice after video footage showed two gay men being attacked by a violent mob.
A nearly two-minute clip that went viral Thursday depicts a pair of shirtless men being pulled from their vehicle and assaulted by anti-LGBTQ vigilantes. According to a translation of the video conducted by the news site Free Malaysia Today, the attackers accuse them of “committing a sin” before demanding to see their identification cards.
“Did you forget God?” one assailant allegedly asks the couple during the incident. “It’s a shame!”
The identities of the victims—including their current whereabouts—are unknown at this time. Video posted online of the attack racked up hundreds thousands of views after the Pelangi Campaign, a local activist group, posted it to Facebook. The clip has since been removed.
We have received unverified report about a viral video of two young men that were beaten up by a group of people for allegedly having gay sex. We categorically condemn this anti-gay violence and call on the Malaysian authority to investigate on this hate crime.
President Numan Afifi claimed LGBTQ Malaysians are “appalled” by yet another act of violence against their community.
“We urge the police to investigate the assault without fear and favor and proactively provide security protection for the victims and LGBTQ community at large from being targeted in other jurisdictions,” he said in a statement shared with INTO.
In a series of messages, Numan confirmed that activists had filed a police report to authorities in Kuala Lumpur—even though the site of the attack is unknown.
Activists could not comment on the state of the investigation.
Supporters of LGBTQ equality urged police to be vigilant in following through on the reports. Human rights attorney Eric Paulsen, who serves as the legal director for Fortify Rights, called upon law enforcement agents to prosecute the case as a “hate crime.”
“Everyone deserves equal protection under the law,” he claimed on Twitter.
This is serious assault, an aggravated hate crime. Hope the authorities will investigate & arrest the perpetrators.
But as Numan pointed out, this case isn’t the first in which LGBTQ Malaysians have been harmed or even killed as a result of mob violence. Earlier this month, a transgender woman was murdered by a group of teenagers in the district of Klang. Reports say she sustained “multiple injuries” before her death.
A similar anti-trans assault occurred earlier this year after a 32-year-old woman was besieged by eight men in Negeri Sembilan. The victim was hospitalized in August after sustaining a punctured spleen and broken ribs.
According to Numan, the recent surge in attacks on Malaysia’s LGBTQ community over the past few years is the result of “moral policing and homophobia.”
“Thus, in a country where peace and harmony prevail, we must acknowledge that this is a continuing extremist threat that targets not only the LGBTQ community but also other minority groups at risk, including women and religious minorities,” he told INTO.
Malaysia is the world’s second-largest Muslim-majority democracy after Indonesia.
Although the previous administration was known for its imperious treatment of LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups, human rights campaigners hoped the election of a new government in May would usher in a wave of religious moderation and tolerance toward queer and trans people.
Those promises have yet to come to fruition.
Just weeks after the election, two women in Terengganu were arrested and subsequently caned after they were discovered “trying to have sex” in a parked car. They were flogged eight times as a crowd of 100 watched.
Currently, same-sex intercourse is illegal in Malaysia, punishable by a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Anwar Ibrahim, the man who is widely believed to be the country’s next prime minister, has called for those laws (which stem from the colonial era) to be struck down. In a November appearance at the George Town Literary Festival, he referred to the criminal codes as “archaic” and “unjust.”
But while Malaysia’s LGBTQ community fights for its future, Pelangi urges anyone with more information about this week’s attack to come forward.
“Currently, we are still monitoring the alarming situation and call for eyewitnesses of the violent incident to immediately report it to human rights groups or bodies and the authority,” Numan claimed.
It has been a rollercoaster of a year for queer people seeking representation on the big screen; we’ve seen everything from gay love stories unfolding between teens in a mainstream movie (Love, Simon) to being reminded that straight filmmakers will mine queer tragedy for straight audiences as long as they can get some awards (Boy Erased).
It’s a year where queer films like the marvelous biopic about bestselling biographer turned letter forger Lee Israel (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and the maddeningly fun period film about Queen Anne, Sarah Churchill, and Abigail Hill engaging in a sexual and political tug-of-war (The Favourite) are at the forefront of the Oscar race.
We saw gay characters in studio comedies like Blockers, foreign dramas like The Cakemaker, documentaries like McQueen, and indie dramedies like Hearts Beat Loud and Ideal Home. But we were also forced to sit through the mishandling of real life queer figures like musician Don Shirley and Freddie Mercury in the notoriously bad Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody, respectively.
Even on television we had some true wonders, with Random Acts of Flyness and Pose giving uniquely black perspectives on queerness. Ryan Murphy produced not one (with Pose) but two wonderful shows, bringing The Assassination of Gianni Versace to life with Tom Rob Smith, the writer of the brilliant London Spy. And British television was going all out, giving us Desiree Akhavan’s The Bisexual, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Killing Eve, and Russell T. Davies’ A Very English Scandal.
What about all the queer films that didn’t get a wide release, though? What about the films that were only shown at your local art cinema, or made no money when released all across the country, or were sent straight to VOD? What about the ones that are coded as queer and not explicitly gay so they aren’t labeled as such?
These are the queer films you might not have seen this year, but they’re the ones you should seek out as quickly as possible.
Sense8, “Amor Vincit Omnia”
No less ambitious in scope and no less intimate than any film that Lana and Lilly Wachowski have graced us with since the ’90s, Lana Wachowski’s feature film finale to her Netflix series Sense8—about eight individuals who are connected telepathically and experience each other’s lives—is an absolute treasure from start to finish; it’s a cinematic gem that makes your heart break upon remembering that the Wachowskis closed down their production office this year.
While it’s not unfair to describe it as a flawed and rushed attempt at packing three TV seasons into 2.5 hours in an attempt to wrap up what was meant to be ongoing, what makes “Amor Vincit Omnia” unique is its dedication to the notion that love, in all its forms, can save the world. The unbridled optimism of the Wachowskis is on full display here, and what we’re delivered is a refreshing blend of action, comedy, drama, sci-fi, and romance that ends on the queerest note possible.
