Movies for this Pride Month!

It’s Pride month! While there is a big queer scene in St. Petersburg, FL, I still had the urge this morning to watch LGBTQ films (mostly lesbian or wlw) all day. So, I decided to collect a list of some of my favorites here for anyone who is in search of something new.

A couple of disclaimers:

  • These are MY personal favorites. They are not inclusive of every LGBTQ movie. (For example: But I’m a Cheerleader is a great wlw movie but not one of my favs, so it is not listed here.)
  • These are ONLY movies. I might do another one later on TV shows/books.
  • I focused on older and less known movies, as I think more recent ones get enough press and are easy to find.
  • The second half of the list are movies that I feel are gay but are not explicitly gay. Most of you probably know what I mean by that.
  • I call everything gay. That is an inclusive term for me and includes bi/pan peeps and any wlw or otherwise.
  • I am nonbinary and I have not found good movies with nonbinary representation. I’d love to know your recs!
  • Same with trans representation. There are a few well-known movies about trans folx but so, so many that are led by cis men, and I think that is incredibly dangerous. I will not be recommending them here for that reason.
  • I focused more on female-led and wlw movies because I’m a lesbian and that’s just where my interest lies.
  • NONE OF THESE PICS ARE MY OWN.

Explicitly LBGTQ Movies

  • The World Unseen (2008)
    • A gorgeous movie set in South Africa during apartheid. Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth are fantastic. I watched this movie and was immediately taken in by both of them. There is just something tender about this movie. Everything is under the surface, which makes it quietly beautiful. It is in keeping with the “slow” wlw movies that have been coming out recently, but with more substance in my opinion.
    • Also see the wlw romantic comedy Lisa and Sheetal did called I Can’t Think Straight. Both are explicitly gay!
  • Bound (1996)
    • This might be my favorite gay movie ever. The leads, Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, are cons looking to outsmart the mafia. They are so incredibly good in this movie and have outstanding chemistry. Also, masc-Gina is irresistible. She describes it as the best role she had ever had, and I agree.
  • Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
    • My childhood favorite. I’ve watched this movie dozens of times. Two women live in the south in the 40’s and own a restaurant where they have gay food fights, play in rivers and boxcars, and basically raise a child together. The book was written to be gay, but the movie was too scared to follow the source material. Still, a beautiful portrait of a wlw couple.
  • Moonlight (2016)
    • This movie made me sob. Brilliant performances by all main characters, but especially Trevante Rhodes. This movie was really the first I watched about gay men, and it opened my eyes to a lot of things, including how toxic masculinity hurts not just women.
  • Portrait of a Lady On Fire (2019)
    • Island lesbians. Paintings. Fire. Self-explanatory. Made me bawl for hours.
    • I didn’t want to include a lot of newer LGBTQ movies on this list, but this one is special, like Moonlight.
  • Frida (2002)
    • I love Frida Kahlo so much and I adored Selma Hayek in this movie as her. It focuses mostly on Frida’s art and her relationship with her husband Diego, but it has some small scenes alluding to her bisexuality, including a super hot dance scene with Ashley Judd.
  • A Perfect Ending (2012)
    • Sex worker meets rich older woman. They fall in love, but the older woman is terminal. Yeah. This movie is not Academy Award material but honestly, I love the leads and there are some awesome sex scenes.
  • Now and Then (1995)
    • This movie is for all of us who have used binders.
    • Roberta is gay. I don’t care what you think.
  • Saving Face (2005)
    • This one is CUTE. Lots going on in this rom-com but it is very much a portrait of family, how we communicate, and how love and support ultimately can overcome anything.
  • The Handmaiden (2016)
    • Also a newer one, but I am including it because it’s very well done. Takes place in Japanese occupied Korea. A handmaiden falls for her mistress, and they have to outsmart a scheming male con to run away together. I felt, at moments, it was very male-gazey and I can’t exactly explain why. Still, a solid movie with a good ending.

