The 10 Biggest LGBTQ Culture Stories of 2021

Friday December 24, 2021
Originally published on December 16, 2021

The 10 Biggest LGBTQ Culture Stories of 2021
  (Source:Gays Against Guns)

EDGE shares our most-read LGBTQ+ features stories from 2021. Our "EDGE-i" series represents contributions from some of the best queer and ally journalists in the industry, with reports spanning a broad range of topics from pop culture and politics to advancements across a variety of industries thanks to advocates and activists. Stay tuned for more best-in-class news in 2022 as EDGE reports on stories shaping the LGBTQ+ community.

(l to r) Viola Davis, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (David Lee/Netflix); James Corden, "The Prom" (Netflix); Andra Day, "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" (Takashi Seida/Hulu); Stanley Tucci, "Supernova" (Blee
(l to r) Viola Davis, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (David Lee/Netflix); James Corden, "The Prom" (Netflix); Andra Day, "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" (Takashi Seida/Hulu); Stanley Tucci, "Supernova" (Blee  

Behind the Scenes of Hollywood's Gay-for-Pay Pipeline

Casting LGBTQ actors in queer roles only scratches the surface of the complexities behind the Hollywood business model, where talent is a commodity and the benchmark for success is a delicate balance of earnings and artistry.

Last year's films "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," "The Prom," "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" and "Supernova" caused us to ask tough questions about why actors land certain roles and the industry machine that drives those decisions.

Read more about straight actors playing LGBTQ+ roles, and its impact on authentic queer representation.

GMHC volunteers and activists march in NYC Pride, 1994.
GMHC volunteers and activists march in NYC Pride, 1994.  (Source: GMHC, Rick Guidotti)

40 Years Later: Stigma and Progress Collide Since the Onset of the AIDS Crisis

It's been 40 years since the AIDS crisis was first documented. Sweeping in scope and driven by those advocating for and living with HIV, EDGE offered a snapshot of where we've been and what the future holds for the fight against AIDS.

"There is a multitude of reasons the Black community is disproportionately impacted," Coleman Goode, a manager of community organizing at the AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC), told EDGE. "In my queer Black experience, the impacts I see every day are rooted in generational trauma, intellectual property exploitation, and white supremacy culture/white culture, to name a few."

Read more about survivors' and advocates' experiences in the continued fight against AIDS.

(Source: Kaftko)

The Future of Menswear Isn't About Who Wears the Pants

From kaftans to lace shorts and peplum skirts, the future of men's fashion underwent a seismic shift in 2021.

"We have a generation of design students who, this is just the way they think," Sperber says. "It's not a trend; they consider gender to be a construct. There are spectrums of identity, and that's reflected in the clothes," says Amy Sperber, assistant professor of fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Read more about how fluid ideas of gender manifest in today's fashion designs.

(Source: Gays Against Guns)

5 Years After Pulse Shooting, the LGBTQ Gun Debate Grows in the Face of Escalating Threats, Bigotry

In the wake of recent mass shootings and the fifth anniversary of the Pulse massacre, one might think that Americans — especially LGBTQ+ Americans — have had enough. They have. But many in the queer community are beyond protests and petitions.

"It's 100% protection," Ermiya Fanaeian of the Salt Lake City-based chapter of Pink Pistols told EDGE. "Most of the people who reach out to us say, 'I didn't grow up around guns, I don't really know how to shoot guns, but I know that I want to protect myself.'"

Read more about the queer community's complicated relationship with control and gun ownership.

Dominique Silver
Dominique Silver  (Source: Photo, Rick Day; Stylist, Joana Marquez; Hair, Kamilah G.; Andres Jimenez)

Trans Models Speak Out Against Sexual Harrassment

With New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks all migrating online last year, did diversity also migrate to the virtual space? In many ways, it feels like one step forward, two steps back for transgender models still fighting for their place on the runway. Violence against the transgender community is at a record high, and recent allegations against one of the industry's most celebrated designers shined a spotlight on the continued disparity and dangers facing often-marginalized models.

