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  3. 1. Giovanni's Room, by James Baldwin Author Chavisa Woods is far from alone when calling Giovanni’s Room “masterfully written, heartbreaking.” It’s a book that has resonated with so many queer people since first being published in 1956, speaking to issues of identity even now. Woods, a Lambda :Literary Award nominee for her novel Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country, says Baldwin succeeded at “blurring the lines of hero and villain and bringing the complexity of human nature into horrifying focus.” Maybe that’s because Baldwin said the book isn’t actually about being gay. “Giovanni’s Room is not really about homosexuality,” said Baldwin in a 1980 interview about queer life. “It’s the vehicle through which the book moves. Go Tell It on the Mountain, for example, is not about a church, and Giovanni is not really about homosexuality. It’s about what happens to you if you’re afraid to love anybody.” 2. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker A revelation when it was published in 1982, Alice Walker’s novel delves into the intersections of race, gender, family, and sexuality in Georgia circa 1930. For all of the painful physical and sexual abuse and heartache Walker’s protagonist Celie endures at the hands of Mister, the man she’s forced to marry as an adolescent, and the violent, institutionalized racism she faces as a woman of color, the novel teems with hope and light. Epic in scope, the novel is, in part, a story of love between women —Celie’s love for her long-lost sister Nettie and for Shug Avery, the blues singer and former lover of Mister’s Celie falls for and with whom she eventually makes a home. "An epic tale of perseverance and empowerment as well as a celebration of love in all its forms," Tailor-Made author Yolanda Wallac, said of the novel. Of Walker's masterpiece, Long Shadows author Kate Sherwood said, "I loved how the characters found hope (and love) despite everything standing in their way." Steven Spielberg directed the 1985 adaptation of the film that starred Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey and earned several Oscar nominations. 3. The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith On the heels of her successful debut novel Strangers on a Train (with its own intimations of queerness), an encounter Patricia Highsmith had with a New Jersey socialite while working at a shopgirl at a department store became the seed for 1952’s The Price of Salt. The result, which Highsmith’s publisher forced her to publish under the pseudonym Claire Morgan at a time when a bold depiction of desire between women that eschewed the requisite tragic ending for those who transgressed could have tanked her career, would become that rare example of a lesbian-themed novel with what would prove to be a radically hopeful ending. "A novel that is simultaneously of its time and timeless, and it holds the distinction of being the first of its kind to have a happy ending," Yolanda Wallace said of the novel. SJ Sindu, author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies, called it, "One of the first Anglophone works to challenge the trope of the sad/suicidal gays who die at the end, this book gave us a blueprint of what queer fiction could look like." The Price of Salt's dizzyingly erotically charged prose also telegraphed her signature sense of an ominous "menace" (in this case, the threat of being caught or found out just as the Red Scare hit the United States). Highsmith went on to write more queer-tinged fiction, including The Talented Mr. Ripley and all of the Ripley novels to follow. The Price of Salt, of course, became the critically acclaimed Todd Haynes-helmed 2015 film Carol ,starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. advocate.com
  4. 4. Orlando, by Virginia Woolf Orlando, which Virginia Woolf wrote in tribute to friend and lover Vita Sackbville-West, is a study in gender fluidity across time and space. The eponymous protagonist starts as a rakish young nobleman in Elizabethan England, finding favor with the queen, then falling out with her and indulging liberally in sex with a variety of women but having an intense friendship with a male poet. Later Orlando is sent on a diplomatic mission to Constantinople, where he finds he's become a woman, and the gender switch offers an opportunity for commentary on the limitations society places on women. The book ends in 1928, with Orlando still a woman, with a husband and children but also a new sense of possibility, as this is the year women won full voting rights in England. And while the novel's action spans more than 300 years, Orlando ages only 36. A well-received 1992 film version, directed by Sally Potter, featured Tilda Swinton and Quentin Crisp. 5. Maurice, by E.M. Forster Although the great E.M. Forster (A Passage to India, A Room With a View, Howards End) wrote the benchmark gay novel Maurice circa 1913, it was published posthumously in 1971. In a lush tale of manners, position, and desire, the titular character meets and falls for his classmate Clive while at Oxford. The pair embark on a two-year affair until Clive leaves Maurice to marry a woman and live out his proscribed life as part of the landed gentry, leaving Maurice in shambles and seeking to cure his homosexuality. But Forster’s novel does not end in gay tragedy. Maurice falls in love with another man, Alec Scudder, and finally abandons his station so that they can be together. The author of Night Drop, Marshall Thornton called the novel "the original gay romance." A note found on Forster’s manuscript for Maurice, which was discovered tucked in a drawer, read “Publishable, but worth it?” Ismail Merchant and James Ivory adapted the novel to the big screen in a gorgeous film starring James Wilby, Hugh Grant, and Rupert Graves. 6. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2002 coming-of-age story about intersex protagonist Cal Stephanides. Inspired by the 19th-century memoirs of Herculine Barbin, Middlesex incorporates elements of Greek mythology as well as Eugenides’s Greek-American upbringing to tell a groundbreaking story about gender identity in the 21st century. While Middlesex has received some criticism from the intersex community — the author does not identify as intersex, nor did he consult with those who do — the novel is undoubtedly a landmark in queer visibility. In some literary circles, it is considered a candidate for the title of the Great American Novel. advocate.com
