Lately, I’ve been thinking about LGBTQ+ and queer representation in media, in part because of bisexual erasure in many shows, LGBTQ+ characters often not living too long, and the queer coding of villains and queerbaiting.
Mainstream culture and media often leaves out or forgets the B from LGBT – like how many bisexual characters on television shows frequently are some of the only that “do not need labels”. (Although in the Marvel sphere of entertainment, that trend isn’t limited to just bisexual characters.) I usually end up yelling at my screen when situations like this arise – incredibly annoyed that apparently bisexual seems to be a taboo word for many characters.
And yes, there are people who don’t use labels to define their sexual orientation and that is a completely valid decision for someone. I don’t want to knock that (especially as someone who has flipped between labels in the past) and my problem isn’t with that but really lies in Hollywood and how the industry seems to be utterly afraid of characters saying they are bisexual, as if saying it at any point will conjure an obnoxious and devious ghost or the like.
But that’s not the only issue about queer and LGBTQ+ characters within Hollywood – there’s also the issue that not many characters are openly queer and issues like queer coding and queer baiting make it difficult to really know whether or not some characters are actually queer. Even when the characters are queer, many of them seem to die. And when you look at the intersection of race and queerness, there are even fewer characters because it seems like many see being queer as an inherently white identity (which is far from true).
Even gay media has its problems – like how straight white men get more mainstream gay magazine covers than queer people of color. The Twitter hashtag #GayMediaSoWhite brings that point up and other issues that exist within the community – like when Out Magazine complained that straight people were stealing gay culture, completely forgetting that much of the now gay culture comes from black gay culture.
There are many amazing series, books, and other forms of media that are inclusive – some including:
- Her Story – a series that looks at the dating lives of trans and queer/LGBTQ+ women
- Queer and Trans Artists of Color by Nia King – this is both a podcast (called We Want the Airwaves) and a book! King has interviewed several queer and trans artists of color over the past few years, including Janet Mock, Miss Persia and Daddie$ Plastik, and J Mase III.
- The Peculiar Kind – a web series that explores the lives of queer women of color
Representation matters, in part because seeing people who are like you in media is validating and a reminder that you are not alone in the world. When you’re the only queer kid in the class, it’s hard to remember not only that you’re not alone but that your identity is valid. By not erasing people from the screen and movies, we can celebrate all the things that make us human.