Not Explicitly LGBTQ But In My Opinion is GAY

  • Anything with Susan Sarandon before 2000.
    • I can’t really explain this, but it’s just all super homo. See:
      • Witches of Eastwick (Cher costars!)
      • The Client
      • Dead Man Walking
      • Thelma and Louise – actually very gay in all ways
      • Rocky Horror Picture Show – seriously she made so many gay ones
  • Predators (2010)
    • A recent sequel to some of the Predator movies. It follows a group of assassins stranded on a strange planet who find themselves being hunted. It’s not a great movie, but isn’t terrible, either. This only made the list because the very lovely and very queer Alice Braga is in it, and she kicks major ass. (She comes off queer in every movie and TV show she’s in and I love it.)
  • Alien Resurrection (1997)
    • Stranded in space, a group has to destroy a brood of new Aliens. Sigourney Weaver (This time playing a Ripley with mutant DNA) stars opposite Winona Ryder, and I don’t know, peeps. They have a lot of interactions with homoerotic undertones. Like, a LOT. My nine-year-old self watched this movie two years after it came out and was like oh, WOW. By far one of the weakest Alien films, but it’s fun.
  • Alien vs. Predator (2004)
    • Another more recent sequel that stars Sanaa Lathan as the leader of an archaeological dig who comes across a very occupied Alien city. (Her character gives me lesbian vibes.) The Predators soon arrive for a fun hunt. Sanaa is the “last girl standing” and she teams up with a Predator to destroy the Queen Alien. I like her in everything she’s in – so this movie isn’t great, but I will recommend it because she is boss in it. And it’s fun!
  • Steel Magnolias (1989)
    • This movie has Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, and Olympia Dukakis (among others like Sally Field and Daryl Hannah) who play friends preparing for a wedding in the south. Young folx, Olympia is somewhat of a gay icon for her role in Tales of the City. I can’t explain why this feels gay… it just is. Maybe it’s the friends are family theme. IDK. This story was actually written by a friend of my mother’s, so I recommend it to everyone.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
    • This movie touched me so deeply. It has my favorite, Michelle Yeoh, in it and also stars the amazing Zhang Ziyi, whose storyline I think will resonate with many lesbians. It definitely did with me. It’s a long movie, but incredibly well written with breathtaking cinematography. Please watch all the way to the end. It is one of the best endings in a major film in the last fifty years (in my opinion).  
  • The Heroic Trio (1993)
    • I love this movie! Good luck finding it on any major platforms, though. I think I watched it on YouTube. It is a superhero movie with an all-female group of superheroes set in Hong Kong. It also stars the wonderful Michelle Yeoh who does all her own stunts. It’s a fun watch and good if you want something to oppose the very hetero and male focused MCU movies.
  • Double Jeopardy (1999)
    • A woman’s husband frames her for murder. She goes to prison, but when she gets out, realizes she can’t be tried for the same crime twice. Murder shenanigans ensue. There is literally nothing gay about this movie except Ashley Judd. Just look at this picture of her:
Don’t tell me this pic of A Judd isn’t gay.
  • The Mummy Returns (2001)
    • There’s a cursed mummy! In the desert! Also a super hot fight scene with Patricia Velásquez and Rachel Weisz who have some homo chemistry. Did you know that Patricia is a model and openly lesbian? She published a book about it in 2015.
  • The Haunting (1999)
    • A group signs up for a “sleep study” only to find they are locked in a haunted house. When I was a kid, I watched this movie over and over again. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lili Taylor bring lots of homoerotic interactions to this fun (and scary!) movie remake of The Haunting of Hill House book by Shirley Jackson.

Again, this was just for fun, and these are only a few of my favorites! I may be back for more recs later this month. Enjoy Pride, my babies.

I Signed with Mary C. Moore!

Our Project: Blessed Be, a Book on Louisiana, Queer Covens, Witchcraft, and Healing

On Tuesday, I signed with Mary C. Moore of Kimberley Cameron & Associates. The book I used in my query to her was Blessed Be, one of the strangest novels I’ve written yet. The book stemmed from childhood memories of Louisiana, where my mother was born and raised.

So many of my memories from growing up are rooted in the south. As a child, I spent my summer breaks in Mansfield, Louisiana with my maternal grandmother. Her house was typical of that area– flat, skinny, held tight to the ground. It was shaded by lodgepole pines and surrounded by gnarled tree roots that curled and dipped. The soil was red and dusty and hung in the air.

What I remember of the south is being outside: lobbing for crawfish with a piece of bacon, their mudball homes poking out of the ground. I remember the painful sting of fire ants and the white pustules that covered my feet after an attack near my grandmother’s swimming pool. I remember snakes, and the sound of the heat bugs. The cicadas stuck with me so strongly that I wrote a whole book about them, although it’s set in another location.

Louisiana has surfaced in much of my writing. My family is still there, scattered across different cities. I own land at the bottom of the state but have only been there once. The land along the Gulf is magical. I visited it in the winter when it was cold and a dense grey fog sat over the land, refusing to move. The Gulf was freezing and foamed at the shore. While inspecting some land, my mother and I spotted a giant black cat scamper up a tree. It was far too large to be domesticated.