  5. 7. The Line of Beauty, by Alan Hollinghurst Alan Hollinghurst famously questioned the future of the gay novel this year, which is striking since he's often viewed as helping make queer books accessible to a mainstream audience. His 2004 novel broke through in a major way — The Line of Beauty won that year's prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction. Hollinghurt was praised for his expert command of the English language and his flawless re-creation of upper-class British society and conservative political circles of the 1980s. Hollinghurst set his pen on the sexual hypocrisies of homophobic politicians, many of whom had their own indiscretions behind closed doors. The book follows Nick Guest, a gay graduate student unofficially adopted by the family of a schoolmate. Nick gets a sneak peek at the aristocracy, while indulging in no shortage of sex and party favors; the fun comes to a crashing halt as AIDS enters the fray. Amid all the human drama, there's an amusing and memorable cameo from the Iron Lady. "Captures a vitally important era in lovely prose" is how Night Drop's Marshall Thornton describes Hollinghurst's most acclaimed book. 8. Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown Many queer female writers see Rita Mae Brown's 1973 coming-of-age book as an iconic work of LGBT literature: "[I love Rubyfruit Jungle] because, well, because. I think this was the first 'lesbian' book I ever read! And devoured. And loved," writes The Year of Needy Girls' Patricia Smith. Yolanda Wallace, author of Tailor-Made, tells us, "When I was a teenager questioning my sexuality, this book provided the answers I was looking for." Semi-autobiographical, Rubyfruit Jungle follows Molly Bolt's amorous adventures from childhood to adulthood, including a stint in swinging New York City. While Molly has sexual adventures with men, her true love is women, and Brown never shies away from describing Molly's insatiable passion for the ladies (the title perfectly captures Molly's zeal for female anatomy). Now assigned in many queer literature courses, Rubyfruit Jungle is brazen and brave; its frank discussion of lesbian sexuality can seem shocking to modern readers who imagine life in the early 1970s was less raunchy. Rubyfruit Jungle is a page-turning reminder that queer lust and queer sex are timeless. 9. Zami, by Audre Lorde "She calls it a biomythography and leads us through a heart-wrenching account of the black lesbian experience." – SJ Sindu, Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction Winner This 1982 autobiography by the iconic queer black poet Audre Lorde is an experience of intersectionality, in a genre of intersections. Lorde classified it as biomythography, which combines history, biography, and myth. A fierce love letter to the strength women have given her throughout her upbringing, the book explores her challenges growing up blind in 1930s Harlem, fighting for dignity in the heat of Jim Crow, and finding a voice in the New York City lesbian bar scene. While books like The Price of Salt show lesbians walking away from motherhood, Zami celebrates the beauty of when mothers stay through the harshest of challenges. advocate.com
  6. 10. A Single Man, by Christopher Isherwood A quietly devastating exploration of love, loneliness, and the often-crushing weight of adult responsibilities, 1962's A Single Man might just be one of Isherwood's most beloved works. The short novel — under 200 pages — tracks the experiences of an aging college professor in Los Angeles. Wracked with depression over the loss of his partner in a car accident, George matter-of-factly plots his suicide. But, as Isherwood demonstrates, life gets in the way. After crashing into others who are suffering as much as he is, George has a change of heart. But a last-minute twist changes everything. While Tom Ford's 2009 film adaptation conveys the styles and anxieties of the early 1960s, it doesn't exactly capture the beautiful tone of despondency created by the incomparable Isherwood. 11. The City and the Pillar, by Gore Vidal The City and the Pillar shocked America when it was released in 1948. The queer coming-of-age novel about Jim Willard and his search for love was the first novel from a respected writer (Gore Vidal) to speak directly and sympathetically about the gay experience in an era when homosexuality was still very much taboo. The book is remembered today for this legacy as well as for various themes — Hollywood’s glass closet, being gay in the military, the poisonous effects of homophobia on society — that still reverberate today. 12. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde The only novel by the great Oscar Wilde may not be overtly gay, but there’s plenty of gay subtext there for the careful reader – about as much gay subtext as a popular author could get away with in 1891. Dorian’s friends Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton express intense admiration for his beauty, and passages that show Basil’s feelings for Dorian as more clearly homoerotic were excised by an editor, according to Nicholas Frankel, who edited an edition presenting Wilde’s original text in 2011. Even the text as originally published has references to Dorian’s corruption of not only young women but young men: “There was that wretched boy in the Guards who committed suicide. You were his great friend,” Basil tells Dorian at one point. “There was Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave England, with a tarnished name. You and he were inseparable.” “At the Wilde trials of 1895, the opposing attorneys read aloud from ‘Dorian Gray,’ calling it a ‘sodomitical’ book,” Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker in 2011. “Wilde went to prison not because he loved young men but because he flaunted that love, and ‘Dorian Gray’ became the chief exhibit of his shamelessness.” advocate.com
  7. 13. City of Night by John Rechy City of Night, a 1963 novel by John Rechy, is a seminal piece of fiction that follows the life of a gay hustler in New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Through stream-of-consciousness narration, the reader gets a glimpse of queer life in mid-century America, with a long and fascinating cast of characters that includes drag performers, S&M practitioners, and sex workers. The book has inspired music from the Doors as well as a film by Gus Van Sant, My Own Private Idaho. "This epic chronicle of gay culture in the American sixties is as far-reaching as it is important, giving us a glimpse into identity and motive,” affirmed SJ Sindu, the author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies. 14. Stone Butch Blues, by Leslie Feinberg Well ahead of its time, Leslie Feinberg’s 1993 Stone Butch Blues, about Jess Goldberg, a butch working-class lesbian, took massive strides in breaking down the gender binary. A story that is both hopeful in Jess’s determination to forge an identity and heartrending in its depiction of violence against her for her daring to be herself, Stone Butch Blues endures as essential to the queer canon. Feinberg, whose bio reads “writer and transgender activist,” would in later years become known more for activism, but the landmark novel about Jess’s refusal to fit into a prescribed box for gender is arguably Feinberg’s legacy. 15. Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin Gay literature was forever changed the day Mary Ann Singleton first met her transgender landlady, Anna Madrigal, when she moved to San Francisco's 28 Barbary Lane. What began as serialized stories in the San Francisco Chronicle by writer Armistead Maupin became a 1978 novel. It was followed by a Tales of the City series of books, which chronicled decades of queer life in the Golden Gate City, including the AIDS crisis. Tales of the City was adapted in 1993 into a PBS television miniseries, which starred Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis. The pair are set to reprise their roles in an upcoming Netflix adaptation, proving the enduring power of Maupin's words. advocate.com
