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POP+ Pride: Queer BIPOC People, Songs & TV Shows You Need To Know

Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X poses in the press room during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

It’s not often queer representation gets its moment in the spotlight. Sure, there are some outliers, like RuPaul or Queer Eye. But overall, pop culture is mostly straight and white. As someone who is neither of those things, it’s difficult to feel represented in the media I consume. Even now, pop culture is still dominated by straight white voices. I have yet to come across a piece of media that has encompassed my identities. While representation for queer BIPOC folks has increased in the last few years, it’s still not enough and we have a long way to go.

Until then, to align with our POP+ Pride programming this month, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite pop culture pieces that represent queer BIPOC voices. This list reflects the moments, people, and entities that I see as powerful, exciting, and inspirational. There are so many inspirational BIPOC folks at the forefront of pop culture right now, some I may not even know of (in fact, here’s a list of queer BIPOC authors to read!). Even knowing that there are more queer BIPOC stories to experience is exciting! Those on this list and many others are paving the way for more and more queer representation in media, and I anxiously await the day we all go, "Oh…is this one of those straight white movies? Haven’t seen one of those in a while." So read my list, judge it, then go consume some more queer BIPOC magic and share what you find with us.

1. Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani’s "What I Need"

First of all, this is a certified Bop. Secondly, when was the last time you saw two women of color openly in love in a music video?! It’s hard to imagine a video like this coming out 10 years ago, when there were so few mainstream artists out and proud, let alone making music about being gay! They’re unapologetic in their identities and confident in themselves. At last, people who look and love like Hayley and Kehlani can see themselves in the media they consume. They can turn on the radio and hear two WOC singing about being in love with each other and feel that same confidence in themselves.

2. Pose

This is a bit of an easy one to add to the list. Not in its content, which is rich and beautifully written, but in its importance to the representation of transgender people of color. So of course, this makes the list. This show has the largest cast of transgender actors on screen…ever. That is monumental. After years of cis people portraying trans characters in movies and on TV, finally some real representation! This show is written by and for trans folks, which is just another first for the show. In fact, this show holds so many 'firsts,' that I don’t even think I can fit them all in there. Something I love about this show is the humanity of the characters. So often trans characters are unique and tokenized. Pose brings conversations of trans and BIPOC issues into homes that would normally never have them or be witness to them. The world needs more shows like Pose.

3. Lil Nas X

Every person alive in 2019 has an opinion of "Old Town Road." Good or bad, you’ve come across this song at some point or you’ve been living under a rock for the last year. Lil Nas X took the world by storm in 2019, and he was everywhere! It seemed like he, Billy Ray, and the horses in the back just weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. "Old Town Road" has (1)  four (2)  official (3)  remixes (4!) and was the longest-leading No. 1 single in Billboard history. The reason Lil Nas X is on here is because the way Lil Nas X carries his queerness is so…refreshing, particularly as a hip-hop artist. Showing youth audiences that you can be a serious rap artist, and you can wear a pink leather suit to the Grammys, and you can tackle the serious issues of 'what a man is' in the BIPOC community. Constantly challenging the 'norm' is a huge step forward. He is proof that you can be exactly who you are and find success.

4. Jaboukie Young-White

Jaboukie is an internet hero. Jaboukie is a rising comedian that speaks for and to, millennials. He’s also created one of the best playlists I’ve ever heard (listen to Caucasian Bops here for your next croquet tournament). Even if you don’t have Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen his tweets because he’s everywhere. He’s been known to parody public figures (Joe Biden, the FBI etc.), get banned for it, and then come back a few days later to do the exact same thing. I think what I find so fascinating about Jaboukie, is his balance between being this funny guy who sometimes impersonates the "Cats" movie official Twitter and his genuine activism. His viral online presence as a queer Black man is pivotal and his voice in comedy is crucial. Jaboukie isn’t here to follow the rules, or to comply to the set 'standards' of comedy or even the internet. He knows that even when corporations or individuals are offended by his parodies that there are approximately 800 thousand people that share his views and will support him. He is powerful and proud, and I look forward to the next time he ruffles some feathers.

Thanks to our sponsor First Tech, a proud supporter of our POP+ Pride programming.

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About the author

Kasi is a climate worrier, sitcom fan and the MoPOP Production Associate.

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