BBC and Netflix’s ‘Wanderlust’ Features a Surprising Queer Storyline

What do you do when you no longer want to have sex with your spouse of many years, but you haven’t stopped loving them? You open up the relationship and sleep with other people, of course. Toni Collette’s new BBC series, Wanderlust, soon to come to Netflix, is an exploration of sex and commitment, and how monogamy doesn’t necessarily work for all marriages.

Therapist Joy Richards (Toni Collette) and her husband, Alan (Steven Mackintosh), are trying to get back into sexy times after a cycling accident left Joy injured. Now, however, the problem isn’t her injury that’s keeping them from having sex; they’ve just lost interest in each other. The solution then becomes to explore casual sex outside their marriage, whilst keeping all other aspects of their lives intact — except they’re realizing that emotionless sex sounded great in theory. Now they have to deal with the messier part of sex: feelings.

Joy and Alan have three children, Tom (Joe Hurst), who is 16, Naomi (Emma D’Arcy), 18, and 25 year-old Laura (Celeste Dring). While they’re all navigating the joys and pains of sex and relationships, it’s Naomi’s storyline that’s stood out thus far.

Naomi’s been on a trip with her girlfriend, but comes home sooner than expected after the relationship suddenly ends. At the same time, Rita (Anastasia Hille), Joy and Alan’s neighbor, is dealing with the breakdown of her marriage and also, the realization that she may be attracted to women. Rita has adopted peculiar ways of coping with these big changes in her life; buying things she doesn’t need from the shopping network, and lots of baking.

Naomi seems to find Rita’s coping mechanisms very charming and she happily test tastes all of Rita’s baking attempts, a hobby she’s turning out to be very good at, and while their interactions are brief, they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Naomi seems to be particularly taken by Rita, and seeks out any opportunity to spend time with her, even if it’s just to bring over deliveries.

On one such occasion, in the latest episode, Naomi brings over box after box left for Rita at the Richards residence and soon discovers it’s a trampoline. After spending the evening trampoline-jumping together and talking, the two women share a sweet kiss.

Currently airing on BBC, Wanderlust has been stirring up some viewers’ feelings about all the sex in this show about, well, sex. Before the first episode had even aired, it was making waves, as it was rumored that the honor of the first orgasm to ever air on BBC would go to Toni Collette. While early reviews and people’s reaction to the pilot made the show sound like one long, gratuitous romp, it has a lot more depth than that, and people’s discomfort with sex might have more to do with people’s discomfort with women’s sexuality, because for all the sex, there’s next to zero nudity.

Wanderlust is a wonderfully acted, well written show about the complexities of love, sex and intimacy, and about testing the boundaries of what we are raised to believe makes a relationship work.

New episodes of Wanderlust air on BBC Tuesday nights, and will be available in its entirety on Netflix beginning October 19.

Kaycee Clark Becomes the Second Gay Contestant to Win ‘Big Brother’

In a tight 5-4 vote — the third such vote in three seasons of the United States’ variant of the CBS reality series — Kaycee Clark won the 20th season of Big Brother. The out lesbian winner becomes the second gay winner of Big Brother‘s American variant, and the first lesbian to take home the prize.

Following in Big Brother season 15 champion Andy Herren’s footsteps, Clark won on a combination of social gameplay and a nearly unprecedented late-game competition streak. She won five of the last six Power of Veto competitions, giving her a remarkable hold on the late phase of the game, and tying the record for most Veto wins in a season. (The record is co-held by Big Brother All-Stars‘ Janelle Pierzina, Big Brother season 8 runner-up Daniele Donato, and Big Brother season 19 runner-up Paul Abrahamian.)

Clark, a football player, managed to win the votes of fellow houseguests Bayleigh Dayton, Angie “Rockstar” Lantry, Faysal Shafaat, Scottie Salton, and Sam Bledsoe. Four were in the opposing alliance “The Hive,” while Bledsoe was a free agent. Brett Robinson and Angela Rummans, both members of Clark’s and Crispen’s alliance “Level 6,” voted for Crispen. JC Monduix, fellow gay member of the final 3, also voted for Crispen. (Haleigh Broucher, a Hive member, voted for Crispen.)

Clark’s win caps off a great year for LGBTQ+ Big Brother players, one that started with Courtney Act‘s win on the UK variant of Celebrity Big Brother earlier this year. Alongside her, Ross Matthews won second place and America’s Favorite Player on Celebrity Big Brother‘s U.S. variant, while Johnny Mulder and Erica Hill both made great cases for themselves on Big Brother Canada.

Big Brother will return in the U.S. with Celebrity Big Brother season 2 this winter.

Bill Cosby Sentenced to 3 to 10 Years for Sexual Assault

Bill Cosby has been sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison for three counts of sexual assault in 2004, the Associated Press reports.

The sentence came down after the April decision against the former Cosby Show actor, in a case brought forth by former Temple University basketball coach Andrea Constand. Constand, an out lesbian, accused Cosby of assaulting her in his Philadelphia home in January of 2004.

The judge in the case, Steven O’Neill, denied the 81-year-old comedian bail.

“Mr. Cosby, you took her beautiful healthy young spirit and crushed it,” the judge said at the sentencing, according to BBC News.

Cosby’s lawyers attempted to argue that because of his age, the comedian is not a threat. O’Neill was not swayed, however. Following two days of debate over the label at Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County Courthouse, the judge deemed Cosby a “sexually violent predator.”

That classification means Cosby will be listed on the sex offender registry following his release and required to undergo counseling for the rest of his life.

During the trial, Constand described the assault in detail, including being drugged with what Cosby told her were “herbal supplements.” The 45-year-old told the court he used his hand to masturbate while she laid there “paralyzed and completely helpless,” fading in and out of consciousness.

