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LGBTIQA+ media pieces that influenced modern culture

At Distinct, we believe our environment to be a safe and inclusive space for all customers and members of staff. Whilst we’ve nurtured this approach since day one, we also strive to be mindful and open to how we can do better.

Our support for the LGBTIQA+ community is not reserved for June alone, however for Pride this year, we want to celebrate the films, shows and books that have inspired us and helped us to understand the battles fought for LGBTIQA+ acceptance throughout the years.

1. It’s A Sin (2021) Series – Drama, Comedy, History

Taking place in 80’s Britain during the rise of AIDs, this show focuses on a group of friends determined to support each other through the most pivotal era of their lives – tackling love, life and loss.

Why LGBTQ representation matters:

“It’s a Sin” had uncertain beginnings, with the show’s subject matter resulting in it being declined for broadcast by both the BBC and ITV. Upon release by Channel 4 however, the show received critical acclaim and went on to become the most binge-watched show to ever land on All 4, with the whole season viewed more than 6.5 million times. The show influenced an increase in HIV testing, potentially saving lives, and received 11 nominations at the 2022 British Academy Television Awards.

It’s A Sin received 11 nominations at the 2022 British Academy Television Awards.

2. Paris is Burning (1990) Film – Documentary

This documentary speaks with some of the most prominent and talented figures within the New York City dance ball scene as they discuss their aspirations alongside experiences with race, class, sexuality and gender.

Why LGBTQ representation matters:

Paris is Burning was deemed to have such a huge historical and cultural impact that it was chosen for preservation by the Library of Congress, in their United States National Film Registry. One such example of the scene’s influence is the origin of the term “Voguing” –  a dance style where a person freezes as if being photographed for “Vogue” Magazine.

This documentary speaks with some of the most prominent and talented figures within the New York City dance ball scene
(P.S. Yes, this was the influence for Madonna’s 90’s song of the same name.)

3. Sense8 (2015) Series – Science-Fiction, Drama, Thriller

Eight strangers across the world discover that they are mentally and emotionally linked, sharing each others experiences telepathically. With a diverse cast of actors, Sense8 explores identity, gender, race and politics that the writers (the Wachowskis) felt were rarely addressed on TV.

Why LGBTQ representation matters:

The Wachowskis are most famously known for their cult classic “The Matrix”. After years of media speculation, Lana Wachowski publicly announced her transition into a woman in 2008, followed by her sister Lilly in 2016. This was perhaps the most high-profile case of two celebrity siblings transitioning in the public eye, and the Wachowskis brought transgender representation into the spotlight.

With a diverse cast of actors, Sense8 explores identity, gender, race and politics

4. Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Film – Drama, Romance

 “Boys Don’t Cry” navigates love and relationships as a trans person, and critically deals with themes of violence against LGBTIQA+ people. The film is a biographical recreation of the real-life hate crimes that were committed against Brandon Teena, a trans man living in 90’s Nebraska.

Why LGBTQ representation matters:

Just like “Paris is Burning”, “Boys Don’t Cry” was also selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry, for its cultural significance.

“Boys Don’t Cry” critically deals with themes of violence against transpeople.

5. Euphoria (2019 – Present) Series – Drama, Comedy

Following a group of high school students, Euphoria deals with issues of friendship, love, trauma and addiction.

Why LGBTQ representation matters:

Euphoria was the acting debut of trans activist and fashion model Hunter Schafer, who plays the character Jules. Schafer has become a prominent figure in the trans community, using her platform since to speak on issues of gender dysphoria, discrimination, and self-acceptance.

Zendaya and trans activist and fashion model, Hunter Schafer, who debuted as the character Jules.

6. The Hellbound Heart (1986) Book / Hellraiser (1987) Film – Horror, Thriller

A man taken to hell by demons finds a way to be resurrected again. On the surface, Hellraiser is one of the most recognised horror films of all time – lauded for the iconic imagery of the monster Cenobites.

Why LGBTQ representation matters:

Beyond the story is an analogy of writer/director Clive Barker’s frustrations with living as a working-class homosexual man in 80’s Liverpool. Barker’s writing was influenced by the AIDS crisis and by the British press’ treatment of the gay community during the epidemic. The Cenobites are a metaphor for repression and the breaking of taboo.

The Cenobites (pictured) are a metaphor for repression and the breaking of taboos.

7. Orange is the New Black (2013) Series – Drama, Comedy

OITNB is a series based within a minimum-security women’s prison. Among lighter comedic moments, the show tackles class, gender, race, addiction, trauma and politics from the perspectives of the diverse female cast. In both the years 2013 and 2016, it was reported as Netflix’s most watched original series ever.

Why LGBTQ representation matters:

Actress Laverne Cox, who plays the character ‘Sophia’, made history this year by becoming the muse for Mattel’s first-ever trans Barbie doll. 

Actress Laverne Cox made history this year, becoming the muse for the first-ever trans Barbie doll.

 “I hope people can look at this Barbie and dream big as I have in my career. The space of dreaming and manifesting is such a powerful source and leads you to achieve more than what you originally thought was possible.”

Laverne Cox

We Were Here (2011) Film – Documentary 

A hard-hitting documentary about the HIV/AIDS crisis. Focusing on the San Francisco community, with interviews from survivors, activists and nurses who were there when the epidemic first took hold.

Why LGBTQ representation matters:

Nominated for 8 awards and winning 3, “We Were Here” is by no means an easy watch, but it is a key piece of media to help us acknowledge and respect the changing mentality towards the LGBTIQA+ community – and the efforts by those who helped us to get here.

“We Were Here” interviews survivors, activists and nurses who were impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis.

9. RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009-present) Series – Reality Show

A reality TV show wherein contestants battle to be crowned the next “Drag Superstar”. Drag Race has become a cultural hit, with screenshots and quotes plastered across social media as viewers root for their favourite performers. RuPaul himself has become one of the most well-recognised household names of the LGBTIQA+ Community.

Why LGBTQ representation matters:

Onscreen, contestants often discuss topics such as isolation from their families after coming out, growing up in poverty, coming to terms with HIV+ diagnoses, or navigating love in non-accepting environments. Many contestants joining in the 2020’s have even grown up watching the show since its premiere in 2009, citing it as one of the first shows that made them feel accepted and ‘normal’.

RuPaul has become one of the most well-recognised household names of the LQBTIQA+ Community.

10. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) Book / Dorian Gray (2009) Film  – Gothic literature / Fantasy Horror

A man obsessed with beauty sells his soul to remain young. His soul is trapped within a painting, which ages and takes on a more demonic form.

 Why LGBTQ representation matters:

The author Oscar Wilde is an important figure in LGBTIQA+ history, being convicted in 1895 for the crime of “Gross Indecency”, a label for relationships between two men, which were illegal in Victorian England. This is known as one of the very first “celebrity trials”. Another victim of this law, in 1952, was Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science. In 2017, the ‘Alan Turing law’ came into place, pardoning all men who were previously convicted, whether alive or posthumously.

The author Oscar Wilde is an important figure in LGBTIQA+ history

Society has come a long way in supporting those who identify as part of LGBTIQA+, but the community still faces oppression in the struggle for the same equality and rights. This Pride month at Distinct, we’re making efforts internally to recognise Pride, educate ourselves on the history behind it and share resources and information on how we can contribute to the efforts. We wish a happy and safe Pride to all members of the LGBTIQA+ community.

At the time of writing in June 2022, all names & pronouns for the individuals mentioned are correct.

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