The defining queers of 2018

This past year has truly been a turning point for LGBT+ representation and the diversity of our community coming to the forefront. Much of that is due to the new tide of queer stars mixing  activism and entertainment. Here are seven notable figures that have used their platform to cause waves in different industries, mainstream conversations, and the culture at large.

Janelle Monáe

While Janelle Monáe has come up slowly in the ranks, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been one of the hardest working entertainers this decade. She has launched Wondaland Records, which gave rise to Jidenna and Roman GianArthur. She’s also  starred in lauded films, such as “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures.”

When Monáe released her “emotion picture,” “Dirty Computer,” this year,  it prompted her to address her long-standing rumors about her sexuality. Coming out as pansexual in Rolling Stone pushed “pansexuality” to the top of Google and Merriam-Webster searches. As a whole, the “Dirty Computer” album cycle helped  highlight a queerness as diverse as it is resilient.

Jonathan Van Ness

The reboot of the “Queer Eye” series allowed for queer men to be showcased in a fresh light, whereas the original run gained buzz for its use of the word “queer” and the appearance of gay men alone . In the 2018 run, Jonathan Van Ness became an instant hit with his unabashed fashion sense and bold personality.

You have to admire the way JVN travels through rural, conservative America helping out a variety of men without dimming his femininity or gender expression. By staying true to who he is, Van Ness shows a new kind of queer authenticity that hasn’t always been celebrated and is just as fab as the heels he stunts.

Chella Man

Chella Man may only be 19 years old, but he already has his hands in modeling and activism — all while also going to college to study virtual reality programming. Man has become the first trans and deaf model signed to IMG.  He even took time this year to create a video alongside another deaf, queer heartthrob, Nyle DiMarco, teaching queer sign language.

What is amazing about Chella Man’s visibility is how multifaceted his representation of queerness is and his transparency about it. He has documented his journey in transitioning and his relationship with his girlfriend, making others feel less alone in their growth in their intersecting identities.

Jaboukie Young-White

If there’s any queer icon on the tips of everyone’s tongue this year, it’s Jaboukie Young-White. He has been featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and is now a correspondent on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. More than those accomplishments, Young-White maintains a hilarious, yet highly-relatable Twitter account.

Casually dropping his “queer” identity into his routines also just seems to be the norm for him. Young-White shows us that no matter how you identify, it's a wild world out here for millennials — and sometimes you have to laugh at all that you see.

Sophie

Sophie started as an anonymous producer within the cloud of the PC Music brand, a scene emphasizing sugary, hyper-pop with heavily edited femme vocals. Over time, Sophie began to permeate the mainstream music scene releasing “Product” (that also had a potential sex toy sale?) and producing for Madonna and, most notably, Charli XCX.

With the release of “It’s Okay to Cry,” Sophie not only revealed her face publicly for the first time, she also put on display her gender non-conformity and queerness. Performing without smoke and mirrors now, Sophie has now created the soundtrack for many LGBT+ youth that come to her shows regularly and has been pushing the boundaries of pop music while doing so.

Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson and MJ Rodriguez from “Pose” on FX

In the footsteps of “Paris Is Burning,” Pose aimed to breathe life into New York City’s 80s  ballroom culture, the rise of house music and the AIDS crisis. The show realistically depicts house dynamics within the balls, homelessness, poverty and drug use in the LGBT+ community. It also celebrates the trans women of the cast.

Trans actors playing trans roles is already a huge win, but it gets better when you see a level of authenticity to these stories played out by Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, and lead MJ Rodriguez.

Janet Mock and Our Lady J help to produce the series, which has broken the record for the highest number of trans actors as series regulars. It has also officially been renewed for a second season. A big win for trans representation and employment of talent.


Eugene Lee Yang

While already known from Buzzfeed and The Try Guys, Eugene Lee Yang has made a big stamp this year using his platform to amplify LGBT+ representation and wellness, as well as honoring his Asian identity. ELY controls the narrative of his queerness by refusing to ascribe to any label and instead opting to use “LGBT+” or “queer” — showing that identity does not have to be homogenous.

It doesn’t matter if Yang appears in drag, high fashion looks or his tiger onesie: he has helped to start online conversations on Asian visibility, being a queer POC, and striving for authenticity throughout the process. 🍒