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Ten Great Books With Awesome LGBTQ+ Characters

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I’ll be honest, my favorite thing about traveling is all the books I get to read on the way. I’ll spend a day, maybe two packing clothes and stuff for a trip but I will spend MONTHS picking out books to reads for the trip: a book for on the way to my destination, a book for when I’m there, and a book for the trip home. Plus a backup book in case I finish one. I’ve always been on my own personal quest to try to find books with awesome LGBTQ characters (because representation matters!), which is about as easy as looking for a Horcrux. However, I have found 10 amazing books with a great cast of LGBTQ characters, because even if you’re not on your way to some exciting destination, books are always a great escape.

1) A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee      

                                        

Omg, this book you guys! Where do I even begin? A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is LGBTQ meets Jane Austen meets swashbuckling adventure. Professional family disappointment and bisexual rogue Henry “Monty” Montague is going on an unforgettable Grand Tour with his bi-racial best friend Percy (who Monty is nursing a major crush on) and his little killjoy sister Felicity. However, after Monty makes one stupid move, his plans of hedonistic behavior and flirting with Percy go down the tube as they are hunted throughout Europe. This book is great for many reasons: not only does it talk about bisexually and how impossibly difficult it is to be gay in the 1700’s, it also talks about feminism, having a misunderstood illness, loving someone with an illness, and learning that your mistakes don’t define you. It’s also a really witty, cute adventure book. Get your copy here

2) Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo

Think of every annoying YA Fantasy trope you can think of. Now imagine it being blown completely to bits and replaced with something infinitely more fantastic. Loves, meet Six of Crows and it’s sequel Crooked Kingdom. Set in a fantasy world inspired by Tsarist Russia, the first book: “Six of Crows” is about six criminals who are on a heist to break into a high-security prison and steal a highly guarded person, purely for the money. What’s great about this book is the core group of main characters are highly diverse. There are not one but TWO bisexual characters (one is a POC in a m/m relationship and one is plus size in an f/m relationship), a gay boy with a learning disability, a physically disabled boy with a phobia of touching and severe PTSD,  and a middle eastern coded girl who was a victim of sex trafficking. It’s always wickedly funny, heart-tugging,  and will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

3) Carry On: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell

Carry on is an interesting book because it’s basically a spin-off of Rowell’s other novel Fangirl and is inspired by Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy fan-fiction. However, you need to read Fangirl to understand or enjoy the book. It’s a funny, magical, sweet love story about a hate turned into love between two enemies that becoming something more. It also discusses hot topics such as sexual, ethnic and class identity. Great pick for those of you who spent hours reading Darry fanfic (raises hand)

4) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

As a former English major who’s suffered through Classical Heritage and has read the Iliad, I know for a fact that Achilles is hella gay. You know, and I know, but dirty old scholars haven’t gotten the clue. Fortunately, Madeline Miller has gotten a clue and given us what we’ve all been waiting for: An Achilles + Patroclus love story (throws confetti)! This book sticks pretty close to the original mythology but with a tender, sweet and heartbreaking love story that will stick with you long after you finish the book. It really adds new depth to an old classic.

 

5) Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Wow, where do I begin with this amazing YA novel? Inspired by Welcome To Night Vale, it’s about two social outcasts who start a podcast together. This book not only breaks the trope of “a boy and girl are friends, they must fall in love” but the main character actually describes herself as bisexual, which is so rare to find a character that describes themselves as bisexual that you’re better off looking for a unicorn. The book also has POC characters, none of the main cast is straight and there was an honest, genuine conversation about asexuality. Need I say more? Get your copy here

6) Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Bisexual, Chinese-Vietnamese girl protagonist? Check.

Superpowers and girls being complete and utter badasses? Check.

Cute girls kicking ass together? Hell yasss.

Also, the sequel is coming out in October featuring a trans-masculine main character.