  8. 16. A Boy’s Own Story, by Edmund White A Boy’s Own Story is comparable to another literary classic, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The 1982 book by Edmund White, which begins with the first sexual encounter of a 15-year-old boy, is based on his own experiences coming to terms with his gay identity as a youth in the Midwestern United States. White would later write two additional novels, The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997), which follow his gay protagonist into young adulthood. Together, they form a poignant trilogy that chronicles a gay life in the latter half of the 20th century. 17. Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall Integral to the lesbian canon (despite its being considered somewhat problematic) British writer Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 novel focuses on Stephen Gordon, an upper-class lesbian who dons men’s clothing and becomes a novelist who eventually becomes a part of a literary salon in Paris at a time when there were no overt laws expressly barring homosexuality. Hall’s novel was groundbreaking in her introduction of the views of “sexologists” Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis, who posited that homosexuality was an inborn, unalterable trait that was considered a congenital sexual inversion that simply meant a “difference” and not a defect. The novel also stood trial on obscenity charges both in the United Kingdom where the book was deemed obscene and ordered destroyed, and in the United States, where it was eventually banned. advocate.com
  9. 18. Fun Home, by Allison Bechdel You might not expect to see a graphic novel in this list, but iconic cartoonist (and Bechdel test namesake) Alison Bechdel always takes the less traveled road. Off the success of her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, she created the deeply personal Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which touches on her dysfunctional relationship with her father through a lesbian lens. Chronicling Bechdel's confusing childhood in rural Pennsylvania, the book took seven years to create in Bechdel's laborious artistic process, which included photographing herself in poses that are drawn into each human figure. This queer exploration of broken family, unraveling emotions, and suicide was a New York Times best seller, and snagged nominations for the National Book Critics Circle Award and three Eisner Awards – becoming a mainstream critical and commercial success. The book was adapted into a musical, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. When it hit Broadway in 2015, it won the Tony Award for Best Musical. 19. Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann Some might say Death in Venice is not necessarily a gay novel, since there is no overt same-sex coupling or coitus. Others might say it's about a man with pedophilic tendencies. Then others might say it's brilliant. German writer Thomas Mann crafted this novella based on his own experience in Venice, where he caught sight of a handsome young man who captivated him, body and soul. Is Aschenbach, the 50-something protagonist, just fixated on beautiful objects, where human beings and centuries-old buildings are of equal lure? Or is it something more lustful and disturbing? It's difficult, in 2018, to divorce the rich subject of sexual desire from the fact that it revolves around a 14-year-old boy. But the novella's legacy endures, amd it serves as an important artifact of secret desire at the turn of the 20th century. advocate.com
  10. 20. Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta "This lyrical book is a wonderful story with a background of a civil war and a love story between two young girls on the frontlines. Wonderful book," gay refugee activist and columnist Danny Ramadan raves about the global-minded story. The book unpacks the emotional life of a young girl displaced by the Nigerian civil war who begins a gut-wrenching affair with a fellow refugee. These girls are from different ethnic communities, forcing them to face not only the taboos of being queer but the prejudices of surviving in a nation that is eating itself alive. "A great recollection of everything anyone would say in Nigeria against homosexuality using the defense of religion," explains David Nnanna Ikpo, the Nigerian author of Fimisile Forever. 21. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, published in 1985, is a semiautobiographical coming-of-age story about a girl growing up in a Pentecostal family in England’s industrial Midlands region. Winterson captures the weirdness of religious zealotry with the authority of someone who’s lived in this environment, and her portrayal of the young woman’s burgeoning lesbian sexuality – problematic in the Pentecostal world – rings true as well. Quirky and memorable secondary characters further enhance the novel, which made Winterson a literary star overnight, esteemed by both readers and fellow authors. “A beautiful piece of fiction, this novel takes us through the complicated relationship between religion and LGBTQ+ identity.”, says SJ Sindu, the prize-winning author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies. advocate.com