“I wanted it to stop,” Constand said. “I couldn’t say anything. I was trying to get my hands to move, my legs to move and the message just wasn’t getting there.”

“I was weak, I was limp, and I couldn’t fight him off,” she added.

In an impact statement submitted to the court, Constand detailed the years of trauma she experienced as a result of the assault. When the incident occurred in 2004, she described “herself as a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a bright future with possibilities.”

“Now, almost 15 years later, I’m a middle-aged woman who has been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal or fully move on,” Constand claimed.

Judge O’Neill acknowledged that harm in Tuesday’s sentencing.

“I don’t know whether the defendant read your statement,” he said. “I did. I heard the very clear impact in your voice.”

Five other women submitted testimony to the court, although they did not testify as witnesses during the trial. Over a span of nearly four decades, more than 60 women — including former supermodel Janice Dickinson — say that Cosby drugged and assaulted them. Dickinson reportedly laughed as the sentence was read.

A jury of seven men and five women unanimously found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated sexual assault following a 17-day retrial.

A previous case ended in a mistrial following lack of “substantial evidence.”

Cosby’s team, however, continues to maintain the actor is innocent. Outside the courthouse, publicist Andrew Wyatt called the proceedings the most “racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States.”

“They persecuted Jesus and look what happened,” Wyatt said.

It Turns Out Lesbians Don’t Actually U-Haul Much Quicker Than Anyone Else

There’s an old joke credited to Lea DeLaria that has since become a cliche in LGBTQ circles:

“What does a lesbian bring to a second date?”

“A U-Haul!”

Even Issa Rae knows the joke — on a recent episode of Insecure, she found out her gay brother just moved in with his new boyfriend. “Y’all some lesbians!” she says.

I laughed — and most lesbians would say it’s funny because it’s true. The long-held stereotype has been that female/female couples move quickly, cohabitating early in a new relationship, whether it’s after a handful of dates or just a couple of months. But while there are surely those who prove the theory, new research finds that queer women actually don’t U-Haul any faster than their gay male or heterosexual counterparts. 

“The long-running assumption has been that men and women are presumed to have different desires and preferences in regard to commitment and relationships, and as a result, we might expect men and women in same-sex relationships to reflect these differences,” says Taylor Orth, a Sociology Ph.D. Candidate at Stanford University. “Qualitative research on different-sex relationships in the United States has demonstrated that male partners tend to play a dominant role in initiating whether couples become sexually or romantically involved, while female partners are typically the ones to first suggest that the couple move in together or raise the issue of marriage.”

In “Commitment Timing in Same-Sex and Different Sex Relationships,” Orth and co-author Michael Rosenfeld utilized Rosenfeld’s 2009-2015 study called How Couples Meet and Stay Together to look at the progression of courtship, relationship formation, and cohabitation, specifically whether the rates of romantic relationship initiation and commitment are higher based on gender and sexuality.

“In the past, researchers have spent a significant amount of time focusing on commitment timing in different-sex relationships. Until recently, we’ve lacked large-scale, representative, and longitudinal data on same-sex couples,” Orth tells INTO. “[This is] the first dataset that allows us the opportunity to do so. “

Orth and Rosenfeld found that the long-running assumption that female same-sex couples move quicker than others is false, at least when it came to the 471 same-sex couples (221 FF couples and 235 MM couples) out of 3,009 couples total surveyed over the six-year study period.  

Most of the couples surveyed were made up of two white partners — 77 percent of FF and 79 percent of both MF and MM pairings. Only 14 percent of FF couples had one white partner, and 8 percent were both non-white. In MF couples, 10 percent had one non-white partner, and 11 percent were both non-white. For MM, the numbers were slightly different — 15 percent of them had one white partner, six percent with both partners non-white.

“In the couples we tracked, female same-sex couples either moved in together or married after an average of roughly 1.3 years, relative to different-sex couples who took roughly two years and male same-sex couples who took roughly 1.5 years,” Orth says.

That isn’t much of a difference — especially considering some other variables.

“When interpreting these raw differences, it’s important to consider and control for other demographic differences between couple types,” Orth says. “Once taking into account the fact that same-sex couples tend to meet and begin relationships at older ages, the gap in long-term commitment timing virtually disappears.”

Because heteronormative culture allows for straight men and women to start earlier courtships (even from childhood), meeting through family, church, or school, while same-sex couples tend to meet and establish long-term relationships at an older age, the latter therefore progress their relationship more quickly than a straight couple who met before they turned 18. The average age for female/female couples to meet is 33.9 with a relationship beginning at an average of 35.2, meaning the number of years between meeting and relationship formation is just over a year (1.35). Male/male couples first meet at an average age of 37.2 and begin a relationship at 37.7. So while gay men move in at a slightly slower pace than queer women, they tend to get into relationships quicker. (Heterosexual couples, by comparison, meet by 25.8 and begin a relationship at 27.4.)

Obviously, with marriage not available to American same-sex couples until 2015, FF and MM pairings didn’t always have an option to commit in the traditional way. The study considers all forms of unions — civil, domestic partnership, and cohabitation — as “increased commitment” and the transition that a couple makes toward intended longevity. Couples are defined by two individuals “openly acknowledging that their relationship is romantic and sexual nature and consider themselves to be in a relationship.” 

Gender roles also play a factor. When considering that courtship has long been established as requiring a male pursuer and heavily indoctrination by the woman’s parents with marriage being the ultimate goal, the idea that two women move faster to cohabitate has to do with stereotypes not of lesbians, but women in general.

“More specifically the view that women tend to be more commitment-oriented than men,” Orth says. “The fact that we find little differences between couple types doesn’t necessarily dispel this, but leads us to question the extent to which commitment-orientation is an individual attribute of women rather than a result of their social positioning and historical lack of bargaining power relative to their male partners.”

