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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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.
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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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How Growing Up In A Culturally Diverse Environment Changed Me

We are all human.

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I can proudly say that I am from Montgomery County, Maryland, more specifically from the city of Gaithersburg. According to a 2018 study by WalletHub, three of the top 10 culturally diverse cities in the United States are located in Montgomery County. Those cities include Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Silver Spring.

I have lived in Montgomery County ever since the day I was born. Growing up in such a culturally and economically diverse area has educated me with the value of accepting differences. Since I was exposed to an assortment of cultures at such a young age, I hardly ever noticed differences among my peers and I. The everyday exposure to various cultures taught me to embrace diversity and look beyond appearances such as the color of someone's skin. I was able to open my eyes to other ideas, lifestyles, and backgrounds.

Ever since I was a child, I was not only taught to welcome different cultures and ethnic groups, but I was always surrounded by them. From my elementary to high school years, every classroom was filled with racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. Coming from someone apart of the Caucasian race, I was often the minority in school. Not everyone is as fortunate to experience such a multicultural society.

Since being from Montgomery County, I have grown up as a person with an open mind and strong values. Diversity has not only taught me to be more mindful but has also helped me become more of a respectful person. Learning about other cultures and backgrounds is essential to help societies strive, but experiencing it firsthand is something that no one can teach you.

After being in countless culturally diverse situations, I have been provided with many lifelong advantages. I was taught to be inclusive, fair, and understanding. I am able to be comfortable and accepting of all cultures and religions. After growing up in such a culturally diverse environment, I now develop culture shock when I'm not surrounded by diversity.

Our world is filled with numerous different kinds of cultures, ethnic groups, and religions. Being raised in a diverse environment has prepared me for what the real world looks like and taught me exactly what equality means. As I was growing up, I was always taught to be nonjudgemental of others and to embrace all individuals for who they are.

Diversity molds our identities. Every individual is unique, but each of us shares at least one trait — we are all human. Who would rather experience a homogeneous society, when they could constantly be learning about other cultures and building diverse relationships? When growing up, I never realized how impacted and truly thankful I would be to of had the opportunities to experience diversity each day. So here is a long overdue thank you to my parents for choosing to raise me in such an incredibly diverse place all of my life.

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