12.30.2018

20gayteen Was Very Queer Indeed, As Told by My Netflix Viewing Activity

And Hulu and movie ticket receipts.


Everything Sucks!, 2018

My very queer year was led both by my personal growth as a lesbian, but also by my viewing habits. Sadly, my time in front of the screen seems to out-gay my own queer journey, as, let's face it, I was glued to the screen for far too many hours in 2018. I've been one of those diehard TV and movie stans ever since Glee hooked me in my middle school years; I still found time for it through my high school angst and my busy schedule come university. Hell, I even took a course on it last semester when I was studying in Stockholm. I've seemed to use the medium to direct my life, especially with gay content—even if my love life is miserably failing, at least I have my immense crush on the most definitely bisexual Faith Lehane from Buffy to rely on. Queer TV and film was, and still is, my escape from the heteronormative reality that could never satisfy me on its own. It's always been there for me when I've been down, like a pint of dairy-free ice cream—always makes me immediately feel better and doesn't make me feel like shit 20 minutes later.

And folks, the beginning of my 2018 was in desperate need of that pint of dairy-free ice cream, maybe ten pints. It was off to a rough start, as many of my Januarys are. But, as television always is, it was there to lift me from those pits of despair and make everything (temporarily) better. Of course, these lows could only be cured by the gayest of shows and films, making my viewing habits very queer, almost too queer—I'm pretty sure the only straight media I watched (and loved) was A Star Is Born. After finishing my year off with three iconic gay films, I realized that my whole year was filled with moments like these, as, well, it is 20gayteen. Many use the term to reference Hayley Kiyoko and other queer musicians, which was obviously very relevant to me, yet it feels even more fitting when applied to what I watched. Shall we go through those queer televisual moments, month by month, perhaps? 

Syd and Elena in One Day at a Time — S2E5: Locked Down

I started off my 20gayteen in February with One Day at a Time, which is a PG show meant for middle schoolers but that I also thoroughly enjoyed. It not only showcases one of the main characters, Elena, as a Latina lesbian, but she also dates the nonbinary character of Syd. And it's completely normalized! Also hilarious in a super cheesy, family-friendly way. Basically, I wish I had this show when I was growing up, and it also made me officially decide to only watch media with queer characters. Which led me to...

Emaline and Kate in Everything Sucks! — S1E10: We Were Merely Freshmen

Netflix also released Everything Sucks! in the same month, which is so good that I would gladly watch the short season several more times. For the first time ever, I actually saw myself in the lesbian character of Kate Messner, whose nuanced coming out process is so beautifully portrayed. Plus it's based in the '90s! Meaning Tori Amos and lots of gay '90s looks! Or better yet, a gay version of Freaks and Geeks. It got cancelled after the first season, which I'm still greatly disappointed about, but hey, at least we got the privilege of seeing Kate swoon over every lesbian couple she saw at the Tori Amos concert she went to.

Willow and Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer — S3E16: Doppelgangland

Although I've already seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer at least five times, come March, I decided to do another Buffy rewatch because 20gayteen. Although it's nowhere near as gay as the other ones I mention, this rewatch made me realize how queer the show can be with only two out lesbian characters. Besides the fact that Faith and Buffy were most definitely involved and that Willow and Tara are the number one lesbian couple in all of television's history, it also sprouted a huge fanbase for queer girls all around the world. I even did research on it in that TV class I mentioned earlier (click here if you want to see me geek out about Buffy for ten pages)! Buffy soon became a rite of passage for queer girls, kind of like The L Word but minus the R rating and instead with vampires and gay witches. What more could you want?

Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monáe in Dirty Computer

April was defined by the resurgence of my obsession with Janelle Monáe when she released Dirty Computer, both a musical album and an emotion picture. This 48 minute film pairs Monáe's genius music with a deeply personal narrative where Monáe's character, Jane 57821, plays a human coined by the term "dirty computer" due to her deviant identity of being a black queer woman. The film delves into her previous memories that are all very queer, and it's obvious that Tessa Thompson's major role in the film hints at a possible relationship IRL. No matter what is reality and what is fiction, it's certain that Monáe's work makes me really happy to be gay.

Shane and Alice in The L Word — S4E5: Lez Girls

I hate to be every lesbian out there, but The L Word will forever be a show I can watch over and over again, which I did in July when I was starting to feel those end-of-summer blues. Apart from its problematic attitudes towards bi and trans people, although it does have its moments of trying to be inclusive, this show is the guiltiest pleasure for any gay woman. More of a queer rite of passage than Buffy, but less quality and more lesbian drama that is so irresistible. I always go back to it because it's the only show that has literally zero straight characters, but more so because determining my L Word placement is far too fun. Currently, I'm a Dana who wants to be a Helena who wants to date a Shane. What about you?

Alia Shawkat and Laia Costa in Duck Butter

In the same month, I watched Alia Shawkat's film Duck Butter on Netflix, which is SO UNBELIEVABLY GOOD. Anything that Shawkat stars in will inevitably be watched by me, so after finding out that she wrote and acted in a super gay film where she and the wildly attractive Laia Costa spend 24 whole ass hours being together and having sex on the hour, I immediately clicked play. I might be biased because I'm in love with the both of them, but it's an extremely raw film that perfectly encapsulates queer intimacy in a sort of gross but very emotionally real way. GO WATCH IT NOW.

