Main image: Lil Nas X at the 2021 BET Awards
2021 proved once and for all that a global pandemic can’t stop queer excellence. All year long, openly LGBTQ artists, activists, and creatives broke lavender ceilings, scored prestigious industry awards, and even spurred real-world change. Below, read up on 15 queer pop culture moments that defined 2021.
It’s a Sin’s real-world impact
Russell T. Davies’s London-set drama about gay life in the early days of the AIDS crisis was a commercial and critical success, but its biggest win transcended the screen. After the show’s February premiere in the United Kingdom, orders for HIV tests quadrupled.
“It’s honestly amazing to see a real-time response to the show, and it’s blown me away,” It’s a Sin star Olly Alexander told Logo in February. “I think it’s shown how much there needs to be a conversation really still, about not only HIV, but people’s sexual health, people’s mental health.”
The RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. Season 2 finaleWOW
Gays everywhere were gooped and gagged when Mama Ru crowned Scottish queen Lawrence Chaney (pictured above) — not vegan legend and fan-fave competitor Bimini Bon Boulash — as the winner of Drag Race U.K. Season 2 in March. Hell, Lawrence herself was surprised!
Of course, Drag Race U.K. Ru-turned for Season 3 this summer, so fans got over the gag in record time.
Phoebe Bridgers’s smashing SNL performance
The Grammy-nominated indie rocker and noted bisexual performed an impassioned rendition of her song “I Know the End” on Saturday Night Live in April. She ended the set by smashing her guitar onstage, securing her spot in the hearts of sapphics everywhere.
The reign of Lil Nas X
This “Industry Baby” had a hell of a year. Between pissing off homophobes one music video at a time, finally releasing his debut studio album, Montero, and taking home the top honor at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards, Lil Nas X proved he is not a one-hit wonder.
“First, I want to say thank you to the gay agenda,” Nas X said in his VMAs acceptance speech. “Let’s go, gay agenda! … I love you guys so much. I will not take this for granted.”
The White Lotus rimming scene heard ’round the world
Out actor Murray Bartlett made a splash in an August episode of HBO’s critically acclaimed drama The White Lotus, which included a gay rimming scene between his character, Armond, and Dillon (played by Lukas Gage).
“I love that way of working, that [creator Mike White] just makes you feel like you can completely play on set,” Bartlett told Logo back in August. “You’re just exploring, but he gives you this incredible library of information about the character in the script. So I didn’t have a lot of questions and I feel like he didn’t really need to explain a lot of stuff. We just played.”
Muna and Phoebe Bridgers’s “Silk Chiffon” collab
Sapphics were forever changed after the September release of “Silk Chiffon,” a sugary-sweet queer pop song from alt-pop outfit Muna and the aforementioned Bridgers. The song’s infectiously catchy beat and unrelatable lyrics (“Life’s so fun, life’s so fun / Got my mini skirt and my rollerblades on”) spawned a deluge of hilarious videos on WLW TikTok. And who could forget its iconic But I’m a Cheerleader-inspired music video?
Brooklyn Liberation’s second annual march for Black trans livesMichael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Amid this year’s record-high numbers of new anti-transgender bills, the Brooklyn-based activist collective organized another rally and march centering Black trans lives in June. Thousands of people took to the streets to participate, driving home the message that Black trans youth matter. Logo even honored the organizers of Brooklyn Liberation as our inaugural Logo Legends and chronicled their work in a short documentary.
JoJo Siwa’s historic run on Dancing With the StarsEric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images
The Nickelodeon star and Dance Moms alum wasted no time after coming out publicly earlier this year. She competed on Season 30 of Dancing With the Stars alongside pro dancer Jenna Johnson, marking the first same-sex dancing duo to appear on the show in its 16-year history. Siwa and Johnson made it all the way to the season finale but ultimately lost out to basketball star Iman Shupert and dancer Daniella Karagach.
The Coming Out Colton saga
Unless you lived under a rock during 2021, you surely heard of Colton Underwood’s coming-out saga. The former Bachelor opened up about his sexual orientation this spring in a soul-baring sit-down with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that he’d be the star of a new Netflix docuseries chronicling his coming-out journey. Underwood’s coming out (and Netflix deal) were met with mixed reactions, but the reality TV star later told Logo Live host Johnny Sibilly he learned a lot about the privileges he has as a white, cisgender gay man.
“I think there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with [Coming Out Colton],” Underwood added. “It’s also an opportunity for me to help out other people who might not have the privilege and to learn from them, to amplify their voices, to share their voices.”
Elvira, canonically queer icon
Elvira really said "And in case you needed to hear it again, horror IS queer"
— Brandon Trush (@soitgoes__13) September 21, 2021
The Mistress of the Dark has always held a special place in the hearts of queer fans, but in September, she solidified her spot in the queer pop culture hall of fame by opening up about her girlfriend of 19 years (!!!) Gay goths everywhere were gooped, gagged, and shaken awake in their coffins.
“Father, Son, and House of Gucci”
Superman’s bisexual sonDC
Jon Kent, Superman’s son, was revealed to be bisexual in Superman: Son of Kal-El #5. The comic dropped in November, but DC Comics made the announcement on October 11, a.k.a. National Coming Out Day.
Britney’s long-awaited freedom from her father’s conservatorshipPATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images
The #FreeBritney movement has been around for years, but a series of hard-hitting documentaries about the pop singer’s struggle to be freed from her father’s 13-year legal conservatorship brought the cause back into the zeitgeist. In June, Spears gave a heart-wrenching courtroom testimony about how her father used his legal authority to keep her heavily medicated, compel her to work against her will, and force her to keep her IUD inserted when she wanted to remove it. Out Britney stans and celebrities like Halsey and Jameela Jamil offered their support for the singer on social media.
Come November, a California judge ruled to terminate Spears’s conservatorship, marking a widely celebrated end to the long and highly public saga.
The Sex and the City franchise’s return
And Just Like That…, three of the four leading ladies of Sex and the City returned to our screens for HBO Max’s long-awaited new sequel series. Although Kim Cattrall’s Samantha was written off the show, the reboot did add one new character who excited queer fans: Che, a nonbinary sex podcaster played by Grey’s Anatomy alum and noted bicon Sara Ramirez.
Single All the WayPhilippe Bosse/Netflix
Remember when Happiest Season was the only queer Christmas movie we had? Just a few years later, out filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors have ushered in a veritable renaissance for the beloved genre.
This year’s standout? Single All the Way, Netflix’s star-studded gay Christmas rom-com about a perpetually single L.A. gay (played by Michael Urie) who falls for his best friend-slash-roommate (Philemon Chambers). It was also the streamer’s first holiday rom-com centering a queer couple.