A film that begins with big, bold, red-white-and-blue Godardian text listing trigger warnings of what’s about to come is a film that shouldn’t work, and yet, somehow, Assassination Nation is a marvel. Sam Levinson delivers something that’s relatable and terrifying in equal parts, largely due to the performances by Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, and Abra as the best group of teen girls caught on film in ages.
And, sure, its transposing of the Salem Witch Trials into present-day America—via the story of a town turning against four teen girls under the presumed notion that they leaked everyone’s information—is about as subtle as a brick to the head. But considering the state of the nation, maybe a loud and unsubtle feature that feels like a direct descendant of Brian De Palma (both in form and in sociopolitical commentary) is exactly what we need right now.
The Wild Boys
One of the most unabashedly indulgent films of the year, Bertrand Mandico’s The Wild Boys is an orgy of influences (from Kenneth Anger and James Bidgood to Derek Jarman and Guy Maddin) that brings lust, violence, and fetish to the big screen in a phantasmagorical way. It’s an odd but engrossing art film about a group of young men who, when arrested for the rape and murder of their teacher, are taken to an island whose fruit changes their bodies drastically.
Its central conceit—that all of its boys are played by actresses—begs discussions of gender performance, the rejection of any one gender being defined by certain traits, and the rejection of bodies and identities being inherently tied together. There’s no clean way to describe this truly wild teenage genderfuck journey disguised as an uncomfortable erotic fever dream full of phallic imagery, but it’s the kind of fantasia worth diving deep into.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
With her sophomore feature, Desiree Akhavan paints a portrait of lost souls; people trying to do what they think is right and failing miserably at it. There’s as much pain in conversion therapy as there is potential allure—the idea of being “fixed,” of being free from self-loathing, is appealing. Not only does The Miseducation of Cameron Post feature a stellar ensemble (with Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr., Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, and Jennifer Ehle as its main players), it has a genuine interest in all of them and how they function within the limbo of existence known as conversion therapy.
Akhavan expertly avoids the trauma porn of Boy Erased by navigating the realm of suffering like a true queer person would, crafting a refreshingly honest and amusing depiction of how we struggle to escape what we’re being taught to believe. There are hardships and mountains of shame and internalized loathing to deal with, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be humor, beauty, intimacy, and even a sing-along to 4 Non Blondes as one tries to get through the day.
Though some might find this an egregious claim, the work of Diablo Cody has been rather consistently queer. No, it’s not because Jennifer’s Body is gay as hell, or even because Marlo—the mother of three whose story is at the core of Tully—is bisexual. It’s the way Cody is dedicated to telling the stories of women who struggle to assimilate into, or perform properly as, the roles they’re meant to play, inevitably being treated as pariahs in some capacity.
A stark contrast to Charlize Theron’s role as Mavis in the last Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody collaboration, Young Adult, Marlo is approachable, but exhausted and unsure if she is a failure as a mother, and unwilling to let go of the woman she used to identify as. The film explores what women put themselves through to seem like they’re doing OK, often ignoring everything from mental illness to their own desires, and, even more interestingly, how the person we used to be and the life we used to live can seem like an entirely different identity altogether.
Liz and the Blue Bird
There’s a good chance that Liz and the Blue Bird—a side story of the series Sound Euphonium that requires no previous knowledge whatsoever—slipped under your radar, but it is the animated feature of the year that begs to be sought out. Everything about Naoko Yamada’s direction here is breathtaking, from her use of music and silence to her emphasis on the female gaze and emotional distance, in a way most easily comparable to Chantal Akerman and Sofia Coppola.
Yamada equates the love between these two young women to a concert, impossible to perform unless there’s communication and the two musicians fall perfectly in step with each other. So much of the film is dedicated to women looking at, or away from, women, with the surrounding characters barely registering in the world of Mizore and Nozomi. Where it occasionally slips into a realm of Ghibli-esque fantasy thanks to a storybook essential to its plot, Liz and the Blue Bird is a slice-of-life melodrama through and through, the kind of work that alongside works like K-On! and A Silent Voice should mark Yamada as one of the most exciting auteurs around.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties
John Cameron Mitchell, best known for starring in, directing, and writing the wonderful Hedwig and the Angry Inch, delivered one of the messiest, goofiest, sweetest, and queerest coming-of-age films of this year. And if that isn’t enough, it also just so happens to be about aliens and punk music, featuring some bizarre sexual exploration, bright latex outfits, and musical oddities.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties navigates finding one’s true community, literally allowing an alien to try and find a home in a punk human world, and there’s familiarity in being that outsider finding your space and your family. It’s through Elle Fanning’s character (and, by extension, her bonding with Nicole Kidman’s punk fairy godmother of sorts) that John Cameron Mitchell best deviates from Neil Gaiman’s underwhelming short story, really focusing on her journey to find herself instead of simply sticking to what could have been a pedestrian love story.
The identities that we craft for ourselves, whether consciously or not, are an inherent part of being human, but especially for queer folks. Our performative masculinity or femininity can be turned on and off depending on the situation, often enough in moments where our lives may depend on it. The game is similar for Madeline Brewer’s Alice in Cam: there’s a persona for when she’s a camgirl and there’s a persona for when she’s offline, each with its benefits, flaws, and expectations.
The way Daniel Goldhaber and Isa Mazzei mine that fear of losing control over your identity, of being exposed and having to deal with the negative stigma attached to your very existence, is fascinating. There’s no black-and-white when it comes to exploring technology, sex work, and the relationships we maintain, and the film is well aware of how all of these things come with benefits and obstacles. It’s not a stretch to say that this unique and colorful techno-horror work of art is a perfect example of how queerness exists within genre cinema, both explicitly and subtly.