7)  Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Princesses falling in love! Princesses falling in love! Do I seriously need to write more? Fine. Betrothed since childhood to a Prince in a neighboring kingdom, Princess Dennaliea knew her future was laid out since day one. Until she learned she has an Affinity for fire, and for someone else…This book has everything: magical espionage, hate-to-love romances, forbidden love, and castles. And again, princesses falling in love.

8) Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

You’ve heard the musical, now read the graphic memoir that started it all. Bechdel tells a powerful, humorous and heartbreaking story about her childhood, her relationship with her father, and their mutual, unexpected bond over their sexuality. I don’t usually like coming-of-age stories, but this is such a unique story and a must read for everyone.

9) Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson

Winterson is one of the OGs of the LGBT scene with her groundbreaking book Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Her memoir now tells the story of her life’s work to find happiness, going through her painful childhood, and figuring out her life and the search for belonging. You’ll cry as many times as you laugh with this book, but you’ll also find a connection. A must read for writers and people obsessed with literature.

10) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Not typically thought of as an LGTBQ book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a tour de force of storytelling and a wild ride from start to finish. One of the main characters, Sammy, struggles with his sexuality in a way that is both painful and relatable, which makes this book a must read. All I want is Sammy Clay to find happiness, damn it! It’s also proof that comic books are gay culture.

Originally posted 2017-09-13 18:26:38.

Ellen Ricks is a word-for-hire, fashion blogger, and bibliophile living in upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from SUNY Potsdam and has been published in a number of literary magazines, both in print and online. She runs the fashion blog Sarcasm in Heels.  When not writing, Ellen enjoys frolicking in fancy dresses, consuming pumpkin spice everything, and dismantling the patriarchy.

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Film Review: Battle of the Sexes

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With women and the LGBTQ community in hopeful anticipation of seeing ourselves and our history played out on the big screen, last weekend Twentieth Century Fox released “Battle of the Sexes” in theaters. I went last Saturday afternoon to see mainstream Hollywood’s take on the infamous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and looked forward to connecting with the human stories behind one of the most infamous events in modern feminist history. While the artful production design and crackling performances from the actors give us a lot to be proud of, this is not a film I can recommend, and the mis-steps found in the well-intentioned script lie at the heart of the problem.

On September 5, 1995 First Lady Hillary Clinton stood at the podium at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and declared “women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.” Last week, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley voted against a resolution condemning the discriminatory use of the death penalty for LGBTQ people. Despite the Trump administration’s weak clarifications in an attempt at damage control, the fact remains: the United States failed to stand up for LGBTQ people around the world. We were, and are, still fighting this battle of the sexes. Secretly, King fought a personal battle to guard the secret of her sexuality from almost everyone who knew her including her husband, family, and certainly the professional and public world of tennis.

Over 3 decades after Billie Jean King, a married world-famous female tennis champion, was outed as a lesbian in a lawsuit brought by her former girlfriend and 42 years after her ground-breaking leadership on the issue of equal pay for women in the world of sports, women and LGBTQ people are still fighting for justice in the workplace and equal rights. The importance of knowing our stories, of telling them, and making sure they are remembered cannot be understated.

This film reminded me that the world knew King as a straight woman in 1973. We didn’t have “gay stars” back then. We had male stars and female stars. To come out was to risk everything. We know Billie Jean King as she is today, a lesbian icon of rights for women and LGBTQ people who did “something or other” back in the 70s, but most of us know the story in basic terms at best. The basic plot points are easily accessible with a few clicks these days. What a film, or any good storytelling, should do is to connect us to the human beings who lived out these plot points. What are their moments of personal challenge, failure, or triumph? We can go back and watch the old clips if we want to know exactly, in perfect historical terms, what happened. A great film explores these questions but goes beyond that to connect audiences to their imaginations, to evoke empathy and inspiration.

