End your year with Chani Nicholas, James Baldwin and big queer feelings

A year-end Queer Culture Catch-up to guide you into 2023

Well, my beautiful friends, we have come to the end of another calendar (I hope for your sake that yours has hunky firefighters of various genders, as mine does). We have strutted, strolled and sashayed through some nonsense this year, friends, haven’t we? With a couple of weeks left, I find myself thinking about the concept of resolutions, of making change with intention, of being thoughtful about the ways we spend our time and energy and money. Mostly I am committing to more books and music and theatre, more time with friends and family, more kissing, more dancing, more napping and definitely absolutely more ice cream and donuts. Whatever your resolutions (or choices about refusing the imperative to relentlessly work and improve), I have the usual slate of exciting recommendations for what might provide the fuel, grist or catalyst for the upcoming year.

Astrologer Chani Nicholas

Credit: @chaninicholas/Twitter

I might not be the most astrology-focused queer (or even follow it much, until a friend tells me something’s happening to which I should pay attention) but whenever I see any astrology business that makes me feel a little bit seen, it’s by (or traces directly back to) Chani Nicholas. There’s an app, there’s a beautiful (and honestly fascinating) book, she’s on all the social media places and my ongoing experience is that Nicholas gives astrological guidance that’s much more “here’s how to work within the current situation,” and less “well, here’s how the stars are messing around with you today,” which I love. The side of gentleness, the deep context of queerly cultural expectations, and the rigorous kindness of Nicholas’s entire vibe make this feel like the right time of year to day: astrology is definitely part of queer culture and if you’re looking for something new, you can’t go wrong here.

“YOY,” Siibii

You know I love a bop, and sometimes an upbeat dance track is what gets me through a day. So I’m guessing you know that if I am recommending a deep and thoughtful ballad, it’s really really good, and this new track by queer non-binary artist Siibii is just that good. While not an easy song, “YOY” is the perfect difficult song for difficult moments; a validation for the times we just feel exhausted and overwhelmed and need to be reminded that part of our exhaustion is the work of pulling our trauma. Add that to Siibii’s rich, melodious voice and clever visual choices in the video, and “YOY” is a real balm for tough days.


“Thinking Gender in the Interstice,” C. Riley Snorton

As I believe longtime readers will surely have noticed by now, I have a deep and abiding nerdy side and while sometimes academic jargon makes me itch and complain, I notice that our best thinkers manage to communicate big and complex ideas without resorting to any of those words hardly anyone can really usefully define. C. Riley Snorton, who is clearly one of our best thinkers, gave a talk at Brown University a few weeks ago that is available online, and let me just say: you want to watch it. Snorton, distinctively a storyteller, as well as author of two excellent books (Nobody Is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low and Black on Both Sides; A Racial History of Trans Identity) really distinguishes himself in this lecture with an investigation into the story and experiences of a Black soldier from the 19th century whose documented experiences and expression of gender have a lot to teach us—or more specifically, had a lot to teach Snorton, who then explains it to us in his lecture “Thinking Gender in the Interstice,” which you can (and should) watch now, for free.

Best Lesbian Erotica 7, Sinclair Sexsmith ed.

Credit: Best Lesbian Erotica

For literal decades, Best Lesbian Erotica has been a standard of Sapphic smut and this year is of course no different. Editor Sinclair Sexmith, who also teaches classes about dirty writing (and dirty talking) picks a crop of winners to tickle a whole variety of sexy palates ranging from the sweet and wholesome to the sweet and filthy. Genders and sensibilities vary, switches are switchy and orgasms are plentiful in one of the few locations of smut for dykes that’s still made by (and for!) dykes of all sorts, in all sorts of combinations. Whatever preconceptions you may have about lesbian erotica, I think you’ll find at least a few stops as Sexsmith spins this wheel of sexy possibility that will thrill you, and I would also like to note, fellow queers that you don’t have to be a lesbian to enjoy queer women’s smut (straight men probably knew this, but perhaps other sexualities would like to join).

Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris

Credit: Mubi

I’m not super familiar with the platform Mubi, but the new-ish streamer offers a wide variety of documentaries, including the 1970 doc Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris. It’s a fascinating look at Baldwin as a resistor—of heteronormativity, of whiteness, of expectation that he will subject himself to their gaze and their desires. It is, in its way, instructive and inspiring to watch Baldwin in his younger days, before his most significant fame, willing to discuss his ideas, but only on his terms. Rich visuals and the sense of consternation that the film leaves you with round out an experience that has a bracing bittersweetness to it, in all the good ways.
And that, my loves, is the end of this year’s column and everything I can offer you until 2023, except this amazing trans-positive-with-a-twist ad made by … J&B Whisky? I cried fat, happy tears at the end, I can tell you that much. In the meantime, I wish for you to have great moments of the raucous kind and the quiet kind, the satisfaction of feeling seen and of being able to give that gift to someone else, I wish you the joy of great gifts and the joy of giving someone something they love, of frolic and sweetness and as many treats as you could possibly want (and perhaps just one more than is, strictly speaking, good for you). As always, if you’re making something new, please send me an email or a DM—I love to hear your news.

Correction: December 19, 2022 8:29 amA previous version of this article identified Chani Nicholas as a woman of colour. Nicholas is white.

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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