Casey and Izzie in Atypical — S2E9: Ritual-licious

Come September, I started yet another show solely because I saw on Tumblr that one of the characters, Casey, might be queer. Commence my watch of Atypical, a delightful series that depicts a semi-disorderly family, including a son who's on the spectrum and a daughter who's navigating her possible bisexuality. I won't give away too many spoilers, but Casey, once again, reminds me of myself so much when I was coming to terms with my queerness, making me only wish to watch shows that have actually relatable queer female leads. Plus, she always wears the most wonderfully gay 'fits, and the actress who plays her is somehow even cooler than her character (and also queer!).

Isak and Even in Skam — S3E5

It's October, and I still don't know how to stop rewatching shows! This time, it was my fourth  rewatch of season three of Skam, which is probably my favorite show in the universe, right next to Buffy. I was inspired solely because this was my second month living in Sweden (yes, I know it's Norwegian). If you want to discover the magic of Scandinavian media but also watch the most honest portrayal of a gay teen coming to terms with his sexuality (among many other things), give it a watch! The other three seasons are also excellent, but not as gay, if you were curious.

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody

All that needs to be said here is that I've been a diehard Queen fan for the past 12 years and that watching Bohemian Rhapsody in November was everything I've ever wanted and more and that Rami Malek's rendition of Mercury was frighteningly good and that I want all of his outfits and that (finally) it portrays the musician as super, undoubtedly queer. Gayest movie of 2018, possibly?

Leila and Sadie in The Bisexual

The under-the-radar show titled The Bisexual was watched in a single day in November, as it's only six short episodes long. In my honest opinion, this show is so insanely good that every queer person should be required to watch it. Created by and starring Desiree Akhaven, who also directed The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Appropriate Behavior, both very queer films, the series showcases the character Leila who grapples with her possibly shifting sexuality after being in a longterm relationship with a woman. It throws every misconception of bisexuality in the trash and displays the notion of queerness post coming-of-age as this messy, even uncomfortable navigation that seems even less figured out than our pre-coming out years. In a world where so few honest bisexual representations exist, this show was very much needed. More people need to watch this! You heard it from me first!!!

Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in The Favourite

We've hit a gay home run, ladies! December was the queerest month of viewing habits, as I just left Stockholm and am feeling very, very sad about it. So commence all the gay media! I discovered my huge crush on Rachel Weisz after watching The Favourite and Disobedience in the span of two nights. The Favourite may just steal Bohemian Rhapsody's prize for being the gayest movie of 2018 because, you guys, this movie is so gay that the male characters only exist as meaningless and laughable plot fillers. It's Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone trying to out-gay each other for Queen Anne's affection, and it's so ridiculous and strange that queer can describe it in more ways than one. And with Disobedience, an entirely different story emerges—Rachel Weisz's character of Ronit returns to her previous Orthodox Jewish life to only find unresolved feelings for Esti, aka Rachel McAdams, her childhood friend who she most definitely was (and still is) in love with. Lots of gay tears, basically. Also a very dangerous decision to watch both in such a short time span, as I've decided I'm madly in love with Rachel Weisz and literally can't stop thinking about her and how she's somehow 28 years older than me.

Mac in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia — S13E10: Mac Finds His Pride

This one may not seem very fitting, but this month I finally finished It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on Hulu, which is way queerer than you might assume [major It's Always Sunny spoilers coming up, btw]. I've been on-and-off watching the show for years, and this year I finally got to the episodes where the character of Mac comes out as gay several times, as he's denied this identity probably three times as much due to his Christian faith. I watched the show solely because of how ridiculously funny it is, but this gay addition makes it all the more better. The show never took itself seriously until season 13 that was released this year, where it ended with Mac attempting to find his place in the world as a gay man. He comes out to his imprisoned father through a super emotional contemporary dance that resembles his inner storm, as displayed by his vision of dancing with God, who is also a woman, in a storm. Tears were shed for the first time in all of my It's Always Sunny viewing history. It's like the writers knew it was 20gayteen and I was watching.

Agnes and Elin in Fucking Åmål

I had to end 20gayteen with a bang, so I went for a Swedish classic to celebrate my very queer time in Stockholm with Fucking Åmål (or titled Show Me Love in English). I definitely sold one of my limbs to find a version with English subtitles, but it was entirely worth it, as this is the cutest gay flick that has ever existed. I'm not sure if it's because they're Swedish or because it was released in the '90s, but this coming-of-age film is way too wholesome for my gay heart and makes me wish I found love as a teen. It strangely depicts queerness in a non-fetishy way for something made in the '90s, and it also has the most iconic coming out/ending scene in the entirety of all movies. So now all I can do is wish you luck on finding English subtitles, or you can buy the DVD if you happen to live in the past and still own a DVD player.

In short, it's become apparent that I watch way too much TV, honestly an embarrassing amount, and I should probably temporarily deactivate my Netflix account and do something with my life. Or, I can wait for 2019 and hope there's even more queer media. Happy watching, girls and gays!

Did you watch anything notably queer this year that I didn't? Comment them below; I love new recommendations!


