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4 Queer Romance Media Recommendations with POC Leads.

Finding media with queer representation that is intersectional, and actually makes good on its promise for representation can feel like a full-time job. While it’s incredible progress to have the amount of queer-centric media we have today, we cannot ignore that tokenization, fetishization, all-white casts, the ‘kill your gays’ trope and many other issues make these stories unrelatable or downright misrepresentative for a huge chunk of the queer community. It's particularly hard for queer people of colour to find stories that tell their unique experiences.

There are, however, a few hidden gems out there. Here are four feel-good queer romance stories with POC leads for you to binge this month.

The Henna Wars (Novel, 2020.)

The Henna Wars is a YA fiction novel by Adiba Jaigirdar and follows the story of a Bangladeshi teenager in Dublin and her experience with identity, race, family, and culture.

The novel deals with complicated concepts like cultural appropriation, what it feels like to be queer in a brown household and how race and identity can be tricky concepts to deal with in a mostly white country and school. The novel follows her personal journey and romance with her classmate, Favia.

As a queer brown woman myself, I can easily say I have never felt better represented by a piece of media in my entire life. Everything from the nuanced addressal of cultural appropriation, the family dynamics with regards to Nishat coming out, and the beautiful and accurate portrayal of south Asian culture was something I never imagined I'd see encapsulated so perfectly. It's also worth mentioning that the main characters confidence and love for her culture and the fact that her love interest is another person of colour is almost revolutionary when you consider the way brown women are typically represented in modern media. This one is a must-read.

I Told Sunset About You (Drama Series, 2020.)

I Told Sunset About You, or ITSAY, as fans have abbreviated it, follows the romantic and personal stories of two teenage boys and is set in Phuket, Thailand.

Besides the beautiful cinematography, direction and acting; this show does a brilliant job of navigating identity and sexuality and the more complicated nuances of love, admiration and envy at a difficult age. The main characters are childhood friends that had a fallout, and enter each other's lives again when they graduate from high school and apply to universities.

If the masterfully directed scenes depicting how terrifying it is to face your identity and its possible consequences in a harsh world don't make you cry, I don't know what will. This show is emotional, visually beautiful and soul-crushingly romantic. Representation for queer east Asian and south-east Asian men that isn't fetishized or chock-full of stereotypes is hard to find, and this show is a breath of fresh air.

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story (Novel, 2018)

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story is a novel by Kacen Callender is the story of a bisexual, black male Nathan Bird, his complicated residual feelings for his ex-girlfriend, and his developing love interest for Oliver Hernández.

This novel gave us a wholesome queer romance between two POC leads without making their races or sexualities a spectacle. Something queer POC really need in the age of media where queer characters are introduced only to be killed off or made miserable.

The way Oliver's disability and the use of ASL is seamlessly incorporated into the book is refreshing and again offers a more intersectional perspective of queerness than audiences are used to. Besides this, having a bisexual black male lead challenges preconceived expectations of black masculinity, and having no one question his interest in men as well as women genuinely feels like a much-needed break from real life. Definitely check this one out.

Bloom Into You (Anime, 2018.)

Bloom Into you is a Japanese animated series that came out in fall, 2018. The story, more than a mere romance, is a unique and interesting account of a teenage girl, Yuu Koito, that finds love to be an elusive and confusing concept. Her desire for a traditionally romantic moment clashes with her lack of feelings when she receives a confession from her male classmate. Once she's in high school, she meets Touko Nanami, the student council president. She quickly develops admiration for the elegant, stoic president but is thrown off-course when Touko confesses to her.

The show addresses how love and identity can be complicated things to deal with, especially when you're a teenager and they're painted as extremely convention, black-and-white concepts with no room for diversion and individuality.

Yuu having her struggles with the idea of romance and Touko's feelings of inadequacy that come with being compared to her sister make them complex, well fleshed-out characters. This, along with the fact that they aren't hyper-sexualized or fetishized makes this series an extremely rare representation of queer women in Anime.

These pieces of POC-centric queer media are important reminders that intersectional representation is the most necessary form of representation. The way race affects the queer experience is a very real perspective and deserves to be highlighted in mainstream media


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