“That there was a Louisiana black panther!” my uncle claimed. His Cajun accent was so thick I could barely make out what he said.

My mother’s eyes widened. “A panther.”

“He’s joking,” I replied.

The strange land at the Gulf.

Louisiana black panthers are a myth, but the experience served as the inciting image for the book I’d write four years later – Blessed Be. The story follows Billie, who returns to her hometown on the Gulf in southern Louisiana. She joins up with some other women who turn out to be a coven, working to take the town back from some bad men.

While I am a pragmatic person (almost to a fault!), I am also deeply spiritual and the spirit in southern Louisiana is undeniable. It is a haunted place, wonderful for exploring the literary ideas of darkness and wonder, fear and becoming. Witchcraft and nature are inherent in these places.

Blessed Be still has a long way to go and many edits to be made. But I am proud of the internal journey the protagonist makes, how she learns to trust – both herself and others – to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma in her family of strong women. I am also excited to have the opportunity to bring Louisiana to the page for the first time in book form.

Thank you, Mary, for seeing the potential in this book and welcoming me at Kimberley Cameron & Associates.

On Dealing with Death (in the time of COVID)

Imagine this: I spent five weeks at a writing residency in rural Nebraska two years ago. It was the most isolated I’d ever felt. The residency was in the middle of a square plot of undeveloped land, surrounded by corn fields, harvesting machines, dirt roads.  

Fields forever.
It was cold. But beautiful!

I lived in a dilapidated house that was literally lopsided. The side of the house looked like a face, slanted and googley-eyed. I flew in and had to rely on residents who had a car to obtain groceries. There were several days when no one could take me out and I lived on eggs, ramen, and tea.  

It was cold in Nebraska, the temperatures dropping into the low forties many of the nights. The house had no insulation and you could feel every change in the wind. I was so cold for so long, I thought I would truly never get warm. 

One night, after one of my roommates and I learned the fire on the second floor was operational, brought in some cut wood and started a fire. Another of our roommates brought out some wine, and I celebrated by drinking some.  

My wonderful roommates in our googley-eyed house.

Nevermind that it was red wine. I thought my sulfite allergy would be fine – I only had a little. But four hours later, bundled in my room, I felt the telltale itch in my throat, the tightening that I’ve come to associate with an allergic reaction.  

Within twenty minutes, I was having trouble swallowing. 

Imagine it: me in bed. It was thirty-five degrees outside. Dark. The only roads out of town (to a hospital thirty miles away) were gutted – ruined by the rain that fell earlier this week, creating frost heaves that were practically undriveable. I knew what was going to happen – either I was going to dig six tablets of allergy medication out of the emergency medical supply downstairs or I was going to die on the way to the hospital.  

I threw the blankets off my legs and slipped into slippers. It was freezing and my breath misted in front of me. Heading down two flights of stairs, I fumbled around in the dark. In the emergency medical supply, I was able to piece together six allergy tablets. Two were expired. I chanced it and took all six of them.  

+++ 

This is how I am in emergency situations. I think, I move, I act. I try to ignore the severity of the situation and instead sit with the facts: here’s what I can do. Here are my choices. Here is the only path I have to take right now. 

+++ 

Obviously, I didn’t die. I struggled to breathe for about twenty minutes before the allergy medication kicked in. I stared up at the ceiling of my uninsulated room. An artist who lived here before me had drawn on the wall and I stared at the graphic.   

My room for five weeks. 

A friend of mine, Wesley, had died a few days earlier. He had been sick for several months. We were close; I had loved him.  

I thought about him then, as I often did during that time, wondering if he was watching over me. I liked to picture him the way I remembered him before the stroke, strong and handsome and spry. I liked to picture him happy, wherever he was.  

Not yet, bitch, I could hear him saying. You still have time to be fabulous. 

+++ 

In the beginning of the COVID scare, I wash my hands until they are dry and cracked. I sanitize my desk, my laptop, every surface in my tiny house. A friend of mine is immune compromised and I routinely prepare myself for the call, if it were to come. I prepare myself to step in and help. I prepare myself to do whatever is needed to keep her alive.  

For someone who is still reasonably young, I have escaped death many times in my life. I’ve had car accidents, an eating disorder that almost killed me and that continues to threaten my life to life day. I’ve tried to commit suicide twice.

But my soul is wily and determined. I survive.  

Wesley used to tell me, You’re gonna find someone, girl. He believed in my happiness, my continued existence, perhaps more than even me.  

My beloved Wesley (second from left). 

Wesley keeps coming back to me now, when we are all facing death and demise in a way that we’ve never collectively faced before. I don’t know what the world is going to look like in four weeks, much less in four days. Everything is changing all the time.  