11.16.2018

Hygge: A Meaningless Word to Some, a Fashion Statement to Others

Definitely easier to pull off than to pronounce correctly.




Just to clarify: hygge is a Danish concept, not a Swedish one. We have fika and even the term mysig (which is basically impossible to translate in English, but mostly means "cozy" that can only be visually described by being next to a blazing fire inside a Swedish cottage in the winter), but hygge is strictly a Danish thing. It feels that it can only be reserved for Denmark because it also, like mysig, has no direct English translation. Google Translate refers to it as "fun," which feels very, very wrong, especially as I visited Denmark earlier this month and "fun" is not the way to describe my experience.

Cozy? Exciting, but in a lowkey way? Happy-inducing, but again, in a lowkey way? A combination of all three? Hygge. That's better. Even if I can't put into words what my five-day long hygge adventure was like, I know that hygge is the proper term. Think warm coffee shops with friendly staff that you can spend hours in; cozy bars that specialize in the best Danish beer; even just spending hours of your vacation lying in bed because it's too cold outside, but without feeling severe amounts of fomo. That's hygge for ya, at least my perception of it. If you're Danish and think I'm completely wrong on this interpretation, please call me out on it. But otherwise, I'd like to bring hygge to my attitude every winter. It makes freezing temps and seasonal depression so much more fun!

The past two winters I've experienced have been more than miserable. Having to wear five different layers and dealing with little to no sunlight always put me in some sort of funk that only spring and summer would get me out of. Now, of course being in Sweden, this funk is heightened—it's way colder and the sun sets two hours earlier than back in the states (I'm writing this at 3:30pm and it is pitch black outside, btw). The past week has given me a glimpse of what seasonal depression is truly like, and folks, it's nothing I would wish on even my worst enemies. Getting myself to leave my (warm!) apartment just to see the sun for five or less hours feels futile, and attempting to enjoy my last month in this city is really, really hard. But for some odd reason, getting dressed in this sad, sad weather is one of the few things that I find exciting. Fall in Stockholm got me weirdly excited, which was already unexpected enough, but now winter? Honestly, I'm just confused. I've been a summer gal through and through; colorful vintage dresses and various mules have been my style saviors the past few years. But now that I'm forced to face the dark void that is Sweden, I guess I better embrace the Danish concept and bring hygge to everything I do, style included.

Sweater and jeans are vintage. Turtleneck by J. Crew (I will stand by the tissue turtleneck until my dying day, btw). Shoes are unknown, but I like these a lot.

Of course, my journey with hygge began in Denmark, of all places. The wind that literally blew me over multiple times forced me to wear a turtleneck under my thickest of sweaters and not touch anything but my tried and true vintage Levi's. I followed this outfit recipe for the next four days, half in Aarhus and half in Copenhagen, and I now call this trip my test run for how to dress for Swedish winters. I used to be against the idea of style uniforms, I embraced them for a bit when winter ruined me just one year ago, and now I realize that Scandinavia is a place that not only encourages, but requires a sartorial uniform. It's too cold to experiment! My months spent worrying about my fashion sense going down the drain from living here vanished as I realized that mixing and matching turtlenecks and sweaters is actually really fun. If I'm feeling more adventurous, I can swap a sweater for a button-up and leave it unbuttoned most of the way to show off my trusty turtleneck. I can switch my classic Levi's for a pair of purple corduroys I thrifted earlier this year to fight the stereotype that Swedes only wear black in the winter (which, by the fact, is very true). Hygge paved the way to a winter that can actually be fun in terms of style; outfit repeating is not frowned upon here. It's celebrated! Maybe I have worn this pair of jeans everyday for the past two weeks. But it's sad and cold and dark, we have better things to worry about than if we're wearing a pair of pants five times too many. 

This style epiphany has also translated to other parts of my Swedish experience; I've been more okay with spending time by myself, specifically in the confines of my warm apartment, than having to be busy 24/7. Getting out into the city just to enjoy an hour-long fika might be a minor accomplishment, but it's still an accomplishment! Hygge may directly translate to fun, but it could mean the opposite—taking time to decompress is the best thing for our mental clarity, especially when this lack of sunlight is driving me to week-long depressive episodes. So if all you can put together is a turtleneck under a sweater with the pair of jeans you wear way too often, congratulate yourself—winter is hard.


And then I couldn't help but wonder... can hygge even be translated to the warm summer months?


10.14.2018

Can We Make Big Gay Energy a Thing?

In celebration of National Coming Out Day being three days ago.


Faith and Buffy giving off major BGE, even if they were never canonically queer in the Buffy universe.

About a few months ago, a now friend that I had just met at the time messaged me "you give off major bge (big gay energy)". Throughout my 20 years of existence, I think this had to be the greatest compliment I've ever received; even better than people telling me that I'm their style inspiration or that my writing influenced their own creative work.

