Why Queer Representation is Actually Important

It comes as no surprise that the LGBTQ community is seldom portrayed in the media, and even when there is representation it is often negative or inaccurate. Heterosexuality is portrayed as the norm, the default. I can watch any show or movie and there are definitely heterosexual characters. In fact, they’re everywhere. But I have to look very hard to find a LGBT character, and such a character is often a flamboyant, white gay man who is treated as more of a source of amusement than as a prominent, meaningful character. If I want to watch a movie with any gay people in it, I often have to sift through the “Gay and Lesbian” category on Netflix, as if these movies can only be identified by the sexuality of the characters and not the more common genres of comedy, drama, and action.

I grew up immersed in this culture, just as many other LGBT youth have, which makes coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation very difficult. I grew up thinking that boys like girls, and girls like boys, and that’s just the way it is. Every love song I listened to or romantic comedy I watched was exclusively heteronormative. It is the constant reenforcement of this male/female dynamic that is damaging for LGBT youth and the like. Growing up, I knew of gay people, but only of the stereotypes and celebrities who had come out. There was no form of media to inform me of any relationship other than a heterosexual one. So of course, I didn’t question my sexuality throughout my childhood, even though there were obvious signs. Culture heavily influences and impacts societal ideals and norms, behaviors, attitudes, and discrimination. And from what I had absorbed from my culture and the media, homosexuality was not a good thing. And while I was completely okay with other people being gay, I couldn’t accept it for myself.

I didn’t spend seventeen years of my life as a heterosexual kid, and then one day I decided to be gay. I thought I was supposed to like boys. I didn’t even know what being gay was until I entered middle school. There was no “agenda” preached at me like many fundamentalists love to believe. It was quite the opposite. I went to Catholic school for seven years, where I was taught that being a homo is a no-no. An abomination. An unnatural, devilish choice. Of course I never bought into it. I accepted anyone who wasn’t the living definition of a bigot. The priest who taught my religion class was as gay as the night is dark, yet he still condemned such a “lifestyle”. And whoever came up with the idea that being gay is a lifestyle? Being an avid skier is a lifestyle. Sexuality is not a lifestyle, it just is. And it is so sad that we have to somehow justify that in order to be respected and treated equally. Humans are born with their sexual orientation and gender identity regardless of what that may be. But, even if it was a choice, what gives someone else the right to tell you what to do with your life? Why? Because God says so? I have to prove my homosexuality is innate yet there is no empirical evidence that God even exists, let alone the ever evolving, rewritten bible that also claims we should stone adulterers. If you don’t have to justify or prove your religion, I certainly don’t have to justify my sexuality.

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61 thoughts on “Why Queer Representation is Actually Important

  1. They dont even repersent a real hetro realationship on tv it’s all greesy rich kid date rapist are good bullshit or date a vampire who also looks like asketchy rapist rich kid, this planets gone to shit because of tv! i totally agree with you i’d like to see better examples on love period

  2. Good points. We do need more representation of all types of people in the media. That would also have to include people of different races, ethnicities, etc. I really do think the dominant age of the ruling WASP is coming to a close. It may be a slow pace of progress, but pop culture does have more out there than ever before on the LGBT community. Orange is the New Black. Modern Family. Looking. Open and cool Ellen Degeneres is one of the most popular daytime talk show hosts. Many more out and proud celebrities now. The recent plethora of news on Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn. Your blog adds to the many voices out there. But you’re right. Still a long way to go. Sexuality should not be viewed as a lifestyle. Very much a double standard there. And as a kid who grew up Catholic, I now see the Bible as riddled with all sorts of problems — not just the abomination part (and how many repressed priests are out there?) but the misogyny of women. Reading some books on goddess worship and the feminine divine last summer, I was amazed by how often Biblical passages not only defy pure biology (Adam’s rib creating Eve) and ignore the tenants of love (stoning women and massacring non-believers while demanding “Thou Shalt Not Kill”), but also demonizing women as villains and seductive prostitutes–when in fact, goddess worship and sex in goddess temples had been a common practice for centuries before male-dominated religions took over the Middle East and Mediterranean. To me, so many religions today are all about power and control — usually “dick”-tated by male leaders who claim that women are lesser beings by divine right. The right-wing GOP politicians and pundits chime in with a 1950s-era mindset, preaching the repression of women, people of color and pretty much anyone who isn’t WASPy. Sadly, they are locked into defending a desperate, losing argument full of hypocrisy. Okay, stepping off the soapbox now. Keep on blogging. I enjoy your stuff.