From the moment Janelle Monáe began crafting her universe, which has been spread over a number of albums, it was clear there was something queer in the air. The android who has existed throughout these works, Cindi Mayweather, was coded as queer in numerous songs from The Archandroid and Electric Lady. But now, with Dirty Computerand the character Jane 57821, we get to see the beauty of queerness—celebrating women in love, showcasing polyamory without judgment, and actually being trans-inclusive—and how it can overcome a dystopian nightmare through this Emotion Picture.
Using science fiction to explore being queer in an era that does not want you isn’t something new and Monáe’s vision of the future has influences ranging from Alejandro Jodorowsky and Prince to George Lucas and Octavia E. Butler. Rather in tune with the optimism of the Wachowskis, Dirty Computer declares that love can overcome anything; that the oppressors that these black, queer androids—and by extension the communities in present day America who are facing their own villains—are up against can be stopped.
The music videos for Mitski’s “Geyser,” “Washing Machine Heart,” and “Nobody”
Yes, music videos should be considered short films in their own right—it’s not all visual albums like Monáe and Beyoncé—and there’s queerness to be found in many of them. Just look at the sweaty, sexy video for St. Vincent’s “Fast Slow Disco” or the butt plug beauty of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Party For One.” Not simply because her album Be the Cowboy is deeply relatable for any listener, Mitski’s videos can easily be read as queer, each one deeply exploring identity in some capacity amidst the absurdity, desperation, and entrancing hand movements (often used as a focal point of desire in queer cinema).
Christopher Good’s “Nobody” takes the notion of loneliness and turns it into an identity crisis that feels like Maya Deren and Michel Gondry’s love child, while Zia Anger’s “Geyser” aptly captures the notion of struggling against your own passions and feelings. These themes extend through all of her work, and with “Washing Machine Heart,” also directed by Anger, the singer and director explore a mixture of yearning to fit a mold and of inadequacy in the face of male fantasy—as in their previous collaboration on “Your Best American Girl”—through a gorgeously composed Old Hollywood facade.
Meet Megan and Whitney Bacon-Evans, also known as “Wegan” of What Wegan Did Next. They are bloggers, YouTubers, LGBTQ+ activists, founders of the Find Femmes dating site, digital consultancy owners, the first lesbian couple to be featured on Say Yes to the Dress UK, as well as writers with bylines in Cosmopolitan, The Guardian, Huffpost, Lonely Planet, Marie Claire, and many others.
Outside of activism, culture, and visibility writing, they have become experts in LGBTQ+ travel, helping their over 140K+ combined followers with recommendations on trips, wedding planning, and honeymoons. INTO got the chance to catch up with the incredibly cordial newlyweds, get some advice on queer wedding traditions (hint: it’s a choose your own adventure), get tips on planning otherworldly destination weddings, and get their take on how the travel industry can adapt for queer honeymooners.
INTO: When did you start getting into travel writing and what drew you to it?
Wegan: We have been writing about travel for years in our blog posts as we naturally started as long distance and met when Whitney studied abroad in London. Traveling has always been a part of our relationship; from traveling to each other’s countries or trekking to a new destination together like Paris, Portugal or Greece. Our followers loved getting to join us on our travels through our blog and YouTube channel, and we love documenting what we get up to and making recommendations. It’s important for us to highlight, as a lesbian couple, where we feel is safe and also good for LGBTQ+ travellers to visit.
So many people are meeting online these days across the world. You call yourselves “long distance survivors.” How many years were you in a long-distance relationship? And what top three tips would you give to readers who are also in one?
Yes indeed, we did long distance for 4 years from Hawaii to the UK (2 oceans and a continent apart). It was incredibly hard, but of course, so worth it. Our top 3 tips to survive long distance are:
You must equally be on the same page that you want this to work and the commitment needs to mutually be there.
Communication is absolutely key. Taking advantage of all the free resources to keep you connected is so important. Make sure you use FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, and even good old fashioned hand written letters.
Fix a datefor the next time you will be able to see each other. We found that this helps a lot and keeps you going, knowing that there is a date when you’ll be in each other’s arms again. Even if it’s months down the line!
Following your civil partnership in 2012 (with the U.K. getting same-sex marriage in 2013), what made you decide to do a destination wedding?
We just weren’t liking any venues in the UK for our wedding. We had been looking for months and nothing felt right. They were too stuffy and old, with often ugly coloured carpet or small rooms. It wasn’t until our first trip to Palm Springs, California where we saw a wedding getting set up at the hotel, The Avalon, that we were staying at that we started to get the idea.
Back in the UK we continued our search for venues and the woman showing us around the wedding venue asked what kind of wedding vibe/theme we were after and Whitney replied “umm… Palm Springs vibe?” So, the woman replied “Well… have you thought about getting married there?” Ha! We just thought it was out of the question, but we decided to contact the Avalon to see what the cost was and if it was even feasible. Lo and behold it wasn’t too much different from all of the UK costs, and as Whitney is American, and since we already had a beautiful civil partnership at Danesfield House in the UK, it felt right and fair to do something in America.
What were some of the biggest challenges of throwing a destination wedding? And what were the biggest rewards of it?
It was rather overwhelming to plan a wedding in a venue that you had only been at once and not even viewed as a possible wedding venue! Luckily, we were recommended COJ Events as wedding planners. We looked at their portfolio of weddings and loved them all, and then when we found out that the wedding planners are in fact a fabulous married lesbian couple, Cathy and Dorry, it was just the icing on the cake! As soon as we chatted with them on the phone, we were so excited to know that our wedding would be in their hands. Knowing another lesbian couple would be taking care of every detail of our big day really made us not worry.
The biggest reward was walking into our reception area on our wedding day, having fully trusted COJ and their recommended vendors. It looked absolutely spectacular, exactly as we had wanted it. Feminine, chic and classy. We still love it so much!