And then I thought—is looking outwardly queer, especially for women, something us queer ladies strive to embody? In a world where coming out of the closet is neverending and being assumed straight is more than irritating, giving off major BGE, or as others call it, Big Dyke Energy*, can feel more than comforting. It's not only empowering, but it legitimizes our existence without disclosing our entire coming out narratives. I feel like I've spent the last three years attempting to craft the perfect "gay look," which may have started to rub off on my personal style in the past year. After all this time of experimenting with femininity and masculinity (and a mixture of both), I realized that just dressing true to my personal style which, by the way, is pretty tricky to genuinely find, might just do the trick (maybe along with a short haircut, too). And now I've reached my peak—at least one person thinks I have BGE! Is this it for me? Will my (now extremely minimal) internalized homophobia and cautiousness of coming out in certain situations finally end?

That last sentence is why BGE is not an Internet trend like Big Dick Energy, but more like a source of empowerment that can change the way we think about our own identities in a society that favors BDE over BGE. It's not about having to fit into this certain queer look that excludes many bodies and representations, but about having your own sense of queerness that exudes with every action you make—the way you dress, the way you go about your everyday life, the way you dismantle the heteropatriarchy simply with your existence. Not only is it super radical and political, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. Who doesn't love queering things up?

An even more enjoyable activity than having your own BGE is seeing who else carries this same superpower. Seeing others with it is similar to the infamous lesbian glance where you essentially know if someone is gay if you mutually get "the eyes" from them; it's not always sexual, it's simply a mutual agreement that you both are very, very queer. This one look can be even more powerful than BGE, and combining the two is a rare occurrence that I have only witnessed once or twice in my life. The best part about BGE? It doesn't necessarily matter how they identify, and you never have to truly know, either. They may be a certified gold-star lesbian, they may be bisexual, they may be questioning their sexuality and experimenting with BGE to figure some things out. At the end of the day, there's a lot of autonomy without having to outwardly state how you identify—BGE is both simpler but also a skill that could be fairly difficult to master.

Some examples, you might ask?

Faith Lehane from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Faith Lehane, aka the queerest character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and might I add the first person, at least in my mind, to master BGE. Faith was never actually canonically gay in the show, sadly, but compared to the other two identified lesbian characters, Faith exudes BGE. Many fans, including myself, hoped she was queer the minute we met her, and we especially hoped that her budding friendship with Buffy was a bit more than a friendship. Apart from her super queer style, she did whatever the fuck she wanted, would never listen to authority, and was presumably very anti-man. Although she did have many flings with men, she never excluded women, and her flirting with Buffy was far too obvious for a straight girl. And here's where the magic of BGE comes in—you can still have it without having to identify as anything. Especially when you made every queer viewer swoon during the entirety of season three.


King Princess (aka Mikaela Straus) is, by definition, the queen of BGE. If you scroll through her wonderful, wonderful IG feed, you will immediately understand. While Faith is a bit subtler with her BGE, KP is not only out and proud, but she seems to embody her gayness unlike any other. Shamelessly calling herself Shane from The L Word is the first sign; captioning a photo of her and her girlfriend "gay dyke hoes" is more proof.


And here's her girlfriend, also a queen of BGE! There's scientific evidence that couples who both give off BGE will rule the world one day.

Shane McCutcheon (left) and Carmen de la Pica Morales (right) from The L Word

You could argue that every lesbian on The L Word has BGE in their own, unique way, but most people see Shane from The L Word as the expert. She not only attracted every queer girl out there (characters and viewers alike), but she also broke all of their hearts. However, most of us want our hearts to be broken by Shane McCutcheon. A queer rite of passage, I suppose? Bonus points for when she found someone with equal amounts BGE, aka Carmen de la Pica Morales, and decided to stick with her for a while. Were they soulmates because their relationship was a constant battle for who had the most BGE? Maybe.



A post shared by AMY ORDMAN (@amyordman) on

Another realm of BGE is found in the lesbian and queer community of Youtubers who I, ashamedly, only discovered this past summer and soon became obsessed with. The three above include two of my favorites, Alexis G. Zall and Amy Ordman, who are IRL best friends but constantly joke about how they are twins, dating, or both. Their vids are full of BGE as they overtly make content about their gayness, but even queerer are their lives displayed on social media. They've seemed to create a squad of only queer women (mostly from Youtube) that are chockful of BGE, making it a friend group I would glady be a part of. More evidence that the power of BGE comes in numbers.

Yorkie from San Junipero

BGE might seem excluding of the quiet gays, but fear not! Yorkie from San Junipero is the perfect example of carrying equal amounts of introversion and BGE—the two are not mutually exclusive, if you were curious. I've already discussed her BGE style, but her essence is extremely refreshing for what a lot of BGE entails. She's obviously very in love with women (one woman, in particular) and is, at least later in the episode, entirely shameless about it. She proves that you don't have to be a "social gay" to still have BGE—all that's required is an unconditional love for other ladies and knowing how to pull off a pair of Bermuda shorts.


My list can keep going; Kristen Stewart, Ellen Page, Syd of The Internet, Janelle Monáe, and Hayley Kiyoko are just a few others of the thousands that have this energy. While everyone I've mentioned is a fictional depiction or a celebrity that we will probably never be able to connect with on a personal level, they represent the endless possibilities we could have in this lifetime—to find a community stronger than any other just with the magic of BGE. In an age where being proud of your queerness is either "too much" or only allowed for certain individuals and identities, it feels necessary to reclaim the notion of being too "out and proud." Whether you're your own BGE icon, you found your future wife through the powers of BGE, or you and your queer pals all mutually share it, BGE can be greater than we ever once imagined. More than a fad, perhaps?