“Battle of the Sexes” is somewhat successful as a historical account, but it falls far short of that mission at times giving us stereotypes and filler instead of character, conflict, and substance. First, who are the other women, including one woman of color, who joined Billie Jean in the walk out to form the Women’s Tennis Association, the first league of its kind? In this film, with the exception of Margaret Court the homophobic Australian player who beat King to win the first WTA tournament, the other athletes are cardboard cut-outs “Woman 1, 2, & 3,” their dialogue strung together with tired feminist slogans and lines that are fraught with stereotypical language. In “Battle of the Sexes,” they are exactly the empty-headed pretty faces that men at the time expected them to be. Depictions of women like this make it easier for men to discount us as second class citizens. In one particularly embarrassing scene, the women squeal and jump up and down when they find out they’ll have a hairdresser on the tour. If the women were fleshed out in the screenplay as individuals with depth and varied personalities, goals, and interests, scenes like this one are less hard to watch. These heroes of feminism in their own right, the sisters who stood with King and risked their careers for the cause of female equality, deserve a lot better. (Read more about 1996 inductee to the International Tennis Hall of Fame  Rosie “Rosebud” Casals portrayed memorably by Natalie Morales.)

My next question is; are we supposed to be grateful? Are we supposed to be grateful to see the Hollywood mainstream pull off a tender and believable same sex love scene? The script by Simon Beaufoy does not explore or even hint at the core of who these two people are and the possible consequences of what was happening between them, so how could I? We see two women locking eyes for the first time, their growing attraction to one another. We see their first kiss. And the actors are giving it their all. The direction shows sensitivity and injects romance as well as intimacy, but it’s the sum of what we have to go on to understand the characters and the risks being taken, so the potential impact misses the mark. Though admirably and warmly portrayed by Andrea Riseborough, the character of King’s girlfriend Marilyn Barrett is poorly developed, similar to the way female love interests are often portrayed in a film with a male lead. Having failed to set up the dangerous personal stakes Billie Jean was facing to risk having a same sex relationship at this time in history, the scenes about her relationship with hairdresser Marilyn Barrett fall short.

Understanding the risks and consequences experienced by real people at that time would have injected suspense and drama into the subplot. You have to watch very closely to catch onto the point that Billie Jean is actually married to a man at this time. It’s glossed over. We don’t know the character of Billie Jean at all beyond her star athlete persona when the movie starts, and we only know slightly more by the end credits.

Beyond the extremely well done costumes and production design, there’s no context given that pulls us into the sexually repressed, misogynist world of the early 1970s. And if, as a filmmaker, you don’t take us to the oppressive place where this story happens, you’ve lost us. Why? Because, in an “overcoming obstacles” story like this one, context is everything. We have to know where these characters are and exactly what they are up against before we can care about cheering them on.

The pivotal moment when an adolescent King first caught a passion to change things for women and minorities in tennis is only hinted at in passing. I realize this is not a miniseries, but give us more than that, please. She’s spoken about it in several interviews over the years when, at the age of 12, she looked around and thought “Where is everybody else? Where are the people of color?” She wanted to shine a light on the elitism in the world of tennis. She “made herself a promise,” she said, “to do something about it.” That’s dynamite, dramatic substance, and it really happened. It gives us insight into the heart of this iconic leader. This point along with so much more, Billie Jean’s straight life, her relationship with her parents and husband, is merely a footnote in this film.

Emma Stone uses everything she’s given to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on this one, and I can see her struggling as an actor against the the script, to bring us into Billie Jean’s inner life and heart. Without her strong performance of this sub-par screenplay, along with a few others like Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, and Alan Cumming who give nuanced and emotional portrayals, the film is completely unwatchable. Cumming’s final scene in the film is particularly moving, and Beaufoy gives Carell much more to work with. We see Riggs interacting with others in his personal life in a variety of well-written and artfully directed scenes. We’re told nothing about Billie Jean’s husband Larry King. Like Marilyn, Rosie, and the other women athletes, he’s presented as a flat stereotype. Carell’s scenes with his wife (played by Oscar Winner Elisabeth Shue) portray the struggling, strained relationship in the aging tennis player’s marriage. In many ways, the film makes us care more about his struggles and triumphs than Billie Jean’s. Ironic, right?

