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Friday, December 20, 2013

The L Wire's Review of 2013: July

July was a regal month in the UK as the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge introduced Prince George to the world, the Queen gave her Royal Assent to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and Andy Murray was finally crowned King of Wimbledon.

Elsewhere, there were significant moments for LGBT+ visibility in the entertainment industry and campaigners turned their attention to Russia, and it all happened in…


The world reacts to Russia

Following the passing of Russia’s anti-gay laws in June, July saw beginnings of a number of campaigns and movements that sought to target them.

Much of the attention brought to the cause came via popular website Buzzfeed, which post “36 Photos From Russia That Everyone Needs To See”. They say a picture paints a thousand words and it seemed that these photos resonated with people far more than any news article ever could.

One of Buzzfeed's 26 must-see images (

One of the most talked about campaigns was that to boycott Russian vodka. Dan Savage, an American writer and founder of the It Gets Better Project, launched a campaign to “Dump Stoli”. He encouraged individuals and bars to boycott Russian produced Stolichnaya vodka. Whilst some bars took to the streets to publicly pour their stocks of Stoli into the gutter, the boycott was not without its critics. The Stoli brand is known for its support of the LGBT community, having sponsored Pride marches and equal rights organisations, and some argued that the Russian Government and those who deal directly with them were more valid targets than a company that had a history of being an LGBT ally.

Bar owners "dumping" Stoli (

A second target for campaigners was the Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in Sochi, Russia, in early 2014. Although campaigners were successful in gaining widespread attention for the issue, the problem seemed to be that there were many different campaigns with varying aims rather than a single one that was universally backed.

Some called for the Games to be moved out of Russia or boycotted if they remained there. These campaigns seemed partly concerned with sending a strong message of disapproval to Russia, but were also in response to the uncertainly of how safe LGBT athletes, staff and spectators would be. This uncertainty wasn’t helped by the conflicting information being provided by the Russian Government and the International Olympic Committee about whether Russia’s new laws would apply during the course of the Games.

One of the campaigns to boycott Sochi (

The call for Sochi to be stopped wasn’t universal, however. Many felt that this would unfairly impact upon those athletes who had trained for years to compete there. It was also rejected by Russian LGBT Network—a leading organisation in the fight for equality in Russia—who stated that participation would have a greater impact than walking away. A statement on their website said: 

“We believe that calls for the spectators to boycott Sochi, for the Olympians to retreat from competition, and for governments, companies, and national Olympic committees to withdraw from the event risk to transform the powerful potential of the Games in a less powerful gesture that would prevent the rest of the world from joining LGBT people, their families and allies in Russia in solidarity and taking a firm stance against the disgraceful human rights record in this country.”

Whilst I believe that any efforts to raise awareness of the unacceptable treatment of LGBT+ people in Russia should be applauded, what’s most important is that those who want to help should listen to the people that are living there and having to deal with these laws day in, day out. Although it is often difficult for the people of Russia to speak out about these matters on a public forum, we should listen to them when they do and follow their lead when we can.

As “Same Love” enters US Billboard Hot 100, “All-American Boy” goes viral

Riding on the wave of celebration that was flowing through parts of America following favourable rulings on the DoMA and Proposition 8 laws (covered in our review of June), Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ equal marriage song “Same Love” entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart’s top 20 in the first week of July.

The song, with its pro-equality message and touching music video, has become the unofficial anthem for marriage equality and samples Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm”, which went on to be a single in its own right later in the year.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but in my book, any song with such a positive message is worth another share:

Whilst Macklemore’s song began the move up the charts, another song about same-sex love took over the internet.

On July 2nd, unsigned singer/songwriter Steve Grand posted the video for his song “American Boy” on YouTube. Within ten days it received more than 100,000 hits.

The popularity of Grand’s song and video; which begins with a happy day spent with his “All-American Boy” crush and ends in the realisation that his feelings are unrequited; captured the imagination of those in the LGBT+ community and beyond. It is, after all, a tale that transcends sexuality.

Speaking of the choice to tell his story so publicly and self-fund his first music video, Grand said:

The world does not see change until it sees honesty. I am taking a risk here in many ways, but really there is no choice but to be brave. To not tell this story is to let my soul die. It is all I believe in. It is all I hold dear. We have all longed for someone we can never have... we all have felt that ache for our ‎#allamericanboy.”

Who can’t relate to that?

“Orange” is a big hit on Netflix

On July 11th, Netflix launched its latest original series, “Orange is the New Black”. Although the site doesn’t reveal its viewing figures, it did say that, upon its release, OITNB had the best first-week stats of any of its original shows to date.

The show, set in a women’s prison, is based on a true story. It follows Piper Chapman as she begins a period of imprisonment for her part in a crime committed many years before. It tells the story of her first few months in an environment a million miles from her middle-class existence and flashes back to the moments that led to her and some of her fellow inmates being incarcerated.

Upon the show’s launch, I binged on it all straight away and wrote a glowing review for The L Wire. Since then, I’ve watched all 13 episodes quite a few times more and enjoyed them just as much each time.

For me, OITNB was a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of what we’re offered on TV; it was brave in the way it handle some serious subjects with a darkly humorous slant and I found its diverse range of characters and clever, often laugh-out-loud, dialogue to be simply irresistible.

I’ve also enjoyed seeing many of the cast using their newfound popularity for social good, including giving their support to organisations working with women in real-life prisons. One cast member who has particularly stood out for her advocacy work is Laverne Cox.

Laverne Cox (

Cox plays Sophia Burset, a transgender women dealing with life away from her family and her struggle to receive the hormones she so desperately needs. Following the show’s success, Laverne Cox became one of the world’s most high-profile transgender actresses pretty much overnight and has handled her new-found fame like a pro. Although playing Sophia was by no means her first acting role, OITNB provided an unprecedented platform for her to continue the work she does as an advocate for the transgender community—and particularly for women of colour—and to bring that work to a much wider audience.

If you haven’t seen OITNB yet, I’d highly recommend that you check it out if you have any time off over the festive season. And if you have seen it and love it as much as me you’ll be glad to know that Season Two is currently being filmed and will appear on Netflix in 2014.

 Is anyone else out there as big an OITNB fan as me? There have been some mixed opinions on the show so I'd love to know what you thought of it. I'd also love if you'd check back tomorrow for our review of August, where we hit Pride season!

What were your favourite LGBT+ moments of 2013? And what were your personal highlights? Did you come out? Get married? Do something life-changing? Let us know in the comments!

You can follow Julie Price on Twitter, @JuliePee

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