When it comes to queer and trans representation, film has always lagged painfully behind everyone, even our dumbest mediums. I survived off the homosexual cheek-stroke scene in Foxfire for more than a decade before Blue is the Warmest Color and Pariah came around to deliver me from the romcompocalypse.
Thankfully, 2018 was a notably better year for LGBTQ folks in Hollywood. More than half the films nominated for Best Picture included an LGBTQ character, prompting GLAAD president Sarah Ellis to call it a “banner year for LGBTQ inclusion in film.”
It’s far too early to call 2019 a breakthrough year for LGBTQ people in film, or even a good year for LGBTQ people in film. It’s reasonable, however, to assume that it could be an even better year for the community, especially on the screens where they’ve been the most absent: the big ‘uns.
Here’s a look at what lies ahead:
1. Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy
If you’re a Generation X literary queer, you’re bound to remember the J.T. Leroy scandal. In the ’90s, author Laura Albert published several novels under the fictional name “J.T. Leroy.” For a period of time, Albert had her then-boyfriend’s half-sister, Savannah Knoop, play the part of J.T. in real life. Nobody knew Leroy’s real identity. “J.T.” proceeded to become a grunge scenester and befriend Billy Corgan and Courtney Love — until the day her identity was revealed thanks to a bunch of receipts from Disneyland Paris.
Queer futch icon (sorry) Kristen Stewart plays the part of J.T. We’ll have to wait until March 19th before this film (that me and probably three other people are anticipating) hits the big-ger screen.
Director Dexter Fletcher was behind the controversial, largely mediocre Bohemian Rhapsody. Multiple critics complained that the film wasn’t nearly as queer as its subject, Freddie Mercury. I have much higher hopes for his next film, Rocketman, which tells the story of gay superstar Elton John. If nothing else, the trailer feels super gay — which is honestly all that I’m looking for.
This film comes to make the internet mad on May 29th.
3. Wild Nights with Emily
Imagine a better concept than this: Molly Shannon as acclaimed poet and bisexual Emily Dickinson. This is beyond my wildest suburban gay teenager fantasies. If y’all don’t go see this movie, which tells the story of Dickinson and her “special” friend Susan Gilbert, we’re no longer friends (and yes, we were friends at the beginning of this story when you started to read this post). Coming sometime — hopefully? — in 2019.
4. Giant Little Ones
While 2018’s Boy Erased might have told an important story about conversion therapy and queer adolescence, it was far too corny for most of us to digest. Giant Little Ones promises to be equally as meaningful, but without the standard schlock factor. Let’s hope this movie has actual teeth. It hits theaters in March.
This documentary-narrative hybrid is headed to Sundance at the moment, and I’m anxious for it to go elsewhere. The Infiltrators tells the story of a group of undocumented immigrants who “break” into the for-profit detention system and work to liberate undocumented detainees. The main character is an out gay man, adding a whole other level of complexity and terror to the film. It’s directed and produced by Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra, and we’re all praying for a wider 2019 theatrical release.
Ondi Timoner directs this biopic about legendary queer photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe was known for his portraits of BDSM culture and hypermuscular gay men as well as his friendship with Patti Smith. There was a whole culture war about Mapplethrope in the ’80s because of the homoeroticism of his work. If you’re FOMO-ing about that, I promise there will be controversy again when the movie is released in March of this year.
7. Tell it to the Bees
Sure, Tell it to the Bees got incredibly poor reviews when it premiered at TIFF in September. But as a queer person, I’m open to any kind of movie that (1) is queer (2) stars famous celebrities I know. This one, which features Anna Paquin and an underground 1950s lesbian Scottish romance, meets both criteria. Check IMDB for its 2019 general release date.
8. A Marvel film
Last year, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige promised there would be at least two queer characters coming to the Marvel universe (one of whom may be added, one of whom already exists). Critics believe that at least one of those characters will be Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, whom Thompson once admitted on Twitter is both “bi” and “cares very little about what men think of her.”
It’s unclear when Valkryie will reappear, but we need this promise too much for it not to become real.
Adam is based one of my favorite queer YA books of all time, by Ariel Schrag. In the movie, Nicholas Alexander plays a cis teen who pretends he’s transgender to get a girlfriend. It’s subversive and bitter and warm all at the same time. Go see it at Sundance if you’re lucky, or when it’s released generally if you’re not.
Rafiki is supposed to hit theaters this April, and it’s long overdue. The film tells the story of two Kenyan women who fall in love despite anti-gay stigma and violence at home. It was banned from the director’s home country, where homosexuality remains illegal. The Kenyan prime minister temporarily lifted the ban so it could be nominated for the Academy Awards (it wasn’t, but who cares).
Of all the films on this list, this is the one you should care about the most. 2019 needs more stories that matter told by voices we hear the least. Transgender voices. The voices of queer folks with disabilities, and of queer people of color.
Every year, there’s so much more to offer the LGBTQ community. We just have to keep on going.