  11. 22. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham Cunningham’s 1998 novel, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award, tells three parallel stories involving queer characters in different times and places. In England in the 1920s, Virginia Woolf struggles with depression and writing Mrs. Dalloway, a novel to which Cunningham pays homage; in mid-20th-century Los Angeles, housewife Laura Brown, discontented with her life, confronts her attraction to women; and in 1990s New York City, Clarissa Vaughan, who is lesbian, plans a party for her best friend, writer Richard Brown, a gay man dying of AIDS. Cunningham weaves their stories together seamlessly and movingly in a novel that is deservedly recognized as a modern classic. The 2002 film adaptation, written by David Hare and directed by Stephen Daldry, received several Oscar nominations, and Nicole Kidman won Best Actress for her portrayal of Woolf. It costarred Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, and Ed Harris. 23. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara In 2015, when the novel was published, reviewer and author Garth Greenwell declared in The Atlantic, “A Little Life: The Great Gay Novel Might Be Here.” Hanya Yanagihara’s story of four friends — Jude, Malcolm, JB, and Willem — lasts over 700 pages as you witness the evolution of friendship and love between these men who met in college. We follow them for three decades, withstanding alongside them the waves of trauma that life so often sends. The friends survive together, as described in intensely vulnerable detail. Yanagihara talked with The Guardian about friendship and hardship. “We might all have had that feeling: as a friend, what is my responsibility to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved? Or tell someone to keep living when they don’t want to live?” Gay men are often blindsided by A Little Life’s penetrating clarity about what binds them or drives them apart. advocate.com
  12. 24. Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters Sarah Waters’s 1998 page-turner is the coming-of-age story of Nan, a Whitstable “oyster girl” (talk about a euphemism) circa 1890 who, upon taking in a show in her local theater, becomes smitten with the charismatic masher (male impersonator) Kitty. Waters’s heroine follows Kitty to London, where the more experienced woman schools Nan in the ways of impersonating a dapper dandy onstage. The pair begin performing as men together and become the toast of London’s music halls while simultaneously falling in love. Heartbreak eventually ensues and Nan is left to her own defenses on the streets in the big city. She dabbles in sex work to survive before she becomes a boy-toy for a wealthy older lesbian renowned for throwing Bacchanalian gatherings of women. Finally, though, without the trappings of a male alter ego, Nan comes into her own. The book, an immediate smash with queer women for its frank depiction of lesbian desire and of flirting with gender roles, was made into a 2002 BBC miniseries that reinvigorated interest in the novel, which won the Lambda Literary Award and earned a place on the New York Times list of notable books the year it was published. "Love the sensuousness of it, the unapologetic portrayal of Nan—the sex scenes," said Patty Smith, author of The Year of Needy Girls. 25. Faggots, by Larry Kramer Larry Kramer, a founder of ACT UP and the playwright of The Normal Heart, may be known for his vocal AIDS activism. But his 1978 novel, Faggots, was also a loud statement that portrayed the hedonism of gay New York City. The book features a cast of dozens of gay men, who variously engage in bathhouse orgies, use a slew of party drugs, and cavort in clubs with names like The Toilet Bowl and Fire Island. The book was condemned by numerous LGBT people upon its release for what many perceived as sex-negativity. But the ensuing AIDS crisis established Faggots as a bellwether of the storm to come. advocate.com
  13. Critics of the suppression of gay identity often conclude that, as homosexuality is normalized in broader culture, it will be in video games as well. A 2006 survey exploring gay gamers was the first academic study of any gamer group. With about 10,000 respondents, the survey exhibited a reverse bell curve of gamer sexuality, with most people identifying as either completely heterosexual or homosexual. A 2009 academic paper explored the cultural production of LGBT representation in video games and found that factors that would lead to a significant increase in LGBT content included: the presence of motivated producers in the industry (those that are personally, politically, or commercially interested in LGBT content), how the audience for a text or medium is constructed (what the public backlash from both the LGBT community and conservative groups will be, as well as industry-based reprisals in the form of censorship or ratings), the structure of the industry and how it is funded, and how homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender identities can be represented in the medium. wikipedia.org
  14. The belief that young, white, heterosexual males were the force driving the industry forward was strongly challenged by the record-breaking success of The Sims. Video game developer Maxis had resisted Will Wright's goal of creating the title on the grounds that "girls don't play video games." The title was seen as unappealing to young heterosexual males. In the 1990s, the industry began to make some effort to market games to women by creating software titles with strong, independent female characters, such as those in Tomb Raider and Resident Evil. Some video game companies are now moving to further expand their marketing base to include the perceived market of affluent homosexual young men by including LGBT characters and supporting LGBT rights. BioWare included female same-sex scenes in Mass Effect, female same-sex relationships in Mass Effect 2 and same-sex relationships for either gender in Mass Effect 3, and allowed sexual interaction between any gender groups in Dragon Age: Origins. In Dragon Age II, this was taken even further by allowing all romance-able party members to be romanced by either gender (with the exception of a particular DLC-only companion), as opposed to the first game's requirement of choosing between two bisexual rogues. Even some games that are considered to appeal mainly to the non-traditional demographic continue to censor homosexuality. For instance, despite the tremendous success of The Sims, even the most recent version of the franchise suppresses homosexual identity. Autonomous romantic interactions exist only for heterosexual characters by default. In The Sims 3, players must manually initiate multiple same-sex romantic interactions before a character will be "converted" to homosexuality and begin to engage in such interactions autonomously. The town will then be marked gay-friendly, unlocking the autonomy for other characters. If a player does not force at least one character to engage in same-sex advances several times, the player's town will have no visible homosexuality. wikipedia.org