Women and the LGBTQ community still need allies. Many people do not understand our cause; some are apathetic, or are outright enemies of our equality. So more than anything, this film misses the chance to have a huge impact on our culture to affect changes we would all love to see in our lifetimes.

Overall, I felt delightfully hopeful about seeing this movie. I wanted to marvel at its ground-breaking courage and applaud its relevance in giving us historical context to understand the heroes who laid so many foundations for the rest of us. We’re winning the battle, but we still have a lot of people in this country who could become vocal allies if they can be somehow swayed by emotional and personal connection, which is what we’re supposed to have as audience members. Hampered by writing, directing or both; “Battle of the Sexes” is a stellar film they didn’t make.

We highly recommend you read more about the fascinating personalities surrounding this historic time in women’s sports. To find out more about Billie Jean King and her work as an activist, look for the 2006 Peabody Award winning HBO documentary “Billie Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer.” What did you think of “Battle of the Sexes?” Let us know in the comments below!

Originally posted 2017-10-07 18:33:21.

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Pennywise is not a gay icon #SorrynotSorry

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Okay, listen up gang, we need to have a serious talk that I’m still kind of in shock we’re having in 2017 but here we go. Pennywise from the novel and movie It should not be your gay icon. There, I said it. The lovely people on the internet have “decided” that “Pennywise is Gay and He’s Dating the Babadook”. An odd coupling, and what’s more than a bit puzzling is that THAT’S an acceptable ship yet Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy are only “friends” but okayyyy.  

This whole thing got started when Netflix accidentally listed The Babadook in their LGBT movies section and the internet just kinda rolled with it. Which is fine, because the joke is there and we know the joke has a “root” to it and the Babadook is relatively harmless. Pennywise being gay is just coming randomly from the sewer.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Oh Elle, stop being such a downer, let the internet have their fun. They’re celebrating LGBTQ representation in their own way, isn’t that a good thing?”

Not in this case. Allow me, Ellen “Professional party pooper,” to explain how calling Pennywise gay is actually incredibly homophobic, queer coding, and hurts the community as a whole as it fights for real representation.

1) A harmful reminder of past LGBTQ stereotypes

For the folks at home who have not read or seen Stephen King’s It, it’s a story about an evil clown by the name of Pennywise who terrorizes several children by exploiting their fears and phobias. Because Stephen King likes to give his readers the warm and fuzzies. Pennywise likes to target young children, mainly boys, and preys on them. He also kills people. Basically, Pennywise is a child predator. There is an old stereotype that has unfortunately not yet died that gay men can’t be trusted around male children. This is completely and utterly untrue and horribly hurtful. Having people come to this conclusion brings up that harmful stereotype, which goes back to John Wayne Gacy AKA the “Killer Clown,” who in the 70’s sexually assaulted, tortured, and murdered 33 teenaged boys. Going even further than that, this stereotype has tormented gay and bisexual men’s lives so much so that they are oftentimes not hired to teach at schools, work with children, and have a much harder time adopting. By saying that Pennywise is gay, you are not only indirectly saying that gays are pedophiles, but you are also mocking the struggles that gay men have to endure because of this stereotype.

2) This goes against Stephen King’s intent.

Here’s a little writing backstory for y’all.  Let me introduce you to Charlie Howard. Charlie Howard moved to Bangor, Maine during the early 80’s and was an out and proud gay man. Because of this he was heavily discriminated against. He was yelled slurs on the street, openly assaulted and his own cat was found strangled on his front porch. In 1984 while leaving a potluck with a friend, Charlie was chased down by a carload of teenagers who beat him, called him slurs and threw him over a bridge where he then drowned. Charlie was 23 years old. The murderers did not do any jail time for this crime. Does this seem familiar? This is what happens to Adrian Mellon in It. Stephen King said that this hate crime woke him up to the violence that the LGBTQ community faces. It/Pennywise’s enjoyment of tormenting Adrian and his boyfriend sends the message that the homophobic murder of an innocent gay man is an act of pure evil. Pennywise is not a gay icon, he’s a homophobic murderer.

