By GRACE LIU
“20gayteen” has been a year of victories and new achievements for the LGBT community. The term itself gained popularity on social media and in pop culture after singer Hayley Kiyoko tweeted about it on January 1, 2018. “20gayteen” refers to 2018 and the unprecedented success of LGBT individuals this year. The following highlights only a few of the many wins for the LGBT community from this year.
On January 19, 2018, the coming-of-age romantic drama Call Me By Your Name was released to the general public in the United States. The film follows the story of a seventeen-year-old boy coming to terms with his sexuality as well as his struggles as he falls in love with another man. The film’s significance can be highlighted by its box office success, with a grossing $41.9 million worldwide. However, Call Me By Your Name did face controversy due to the age difference between the main characters, with one of them being underage.
On January 21, 2018, K-Pop’s first openly gay idol Holland debuted his first song “Neverland,” which portrays his experiences after coming out as gay – his love, his position as a role model and bullying he experienced. His coming out is significant because homosexuality and LGBT individuals are not easily accepted in South Korean culture, and his debut music video, which featured a kiss between two men, was rated 19+ in South Korea. However, aside from the discrimination he has faced, he has received widespread support from many K-Pop fans who wish to see more diversity and representation in the industry.
In February of 2018, the Winter Olympics were hosted in PyeongChang. This year, the US Olympic Team featured not just only one, but two openly-LGBT athletes. Figure Skater Adam Rippon won bronze as a part of the figure skating team event, making him the first openly gay US athlete to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. Skier Gus Kenworthy, known for adopting stray dogs in Sochi in 2014, also became one of the first openly gay athletes to participate in the Winter Olympics, tweeting during the 2018 opening ceremony alongside Adam Rippon, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.”
On February 7, 2018, a reboot of the 2003 Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was released as Queer Eye on Netflix. The series involves a group of queer men known as the “Fab Five” – Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, and Jonathan Van Ness – who each build on, reclaim and normalize the stereotypes of queer men in many aspects – food and wine, fashion, culture and lifestyle, design and grooming. In this show, they perform a “makeover” for another, usually straight, man by giving him advice in their respective areas of specialty. This show breaks boundaries by portraying friendships between gay and straight men as normal, as well as breaking stereotypes of straight men being indifferent to lifestyle basics like self-care, fashion and keeping house. Additionally, the relationships forged between people with different belief systems serves as important social commentary, as Queer Eye demonstrates how people with differing beliefs can get along.
On March 22, 2018, the romantic teen comedy-drama film Love Simon, based on author Becky Albertalli’s novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, was released. The film was a box office success, grossing at a world wide total of $66.3 million. The film portrays a closeted high-school boy who falls in love with another anonymous boy online, but is blackmailed with his sexuality by another one of his classmates. However, the film ends with a happy ending, something almost unseen in same-sex relationships in Hollywood. Often, same-sex couples are portrayed with tragic endings. Instead, Love Simon breaks boundaries because it portrays a classic teen rom-com with a gay couple, and normalizes innocent, same-sex relationships among teens.
On March 30, 2018, Hayley Kiyoko released her highly anticipated full-length debut album, Expectations. This was preceded by three EPs and other singles, such as “Girls Like Girls”. Expectations charted number 12 on US Billboard 200. Kiyoko’s music features prevalent references to her sexuality and her struggles with being out. Her music works to normalize lesbian relationships in pop culture, and she hopes to serve as a role model for other girls struggling with their own sexuality, to be someone they can see themselves in as well.
On July 16, 2018, Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco came out as pansexual in an interview with Paper magazine. The singer, while married to a woman, stated that “it’s just people that I am attracted to.” His coming out is significant because as such a large figure in the music industry, he is a major role model for LGBT youth. Further, it is fairly uncommon yet important to see people publicly come out as pansexual, a sexuality that is often overshadowed and erased. Urie has also pledged one million dollars to GLSEN, an organization that focuses on education and works to create LGBT inclusive schools.
On August 31, 2018, Australian pop star Troye Sivan released his second full-length album Bloom, preceded by two EPs and his debut album Blue Neighbourhood. His second album is significant because, like his first album, it portrays his experience as an LGBT individual. His album includes love songs about his boyfriend and one referencing queer desire. Bloom charted at number 4 on the US Billboard 200. Sivan’s albums are significant because they normalize queer relationships in usually heteronormative love pop. Sivan stated himself in an interview with the Huffington post, “I want to make music for queer people.”
On September 1, 2018, the biographical drama film Boy Erased, based on a 2016 memoir by Garrard Conley. The film grossed $7.6 million worldwide. It is about a boy who is forced into a gay conversion camp by his Baptist parents, and follows him through his struggles in the camp and with his own sexuality, and his later reconciliation with his father. This film is significant as it highlights some struggles faced by LGBT youth and brings to awareness the discrimination they face. For example, conversion therapy, which can include electroshock therapy, is only banned in 14 states and Washington DC. Boy Erased helps bring this still-present discrimination to light.
On November 2, 2018, the biographical film Bohemian Rhapsody was released. Based on the life of British rock band Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, this critically acclaimed film grossed $636.1 million worldwide. The film is significant because it portrays Mercury’s bisexuality for what it is without straight-washing it, even though Mercury was married to a woman. In both LGBT and heterosexual communities, bisexual and pansexual individuals are discriminated against, either for being too gay, or for being too straight. Bohemian Rhapsody worked to portray this struggle by portraying a bisexual man married to a woman, without erasing his bisexuality. Further, the film also brings awareness to AIDS, as Mercury died due to complications from this disease.
Another significant LGBT individual this year is Eugene Lee Yang, known for his work with Buzzfeed and the Youtube series Try Guys. Throughout the course of 2018, he was able to express his sexuality without officially coming out. Without putting a label on himself, Yang helps to normalize LGBT sexualities because while straight individuals never have to officially say they are straight – it is just assumed – LGBT individuals are almost expected to officially establish their sexuality and label themselves. Yang embodies the idea that a person can be LGBT without having to officially announce it or put themselves in a box, and he normalizes this just by being himself.
The success of LGBT individuals and the attention drawn to LGBT issues in 2018 has been unprecedented. This is only a short list of many achievements in the LGBT community in pop culture, with many more individuals, films, TV shows and more addressing LGBT issues. Further, LGBT individuals have also reached unprecedented success outside of pop culture, such as in politics. For example, Jared Polis was recently elected as Colorado’s governor, making him the first openly gay governor in America.
Hopefully, the success of the LGBT community doesn’t end with 2018, and this empowerment and success brought forth during “20gayteen” will continue for future generations.