A lot of my recent pieces have been rather brief (end note: it went longer than expected), mostly because I am heavily procrastinating writing university assessments that I could fairly easily complete in a solid day of work – but alas I’m an idiot rationalising writing about entirely unrelated topics by keeping it short. Here I’m bouncing off a few different conversations, online and real life, I’ve had about minorities – specifically queer people – being represented in media. Suffice to say there is nothing wrong with it, and you think there is then it isn’t them who are the problem.
It’s not something I often write about for this site for reasons, but it deserves a mention for context here. I grew up religious, however I was rather sheltered in both the realities of the Bible and the church’s views and in the actual reality of queer people existing. The latter, thankfully, I learned about first so I never held any negative opinions about gay people (trans people I learned about even later), but there was a short period, which I looked back on with shame, where I tried to rationalise it. The whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” mantra, which is disgusting and even when I proposed it to myself felt wrong doing so, was initially how I approached it. Once I left the church – one of the major catalysts being the same-sex marriage plebiscite here in Australia – the queer community, despite not being a part of it myself, was and is one I’ve strongly supported.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise when I say that when discussions about their “right” to exist in the public eye, including in media, crop up, it can get hairy. Sex, gender and sexuality are all spectrums and, like it or not, humans and other animals (with obvious limitations on how much we can anthropomorphise them with our (contemporary Western) terminology) exist across it with an excellent array of variation. That simple fact alone should be enough to positively argue for the exposure of queer people in popular media – it should reflect real life. And as our cultures become more accepting, and as our biological understandings of these factors grows, more and more people are comfortable identifying in ways beyond the cultural “norm”. They deserve representation.
Now for some specific claims.
“It’s woke corporations shoving it down out throats!” – yes, partly, it’s called marketing and pinkwashing. But the issue isn’t gay people existing in a new TV series, the critique is about how corporations use social movements to generate revenue. In fact, that popular media includes these characters is indicative of the opinion of their broad audiences – support and representation of queer people is itself supported by the majority. You can analyse and take issue with how, under capitalist systems, this is manipulated, but that is not a commentary on the existence of queer people in media.
“It’s not for kids!” – yes it can be. Shock horror, but children are human beings too, and just like how the queer adults used to be kids, some of these kids are queer too. And that’s not a bad thing. If you think it is, I hope your kids, should they be queer, find safe support somewhere. No one – and I mean no one – is suggesting young kids be exposed to queer sexual content. Just in the same way cis and straight sexual content isn’t exposed to them either. Anyone who does so ought to be condemned, and there isn’t a division over identity on this. But a gay boy in a cartoon? A trans character in an action film? Who cares? The kids certainly wouldn’t – in fact, they might see themselves on the big screen for once.
One that I’ve personally argued over a few times is the brief lesbian kiss that shows up in the Lightyear movie. I never saw it (and that scene wasn’t aired in China, hello pinkwashing again), but I know quite a few people who tried arguing it wasn’t for kids as a result of that scene. I’ll refrain from speaking my full thoughts about what I think, but suffice to say that is a rather pathetic argument. The idea that kids seeing queer relationships or displays of affection is wrong is bizarre and a glaring double standard – how many straight cis relationships are out there? Countless. And somehow queer kids still exist – don’t worry, the media is not turning your kids gay, and seeing it won’t scar them.
Queer people have always existed, and just because your religious and cultural upbringing suppressed that fact as a means of control doesn’t eliminate that. Read queer history. Read feminist history. Read indigenous histories. Read scientific articles and biology books. Or better yet, listen to the people whose lived experiences differ from yours and understand them. Because they aren’t going anywhere.
Queer people in media isn’t a problem. If you think it is, then then the problem might be you.