50 queer and trans pop culture moments that defined 2023

From M3GAN to George Santos to “Padam Padam,” these are the pop culture things the gays will remember from 2023

This past year will likely be remembered by the true inescapability of two things: Barbie and Taylor Swift. The former was a pop-culture juggernaut over the summer, bursting from meme to hot-pink dream. The latter was arguably even more dominant, with Swift dominating the tour circuit, album charts and theatres with her Eras Tour film and even the football field in 2023.

Both of those, regrettably in the case of Barbie and with apologies to the Gaylors, are for the most part straight culture. But don’t worry: plenty happened for the gays as well. From M3GAN to “Padam Padam,” George Santos to Gag City, 2023 was a rich year when it comes to queer and trans culture. 

Don’t believe me? Let’s journey back through 50 queer and trans moments that defined 2023. 

1. To kick off the year and coming out of 2022, nepo babies had their moment, including peak nepo baby and noted gay, Ben Platt. 

2. Janelle Monáe brought sex sex sex with The Age of Pleasure

3. A bunch of prudes got mad about boygenius making out or going topless on stage, but they kept on doing it. 

4.“Serving cunt” became a phrase not just for the gays. 

5. George Santos took us on a ride, from his chaotic rise to power, his fall from grace, “diva down” and now his alarmingly lucrative Cameo career and Ziwe interview (?!) in these waning weeks of the year.

6. M3GAN slayed. Get her on Drag Race as a judge!!

6. M3GAN slayed. Get her on Drag Race as a judge!! Credit: Universal Pictures

7. Kim Petras wins a Grammy, becoming the first openly trans woman to do so, but it also means we all get to talk about the genius of Wendy Carlos.

8. We got a lesbian fight club movie (Bottoms) and a gay musical with Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane (Dicks: The Musical) and frankly not enough people were talking about it?!


9. Troye Sivan got into drag for his “One of Your Girls” music video and the internet lost its mind. 

10. Elliot Page’s book, Pageboy, revealed a bunch of juicy secrets, including a relationship with Kate Mara.

11. Despite controversially cutting RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 episode down to under an hour from 75 minutes, The Real Friends of WeHo ultimately flopped and long Drag Race episodes ended up restored. 

12. In other Drag Race news, the Marcia Marcia Marcia vs. Anetra lip sync changed the game forever. 

13. And Loosey LaDuca gifted us the pure perfection that is “Let Loose.” (Baby, let loose!!)

14. The Last of Us shattered our hearts into one million pieces with that gay love story episode. 

15. No one could agree if May December is camp or not! 

16. Writers and actors went on strike for better pay, more security and to fight back against AI! 

17. Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union continued to show how to be good parents with their standing up for trans daughter Zaya. 

18. Ariana DeBose did the thing (the thing being an unforgettable BAFTAs rap). Credit: Universal Pictures

18. Ariana DeBose did the thing (the thing being an unforgettable BAFTAs rap). 

19. HBO Max chose money over trans rights by greenlighting a Harry Potter TV series (barf).

20. Not only was Hari Nef cast in Barbie, she got to play a DJ Barbie. Now that’s trans woman representation! 

21. Riverdale ended with the wild revelation that Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead were in a quad relationship. Sure! 

22. Doctor Who got super queer with Ncuti Gatwa, Jinkx Monsoon and Yasmin Finney jumping onboard—and yeah, it pissed off a lot of transphobes. 

23. Netflix leaned deep into the mess with The Ultimatum: Queer Love, but it might’ve gotten too messy by the end. 

24.Gabby Windey came out!! The gays get another one from The Bachelor franchise. 

25. Stacy London and Clinton Kelly of What Not to Wear finally reunited!!

26. A cockroach served face on the Met Gala red carpet. 

27. They were few and far between, but those Wicked set photos got everyone excited about the musical adaptation coming next year. 

28. THAT Sam Smith inflatable latex outfit. Credit: Gareth Cattermole/Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

28. THAT Sam Smith inflatable latex outfit. 

29. Sex Education sailed off into the sunset. 

30.Chappell Roan popped off, and somehow delightfully found her way into touring with Olivia Rodrigo. 

31. Dylan Mulvaney got a Bud Light can with her face on it—and the right-wing media lost their minds

32. Gays and straights alike were blessed with two of the greatest (and most pricey) concert tours of all time with Beyonce’s Rennaissance and Taylor Swift’s Eras tours. 

33. And speaking of, Gaylors got their moment to shine when Karlie Kloss showed up at one of the L.A. tour dates. 

34. Lil Nas X dressed up as a tampon for Halloween. 

35. The Scott Pilgrim anime was actually amazing and gave space for bisexual icon Ramona Flowers to shine. 

36. Fox News fired Tucker Carlson. Bye, bitch! 

36. Fox News fired Tucker Carlson. Bye, bitch! Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

37. The Yellowjackets girlies ate Jackie

38. Reneé Rapp is Regina George—but the first Mean Girls movie musical trailer seemed to want to avoid showing that it was a musical. 

39. Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger announced their separation, drawing a massive rift through women’s soccer fans’ hearts. 

40. Jojo Siwa carried Tom Sandoval on her back for reality TV.

41. Julianna Margulies thought playing a lesbian on TV was justification for racism and Zionism … which it definitely is not!!! 

42. The Tonys made history with two openly non-binary winners!

43. Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” found a whole new audience thanks to a Luke Combs cover. 

44. Spotify Wrapped made people have to reckon with whether they’re a Berkeley or Cambridge gay

45. Buoyed by the release of Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday 2, barbs of all sorts took a plane to Gag City with a wave of pink-toned AI-generated scenes. 

46. Matt Rogers gave us the gay noise Christmas album we didn’t know we needed.

47. After nearly slipping through the cracks of studio shifts, the Nimona film finally saw the light of day, and it slapped!! 

48. Brittney Griner made a triumphant return to the WNBA. 

49. We said goodbye to some legends, including Tina Turner, Rachel Pollack, Amber Hollibaugh and Sinéad O’Connor. 

50. Kylie Minogue invaded every gay’s mind (and Spotify playlists) with the inescapable anthem “Padam Padam.”

Senior editor Mel Woods is an English-speaking Vancouver-based writer and audio producer and a former associate editor with HuffPost Canada. A proud prairie queer and ranch dressing expert, their work has also appeared in Vice, Slate, the Tyee, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus.

Keep Reading

Ayden Mayeri, Meg Stalter and Jojo T. Gibbs side by side on a yellow background with hearts and dotted lines. Stalter holds a small dog.

‘Cora Bora’ is a coming-of-age movie for people in their thirties

Meg Stalter, Jojo T. Gibbs and Ayden Mayeri talk about creating a endearing, messy, realistic Sapphic love triangle
Side by side images of author Lauren Cook and his book Sex Goblin. The book is on a yellow background.

Lauren Cook on naive narrators, ‘just chilling’ and loving love

The author’s new book, “Sex Goblin,” is a collection of short prose about violence, sexuality and trying to process life 

Can anyone dethrone Chappell Roan for queer song of the summer?

Is “Good Luck, Babe!” destined to be this year’s Pride anthem?

Zoe Whittall on writing sex scenes, capturing trauma and what people get wrong about queer femmes

In “Wild Failure,” the poet and novelist challenges queer femme erasure in fiction