Next time you're asked what your first choice in superpowers would be, try saying to have massive amounts of Big Dyke Energy—maybe your dreams will come true.


*I like to use BGE here instead of BDE because Big Dyke Energy has the same acronym as Big Dick Energy. Also, BGE is more inclusive! But, if you do identify as queer, saying Big Dyke Energy does the trick, too. I say both, depending on my mood.

9.23.2018

I'm Excited for Fall for the First Time in Years

My first favorite season is making a comeback into my heart.



Today is the FIRST day of fall! And it's so, well, romantic. The drop in temperature forces us to think about the people in our lives—the ones who literally keep us warm (cuffing season is upon us!) or, to be more figurative, the ones we go to when we're feeling down from the change in seasons. It's all about safety blankets! Sweaters and turtlenecks are even appropriate for this season, especially in Stockholm where their summer feels like my fall and their fall feels like my winter, and so on. Iced coffee shifts to warm cappuccinos (with oat milk, please), and if I'm going to be honest, iced coffee has got to be the least charming beverage that exists. Nine times out of ten it's taken on the go, grasping onto the cold condensation is a very unenjoyable sensation, even in the summer, and plastic straws are the last thing our planet needs right now. My summer-loving self would never find these flaws, but now that I've accepted autumn back into my life, that oat milk cappuccino seems to be calling my name, especially since I have fika at least twice a day. I'm also a big fan of ankle boots again, my leather jacket has been glued to my body for the last week, and I weirdly enjoy having to wear enough clothing to keep warm in 50 degrees. 

This is strange.

I haven't full-heartedly enjoyed this season ever since I became obsessed with sunlight and wearing as little clothing as possible. But something about fall in Stockholm strips all its negativities and makes it feel like, as I said earlier, the most romantic season to exist. And not just in the couple-y way; I can enjoy this season to its fullest extent without an S.O. It's romantic in the sense that every single detail of a moment, no matter how minuscule, feels poetic, and that simply existing outdoors even when it's below 50 makes my soul feel good. It's inexplicable, but oftentimes, there's no explanation for love.

So! Now that I've fallen in love with this season again, it feels fitting to also fall in love with its style once more. Now that my personal style has done a 180 approximately 17 times since I claimed this season to be the best, I'm forced to seek out which autumn 'fits are worthy. Three years ago, I used to constantly layer sweaters over dresses with over-the-knee socks and ankle boots and title this my go-to (I'm pretty sure I owned at least six pairs of those types of socks, which is strange for someone who did not attend private school). Was I trying to be Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom? Without a doubt. But now that I have added a layer of queerness and vintage pieces to my style identity, this high school look just feels wrong. To find the fall pieces that would match my newfound love for this season, I decided to do what any student abroad obsessed with vintage would do—go on a thrifting adventure to seek out the best of the best in Stockholm.

If you were unaware, Stockholm has some of the best thrifting in the world. Maybe this is just my own opinion, but its selections and prices easily beat any Seattle or Brooklyn vintage shop. In the past five weeks I've been here, I've managed to thrift at least once a week and spend far less than I would at home but leave with pieces I love so dearly that I wear them at least twice a week. A few tops, one slip dress, and one pair of snakeskin pants later, I discovered the dress of my dreams. What does it look like, you ask?



Dress is vintage from POP Stockholm. Jacket by Madewell.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this fantastic thrift store that only sells vintage from the '50s to '90s—no later. Not to be dramatic, but the minute I walked in my eyes immediately spotted the dress you see above. Was this love at first sight? Definitely. I knew we would enter a long-term relationship after I tried it on and it fit too perfectly. Combining the beauty in thrifting and my infatuation with autumn made this a magical, or, dare I say, romantic experience. After purchasing it and wearing it three times in one week in three different ways, I decided it would be fun to approach fall style in a very literal sense—to physically look like the season. In this case, the color scheme on the dress exactly mimics the changing colors of fall, and weirdly enough, it also matches the buildings behind me in Södermalm that should be in a brochure to entice tourists to visit in October. I paired it with my black leather jacket and black boots and at first felt strange to not wear any light or bright colors, but then realized how well I fit in—apparently every Swede only wears dark colors when the temps start to drop. Although I only find it fun to wear bright colors in the midst of a dark and depressing winter, I also think I can get used to this autumn thing. I've been told time and time again that study abroad is all about change. I said in a previous post that Stockholm almost feels too fitting for my style and personality, but maybe, just maybe, my identity will shift a smidge, possibly to its best form, as a result of my time here. Change is good, no?


Photos taken by Josie.


8.29.2018

Stockholm's Style Feels Far Too Personal

Not like an invasion of privacy, but more like we're already best friends.



Approximately 18 months ago, I decided that I would move to anywhere in Scandinavia for at least a semester. My deep, insightful reason was that it just felt right, but in actuality, it was because I just finished watching the first three seasons of SKAM in only four days during my winter break freshman year. Norway seemed so cool! So me! I had never gotten a glimpse of what Scandinavian culture was like until the show—all I assumed was that everyone was blonde and that it was freezing year-round (both myths, I later discovered). After watching the Norwegian show three more times in the same year, I was not only infatuated with the idea of living there, but married to it. I began following far too many Scandinavian style icons on Instagram, becoming familiar with Scandinavian culture and lingo, and then eventually deciding to study gender and sexuality studies in Stockholm for a semester.

