We Need More LGBT+ in the Media

Ainsley Freeman, Web Editor

From the beginning of my life up until seventh grade, I didn’t know what being gay was. I didn’t even know that being gay was possible. For me, it was straight and cisgender. I had no exposure to anything different. But when my best friend began dating her friend (also a girl), I realized that I wasn’t that normal heterosexual child. I didn’t bring it up to anyone because, at that point, I didn’t have any words to describe who I thought I was. I thought that I was different, and not in a good way. I only knew that I liked girls, and that I was one of three people in my small world that was. 

Then, something miraculous happened. I read a book in which a side character was a lesbian. It was the first time I had really read anything that described how I identified, and I finally had a word to match. It opened my eyes and I felt like I wasn’t the only person in the world who was a lesbian. It gave me the courage to come out to my friends, and a year after that, to my parents. After I had come out, it gave me the ability to be exposed to more LGBT+ media like Love, Simon, Carry On, They Both Die At The End, and more. 

As I read through these books and watched that single movie, it gave me more context to my own identity. I got words and terms to describe my identity, and it made it a lot easier to come out to people. Slowly, I got more comfortable in my own identity. But, if I hadn’t had that friend in seventh grade, I would probably have not realized how I felt until years later.

Many homophobes and transphobes argue that LGBT+ people shouldn’t be represented in the media because it will confuse children. I, truly, am revolted at the idea that introducing children to an idea that could lead to them being more accepted and confident in themselves is considered taboo. Speaking as a girl who had to figure all of this out by herself, I can personally assure you that, if as a child, I had media that depicted LGBT+ people, I would have been much less confused by my identity. 

Saying that people like me shouldn’t be represented in media because it is confusing is saying that LGBT+ people aren’t normal, are weird and confusing. Identities other than the cisgender-heterosexual ‘norm’ shouldn’t be considered different, strange, or wrong. They shouldn’t be regarded as something that could confuse children, but as something that is normal. And, I ask you this, if showing criminals as redeemable people in movies and books, doesn’t that confuse children? Doesn’t that show that being a criminal is okay, since the criminals in mainstream media aren’t that bad? 

I hate the idea that LGBT+ media isn’t appropriate for children. I hate that it’s considered weird to be LGBT+, so weird that people like me can’t be represented in media. 

But, I also want to touch on the importance of LGBT+ media. And to touch on that, I have one word that describes how important it is for a child who is unsure of their identity to see themselves in the media. Acceptance. There’s a certain therapeutic feeling that comes with seeing someone like you on television or movies, to know that you’re not alone. Until I began to see LGBT+ people in media, I still had this feeling that it was only me and a few other people. Being able to see that there are LGBT+ people in media feels so amazing, because it truly helps you realize that you are not alone, and that you are not the only one struggling with issues like this. 

It took me a long while to understand who I was, and that I had other people like me in the world. For a long time, I struggled and struggled to come to terms with who I was as opposed to who I thought I had to be. I felt suffocated by the person I was expected to be, and I felt like I could not be myself. But seeing people in media like me, it helped me realize that I had a place in the world, and I didn’t have to conform to these unspoken standards that had been pressing down on me for as long as I could remember. Finally, though, I understand who I am and that I don’t have to be that perfect straight girl. I can be myself, and I only understood this because I saw myself in media, in role models that show me that I am not alone, that I am not wrong, and I am just who I am meant to be.