4YE’s Year In Review: #20GayTeen: A Year of LGBTQ+ Pop Culture History Part One

Credits: Atlantic Records, BBC America, Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

2018 truly was a year of up and downs, from the rallies and marches for freedom, rights, and protection for all and a more diverse representation on the big and small screen, to the disastrous state of politics, particularly sexual and gender politics, all over the world.

But we, the people, continue to fight – and  especially the LGBTQ community has been making waves that should not go on ignored. So a bunch of our 4YE editors got together to highlight some of their very favorite moments of the year. These include influential people, specific movies, tv shows, games, plays, and plenty more. 

There was so much to talk about that we needed to split this up into two parts.

So, without further ado, let a brief but nonetheless very personal review of #20GayTeen in popular culture commence!



The second annual ClexaCon was in April, and it was amazing to see how much it had grown from its first year. There’s a million cons out there nowadays, but the thing that makes ClexaCon stand out is that it focuses on and celebrates queer women in all forms of media. The weekend is filled with important conversations about representation and a chance to meet some of the people helping to bring that positive representation on screen. Clexacon is a chance for a lot of LGBTQ people to relax and be themselves and be surrounded by their people and it’s always a good time.

ClexaCon is also the place where I had an opportunity to meet Chyler Leigh and she held my hand and really, how can that not go on a review list?? 

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Last year, if you had told me that I would be putting an Assassin’s Creed video game on an LGBTQ review, I would have called you crazy, but here we are. This year, Ubisoft did something they hadn’t done before and added an RPG aspect to Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey in addition to giving players a choice of playing a male or female character. While not the first opportunity to play a female character in the franchise, it was the first time players were given the option to ONLY play a female character side eyes Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate.

The gameplay is pretty much the same if you pick Alexios or Kassandra and you can romance men and women, giving you the opportunity for a hella queer game. AKA a chance for every queer women to finally fulfill their fantasy of running around Ancient Greece and seducing every woman possible.

GIF: Tumblr


Hayley Kiyoko

2018 was the year of Hayley Kiyoko. Despite making music for years and having released three Eps prior, Hayley released her debut album Expectations in March. This was followed by a North American Tour in Spring, as well as a European leg in the fall of 2018 (which will continue early in 2019). She also toured with Panic! at the Disco in the summer and performed with Taylor Swift during her Reputation tour – because why take things slow when you’re on a roll.

The openly gay singer also released music videos for her singles “Curious” in January and “What I Need” in May, both of which have already surpassed 15 million views. And her first music video, “Girls Like Girls” (2015) has just crossed the 100 million views mark in December. But those are not the only milestones in Miss Kiyoko’s life in 2018. She also won the Push Artist of the Year award at the 2018 VMAs in New York City, a win which she dedicated to queer women of colour, and Billboard named her their Rising Star at the Billboard Women in Music event (an evening she spent flirting with Ariana Grande like the boss she is). NPR named her one of the most influential women in music of the 21st century, alongside the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga or Rihanna. Not a bad bunch of queens to be thrown in a pot with.  

After struggling with her sexuality for many years Kiyoko is now living her very best life while her fans celebrate her as “Lesbian Jesus”. Her music videos, many of which she directs herself, depict lesbian relationships in order to normalize them, and her video for “One Bad Night” sheds light on violence against transgender women. She continues to be an advocate for LGBTQ rights and a source of hope for queer women everywhere. After the VMA’s she said her win was “proof that every time someone tells you ‘no’ because you’re not straight enough, masculine enough, feminine enough, or simply that you are just not enough, you are more than enough. And you can do this. So keep going.”

I am thankful for Hayley’s art, for having songs and truly stunning music videos depicting female-female relationships as normal, and playful, and challenging, as sensual and incredibly sexy but never oversexualized, as all the things they can be. This art is offering women-loving-women a platform, whether they be lesbian, bisexual or pan, and has  created this wonderful community of support where, more often than not, the LGBTQ community is made out to be “the other”. Thank you, Hayley, for making 2018 a little bit more bearable.