Why do you think destination weddings have always been a popular option?
I think people are starting to realize that you don’t have to be confined to what’s around you. You can hop on a plane and fly to your favorite destination, or somewhere that has meaning to you and your fiancée or perhaps your family heritage. Also, I think it adds an extra layer of excitement, of everyone you love coming together in a new place and also giving some an excuse to travel to somewhere they may never had the chance or reason to go ordinarily.
You have a devoted and large following, what are some of the best tips you’ve given readers and followers about planning weddings?
The biggest lesson we learnt from planning our wedding is make your own wedding traditions. We tried to follow traditional straight traditions that just plain failed. When we started to look for our wedding dresses, we actually ended up being the first lesbian couple on Say Yes To The Dress UK. Megan’s mum was with us and she suggested that we should stick to tradition and keep the dresses a surprise from each other for the big day. We hadn’t decided what we wanted to do so we thought we’d give it a go.
However, the issue is that as a couple, we do everything together. We’re literally never apart. Megan particularly relies on Whitney to help make decisions, so she was finding it harder and harder, and after the 8th dress she tried on she still didn’t know what was right. Meanwhile, Whitney had already said yes to the first dress! But this ended up backfiring! It made us realize that when it comes to a lesbian wedding with two dresses, we preferred them to complement one another and so it didn’t look like we were going to to two different weddings!
We also ended up breaking tradition by sharing a bed the night before the wedding, as being apart didn’t feel right. We also originally thought that we would get ready separately but in the end we all got ready together and it was so much fun. We then helped one another into our wedding gowns and instead revealed our dresses to our Bride Tribe and parents. All in all, we learned that you do not have to stick with tradition, and you can do what feels right for you!
What places did you consider for your honeymoon before you decided on Maui?
We considered popular honeymoon destinations, such as Maldives which is particularly popular in the UK. However, we found out that is it illegal to be gay in Maldives, and we didn’t want to head to a destination that criminalizes people for loving one another; especially when we’re celebrating our marriage! Instead we opted to head back to a place near and dear to our hearts, which is Hawaii. Whitney lived on Oahu for 6 years and we got engaged on our favorite beach there back in 2011.
One of the most controversial aspects of queer travel writing is the debate about traveling to non-queer friendly destinations, what are your thoughts on exploring these locales?
Ah, we find this such a tricky subject. So far we have stuck to visiting places where it is legal to be LGBTQ+. We personally don’t want to put ourselves at risk; lesbians tend to have lesser punishments than gay men, but we also don’t want to recommend places that would put any of our followers at risk. We wouldn’t feel right enjoying a 5-star luxury resort when outside of the gates, gay people are being punished to death.
That being said, there are many LGBTQ+ people that live in countries like this and we don’t want them to feel like we don’t acknowledge their existence. By completely avoiding these countries, a traveler may be missing out on wonderful experiences, culture and meeting people with incredible stories. We think we’ll assess traveling to places where it is illegal to be LGBTQ+ if and when the opportunity arises, and continue to focus on where is LGBTQ+ friendly for now.
What was your experience like on honeymoon within the hotels, resorts, and beaches you visited in Hawaii?
As we were in America for 3 months around our wedding, we found that as couple about to be married, or as a recently married couple, that the majority of places just ignored that we were brides-to-be or on our honeymoon. We even stood their awkwardly in our big ‘Just Married’ straw hats checking in to a hotel and nothing would be said to us, hardly a congratulations, let alone a bottle of champagne to the room. The only reason it would bother us is because we knew undoubtedly that if we were a straight couple on our honeymoon, we would have been treated very differently.
For example, Megan’s sister and husband came out to California for a week before our wedding and pretended that it was their first wedding anniversary. They received complimentary room upgrades, bottles of champagne, macaroons etc. and we received nothing! Funnily enough Virgin came out with an advert that completely resonated with us, that depicted a world where straight tourists were treated the same as LGBTQ+ tourists.
Did anyone notice you were on honeymoon?
We had a wonderful time at Maui Four Seasons. We were greeted with a lovely congratulatory card, rose and champagne. All of the employees of the hotel were very welcoming and didn’t bat an eyelid that we were on honeymoon. We loved swimming up to the infinity pool with a frozen mai tai inside a pineapple and watching out the view of the ocean as wife and wife. It was also hilarious in that we got to be known as ‘The Bacons’ by the other guests at the hotel and the token lesbian couple at the resort. Lots of straight people were coming up to speak with us, even waving from afar.
What can the travel industry do to adapt better to queer couples whether they aretraveling for a honeymoon, or vacation?
We would suggest that they pay attention to the booking and if there’s same sex names on the booking and they mention it is their honeymoon, then make sure that they then don’t get questioned if they want a king bed, or would they prefer two beds! We’ve heard of couples having to push two beds together every day and the housekeepers would separate them every day. All in all, it’s just treating a same sex couple the exact same as any other couple.
Details such as robes in the room, i.e. if it’s two women then likelihood is that they may require two short robes. Maybe just supply more options so there is more choice. One of us always ends up looking comical in a long robe draping to the floor, waddling around!
What are a couple things the hotel/travel industry could do at large to be more accommodating?
Two things that the hotel industry could do is to look at their marketing and to make sure they’re including LGBTQ+ imagery. Please do not use stereotypical images or cheesy fake shots. Look into using actual wedding or honeymoon images from same sex couples. If they haven’t had any same sex weddings / honeymooners then they should look into why this is and how they can market themselves to be more appealing and inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community. This is where our second point comes in, and that’s using LGBTQ+ influencers.
