2018 has brought more than its fair share of tragedy, political turmoil and LGBT+ rights losses—but through it all, gay memes have prospered.
Sure, 2017 included the transformation of both The Babadook and Pennywise into queer icons, and also gave us the timeless phrase “right in front of my salad?” but this year has exceeded all expectations.
From the brilliant queer alternative to last year’s distracted boyfriend meme to countless memes about sex and bisexual people, 2018 has seen these viral trends become more representative of a broader swathe of the LGBT+ rainbow.
Days without sex
Sex was a painful subject for many this year, at least judging by the most popular gay memes in this area.
In July, we were treated to the savagely self-deprecating days without sex meme, which gave an insight into the way people behaved after weeks, months or even years without enjoying any carnal pleasure.
“I’ve been going to Starbucks for the past three days straight just to hear somebody scream my name.”
The format was simple: start your post with the phrase “day X without sex,” replacing the X with either your actual tally or a random funny number, and then state an experience which your sexless streak has prompted.
These included such gems as “I’ve been going to Starbucks for the past three days straight just to hear somebody scream my name” and “the demon I see in the corner of my room when I have sleep paralysis looking kinda cute now ngl.”
When pain stops bringing pleasure
The “hurt me” meme, like all good memes, was simple in format and deliciously introspective in nature.
After all, sometimes sex acts hurt in a good way—and sometimes when you ask someone to cause you pain, they go way too far and unintentionally break you down in a way which you may never recover from.
You might tell your partner: “I want you to hurt me,” only to be told, flat-out, that “you’ll never be the man you wish to be.
“You’ll never be a proper male, your dick gonna be weird and you’ll have huge scars and a huge part of the gay community will neglect you as a sexual partner,” they may add, requiring you to interrupt, saying: “sTOP.”
As well as transphobia, the meme was also used to tackle biphobia, with one person imagining a partner telling them: “plenty of men slide into your DMs and even ask you out on a date… but they leave as soon as you tell them you’re bisexual.”
Sex is cool, but gay memes are better
Sex isn’t everything, as this meme proved.
The premise was easy to follow—use the phrase “Yeah, sex is cool, but” and fill in the sentence with one or more sensations which are, in your opinion, better than sex—and the results were often surprisingly heartfelt.
“Yeah sex is cool but have you ever seen a gay couple holding hands irl.”
As well as the completely necessary “yeah sex is cool but have u tried gay sex” tweets, there were entries like: “yeah sex is cool or whatever but have you ever been gay and worn a jacket that smells like your girlfriend?”
Another particularly sweet example was: “yeah sex is cool but have you ever seen a gay couple holding hands irl.”
Queer love and representation: sometimes it’s more satisfying than an orgasms.
Distracted boyfriend: gay edition
Gay memes, like anything in culture, build on and influence each other, one using the other to inspire them to new heights.
Last year, the distracted boyfriend meme—also known as the girlfriend vs the other girl—went viral, with the stock photo being reworked in a variety of ways and even being given a twist lesbian ending—but there’s like nothing like the real thing.
This year we were introduced to the superior meme, featuring a bride and groom posing by the ocean, but while the woman was looking meaningfully at the camera, her beloved was staring at someone else: a hunky man walking out of the ocean in tight trunks.
The format was remixed to feature Lady Gaga, Mario and more, because the queer internet is wonderful.
Is this… a queer meme?
When a top-tier meme is floating around, Queer Twitter is always ready to improve it.
That’s exactly what happened with the “Is This a Pigeon?” meme which swept the internet in May, as two geniuses leapt at the opportunity to make insightful statements about being bisexual and trans.
First, Amy Marvin, who teaches Trans Studies at the University of Oregon, made her point by labelling the meme’s protagonist “cis society” and the butterfly he’s looking at “trans people having a backbone about anything at all” before making him ask: “Is this destroying my free speech?”
Then Taylor, a 25-year-old bi amateur electronic musician, laid into bi-erasure by creating a second, mirror image of the main character so that there were two figures, representing straight and gay people.
Both of them gestured towards a butterfly labelled “bisexuality,” with the straight person asking: “Is this gay?” and their counterpart saying: “Is this straight?”
Gay memes improve popular culture
When it comes to succeeding in popular culture: make it queer. Some memes this year have grasped that message and run with it.
One of these was the lightbulb-turning-on moment when everyone on Twitter realised that producers on projects from Hollywood blockbusters like Black Panther and Atomic Blonde to music videos like out singer Janelle Monáe‘s “Make Me Feel” had used bisexual lighting.
These pink, purple and blue hues have lit up TV shows like Black Mirror award-winning episode “San Junipero” and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, as well as other musicians like Dodie and Demi Lovato in her hit song “Cool for the Summer.”
The billboard in A Star Is Born, which also used the colours of the bisexual flag in its background, was turned into its own hilarious gay meme in October.
With its colours and a huge, all-capitals caption of “ALLY”—which looks a lot like a spectacular message of support for LGBT+ people—perhaps its meme-ification was inevitable.
Gay memes to use IRL
2018 has also been a year of memes to use in your everyday life, if you’re lucky and have loved ones who appreciate gay memes.
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We learned that bisexual people can’t sit on chairs properly, according to… well, bisexual people.
The self-deprecating in-joke has spread from inside the community to every social media platform on the internet, bringing joy and hilariously unorthodox ways of positioning yourself on a chair wherever it goes.
The trope goes in the same category as the varied but connected ideas that bisexual people can’t drive, do maths, ride a bike or sit in a normal way—but do cuff their jeans and use finger guns.
And of course, we can’t have a list of 2018 memes without praising the wonderful new viewpoint on the world which was gifted to us by the gender-neutral big dick energy.
“‘Big dick energy’ is confidence without cockiness. It is never misplaced, and it cannot be simulated.”
The meme, which took off online after Ariana Grande allegedly tweeted that her now ex-fiancé Pete Davidson has a 10-inch penis, was built on the fact that anyone of any gender can possess a masculine or dominant energy.
It was perhaps explained best by one Twitter user, who wrote: “‘big dick energy’ is confidence without cockiness. It is never misplaced, and it cannot be simulated.
“It is the sexual equivalent of writing a check for $10K knowing you got it in the bank account.”
In 2019, may you and all your gay memes possess big dick energy.