It’s hard to stay on top of the news. We get it. Especially when there is so much hate out there. And 2023 often felt like a dumpster fire of awfulness. But Xtra’s award-winning team of journalists continually shone a light on the myriad ways queer and trans folk combat the darkness while building sparkling connections among us. There is so much joy in our common struggles. You’ll discover (or rediscover) that again and again in this quixotic list of our best and brightest stories from 2023.
Most underrated gem
Veronica Esposito’s foray into AI-faked yearbook photos was an unexpectedly profound experience, allowing her to imagine the girlhood she’d always longed for. Esposito’s writing about post-transition life and longing is not to be missed.
Most terrifying investigation
Kevin Maimann’s ongoing investigation into fringe right-wing groups operating in Canada, many supported by bigger, better-financed groups in the U.S., uncovered the Alliance Defending Freedom’s deep and surprising connections in Ottawa.
Tastiest food for thought
Joseph Osumndon’s unique piece of cultural criticism looks at The Bear’s fixation on fine dining versus a more significant ingredient: community. Preferring “low cuisine” instead, Osmundson explores the role of camp in queer kitchens and the importance of coming together with friends over a meal.
Only in Xtra
There can’t be many Google search results for the term “kinky queer hospice.” Yet those words appear in Zena Sharman’s six-part Queering Death series where Sharman argues that we queer people should live as we die: queerly. Why not, then, also bring our kinks and specific versions of relationships, pleasure, pain and play into our death rituals?
There is so much to love in guest editor Stéphanie Verge’s nine-part Queering Family series. But a highlight is this story by Prairie Sky (aka Levi Foy) about the mutual love and support—and hilarity—among a chosen family of Indigenous drag queens in Winnipeg, whose house is known as the Horrors of Lady Frances.
Xtra’s Canadian political columnist Dale Smith has sharp words for Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre after anti-trans policies came up at this year’s Conservative party convention and Poilievre kept quiet.
Most timely story
Prior to the first 1 Million March 4 Children on Sept. 20, we were the first media outlet to describe the anti-trans and anti-queer roots of this so-called movement populated by a ragtag assortment of religious zealots, COVID-19 conspiracy theorists, sovereign citizens and anti-public education activists. LGBTQ2S+ Canadians wanted to know. It was our most searched story over one day this year.
Most-viewed video on TikTok
When we launched the Xtra TikTok earlier this year, we didn’t know what to expect from the platform. We certainly didn’t expect that our most-watched video would be media criticism of a Dax Shepard podcast episode, but that’s how it goes. If you’re looking for a gateway into the Xtra TikTok, join the nearly half million people who’ve watched our breakdown of why Jonathan Van Ness’s comments on said podcast matter so much (and give us a follow when you’re there).
Instagram post of the year
With Meta blocking Canadian news on Facebook and Instagram, it’s been a difficult year for Canadian news outlets on social media, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been moments to celebrate. Our Instagram post commemorating the 20th anniversary of the first gay wedding in Canada after same-sex marriage was legalized in Ontario struck a chord with IG users—a wholesome snippet of queer history to highlight, especially in a year when same-sex marriage became legal in Nepal and Andorra, and soon to be in Estonia.
Best ancestor profile
Jude Ellison S. Doyle profiles the legendary Rachel Pollack, who died in spring of this year. Pollack is credited with creating the first trans superhero and was a big name in the Tarot world.
Favourite video interview
Canadian actor Elliot Page published his first book this year, a memoir called Pageboy, which provides a forthright look into his life and career in Hollywood, along with the challenges he has faced coming out as trans. We sat down with Page to talk about his memoir, finding trans joy and community, and his thoughts on being a possibility model for trans youth.
Best use of rainbow metaphor
Jeremy Dutcher is a unique musical talent. But the Two-Spirit Wolastoqiyik composer and artist from Tobique First Nation is also guided by the most generous of spirits. In this revealing profile by Riley Yesno, Dutcher describes his understanding of intersecting queer identities: “We are the rainbow children. We cut across every socio-political, economic, religious, racial and ethnic line. Queer people are everywhere—in every community. So when we come together as rainbow children, we are bringing and weaving together so much.”
The long read most worth the time
Following Kim Petras’s Grammy win, the first for an openly trans woman, Kristen S. Hé dives into the life and legacy of the great Wendy Carlos. She is not only a synth music pioneer, but a trans legend who was in the game half a century ago, winning Grammys and changing music history. Hé’s piece is THE authoritative look at Carlos’s career and legacy, through the lens of trans women examining their own history. It’s smart, in-depth, inspiring and worth every single minute you’ll spend savouring it.
Best queering of a supposedly non-queer issue
Protests by businesses and homeowners in the Gay Villages of Toronto and Montreal over the increased number of homeless people and visible drug use in our LGBTQ2S+ neighbourhoods prompted Xtra writer Nour Abi-Nakhoul to delve into North America’s homeless crisis. Not only are queers overrepresented in the unhoused populations of our big cities, but Abi-Nakhoul discovers how queer history shows a way forward.
Most surprising story
While rules surrounding blood donation have become less discriminatory in recent years, men who have sex with men are still sometimes barred from donating their organs and tissues—even when they’ve been in long-term, monogamous relationships. One family in Canada is trying to change that. Contributor Kevin Hurren brings compassion and keen research to this beautifully written longread.
Most significant health reporting
When contributor Charlotte Dalwood began researching this feature story, she imagined it as a piece about how hard it is to access gender-confirmation surgery in Alberta. But the more she dug in, the more she realized that the issue was Canada-wide. Dalwood is a fantastic researcher, and in this story she expertly lays out how Canada is failing to provide some of its citizens with life-saving, medically necessary care.
Straight talk on bent reasoning
After the war in Gaza began, a common refrain started popping up on social media: LGBTQ2S+ people should support Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, some said, because of the homophobia that still exists in Palestine. Many have pointed out that that logic is deeply flawed, including Xtra columnist Kai Cheng Thom. “Queer and trans people worldwide deserve safety and liberation, but it seems abundantly clear that militarism, war crimes and genocide are not the path to such a future,” she writes in this nuanced and critical opinion piece.
Music writer Jesse Locke says 36-year-old Calgary-based rapper Tea Fannie is one to watch, writing she’s “as brashly articulate as Nicki Minaj and freakily funny as Missy Elliott.”
Best reminder that the personal is political
Columnist Katelyn Burns’s writing is always astute, but it’s particularly poignant when it’s personal. When Florida proposed a new bathroom bill this year in an attempt to bar trans people from using the facilities that align with their genders, Burns wrote about what it would mean for her, both as a person and as a parent.