We can supply great quality LGBTQ+ content for hotels to use and in turn promote them as a great place to stay. Within this, please do not think you have to create an LGBTQ+ specific influencer trip and find everything ‘gay’ that there is to do nearby. We often want to do the exact same thing as everyone else — enjoy a great sleep, a yummy cocktail at the pool and a great dinner in your restaurant. Furthermore, LGBTQ+ influencers often get overlooked or simply one token influencer is chosen to join on a trip. It’s important to note that the LGBTQ+ travel market is said to be worth over $200 billion. Not one to be overlooked, now is it!
Lastly, what is Wegan doing next?
We of course want to continue to be visible lesbians challenging stereotypes and always be a safe space for LGBTQ+ to confide in. In addition, we have some exciting travel plans coming up, from Scotland to Canada to Florida and many more fabulous destinations. We also will be expanding our businesses further in 2019 and focusing more on some ‘secret’ projects which we will reveal hopefully in 2019/20.
Consider this one of those “I watched all 13 episodes of Runaways so you don’t have to” pieces, because that’s exactly what I did: I sank into my couch like a piece of lesbian trash, inhaling boba tea and dairy-free brownies for 13 fucking hours—well, the episodes are 45 minutes each, but I’m accounting for the commercials and emotional turmoil I endured.
This is all to say: watching Season 2 of Marvel’s Runaways was a giant waste of time, because nobody—not even once—tore each other’s clothes off. And let’s be real—isn’t that what matters?
Season 2 fell victim to the same tragedy that befell Riverdale’s second season, in that the show wasted too much time on petty parent drama, time that could’ve been spent on horny teens solving crimes. Regardless, that wasn’t my issue with Runaways. I enjoyed the inaugural season of the Hulu drama, mostly because of Virginia Gardner, who plays Karolina Dean, the first out lesbian superhero protagonist on a Marvel show (or on any Marvel screen). In the first season, Karolina realizes she’s gay while witnessing two girls kissing at a party, then subsequently falls for her friend, another witchy protagonist, Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano). The duo shares a kiss or two, but at the end of Season 1, it was unclear if Nico was actually into swapping Sapphic spit.
Being pessimistic—or just realistic, given how lesbian characters have historically been treated and discarded on-screen—I thought Nico would ditch Karolina in Season 2 and make Karolina feel weird for kissing her in the first place (thanks, internalized homophobia). Luckily, I was proven wrong; the girls are a fully functioning same-sex couple this season, inconsequential fights with immediate resolutions and all.
The thing is, there wasn’t enough action. Or, let me rephrase. Earlier I said “too much parent shit, not enough teens solving crimes,” but what I really meant was “not enough scandalous behind-closed-doors hookups with your parents’ greatest business rival’s daughters.” There was butt-kicking action, but no butts, and no action.
Look, I’m part of the Gossip Girl generation; I was raised on The WB and CW shows of the late ’90s and early aughts, an era of “peak TV” for teen dramas—the aforementioned Gossip Girl, The O.C., One Tree Hill, the 90210 reboot, The Vampire Diaries, Buffy, Degrassi—the list goes on. So, I know good teen drama when I see it, and I also know that the bread and butter of this genre is steamy sex scandals: Serena van der Woodsen and Nate Archibald, Blair Waldorf and Nate Archibald, Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass, Serena van der Woodsen and Dan Humphrey… Teen dramas are horny. This isn’t news. But season two of Marvel’s Runaways was devoid of a single drop of sexual tension between any character, and there are six protagonists, and FIVE of them are in relationships!!! How is this possible?!
It’s not that Karolina and Nico’s queer relationship is watered down, it’s that every relationship is stripped of passion, tension, and sensuality. Each couple, including Karolina and Nico, just keeps hugging and pecking on the mouth! And not even loving, tight-lipped, Clean Teen-esque pecking. It’s like, obligatory, soulless goodbye pecking. The most action we see with any couple is between Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) and his girlfriend when they exchange dry-lip kisses and become horizontal as the camera pans away. Another couple, Chase (Gregg Sulkin) and Gert (Ariela Barkes), never even make out, but he later implies that they have “naked” sleepovers and that she’s a sexual “animal.” However, we never see that. No one removes a single layer of clothing in this show.
Karolina and Nico make out once, and again, it’s like a strange, tongueless form of Born Again kissing that made my eyebrows scrunch together. And again, all the Nudie Judy stuff is just suggested. Like, when Karolina and Nico tongueless-make out, and Nico maybe sort of almost straddles Karolina from an angle which we can barely see either of them in, the camera cuts away. Then, Chase sees a glowing light coming from their room (Karolina glows when she’s excited, as part of her superpowers), and he quips, “Looks like they’re having a good time.” Well maybe they are, but we wouldn’t know!!!
I need more Stephen and Elena, and then Damon and Elena, then Elena and Matt, then Matt and Caroline, then Caroline and Tyler—on The Vampire Diaries, every actor was literally 35 playing 17, and they were all shirtless, all the time. But Marvel’s Runaways is literally nonsense for babies—like, who is this for? A teen celibacy club? It can’t be for Christians, because lesbians. At one point the youngest character, Molly (Allegra Acosta), who’s 14, says “Shit” and everyone blanches, asking, “Did Molly just curse?!” I mean seriously, this show makes 7th Heaven look like Sharp Objects, and 7th Heaven was basically Republican state TV.
And on the lesbian note, here’s another gripe: Neither Karolina nor Nico ever talk about anything queer—sex stuff, coming out, first girlfriends—nothing. I think the Runaways writers probably intended for this element of the show to be progressive and to send the message that being queer is so not a big deal that it’s not even worth thinking twice about. I respect that, but it’s just unrealistic. Yes, it’s good that none of Karolina and Nico’s friends gasp or blush or comment on the two of them “suddenly” being queer—seriously, that’s great. But Karolina just came out! Yes yes, in a perfect world, no one would have to come out, and Karolina certainly didn’t. But that’s just not reality right now—it’s a mystical utopian future that we don’tlive in.