But despite it all, I’d like to think that Wesley had hope. I’d like to think that humans are built to survive, even when they don’t. I’d like to think there is hope and beauty, even with so much chaos and terror surrounding us.   

Mental Health Tips for Global Emergencies

Hi all,

As this COVID-19 pandemic gets worse, I’ve seen a lot of folx struggling with changes in their mental health or new anxieties. As someone who has lived with severe anxiety for most of my life, I wanted to put together a small list of mental health tips and suggestions.

I am not a therapist, but I have been through many, many years of therapy and spent a lot of money reading, learning, and talking with licensed metal health practitioners about how to deal with my (sometimes crippling) anxiety. Some mental health tips that are helping me deal with the pandemic are outlined below.

  1. Take social media breaks. It’s good to be informed; it’s hard to stay calm if we interact with social media 24/7. There is a huge difference between being informed and allowing ourselves to become obsessive about the news. Block accounts that induce panic. Try to only read reports/news that have been shared by experts in the field. For example: I have a friend who is a Distinguished Professor of Genetics – I trust the information she puts online because she has the background and education to filter out incorrect articles. She also posts funny things about wine and her kids. It’s important to follow those kinds of people in a pandemic, too.
  2. Gain levity. Those Facebook accounts that are funny and uplifting? Those are important. We can’t be constantly alert, tense, or anxious. Moments of laughter and levity make life beautiful.
  3. Go outside. Outside is free. Outside can ground you. Focus on what you see (trees, leaves), what you hear (birds), what you feel (the sun). Being outside can help you ground yourself in the present moment.
  4. Focus on living one day at a time. For many of us, anxiety comes when we look too far in the future. It’s good to be prepared and have contingency plans, but once you have them, focus on the present moment as much as possible. Are you safe right now? Are you full? Are you comfortable? Allow your mind to rest in your current sensations, especially if your mind is consistently racing to the future.
  5. Remember gratitude and positivity. I used to hate people who told me that gratitude and positivity could change the world. And while I know positivity will not stop a virus from killing me, it can change my reaction to what’s happening around me, how I perceive others, how I experience my current situation, and my overall satisfaction with life.
    • Side story: I used to be a negative Nelly. I saw only the worst in other people and was constantly lamenting my situation and the bad things that were happening to me. As I’ve matured and been able to use the tools my therapists have given me, I’ve found that the practice of gratitude has really been life-changing.
    • My practice:
      1. Wake up in the morning and name three things you’re thankful for. It can be small – I slept through the night! No night terrors! I am in a comfy bed. I have a roof over my head. It’s the weekend, etc. Starting a practice as soon as you wake up can rewire your habits and the way you think about things.
      2. Look for what you can learn from challenges. I have spent most of my life looking for a partner. As the COVID-19 pandemic became worse, I worried about being quarantined alone. What I’ve recently realized is that by being on my own for so long, I am prepared to shelter in place by myself for a long time, if necessary.
      3. Ground yourself in gratitude when you begin to feel overwhelmed. Name one thing you are thankful for in the present moment. For example: a neighbor of mine is currently practicing the ukulele. I am thankful to get a free, impromptu concert.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Help can mean lots of different things. For me, a text from a friend can make an extraordinary difference in my day. Don’t be afraid to ask for things as the pandemic wears on. Ask for regular phone calls with loved ones. Set up Skype or Facetime check-ins. Your loved ones may not always be able to meet your needs, but they won’t meet ANY of them if you don’t ask.
  7. Feel your feelings. The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten is to get through my feelings instead of focusing on pushing them away. Cry, if you have to. Yell. Run. Punch a pillow. COVID-19 is scary and it’s normal to have intense feelings about it. If you can feel those feelings (as scary as they might be), you will be a whole lot happier and healthier. 

It seems strange to be thankful for a mental health disorder, but over the last week or so I have become incredibly grateful for the strategies and coping mechanisms I’ve learned because of my anxiety. To be very clear – I still have worries. I worry about my job security. I worry about having enough food and not being able to pay rent. But I also know I am capable of dealing with challenges as they arise, and I can trust myself to make good decisions when I need to. In addition, I have deep faith that my community and loved ones will show up when I need them most. I am hopeful that most of us can say the same.

Sending light and love to everyone.

Chels

Mental Health Instagram accounts to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic:

(These people are licensed professionals!)

  • @lizlistens
  • @dr.marielbuque
  • @nataliegutierrezlmft
  • @lisaoliveratherapy
  • @millennial.therapist