And guess what?

That semester is now!

Yes, I'm currently in Stockholm for the next four months if you were unaware and/or not paying attention to my recent IG posts. I stepped into this fascinating city about two weeks ago, and although I only know how to say about five words in Swedish, I feel like I've finally come home. My summer move to NYC last year doesn't even come close. The independent, reserved, and non-hierarchal nature of Swedes feels too familiar to my own personality, and the idea that fika, aka taking a break from your busy day with coffee, a bun (cardamom is my favorite, btw), and friends is a highly practiced event here makes me never want to return to the states where long work days and minimal breaks are very much a thing. And then I think of the evergrowing queer scene here, as well as its feminist policies and laws, and I feel like I should extend my stay to far longer than a few months. All I know is that returning home come December will be a hell of a lot harder than the depressing few days after a week-long vacation in Spain or France, as I probably will become that person who comes out of her abroad experience as a "changed person." 

But if I feel like my best and truest self here, am I actually changing or just shifting to who I'm meant to be?

Existential soul-searching aside, I also mean this in terms of style. As I say time and time again, style and identity are deeply enmeshed, so it would make all the sense that both my style and identity fit perfectly into the complex puzzle of islands that is Stockholm. After living here for a short two weeks, I've observed that Swedes agree with the notion that style and identity are inseparable. Answering the question of which came first, style or identity, is near impossible, as each consequently influences each other on a day-to-day basis. It feels that no one attempts to mask their true selves with what they put on their body; instead, it simply highlights who they are, or at least think of themselves to be. This theory of mine brings in a whole lot of style diversity, a lack of overplayed trends, and, most importantly, some really cool outfits. Even just during my commute from my apartment to class, I can easily make a long list of all the looks that both emphasize this style-identity dynamic but also that I could bring to my own style (personal style is destined to be influenced by others, if you forgot). Then I realized what exactly makes Stockholm's style so good, so personal, and so, so familiar—people simply dress to embody what they believe their best selves to be. That's the exact mindset I bring to my sartorial decisions, so maybe I really am Swedish at heart. Should I just call my family now and say I'm never coming home?

Dress and shorts are vintage. Shoes by Madewell.

While I already see myself dressing like a true Stockholmer when in the states, being here has brought this tendency out even more, where there are only two criteria I need to follow: a) comfort and b) unconventionality. It may seem strange to put these two antonyms together, but let me explain—comfort simply means to wear what I feel best in, while to be unconventional means to wear something unexpected from the norm. As I already stray towards weirder styles, these two requirements don't feel too difficult to follow. Another non-requirement, but something that Swedes definitely lean towards, is to wear mostly thrifted pieces, which is something I already do on the daily. Although I am in the home of H&M, both large-scale and boutique-style vintage stores greatly outnumber fast fashion. A wonderful, wonderful discovery, yet a curse to my bank account (which, by the way, is already dwindling, as Stockholm is one of the most expensive cities in Europe). 

So! To make my Stockholm style dreams come true, I did the unexpected, but also the expected for what I would typically wear—a vintage red '90s babydoll dress partially tucked into some denim Bermudas with a pair of white loafers. Summer is the peak time for Swedes to dress, as the long, warm days bring out the best in its residents. Color! Really cool shoes! Shorts cut at unexpected lengths! As temps are already dropping and short days will become a reality very soon, the time to dress is now. They'll spend all of their waking hours outdoors, even if it's raining, just to get the last bits of sun. So why not show off? It's never to show that they think they're better than others (they're non-hierarchical, remember?); rather, it's to show that they put effort into the sartorial side of their lives. Creatures of style, I suppose? And, once again, I already feel like everything I've been doing my entire life works too well with how the Swedes do it. This sense of familiarity makes this big move less frightening than it should be. Hopefully I'll be able to survive the cold and 3pm sunsets come December.



8.14.2018

My Gay Italian Summer Dream Is Still Calling Me by My Name

More than six months later.



I feel like I've run into something painfully sharp. A knife? Have I been stabbed?

Oh? It's just the end of summer, you say? I'd call that just a bit more painful than being stabbed. Dramatic, yes, but also entirely honest. The end of summer feels like all of my joy and success is instantly stripped from my life and I only have the month of August to blame. I dream of this season for nine months a year; how is it already over?!

But then I remember—with summer ending also comes my ~*~big move~*~ to Stockholm. Yeah, that's happening today, and I'll be residing in a beautiful European city for the next FOUR MONTHS! The sharp knife turns into a dull one, maybe even just the corner of my notebook that leaves a tiny papercut. Papercuts suck for about five minutes, but they heal so quickly that I'll forget I even had one in two hours. Kind of like the end of this summer—I'll dearly miss the blistering sun and lazy, sweaty days for only some time, but then my transition to greater things acts like a band-aid to that temporary pain. I guess we should all move to trendy European cities post-summer break to relieve our sadness. 