3) We should want more out of our gay icons.

I get it, we have very few LGBTQ characters in the media. All the characters we love either die in the “Bury your gays” trope, are represented only through stereotypes, or we just get queer-baited. But gosh, gang, can’t we do better than a clown as a gay icon? Don’t we deserve more than horror villains representing us? Instead of accepting this silly meme, we should be demanding more LGBTQ characters in our entertainment. We should have more options than just villains and human sacrifices. Let me repeat this loud and clear: We need to see LGBTQ people as people. WE NEED TO SEE LGBTQ PEOPLE AS PEOPLE.

Representation is important, both the lack of it and what the media allows us to have.

We all deserve better than a clown.

Originally posted 2017-09-27 12:51:42.

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The Best Street Wear Looks From NYFW

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It’s both the most wonderful time of the year and the saddest time of the year, folks: New York Fashion Week is over. Smile because it happened, don’t cry because it’s over – or something like that. Usually taking place between September 7 – September 15, NYFW is one of the biggest – if not the absolute largest- fashion event on the planet. Celebrities, models, fashion designers, ateliers, socialites, reporters, TV anchors, bloggers, reality stars, and paparazzi fly in from all over the world to cover the event to see who is wearing what, and who is snubbing who. But now, as we head rush headlong into October, fashion week is officially over and done, and we definitely have the post-glitz-and-glam blues.

But never fear – we at TravelPride get it. We know you need your daily dose of extra, and we’ve provided it for you in the form of delicious New York streetwear photos to inspire your Casual Friday outfit, your I-just-threw-this-old-thing-on-to-run-errands-in outfit, or your I-only-use-the-HER-app date night outfit. Read on to discover how you can turn NYC streetwear into oh-so-youwear:

Fur coats

Christine Centenera at NYFW 2017

Fur coats were, of course, all the rage once again this year, as demonstrated by Christine Centenera above. The Fashion Editor of Vogue Australia is donning a black-and-white coat, perfect for the fall season, with skinny jeans, a casual gray tee, and black heeled boots with metallic accents on the toes – the perfect casual-yet-glam ensemble, whether you’re heading into a fashion show or to the grocery store.

Bold 90s-inspired looks

A person on the streets of NYC

The nineties are back, baby, and it looks like they’re here to stay, with fashionistas not shying away from bold, bright jackets, baggy pants, and colored hair. This nuwave grunge look is very now, as chic guys and gals mix prints, crop tops, and chokers – but in a happier, more colorful way.

All About Accessories

Fashionistas show off accessories during NYFW

You know the quote supposedly made by Coco Chanel that states, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror, and take one thing off”? Well, in 2017, it looks like Coco may have been wrong. NYC streetwear favors the accessories-bold – we’re seeing plenty of hats, visible hair pieces, big bags, and technology. Everything is extra right now, and we can’t get enough.

Babes in Boots

Showing off a bright purse and killer boots during NYFW

Fall is everyone’s favorite season for a reason, and that reason is that it’s finally sweater/scarf/boot weather. Boots in particular were popping up all over the streets of NYC during Fashion Week, lending to a generally more comfortable vibe. Pain may be beauty, but it doesn’t have to be all of the time, and we love that high-end designers and fashionistas alike seem to be embracing the comfort trend without sacrificing chicness.

Hopefully, this small sampling gives you plenty of ideas heading into fall to [pumpkin] spice up your wardrobe. Until then, there’s always next year, when NYFW is sure to bring even more cool, It-Boy-or-Girl styles to the streets.

Originally posted 2017-09-26 12:35:32.

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