She notes that a 2013 Pew Research Center study backs this idea — researchers there found that unmarried gay male and lesbian individuals express a similar desire to someday marry (56 percent vs. 58 percent).

Based on Orth’s findings, MM couples have shorter periods of acquaintance before entering into a relationship, meaning they actually move faster to get into a partnership. And FF couples have the fastest rate of transition from couplehood to cohabitation — just not significantly more than MM or MF couples. So why does this U-Haul stereotype pervade?

“There is a long history of pathologizing both female desire as well as same-sex relationships. This perspective is still evident in some of the terminology applied to women in same-sex relationships. The U-Haul myth is one instance of this,” Orth says.

Orth says other versions of this pathologizing are the ideas of Lesbian Fusion (“which has been used to refer to the presumed extreme emotional yet non-sexual closeness of lesbian relationships”) and Lesbian Bed Death (when long-term cohabitation “results in low sexual desire and infrequent sexual activity”). As Orth writes in the study: “Despite the fact that same-sex couples face different interactional opportunities and constraints, their patterns of relationship progression appear quite similar to different-sex couples, suggesting that gender and sexuality are perhaps less important to relationship transitions than has been previously suggested.”

So, truthfully, the idea of lesbians U-Hauling is based on misogyny — internal or otherwise.

“Women who stray too far from the baseline of what is perceived to be male desire can at times be viewed as deficient,” Orth says, “and have historically been seen as in need of clinical attention to correct for such unnatural deviations.”

Orth says she went into this project with an open mind and a familiarity with the notion of U-hauling, but wanted to study it scientifically.

“Given how widespread the U-Haul stereotype is, as well as other stereotypes about same-sex couples,” she says, “I’ve been somewhat surprised by how small such differences are when you actually start analyzing patterns of data.”

Image via Getty

Michelle Tea Gets the Tea From … Karen Tongson

Karen Tongson is busy, but that’s what happens when you’re a brainiac genius. She’s a USC professor known to lecture on race, gender, sex, karaoke, pop culture, literature, and critical theory. In short, everything worth thinking about. She edits the Postmillennial Pop series at NYU Press, is the author of the acclaimed Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries, has another book on the way (Why Karen Carpenter Matters) plus two more in progress: Normal Television: Critical Essays on Queer Spectatorship After the ‘New Normalcy’ and Empty Orchestra: Karaoke in Our Time.

We can thank her for adding an intellectual layer to our craven binge-watching and ruining of Beyonce tunes, as well as for making the cultural landscape smarter, queerer, and more enjoyable. Here she is taking on the same 15 questions I always ask.

What is the most uncanny thing that you have ever experienced?

I’m at a loss for how to answer this, because as a critic and a close reader, I think I might register things as uncanny even if they technically aren’t, at least in the Freudian sense of the word. I guess my heightened sensitivity to strange reverberations was cultivated during an early-childhood immersed in the Catholic mysticism of the Philippines. In fact, my forthcoming book about Karen Carpenter is pretty much about how so much of the Carpenters’ music and life story feels profoundly uncanny to me, because I was named after Karen, even though we came from completely different worlds. The interweaving of our lives felt overdetermined, and we became unlikely doppelgängers (at least in my mind). I guess this is is a roundabout way of saying that Why Karen Carpenter Matters is an extended foray into the uncanny, because it tracks my efforts to come to grips with all the odd, unheimlich moments I’ve had with Karen across space and time.

What’s in your pockets right now?

My pockets are my butch purse. They usually contain my phone, a pack of American Spirits (Celadon), and my fairly streamlined Shinola wallet (with mostly just the essentials in it, but also some stray bits of ephemera like my two favorite fortunes from cookies, and a business card for a bespoke tailor in Thailand where I had a couple of shirts made this summer).

Please share the 15th picture on your cell phone.

How are you like or not like your sun sign?

I am every bit a Virgo—meticulous, anal, detail-oriented, hyper-organized, reliable—though I’d like to think I have more empathy and feeling than what is usually ascribed to Virgos according to the canonical astrological source texts. I attribute that gregariousness and warmth to living at the cusp of Leo (my birthday is on the very first day of Virgo, August 23, even though the O.G. Linda Goodman claims Virgo begins on August 24 in the 1961 edition of Sun Signs).

What is the last book you read?

Alex Gilvarry’s novel, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant.

Song you listened to?

Swing Out Sister’s “Breakout” (1986).

Show or movie you watched?

The short-lived sitcom Kitchen Confidential, a half-assed attempt to adapt Anthony Bourdain’s breakout book of the same name into a Bradley Cooper vehicle for Fox’s primetime line-up in 2005. All of the episodes are on Hulu right now, and in a fit of missing Bourdain, but feeling too sad to watch his own beautiful TV work on Parts Unknown and No Reservations, I fell down this shambolic rabbit hole. It only lasted one season (13 eps).

What was the last meal you cooked?

Cast iron pan-seared cod filets, wild brown rice, and sautéed rainbow chard. 

Where would you like to go on vacation right now?

Island-hopping and snorkeling beneath the limestone cliffs in the crystalline waters of Palawan in the Philippines.

Tell me about getting to meet someone you idolize or admire.

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a number of people I admire and idolize, and have even talked to, and collaborated with them at some length. But for me, nothing beats the thrill of being at the right place at the right time to bump into the Argentinian tennis great, Gabriela Sabatini, when I was 16 and just starting to come to terms with the first lesbian stirrings in my loins. It was at the Virginia Slims tennis tournament in Manhattan Beach (1989), and a platonic male jock friend from high-school drove me out from Riverside to see the semi-finals. Gaby had just worked out on the court, and her hair was dripping with sweat. She was hiding from fans beneath a Sergio Tacchini baseball cap, when I happened upon her after lunching with my aforementioned boy pal, Vinnie, at the Country Club’s restaurant. For some reason, I had, in my clutches, a card-sized sample of her branded perfume, so she signed it for me. I soared with Sapphic feelings for the rest of the day. Probably the rest of that year.  

