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Why Queer Entertainment Matters Amid the GOP's Attempt to Erase Us

cover shoot
The Advocate's Emily Hampshire cover shoot with EIC and the creative team

The Advocate's Entertainment issue shows that LGBTQ+ storytelling and visibility are a tool in the fight against the conservative push to erase and recloset queer people. 

On a balmy first day of March for those of us in Los Angeles, The Advocate's staffers are wrapping our Entertainment issue. But there are distractions. Big ones.

The Ukrainian people are fearlessly fighting a Russian invasion ordered by antigay tyrant Vladimir Putin. Here in the U.S., Republicans in Florida are pushing the odious "don't say gay" bill that would endanger the lives of LGBTQ+ students and force teachers back into the closet. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has launched an attack on trans kids, equating gender-affirming care with child abuse.

President Joe Biden is delivering his State of the Union, the first time in the event's history that a president is flanked by two women -- Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He calls on Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ+ Americans from discrimination in housing, banking, and more. And he makes a plea for the safety and protection of transgender people.

"The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is wrong. As I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I will always have your back as your president, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential." Biden says.

In her response to the SOTU, Iowa's Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds -- who signed her own anti-trans bill two days after Biden's address -- claims the president and the Democratic Party have sent Americans back to the '70s and early '80s, with inflation, a violent crime wave, and a Soviet invasion.

For LGBTQ+ Americans, Reynolds isn't wrong. Republicans are shoving us back 40+ years. But our deja vu is of Anita Bryant's craven antigay "Save Our Children" campaign and the Briggs Initiative in California, the latter of which sought to ban LGBTQ+ people from teaching in public schools.

Reaction to Biden's trans remarks was mixed. Some activists said he didn't go far enough, while GLAAD praised him for promising to make trans folks a priority. Activists disappointed Biden didn't go farther are necessary and will continue to hold Biden and the Democrats accountable.

So what does all of this have to do with entertainment, which is the theme of The Advocate's March/April issue? I'm a firm believer in storytelling as a tool for progress and change in addition to ground-floor activism. On our cover, we feature out Schitt's Creek star Emily Hampshire. Hampshire continues to act prolifically, but she's also taking her queer experience in new directions as a producer and writer, vowing to center her LGBTQ+ community whenever possible.

There's been heated debate in recent years about whether straight people should play queer in film and TV, but 2021 and 2022 stand to become a collective tipping point for queer actors and projects. Progress for LGBTQ+ people in Hollywood is evidenced in our Shooting Stars section, with profiles of nonbinary Dua Saleh in Sex Education and out actor Midori Francis in The Sex Lives of College Girls, and more.

A feature on early Advocate cartoonist John Sam Allen draws a line from the past to the present, touching on our publication's role in LGBTQ+ history. To illustrate the need for ongoing vigilance lest the Republican Party push queer people back 50 years, a gay Florida-based high school principal shares his fears of what will become of LGBTQ+ kids and teachers should the "don't say gay" bill pass.

At least we can turn to queer TV like Harlem, Yellowjackets, and Joe vs. Carole to entertain us while we see ourselves reflected.

Yours in Storytelling,

Tracy E. Gilchrist

This story is part of The Advocate's March/April 2022 Entertainment Issue, which is out on newsstands April 2. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist