Having a history of child sexual abuse to deal with, interacting with men had never been easy for me when I was younger. I was well into my late teens when I first got romantically involved with a man. Though that ended in a heartbreak and tears, it made me think very deep and hard about to bi or not to bi.
To be honest, a lot of close ones were rather relieved to see me with men. After all, a lot of you out there would like to believe that being bi is just a phase.
Growing up, growing old and growing into a skin that I am finally comfortable in has not been the easiest of journeys. How could it have been in a world so full of homophobia and judgments? But even during my bleakest hours there have been songs, books, movies to give me hope.
And it is that hope that made me write this. You never know what can inspire you to stop being a lost, lonely soul, bogged down by the bad, bad world.
Though the song Constant Craving got her critical acclaim, her Vanity Fair cover in a pinstriped suit is what is so iconic about her to me as a queer fangirl. A Grammy award winner, k.d. lang’s insane popularity as a lesbian pop icon makes her the Ruby Rose way before Rose came out to the world. After all, when you see a young woman with cropped hair, reclining on a barber’s seat with Cindy Crawford running a razor over her face provocatively, you know you can’t help falling in love.
Lana and Lilly Wachowski
Let’s all admit it. If you’re queer and if you have access to Netflix, 8 out of 10 chances are that you love Sense 8. Created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, this show has not only won several awards, it has also spelt hope for us queer folks. With one of the best LGBTQ representations on screen, this Sci-Fi show is mind-blowing to say the least.
But this isn’t the first time The Wachowskis have given us some incredible Sci-Fi to obsess over. In 1999 when Larry and Andy Wachowski released The Matrix, I for one, was incredibly impressed by them. With movies like V for Vendetta, Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas to boast of, their incredible Sci-Fi storytelling abilities were magic for a Sci-Fi enthusiast.
But what was even more impressive was the fact that Larry came out as Lana Wachowski in 2010 and finally addressed this transition in 2012 at the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award. From talking about gender identity confusion, to attempts at self-harm, Lana’s speech was inspiring and impressive. And 4 years later, Andy came out as Lilly Wachowski!
It was 1981 when Martina Navratilova came out as a lesbian. In the world of sports that wasn’t a very popular thing to do and the legendary tennis champion lost out on both popularity as well as endorsements. But that did not stop her from going out there and winning an incredible number of single and doubles titles including the Grand Slam (several times).
Recently in the news for calling out former Australian tennis player Margaret Court as a homophobe “demonising trans kids and trans-adults everywhere”.
Even though she has long stepped out of the spotlight, she still continues to fight for LGBT rights.
If you have watched The Prestige, you definitely know that Nikola Tesla was very cool. A misunderstood genius, Tesla pulled of scientific experiments that even modern science fails to replicate way back in the late 1800s! An inventor who gradually got to be known as the mad scientist, Tesla also unfortunately happens to be the butt of many jokes on the internet today for his absolute lack of relationships. But he wasn’t a deranged scientist in love with a pigeon to be honest. He was merely asexual!
It was 1895 when Oscar Wilde was arrested for engaging in homosexual sex. Accused by the Marquess of Queensberry for having an affair with his son, Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labour when the marquess presented enough evidence against him. With homosexuality classified as a crime in England then, Wilde’s affair with Lord Alfred Douglas was not one that ended too happily.
Though Wilde was married and had two children, many like to believe that it was a result of societal pressures of Victorian England. His marriage was nothing more than a distraction.
Though Wilde died at only 46 due to meningitis, the Irish poet, playwright and novelist was not only one of London’s most popular writers of the time, but also one who stood the test of time.
Author of Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith was not only an extraordinary writer, but one who was rather notorious for her incredible ability to seduce women. Though she had been in relationships with men for brief periods, she wasn’t particularly fond of them. In her letter to her stepfather in 1970, she not only described her sexual encounters with men as unpleasant, but also the “sensation of being raped in the wrong place”.
But Highsmith’s open disdain for men and love for women isn’t why she is so inspiring. Her 1953 novel The Price of Salt is. An iconic book in the history of queer American literature, this book, though not one of her best, was one that did not leave a lesbian couple devastated by the cruelty of fate by the end of the book. Though she had used the pseudonym of Claire Morgan, there was no doubt who the writer really was. And thankfully her efforts did not go in vain.
Also, did you know, she spent quite a while writing comics for a living?
One of the toughest things about coming out is dealing with parents. For Rufus Wainwright I suppose it was worse considering that he identified as gay in the late 80s – a time ripe for the AIDS scare. But strangely, his grandmother came to his rescue by offering him support at a time when almost everyone had abandoned him.
Not just a successful musician, Wainwright is quite an amazing gay rights activist to. Taking cue from his childhood and lack of support back then, he organizes group meetings in schools that for the LGBTQ community and their allies.
Writer, actor, comedian and activist, Stephen Fry’s Letter to His 16 Year Old Self needs to be read by everyone. Heartfelt and honest, this letter is not merely optimistic. It is sensitive, understanding and even comforting.
And his awesomeness doesn’t end there. Fry’s documentary The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive was a peek into his life as someone who is bipolar. From admitting to being suicidal, to accepting the mental illness that is a lifelong companion, he has not only taken the lead to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness, but also inspired thousands and thousands across the world to break their silence and fight social prejudices.
Openly gay Belgian comics artist Tom Bouden is best known for his skills as a satirist. Starting his career with some illustrations for a gay youth club, he soon used the characters from the posters – Max and Sven (rumoured to be inspired by his own life) – in a comic for a gay Belgian magazine. Though his English works are limited in number, his gay version of Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest is undoubtedly the most epic.
One of the best known figures of modern Indian literature, novelist and poet Vikram Seth’s essay on Section 377 and gay rights in India is an essential read for every queer Indian soul. Though he came out only in his 30s, a lot of his earlier writings are clearly dedicated to men.
Best known for his performance in Prison Break, Wentworth Miller’s public comic out in 2013 saw him not only admit to being distressed by people’s attitude towards gay people, but also how this very stigma had led him to attempt suicide several times during his teens.
Japanese author and film director Yukio Mishima’s works introduce to a world of traditional beauty infused with modern thoughts and execution. His second book Confessions of the Mask not only introduced a homosexual protagonist Kochan, but spoke of the horrors that stemmed from prejudices against homosexuality.
Not comfortable in his skin, Mishima worked hard for years to develop his body to become a male model – much like Kochan – one of his first gay characters who seems to be autobiographical in more than one way.
Though Mishima is one of Japan’s most important literary figure, he was also a nationalist who founded his own right-wing militia. He finally killed himself by seppuku after one of his coups failed.
One of the most pragmatic writers of modern day queer fiction, Zoe Whittall’s extensive writing about the queer community, sexual assault and rape culture is simply wonderful. Refraining from making her writings overbearing by offering solutions and advice to young, queer people, she instead guides them through incidents – tragic and hilarious – her deconstruction of the ideal American family reminds you that beyond their facade of perfection, they are truly on the brink of catastrophe.