Another influential musician this year was Ashley Frangipane, better known to many as Halsey. She began 2018 hot off of her second album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, which debuted in summer 2017. HFK, more so than Halsey’s other work, includes references to her bisexuality with songs about same-sex relationships, such as her collaboration with Lauren Jauregui, “Strangers”.  Halsey has been incredibly open about her sexuality, and has been a vocal activist. She was awarded the GLAAD award for Outstanding Music Artist in May 2018, and used her acceptance speech to offer information on homeless youth, especially amongst those that identify as LGBTQ, and encouraged others to get involved with local shelters.  

On January 20th, Halsey attended the Women’s March in New York City, and delivered an emotional rendition of a poem she wrote called “A Story Like Mine”. She addressed her own experiences of sexual assault and about how she performed through a miscarriage, before calling for action, and asking for inclusivity. “But we are not free until all of us are free, so love your neighbor, please treat her kindly, ask her story and then shut up and listen”, the actress said. “Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian. Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs, be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues”.

Halsey spent most of 2018 touring the globe, from the US and South America to Australia, Asia and Europe, before dropping her most successful solo single ever yet, “Without Me”. She went on to perform the very personal song countless times, from late night talk shows and the EMAs to the Victoria Secret’s annual fashion show. However, after comments made by Victoria Secret’s Chief Marketing Officer about how plus-size and transgender models are not part of the “fantasy” they are trying to sell, Halsey took to Instagram. She said she had “no tolerance for a lack of inclusivity” and made a sizeable donation to GLSEN, a charity protecting LGBTQ youth.

And yet, no other performance sparked as much controversy as her latest performance of the song on The Voice. During the finale of the competition series Halsey performed the song alongside dancer Jade Chynoweth. Their interpretative dance has had the homophobes raging, expressing their anger over its overtly sexual nature. Halsey remained unbothered, stating she was proud to upset less tolerant viewers. The young singer has previously expressed annoyance about people oversexualising the same-sex couples in her music videos, and set the record straight that they “do a lot more than pretend to finger each other with giant acrylic nails, which doesn’t happen in real life, by the way.”  

Oh Ashley, there’s truly no one who gives less of a damn about heteronormativity and gender norms and looks so damn good while doing it. Stay angry babe, and use that pain for good – like that third album we are all waiting for. Halsey is an artist I’d be proud to fight alongside.  

Love, Simon

In Spring of 2018, 20th Century Fox released the romantic comedy Love, Simon, based on the book Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, and while it may not have been the most critically acclaimed film of the year, it was still a massively important one.

Love, Simon tells the story of a teenage boy trying to make sense of his sexuality while keeping this big secret from his friends and family. He finds a friend in “Blue”, another gay kid at his school whose identity is unknown. They strike up a friendship, and eventually more, via email but when Simon wants to meet the other boy, Blue stops contact. Things go from bad to worse when the emails are leaked and Simon’s homosexuality is revealed to the whole school, as well as his family.  Simon’s family and friends are supportive and eventually both Blue and Simon gather the courage to seek each other out.

We follow Simon through his journey from insecurity through the distress of having your coming out taken from you to finally accepting who you truly are. But we also witness him falling in love. While there have been many movies depicting LGBTQ relationships (most notably Brokeback Mountain or Blue is the Warmest Colour) Love, Simon is the first big-budget wide-release blockbuster to feature a gay lead AND have a happy ending.  It’s a feel-good film which isn’t meant to alienate. It’s a motion picture intended for mass consumption which depicts a happy non-hetero relationship, and while that shouldn’t be a milestone it is. And it makes us so damn happy.

GIF: Tumblr

What are your personal favourite LGBTQ moments of the year?

Share them with us in the comments or tweet us at @4_Y_E and be sure to check out our second part for more feels!


Verena Cote
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