It’s June, known to millions around the world as Pride Month. This is the time when we come together to truly celebrate the diverse identities that we inhabit, and there are myriad ways to do this. Usually LGBTQ+ folk come together at Pride parades and queer clubs to celebrate queer identity, but this year we are seeing LGBTQ+ communities adapt to tricky circumstances. But Pride Month it is: there’s no stopping it! One way, in lockdown conditions, to identify with and educate yourself on what Pride really means is to watch the new season of Queer Eye, Netflix’s hit original series, featuring bright and bold queer people both as presenters and heroes.
Queer Eye has always been fantastic in featuring a diverse LGBTQ+ cast. The original show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, featured a cast of all gay men, showcasing how gay experience can be valuable in enhancing the lives of straight cis men, but the updated show takes this even further. Dropping the second half of the title is the first indication: Queer Eye is no longer just transforming the lives of straight cis men, but tackling the dysfunctional lives of a vast array of people, including trans men, lesbian women, and – in the first episode of this new season – a gay pastor. Queer Eye makes the lives of LGBTQ+ familiar, and by tackling their traumas and showing them the way to a healthier, more vivacious life, the show is a forerunner in LGBTQ+ visibility.
What’s more, the new Fab Five themselves is more diverse in their gender and ethnic identities. The presenting team consists of 4 men and one non-binary person, all of whom identify as gay, so we can see that the new cast is wonderfully representative of a wider range of LGBTQ+ identities than the original. Additionally, Johnathan Van Ness is HIV positive, and uses his platform both on and off the show to normalise and destigmatize the disease, especially for LGBTQ+ people. We also get a diverse look at LGBTQ+ experience through the Fab Five’s ethnic and cultural identities. Each member brings a unique cultural experience to the table, whether it’s Tan’s Pakistani Muslim background, Bobby’s oppressively Christian upbringing, Karamo’s African American experiences, Antoni’s Polish/Canadian family, or Johnathan’s white American life. Whichever way we look at it, and whomever we follow at any point in the show, each member of the Fab Five brings a unique ethnic, cultural, and religious experience to the show, which can only make it richer. The diversity of the Fab Five means that Queer Eye makes visible not one LGBTQ+ experience, but many.
Queer Eye is not about reductive stereotypes of gay men, nor is it about a singular experience of sexuality. Queer Eye explores gender, sexuality, race, religion, and life experience in a multiplicity of intersecting ways. Whomever the team are making over in any given episode, you can guarantee that we will be watching a unique experience for both the hero (the wonderfully uplifting title they give their weekly stars) and the Fab Five. The two bounce off of each other, and learn from each other, which makes the show a beautifully organic display of mutual education and growth.
It’s no accident, but I’m so glad that the new season of Queer Eye was released at the beginning of this year’s Pride Month. We’re living in strange times indeed, but what Queer Eye shows us, time and time again, is that hardship is an opportunity to learn and grow. Whilst we sit at home, wondering how we can be better citizens to each other, watching Queer Eye is an opportunity not only to consider our own experiences and other people’s, but a lovely way to embrace and celebrate Pride Month. It’s harder to celebrate this year, so let’s do it by watching a diverse cast of LGBTQ+ people helping the world to be better individuals.