  15. Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) In 1994, several top gaming publishers formed the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) as the trade association of the video game industry. Shortly after its creation, the ESA established the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to independently assign individual games content ratings and descriptors according to a variety of factors. Identification of sexuality falls under the sexual content description which is allowed for games rated Teen to Adults Only. Following the establishment of the ESRB, console developers relaxed their in-house regulations in favor of ESRB ratings. In 1994, Sega dissolved its Videogame Rating Council after only one year in existence. Asian games Most games made in Japan, Korea and Taiwan are produced for local audiences. In Japanese popular culture, gay and bisexual men were often considered bishōnen, which translates as "beautiful boys." This was also tied to the success in Japan of comic books and animation with open and subtle LGBT characters. A select genre of adult pornographic Japanese games called H-games includes gay male and gay female subgenres. This material generally does not make it over to the west in English, and western reviews of the gay male video games tend to see the homosexuality as a gimmick in an otherwise mediocre game. However, homosexuality, while relatively innocuous among celebrities in Japan, can still be considered an oddity due to Japan's regimented and conservative social structure. Despite a lack of strong social stigma, homosexuality in men is commonly misconstrued with transgenderism and transvestism in Japan and open homosexuality is rare, due to conformity. wikipedia.org
  16. Company policies Sega Like Nintendo, Sega policed the content of games for Sega systems. Unlike Nintendo, Sega's initial system of censorship was more liberal. Their content code allowed games to have blood, more graphic violence, female enemies, and more sexually suggestive themes. Although Sega allowed LGBT themes and characters in games sold for its home console systems, Sega often chose to tone down or erase LGBT characters when porting Asian games to American markets. In Phantasy Star II, a musician's homosexuality was edited so that the only acknowledgment of his sexual orientation was his practice of charging all male characters less money for his music lessons. In 1992, when Final Fight CD was released for the Sega CD and Vendetta was released for the Sega Genesis, minor transgender and homosexual enemies were censored. Sega's Streets of Rage 3 removed a gay villain wearing Village People attire and transformed a transsexual villain into a man with long hair. In 1993, Sega developed the Videogame Rating Council to give content-based ratings to all games sold for a Sega system, thus reducing the need for Sega to maintain a content code for its developers. When Rise of the Dragon was developed by Dynamix for the Sega CD, a transgender bar patron was retained from the original computer edition, as was a gay joke relating to the playable character mistaking his girlfriend for a man with long hair. As a result, the game was given the council's "MA-17" rating. wikipedia.org
  17. Company policies Nintendo In order to legally release a game for a Nintendo system, a developer must first obtain permission from Nintendo, which reserves the right to preview the games and demand changes before allowing their release. In this way, Nintendo exercises quality control and can prevent any content they deem objectionable or offensive from being released on their systems. Prior to the introduction of the Entertainment Software Rating Board in 1994, a game sold for a Nintendo system could neither display, nor make reference to, illicit drugs, tobacco and alcohol, violence against women, blood and graphic violence, profanity, nudity, religious symbols, political advocacy, or "sexually suggestive or explicit content." In 1988, a creature in Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. 2, the miniboss named Birdo, was described in the original instruction manual as thinking he was a girl and wanting to be called "Birdetta". This was later censored by Nintendo of America in future appearances of the character. In 1992, Enix was ordered to remove a gay bar from Dragon Warrior III, among other content changes, before the game could be sold for a Nintendo system. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) version of Ultima VII also had to be substantially altered from its original computer edition in order to remove potentially objectionable content, including ritual murders, and the option to have a male or female "bedmate" if the player paid a fee at the buccaneer-run island. By the late 1990s, Nintendo had largely abandoned these censorship policies, as they felt the inclusion of ESRB ratings on the packaging would suitably communicate to consumers whether potentially objectionable content could be found in the game. In 2000, British video game developer Rare released Banjo-Tooie for the Nintendo 64, featuring a gay frog bartender named "Jolly Roger." The frog wanted Banjo and Kazooie to rescue his co-worker, Merry Maggie, a cross-dressing amphibian who appeared to be Jolly Roger's lover. Jolly Roger would return as a playable character in the Game Boy Advance game Banjo-Pilot (2005). Rare would also release Conker's Bad Fur Day (2001) for the Nintendo 64, featuring an alcoholic squirrel named Conker and his adventures in a world where all of the characters are foul-mouthed creatures who made various dirty jokes in reference to hangovers, homosexuality and oral sex. Enix Corporation re-released Dragon Warrior III for the Game Boy Color and was allowed to keep all of the original content, provided the game was given a Teen rating by the ESRB. Although there is no policy anymore against featuring such content, Nintendo has come under fire for omitting the option of same-sex romance and LGBT expression in their franchises (as well as third-party games released on Nintendo Consoles) on several occasions, with the most notable and vocal controversy stemming from the video game Tomodachi Life. Marriage plays a big role in the game, which does not include the option of same-sex marriage. wikipedia.org
  18. Same-sex relationships Same-sex relationships as an option available to players in video games were first portrayed in the role-playing genre. The original Gameboy game titled "Great Greed" in the US and "Bitamīna Oukoku Monogatari" in Japan, released in September 1992, featured the possibility of your male protagonist's marriage to a variety of characters at the end of the game that included any of the king's daughters (except the eleven year old), the elderly court magician, the queen, and even the king himself. While possibly not the absolute earliest appearance of same sex relationships in video games it is much earlier than the current runner up Fallout 2. Fallout 2 (1998) was the second game to allow players to marry a character of the same sex, and Persona 2: Innocent Sin (1999) allowed players to engage in a same-sex relationship. Fable (2004) allowed same-sex marriage among a wide range of domestic activities. In life simulator The Sims (2000), the sexual orientation of characters was set depending on the player's actions. However, same-sex couples were described as "roommates", and they could not get married. Same-sex marriage