PopCrush Pride 2018: The 20 Defining Moments of #20GayTeen
In 2018, LGBTQ+ Pride is hardly a quiet event reduced to isolated parade routes or meeting rooms inside local community centers. This year — #20GayTeen — has thrust men, women and nonbinary folk into the spotlight, and we at PopCrush are, frankly, proud as hell.
Since riots erupted outside of New York City's Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969 — a reaction to anti-gay policing policies, and what has come to be regarded as the point of origin of modern Pride celebrations — cities across the country have welcomed observers to boldly and colorfully ring in queerdom each June. Previously, Pride has functioned as a small collection of marginalized people pressing for love and acceptance, but across the past 12 months, the LGBTQ community has forfeited the task of seeking approval; instead, it has starkly assumed it. Being gay is no longer a point of social exclusion — it is simply a facet of American life, and one that requires no additional explanation.
Thanks to pop artists like Troye Sivan and Kim Petras, TV shows like Everything Sucks! and Queer Eye, plus movies like Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon, LGBTQ art and culture has been especially visible in 2018, and has served as a beautiful testament to how far the community has come.
Still, when it comes to Pride and those who honor the occasion, there's a long way to go (just look at what happened to Utah observers this year for sobering proof). Nevertheless, there's plenty of reason to keep hope alive. Look at the moments that have so far made #20GayTeen the most LGBTQ-friendly yet, and if there's a moment that truly spoke to you this year, be sure to share it in the comments!
Openly gay pop star Hayley Kiyoko — a.k.a. the Lesbian Jesus — kicked off #20GayTeen with a bang (and some serious early 2000s choreo) back in January when she dropped the music video for "Curious," her bright, '80s-hued queer electro-pop bop and the lead single off her excellent debut album, Expectations. Featuring lyrics about a girl who keeps coming back to Hayley even though she has a boyfriend, the track proved that the pop star is definitely here to steal ya girl in 2018. (And with those dance moves, we don't blame her.)
Based on André Aciman's 2007 novel, Call Me By Your Name has been a breakthrough in LGBTQ film for its delicate handling of a love story between a college professor's assistant and the professor's son. That the couple in question is comprised of two men amounts to a detail that is neither the point of focus of the movie, nor ignored for effect — queerness is simply a supplement to the plot. More importantly, Call Me By Your Name is a coming-of-age drama that proves love — and heartbreak — are universal, stirring things.
The latest video from Troye Sivan might have been filmed in black and white, but it's his most rainbow-decorated declaration of queerdom yet. With an unbuttoned shirt and undaunted conviction, the Aussie pop star seems to have finally come into his own, and moves with the raw sexuality of George Michael in his prime.
Back in January, the culture of K-pop was changed forever when Holland, an openly gay emerging South Korean artist, released his shimmery debut single, "Neverland," a love song describing his romantic experiences as a gay man. Similarly, the music video for "Neverland" increased LGBTQ+ normalization and representation for K-pop idols by depicting Holland kissing and being intimate with his same-sex lover.
All things just keep getting better indeed: In February, nearly fifteen years after Queer Eye for the Straight Guy became a pop culture phenomenon on Bravo, Netflix introduced the world to a next gen Fab Five with Queer Eye — a modern reboot focused on helping more than just straight men. In this emotionally resonant, woke 2.0 version, experts Antoni (food), Tan (style), Karamo (culture), Bobby (design) and fan favorite Jonathan (grooming) work together to improve the lives and self-esteem of diverse subjects across the U.S., making heartwarming human connections along the way.
After years spent skirting questions about her sexuality — "I only date androids," she famously told Rolling Stone in 2010 — Janelle Monaé offered the first public proclamation of her queerness in the video for Dirty Computer standout "Make Me Feel." The color-saturated visuals not only lean into what's been deemed bisexual lighting, but see the 32-year-old singer fighting temptation between a man and woman before finally deciding to dance with both. At surface level, its a fun-forward celebration of possibility amid a more accepting world, but at its core, it's a self-affirming representation of a woman who has, finally, come to accept herself.
In February, figure skater Adam Rippon and free skiier Gus Kenworthy became the first openly gay American athletes to ever compete in the Winter Olympics. Kenworthy certainly left his mark on the competition, but it was Rippon who stole the show, charming audiences with clever quips and raw charisma. More importantly, though, he showed millions of viewers — many of them watching from countries far less tolerant than the U.S. — what it looks like to be wholly, proudly, and unabashedly gay. And on a platform as visible as the global stage, that means more than any amount of gold he could ever bring home.
Riding high on the success of Stranger Things' '80s nostalgia, in February Netflix released Everything Sucks!, a coming-of-age comedy-drama centered on a group of lovable and complicated teens growing up in Boring, Oregon in the mid-1990s. The series, which was sadly cancelled in April, received mixed reviews, but was lauded for its tender portrayal of character Kate Messner's sexual awakening, as well as for offering positive representation for queer youth struggling to come out.
