Review: Tan France’s Queer Icons by Tan France

Cover for Tan France's Queer Icons by Tan France

Title: Tan France’s Queer Icons

Author: Tan France

Narrator: Tan France

Length: 4h 35m

4 stars out of five
4 stars – It was really good

In this eight episode podcast, Tan France takes us through some of history’s LGBTQIA+ icon. These episodes also include interviews with some of the queer icons, historians, psychiatrists, family and friends of the icons, as well as other people connect to the icon. The eight episodes discuss the lives of  Gladys Bently, Bobbie Lea Bennett, Princess Seraphina, Dr. Evelyn Hooker, Mundo Meza, Yoyo, William Dorsey Swann, and Esan Regmi 

Of these icons, I only knew about Gladys Bently but I didn’t know her full story, which was very surprising. I never realized that she sang raunchy songs about the LGBTQ community. She was definitely a musical icon of the time and I want to learn more about her now.

Bobbie Lea Bennet was a disabled and transgendered rights activist. Her history was heartbreaking at points and yet encouraging because she was able to get Medicare to pay for her reassignment surgery. I found her story fascinating, especially since she was also dealing with the effects of osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) on top of trying to transition. 

Princess Seraphina is possibly one of the first recorded trans women. She lived in the 18th century and all that is really known about them is what is reported from the trials. I do wish we had more information on their story but I know that will most likely never happen. I had never heard of Mundo Meza and his art before this podcast, but with such a short life that is understandable. I looked up his work and understood why it was popular at the time. It is a fascinating mixture of different art styles and something about it is very captivating. It was nice to see that his work is gaining attention again and steps have been taken to preserve it for LGBTQ archives. 

Dr. Evelyn Hooker is the only ally in this podcast but her psychological study has made a huge impact on the LGBTQ community. Her work contributed to the APA’s decision to remove homosexuality from the DSM of mental disorders in 1973. As someone with a psychology degree, this episode was very fascinating and I would like to study more of this experiment in the future. I was surprised that this series included an ally but allies are important to the community. 

Yoyo is a lesbian, Malaysian musician who has created secret LGBTQ parties for the community. It was heartbreaking to learn of the strict LGBTQ laws in Malaysia. I did like that we got to hear Yoyo’s story in her own words though. William Dorsey Swann is the first known person to  self-identify as a “queen of drag.” He had a very interesting story and I loved that his brother continued his drag party legacy by dressing the participants. Esan Regmi is an intersex activist from Nepal. His story, and the story of other intersex people mentioned in this episode, was very heartbreaking. Intersex is one of the areas of the community that I know little about so this episode was very enlightening for me. 

Overall, this was a fascinating and informative podcast. I loved Tan France’s narration and that interviews with others were included, especially the icons themselves. I highly recommend this series if you want to learn some quick history about these queer icons. 

Trigger Warnings: 

  • References of depression, homophobia, transphobia, racism, 
  • Bobbie Lea Bennett lost first her wife and unborn child in a car accident
  • Dr. Evelyn Hooker episode has discussions of conversion and aversion therapies, forced sterilization, and lobotomies.’
  • Yoyo episode has discussion of suicide.
  • William Doresey Swann references to slavery, racism, and homophobia. 
  • Esan Regmi episode has discussion of suicide, gender surgery and mutilation. 

Goodreads / Amazon

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