In real life, Karolina would need to talk to someone, anyone, about what she was going through, from the moment she realized she might be gay, to her first gay kiss, to being in her first relationship with a girl. And, as far as we know—which we don’t, because they never talk about it—this is Nico’s first relationship (and kiss, and alleged sex) with a girl too. I’m sorry, but if two teenage girls started (allegedly) boning and didn’t have any other queer friends, they would certainly be having conversations about what they were going through! They would at very least be communicating their wants and needs and fears surrounding sex stuff, ie: “I’ve never done this before,” or “I’ve never felt this way about a girl,” or, “this is so cool, it’s just like in the Hayley Kiyoko video.”
Plus, everyone knows The FirstGirl is a breathtaking, all-consuming, life-altering endeavor. It’s bewildering to think that two queer women aren’t spinning out, overthinking, ruminating about their crush, especially their first same-sex crush, every waking minute of the day. Have you been on Twitter? All we do is bemoan our romantic shortcomings and retweet photos of hot actresses. We are literally always talking about being gay, and if we’re not talking about being gay, we’re asking our friends for advice on being gay, because we always need to talk things the fuck out. The idea that a thought about a girl could just glide through our mind without a snag or contemplation or 10-hour conversation is outrageous to me. Grow up, Runaways!!
So, even though this show is, in theory, going where no show has gone before (featuring two openly queer female superhero protagonists as a couple), it still feels like there’s erasure happening. Not in terms of representation, obviously—Nico is one of TV’s very few queer female Asian-American characters. But insinuating that queerness is so NBD that there’s no need to discuss it at all totally negates the very real struggles of the queer experience. Did my friends and family gasp when I came out? No. Were they surprised, and did they have questions? Sure. Have I spent every moment since I came out dissecting my sexuality and relationships in therapy, or with friends, or on the goddamn mind-numbing abyss of the internet? Tirelessly! I’m so fucking exhausted by my own queerness!!
If you’re looking for a new show with gay shit, I’m going to have to suggest skipping this one. It’s not worth your time. Although I will praise Marvel’s Runaways for doing something that’s maybe never been done in film or TV before, and that’s the inclusion of a lesbian prophecy: Toward the end of season two, a female alien shows up on Karolina’s doorstep and calls Karolina her “betrothed,” insisting that they’re prophesied to be together: Karolina is her one true love. Even though prophecies, in general, are an extremely lesbian concept, I’ve never seen a Harry Potter-like, a long-storied prophecy about a same-sex couple.
Obviously, there’s no gay sex on this show. So, the most lesbian thing to a happen on Runaways season two is when a woman that Karolina has never met says “our destinies are woven together by prophecy…My savior, my soulmate, the love of my life.” Now that is some dyke shit.
In our new “Get INTO” series, we rummage through Netflix each week to find the very best movies that LGBTQ cinema has to offer. However you identify, these tales of love, sex and the everyday experience of queer life all deserve a special place in your Netflix queue. Also, some of these films are super hot, so whether you’re alone or with a special ‘friend’, rev up everyone’s favorite streaming service and get ready to chill with some of the best queer movies on Netflix.
What is G.B.F.? Five years before mainstream audiences learned to “Love” Simon, director Darren Stein brought his queer sensibilities to the American teen movie, drawing on the biting humor that characterized classics of the genre like Clueless and Mean Girls.
When Tanner is outed as gay, the three most popular girls in school each latch onto him and use his sexuality as an accessory to beat the other cliques. Initially flattered by all of the attention, Tanner struggles to balance newfound popularity with his true friends, including his own G.B.F., Brent.
Who’s in it? The cast is basically a who’s who of average teen fare from the early 2010s, but the titular G.B.F. himself is played to comic perfection by Michael J. Willett, the star of MTV’s Faking It. Best friend Brent is played by another MTV alumni, Paul Stanley Iacono, who starred in The Hard Times of RJ Berger before going on to become an LGBTQ activist. Beloved queer icons like Megan Mullally and Natasha Lyonne also appear and if you squint real hard, you might notice that pop star Jojo is in the cast too.
What does Rotten Tomatoes say? “G.B.F. explores high school relationship dynamics and teen stereotypes with a refreshingly humorous touch–and surprisingly subtle smarts.”
What do we say? Unfairly overlooked when it was first released, G.B.F. is exactly the kind of teen comedy that queer kids deserve, subverting the gay best friend trope by turning him into the star of his very own movie for once. With plenty of drop-dead one-liners and some genuine heart to go with them too, G.B.F. deserves the same kind of attention that Love, Simon received a few years later in 2018.
But isn’t that just stereotypical? A quick glance at the comments posted under the film’s Youtube trailer reveal that plenty of people were put off by the film’s title, which seemingly reinforces one of the longest enduring gay stereotypes still seen in movies today. Give G.B.F. a chance though and you’ll see that George Northy’s script is far more subtle than the marketing might suggest, playing around with queer stereotypes while also touching upon more serious issues like bullying and depression. Unfortunately, poor marketing wasn’t the only thing that held G.B.F. back from greater success.
Wait, G.B.F. was rated R? Yep, queer teens back in 2013 weren’t able to enjoy the positive message of this film on screen because the MPAA awarded G.B.F. an R rating for “sexual references.” Never mind the lack of nudity and violence or how other teen films like Easy A included far more sexual innuendo. G.B.F. was still deemed inappropriate for young adults and suffered at the box office as a result. While no official reason was given for this, it seems obvious that the board must have had a problem with the queer aspects of the film, overlooking how sweet and funny it actually is. The ‘Justice For G.B.F.’ campaign starts here.
I love the winter, particularly the cold air. I love the way the cold kisses my warm skin. When the icy breeze numbs my fingertips, my pockets provide them with satisfying warmth.