But still, my bittersweetness lingers on the bitter part, as I have to say goodbye to breezy outfits and sunburns and getting freckles in spots that wouldn't normally get them unless they're exposed to sunlight for at least five hours. Also barely-there dresses, ice cream, and dancing to '80s pop (outdoors, obviously). Basically this entire list, or alternatively the narrative of Call Me By Your Name, the book and movie you thought I would stop talking about five months ago. Surprise! I actually still think about it at least three times a week since I saw it last December. My strange Timothée Chalamet phase is somewhat over (I, being a lesbian, was very confused with this infatuation), but my infatuation with this narrative isn't, and now that I was able to bring this into an actual, real-life summer, it feels all the more significant.

No, I didn't spend my summer in Italy and I definitely didn't fall in love. BUT! I did become more confident in my queer identity (thanks to Pride and my newfound interest in writing on queer topics), spent hours by a pool reading (and eating peaches, how on brand!), took a bus for quick weekend trips not once but three times, and had this strange sense of adventure that Elio and Oliver definitely had but I used to lack. Sounds like a gay Italian summer dream, if you ask me, minus the Italy part. 

But my style! That's what I've been looking forward to all these months—to bring that sense of effortless summer that each character perfects in the film to my clothing. I want to wear button-ups with only one button buttoned, damnit! Maybe a floral dress and easy shoes, maybe some Bermuda shorts. I want to show as much skin as possible! Go topless on a beach! Wear as much stripes as possible, and master the art of summer layering. I want shoes to be optional, and I definitely want shirts to be unnecessary. I sometimes even scroll through screencaps from the film while shopping, which can go so far (too far?) to imitation.


The shirt I'm wearing above was not only on my body at least once a week since I bought it in June, but it also directly imitates my favorite shirt that Elio wears (again and again) in the film:


The best part? It's vintage, so it probably is from the '80s. How authentic! But the worst part is that imitation is not personal style. How can I dig deeper?

Shorts are vintage and cut by me (find similar ones here). Top is from Urban Outfitters. Mules are by & Other Stories

Shorts are probably the staple of this film, do I just wear shorts more often? Trade in my mini dresses for shorts and billowy tops? Feels too easy, and too overdone—I own a single pair of denim cutoffs that I cut way too short and a single breezy top that I throw on whenever I'm too lazy to think about my outfit. I guess that means I have to raid some thrift shops until I find a pair that can actually act as acceptable pants, maybe swap the loose top for some loose shorts, even? 

I stumbled upon these hot pink and linen AND knee-length shorts while thrifting in Brooklyn when I was there for NYC Pride. I instantly purchased them after successfully trying them on as they were a) only $3 b) would be perfected with a quick DIY hemming and c) the perfect finish to my Pride outfit that I would wear two days later. A month after Pride, I saw these hidden in my closet and decided that they would transcend their single purpose for Pride and become the way to make all my gay Italian summer dreams come true. Paired with a tan tube top and my go-to mules (that I desperately need to replace), I felt inspired by the film but not imitating. I felt my personal style shine through the mix of feminine pink and masculine, well, Bermuda shorts, of all things. But most importantly, the essence from Call Me by Your Name that I loved so dearly is very much present. 


After taking this fashion risk I would have never attempted until now, even after reading countless Man Repeller articles on how groundbreaking the Bermuda short is, I felt that I could only wear shorts of this length for the rest of my life. CMBYN really knew what they were doing! I promptly bought some denim ones and cut just a few inches off:

Photo from my Instagram

and have officially decided that I would like to wear these throughout the fall and even winter, even though that will be fully impossible in the freezing winds of Sweden.

So, I guess my breakup with a dreamy, breezy summer is bound to happen soon. But, as always, one can always dream.

7.26.2018

Janelle Monáe Showed Me What a Queer Space Should Truly Look Like

Her music extends far past hard-hitting vocals and catchy singles.


Photo from her Instagram, @janellemonae.

The first time I was introduced to Janelle Monáe was at a different time than most—no, it wasn't with "Tightrope" that practically soundtracked every commercial in 2011 or even with the release of Dirty Computer this year that changed everything I once knew about pop music. It was in 2009, the year that my dance teacher decided to only use songs from Monáe's first album for the competition jazz group dances for each company at the studio. I vividly remember dancing to "Violet Stars Happy Hunting!" and the older company dancing to "Many Moons"—two songs that portray Monáe's motif of space and Afrofuturism that we continue to see throughout the rest of her work. As a mere ten-year-old, I only thought this tune was catchy, a bit strange, but also fun to dance to. Now, ten years later, I view Janelle as the artist that not only made me hesitantly crawl out of my indie shell and actually enjoy pop music, but also as someone I look up to as a musical genius and a queer icon. Thanks, Ms. Audrey, for sprouting my obsession!

Although I didn't consciously decide to make note of her again until I first heard her single "PYNK" earlier this year, she has continued to stay at the back of my mind throughout my life. I saw her perform at the first Women's March on Washington with the mothers of Black men who lost their lives due to police brutality which brought me to tears. She was also referenced in my American music and culture class last fall in a piece on Afrofuturism in Black musicians, where I finally understood her political significance after all these years. My younger self knew she was onto something, but when I watched the entirety of her emotion picture Dirty Computer and sobbed for 48 minutes and 37 seconds, I finally realized that maybe, just maybe, pop music could mean a lot more than making music that's easily-digestible (a reason I always avoided it). The minute I finished the film, I instantly bought tickets to see her perform this summer, knowing that if those 48 minutes affected me that deeply, seeing a live, two-hour set would change me for the better. Spoiler alert! It did. No surprise there.



