Gayish: Queer as Folk and the ongoing challenge of representing queer trauma

Author: Gayish

Gayish on GLUE: Two homosexuals, unpacking queer stereotypes one at a time.

Queer as Folk and the challenge of representing queer trauma


What is the role of media in processing queer trauma?

For so long, TV and movies have defaulted to harmful stereotypes and painful storylines about queer people.


Whether it was a trans serial killer in Silence of the Lambs or the death of a love in Brokeback Mountain, LGBTQ+ depiction has often failed to authentically portray the full range of queer experiences.


The original Queer as Folk, both the British version (1999) and the US version (1999-2005), were revolutionary in depicting of the lives of gay men. However, progress isn’t perfect.


In the US version, straight actors often portrayed queer characters, including lead actors Hal Sparks and Gale Harold, who played Michael Novotny and Brian Kinney, respectively.

Also, the primary characters were cis, white, able-bodied gay men who failed to represent the true diversity of the community.


The latest reboot of the series improves upon the sins of its predecessors, particularly by showcasing BIPOC, disabled, and trans characters. However, at the heart of the reboot is, yet again, queer trauma – with the first episode depicting a club shooting similar to that of the Pulse nightclub.


The series faced legitimate criticism for some of its decisions. While the pilot episode itself had a trigger warning about the contents of the episode, the trailer failed to do so. As discusses, this was particularly painful for the actual survivors of the Pulse night club shooting.

Also, the series was released the same week as the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, which prompts questions of timing – does this capitalize on tragedy to earn press?


Orlando-based drag performer Mr Ms Adrien, who worked at Pulse at the time of the shooting, told the outlet the trailer had been surprisingly upsetting when first caught it.

“Do I think using trauma for entertainment is tasteless? Yes,” she said. “But my real, honest issue with it was the fact that there was no trigger warning, or any sort of explanation that this is the way this trailer was going to go.”

To its credit, the series doesn’t use the shooting as a one-episode storyline that’s resolved or thrown away. It becomes the heartbeat under which the characters struggle, fight, and grow.

The Queer as Folk reboot earnestly depicts the fallout and emotional toll of the tragedy in relation to its rebooted characters.


Most importantly, unlike its predecessor, it’s a show made by queer people, both in front of and behind the camera. Queer people created, wrote, acted in, and produced the show, including queer executive producer and writer Stephen Dunn and gay actor and writer Ryan O’Connell.


Stories about queer joy, love, happiness, and celebration are rare, and we need more of them. But this critique is one of LGBTQ media as a whole.

We don’t need to stop showing the pain and challenge of being queer; we need more media that show a broader spectrum of our experiences.

Queer trauma still exists, and LGBTQ-created shows like Queer as Folk are vital to process that trauma.


To carry on the conversation about the good, bad, and ugly of the new and old Queer as Folk, listen to the latest episode of Gayish on Apple PodcastSpotify, or your favorite podcatcher.

Pss also, we’re hosting a Virtual Pride this week and you’re invited. See below for more details. 


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