Having recently watched and enjoyed the comedy Bros – which starts as a biting satire of modern dating and turns into a cheesy rom-com – I wanted to share my excitement at seeing childless and childfree representation throughout the film (spoilers below).
The movie centers around Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner), a popular podcast host struggling to manage his homosexual love/sex life. He also serves as curator for the National Museum of LGBTQ+ History and Culture, which is preparing to open. This subplot allows the movie to present information about LGBTQ+ historical figures in an entertaining format, including life-size animatronics, celebrity cameos, and holograms.
Amongst the historical figures that can be seen throughout the movie, some had biological children (Alexander the Great, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marlene Dietrich) – but not all! Those without children, whether assigned female at birth or assigned male at birth and femme-presenting, that I recognized are included below:
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
A self-educated woman and considered the first known feminist of Mexico, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz chose to become a nun (in order to avoid marriage). Some scholars have identified her as being queer due to the nature of some of her poems dedicated to the Vicereine of New Spain, Maria Luisa Manrique de Lara y Gonzaga.
You can notice portraits and panels about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz at the entrance of one of the rooms, The Legends Pavilion (dedicated to unsung LGBTQ+ historical figures).
Christina, Queen of Sweden
Christina became queen of Sweden after the death of her father. Refusing to marry, she abdicated the throne in her late 20s. A learned woman, advocate for peace, and patron of the arts, she led a tumultuous life fueled with financial extravagance, failed political plots, and scandals. She defied conventions by wearing masculine clothes, enjoying traditionally masculine sports such as hunting and fencing, and engaging in lesbian love affairs.
Gladys Bentley was an American blues singer who rose to fame during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s/1930s. Openly lesbian, she defied gender normative behaviors and broke societal conventions, including through her clothing, such as by wearing a tuxedo and a hat (which were considered to be men’s clothes at the time). She is recognized today as a pioneering LGBTQ+ entertainer.
You can get a glimpse at Gladys Bentley in some scenes taking place in The Legends Pavilion.
Dr. Margaret Chung
Dr. Margaret Chung was the first known American-born Chinese female physician and a World War II celebrity. For some time, she wore masculine clothing and identified as “Mike,” however, she later reverted to her birth name and more feminine way of dressing. Although engaged to a man at some point, she chose to remain single, possibly in part due to her romantic interest in women (she would later be linked to the openly lesbian writer Elsa Gidlow).
Virginia Woolf was a writer who belonged to the Bloomsbury Group, an influential literary circle of English intellectuals, and whose work still resonates today. Although she was married, she had several affairs with women, which is why she appears in the Hall of Bisexuals in the movie. She also desired children but remained childless (not by choice).
Billie Holiday (most likely)
Although there is no visible name tag, I believe that one of the life-size animatronics in the Hall of Bisexuals is meant to depict the jazz singer Billie Holiday, who was openly bisexual and famously wore gardenia flowers in her hair.
Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson
Two pioneer LGBTQ+ activists, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson participated in the Stonewall Riots of 1969 (a pivotal moment in the gay liberation movement) and tirelessly fought for equal rights. During their lives, both Rivera and Johnson used she/her pronouns and identified as drag queens. While they did not identify with the term “transgender,” some scholars argue that it is because it wasn’t commonly used back then, while others believe that calling them transwomen isn’t accurate and that a better term would be gender non-conforming people.