Asexual YA fiction, trans film and a Two-Spirit discussion with Landa Lakes

We’ve got picks for every letter of the acronym in this week’s Queer Culture Catch-Up

Oh, beauties (that’s every last one of you), I am writing today from The Drama Book Shop in Manhattan, recently revived and relocated under the auspices of none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda, relaxing on an overstuffed leather couch among great works of theatre with a small(ish) stack of new plays to purchase beside me and let me tell you: I have rarely ever been more content in my workspace. I am surrounded by adorable theatre gays pecking away at their laptops on projects I imagine to be brilliantly, bracingly queer, and from this truly enlivening environment I bring you this edition of Queer Culture Catch-up.

Aces Wild: A Heist by Amanda DeWitt

Technically a YA book, Aces Wild by Amanda DeWitt offers many of the things I deeply enjoy in a book: a lot of plot, lively dialogue, and characters who get to speak for themselves about their experiences. In this case, most of the main characters are part of an asexual support and social group. Although asexuality is the identity that we’re having yet another exhausting, ahistorical debate about including under the rainbow umbrella (see also: bi people, trans people, and so on and so forth), I feel clear that a) asexuals can indeed have any romantic orientation and b) ace folks are yet another maligned sexual minority standing in opposition to the Heterosexual Imperative and so of COURSE we are going to include them. DeWitt cleverly makes asexuality central to the story without it beingthe “problem” of the story, and I am very into it. Take the wild ride as Jack and his friends attempt to teen-logic their way into (and out of) all sorts of trouble in Vegas, and enjoy getting a glimpse into the inner lives of ace teens along the way.

“Photobooth,” Mothé

Playful, poppy, non-binary cutiepie Mothé has released a video for their new single “photobooth” and, in short, it’s exactly the fun I wanted as the weather starts to turn colder and strolling in a park turns to indoor pursuits. You have an absolutely danceable, shake-your-fine-ass Get Ready With Me song, vivid, colour-drenched visuals of non-binary joy and hotness, and lyrics that can only be described as a queer crush anthem. Who among us has never thought “He wants to kiss me in the photo booth / Wrapped up around me with the curtains closed” (or wanted to do the kissing)? If you’re feeling stirred up and hot about someone, whether a newly delicious interest or a long love of the kind that still lights you up from the inside you’ll enjoy this absolutely frolicsome bop (and also several others, including the opposite-vibes Debt Collector) from this beauty.

 

Lingua Franca

Although this charmingly complex film came out last year, I have barely heard anyone talking about it—perhaps because it features a trans Filipina love interest? Olivia, played by Isabel Sandoval (who also wrote and directed the film) is an undocumented trans woman who falls in love while also trying to stay in the U.S., while also trying to support her family, while also trying to live a life with some shred of joy in it (as she deserves, and it’s pleasing in the film that she seems to know it). Olivia falls in love with Alex (Eamon Farren) who is the son of her employer, creating the expected series of complications, and also some that may feel unexpected if you’ve never tried to figure out how to get status in the country in which you already reside and have forged a life. Lingua Franca has won a handful of awards, all of which it richly deserves for being tender, thoughtful and real in both the hard ways and the sweet ways (including the subplot where Alex—a straight man who works in a slaughterhouse—knows Olivia is trans and is not troubled by it, but she doesn’t know he knows and is concerned about this). 

Beauty

I am not always wild about trans films made by cis people, but the short Beauty by Christina Willings does something I think we need right now: it allows five GIaNT (gender independent, non-binary, trans) young people to speak very clearly and without much evident story-shaping about their gender identities, expression and experiences. While we’re busy hearing a nonsense amount of absolutely brutal and thoughtless bullshit about how GIaNT kids and teens have been, I don’t know, programmed or forced or whatever, into trans identities, it’s a tremendous relief to me as a trans person to just… hear from them. This film is clearly pitched far more to allies (families, teachers, friends-of) than it is to trans and non-binary communities but I can easily imagine a GIaNT young person without much local community finding it something of a relief even to just… see other kids like them, beautiful and generally loved, saying their piece – especially as we approach Trans Day of Remembrance.

On Two Spirit Identity and Cultural Expression

Column fave drag queen, writer and performer Landa Lakes (Chickasaw) is joined by Indigiqueer sex educator Dr Robert Kuhn (Poarch Creek) for a discussion of Two Spirit Identity and Cultural Expression that is guaranteed to be as informative as it is lively. Streaming free tonight at 9 p.m. ET (for free; register here) this conversation feels like it includes several elements that more academic discussions of Two-Spirit identity lack, including performance (Lakes is a beloved Drag Queen Story Hour reader) and sexuality (though obviously Albert McLeod has been a pioneer in that field for decades). If you’ve hoped to see a conversation about how Two-Spirit identity lives for actual people, I recommend this one for deep knowledge and some fun, too—my favourite combo.

And that, dearest dramas and comedies and monologues and all-cast bangers, is the full it for this episode of my idiosyncratic, joyful cultural notes. I will look forward to writing again soon, from wherever the work takes me, and in the meantime, I hope you are also basking in a tiny dream, a little moment of having arrived to a place you love, with a full belly and a lingering good taste on your tongue, with good company, with great and ringing conviction, warm and inside and—for the moment at least—safe. As always, please, if you are making something new and queer let me know? I love to hear your news.

S Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman is a writer, educator and advice columnist. His ninth book, Special Topics In Being A Human, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in the fall of 2021.

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