Book smart, Swift part: The Lavender Tube on Supreme evils, 'The Book of Queer' & 'Tom Swift'

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday June 28, 2022
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Hayward Leach and Tian Richards in 'Tom Swift'
Hayward Leach and Tian Richards in 'Tom Swift'

A spin-off of the CW's "Nancy Drew" series, "Tom Swift" (Tian Richards) is a mystery series about a Black gay scientist plotting to go to Saturn. The CW series is based on the book series of the same name by Victor Appleton and was developed and written by Melinda Hsu Taylor, Noga Landau and Cameron Johnson. Hsu Taylor is co-show runner of "Nancy Drew" and has worked on some spectacular series, including the iconic "Lost," "The Vampire Diaries," "Falling Skies" and "Touch."

Richards gives a powerful and nuanced performance as the complicated and not always likable Tom. Unapologetically Black, totally gay and a brilliant inventor, Tom aches for love and acceptance but there are many roadblocks in his way and self-sabotage is a surprising aspect of his persona. "Tom Swift" is best when Richards is given full rein to be all that Tom is and the writers release him from some annoying restraints.

In a video released by the CW titled "Tian Richards: Pride Spotlight," Richards talks about how Tom Swift "can look like someone like me — a Black guy who is chocolate, who is queer, who is all those things that we're told aren't the normal or the status quo."

Richards talks about how his first experience of seeing a character on TV who looked like him and was Black and gay was Omar Little on "The Wire," played by Michael K. Williams. "I got to see a dark-skinned Black man who looked like me kiss another Black man, so that was cool."

In a 2021 interview with TVLine, Richards said of his role as Tom Swift, "If I had an opportunity to see someone like this exist when I was younger, just think of how much sooner I would have felt [more confident] in my skin and welcomed by the world."

How often must we say it? Representation matters.

Stream new episodes of "Tom Swift" free only on The CW:

The Book of Queer

As Pride draws to a close and the Independence Day celebrations begin, take in some queer history as Discovery+ on YouTube streams "The Book of Queer."

Discovery+ invites viewers to watch the five-part miniseries "celebrate history's forgotten LGBTQ+ heroes, kings and queens--some of whom were actual kings and queens! From trans Indian warriors to gay Roman emperors, these colorful and often titillating tales give history a much needed, head-to-toe makeover."

Dr. Eric Cervini, a self-described Los Angeles-based queer historian, is the author of the New York Times best-seller, "The Deviant's War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America." Cervini's 2020 book was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, winner of the 2021 Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction and one of The Washington Post's Top 50 Nonfiction Books of 2020. Harvard and Cambridge-educated Cervini takes us on a semi-comedic historic romp through an annotated and sometimes eyebrow-raising series of historical figures who were presumed to be gay, lesbian (not many of these elusive figures) and trans.

Cervini told the B.A.R. that the miniseries he executive-produced "features the largest all-queer cast in the history of Hollywood." We can't verify that ("Pose" seems to have as many queer cast members), but we can verify that this is a fun, if often uneven and sometimes revisionist, series of historical vignettes.

In its introduction, "The Book of Queer" promises to "untuck" history. This romp begins with the Bible, declaring it a queer-authored tome with King James I named as a "king in the streets, queen in the sheets."

'The Book of Queer'  

No doubt this first segment, which is 20 minutes of the first nearly hour-long episode, is what flipped out folks in the comments under the trailer. Why these people were watching something titled "The Book of Queer" is its own mystery, but haters gonna hate, as we well know.

While many of the re-enactments are played for laughs, there is a ton of embedded history, like the story of the "Queer Wild West," that includes the fascinating story of trans cowboy Harry Allen, AFAB, who grew up in South Bend, Indiana and was allowed to cross-dress by their mother.

Allen, as trans historian (and San Franciscan) Dr. Susan Stryker explains, moved West to live their authentic trans life. Expanding on the Western theme, two-spirit queer historian Souksavanh T. Keovorabouth, enrolled member of the Diné (Navajo) Nation and second-generation Laotian, details how non-binary identities were endemic to Native cultures.