Read more about the allegations against Alexander Wong, the , and what's being done to protect them.

(Source: Getty Images)

Post Pandemic, Will Ailing Gay Bathhouses Make a Comeback?

COVID-19 has upended life as we know it, and bathhouses facilitate two social needs that have been thrown into exceptionally sharp relief: Sex and public health consciousness. How will these centers of sex positivity weather the pandemic, which shows no signs of slowing down?

Read more about the history of gay bathhouse culture and COVID's impact.

Renee Montgomery (center) played for, and now co-owns the Atlanta Dream.
Renee Montgomery (center) played for, and now co-owns the Atlanta Dream.  (Source: Renee Montgomery/Instagram)

How LGBTQ Women and Allies are Reshaping Pro Sports

This June, Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out, but that action stands on the shoulders of decades of queer women who have led the charge in professional sports.

When Nona Lee, an openly gay Black woman EVP and Chief Legal Officer at Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, joined the franchise 21 years ago, she was out from the start. "I was an athlete. I approach things in that mindset," Lee tells EDGE. "It wasn't a matter of flying flags and making big pronouncements. It was a matter of, 'This is who I am. This is part of what I bring to the table. If you don't like me, you don't like me...' it may not always feel safe, but to me, there is nothing less safe than feeling like I can't be who I am. That's what drives me."

Read more about how LGBTQ women and female allies have impacted pro sports.

A still from "Spirit Swap."
A still from "Spirit Swap."  

Changing the Game: How Small Studios and Creators are Raising the Bar for LGBTQ+ Representation

The gaming industry is the latest big business to face a diversity reckoning, with independent creators and publishers advocating for LGBTQ+ inclusion.

"Smaller studios can take more risks," says Els White, a writer and narrative designer at Spider Lily Studios. "I wish that [LGBTQ content] wasn't seen as a risk, but that's how it is." That idea that making content with, about, and for queer players is a "risk" is pervasive, but the gaming audience can be a loud, angry, and occasionally violent one, and it's their response that frightens larger studios and makes LGBTQ representation low as a result.

Read more about how queer creators are staking their claim in the gaming industry.

(Source: Gina Yashere)

Are Black Queer Women in Hollywood About to Shatter Another Glass Ceiling?

After more than a century, the glass ceiling may finally be shattering for Black queer women in the entertainment industry. EDGE spoke to some key industry players for their perspectives.

"The first 15 years of my career, I wasn't out. I never discussed it at all publicly. Cause I thought I'm a Black woman already, so I've already got two counts against me in this industry," writer-actor-producer Gina Yashere told EDGE. "I'm not a certain age. I haven't got a certain look. So, I didn't want another strike against me. I never talked about my sexuality. I never lied about it. When I was asked about it in interviews and stuff, I'd just circumvent the question. I wanted to get to the point where I was successful enough before I came out. But then eventually I got to a point where it's like, you know what, I no longer give any fucks, take me or leave me."

Read more about Black queer women in the entertainment industry.

(Source: Getty Images)

A Call for Change as Queerphobia Runs Rampant in the US Prison System

The LGBTQ+ community is disproportionally affected by the U.S. prison system, but a crusade for change is underway.

Several surveys and reports illustrate the bias and discrimination that contributes to high levels of incarceration among LGBTQ+ communities of color. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 35% of Black transgender Americans believe they were incarcerated solely due to anti-trans bias, with only 4% of white transgender respondents attributing their incarceration to this factor.

For many criminalized LGBTQ+ people, moving beyond this label can prove to be particularly difficult. "Your record sticks with you — once you've got it, it's really hard to get out of it and it becomes kind of like your way of life," advocate Jenifer Jenkins told EDGE. If you don't have a good support system, it's just gonna be really challenging to break that cycle of being criminalized by the state."

Read more about the disparities and activism surrounding the LGBTQ+ prison pipeline.