What are you like when you’re sick?

I binge watch TV in bed and consume lots of tonics (oregano oil, anything with turmeric, lots of Asian broths, ramens, stews).

What are you obsessed with or inspired by right now?

Every four years I get lost in the World Cup, and my sleeping habits adjust to the time zone of wherever the cup is being held. In 2010, I lived on South Africa time, in 2014, Brazilian time, and now Russian time. Even though my team (Germany) was eliminated in group play — a totally unpredictable turn of events, btw — I’ve remained locked into the match schedule and essentially reconfigured my entire life to accommodate it for the last several weeks. Let’s just say my wife has been incredibly irritated, especially during the earlier rounds with 5 am matches.

What are you upset about right now?

What am I NOT upset about right now? Every day has been a struggle since we began living under this regime.

If I had to pick something more specific, it would be the extent to which we are, as a nation, in some pretty deep denial about how the conditions for authoritarianism have completely coalesced. WE ARE IN IT.  All of this country’s branches of power — the congress, the executive branch, the judiciary — have been consolidated under single-party rule. Voting rights have been eroded, and the gerrymandering of districts is worsening by the day. There is also, in effect, an anti-immigrant Gestapo in the form of ICE, and white citizens are policing people of color in the public sphere. I cry. I rage. I fight.

What is the most recent dream you remember?

I have a recurring dream where I’m looking for our tuxedo cat, Corky, but am surrounded by other tuxedo cats so I’m having trouble finding him. I look for the markings on his nose, and his goofy eyes, but am frustrated each time I pick another cat up and it isn’t him. The dream makes me feel desperate, but I never stop looking.

Who are your queer ancestors?

Audre Lorde and Oscar Wilde. 

What is your dream project?

It’s top secret! I’m working on something with a collaborator right now, and we don’t want to tip our hands.  

What are you doing this weekend?

Celebrating multiple Cancerian birthdays over tiki cocktails, yakitori, and karaoke. And watching the World Cup finals, of course.

Six Movies That Need a Lesbian Sequel

Keira Knightley is currently starring in the queer film Colette, which hits theaters today, and spoke to PrideSource about past queer roles — or rather, roles that should’ve been. Apparently, the actress wants a lesbian Bend It Like Beckham sequel — which like, same.

While discussing the 2002 sports comedy, the reporter asked Knightley about a swirling rumor that the movie was originally written as a lesbian love story. She said, “I never read that version of the script!” But when the reporter said many people in the LGBTQ community wanted Jess and Jules to end up together, the actress said, “Fuck yeah! That would’ve been amazing. I think they should’ve been too. I think that would’ve been great. We need a sequel.”

Well, I wholeheartedly agree, and have always believed that Bend It Like Beckham had more lesbian vibes than a Banks concert. Here are six female-focused films that deserve a queer sequel.

She’s the Man 

Starring 2000s teen queen Amanda Bynes, She’s The Man was a playful teenaged take on Shakespeare’s classic Twelfth Night. Bynes’s character dresses as a man and pretends to be her twin brother in order to play soccer at his new school, Illyria, because the girls’ team got cut at her school. Obviously, this movie is brimming with commentary on gender identity, but there’s a girl-on-girl love story that often goes overlooked, and that’s the one between Viola (Bynes) and Olivia (Laura Ramsey).

Olivia falls for Viola, while she’s dressed as her brother Sebastian. But at the end, when Olivia finds out Sebastian has been a girl this whole time, she’s confused, and eventually just decides that Viola’s real twin brother is enough for her, and pretty much the same thing — girl, no. So, can we please, for the love of goddess, get a sequel where Olivia ruminates on the experience of falling in love with a woman and grapples with what that means for her own sexual identity?! Clearly, Olivia was attracted to fake Sebastian’s feminine energy, between his (her) sensitive side, interest in fashion, breadth of empathy, and, well, her soft, feminine features. She’s The Man 2: Lost & Dillyrius, in theaters this Fall.

Pitch Perfect

To be fair, Pitch Perfect is already a trilogy, but in the three long, a cappella-filled movies, fans never even got one kiss between Beca and Chloe! The first movie follows the alternative and sharp-tongued Beca, played by Anna Kendrick, as she falls in love with her a cappella group at Barden University. Really, the movies are friendship porn, but all three films have hinted at Chloe (Brittany Snow) harboring a major crush on Beca. From their first Sapphic moment singing a “Titanium” duet in the showers, to post-grad Chloe admitting she wishes she experimented more in college, to her double-cup groping Beca in the third installment—clearly, Chloe was thirsty for her best friend, and it may have been reciprocated.

Even Anna Kendrick has spoken publicly on the #Bechloe fandom, and has advocated for it herself. I definitely wanted to have an ending that was a Bechloe ending, and we did shoot one version where Brittany and I tricked everybody into just shooting one that was just the two of us getting together,”  she told PrideSource.  “We knew it was a long shot. It meant so much to us that there was this following around their latent relationship and, yeah, I thought it would’ve been really cool if it would have ended up coming to fruition in the end.” And if there’s ever a Pitch Perfect 4, Kendrick said she’d go to bat for the #Bechloe stans. “If we ever do a four, I will fight tooth and nail for it,” she said, “but I’m not sure it’s gonna happen.” There you have it! Pitch Perfect: Bechloe 4nicates.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser

Sierra Burgess is the kind of movie that leaves straight women and queer women feeling like they watched two completely different films. For straight women — who tend to be  um, blind — the story is about two high school girls, Sierra (Shannon Purser) and Veronica (Kristine Froseth), finding friendship through catfishing a guy at another school. For queer women, this is clearly a story about two girls falling in love and realizing men are trash (even though, to be fair, the women in this movie are trash).