Putting on my coat, hat, and scarf reminds me of my late grandmother. Once the air became slightly cold, she started decorating the house in Christmas lights and garlands. Every day, she prepared the sweetest, thickest cup of hot chocolate and said, “Don’t ask me for no more later.” I always did, and she always gave me another cup. In middle school, my mother dressed me and my little sister in baggy bubble coats and heavy boots. “I look like a Tellytubby,” I’d say. “My clothes are too baggy, mommy.” Her response was always as cold as the air that froze my windows. “Shut up, you look fine. Baggy clothes are the latest fad,” she would say. She wasn’t wrong. It was the late ‘90s and everyone wore baggy clothing. In 1997, Tamagotchi keychains were the fad. In 1998, baggy denim was in. In 1999, everyone wore those elastic colorful wristbands. I never would have guessed that my fat body would become a 2018 winter trend. And personally, I’m not at all excited about this. If you didn’t get the memo, winter time is “big boy season.” That’s right! After three seasons of being called fat, sweaty, and unhealthy, thinner people summon fat guys to keep them warm throughout the winter. A few days before Thanksgiving Day, it got cold. Some guy on Grindr messaged me and said, “It’s cold outside. Come keep me warm, big boy.” By this time, I had already grown bored of the whole ‘big boy season’ thing. So, I respectfully asked him what he enjoyed about larger men.
His response was nothing short of racial fetishization and assumptions about my fatness. “Black guys have big meaty cocks, and big boys produce more body heat,” he says. “I love big boy sweat dripping all over me.” Just like that, he made four terrible assumptions about my body. He assumed that I’m well-endowed because I’m black. He assumed that I’m not anemic and can produce large amounts of heat like a radiator. And he assumed that I sweat profusely because I’m fat. But most importantly, he assumed that I would give him the time of day because he is a conventionally attractive guy flirting with a fat guy. After declining his advances multiple times, he replied “Your loss,” like I fumbled an opportunity to do something I wanted to do, then he blocked me—but not before reminding me that I’m fat. What about my body communicates desperation for sexual attention? What about my body relinquishes my right to tell someone thinner than me that I am not interested in them? What about my body says that I’m supposed to be grateful that someone finds me attractive for 83 to 93 days? I receive lots of unsolicited butthole pictures. I receive lots of “I love fat guys” messages. I am offered sex at least five times a day. Most of those offers are from thinner guys and girls who assume that I’m a sex-crazed fatty who should never say no. Fat people can and should always say no. A fat person like me says “no” regularly. I say “no” to dieting. I say “no” to exercise. And I say “no” to just about anyone who begins a conversation with crappy nudes or requests to keep them warm when it’s cold. That’s my right. That’s everyone’s right. In an essay in The Establishment, an anonymous author raises an important question: “Why don’t we hear fat women’s #MeToo stories?” The writer, a fat queer woman, writes about her personal experience with sexual violence and connects it to the idea that sexual predators believe that larger women should be grateful for any form of sexual attention.
“The menacing ghost of gratitude followed me everywhere,” a writer whose pen name is ‘Your Fat Friend’ wrote. “I was queer, which meant I was expected to be sexually flexible, unfettered by boundaries and unlikely to say no, available to be posted in any scene or position needed for men’s gratification. And I was fat, which meant I should be grateful for what I got. Even if it was violent. Even if I didn’t consent.” It’s important to recognize that being thin doesn’t give one agency over larger bodies. When I gained weight, I learned this for myself. I’m ashamed to admit that I, too, was someone who believed that larger guys should be flattered that I appreciated their bodies. Now, if I ever decided to lose weight, I can never unlearn how it feels to be considered a winter fad. It hurts like hell.
It’s always been a dream of mine to re-create every moment of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, because it’s the simple things in life that truly matter. The iconic movie has provided us all with so many quotable phrases, cementing its importance within pop culture. I woke up one morning to an overly anxious boyfriend who didn’t want to spend his day off sitting around the house, and he looked to me to come up with some brilliant last minute plan, because apparently, that’s what I do. Day trips for us have become sort of a norm, as we don’t mind spending time in the car and are typically both eager to explore places we haven’t been to or spent much time in.
Since we were in Phoenix, we had lots of options for day trips, but today was the day we would finally make it to Tucson. Living in downtown, we drive past the 10 freeway every single day, and the massive overhead signs before entering the onramps read “Los Angeles 10W” and “Tucson 10E.” We had taken the 10 towards L.A. countless times but we had never gone outside of the Phoenix Metro area heading East, until today. As he quickly Googled things to see and do in Tucson, I pulled up the famous clip from the movie where the two friends hop in their borrowed Jaguar XJ-S and zoom off to Tucson. Within minutes, we were in the car, with the sunroof open (it was the closest we could come to a convertible), on our way to Tucson.
The journey to Tucson from Phoenix is relatively simple: You get on the 10 freeway and drive East for about two hours until you reach the city. Between the two cities is a whole lot of nothing, reminiscent of portions of the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. As the city appeared in the distance, though, I was genuinely shocked at how big it appeared. Somehow, within the span of a decade since I had last been there, the city had transformed. Driving into downtown Tucson, we found a parking spot and ventured off to see what we could find. We had about 6 hours in total before turning around and heading back to Phoenix, so the next time you are looking for a quick day trip to Tucson, here are three must-not-miss experiences that will give you a good taste of what Tucson has to offer.
HUB Restaurant and Ice Creamery
After that long stretch of nothingness before arriving to the city, you will be famished. Head to historic Congress Street in the center of downtown Tucson, find a parking spot, and wander your way around until you find yourself at HUB Restaurant. The restaurant is located in the city’s fastest growing and most exciting area, and there’s tons of street parking available. If for some reason you find yourself parking further away, no worries, the Sunlink Streetcar passes right past the front doors of HUB.