Among those whose stories are told, is that of We'wha. Born in 1849, We'wha was a Zuni Native American artist and two-spirit person. We'wha was "discovered" by an anthropologist who brought them to Washington D.C. to introduce President Grover Cleveland and basically be put on display among the not-so-cognoscenti. Yikes! No wonder the GOP doesn't want real American history taught.

Cervini notes at one point during the story of Native American two-spirit and non-binary people that the colonizers used this data as another rationale for genocide: "Sodomy—another page from the colonizers' handbook. Classic."

There are a myriad of historical figures in this series, including Sappho, Alexander the Great, Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Ma Rainey, Alan Turing, Josephine Baker, Bayard Rustin, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé De Larverie and more. Cervini hopes the series will help people "learn about the documented diversity of our collective history."

Narrators include LGBTQ stars Margaret Cho, Dominique Jackson, Leslie Jordan, Ross Mathews and Alex Newell.

'Vanjie: 24 Hours of Love'  

Vanjie: 24 Hours of Love
Summer screams for fun and frolic and what could be more frolicksome than 18 sizzling hotties parading in barely there Speedos while looking for love? That's the plotline of WOW Presents Plus's "Vanjie: 24 Hours of Love." Why not?

Vanessa Vanjie Mateo aka Miss Vanjie is José Cancel, an American drag performer known for competing on the tenth season of "RuPaul's Drag Race." Now they are seeking a hot love interest in this reality series that is pure gay (melo)drama.

From the producers of "RuPaul's Drag Race," "Vanjie: 24 Hours of Love" purports to "peel back the curtain on gay romance--just in time for Pride Month! Giving you Miss Vanjie as you've never seen her before, '24 Hours of Love' will feature compelling conversations about sex positivity and confront the often-unspoken subjects within the gay dating community — as Vanjie spends a wild 24 hours whittling down a cast of 18 eligible singles in the quest to find her boo." Among the competitors is San Francisco native Ernesto Flores.

Supreme deception
While covering the 2016 presidential election in our other role as politics reporter, we predicted that a Trump win would lead to a conservative majority Supreme Court that could overturn Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges.

We would very much have liked to be wrong. Someone else who predicted this was then-Sen. Kamala Harris when she grilled Brett Kavanaugh in his confirmation hearings about Roe and Obergefell. (SF Gate)

While it was heartening to turn on any network and see thousands protesting spontaneously and immediately nationwide after the SCOTUS ruling overturning Roe, it would have been better for women and LGBTQ people if Trump's presidency had never happened.

Protestors outside the Supreme Court last week.  

But there is no "Dr. Who" TARDIS time machine for a do-over. And now anyone with a uterus is at risk. What's more, Justice Clarence Thomas laid the groundwork for going further than Roe—asserting that Obergefell and Lawrence v. Texas also be overturned.

No bodily autonomy, no same-sex marriage, no gay sex. As we noted on Twitter after the ruling in a tweet that got more than 80,000 likes, "So Clarence Thomas wants to invalidate my marriage protected by Obergefell but not invalidate his marriage protected by Loving. Got it."

Gavin Newsom has made California a go-to state for anyone seeking abortion, but that's a long trek if you're in Mississippi and poor. Those folks are living "The Handmaid's Tale."

We hope we don't have to tell you to vote, vote, vote this year. If Kevin McCarthy, California's worst politico and a participant in the January 6th coup, becomes Speaker, we are utterly screwed.

Nuns and abortion
Abortion brings out the hypocrites. And the Catholic Church is and has been throughout our life as a Catholic, steeped in hypocrisy. In a report by PBS News Hour Special correspondent Christopher Livesay, he details stories of nuns—many quite young at the time of the assaults—who were raped by priests and then subjected to abortions.

In a report from the Vatican, Livesay notes, "They're known as brides of Christ, revered for their quiet service, not for speaking out. But that's beginning to change."
The full report can be viewed on PBS.

So from the traumatizing to the titillating, you know you must stay tuned.

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