Veronica is the school’s bully and queen bee, while Sierra is, according to the title, a loser. The duo helps each other out — Veronica agrees to catfish Jamey (Noah Centineo) for Sierra if Sierra helps her get smarter so she can date a college guy. After both operations unsurprisingly crumble, they’re left to pick up the pieces of the relationship they’ve formed together, and the movie ends with a knowing glance and a hug between the two girls.

So, I’m officially lobbying for a sequel that’s A, less problematic, and B, significantly gayer. C’mon, Netflix, give us the lesbian rom-com we all deserve: 2 Sierra 2 Burgess.

Bring It On 

Many-a-queer has theorized about the Sapphic relationship between the two leads of Bring It On, Torrance (Kirsten Dunst) and Missy (Eliza Dushku). However, I also clocked bubbling sexual tension between Torrance and her competition, Isis (Gabrielle Union). Basically, this movie is brimming with sexual energy between all the female leads, and all girls sports movies from the 2000s are canonically gay.

Bring It On follows Torrance and her cheerleading squad as they struggle to stand out in their upcoming competition, after learning their former team captain was stealing routines from an inner-city squad, the East Compton Clovers —an extremely woke commentary on cultural appropriation for a 2000s movie. Torrance allegedly falls for Missy’s brother, but she clearly has way more in common with Missy, and their connection seems much stronger. Hey, straight women who want to date their best friend’s brother because he’s just like their best friend but a man: You OK? Just date your best friend.

Bring It On also has multiple sequels, all of which are bad and irrelevant, so here’s my pitch: We pick up 18 years later when Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku’s characters are married and coaching their daughter’s cheerleading squad, while also reinvigorating their sex life after nearly two decades together. It’s called Strap It On.

Now and Then 

Speaking of completely unbelievable stories about friendship, this 1995 Christina Ricci-starring classic is unreasonably gay. This slice of life movie cuts back and forth between the lives of four best friends in present day (“now”) and in their childhood (“then”). Some basics: Rosie O’Donnell is in it — gay. It was written by I. Marlene King (who is gay), who also created Pretty Little Liars (gay), and was originally written with Ricci’s character, Roberta, as a lesbian, as the character was based on King herself.

Now, the movie itself has one extremely gay character, Chrissy, who is meant to just be prudish and sheltered as compared to her fellow hormonal pre-teens, but everything she says reads as a closeted cry for help. She’s the only one of her friends who’s never seen a penis, she’s the only one who’s not ready to kiss a boy, and she always blanches at any mention of kissing, sex, boys, or dating. I saw this movie for the first time this year, and I didn’t know the story, so I watched the entire movie believing that Chrissy’s storyline would end with her coming out. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened — she just remained prudish and, like, religious or some crap. Nineties kids deserve a gay Now and Then sequel, penned by the same gay screenwriter, starring the same cast: Now and Then and Gay Now.

Cadet Kelly 

Cadet Kelly is an extremely lesbian movie about a fun-loving, art school-type of bitch, Kelly (Hilary Duff), whose mother marries an ex-military officer and is forced to enroll in military school. There, she develops a bitter, competitive energy with her commanding officer Jennifer (Christy Carlson Romano), which most times just feels like they’re flirting. Similar to every other fucking story, like Sierra Burgess and Bring It On, they develop a real “friendly” bond (puke) and become best friends.

You’re telling me two girls at fucking military school, one of whom sleeps with a rainbow fucking blanket, falling in friendship-love while training with the goddamn DRILL team isn’t a lesbian story? Sometimes I feel like I’m living on a completely different planet than straight people. Anyway, Cadet Kelly 2: Jennifer’s Chamber of Secrets.

Rediscovering Pulitzer Prize-Nominated Lesbian Playwright Maria Irene Fornes

Born in 1930 in Havana, Cuba, Maria Irene Fornes has written more than 40 works for the stage, won nine Obie Awards, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for her play What of the Night? Also known to the public for her affair with Susan Sontag, Fornes’ tremendously influential work as an experimental playwright in the Off-Off-Broadway scene has recently come into broader awareness through Michelle Memran’s debut documentary film, The Rest I Make Up, which screened at MoMA last month in conjunction with a marathon of Fornes’ work at The Public.

The documentary, which includes over 10 years of footage in the budding familial relationship between Memran and Fornes, is a remarkable tribute to Fornes’ indomitably whimsical spirit while in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. Fornes, now in the late stages of the disease, spends her time in a nursing home in New York City.
 
INTO spoke to Memran about her relationship with Fornes and what all aging queer people have to learn from the creative collaboration carried out by the two of them.

 

How did you meet Irene?

[In college,] I was a journalism major, but I secretly wanted to be a playwright. And I took a playwriting class, and we read [The Conduct of Life]. And I’d never heard of her, but the play floored me and I just didn’t know that that kind of writing existed. And so she was always somewhere in the back of my mind.

And I looked up her other plays that were published and read her work, and then, later, I started writing about theater and doing that — not doing reviews, but doing more personality profiles. And a mentor of mine in college was Jules Feiffer. He was also a playwright and a cartoonist. So I started writing about playwrights and directors, and I was doing an article for American Theatre about how playwrights over time had retaliated against critics. And so it was an exhaustive piece that took me a couple of years to do, but I interviewed all these playwrights. And I really wanted to interview Irene, and I was terrified of interviewing Irene, but she was listed in the phone book.