was made available in the 2004 sequel Sims 2. BioWare's RPGs, including Baldur's Gate' (since 1998), Mass Effect (since 2007) and Dragon Age (since 2009) are particularly noted for their inclusion of LGBT characters and same-sex romance options. The Elder Scrolls series made same-sex relationships available in Skyrim (2011). Among Japanese RPG series, Final Fantasy allowed same-sex relationships with a patch to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2014, and Fire Emblem did so with Fire Emblem Fates (2016). The release of The Temple of Elemental Evil, a role-playing video game developed by Troika Games, created controversy in 2003 due to the availability of the option for a male character to enter a same-sex marriage. In the town of Nulb, a pirate named Bertram begins flirting with male characters in the party and offers a lifetime of love and happiness in exchange for his freedom. This relationship was noted as another example of video games "pushing the boundaries" by The Guardian. Game developers and publishers generally did not object to the inclusion of a homosexual story option. Criticism of the relationship came primarily from gamers who felt that gay characters should not be included in video games. Industry observer Matthew D. Barton commented on the irony of so-called "geeky gamers", subject to stereotyping themselves, stereotyping gays in their opposition. Producer Tom Decker defended the move, saying in an interview with RPG Vault: "I particularly felt strongly that since we had several heterosexual marriages available in Hommlet, we should include at least one homosexual encounter in the game and not to make it a stereotyped, over the top situation, but on par with the other relationships available in the game". Bertram was named #6 on GayGamer.net's Top 20 Gayest Video Game Characters. Undertale (2015) which won IGN's best PC Game of 2015 features a gender neutral playable main character, Frisk. During the game, depending on the route the player takes, may encounter a dating simulation in which the gender of both parties are unclear and a major plot line is the development of a lesbian relationship between Undyne and Alphys. The Outer Worlds (2019) features companion Parvati Holcomb, an asexual homoromantic, who can develop a relationship with Junlei Tennyson, a fellow engineer, with the help of the player by means of a sidequest. wikipedia.org
  19. LGBT visual novels and independent games Many visual novels and independent games are created by independent creators and may sometimes include or be focused on LGBT themes and narratives. Many of these narratives themselves sometimes come from a member of the development team and maybe a version of their personal story. These depictions tend to be more alike the struggles of being LGBT in the real world but often take place in universes where homosexuality is normalized and acceptable. In the 2013 exploration Visual novel Gone Home you take on the role of a young woman who returns to her dilapidated household which is mysteriously empty. By collecting Clues she uncovers that her sister has recently come out to her family as a lesbian and that it caused an issued between the protagonist's parents and the elder daughter herself. This leaves the house in disarray and makes it so you have a non-linear way of piecing together the situation. In the 2015 action-visual novel Life Is Strange, you take on the role of Max Caulfield who is an eighteen-year-old student and photographer who has discovered that she can turn back time at will. She uses this power to try and save her town after seeing its destruction in a vision in tandem with solving a mystery of a girl who had gone missing before the beginning of the story. Throughout the story Max’s main love interest is Chloe Price. Chloe is a friend from Max's childhood and helps Max’ throughout the series as they try to stop the destruction of their town together as they develop a better understanding of one another as both friends and lovers. Ultimately Life is Strange is met with some criticisms on the writing with the player ultimately having to choose between saving Chloe and letting all other characters and their town be destroyed or by letting Chloe die and saving the entirety of the town. In the 2017 independent visual novel Butterfly Soup you take on the respective roles of four queer Asian-American girls who attend their first year of high school and their local baseball club. The plot mostly follows the lives of Diya and Mihn-Soo and deals with many themes such as child abuse and homophobia but retains a very lighthearted theme overall. In the 2017 Visual Novel Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator the protagonist which is a created character, can assume the identity of a cisgender male, or a transgender male, and is also given the option to be bisexual or homosexual, which is denoted by having a conversation with the protagonist's daughter about her life up to this point. Most of the characters themselves don't reference their sexuality in any way, but some are clearly bisexual or at least, Bi-Curious, as evidenced by the character Joseph who in-game is married with a wife and several children but is still a romance-able character. The character Damian who is a romance-able option in the game is also revealed to be a transgender male at the beginning of his playable content as evidenced by his dialogue and his use of a chest binder. In the 2018 visual novel Monster Prom, you can play as one of four characters based on contemporary popular monsters in popular culture. Monster Prom is treated as a single-player experience and also a competitive experience. Monster Prom while more on the side of fantasy deals with themes like coming of age situations and a queer outlook on specific historical events, as well as Lovecraftian fiction and aesthetics. Monster prom also is the first major visual novel to include an option to identify as non-binary, with the option to use different pronouns at the beginning of the game. wikipedia.org
  20. Gay characters in fighting games Having gay male characters in fighting games can challenge the perception of homosexuality and masculinity. Nevertheless, hints about a particular character's sexual orientation in a fighting game often take the form of stereotypical femininity in an otherwise tough masculine character. In the Mortal Kombat series, Kung Jin is a homosexual character. The story mode of Mortal Kombat X features an exchange between Jin and Raiden that implies Jin's sexuality. Jin's homosexuality was confirmed by NetherRealm Studios cinematic director Dominic Cianciolo. The same game also implies that Mileena and Tanya are in a relationship, or at least show obvious attraction to each other. In Fighting EX Layer the character Sharon has been revealed to be lesbian. Making her one of the first openly lesbian characters in a fighting game. Gay characters in action games In 1996, Night Slave was a shooter RPG released for the PC-98 that have cut scenes in which occasionally contain lesbian adult content. The PlayStation 3 game The Last of Us (2013) was praised for its gay characters, including teenage protagonist Ellie. GLAAD, the American organization promoting the image of LGBT people in the media, named the supporting character Bill one of "the most intriguing new LGBT characters of 2013". wikipedia.org