If you're unaware of Dirty Computer (both the album and the film), a) do you live under a rock? and b) if you have 48 free minutes to spare, click play right now.

Did you watch it? Good. If you didn't, at least watch the below first, which is only a little over four minutes.



"PYNK" is just a glimpse into the wonderful beauty that is Dirty Computer, but it is a fantastic depiction of her first time openly discussing her sexuality through her music, where she used to only stick to themes of race and class. Now, there's all three! 

Do you now understand why I, as a certified Indie Girl who has never stepped foot into a concert of a pop musician, although I've seen well over 150 shows in my lifetime, had to go to her concert in D.C. last week?

Photo from Time Out, by Colette Aboussouan.

As Monáe drastically helped me be true to my gay self with her latest album,  I was expecting to see a large queer audience, especially filled with queer minorities who are not always visible in mainstream queer spaces (like queer Black women). My expectations were not only met, but heightened—the crowd was filled with rainbow flags and all genders and queer couples galore. It resembled the two Prides I attended this year, but better. Yes, better. Whereas Pride mostly feels like a party for able-bodied and white queer people, her show was composed of a majority people of color, of all gender presentations, of all identities. It felt transcendent to be a part of that, as every other show I attend is typically filled with straight white men, or, to make things a bit better with my new fascination with indie music performed by queer women, queer white women. Obviously, diversity is definitely not a key feature of the shows I'm used to seeing.

Monáe didn't only make diversity a key feature, but she made inclusivity and the concept of queer spaces a requirement for her show without having to say a single word. Her recent pride about being a pansexual Black women, or, as she calls it, a "free-ass motherfucker," not only shined through her performance of both her new songs off of Dirty Computer and her older classics, but also through what she spoke to her open audience who all felt a sense of communal love for those two hours. She would take time between her songs to show us her membership in the queer community as well as her openness to all identities by telling us "because no matter who you love, or how you love, you are welcome here tonight." I've heard mantras like this at other shows, where Thom Yorke of Radiohead would take ten seconds to briefly mention political issues in the United States, but usually, these shows are dedicated to the music, nothing more. Monáe brought this mantra to every song, to every move she made, to every time she made a heart symbol with her hands, showing us the radical love she has for herself and for her fans. It transcended past the performativity that some musicians with large fanbases feel obliged to show, as every song she performed held themes of not only this radical self-love, but also of anger and political injustice.

Her performance of "PYNK" showcased the beauty of womanhood but also of women loving other women; "I Like That" told us that yes, we can like that, no matter what gender, race, or class; "Don't Judge Me" transitioned Monáe's dancey bops to a personal and emotional one, where she fears her identity as a Black queer woman won't be accepted by people close and distant to her. She doesn't only want to create a queer space for herself that also allows visibility for all, but she yearns to make note of the injustices that continue to happen to a minority like herself, both personal and systematic. "We are all dirty computers," she repeats over and over again before she closes with "So Afraid" and "Americans," stating that although the gay people, the Black people, the trans people, the disabled people, or the people that are all of the above have a free space to exist in that music venue that night, they are still seen as a flaw to society. Perhaps a miscoding that can't function properly according to the hate crimes and trans women of color that are murdered daily and the Black lives that end due to police brutality. While some queer spaces only focus on loving one another unconditionally, she made sure to intersect these issues. Pride shouldn't be pretty and easily-digestible; it should openly discuss issues that continue to disproportionately affect all of us—the "dirty computers."

Photo from her Instagram, @janellemonae

In the moment that Monáe was belting the lyrics to "So Afraid" while various clips from the Black Lives Matter movement were displayed on the screens behind her, my previous joy from the show turned to tears. Not tears for myself, but tears for the thousands of Black and queer bodies next to me who face the oppression of being Black, of being queer, and of being Black and queer. I cried because she knew exactly how to navigate this struggle through her own experiences and through her art; I cried because I had the privilege of sharing these intense emotions with so many other queer individuals in which Janelle gave us the platform to do exactly that. And the realization hit me—music is so much more than music; pop music can be and should be more than a top 40s hit. But most of all, live music can work magic and form spaces that exude inclusivity and truly allow anyone to be their most authentic selves with only a few lyrics. And Janelle Monáe did exactly that (and more!). Dirty Computer was able to speak for the lives of queer individuals on our complex experiences in a singular album and, as she calls it, her "emotion picture," and her performance just put this work into a live experience we could share with others who also hold the same identities and feelings. And the best part? She did it so effortlessly, like this is what her entire career as a musician has been leading up to—a dive into her personal life. The personal is political, yes, but sometimes the personal is emotional, the personal is queer, the personal is Black, the personal is about being a woman in the age of Trump. The personal is complicated and messy. And because of this, queer spaces should be complicated. Monáe somehow made hers both seamless but, at the same time, extremely complex. And apart from all of this theory talk, her performance did make for a damn good time.

Listen to Dirty Computer and the rest of Monáe's work here.