And so I just called her up and she picked up the phone. And she said, “Sure. Why don’t we go have coffee?” near her apartment. So that’s how I met her. And we met up on the corner of Waverly and Sixth Avenue, which is in the film. And we went to Baluchi’s Indian restaurant and sat there for about five or six hours. And she really didn’t answer any of my questions about critics, because she really couldn’t have cared less about what critics thought of her work. But we just became friends. It was just one of those moments of real kinship. And that was it.

 

And what inspired you to start documenting your time with her on film?

So, over the span of a couple of years that we were just friends, I noticed that she was home a lot. She wasn’t necessarily traveling so much. I mean, this is a woman who was always working and so industrious and always onto the next project, traveling around the world, teaching workshops… And all of a sudden, she was just home all the time. She was talking a lot about how she wasn’t writing, why she wasn’t writing, why weren’t people calling her to go teach?

And so I reached out to her agent at the time,  Morgan Jenness, and I just said, “I’m a friend of Irene’s, and I noticed that she hasn’t been working very much, and also, she’s been forgetting some things.” And also, my first time going into her apartment, something seemed a little off. She’d always been a collector of books and a collector of photographs and found objects that she would use in her plays. But there was also some mold in the fridge… there were little signs that led me to call her agent. And Morgan said, “I think that she might have some memory loss. And we’ve been trying to rally the community around getting her to a doctor and making sure there’s food in the fridge,” and all that stuff.

So that was when I started coming by more frequently and bringing food and just hanging out and making sure the stove knobs were taken off… just little things that I thought, at the time, would help. And also, I loved hanging out with her, so it wasn’t like I was doing a great service.

And then, one day, we just went to Brighton Beach, and it’s in the film, and I had this Hi8 camera that my dad had gotten me, and we were just documenting this day on the beach. I had taken [the camera] out maybe once before. So we were just playing around with the camera. And then, I asked her if she was uncomfortable being in front of the camera, and then she has this fantastic response, which is, “The camera to me is my beloved, and I give everything I have to a camera.”

And so that was a eureka moment, I think, for both of us — definitely for me, and later for Irene — that this could be a way for us to collaborate on a creative project together, because it felt like she was writing for the camera, it felt like she was performing for the camera, and it was really fun for both of us to be engaged in that way. And so when I called Morgan back again, and I said, “Morgan, we just went out to Brighton Beach with a camera, and it was just really extraordinary — Irene’s response to being filmed — and what would you think if we did some kind of a film project together?” Morgan was like, “Oh my God! Definitely. Go for it.” So I borrowed a better camera.

It wasn’t like we had some outline, or we sat down and did formal interviews. It was basically, like, me coming over, bringing food and the camera, and the camera would often be on the floor or [chuckles] on a book propped on a bookshelf, Irene’s wireless mic would be falling off of her, we would be laughing and trying to make this thing work, which… we just didn’t know what we were doing, and that was that was the whole point of it, was that we were exploring this new medium together.

You mention in the film — particularly when you’re when you’re in Miami, Irene talks about wanting to come back to New York, and you say that there is no community in New York. What was that like for you: this moment where you realize that, in taking care of and documenting Irene’s life, you see that she isn’t getting the support from the arts community that she really needed?

I think that moment was particularly challenging and difficult, that moment on the street in Miami. I mean, it was one of the few moments in the film where we really kind of go head-to-head. Part of the reason why it took me so long [to finish the film] was reconciling the fact that here is this woman who’s done so much for the theater, so much for her students, was constantly surrounded by people. And then, the second that she’s no longer working in the theater, or of value in some way, the reception changes. And I think it did.

I think that the community, in particular around Alzheimer’s… I don’t think this is specific to Irene. I think this is very specific to the disease itself. I think people are afraid of it, and I think people don’t want to be around it, and everyone’s affected by it. Everyone has Alzheimer’s or dementia in their family these days. But it was really hard to understand why people weren’t showing up, and why certain members of her family weren’t showing up, why some of her friends weren’t showing up.

There were people that were there constantly throughout, but I think the theater community that she knew, that she was a part of, she was no longer a part of that community because she simply wasn’t creating anymore.

And there’s also the fact that she’s going further and further back into her early memories, so she was thinking a lot about Off-Off-Broadway and thinking a lot about Cuba. I think that, definitely, the Off-Off-Broadway community is no longer, in that same way: the community that she remembered of putting up plays in storefronts and sitting around and reading Edna St. Vincent Millay and talking about Gertrude Stein and sitting in cafés. That community was long gone before she started losing her memory.

 

How did you cultivate such a close relationship with Irene, when the age difference between you was so large?

With Irene it was interesting, because at the time when I met her, also, I was just coming out of the closet, and not really having the support of my family at the time. So when I became friends with Irene, it was not just becoming friends with my favorite playwright and having this mentor, but it was also having sort of a lesbian mentor, in a way, [chuckles] because… depending on the day, around her sexuality, she labeled herself various different things. But she became my family.

I was going on Nerve dates and going back to Irene’s and reading her the descriptions of the people I was going on dates with, and she would critique them, and she would tell me, “No, I don’t think that was a good one. I think this one’s a good one.” I mean, this is a woman who had had numerous affairs throughout her life, including with Susan Sontag and all these various literary figures. I turned to her for advice each step of the way as I was coming out, so I think it was a different experience for me because I really found family with her.

And I think that it is that thing of creating your own family. I think it made a huge difference that I wasn’t a relative, that I was an outside person who came into her life, because I didn’t have a history, I didn’t know her when she was actually making work. So I didn’t have the sense of loss that other people might come to visit her with. I was just completely captivated with who she was then.

And so the focus in the film is more on what remains than what is lost because that’s my experience of spending time with her. But yeah, I do think it’s rare to have that kind of… I was 25 and she was 70, so it was rare that we came together in this way. But I think there was always something underlying the friendship. It was like a mentor-student kind of relationship, too.