  21. Transgender characters in video games Capcom created Final Fight for the arcade in 1989. The game involved players choosing among three fighters on a quest to save the mayor's daughter, who was kidnapped by a criminal gang known as Mad Gear. In 1990, Capcom presented Nintendo with a version of the game for the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). According to David Sheff's book Game Over, Nintendo stated that Capcom could not put a female enemy in a video game published for the SNES, as that violated Nintendo's ban on violence against women. Capcom countered that there were no female enemies in the game, revealing that the female characters Roxy and Poison were transsexuals. The characters were nevertheless removed from the international versions of the SNES port (the Japanese Super Famicom version retained the characters). However, in 1993, Sega obtained the rights to release the game for their Sega CD. In a sign of Sega's more liberal policies, Poison and Roxy could remain in the international versions, but with less-provocative clothing, and there could be no indication of their transgender status. (Sega of America later removed a homosexual boss and unlockable playable character called Ash from the international versions of Streets of Rage 3.) In the 2016 role-playing video game Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, there is an optional dialogue tree in which the cleric Mizhena mentions that she was raised as a boy, indicating that she is a trans woman. This, along with a reference to the Gamergate controversy, attracted contention resulting in online harassment and insults towards the developers, especially against the game's writer Amber Scott. The game's Steam, GOG and Metacritic pages were bombarded with complaints that the transgender reference constituted "political correctness," "LGBT tokenism", "SJW pandering" and pushing a political agenda. On an April 2016 post, Beamdog announced they would expand Mizhena's story, saying in part, "In retrospect, it would have been better served if we had introduced a transgender character with more development." Paul Tumburro of CraveOnline termed this as "spineless and disappointing" stating that Beamdog's founder Trent Oster refused to acknowledge the transphobic criticisms leveled at the game. In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, developers introduced a not obviously gendered character named Sheik. Eventually, Sheik is revealed to be Princess Zelda in disguise. Sheik never self identifies with any set of pronouns in the game; however, a character in the game refers to Sheik with male pronouns. Sheik's presence and gender ambiguity in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time created the “Sheik Gender Debate.” Two sides were taken in this debate – one that believed Sheik was simply cross dressing. The other side believed that Sheik was Princess Zelda assuming a male gender identity using some sort of magic. In 2014, Polygon asked Nintendo for a comment on the “Sheik Gender Debate.” Bill Trinen gave an official statement saying “The definitive answer is that Sheik is a woman – simply Zelda in a different outfit.” In the 2016 Nintendo game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Link cannot enter Gerudo Town unless he dresses up as a woman. The player must find a character named Vilia in order to buy the women's clothing for Link. Vilia outwardly appears female, but upon speaking to her, the noises made when she speaks are deep. During a dialog sequence between Link and Vilia, Vilia's face mask blows off in the wind to reveal – to Link's surprise – what appears to be facial hair. wikipedia.org
  22. A common method of introducing LGBT characters is to reveal their sexual orientation through gender inversion. A male character's homosexuality is often indicated by making him a sissy character with effeminate or flamboyant mannerisms, dress, and speech. The underlying assumption is that homosexuals are also frequently transgender and, therefore, possess mannerisms stereotypical of the opposite sex. This technique has been widely used in Hollywood movies (to circumvent the Production Code's ban on "sexual perversion"), as well as in Vaudeville. Although mainly used in video games for its comedic value, gender confusion has also been used as a tool to offer social commentary about sexism or homophobia. The censorship codes of Nintendo and Sega limited the usage of gender inversion to exclusion of cross-dressing until 1994. wikipedia.org
  23. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) characters have been depicted in video games since the 1980s. In the history of video games, LGBT characters have been almost nonexistent for a long time, reflecting the overall heteronormativity of the medium. While there has been a trend towards greater representation of LGBT people in video games, they are frequently identified as LGBT in secondary material, such as comics, rather than in the games themselves. Gamesradar’s Sam Greer pored through thousands of gaming titles and found 179 games with any LGTB representation: Of those 179 games, only 83 have queer characters who are playable characters. And of those, only eight feature a main character who is pre-written as queer as opposed to them being queer as an option. Depictions of LGBT characters A number of recurring tropes, themes and archetypes have developed in the gaming industry in regard to LGBTQ+ identity. These are similar to how other forms of popular culture, such as Hollywood films and TV shows, dealt with LGBTQ+ themes. As in other media, LGBT characters in games often suffer from the "bury your gays" trope, a long-lasting narrative convention that requires that LGBT characters die or meet another unhappy ending. According to Kotaku, these characters are "largely defined by a pain that their straight counterparts do not share". Facing challenges that "serve as an in-world analogy for anti-LGBTQ bigotry", they are defined by tragedy that denies them a chance at happiness. wikipedia.org
