Why LGBTQIA+ Representation Matters

In books, movies, and all forms of media and entertainment

When I was fourteen, I realized I liked girls.

The only thing I knew about the LGBT+ community was that lesbians were girls who liked girls, gay men were into other men, and bisexual people liked both genders. The reason I knew such facts was because of queer representation on t.v. shows (and fanfics).

I grew up Christian, and while I never heard anything negative toward the LGBT+ community, I didn’t hear anything positive about it either. I heard nothing — which can be just as detrimental.

I think I’m lucky. I realized I liked girls in my early teen years, and others can’t accept that fact, for numerous reasons. sometimes until they’re forty or fifty-years-old.

Knowing this is heartbreaking because it means that for decades, this person had to pretend to be someone they’re not. They shoved down their feelings and thoughts, and maybe even got married, kissed, and had sex with someone they were not attracted to.

Parents need to talk to their kids about LGBT+ topics

But even at fourteen, it’s still too late. I was in fourth grade when my female friends were starting to get “real crushes” on the boys in class. Thinking back, I had my first real crush in the fourth grade too — I just didn’t realize it because the person I had a crush on was a girl.

Parents don’t educate their kids about the LGBT+ community. Children don’t learn about gender identity or that it’s possible to like the same gender.

I’m not attacking parents who don’t do this. Most of these parents aren’t homophobic; they’re just unaware that talking about these topics with their kids is crucial.

Talking to your kids about LGBT+ issues and what not is important because if your child is gay or bisexual, or anything else, then in a couple of months or years, when they realize this, it will be easier for them to tell you. They won’t have to feel the stress, fear, and worry that most people feel. They’ll be aware of who they are, and it will save them months (or years) of them trying to figure that out and what it means to be queer or transgender.

Representation reminds us we’re normal

Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

However, since most parents don’t talk about these things, it’s one of the reasons that LGBT+ representation matters so much, whether it’s in books, movies, tv shows, music videos, songs, art, and more.

The reason I realized I like girls was because of f/f (female/female relationship) fanfics I read, Pretty Little Liars, which has a lesbian character in it, and Hayley Kiyoko’s music video “Girls Like Girls.”

When I had this realization, you would think that I’d have an entire freakout, mainly because, as I said, I didn’t know much about girls liking other girls, but because of the LGBT+ representation I’d already been exposed to, I was okay.

In what I’d seen, girls dating and kissing and holding hands with other girls was normal. This, in turn, made me feel normal.

This reaction, of course, didn’t last forever. I still had no idea if I liked guys, too. I didn’t know if I was a lesbian, bisexual, or pansexual. I wasn’t going to tell my parents or siblings any time soon, but I’d have to eventually, and how would they react?

When people don’t have access to positive representation

After a while, some things happened in my life that countered the positivity in my mind. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to convince myself I was straight, that liking people of the same gender was disgusting, or that there was something wrong with me. I had to change.

These thoughts are hard for an adult to handle. Now imagine a fourteen-year-old girl who’s in her first year of high school thinking all of this. It’s not right.

These thoughts and more are the type of thoughts that lead to over 34,000 LGBT+ kids killing themselves per year. They are fed negativity, and they started to believe it to the point that they’re willing to take their own lives. All because of who they love. Because of who they are. Because of the gender in which they identify.

These are the type of thoughts that keep people in the closet. They can’t be who they are without getting attacked or attacking themselves in their minds. They’re forced to hide from the world as if they weren’t normal human beings.

When you hear that three men beat a lesbian couple because they refused to kiss in front of them, that parents kick their children out of their home, that Trump banned transgender people from the military, you can’t help but want to stay hidden. All of this negativity is enough to scare anyone further inside the closet.

Representation allows us ignore the negative comments about the LGBT+ community

Photo by Victoria Quirk on Unsplash

This is another reason that positive (that’s the keyword) representation for the LGBTQIA+ community is so important. When we need to break away from all of the negativity, we can turn to shows like One Day at a Time and Supergirl, songs by Greyson Chance, or books like Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit to remind us that who we are is more than okay. To remind us that the words gay and lesbian and transgender are not bad words. To remind us that we have an unbeatable power within us.

To remind us that we are not small candle flames easily extinguished but rather full forest fires that will roar forever.

When someone doesn’t have positivity in their ears, reminding them that it’s okay to be who they are, terrible things can happen. They lose hope. They lose themselves. They hurt themselves.

Representation gives us hope and strength

Shows like Wynonna Earp and The Bold Type, movies like Booksmart and Someone Great literally saves lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that a queer character or couple or that a transgender superhero has given them the courage to get up and fight every single day. Badass bisexual characters like Sara Lance and Rosa Diaz has reminded bisexual people that they matter.

Elena Alvares and Lito Rodriguez from Sense8 gave me the final push I needed to come out to my family. The relief I felt afterward, knowing that I would never have to hide again, made me cry. Not to be cliché, but a weight the size of Earth had lifted off my chest and shoulders, and I could finally breathe again.

Thousands of teenagers, twenty-somethings, and even older adults will tell you that positive representation of who they are has saved or changed their lives. Has made them feel normal. Has given them hope. Gets them through the day. Blocks out the negativity their family feeds them. Reminds them to love themselves.

This is why positive LGBTQIA+ representation matters. And while we’ve come a long way since the Stonewall Riots, there is still a lot of work to do. Meanwhile, what can you do?

What you can do if you’re an ally

Photo by Toni Reed on Unsplash
  1. Learn about the LGBT community (read books, ask questions)
  2. Include queer/trans characters in your books, movies, scripts, etc.
  3. Talk to your kids about the LGBTQIA+ community
  4. Don’t make a big deal when someone comes out to you (unless it’s positive)
  5. Spread love and acceptance
  6. Support LGBT+ non-profits and charities (GLAAD, Trevor Project, National Center for Transgender Equality)

7. Go to a pride parade this month (or next month, depending on where you live), and cheer on with everyone else in a celebration of love

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