Monday, April 27, 2020
Books: "The Gay Agenda"
The Gay Agenda: A Modern Queer History & Handbook
By Ashley Molesso & Chase Needham
Morrow Gift, an imprint of William Morrow; hardcover, $28.00; available Tuesday, April 28
Last year, there were numerous commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which marked the start of the gay rights movement in America.
The Gay Agenda is a new handbook for those interested in the rich history and ever-changing culture of the LGBTQ+ community, endowing it with important history and facts.
This easy-to-read guide was created by Ash+Chess, a Richmond-based stationery company run by partners Ashley Molesso and Chess Needham, who recently came out as transgender. Ash+Chess create greeting cards and art prints that are sarcastic, edgy, and fun, and are known for using bold, retro color palettes.
This book is packed with facts, trivia, timelines, and charts. There are over a hundred full-color illustrations organized by decade, each filled with tidbits and facts about the history and transformation of the LGBTQ+ community over the years.
There are feature pages like Gay Friendly Cities and LGBT Acronym Definitions, and short biographies of iconic members of the LGBTQ+ community, from celebrities, including Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen; to politicians, such as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California; to business owners and citizens alike, who have made a notable impact on the community.
"We were excited to be able to use our voices to share some of the history and information about our ever-changing and ever-growing community," Molesso and Needham write. "The first section is history. And hopefully not boring history. But it wasn't until we started our research that we realized how little we knew about the past of our very own community. Learning about our history made us feel stupid at times - how could we call ourselves part of the queer community and yet know so little about those who paved the way for us to live out and proud? As we researched, we discussed so much about how modern gay history is woven into the threads of 'regular' history - that is, the history you read about in textbooks - but, because it is rarely highlighted, it remains unknown. While writing the book, we've become familiar with historical events and figures that were new to us and learned about the enormity of the struggle of the gay liberation movement."
Some of the cultural touchstones they write about are when actress Ellen DeGeneres came out on "Oprah" in 1997, when "The L Word" debuted, the impact of "RuPaul's Drag Race" and "Pose," and both versions of "Queer Eye.
Molesso and Needham write this about the original "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy," which debuted in 2003: "It basically had gay men fulfilling the stereotypes of being more fashionable, better groomed, and just generally more aware than their straight counterparts, and giving straight guys makeovers to improve their lives. While these seem like tokenizing stereotypes, at the time it was groundbreaking to even air a show starring gay men. The start of the new millennium was not only a new new beginning, but also an invitation for more LGBTQ+ content to be broadcast into the homes of millions...The show ran for five successful seasons, and its title was shortened to just Queer Eye during its third season to include people of other sexual orientations. The Fab Five cast included Ted Allen, Food; Kyan Douglas, Grooming; Thom Filicia, Design; Carson Kressley, Fashion; and Jai Rodriguez, Culture."
The Gay Agenda is one of the most informative and enlightening books you will read on this living history, a movement that keeps building as time goes on.