If you’re sick of listening to true crime podcasts cover the same cases, these queer-centric options are for you…
By Courtney Hardwick
If you’re a true crime fan, you know there’s no shortage of books, documentaries, podcasts and original reporting dedicated to the victims of violent crimes and the people who commit those crimes. At the same time, we know that cases that get the most attention are usually ones that are committed against white, middle class, cisgender people. From serial killers like Ted Bundy, the Golden State Killer and Paul Bernardo to victims of the most talked-about unsolved cases like JonBenet Ramsey, the media is busy covering a certain (very small) selection of cases. Meanwhile hate crimes, including murders of gay, trans and non-binary people are on the rise. Queer Crime is a monthly column focusing on true crime with an LGBTQ+ spin whether it’s the victim or the perpetrator.
This month, we’re sharing a list of podcasts that take a deep dive into cases with a connection to the LGBTQ+ community. These podcasts aim to tell lesser known stories and bring more attention to the cases that need it while focusing on issues that affect marginalized communities. Add these podcasts to your must-listen list if you’re looking to expand true crime horizons.
The “trans panic defense” is a legal strategy where a defendant claims they committed an assault or murder of a transgender person while in a state of “temporary insanity” caused by unwanted sexual advances. The defense has been banned in certain states and where it is still permitted, it is used as part of a “diminished capacity” defence strategy and usually results in a guilty verdict for a lesser charge rather than a complete acquittal. The “Jenny Jones” case where defendant Jonathan Schmitz used a “gay panic” defense and was found guilty of second degree murder instead of first degree is one example.
The Trans Panic podcast aims to focus on the lives and deaths of transgender Americans, bringing more attention to the adversity that trans people have to face every single day. Hosted by Travis Ferguson and Feathers Wise, there are currently 22 episodes available that have been released over the last two years. From well-known cases like the murder of Brandon Teena to telling the story of victims that haven’t gotten as much attention like Ally Steinfeld and Rita Hester, Trans Panic is a detailed look into the discrimination and hate transgender people have to face and how the justice system continues to fail them.
Start with: Episode 22: Special Guest: New York Democratic District Leader Emilia Decaudin features an interview with New York’s youngest and first transgender Democratic District Leader.
While not 100% focused on true crime in the way you might be used to, Bad Gays is a podcast about all the “evil and complicated queers in history”. According to hosts Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller, there is plenty of focus on the world’s gay icons such as Harvey Milk, but progress in the world is shaped by both the good and the bad. In an interview with Vice, Lemmey and Miller said “looking at gay villains, we can learn a lot about how today’s gay identities were built, what they reacted to and how their gayness intersected with race and class. For some of our villains, the way they were treated due to their sexuality was a key part of what led them down a dark path.” Each episode focuses on the more unsavoury characters that probably aren’t covered in queer history lessons.
Start with: Episode 9: Loepold and Loeb covers the story of two 18-year-old heirs to massive fortunes who murdered their 14-year-old neighbour just to prove they were capable of pulling off the perfect crime.
Covering some of the most notorious and brutal killers who also happen to be be gay, Sinister Sissies doesn’t shy away from the worst cases out there. Hosted by friends Jarryd and Sam, there is over 40 episodes covering everything from notorious serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Dennis Nilsen to lesser known cases like Stephen Port, AKA the Grindr killer. They also cover horror film and anything else that falls into the centre of a gay and macabre Venn diagram—for example, author Bret Easton Ellis and the way he writes gay characters.
A lot of the serial killers and cases covered have also been covered by many other podcasts and documentaries, but Sinister Sissies discussed each case from a gay perspective, shining light on how sexuality, prejudice and gay panic shaped how the crimes were investigated and perceived by the public.
Start with: Episode 32: Bruce McArthur, Serial Killer Santa covers the now-infamous serial killer than stalked Toronto’s Gay Village for years.
Beyond the Rainbow
With a tagline of “It’s not a crime to be gay, unless you’re a murderer”, Beyond the Rainbow focuses on notable LGBTQ+ true crime cases whether it’s related to the victims or the perpetrators. With four seasons worth of episodes there is plenty of content to get through. Some episodes explore a single case and others focus on issues that affect the LGBTQ+ community like gay conversion therapy and hate crimes. Host C.J., is a self-described true crime fan who wanted a podcast that was about only LGBTQ+-related cases—so she created one herself.
Start with: Episode 14: Paul Broussard – The Murder that Woke Houston covers how the murder of Broussard by nine teenagers, sparked the biggest gay rights demonstration in Houston’s history.
The Doodler is a still unidentified serial killer responsible for as many as 16 murders in San Francisco between January 1974 and September 1975. The perpetrator has been described as a black male between the ages of 19 and 25 and he was known to meet his victims—who were all white men—in gay nightclubs, bars and restaurants. The San Francisco Chronicle’s first podcast The Doodler follows the case and explores the impact it had on San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community. The police had one strong suspect but three surviving assault victims refused to testify for fear of “outing themselves” and he walked free. The Doodler still hasn’t been positively identified but the podcast aims to get the word out and hopefully trigger a break in the case. The first episode hasn’t been released yet, but check out their website to find out more about the case and subscribe to be alerted to new episodes.
For more of Courtney Hardwick’s fascinating QUEER CRIME series click here.