For the first time in the history of cinema, LGBT youth — out, closeted or otherwise — won’t have to rely on Sixteen Candles’ Sam Baker or American Pie’s Jim Levenstein for teenage delusions of rom-com grandeur. Based on Becky Albertalli’s beloved YA novel, Love, Simon, follows Simon Spier, a high school student, as he struggles to get close to his online crush, an anonymous blogger named Blue. And, oh, he just so happens to be gay. But his sexuality is neither the subject of gimmicky affectation, nor a daunting obstacle to overcome — it just… is. And director Greg Berlanti captures the coming out process beautifully, underscoring its unique challenges but still identifying each as a facet of any typical adolescent landscape. To put it differently, by crafting a film that doesn’t appear to be revolutionary, Berlanti achieves precisely a product that is.
What began as a sweet, congratulatory moment between two lovers quickly snowballed into a historic statement when NBC aired Gus Kenworthy kissing his boyfriend, Matt Wilkas, on live television during the 2018 winter games. It was quick but impactful, symbolizing one of the first times queer viewers could look to an event as internationally recognized as the Olympics and see themselves reflected back.
"Didn't realize this moment was being filmed yesterday but I'm so happy that it was," he later wrote of the moment on Twitter. "My childhood self would never have dreamed of seeing a gay kiss on TV at the Olympics but for the first time ever a kid watching at home CAN! Love is love is love."
Following years-long speculation about her sexuality, Janelle Monaé came out in her May 2018 cover story for Rolling Stone, telling the outfit that she identifies with both bisexuality and pansexuality — the latter resulting in a huge spike in searches on the term.
"Being a queer black woman in America — someone who has been in relationships with both men and women — I consider myself to be a free-ass motherf---er," the Dirty Computer star said during her interview. "I’m open to learning more about who I am."
To hear a rapper say his mother's coming out moved him to tears is nothing short of a revolution in the world of hip-hop. During an April interview with David Letterman's My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, Jay Z recalled, about a year ago, when his mother shared the details of her love life, and how she was finally ready to be free. "Imagine having lived your life for someone else," Jay said. "And you think you’re protecting your kids. And for my mother to have to live as someone that she wasn’t and hide and like, protect her kids — and didn’t want to embarrass her kids, and you know, for all this time. And for her to sit in front of me and tell me, ‘I think I love someone.’ I mean, I really cried. That’s a real story. I cried because I was so happy for her that she was free.”
In April, Rainbow-singer Kesha—longtime LGBTQ+ ally and no stranger to facing hardships based on her identity—released the video for "I Need a Woman to Love," a gender pronoun-switched cover of Janis Joplin's classic "I Need a Man to Love" for the Universal Love project. The heartwarming, vibrant visual sees the pop phoenix traveling to Las Vegas to officiate a wedding ceremony between Dani and Lindsay, a real-life same-sex couple, while touting marriage equality and love along the way.
In a rare move for a major studio enterprise, Blockers put a surprise spin on its teen sex comedy premise. Upon discovering their kids have made a pact to lose their virginities on prom night, a group of parents race to thwart their plan. The film devotes ample time to the absurdity of the concept, pushing back against regressive tropes about young women's sexual agency, but it also devotes roughly a third of the plot to a coming out story: Sam's dad (Ike Barinholtz) has correctly guessed his daughter is a closeted lesbian, and is along for the ride not to protect her chastity, but to prevent her from getting peer-pressured into an unwanted heterosexual experience.
By 2018, television has taken great strides to increase LGBTQ visibility on-screen, but that doesn't make the inclusion of a queer couple any less celebratory. That said, Cheryl and Toni's burgeoning romance on Riverdale, which culminated with a passionate first kiss this season, is definitely one worth shipping.
While the LGBTQ community has often seen the Catholic Church as an oppressor (man, they love to quote Leviticus...) Pope Francis breathed hope for reconciliation into the community in April. During a talk with a gay man who'd been the subject of abuse, Francis said: "God made you like this. God loves you like this. The Pope loves you like this and you should love yourself and not worry about what people say," adding that his sexuality "does not matter." Wow, if only American fundamentalists would listen to the good word a little bit more clearly...
In 2017, openly gay Brazilian drag queen Pabllo Vittar made waves with "Sua Cara," his sizzling collaboration with Anitta and Major Lazer. But the performer's star has only risen throughout 2018, thanks to collaborations with mainstream acts like Diplo as well as his tireless work as an advocate for equality and support amid increased violence against the LGBTQ+ community in Brazil.
His sophomore album is due out this year.
During the Newark, New Jersey stop of Demi Lovato's Tell Me You Love Me Tour in April, Kehlani hopped onstage to share a kiss with Lovato that was so steamy, fans were instantly calling for them to "ruin the friendship" and get together.
Take pop's most proudly queer pop star, pair him with a hit-maker who proudly bears the distinction of youngest trans person to have undergone gender confirmation surgery, and you've got the most colorful, anticipated tour of the summer. The Bloom Tour, which features two of the industry's most colorful acts, will kick off in September just after the release of Sivan's forthcoming LP. Between 'My! My! My!," "Hillside Boys" and "Heart To Break," you can bet these two young stars will make for one especially crowded dance floor.
Released one day before the launch of Pride Month, Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani's "What I Need" team-up was tailor-made for #20GayTeen, starring the pair as two "best friends" who slowly embrace their feelings for one another over the course of an increasingly flirtatious runaway road trip.