Delicious greetings, my skinny minutes and chunky muffins and chiselled children all. Welcome back to Queer Culture Catch-Up in 2023, a year notably marked already by both awful, wretched political news and absolutely delightful cultural moments to savour. I assume we are all aware by now that the amazing drag queen story hours of the world are under attack, that certain government factions are attempting to legislate trans people out of existence, as well as the usual school-based awfulness. In light of these, I continue to find it all the more remarkable and beautiful that we as queer and trans people are up in the morning, never mind out and making such beautiful, beautiful things.
“I Think I Love You” by ABISHA
London crooner ABISHA, whose EP Everything Falls Into Place brought a chill Sapphic vibe to complex lyrics about love and loss—including my fave “Home to You”—has a new single, “I Think I Love You,” and I am loving it for the winter. Her easy, warm voice and lo-fi beats pair perfectly with coffee and brunch, and her distinctly queer sensibility shines through in the lyrics, which makes it extremely my vibe. If pressed to describe what I mean by distinctly queer sensibility, I would say: it’s a reflection of her experiences feeling outside the mainstream (on which she reflects at length in this interview about being a Black queer kid in Devon, England, which is … not a metropolis), and how tender her treatment of love and friendship is. You’re definitely going to find a song here to send someone you love so they know how you’re feeling.
No Straight Lines
Comic nerds, graphic novel geeks, lovers of the queerly illustrated from adorable to erotic, rejoice: the amazing book No Straight Lines by Justin Hall has spawned a documentary of the same name, tracing the rise and popularity of queer comics, and featuring some of the greats, including Howard Cruse, Rupert Kinnard and Alison Bechdel. The doc is a real behind-the-scenes with queer cartoonists and comic artists, which … is not a group of people who are, generally, much profiled on camera, and the resulting minor awkwardness, earnest enthusiasm and intimacy this creates is honestly just delightful to me. After collecting a basketful of awards at film festivals, the doc becomes available to stream on PBS starting Jan. 23, or if you just love seeing a movie at the movies, you can also catch screenings of No Straight Lines at various film festivals and in indie theatres over the coming months.
There is a certain irony in the fact that Gabrielle Union, notably staunch ally to LGBTQ2S+ communities and ferocious defender of her trans stepdaughter Zaya, plays a homophobic mother in The Inspection, but as usual, Union absolutely kills it. The film, written and directed by indie hero Elegance Bratton and starring Broadway baby Jeremy Pope as main character Ellis French, is about a gay Black teenager who enlists in the United States Marines in part because he cannot imagine his future after his mother rejects him. As you might imagine, it’s not an easy film, and Bratton—on whose experiences it is based—doesn’t shy away from the violence or cruelty Ellis encounters when he can’t conceal his queerness, including scenes I found difficult to watch. While not quite a happy ending, The Inspection does contain an optimistic thread, if only because Ellis is so tough and so determined, and we want it for him and root for him. If halfway through the film you feel overwhelmed by how brutal it all is, well, that’s where a lot of stories start.
Michael W. Twitty and Danya Ruttenberg
The National Jewish Book Awards recently awarded two superlative queer writers for their new books: Michael W. Twitty for Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew won a well-deserved Jewish Book of the Year, and Twitter’s favourite rabbi, Danya Ruttenberg, took home the Best Book on Contemporary Jewish Life for her stunning book On Repentance And Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World. In some ways, the books couldn’t be more different—Twitty is a culinary historian and celebrated chef, whose work on African, African-American and Jewish foodways are luxurious with butter and adjectives, whereas Ruttenberg’s book is a bracing and extremely timely discussion of what it means to apologize and how to get better at it, thoughtfully considered through multiple lenses and with the intention of being a trauma-informed, victim-centring book. And yet, both books are so good—I loved reading them, considering their ideas, trying on their theories and methods (in Twitty’s case, literally) and savouring.
Okay, I saw a clip of comedian Pink Foxx on TikTok and about peed myself giggling, so I clicked the link in her bio to a 10-minute set on YouTube and I have to say, I was glad at what I found. Foxx is a raw and ribald comedian, and her set includes slurs we typically note for content warnings. I have to say that after hearing all of those words from comedians who want to score points taking a shit on trans people, I am not mad about hearing them from the mouth of a trans woman comedian—yes ma’am, please talk about dick (yours and others’), politics, language, Pride parades and your mother. We are here for all of it.
There you have it, tenderest roots and rhizomes, seeds and spores, a little bouquet that won’t wilt, beautiful even in the dreary winter months, something to help you get out of bed in the morning and keep your spirits up in the doldrums as you struggle into your warm but ugly boots. I hope you have late sleeps and great dreams and the best cuddles. I hope your coffee is perfect and so are your eyebrows until next time. As always, if you’re making something new and queer, DM or drop me an email—I love to hear your news.