  3. Someone in my life just recently pointed out that queer people constantly have to defend themselves by insisting that their “lifetsyle” is not a choice- whereas, in fact, what religion you follow IS a choice, at least as an adult. So anyone who adheres to a theology that encourages them to treat their fellow human beings as less-than has made a choice to be a bigot:-)

    As for your larger point: it is true. Knowing actual queer people is generally what convinces people on the fence that we are, in fact, people. However, it becomes a burden placed on every queer person: suddenly, it’s implied that it is our duty to make it very clear that we are OUT, define ourselves almost exclusively by our sexualities, and act as a sort of ambassador. This can be tiring, even in more open communities, and downright dangerous in some close-minded places.

    If queer characters were treated more like their straight counterparts in the media, maybe some of the burden could be shared by fictional characters… because sometimes real life people just need a rest!

  4. although i agree with the ‘core’ of what you are saying, there’s a lot more to it than just acceptance. i will say that an insightful and well written argument is present here but to be alive and read your position ten years from now will be interesting and exciting. you’re already doing something very important that many people don’t and that is to think and question. for everything else, there’s mastercard. 😀

  5. Reblogged this on Lynn's Scribblings and commented:
    I know a few genderqueer, bisexual young people and it is a huge struggle to find representations of themselves in any form of media.
    This leads to major self-esteem issues even with accepting families and no personal exposure to religious bigotry.

  6. As an educator, I am very aware that there are painful lapses in the media and literature studied within the classroom setting – this needs to change. Thanks for writing!

  7. Did you know that they suspended all marriage licenses in Alabama because the people passed gay marriage? Now, no one can get married. People are having ceremonies anyway without the states permission. They are cruel on every level.

  8. This is so true. Here is another little erk I have with misrepresentation. Type “lesbian” anywhere on the internet and you get inundated with porn. If you try to search books, movies anything with that word, up pops porn. I wonder how many people are like me and don’t dare go searching through the results to find a book or movie that has a lesbian character you are looking for in fear of coming across any hard core questionable “porn”. How many people will think that this is a true representation of lesbianism? “Lesbian porn” is the biggest misrepresentation of lesbians and it isn’t even for lesbians.

    • I completely agree. Lesbians are definitely over-sexualized for the sole purpose of pleasing men. It’s extremely difficult to find accurate representations of lesbians in any form of media really. Lesbianism shouldn’t be viewed as this fetishized construct for perverted men.

    • If you’re getting porn in your searches, try turning on Safe Search or cranking it up to a higher level. That may help. 🙂

      I mean, this is the Internet we’re talking about, you can find porn of anything. It’s called Rule 34: If it exists, there’s porn of it. By the way, the nature of porn isn’t to accurately represent anything, it’s simply about titillation and fantasy. It’s for entertainment purposes only. You know, like how, after watching the first four seasons of The Big Bang Theory, I’ve come to the conclusion that Leonard’s not a true geek because there’s no way a geek gets to date as many attractive women as he has dated so far. But it’s entertainment and it would be bad television for every geek on the show to be a hopeless loser, so I’m not offended by the inaccurate portrayal.

      Also, if you’re looking for a good book, I’m going to now shamelessly promote the work of my former writing instructor. It’s called Beauty of the Broken. Give it a look. And good luck in your future search efforts. 🙂
      http://www.amazon.com/Beauty-Broken-Tawni-Waters/dp/1481407090

      • Hi Gabriel. I understand what you mean absolutely, but within the context of this post, its the frustration of the LGBT community with the inaccurate representation of LGBT characters within all forms of media. This particular post has really made me think. It has actually raised my awareness in a big way. Its a brilliant observation from a younger member within our LGBT community. 🙂

  9. The LGBTQ community definitely gets the shitty end of the stick, constantly labeled as the “others” when it comes to sexuality. I agree wholeheartedly with your perspective, live and let live. I had the amazing, yet rare opportunity of living in a household that welcomed all differences even though my family believed in religion- they more wanted the values/morals of religion, not so much the intolerant practices. Its a sad world that so many people will break every commandment, but still have enough balls to judge the sexual preference of someone who has no effect on their life whatsoever. Ugh.. Anyhow, great read 🙂

  10. ‘And who ever came up with the idea that being gay is a lifestyle”? So true. It’s just lazy rhetoric that splits “us” from “them” so that they can treat us badly without guilt, and perhaps a twinge of self-righteousness

  11. Really enjoyed this post. I have strong opinions about sexuality, and I do agree that too many LGBTQA characters in media are very one-sided interpretations of how actual LGBTQA people are in real life. Well written.