  24. Gentleman Jack In 2010, queer women went wild for the British TV movie The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, about a wealthy 18th-century British landowner who’s been dubbed the “first modern lesbian.” Now, Anne Lister’s story is getting the prestige TV treatment with an eight-episode series created and directed by Happy Valley’s Sally Wainwright and commissioned by BBC One and HBO. The series stars Doctor Foster’s Suranne Jones as Anne and Sophie Rundle as the object of her affection Ann Walker. Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones), Timothy West (Last Tango in Halifax) and Gemma Jones (Bridget Jones’s Diary), and Jodhi May (Sister My Sister, Tipping the Velvet) costar. Fosse/Verdon Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell headline Fosse/Verdon, a limited FX series that portrays the decades-long romance and creative collaboration between famed choreographer Bob Fosse and actress/dancer Gwen Verdon. Based on the book Fosse by Sam Wasson, the biographical show also stars Margaret Qualley as Ann Reinking and Norbert Leo Butz as Paddy Chayefsky. The Handmaid's Tale The critically-acclaimed Hulu series based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale managed to amp up the terror in its second season. And it was already as scary as hell in terms of how close to reality it truly is. The show that stars Elisabeth Moss as June, a woman trying to survive a near-future in which women are valued merely for the viability of their reproductive organs, told poignant stories about queer women in its freshmen season, introducing Samira Wiley’s Moira and Alexis Bledel’s Emily. But an episode in The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season that flashed back to the lead-up to the conservative uprising that led to the women's imprisonment telegraphed how easily hard-won rights could be snatched away under an authoritarian government. The season ended with Emily on the run and likely headed toward the resistance while June stayed behind in Gilead, presumably because she refused to leave her daughter from the time before behind. advocate.com
  25. Hair Live! NBC had a massive hit with Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert last year. Now, the out dream producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, are giving the counter-culture classic Hair the live treatment. The show, from queer creators James Rado and Gerome Ragni, will be directed by legendary helmer Diane Paulus (Broadway revivals of Hair, Porgy and Bess and Pippin) and Alex Rudzinzki, who is currently directing Rent Live for Fox. The original show included bisexual characters, but there’s no telling at this point if NBC will lean into the characters’ sexual orientation. The cast for Hair Live! has not been announced but fans are looking forward to seeing who will deliver classics like “Aquarius,” “Let the Sunshine In,” “Good Morning Starshine,” and “Easy to Be Hard.” The Good Fight The Good Fight is more than just a spinoff. The CBS: All Access series, which began with The Good Wife's Diane Lockhart as she joins a historically African-American law firm, was the first major television series to embody the spirit of The Resistance against the Trump administration. Cush Jumbo, Audra McDonald, and Rose Leslie, who portrays the lesbian character Maia Rindell, round out the central cast of strong women who try to bring law and order to a world filled with chaos. Also, last season they found the pee tape! Who knows what Michelle and Robert King, the creators of The Good Wife, will come up with to take on the Trump administration this season. The Bold Type In its first season, Freeform’s The Bold Type, about 20-something best friends, Kat (Aisha Dee), Sutton (Meghann Fahy), and Jane (Katie Stevens), traversing career, love, and the current state of politics in and around a socially conscious women’s magazine, had already established itself as breakout television. That first season saw Kat come out as bisexual as she fell hard for Adena, a lesbian Muslim (TV’s first) photographer played by Nikohl Boosheri. When Kat and Adena returned for season two they were a full-on couple, but the truth soon came out that Kat had yet to go down on Adena, a sticking point in the relationship. With humor and heart, a frank, thoughtful conversation about sex between women ensued — the likes of which had rarely, if ever, been addressed for queer women in TV or film. And there it was happening on the network that once was home to the religious show The 700 Club! This season the friends return to Scarlet magazine from fashion week in Paris with Sutton engaged to her one true love Richard, Jane caught between choosing between two guys, the show's central queer couple of Kat and Adena on the rocks, and the magazine's editor-in-chief Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) facing possible age discrimination. Beyond The Bold Type’s willingness to go there with talk about sex between women, the series also costars Stephen Conrad Moore, a same-gender loving man of color who portrays Oliver, the delightful gay head of the magazine's fashion department who becomes a mentor to Sutton. advocate.com
  26. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina After a spooky first season last fall on Netflix, everyone’s favorite teenage witch is coming back! Kiernan Shipka will return to her role as the spunky and occasional-worshipper of Satan, Sabrina Spellman, in season 2 of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Created by the gay mastermind behind Riverdale and Love, Simon, Greg Berlanti, it’s safe to assume that the camp and representation of season 1 will stick around for "part two" as Sabrina continues to navigate teenage boys and witchcraft. The show also features two prominent queer characters: Ambrose Spellman played by heartthrob Chance Perdomo and Susie Putnam played by Lachlan Watson. Killing Eve Killing Eve’s story is a far cry from its creator Phoebe Waller-Bridges's dark comedy Fleabag, but she manages to infuse the new series’ spy-thriller narrative with plenty of her signature bon mots. Golden Globe winner Sandra Oh finally gets a role worthy of her immense talent as Eve Polastri, a sardonic MI6 investigator who discovers the existence of a new female assassin wreaking havoc around the world. British TV veteran Jodie Comer plays Villanelle, the gorgeous bisexual polyglot of an assassin who becomes obsessed with Eve. The series is delicious, dark-humored fun bolstered by a solid cat-and-mouse plot. If that weren't enough, the inimitable out actress Fiona Shaw costars. Game of Thrones Since its 2011 debut, Game of Thrones — based on the novels by George R.R. Martin — has captivated LGBTQ and straight fans alike with its host of heroes, power-hungry villains, and fantastical creatures. The HBO series may be guilty of the "bury your gays" trope, as many queer folks met brutal and untimely ends during its run. However, many queer and gender-nonconforming characters, including Daenerys Targaryen, Brienne of Tarth, and Yara Greyjoy, remain, which gives us plenty to root for in this epic show's final season. advocate.com
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