Top 10: Queer highlights of 2012
It’s that time again when a flurry of Top 10 lists crops up online—the Top 10 list being a great way to review the past year and/or get acquainted with new material. These last twelve months are marked with various forms of cultural contributions from really amazing queer folks who made headlines, produced hits, or turned heads in one way or another. It would be an arduous task to write about all the work we so love and cherish, so for the sake of brevity, we’ve narrowed things down to our Top 10 news stories of the queer year.
In tandem with this summer’s Pervers/Cité in Montreal, author and artist Elisha Lim curated 2-Qtpoc, a festival “dedicated to 2-Spirit indigenous queer and transfolks of colour, with gorgeous art, oral history, artist talks, community lectures, in different languages and from different continents.” You can spend all of 2013 accompanied by Lim’s art, courtesy of The Comfort of Queer Family Wisdom, their new calendar. It’s a unique creation—part wall calendar and part eloquent narrative, replete with beautiful vibrant illustrations. Lim grounds the work in wisdom and inspiration from family, friends, and role models. They note that CQFM also functions as a resource for isolated queers, especially queers of colour. Thanks to Lim’s invigorating art, 2013 feels full of promise.
Author, playwright, and activist Sarah Schulman is one-half of the team that conducted all of the engrossing interviews in Jim Hubbard’s film United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, which screened at Concordia in November. That same month, Schulman released her latest book, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International. Perhaps most noteworthy is her February release of The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination. It’s a brilliant look at how the AIDS epidemic gentrified NYC, fundamentally altering the cityscape in terms of rent, artistic output, community cohesion, and sexual liberation. This is a must-read of the highest order.
You know you’re doing something right when Björk includes you in her personal playlist. Blanco’s aural elixir is an intoxicating meld of rap, hits of psychedelica, and gurglings of industrial. Heads turned with singles like Join My Militia (Nas Gave Me A Perm), and fandom mutated further with Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss mixtape. Blanco treated Montreal to three gigs this year, via Rough Diamond Collective, Pop Montreal, and M for Montreal. During her Pop show, Blanco draped her immense braids in front of her face, invoking a horror film aesthetic while rapping about trance states.
While the idea of gay dudes looking for love in NYC might not initially sound revelatory, Adam Goldman’s webisode series The Outs is a resounding success due to its fresh, acerbic writing. The storyline comes courtesy of Goldman and Sasha Winters, who both star in the show as Mitchell and Oona. The first six webisodes of The Outs were crowd-funded via Kickstarter campaigns, though the incisive quality of the script is clear in the pilot when Mitch tells his ex, “You look really desperate in blue." If you’re yearning to know what a “whiskey dick” is, turn on The Outs.
This year saw the release of Montreal-based singer-songwriter Rae Spoon’s record, I Can’t Keep All of Our Secrets, a catchy and nuanced mix of folk sensibility atop synth arrangements and beats. In the fall, Spoon produced their debut novel, the wonderful First Spring Grass Fire. The book is about a young transgender protagonist navigating life within their Pentecostal family in Calgary. It’s a candid coming-of-age story that will certainly resonate with queer folks whose adolescence saw the death of Kurt Cobain and the birth of Lilith Fair.
Radical Dyke March
On August 14, a giant, chanting crowd ascended Avenue du Parc. This particular gathering was a truly momentous occasion for Montreal—the first-ever Radical Dyke March in Quebec’s history, organized by a grassroots group called Montreal Radical Dyke March. Prior to the event, I interviewed Barb Zee Radikale (Barbara Legault), a spokesperson for the collective, who explained: “The point is to take to the streets and see one another. It’s so exciting that this is happening! It’s going to be the first time for us to be together with hundreds of dykes, see one another, and meet one another. I think there’s going to be a lot of emotion in breaking the invisibility.” The march culminated with a massive party featuring a headlining set from MEN (w/JD Samson of Le Tigre).
AIDS Action Now! & posterVIRUS
On the eve of World AIDS Day, the Art Gallery of Ontario hosted a launch for the second edition of posterVIRUS from AIDS Action Now! Curated by Alex McClelland and Jessica Whitbread, posterVIRUS is a project that brings together a selection of artists to produce images that address contemporary issues related to HIV, particularly the continued criminalization of HIV in Canada. Merging art and activism in the tradition of ACT UP and Gran Fury, posterVIRUS doesn’t remain within galleries. Instead, the controversial and visually stunning posters make their way into public spaces, bringing dialogue wherever they go.
Silence=Sex by Jordan Arseneault // Hey Girl, I'll Tell You When I'm Ready by Jessica MacCormack
Though Banks’ discussion of her bisexuality in a New York Times interview was re-quoted ad infinitum on the interwebs, her musical output garnered a swelling following. The release of her EP 1991 produced a video with artistic nods to early 90s Madonna and Crystal Waters. June saw the long-awaited arrival of the Fantasea mixtape, along with its popping video/single for Atlantis. Anyone who stands up in the mouth of a great white shark, gets pulled around by swordfish, and hugs a checkered seahorse is definitely newsworthy.
Earlier in the year, Lana Wachowski, one-half of the intensely private sibling duo that brought you the Matrix trilogy, discussed being transgender during the press junket for The Cloud Atlas. In October, while accepting an award from the Human Rights Campaign, she delivered a speech that is at once poignant and humorous. Throughout the eloquent 25 minutes, Wachowski talks about showing her hairdresser “drunken, pornographic pictures” of her honeymoon, her discomfort with a gender binary, transphobic violence, and her refusal to partake in weepy talk show confessionals.
In July, Frank Ocean posted a markedly personal note on his Tumblr addressing his love for another man. At the time, the then-24-year-old artist was already swimming in acclaim for his role in the Odd Future collective and composing music for artists like John Legend and Beyoncé. Knowing that some of the love songs on his forthcoming solo album Channel Orange were clearly about men, Ocean came out as a precursor to the album’s launch—a record that ranked high on our year-end list and which Idolator deems as “most likely the best album of the year, period.”