  12. I loved this piece. (Positive) Representation for all people is definitely important, especially in today’s influencial media. I definitely see how LGBT+ people are quite underrepresented, but we do have to give credit to people who try to portray them in a positive light, even if it’s a little bit incorrect. This is a great post though! 🙂

  13. true! when i felt attraction towards people of the same sex i thought i was a sexual deviant. when i searched for movies about lgbt people it was almost always centered around a crazy love/sexual story and never around a main character who was strong and independent, and just happened to be lgbt.

  14. That is well written and perceptive post. There are narrow-minded people who would perhaps change their way of thinking after reading content like that.

  15. I have some hefty opinions on the subject of LGBTQ in media. First off, I agree with everything you’ve said. When I was growing up there was nothing main stream which said anything overtly about being gay. There were only things which were gay, weren’t spoken about, and hidden. Of course as you get older and go back over those items you realize they were in fact gay and speaking to an audience in subtext. The people who are gay understood and the ones who aren’t just took it all at face value. We have come a long way from those times. I remember when YouTube was first starting when you typed in “lesbian” all you got was soft core porn and Xena fan videos. Now you type in lesbian and tons of content, tons of lesbian voices are speaking. Now the problem with LGBTQ in the media is not just a gay problem, it is an industry wide problem. Not only is the gay community stereotyped and under-represented in main stream media but also women, Latinos, the black community so on and so forth. Films are no longer greenlit based on quality or story by a producer who feels strongly about the work. These days main stream films are greenlit by committee and those who sit on the committee are heads of: Facebook, iTunes, Twitter etc etc and the studio heads are predominately middle aged white men who want to hang on to a small piece of their childhoods for as long as they can; this is why the controversy involving Amy Pascal was so tragic. Her behavior was questionable but the woman was taking chances and fighting for art.
    There are so many women and gay voices out there and the most important thing for those of us in the demographic who do want to see more is to support one another. Almost all of the films up for Academy nominations last year were independent films with studio distribution. In my opinion based on my view on life, work, and entertainment, we need more women and more lesbians making quality work. Finding their voice and distributing their voice and showing the studios that they want to pick up their work and send it all over the world. That there is a market, they will make money, and it is in their best interest to cater to us. In the end the studios don’t care about voices or stories but just the bottom line. I mean, think what you want about that statement but money is what it all comes down to and the films we see on Netflix etc are there and distributed because some middle aged white man saw a monetary value on it. But that’s not just limited to LGBTQ but all films. And the middle aged white man making the decisions are the real problem.

    There are a few ways we can help both straight and gay women. Geena Davis is out there everyday fighting for us (www.seejane.org) We have Crystal Chappell revolutionizing daytime drama with her company (www.openbookprod.com) where she has made the subscription model a success with her lesbian-centric dramas Venice Beach the Series and Beacon Hill. And so many more. We have to learn that paying for this entertainment and giving to these causes are worth it and make it a part of our daily life and routine.

    Somehow it is easier for gay men to get money for their work. I don’t know why. But if we want more for ourselves we have to get out there and either do it or support those who want to do it. I wrote and directed a short with full backing and I have to tell you, even the smallest projects are incredibly difficult, soul ripping experiences. As a director it is my job to make sure the project makes something of itself. There is an entire group of people who count on me to make the work they did mean something and that job 1-isn’t for everyone and 2-is not glamorous at all. My actors got to live in the skin for a few months and then they got to leave while it’s been 2 years since we shot and I’m still in the weeds, I don’t get to let go until she can fly, and she doesn’t fly for free.