I’d suggest starting off with a cocktail, possibly the Tucson Tea, made with vodka, tequila, watermelon liquor, black tea, HUB hibiscus syrup and citrus. Or go for the Old Pueblo, made with local whiskey, orange peel, sugar, HUB brandy-soaked cherries and orange bitters. Just remember this is a day trip so drink responsibly. For food, the Glory Curds — Wisconsin cheddar curds flash-crisped with sriracha ketchup — are heavenly, as are the cornmeal and ancho chili dusted calamari. For mains, the Airline Chicken, a roasted airline breast served with fingerling potatoes, sauteed brussels sprouts, bacon bits, bourbon cream sauce, leeks and watercress is pretty tasty. But you guys, save room for the Mac & Cheese. Your options include a classic mac, bacon, chicken or lobster, with the latter being the obvious favorite. If there’s room for ice cream, they are known for their unique flavors like Mexican Wedding Cookie, Guava Tamarindo Chamoy, Strawberry Tres Leches Cake and even Vegan Chocolate.
Pima Air & Space Museum
I grew up in Southern California, next to (a now defunct) Marine base, and my parents would always take me to the air shows. What kid wasn’t obsessed with airplanes? For aviation geeks, though, the Pima Air & Space Museum is like finding the treasure at the end of the rainbow. The museum is filled with aircraft of all types from all different eras of aviation. The hangers are filled with aircraft while the outside is a beautifully preserved airplane graveyard. The museum is one of the largest non-government funded aviation museums in the world, featuring over 350 historical aircrafts, from a Wright Flyer to a 787-Dreamliner. Sitting on 80 acres, the museum opened its doors to the public in May of 1976, growing immensely to encompass six indoor exhibit hangers (three dedicated to WWII). Having that Dreamliner there is seriously exciting, and it was the first aircraft I ran to once I reached the outdoors portion of the museum. During my visit, I did see a 777 in a hanger just outside of the public access area, so I’m hoping that during my next visit, it will be ready for public viewing.
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Chances are, when you Google image search Tucson, one of the first things you will see is this glorious church. A national historic landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. The church is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona. The interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings and allows visitors to step back in time and enter an authentic 18th Century space. There is no charge to visit the Mission, and some 200,000 visitors come each year from all over the world to view what is widely considered to be the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States. Just keep in mind when visiting that the Mission was created to serve the needs of the local community, and although everyone is welcome to attend Masses, the church is first and foremost a church. I personally enjoy the outside more and could easily have spent all my time just observing the landscapes and color-changing sky around the beautiful church.
I was in a fairly serious relationship that went south.
Long story short, we had a non-monogamous agreement, but in practice, it led to struggles, hurt feelings, and finally a loosely defined couple month “break.”
That break started four months ago.
I cared very deeply about this person and wanted to keep them in my life, but after a couple of months, I sent an olive-branch email that went unanswered. I’ve realized I’ve been a little preoccupied with thinking about this abrupt and unresolved ending, going back and forth between sad and grumpy.
What’s the healthiest approach at this point? A) move on, forget they ever existed and get rid of everything that reminds me of them,B) keep trying to reach out and establish a friendship? or C) something else?
Sad in Santa Fe
I’m sorry to hear about your recent break/up. My opinion on the matter? I think you need a combination of options A & C.
You need to accept that no response *is* a response. Anything that’s not a “yes” is a “no.” The relationship, for now, is done.
It doesn’t mean this person didn’t care about you; it doesn’t mean they’ve moved on. It only means that they are not engaging with you right now as they once did. They’re no longer showing you that side of themselves.
It could be that their feelings for you were so intense that they can’t even look at them right now because it makes them too sad. It may have something to do with their own inner demons or sense of worth. We may never know.
One thing we do know is that ruminating on it and obsessing over what they may or may not be thinking is not helping the situation.
You can reflect on your own actions and come to a place of taking responsibility for your part in the relationship’s demise, but you can’t solve another person’s silence. ESPECIALLY because you are doing so in an echo chamber, through your own particular filters.
A romantic relationship can bring up old, ancient stories we have about ourselves and what we deserve or get to have. I would wager that any lack of interaction with this person is creating a vacuum that, when left to your own devices, you are filling with your own narratives that are tainted by your very particular, tarnished mirror.
What can you do? I think you should write out your thoughts and feelings completely. Include the things you admire and adore about this person. I want you to write this out as thoroughly as possible in a journal or a word document, then let it sit for a week.
In the meantime, be as generous to yourself and the memory of this person as you can. Try and find some gratitude for what they brought to your life. Meditate on the idea of this person having all the things you would want for yourself. Do you want them, ideally, to find love and support and acceptance and light? Think about that. Imagine them being as happy as you would like to be. Imagine yourself, too, having an abundance of love and support. What would that look like and how can you imagine yourself receiving it? I want you bathed in warm light, dear reader! I want a chihuahua licking your face as you drink a soy latte.
Come back to your letter when you are feeling grounded and calm. Extract anything that is blaming, shaming, or defensive. Use all of your lesbian-processing training and employ “I” statements. Take responsibility for anything you think you did in the relationship that you’re not proud of.Let them know how you feel, how you felt about them, and what you wish for them or for your friendship moving forward. To use some dog terminology, roll over. If this person has been kind and trustworthy, show them your underbelly.
Don’t try to extract interaction from them, just use this as a final statement, then (and this is perhaps the most important part) let go of what happens next.
This approach is about keeping your side of the street clean. No matter what happens, I want you to know that you acted with integrity and were faithful to the most generous, loving, and honest side of yourself as possible.
You are only in charge of 50 percent of what happens in any relationship, so after you lay this letter down, please know that you’ve done your part for them, and more importantly, you’ve done your part for you. You showed up for yourself.
Some things in life are just meant to be temporary, no matter how much you’d like to hold on.
I’m so happy this person brought you some light while they were here, but now it’s time for you to shine that on yourself.