THIS IS FOR FUN.
Listen, I know nothing can make you gay. I believe it’s a combination of nature and nurture, and we still don’t understand the nuances of sexual orientation, gender identity, and all the other aspects of ourselves that make us who we are. But one of my favorite podcasts, the Male Gayz, did a similar exercise a while back, and I thought it was fun and funny. And it was entertaining to think back on my life and discover what I thought was influential to who I am today. I didn’t come out until I was 19, and I’m still figuring some things out, so a lot of these reflections are connecting the dots many years after the fact. But, as many queer people have done before, a lot of understanding yourself is thinking back on your life and going, “ooooooooohhhhhhhhh.”
And so, in no particular order:
- “Let Me Be Good to You” from the Great Mouse Detective: This film is excellent. Distinctive animation, killer soundtrack, thrilling story, and probably wildly inappropriate for children. There is drug use, kidnapping, attempted murder, actual murder. A mouse gets eaten by a cat on screen (in shadowed silhouette, but still). And there is a scene which amounts to a burlesque show that takes place in a seedy rodent bar. One of my favorite parts in one of my favorite movies. Formative, you might say. And if you need a refresher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=la0jHFe4GYU
- Shakespeare: There is some controversy about who Shakespeare really was, and if he was even one person, but until I have definitive evidence otherwise, I believe Shakespeare was a real person (not some Duke or whatever), and that he was a literary and theatrical genius. And Shakespeare is hella queer. Cross dressing, fairies, forbidden love? It’s all there, and my sister Liz and I used to recite passages with one another when we were kids. Nurture, anyone?
- Mulan (1998): Another one of my favorite films, this movie, while not historically accurate, was hugely influential to my queer identity. A woman dresses up as a man so she can fight in a war and defend her family? Yes please! And I was (and remain) obsessed with the song “Reflection.” It perfectly captures some of the things I was and am feeling but didn’t really have context for yet: “Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me? Why is my reflection someone I don’t know? Somehow I cannot hide who I am, though I’ve tried. When will my reflection show who I am inside?” And “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” still slaps.
- Harry Potter: This is less about the story itself than it is about how my love for Harry Potter changed how I saw myself and interacted with others. I don’t have much love for the franchise now, and JK Rowling has revealed herself to be a TERF and a piece of sh*t, but when Harry Potter first came out I was hooked. It also came out at a time when my family moved to a different school district over winter break when I was in 6th grade. I went from being at a junior high to going back to an elementary school, and it was a difficult adjustment. The “friends” I first made there turned out to be a bunch of jerks, and the way I made new friends was by discovering others who shared my love of HP. We would talk it over endlessly on the playground, discussing what house we would be in, our favorite characters, and our ideal magical animal companion. This time period, while difficult, helped me learn how to be my authentic self with others, something I am continuing to learn to do today.
- Star Trek: Ah, Star Trek. That glorious, bizarre, enlightening, thrilling, philosophical, groundbreaking and sometimes absolutely bonkers franchise. Star Trek means many things to me: wonder, adventure, friendship, leadership, consequence, the dilemma of choice, the hope of humanity. It explores race and gender and sexuality, sometimes very well. Some episodes make no damn sense at all. But the spirit of Star Trek is the ideal of inclusion, and that was imprinted deep into my soul. I have learned to be more open and accepting of everyone, including myself, and that has been deeply impactful to my own coming-out journey.
Could I go on? Absolutely. Will I? Not today. But it’s fun to think back on how the things I consumed and what was meaningful to me influenced my queer identity. Maybe it made a huge difference. Maybe it shaped my preferences and tastes. Or maybe I would always have been like this. Who knows?
*Honorable mention: when I was young (maybe 7 or 8?), my sister and I were playing with our friends at Alameda beach. The tide had gone way out, and we were playing and exploring the shallows. I cut my foot on a piece of glass, and our friend Rachel carried me back to shore so my wound could be tended to. To this day I have a thing for big strong women. Swoon.