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In time for Transgender Awareness Week, activist Jake Graf unveiled a powerful new short film this week highlighting the struggles of everyday life for trans kids. Listen shows numerous trans teens and the hardships they face, such as bullying, isolation, and more. Read more…

The Summer House

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The Larsens are a picture perfect family from the German upper-middle class. They have everything that means comfort and should mean happiness. Business success, a stylish, light-flooded home and a full scholarship for their daughter to study in England. However, the head of the family, Markus, an architect, lives a secret, bisexual double life as his wife Christine and their eleven-year-old daughter Elisabeth drown in unendurable loneliness.

Markus realizes that he has a strong yearning for one of his daughter’s school friends, Johannes, 12, also the son of his tax penalty-bedeviled business partner, Christopher. He succeeds in getting closer to Johannes and binds the boy to himself with ever-increasing intensity. His wife is desperately aware of the emotional distance of her husband, but only her daughter Elizabeth, reacting to the sexually laden atmosphere, sees through the lies and secrets that she instinctively knows to be an growing, disruptive threat to the entire family. As Markus loses control of the situation and in a final moment of strength, pushes Johannes away, the action nevertheless moves them all remorselessly into the abyss.

Esteros

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A familiar tale unfolds with uncommon lyricism in Argentine filmmaker Papu Curotto’s debut feature about two boys’ years-long relationship. Many other films have explored the theme of a central character learning to accept his sexuality after years of self-repression, but Esteros stands out for its uncommon restraint and sensitivity.

The story revolves around childhood friends Matias who spend their summers enjoying typical boyhood pursuits on the farm owned by Jeronimo’s family. Their relationship begins to take on a new, physical dimension during their adolescence, but is cut short when Matias’ father accepts a new job in Brazil and moves the family away.

Cut to 10 years later when the adult Matias, now an uptight scientist, returns to the area for a visit with his girlfriend Rochi. He reunites with his old friend, whose openly gay, bohemian lifestyle stands in marked contrast to that of Matias. It soon becomes clear that the two men are still attracted to each other, and when they decide to spend a few days in the house where they had spent idyllic summers, sparks inevitably fly.

In story and characterisations, Esteros (Spanish for “tidelands”) doesn’t really give us anything we haven’t seen before. But despite its recycled tropes, the film works beautifully thanks to its assured direction and economical, non-melodramatic script. The performers playing the younger and older versions of the main characters are excellent, with the latter heating up the screen in their inevitable torrid love scene. And the cinematography beautifully captures the glories of the Argentinian countryside, making the film a visual stunner.

Butterfly

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ITV drama Butterfly is a three-part series which follows the uneasy transition of 11-year-old Maxine, who no longer identifies as a boy and wants to transition. This realisation, however, isn’t something which has spawned overnight.

Maxine’s estranged parents, Vicky and Stephen, both believed his desire to dress in pink and wear earrings was a mere ‘phase’ before puberty comes around. The situation has increasingly taken a toll on their marriage, with Stephen violently lashing out over Maxine’s feminine behaviour.

While Butterfly is partially about Max becoming Maxine, it more predominantly, and successfully, taps into how this issue affects the entire family. A standout scene between Vicky and Stephen as they bicker over the right way to handle Maxine’s feelings perfectly illustrates how their confusion has turned into anguish — unknowing of whether major steps, like delaying puberty through medication, is the right call for someone who’s barely started secondary school.

It’s a difficult issue to communicate through a mainstream drama because the situation isn’t as common, or relatable, as something more widespread like having a gay child (which is defiantly addressed here via baffled grandparents). It therefore falls to the struggles of the parents to become the show’s understandable jumping-on point for many — which, through the excellent performances and thoughtful writing, is easily the biggest achievement here.

Butterfly, however, is less successful when it comes to connecting to Maxine herself. While there’s touching moments, like explaining to her mum how she wants to ‘feel like I belong’ in the right bathrooms at school, these are offset by extreme behaviour which feels like it’s prioritising shocks above all else. The sudden switch to Maxine deciding to cut herself, stopping her mum going on a date with another man, felt particularly ill-judged and cheap.

It’s also hard to connect when we rarely see Maxine enjoying private time to explore becoming herself. Aside from the occasional pose in the mirror and cut short Kylie Minogue dance, we aren’t shown a comfortable, fun Maxine where she’s free to be her true identity. Her sister, Lily, however is very likeable as the supporting sibling who helps celebrate Maxine on the playground, despite the smirks from school bullies.

While Butterfly doesn’t always hit the right notes, it’s undeniably a thoughtful and challenging drama of the likes which rarely hits mainstream TV. The remaining episodes will decide how the show will be remembered, but for now, this will be an important lifeline for many families and individuals experiencing the same issues.

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Netflix’ very queer teen drama Élite gets a second season

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Élite, Netflix’s latest and gayest original teen drama, has just been renewed for a second season. The show follows the students of Las Encinas, a Spanish high school for the country’s wealthiest teens. But when the school on the poor side of town collapses, three students get scholarships to Las Encinas and their presence ignites a train of events that ultimately results in murder.

Viewers have been pleasantly surprised by the unexpectedly queer series. Élite boasts two gay characters, a few bisexuals, polyamory, and even a plotline destigmatising HIV. Combine that with the high stakes of teen drama, a beautiful cast, and a murder mystery, it’s no wonder the show’s garnered such an enthusiastic fan base.

Élite is streaming on Netflix now

Netflix’ Big Mouth features a pansexual teen character

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The second season of Big Mouth, Netflix’s cartoon about the trials and tribulations of adolescence, is fixated on the same issues as the first: uncomfortably and entirely relatable gags about boobs, stray pubes and “rubbing fronts.” But this season includes an unexpected gem: one of the 13-year-old characters came out as pansexual.

In Big Mouth, the heartaches and desires of the characters are personified by hairy, horned “hormone monsters” that serve as emotional, hilarious joke-cracking guides through the land of sexual maturation.

Spoilers for season 2 ahead:

Although Jay is a side-character, he’s also a close friend to the show’s main characters and is surprisingly complex. In the first season, we learn that his father is a shady divorce lawyer who regularly cheats on his mom. He also has two older abusive brothers and a curiously self-aware and depressed pet pit bull.

In the second season’s ninth episode, Jay makes out with Matthew, the show’s only openly gay character (voiced by gay actor Andrew Rannells), during a spin-the-bottle game called “Smooch or Share.” While their initial kiss (with tongue) at first comes off as the two literally kissing and making up from a fight they had earlier in the show, the two meet up later on for more flirting and kissing during a debaucherous lock-in in the school gymnasium.

Previous to Season Two, Jay had only expressed interest in girls and a female pillow named Pam. The show could have left his kiss with Matthew at that, giving its gay fans an unexpected moment of same-sex smooching. But then, in Season Two’s final episode, Jay struggles with feeling attracted to both a male and female pillow.

The female pillow, Suzette, initially tells him that he has to decide which one he feels more attracted to. But by the episode’s end, Jay has a threesome with both of the pillows, pretty much establishing himself as attracted to more than just one gender.

While it’s great to see Big Mouth feature a pansexual teen, the show proved itself to be quite progressive in its queer and sexual views long before its final episodes. Season Two features an entire episode on how sexually transmitted infections aren’t moral failings and Season One had a coming out episode in which a young character questions his sexuality — during the episode, the show made no homophobic jokes at his expense.

2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten

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Life at a sleepy high school in Pampanga, rife with unethical and oppressive instructors, changes with the arrival of interracial pretty boy Magnus Snyder.

This is particularly true for top scholar Felix. When he’s enlisted to help the new student with his schoolwork, the quiet Felix is drawn out of his loner shell and into the wild ways of Magnus and his devilish younger brother Maxim. As Felix’s closeted attraction to Magnus grows, he becomes increasingly enmeshed in the Snyder family’s dark tensions, which involve their hard-partying mother. Despite uneven acting and a tendency toward heavy-handedness, the film demonstrates admirable attunement to the introverted Felix as he hurtles down a coming-of-age trajectory with seemingly no way out other than disaster.

Mi mejor amigo (My best Friend)

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Living with his loving, liberal parents in Argentinian Patagonia, a sensitive high schooler named Lorenzo has to make way for the arrival of Caito, a troublemaking son of his dad’s best friend who’s only a year older. Lorenzo takes on the responsibility of keeping Caito in line and getting him to open up about his troubles.

In the process, both boys bond, but their friendship can only go so far. The movie is a smart, aching look at the ways young people can fall in love, even when they know the object of their affection doesn’t feel the same way. 

Submitted by Franco