 

In the film, Irene says, “If you expose everything about you, the good the medium and the bad, you are a better person, a healthier person.” How do you relate to Irene’s conception of privacy?

Well, I mean, I particularly relate to it now. At the time, I looked at it through the lens of… I mean, obviously she’s talking about her own situation, and that’s just always the way she lived her life in terms of her work. But not necessarily her sexuality—it was just a part of her. There’s a part of the film where she talks about how her life is her life and she doesn’t need to explain it to anybody. But also, when she would talk about privacy, that really hit home for me as somebody who was just coming out of the closet.

And now, for the past year, I’ve been going through cancer treatment and watching the film. The week that the film got into MoMA, I found out I had breast cancer, so I’ve been watching the film for the past year and listened to her talk about privacy and not being afraid to tell your truth, basically. And that has really hit home to me as I’ve been going through this.

So I think, at various points of my life, it means different things to me. But I think that throughout the film, the way Irene deals or doesn’t deal with the fact that she has dementia: I think it’s really valuable for anyone, at any stage, to just own who they are and to not be afraid to express that. To not be afraid to tell somebody that you’re gay, or not be afraid to tell somebody that you happen to be bald because you have cancer.

People often ask me about specific moments during our collaboration when Irene was being Irene despite having dementia. And for me, that’s what the whole film is about: Irene being Irene despite having dementia. Her improvising a song on the street in the West Village. Her telling me how she doesn’t trust professionals. Her teaching me how to be an artist, encouraging me to keep writing. Her recalling the heydays of Off-Off-Broadway. Her dancing on the streets and beaches of Havana. Her talking about the creativity of her family in Cuba. Her curiosity and frankness about her own forgetting. Every exchange in the film, at least for me, represented a different aspect of Irene’s personality and showed her remarkable ability to articulate and inhabit a moment even as it was escaping her.

I feel that in this moment, social media — and the way they isolate us physically from each other — present new challenges for sustaining intergenerational dialogues in the queer community, and I wonder if you have something to say about what we lose when voices like Irene’s fall into obscurity, and what we can do to mend the breach.

With the aging of baby boomers, we’re living through an unprecedented moment in the makeup of our country. This year the U.S. Census Bureau predicted that by 2030 the number of older people are projected to outnumber children in the U.S. So I imagine we’re going to be seeing a lot more intergenerational collaborations in the future, which is incredibly exciting. We have so much to learn, about history, about humanity, about creativity, from our elders, and I hope that this film offers a window into the kind of rich, reciprocal exchange that can happen. I’ve never felt so seen by anyone in my life as I did by Irene. She gave me a great gift.

I think that, for me, there’s so many people who are living in isolation and are also just living in exhaustion and living without stimulus, who’ve had these incredible lives. And I do feel like helping facilitate the telling of story is… in any form, whether you’re coming in with a camera, or you’re just coming in with conversation, just in the nursing home, everyone is just sitting. And sitting and sitting and sitting. And it’s only going to get worse over time, in terms of the numbers and the overcrowding of nursing homes and the population boom and the increase in dementia.

And with the queer community, I mean, you have people who don’t have children, who don’t have conventional families, who are certainly like Irene, who didn’t have kids, who didn’t have a partner at the time. It just so happened that we came together, but what would have happened had that not happened? Would she have gone to a nursing home sooner? Would no one know anything about these past 15 years of her life? So I think that this is a big issue right now, and it has been for years.

But I think that programs that bring queer youth together with queer elders… SAGE does a little bit of that, is doing more of that. Those kind of mentorships or collaborations or just friendships that can start are going to be vital. Are so vital already. How do you make it happen, and consistently happen, when it’s not around necessarily a project? It’s a big question.

My partner and I also think about this a lot in terms of, you know, we don’t have children, we’re probably not going to have children. We go visit Irene and we’re at a nursing home and we think like, “So, who’s going to take care of us when we’re 88 and maybe can’t take care of each other?” We are setting ourselves up for unconventional lifestyles. How do you age in New York City having an unconventional lifestyle and a different kind of community? I guess we’ll find out.

The Rest I Make Up is playing at select film festivals in October.

Here’s What Happens When You Give Straight Women Emmys For Playing Butches

Last night, two straight women took home Emmys for their portrayals of butch characters on TV, and a handful more were nominated for queer roles. Alex Bornstein won for her portrayal of an archetypal 1960s butch dive bar employee named Susie Myerson on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Merritt Wever won for her work as Mary Agnes, a widow who dons her dead husband’s clothing and takes on a leadership role in an all-woman mining community (striking up a romantic relationship with a sex worker-turned-school teacher along the way) on the Netflix limited series Godless. Both of these characters exist in period pieces, and so their queerness is acknowledged with varying degrees of directness. But awarding straight, feminine actresses Emmys for playing butch characters in the same year that we’ve seen the devastating cancellations of TV shows that feature butch actors contributes to a problem long suffered by queer performers.

In June, it was announced that Leah Remini would make a return to network sitcoms by playing a conservative, patriotic family woman who just so happens to be a lesbian. A month earlier, Jennifer Aniston landed a role as another patriotic lesbian, playing the first female President of the United States opposite Tig Notaro in the forthcoming Netflix comedy First Ladies. The project follows the cancellation of Notaro’s sitcom One Mississippi, which was axed by Amazon at the same time as Jill Soloway’s butch-forward sophomore series I Love Dick earlier this year. Along with the end of Transparent, the fifth season of which will be its last, Amazon’s cuts effectively wipe all butch characters from the streaming platform — with the exception of Mrs. Maisel’s Susie Myerson, who, despite being heavily coded as a butch lesbian, never explicitly addresses her sexuality. Losing meaningful queer representation is always a gut-punch to these historically underserved communities, but this perfect storm of queer actors losing work while straight women ascend to queer roles flattens queer identity across the whole industry. And the problem extends all the way out to how queer actors are trained.