    Your opinions are great. We can do something about it. This is a long winded response and you read my blog so I’m sure you expected it. I happen to think MY biggest problem with finding lesbian content is the simple task of genre. Dude! Why is “gay and lesbian” ONE category everywhere?! Gay men and gay women are TWO totally different demographics. Why do I have to weed through titles among titles with naked men on the covers just to find ONE lesbian movie toward the end of the list that I’ve already seen?

      • There are. Let’s put it this way. Outfest is ten days. There 5-10 programs per day. I bought tickets for all but maybe 3 lesbian projects. I’m totally 15 lesbian programs and 4 mixed les/gay shorts. But think of it this way. I went last year and I totaled 7 lesbian programs. We are out there! We are trying to make movies but there are far more gay men investing in features than women and it is becoming more and more difficult to make that million to get projects up and running UNLESS you are making one about homosexuality in middle eastern culture, coming out in an American minority community etc. Except if you have a name attached, which you can’t do without money unless the name is a friend of yours. Obviously I can talk for days about the journey. What needs to be tackled is making the journey easier for lesbian filmmakers. We can’t just sit around and wait for some old white guy to write a check. We have to take matters into our own hands and show people like Tina Cessa Ward that we appreciate their contribution and will help any way we can to keep her working on programming we want to see.

  16. To be honest some of my favorite lesbian material is directed by men. But mostly they aren’t the creatives but the check signers. I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to who writes checks with my name on them. I’m also very open to men directing lesbian projects IF they are good and don’t scream “this is what I think lesbians are like.” I can’t wait to share with you a gem I found….oh I’m giddy thinking about it but you’ll have to wait.

  17. Just an FYI: Christians are not called to stone adulterers. If you recall Jesus was asked to stone and adulterer and he responded with love, grace and mercy and called for any person in the crowd who had not sinned to cast the first stone. As there is no one who has not sinned, no one stoned the woman, not even Jesus who was the only one there who had not sinned. Instead, he forgave her her sin and told her to go and sin no more. Christians are not called to stone anyone. Many who don’t want to accept the truth of the Bible make these over reaching and false statements to try to discredit Christians. Also: Christians are not called to condemn homosexuals only to tell them the truth in a loving way. Unfortunately, the Bible reports that God abhors the homosexual sex act. It does not say that he abhors the homosexual. Indeed, I would contend that since God made the homosexual that he loves the person. Why God chose to make homosexuals and abhor the homosexual sex act is not at all clear to me; but, we know that God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts: Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8″For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9″For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.– Isaiah 55:7-9.

    In the New Testament, we are told that if we want to follow Jesus, we must pick up our cross and carry it. The homosexual certainly, as all do, has a cross to bear. For the homosexual, this cross seems to be celibacy. There is nothing in the Bible that condemns the homosexual for being homosexual, only for engaging in homosexual sex. It may seem unfair to us humans who do not know the mind of God but no one was ever promised that life would be fair. Many are born blind, with deformed limbs or with a host of other birth defects. How is it fair that these people were born this way? From our limited human perspective, there is no way to explain how this could be fair. It just is. What is clear is that Jesus offers forgiveness to all who accept him and chose to obey him. Being a homosexual does not exclude one from following Christ but one should realize that homosexuals do not get a special pass to continue to sin unrepentantly and expect to avoid judgement for this in the end. Furthermore, Christians are called to try and help their fellow Christians not to sin. If a Christian is living in the sin of adultery their fellow Christians are called to gently encourage them away from their sin. The same would be true of a homosexual engaging in sex with another homosexual. Their sin would be no better and no worse than the sin of the adulterer and their treatment by fellow Christians should be similar. This is the major reason a Christian cannot support a homosexual marriage. To do so would be like saying: I know what you are doing is grieving the Holy Spirit and I too want to grieve the Holy Spirit so let me help you with your sin. No sane Christian would want to insult God in this way. When homosexuals ask their Christian friends to help them engage in homosexual marriage they are asking their friends to reject the God they love and to chose their friend over their God. These are choices which may have eternal consequences.

    • Being gay isn’t a birth defect. And “loving the sinner and not the sin” isn’t really love. It’s a polite justification for disdain. I know plenty of Christians who have no problem with same-sex marriage or any homosexual sex acts. They’re just not as concerned with “earning” a spot in heaven to disregard human decency.

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