Why LGBT Representation Matters

Why LGBT Representation Matters

And how to get it right.
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For the first decade or so of my life, I didn’t realize that gay people existed.

I lived in a fairly conservative place, with a conservative family. Gay people were considered difficult to speak about, to say the least. My family isn’t virulently homophobic (they have gay friends), but to this day, LGBT issues are not considered child friendly in my house. I had no idea the things I felt had meaning, much less a name and identity attached. I had crushes on boys, so nothing was too amiss. Romantic feelings for girls were considered friendship, since the idea of two girls dating was impossible to comprehend (non-binary identities were still a very far-off idea as well).

Then I began a new book series called "Abarat." It’s a children’s fantasy series that I adored for the lush writing, gorgeous art, and fantastical setting. However, it stuck with me as my first brush with the LGBT community. One of the characters casually mentions his husband. I had to flip the page back over to make sure I read properly. I had – these two men were married and had a life together. The character talks about his husband throughout the series. When I read the author Clive Barker’s biography in the book, I discovered that he, too, had a male partner.

My mind was blown. Suddenly, I had this entire new area to explore. I had the clues, and I had the precedent. Though it would take a few more years for me to come into my identity as a bisexual person, this early experience showed me that people feel the way I do too. Seeing gay people was the first step to realizing what it all meant for myself.

When I finally did come out, my parents were not happy. They weren’t explosive, but they claim (to this day) that bisexuality isn’t real. Seeing couples on television who were like me – notably in "Glee," since that was one of the few shows on at the time with gay characters – was a life raft. I lived vicariously through them and their journeys to love, both with each other and themselves. For all the ridiculousness that show was, it was vital to me, as a young person, to see something of myself in the media.

At the risk of sounding elderly much too early, kids today have a wonderful selection of LGBT representation I would have never dreamed of. From Korra and Asami on “Legend of Korra” to Ruby and Sapphire on “Steven Universe,” children’s media is slowly redefining what is appropriate to include gay relationships. I am so grateful and overjoyed when I realize that current and future LGBT children will have a variety of wonderful representation to choose from.

However, we can do much better still. Many shows rely on queerbaiting rather than actual representation. “Queerbaiting” refers to a ploy by showrunners to create gay undertones in their shows without overtly confirming anything. There is never any intention to have gay characters in these cases; they tease gay fans who, desperate for something to see themselves in, will watch any way. It is a cruel practice. It tells fans that their stories are not worth telling, too risky to speak of, and that their love is shameful. When these fans are gay children, this can be especially damaging, but queerbaiting hurts LGBT people of all ages.

Another harmful trend is the “bury your gays” trope. This refers to the abnormally high death rate of gay characters – especially women loving women. This stems from a need to punish immorality, and being gay has a long history of being viewed as immoral. Writers may defend their choices as being solely for the art, but with the context of this trope and the history of real violence against gay people, this sets up a terrifying pattern for LGBT people: that your love is not just bad, it’s fundamentally unsafe.

Pop culture has much more sway than we like to admit. As a society, we want to believe we’re “above” the banal somehow. This banality, however, is a huge part of our lives. It shapes our perceptions of our lives and ourselves. For LGBT people, pop culture has been too cruel for too long. Even as it begins to soften, we still have a long way to go.

Cover Image Credit: Glee Wiki

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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In A Society Where Sex Sells And Women Are Trying To Be Heard

You are a valuable human being, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

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I think it's fair to say we all have our guilty pleasures in life.

Those romantic comedies, steamy novels, or dramatic tv shows.

We love seeing the super attractive guy, with the super attractive girl.

But I think what society has picked up on, and what continues to happen, is women are being overly sexualized.

Whether it be a commercial, a show, a movie, a picture, or advertisement, sex will sell just about anything.

And I know this happens to men as well, and sure we don't mind looking at it, and might not even notice any real problems, but it is a problem.

We live in a society where men and women want to be heard, they want their voices out on the platforms for the world to hear, they want to change, and action.

We want to end major problems like human trafficking, sexual predators, and rape culture.

But let's put up a billboard of a half-dressed woman for children to see.

Let's make this simple.

No a woman or man for that matter, wearing very little clothing does not mean they are open or willing to engage with anyone sexually. This does not excuse rape, catcalling, or other sexual comments.

But listen, I am a woman, and if there is a man on the beach with a six-pack, It might catch my eye.

Just as a woman with a very revealing top may get a couple of glances, but this still doesn't have to be made sexual or overly dramatic. We can notice, and control our thoughts.

But here's the thing, if we continue to push sex, it really doesn't help our case.

As a woman I know if I walk into a job interview I'm going to look my best because my goal is to show I am a sophisticated individual worth being hired, it sends a message, just as walking into an interview with sweatpants would be.

I know I can speak for all men and women and say we all desire respect, as we should.

We don't want unwanted attention.

But there are a lot of other things we don't want either,

as I mentioned before, predators, sex traffickers, or rapists.

I believe clothing or lack thereof do not lead to such things, but rather things like pornography, graphic movies, shows, or magazines can "encourage."

NOT intentionally.

But think about it, really.

They create a fantasy, which means they aren't real. But when we continue to promote these things it becomes real for some people.

We as women want to be heard, we want respect, we want equality, but I'm telling you we are not going to get that in a society that banks off of sex. Or sexually exploiting ourselves.

Because

1. WE SHOULD NEVER HAVE TO SELL OURSELVES LIKE THAT TO ANYONE

2. I'm pretty sure people will still buy the product without the half dressed individuals if marketed well

I think if we want to change then we need to fix the issues staring right at us.


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