In the four years I spent at a very fancy acting school, only once did I get to work on a queer femme role (Martha in Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour). This despite the dozens of roles I’d been assigned in fully staged productions, classroom scene study, and monologue work. The 1932 play centers on two lesbian teachers at an all-girls boarding school and the scene I’d been assigned to work on ends in Martha’s suicide, a nearly century-old example of the “kill your gays” trope. Of course, acting isn’t just about playing yourself, but that’s where most actors begin their professional careers — playing “to type” — and I question how effective my training possibly could have been if there wasn’t any material for me to work on that was authentic to myself. I was largely overlooked by teachers, and although it’s entirely possible that I simply wasn’t very good, I think it’s more accurate to say that I wasn’t really seen. If an actor isn’t easily categorized or “typed” upon first glance, then they’re considered uncastable. And if they’re considered uncastable, then teachers have trouble mustering up the energy to even bother with them. With no queer femme roles in the training canon, how could teachers possibly connect me — my identity and my humanity — to the work at hand?

In acting school, you’re taught under the guise of “empowerment” that casting directors “don’t have very good imaginations,” so you have to play to your own stereotypes. “We don’t say this to scare you,” teachers will say. “We say this to empower you.” This so-called lack of imagination, of course, is just an excuse for people in the industry to be racist, misogynistic, and queer-antagonistic in the casting process. They’re too lazy to actually learn about marginalized identities, and so they place the onus on actors to make themselves more helpfully one-dimensional.

My identity was totally illegible to casting gatekeepers; if I wanted to “play gay,” then why didn’t I “look gayer” (read: more androgynous)? And if I wanted to present as femme, then why wasn’t I happy to read for objectified, one-dimensional straight female characters steeped in misogyny? The casting world doesn’t understand a femme identity that plays to a butch gaze and not a male one. They can’t even parse the difference, which is not at all subtle. I wield my femininity to attract partners, yes. But I do it on my terms, with the fullness of my humanity behind it, and with an expectation that my potential partners understand how complexity and emotions work. That translates to acting; I’m not going to make a character smaller to fit inside the confines of a diminished and crude cishet white male gaze. This is what writing rooted in oppressive forces produces, and casting directors can’t understand why an actress wouldn’t eagerly kowtow to it, given the opportunity.

When shows prominently featuring butch actors get canceled while cisnormative women snag those roles elsewhere, it’s a blow to butch representation, yes. But it’s also a blow to the representation of femmes who love them. My investment in patriarchy is different from a straight woman’s. So is a butch’s. Without butch actors bringing the wealth of their queer experience to butch roles, my gender identity, as it works in harmony with my sexual expression, doesn’t make sense — to teachers, to writers, to casting directors, or to audiences.

There is, of course, a larger problem of representation here. The best queer roles for women will always be written, directed, produced, and portrayed by folks who are already well-versed in dyke culture, and those people are very rarely presented the same opportunities as straight men. With more authentic representation of butch and femme dynamics on-screen, the effects can eventually trickle down to talented people of other identities who could tackle presenting these characters with nuance. But in the meantime, we need authoritative voices at the helm leading by example.

Hannah Gadsby Stole the Show While Presenting at the 2018 Emmy Awards

If there’s been a singular breakout star of television this year, it’s absolutely been Hannah Gadsby — and her stand-up special Nanette didn’t even air on television.

Nanette, a Netflix special that has been nothing short of a mega-viral sensation. Gadsby’s dissection of comedy, and her own place in it as a queer woman, has been both celebrated and dismissed — the latter almost exclusively by men. (Shock of no shocks, the special is mostly about how Gadsby believes men have adversely affected comedy.) Uniquely, one of Nanette‘s most prominent critics, even though he’s never seen it, is this year’s Emmys host Michael Che.

So call it somewhat intriguing that Gadsby appeared to present at the Emmys — not because she isn’t a star, because she is, but because one of the hosts seems against her successful stand-up special on principle. Gadsby nodded at the awkwardness when she stepped onto the Emmys stage.

“This is not normal. The world’s gone a bit crazy,” she said. “For someone like me, a nobody from nowhere, gets this sweet gig, free suit, new boots, just ’cause I don’t like men!”

The audience laughed, and Gadsby quickly upped the ante. “That’s a joke, of course. Just jokes, fellas, calm down,” she said. “#NotAllMen. But a lot of ’em! It is just jokes, but what are jokes these days? We don’t know. Nobody knows what jokes are, especially not men. Am I right, fellas? That’s why I’m presenting alone.”

It’s the kind of joke that could be an exaggeration… but maybe it isn’t? It’s certainly believable, I’ll say that. Most certainly a joke, though, is that when she gave out the award (to The Crown director Stephen Daldry), and the director wasn’t there to accept, Gadsby assumed it had something to do with her.

“Stephen could not be with us tonight to accept the Emmy on his own behalf, ’cause of, probably, me. So I think I just leave now, and that’s… Well done, him.”

And indeed, she left. Irish Goodbye found dead; the Gadsby Goodbye is the way to do it now.

She may not have been the most expected presence, but by the end of Gadsby’s presentation, she was a beloved one. Though we’ll not be surprised if this proves just as controversial as her stand-up special.

Image via Getty

Queer Women Go Head-to-Head in The Butch Off

Through fun and competitive challenges, co-hosts Brittany Ashley and Laura Zak poke fun at historically “gendered” assumptions about who excels at what, and explore what it means to be “butch” or to have butch energy.

The Butch Off is an homage to those with a butch identity, where they encourage an interpretation of butchness that defies binary gender and exhibits an ability to take care of others, be emotionally vulnerable, considerate, confident, resourceful, and strong. 

Watch the new INTO video below: