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About this book

This collection explores the representation and performance of queer youth in media cultures, primarily examining TV, film and online new media. Specific themes of investigation include the context of queer youth suicide and educational strategies to avert this within online new media, and the significance of coming out videos produced online.

Table of Contents




In 2013, while in the process of researching and collating the collective work of this book, I found two specific images that were psychologically impacting with regard to the life chances of queer youth. The first was an image from a drama, of a child (who identifies as gay later in life) placing his hand on a glass door pane and leaving a trace of his hand, while in the company of his family (see Figure I.1). The second was an image from the news, of a queer youth activist cradling her (or his) head, while a gang of other youths are in the process of an attack (see Figure I.2). The first was from the groundbreaking Swedish television drama Don’t Ever Wipe Tears without Gloves (original title: Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar), which tells the story of young gay men in the early 1980s, and their relationship to family, queer community and the spread of AIDS in Sweden. The second appeared in the Guardian newspaper as a photograph by Maxim Shemetov, in a report relating the growing oppression of queer citizens in Russia after the passage of legislation that bans ‘homosexual propaganda’ to minors (Guardian 2014). This legislation is currently causing extreme oppression in Russia, actively encouraging vigilante groups to seek out LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) citizens and inflict violence and torture, without necessarily inviting redress from the authorities, as evidenced in the television documentary Hunted (Channel 4 2014).
Christopher Pullen

Performance and Culture


1. Stories like Mine: Coming Out Videos and Queer Identities on YouTube

In a YouTube ‘coming out’ video, an eager young video maker tells us:
I decided to make this YouTube to find other people like me, people who are coming out, they’re in the process, people who have already came out and kind of have a story like mine, so that I can help them and they can help me. — jacobtubification, in ‘My First Video!/Coming Out’
(YouTube 2010)
Bryan Wuest

2. Transgender Youth and YouTube Videos: Self-Representation and Five Identifiable Trans Youth Narratives

The birth of a new area of study is always an exciting time — the development of fresh, original ideas along with rapid growth and expansion across several disciplines (from sociology to film studies) makes new connections, opens up new intellectual possibilities, synergy and enthusiasm, taking the first steps into hitherto uncharted territory.
Matthew G. O’Neill

4. ‘A Safe and Supportive Environment’: LGBTQ Youth and Social Media

In 1977, gay rights activist Harvey Milk (1930–1978) affirmed: “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential” (cited in Mallon 2010, p. 172). Despite this, in September of 2010, ten American teenagers, nine males and one transgender female, committed suicide over a three-week period (September 9–30). Four of the males self-identified as gay; several others were either perceived or mis-perceived as gay by their peers. In most instances, the victims were reportedly the targets of some form of bullying:
  • Cody J. Barker, seventeen, hung himself in a barn on his family’s farm. According to his mother, he was subjected to name-calling and targeted by students for his efforts to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), a student-led organization for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) and questioning youth and their straight allies, in his high school (Weisberg 2013). Barker was the fourth openly gay youth in northeastern Wisconsin to commit suicide in a five-month period.
    (Quinlan 2013)
  • Asher Brown, thirteen, shot himself in the head because, in his family’s words, he was ‘bullied to death’ for many reasons, including accusations that he was gay.
    (O’Hare 2013)
Stephen Tropiano

4. Media Responses to Queer Youth Suicide: Trauma, Therapeutic Discourse and Co-Presence

Ana Douglass and Thomas A. Vogler (2003) tell us:
While individual trauma confers individual identity, the function of trauma as a ‘social glue’ holds groups together on the basis of ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, disease or handicap. (p. 12)
Christopher Pullen

5. Sexually Marginalized Youth in the South: Narration Strategies and Discourse Coalitions in Newspaper Coverage of a Southern High School Gay-Straight Alliance Club Controversy

LGBT youth groups, some in conjunction with support or encouragement from straight youth allies and adults, have been active in communities and schools across the United States (Cohen 2005; Russell et al. 2009). From disconnected and scattered early grassroots efforts in the 1960s and 1970s (Cohen 2005), today the movement has successfully mobilized youth supporters and increased momentum within schools through gay-straight alliance clubs (GSAs) (Mayberry 2006; Fetner and Kush 2008; Mayberry 2006). Various school, community and nationally based groups have used social movement tactics including the formation of newsletters, other print and electronic media, to incite public discourses about issues faced by sexually marginalized youth such as discrimination (Cohen 2005). Together these individuals and groups seek ‘to counter isolation, achieve personal or political change, and define sexual identities’ (Cohen 2005, p. 81; Miceli 2005). Thus, sexually marginalized youth organizing in schools ‘marks a moment in which young people are stepping forward to claim support for lesbian and gay rights on their own terms’ (Fetner and Kush 2008, p. 118).
Skyler Lauderdale

6. ‘We’ve Got Big News’: Creating Media to Empower Queer Youth in Schools

The script below, accompanied by Figure 6.1, is from a 60-second Public Service Announcement broadcast on May 12, 2012:
WE’VE GOT BIG NEWS! Hey, school board members, superintendents, principals and vice principals, And, shout out to all the LGBTQ kids in schools across the state, We’ve got big news! Laws against bullying and harassment get a lot better on July 1. Schools MUST protect all students from bullying and harassment including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and gender-creative students. If you’re bullied, your school is now legally obligated to do something about it immediately! AND, if your school doesn’t protect you, you may have the right to transfer to a new school district!!! Learn more about student rights; go to!
Karyl Ketchum

Histories and Commodity


7. Talking Liberties: Framed Youth, Community Video and Channel 4’s Remit in Action

The collaborative documentary Framed Youth: Revenge of the Teenage Perverts (made in 1983, transmitted on Channel 4 in 1986) can be said to mark the emergence of gay and lesbian programming on Channel 4, which itself can be seen as a ‘product of the changing political discourses instituted by the new social movements’ (Arthurs 2004, p. 28). Jane Arthurs has cited Framed Youth as being exemplary of both Channel 4’s conscious policy to commission from people who had never made programmes before, and a ‘shift in the democratic ideal of representation to one based on speaking “from” a community instead of being spoken for’ (p. 28).
Ieuan Franklin

8. We Need to Talk about Jack! On the Representation of Male Homosexuality in American Teen Soaps

In the first episode of Season 4 of Dawson’s Creek (WB, 1998–2003), ‘Self Reliance’, Dawson (played by James Van Der Beek) remarks to his friend Jack (played by Kerr Smith): ‘Not every kiss has to be a life-altering event’ to which Jack replies emphatically ‘I know! I know!’. In this exchange, this incredibly self-referential text may very well be pointing to its own rather uncontroversial, maybe even under-noticed, airing of a passionate same-sex kiss on United States network television in the Season 3 finale, that had aired earlier that year (in May 2000) between Jack and Ethan (played by Adam Kaufman).
Mareike Jenner

9. Queering TV Conventions: LGBT Teen Narratives on Glee

Queer teens have finally arrived on television.1 Nowadays, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens feature as regular cast members, within varying broadcast, cable and premium content on tele-vision.2 While television’s first daytime soap featuring recurring gay teen themes, One Life to Live (ABC, 1968–2012), premiered the character of Billy Douglas (played by Ryan Phillippe) in the early 1990s, after the character’s departure from the series in 1992 LGBT teens had a slow climb to become common TV characters, despite the popularity of both teen-centric and LGBT-themed content during the following decade. As many scholars (Becker 2006; Gross 2001; Walters 2001) have documented, the 1990s experienced a surge in queer visibility on television that focused primarily on well-adjusted adults as our friends, family and co-workers, mostly assimilated into heteronormative society to maintain the status quo. Ron Becker (2006) has attributed this shift to network and advertiser appeals to the lucrative ‘slumpy demographic’, foregrounding the socially liberal alongside urban minded professionals, while Katherine Sender (2004) adds that the construction of the gay market in the 1990s was a result of both business and political policies that targeted the stereotype of the affluent gay man.
Raffi Sarkissian

10. Boy Wizards: Magical and Homosocial Power in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Covenant

In the middle of a ‘magically charged’ car chase in The Covenant (Renny Harlin 2006, USA), an excited teen boy witch yells ‘This isn’t Harry Potter!’ He’s right, of course, though the film does in fact share some important features with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell 2005, UK). Though Goblet of Fire and The Covenant are widely divergent in style, tone and address, they are both dramas about teenage boys with magical powers. Both films include intense bonds between teenage male characters, and both attempt to displace, deny and contain any homoeroticism within these friendships. This chapter will use queer readings of these two films about ‘boy witches’ to indicate the ways that depictions of dyadic teen male friendships push against and complicate the heteronormative boundaries between homosociality and homosexual love. Remarkably, the heterosexuality of the primary dyadic friendship in each film is ‘protected’ with very similar devices of displacement and denial; but exposing these hetero safeguards also brings forward the queer possibilities they seek to deny. This chapter will frame the textually based queer readings within and against the teen film genre. It will also outline the strategies behind ‘reading against the grain’, particularly in the context of contemporary representations of masculinity in male-centred genres like ‘bromance’, buddy and action films.
Katherine Hughes

11. Androgynous Social Media and Visual Culture

On March 25, 1976 David Bowie was arrested by the Rochester, New York Police Department for possession of marijuana. The black-and-white police ‘mug shot’ taken of him that evening could easily be mistaken for a model card. Bowie’s platinum hair is slicked back, while he stands facing the camera wearing a light-coloured suit. The sign he holds identifies the date, location and his booking number. Over 30 years later this iconic image of detainment would travel and be translated to Fuck Yeah Androgyny! — a Tumblr website dedicated to archiving and celebrating representations of androgyny (FYA 2013a). Not being able to fit into socially perceived stereotypes of male and female is a central concern for the readers and bloggers who contribute to this virtual safe space; as is the feeling of being policed by a persistent and restrictive two-gender system. The inclusion of this historical and iconic police photograph, then, changes meaning and elucidates the distress over dress that continues to haunt this contemporary Tumblr. At the same time, I propose that the contributors acknowledge and transform the restrictions still placed on genderqueer individuals by rehoming androgynous images at this shared space of belonging.
Stephanie Selvick

12. Queer Youth Cyber-Bullying and Policing the Self-Brand

On September 22, 2010 Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University who identified as gay, updated his Facebook status for the last time, stating simply that he was ‘jumping off the GW Bridge, sorry’. His body was found in the Hudson River the following week, confirming that Clementi had jumped to his death. Adding to a horrific list of other high-profile lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer suicides in recent months, Clementi’s suicide was quickly labelled a tragic product of homophobic cyber-bullying. His roommate, Dharun Ravi, was accused of repeatedly rigging his computer to spy on, broadcast and gossip about Clementi’s intimate interactions with an older gay man that took place in their dorm room. With evidence pulled from text messages, Twitter feeds and instant messages among other digital traces of his actions left behind, Ravi was charged and convicted of 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, tampering with witnesses and evidence tampering. He was not charged in relation to Clementi’s suicide, although the death loomed heavily over his trial and he faced between five to ten years in prison and possible deportation because he was not born in the United States. On May 22, 2012 Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 300 hours of community service, three years’ probation and $10,000 to be paid to a fund that helps victims of bias crimes.
Taylor Nygaard

13. Looking at Complicated Desires: Gay Male Youth and Cinematic Representations of Age-Different Relationships

In 2011 Marco Berger, as director and writer, presented the film Absent, offering a provocative narrative scenario relating gay male age-different relationships. A key sequence offers an intense engagement:
At the end of a complicated afternoon, and maintaining that he has nowhere else to go, an adolescent boy accompanies his swimming instructor to the man’s apartment. As they enter the front door, a female neighbour approaches, asks a question of the man, and glimpses at his youthful guest. Once inside, while the boy eats a sandwich, the man telephones his girlfriend to explain what is occurring and then lies back on his bed, evidently contemplating the complex situation. Seconds later, the boy knocks on the man’s bedroom door and asks to take a shower: ‘to wash off the chlorine’, he emphasizes. Silently acknowledging that their erotically charged circumstances are on the verge of intensifying further, the man hesitates visibly before responding, but he ultimately relents when the boy makes him feel foolish for doing so.
Kylo-Patrick R. Hart

Transnational Intersections


14. Straight Eye for the Queer Guy: Gay Youth in Contemporary Scandinavian Film

In Scandinavian cinema, there is a longstanding tradition of the ‘coming of age’ narrative. However, despite the fact that youth films of this type offer some of the most graphic and liberal representations of sexuality within contemporary Scandinavian cinema, minority audiences are often denied equality in this area. While the success of Lucas Moodysson’s Show Me Love from 1998 to some extent has offered progressive representations for young female sexuality including homosexual experiences, the gay teenager appears to be continuously trapped in the closet within Scandinavian cinema. A survey of contemporary Danish, Swedish and Norwegian feature films1 of the new millennium reveals that only two youth films have featured gay protagonists, namely The Man Who Loved Yngve (Stian Kristiansen 2006) from Norway and Love Is in the Air (Simon Staho 2011) from Denmark. These very different films are united by a narrative structure that allows their main characters to flirt with a queer sexuality and thus apparently to be challenging the heteronormative attitude so inherent in youth film narratives.
Anders Lysne

15. ‘Born This Way’: Media and Youth Identities in Uganda’s Kuchu Community

Beyond the bustle of Kampala’s chaotic streets lie the quiet compounds of the city’s main industry: the NGOs. Secreted behind barbed gates and broken-glass-encrusted walls, the ‘development industry’ churns away, producing reports and staging workshops, cashing its cheques from philanthropists, foundations and Western governments, and building its own empire of technocrats (aka ‘civil society’) within the cosmopolitan bubble of Uganda’s capital city.
Melanie Butler, Paul Falzone

16. ‘Be Wary of Working Boys’: The Cultural Production of Queer Youth in Today’s West Africa

In recent years, Western media outlets have upheld sub-Saharan African countries as tourist destinations for gay and lesbian travellers, while simultaneously positioning these countries as hotbeds of heterosexism and homophobia. At the same time, however, African media industries have generated a veritable explosion of sophisticated depictions of queer youth, particularly in Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria. In an alarming number of instances, the Western-authored ‘elevation’ of these countries to the status of tourist magnets has failed to dispense with essentialist condescension, the belief that formerly benighted black Africans are now beginning, if just barely, to recognize that homosexuality is not a harbinger of doom or a metonym for the devil, or that same-sex erotic attraction exists at all. Such accounts tend to ignore the contributions of contemporary youth communities to local West African media productions. They tend to ignore, in other words, the fact that young queer Africans are themselves responsible for inspiring queer visibility, in many cases by rejecting imported Western humanitarian discourses that, however well-intentioned, are embarrassingly blind to local realities. Young West Africans have therefore worked to ensure, in a variety of ways and with a range of results, that their peers, and particularly their elders, will have to grapple with local manifestations of sexual prejudice.
Noah Tsika

17. LGBT Student Groups at Universities and Their Usage of Social Media as a Public Sphere: A Case Analysis — luBUnya

Although the concept of the public sphere defined by Jürgen Habermas (1962) has largely been connected to the political sciences, it can also be applied to information and communication sciences (Dacheux 2008, p. 222; Miege 2010, p. 8), offering an idealized methodology for examining the discourse of those who contribute to the media. Despite this, Habermas’ conceptualization of the bourgeois public sphere is often criticized for its disconnection to minorities or the disempowered, such as failing to accommodate those of diverse sexuality, women and the proletariat. This chapter addresses these issues, through examining the online usage of social media by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth.
İdil Engindeniz Şahan

18. Parties, Advocacy and Activism: Interrogating Community and Class in Digital Queer India

New media and the internet have had a significant impact on the queer community in India. From cyber-activism challenging media and political discourses on queer identity to providing a social space for interaction and dialogue (Roy 2003; Shahani 2008), they have been instrumental in the growth of the ‘marginalized’ queer community in the country. This chapter draws on and develops research on online queer communities (Campbell 2004; Mowlabocus 2010) and examines a Facebook group for queer individuals in Kolkata, India as a ‘community’. My intention in this chapter is to see how a sense of community is created and expressed and even critiqued within this specific group. Spaces such as this not only challenge institutional normativity but also offer an alternative to the NGO-led queer support model so prevalent in India. Using a Facebook group called Pink Kolkata Parties (PKP) as a case study, this chapter will be looking at the intersection and tensions between class, gender and sexuality and how that inflects our understanding of community and more largely identity. The chapter will specifically explore how the notions of a queer youth community in cyberspace circulate and the mechanisms of inclusion/exclusion that govern the dialogue and interaction within this space.
Rohit K. Dasgupta

19. The It Gets Better Project: A Study in (and of) Whiteness — in LGBT Youth and Media Cultures

The It Gets Better Project (IGBP) became a worldwide phenomenon, offering support for socially marginalized and oppressed queer youth who were perceived to be vulnerable to suicide. The project originally was comprised of a collection of first-person video weblogs created in response to gay male suicides, and this collection ultimately formed a type of social archive. Central to these video weblogs were messages of hope and that the viewer’s lives would ‘get better’, though exactly whose lives were supposed to get better and what ‘better’ was supposed to mean was left to the imagination. The IGBP initially began as a single video weblog on YouTube in September 2010. It was later published as a book of the same title (Savage and Miller 2011). In the video the creators of the project, Savage and Miller, discuss their own experiences of teenage bullying, survival and escape. They ‘created [it] to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential and positivity their lives will reach — if they can just get through their teen years’ (Savage and Miller 2011). The evolution of the IGBP has since translated into a registered 501(c)3 organization doing business in the United States as the ‘IOLA Foundation’ located at 8,315 Beverly Boulevard, Suite 101 in Los Angeles, CA 90048 (see IGBP 2014a).1 Interestingly, since 2009 this nonprofit organization has had a total of $1,069,890 contributions, almost all of which have been expenditures on its web presence.2
Michael Johnson


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