Queer* media suffers all the problems queer-anything suffers — the rest of society thinks that talking about sexuality equates to talking about sex, a topic that’s usually deemed inappropriate for teenagers (whether or not you agree is a topic for another page…). Young people need to see themselves represented in media and this includes queer kids. To that end, I’ve compiled some of my favorite movies and TV shows that are appropriate for teenagers. I imagine this list being useful for parents and teachers as well as teens. If you have a recommendation, leave it in the comments.
Backstory: I came out in 1997, the same year as Ellen and began making my way through the canon of the day, which consisted of primarily low-budget, independent films. My local Blockbuster wouldn’t even stock gay movies so I had to go to this one gift shop/video store in Midtown. I remember going there multiple times before I even could get out of the car. This list is dedicated to 23 year-old me who finally got up the nerve to go into Brushstrokes for the first time.
[Edit: I welcome your suggestions as I’m fully aware how biased this list is toward my lesbian identity. –Megan]
- Out With Dad (I recommend for teens 13+ very family friendly) A teen girl comes out to her father and navigates her first girlfriend and a crush on her best friend. The short episodes are available free online.
- Anyone But Me (I recommend for teens 15+ due to sexual situations) A teen girl who is already out to her father moves to the suburbs from New York City. She navigates coming out to new friends and having a long-ish distance girlfriend in the city.
Note on movie ratings: LGBTQA films have a history of receiving harsher ratings than their straight counterparts. Parents are encouraged to preview even R rated films for their appropriateness for their teenagers.
- The Curiosity of Chance (not rated, recommended for 15+ because of sexual situations) The movie takes place in the 80s, so parents are bound to enjoy the nostalgia.
- Geography Club (PG-13, recommended for all teens) This film tells the story of a boy coming out to himself and getting support from his school’s underground GSA.
- Nina’s Heavenly Delights (PG-13, recommended for all teens) Nina returns to Glasgow to run her father’s curry house and in the process, reconnects with a childhood friend.
- Milk (rated R for language, some sexual content, and brief violence) Tells the story of gay activist Harvey Milk, who was California’s first openly gay elected official.
- The Celluloid Closet (documentary, rated R for footage of sexuality and violence) Billed as “a comprehensive documentary of the history of gays and lesbians in cinema.”
- The Fosters Follows a lesbian couple and their growing family.
- Faking It In an uber-liberal Austin, Texas high school, a popularity-obsessed girl concocts a fake lesbian relationship with her best friend to get noticed.
- The Parents Project “helping parents understand their LGBTQ kids”
- AfterEllen.com (lesbian, bi, and trans media resources)
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I watched the movie version of this in junior high and remember how amazing it felt seeing a lesbian relationship. Every kid should get this kind of validation.
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Spoiler: one of the characters is a gay man.
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. The book was also made into a movie, where the lesbian relationship at its core was mostly erased — itself an interesting conversation topic.
- I’m From Driftwood is the LGBTQ story archive (think StoryCorps for the queer community). I’ve listened to a few and suspect the entire site will be friendly for most teens.
- “Dear Straight People” by Denice Frohman (I recommend for teens 14+ due to some language)
- One Unexpected Reason Coming Out Is Hard by BuzzFeedYellow
- All American Boy by Steve Grand (music video of a young man falling for another man)
* I’m using queer as a synonym for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). In my opinion, queer is both more encompassing as well as easier to say out loud.