What's it like having unprotected sex when you survived the AIDS epidemic? Should the queer-coded Disney villains of our childhood be erased? Why is Grindr a prolific platform for the white gaze of white gays? These are just a few of the questions NewNowNext writers answered in 2019, a year of continued political and social turmoil—and, in turn, fantastic writing.
Below, find a dozen selections of our favorite first-person essays of the fading year. We hope they spark your curiosity, interrogation, and reflection as they did ours.
"I Miss Disney’s Queer-Coded Villains—But the Next Generation Won’t" by Samantha Allen
"Disney’s old habit of queer-coding villains may have been wrong and even hurtful, but the result was a roster full of delightfully entertaining, often scene-stealing characters that young viewers could interpret as LGBTQ. It wasn’t perfect representation, no, but it was representation nonetheless."
"The 'Alphabet People': On Dave Chappelle and His Comedy of Errors" by Lester Fabian Brathwaite
"We don’t all have to think the same, or believe the same things. The greatest trick Chappelle pulls off in this special is voicing unpopular opinions and forcing us to listen."
"What I didn’t know until my first date with Jim was just how much I’ve finally embraced that choice, and how an unplanned sexual encounter no longer freaks me out. Quite the opposite. It was everything I imagined sex to be as a young man: free."
"We don’t immediately report every lesbian death as a possible homicide because that would be preposterous. For transgender victims, and all of our readers, the same standards of reporting must apply."
"They Didn’t Care That I Was Raped, They Cared That I Was Queer" by Laura Dorwart
"Stretching out my shaking hands in the dark of recent trauma, I attempted to grasp hold of something, to follow the scripts I’d learned—tell someone, go to therapy, call a domestic violence shelter—only to find that they didn’t apply to me, as the survivor of rape by my girlfriend."
"Why MAGA People Don’t Need Safe Spaces" by Lester Fabian Brathwaite
"MAGA people are not a minority; if anything they’re a minority within a majority, a majority that has had the majority for centuries. Historically, because the world has been their safe space, MAGA people don’t require one and they should never have one: All they’re escaping from is reality."
"I F*cked an Instagay. Here’s What I Learned." by Bobby Box
"I had so many preconceived notions about the character of an Instagay, all of which were shattered in a meager hour of sex and conversation. In those 60 minutes, I glimpsed the humanity behind the fantasy."
"Raising a Daughter in the Trump Era: One Queer Mother’s Manifesto" by Heron Greenesmith
"I find myself slipping as I watch my daughter grow, slipping into thoughts that have infected my very psyche, as I myself grew into American womanhood. Thoughts taught to me by the patriarchy to keep me afraid, keep my docile, keep me subservient, keep me down. Thoughts I fight every second of my waking life, thoughts that remind me: Oh, don’t do that—it’ll attract the wrong attention.
"Barbra Streisand Gave Me Hope as a Gay Teen Growing Up in Rural America" by Hannah Brashers
"In every earnest word she sings, Streisand communicates hope for a warmer future. She shares the conviction that it is normal—beautiful, even—to imagine a bolder life and to experience every aspect of what it means to be human."
"Many Prides in the U.S. not only lack indigenous leadership and inclusion, but often accept sponsorship from entities that are actively harming indigenous communities."
"Is It Ever Okay to Out Someone?" by Bobby Box
"Until Schock uses whatever social capital that he has left to right the ship in favor of the queer community that he now so boldly revels in, the popular refrain may continue to be that he doesn’t get to enjoy it unchecked and without consequence."
"'F*ck You N*gger': Interrogating the White Gaze of White Gays" by Lester Fabian Brathwaite
"I wished I had taken a screenshot of your face and sent it across the internet, exposing you for the racist troglodyte you are. I wanted to make you feel as small as you tried to make me. I wanted you to know that I saw you; that I knew exactly what kind of man you were. I wanted you to know that you fucked with the wrong nigger."