The entertainment industry’s 2023 was the year of Barbenheimer, Taylor Swift and the Super Mario Bros. It was also the year of lackluster box office returns for Disney, the further descent into madness of Twitter/X and, oh yeah, the full stop of film and TV due to the writers and actors strikes.
But something that thrived in 2023 was queer representation. From online to primetime, from the big screen to the small screens we hold in our hands, LGBTQ+ movies, shows, songs, influencers and more went out there and “did the thing.”
As is tradition at Watermark, we have gathered some of the best LGBTQ+ pop culture moments from 2023 and put them together in a list that’s as easy to read as your ABCs.
Annette Bening — who stars in “Nyad,” a biopic about out swimmer Diana Nyad and her efforts to swim from Cuba to Florida — speaks about the love she has for her trans son during a speech at the GLSEN Awards in October.
“Bottoms,” a teen comedy about two unpopular lesbian students who start a fight club in order to have sex before graduation, is a hit with critics appearing on many “Best in Film” lists for the year.
Che Flores becomes the NBA’s first out nonbinary trans referee — a first for any U.S. pro sports league — after coming out in an October interview with GQ.
Ariana DeBose breaks the internet with her female empowerment rap song at the 76th British Academy Film Awards. Among her most iconic lines, DeBose sang “Angela Bassett did the thing.
“Every Body” is released during Pride Month by Focus Features. “Every Body” is a revelatory documentary film that looks at the lives of three intersex people.
Brendan Fraser takes home the Best Actor trophy for his performance as Charlie, a gay obese man trying to reconcile with his teenage daughter, in the film “The Whale” at the 95th annual Academy Awards.
Kim Petras makes history as the first openly trans person to win a Grammy at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards. Petras wins the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for her collaboration with Sam Smith on their hit song, “Unholy.”
The second season of Netflix’s “Heartstopper” premieres with 6.1 million views in its first week, making it the most watched new series on the streamer for the first week of August.
Eddie Izzard announces plans to return to the New York stage in 2024 for an ambitious version of “Hamlet.” In this version the actor-comedian will be the only one on stage, playing all the William Shakespeare parts in the one-person staging.
Beloved out actor and comedian Leslie Jordan dies in a single-car crash on Oct. 24 in Hollywood after suffering an unspecified medical emergency. The 67-year-old was best known for his roles in “Hearts Afire,” “Will and Grace” and several seasons of “American Horror Story.”
“Knock at the Cabin”
M. Night Shyamalan’s “Knock at the Cabin,” a thriller starring Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge as a couple vacationing in a rural cabin with their young daughter who are attacked by four strangers, debuts at No. 1. It is Shyamalan’s seventh film to open atop the domestic box office.
“Last of Us, The”
HBO’s adaptation of the popular videogame series “The Last of Us” is not only a huge hit but also puts LGBTQ+ characters and queer storylines front and center with couples like Ellie and Riley and Bill and Frank.
Two-time World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe announces on Instagram July 8 that this year’s championship season will be her last. Her final match isn’t the storybook ending she hoped for when just minutes into the National Women’s Soccer League final she suffered a non-contact injury.
Noah Schnapp, the 18-year-old actor who plays closeted gay teenager Will Byers on Netflix’s science fiction series “Stranger Things,” comes out as gay himself in a TikTok video.
MMA Fighter Jeff Molina, who goes by “El Jefe” in the octagon, comes out as bisexual after being outed by someone who shared a video of him being intimate with another man. Molina became the first openly LGBTQ+ male fighter in UFC.
Prime Video sees “a huge surge” in subscribers after the streaming service premieres its hit queer rom-com “Red, White & Royal Blue,” directed by Matthew López and starring Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine.
Bobby Berk, who has been the interior designer on Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” announces he is leaving the show after its eighth season. Berk as been one of the show’s Fab Five since the streaming giant rebooted the series in 2018.
Netflix releases the film “Rustin,” which stars Colman Domingo, a biopic putting a spotlight on Bayard Rustin, the Black gay civil rights activist who was the primary architect of the 1963 March on Washington.
“Strange Way of Life”
“Strange Way of Life,” Pedro Almodóvar’s queer short film, premieres at Cannes Film Festival in May. The Spanish western drama stars Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal.
Broadway’s Tony Awards make history June 11 when J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell become the first nonbinary people to win Tonys for acting. Ghee wins leading actor in a musical for “Some Like It Hot” and Newell takes home best featured actor in a musical for “Shucked.”
“Unholy,” Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, is certified double platinum in March. The song surpasses one billion streams a month later making it Smith’s fifth song to do so and Petras’ first.
Venice Film Festival
Netflix’s “Maestro,” a biopic about gay composer Leonard Bernstein, makes its premiere at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, receiving a near 10-minute standing ovation from its audience.
Wayne Brady, who currently hosts the game show “Let’s Make a Deal,” comes out as pansexual in an August interview with PEOPLE magazine, joking that it is “bisexual — with an open mind.”
X, Lil Nas
“Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero,” a documentary on the pop superstar’s first-ever tour, has its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival delayed for 20 minutes after a bomb threat was called in to the theater.
YouTuber Kris Tyson, best known for appearing in Mr. Beast videos, comes out as transgender during a July interview with fellow YouTuber Anthony Padilla.
Ziwe, an online satirical talk show host, tweeted to disgraced ex-Congressman George Santos about doing a sitdown interview, which Santos replied “Let’s do it.” The nearly 18-minute interview is released online Dec. 18.