How the lack of positive LGBTQ+ representation affects young queer people

As part of the GCNnewvoices series, we platform the opinions and thoughts of LGBTQ+ young writers from across the country.

An illustration of a cinema screen featuring a flower growing out of a book
Image Source: Illustration by Neave Alouf

GCNnewvoices in partnership with BeLonG To will platform the opinions and thoughts of LGBTQ+ young writers from across the country, speaking about issues that matter to them. A young woman talks about the lack of positive representation of LGBTQ+ people in culture and how it affects queer youth.

The first time I saw an LGBTQ+ character in a show directed towards kids was in season seven of Voltron: Legendary Defender when I was 12. Before the season, there was a lot of promotion of how the fandom would get to meet Shiro’s significant other, Adam. Adam appears in a flashback from before Shiro leaves for a mission and then dies after a minute or two on-screen. There’s a few seconds of Shiro being sad and then onto the next scene and Adam isn’t mentioned again. 

There were a lot of arguments about whether this was queer baiting or not. Queer baiting is when creators hint at but then do not depict LGBTQ+ representation. Personally, I think it was. Not only was it queer baiting it was a classic example of the ‘bury your gays’ trope – where queer characters are killed off far more frequently than straight characters.

This trope is REALLY harmful. Imagine being an LGBTQ+ person and you see something online about how a show is meant to have a gay relationship, so you watch it and there is one scene with these characters together before one of them dies. It’s annoying and frustrating that a lot of the little representation we get ends in tragedy. 

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a character say the words: “I’m lesbian” in anything. It’s usually just heavily implied or they say they’re gay. This wasn’t really something I noticed until I saw an online piece pointing it out. It kind of gives this idea that ‘lesbian’ is a dirty word that we shouldn’t say, and it bleeds into real life too. Try think for a second, how many times in conversation you noticed someone get quieter when saying lesbian. Maybe you’ve never noticed it, I know I didn’t before, but once you do it’s hard to forget about.

Heck, I do it a lot too, and it’s weird because I know being a lesbian isn’t something bad and I’ve never really struggled too much to accept my sexuality but I still do it. I think it has a lot to do with how sexualized lesbians are in the media, and a lack of good representation. 

Another thing, often, LGBTQ+ characters are in their late teens or twenties, which again is annoying and weird because younger and older LGBTQ+ people exist. It can make it seem like younger people can’t be LGBTQ+ which can end up with them being told they are “too young to know” themselves, or being dismissed, and it really hurts. With the lack of representation for older LGBTQ+ people, it affects how younger queer people see their futures. Because when we do see an older LGBTQ+ character or person, it reminds us, “Oh wait, I can meet another girl, fall in love and grow old together – just like straight people do.”  

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