I’ve already made a queerbaiting post before – but this won’t be about that. I want to talk about exactly why LGBTQ+ representation is important. I wanted to talk about this important topic because it matters, and therefore deserves to be talked about – as is any form of representation – no matter your identity. But why is it important? That’s a perfectly valid question, and here are some of the reasons I came up with as to why I feel as though LGBTQ+ representation is so important. I also plan on doing a blog post on why current LGBTQ+ representation is problematic – but that’s another post for another day.
But homophobia, transphobia, etc are everywhere – and so the LGBTQ+ community is, unfortunately, constantly under attack. Even if a show has a queer character in it, it is normal for a selling purpose – not for something important. So in this cisnormative and heteronormative society, queer representation is crucial – especially because younger children are discovering that they don’t fit this cishet norm – which is a real shame.
But what is representation? In media terms, representation is defined as, “how the media portrays particular groups” – I also want to give some overall context of LGBTQ+ representation in the media – because context is important. The media portrayal of LGBT people means how the mainstream media represents the LGBTQ+ people – this is ever-evolving and changing. In a historical context, the portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community has been negative; despite this, from the 1990s to the present day, there has been an increase in the number of LGBTQ+ people being represented, as well as their issues, and concerns. The community has made active stand in terms of making its own culture – with the end goal of being an affirmative representation in mainstream media. Gwendolyn Audrey Foster admits, however, that, “We may still live in a world of white dominance and heterocentrism, but I think we can agree that we are in the midst of postmodern destabilizing forces when it comes to sexuality and race.‘
Now that’s out of the way – let’s discuss why representation matters for the LGBTQ+ community specifically. Firstly, if we can normalize same-sex couples, trans couples, etc, we, as a society, can destigmatize the LGBTQ+ community. So with more exposure to LGBTQ+ couples, the public can hopefully have a more positive and accepting view of the LGBTQ+ community. Plus, it may lead to more normalization, which is always a good sign.
Secondly, positive LGBTQ+ representation means that individuals, regardless of circumstances, can feel as though that they’re not alone – by seeing yourself on screen, you can hopefully understand your own sexuality and/or gender from your favorite fictional characters, and this will hopefully result in you having a better understanding of who you are. Positive representation can also make you feel empowered, as you have a fictional character that you can look up to, and think, “Hey, they’re just like me!“
Thirdly, and most importantly, it’s crucial now to have so much representation with the current political climate. With all that’s happening politically, LGBTQ+ must get their voices heard – a GLAAD 2017 report has found in their Accelerating Acceptance Survey that there has been a significant decrease in acceptance for LGBTQ+ people – which is a shame because queer people deserve to be accepted, safe, and to have all the rights that cishet people have – it also doesn’t help that due to the Trump administration, there has been an increase of discrimination through attacks, bias, and erasure. Moreover, our media NEEDS representation of marginalized groups – not just the LGBTQ+ community – this is because, like I said before, positive representation has the power to make people feel less isolated, and not strange – Queer characters that are one-dimensional and don’t have happy endings aren’t acceptable anymore.
Besides, individuals of marginalized groups should be calling the shots on how they are represented in the mainstream media – these people have the actual experience of what it’s like to be in marginalized groups, so their accounts would be way more valuable. So by allowing these stories to be told from actual people who are in certain communities, maybe, just maybe, we can have more intersectional and inclusive stories being told.
So, what’s the solution? Well, the solution is that we support our fellow queer creators – we buy their art, books, watch their short films, etc, we raise the awareness of their vital voice and a platform for which they can feel empowered. We can demand that these people are telling the stories that they want to tell – whether it be fictional or not – we can also demand to see more queer actors and actresses, as well as queer directors and producers.