A frustrating pitfall of LGBT+ representation.
‘In a few recent cases I have come across a particular line of thinking in LGBT+ spaces. The idea that LGBT+ representation is some sort of a zero-sum game for us. Meaning that, the representation of one group within the entire umbrella of LGBT+ essentially means that another group will be left behind and may end up being irreparably harmed by another group being represented.
As an example, a sentiment that I’ve seen is that representation of asexual characters (of which there are very few, only two substantial ones that i can think of) leads to any lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc. relationships and sexualities being stigmatized. How this is the fault of asexuals rather than homophobes who look for any venue to de-legitimize LGBT+ identities, I have no clue.
This feeling, usually, isn’t borne out of malice (with a few exceptions), but out of a genuine feeling of fear and hurt that we’re losing out on ground and space that we have fought for decades to gain. And certainly, gay, lesbian, and bisexual relationships are in a desperate need of de-stigmatization in media, because it’s still not there yet.
Why is a LGBT+ person with a healthy sex life considered to be gross, invasive, aberrant? Heterosexual characters with just as active sex lives are considered normal in media, and often idolized. The answer to how to solve this should be to portray such characters without throwing a negative filter over them.
Another common occurrence is advocating against the portrayal of non-passing trans people, something that as a trans person, I’ve seen discussed a few times. The way I see it, those people exist and deserve just as much space as trans folk who do pass well. They face more harassment, more ridicule, are more likely to face violence in their lives. They face discrimination even within certain trans spaces because they don’t stand up to a passing ideal.
Maybe the question should be, why is that stigma there in the first place? How can we fight against it?
You write, write well, and you represent. Non-passing trans folk face even greater risks in society, leaving them behind because some consider them ‘unsightly’ is oppressive and severely damaging. To reinforce that in media, is damaging.
LGBT+ folk need to take the bull by the horns
My other, and bigger issue with this argument is that it accepts the ground that other people have fashioned as ground we NEED to trot.
To essentially admit and enforce the idea that it will be a zero sum game for all of us is to accept an oppressive system that never really intended to accommodate us. What we should be doing is carving out or own spaces so that we can tell our own stories, on our own terms, while being careful not to harm anyone else’s spotlight in the process. We all deserve it. Media is hardly ever made with us in mind, and even when it is, it is usually a far cry from being perfect. It’s no secret that media representation for LGBT+ folks often ends in a disaster because they’re still, by and large, written by non-LGBT+ folk.
In my opinion, playing by the rules and standards of the industry is a game we’re set to lose. It is the one thing that chokes the life out if LGBT+ content creators, forces them to compromise if they aim to get ahead. This includes treating representation as a zero-sum affair.
What this results in, is fighting for seats at a movie theatre, when maybe we should be asking why the theatre was made to be so small in the first place. What we should do further than that is to support people like us so that they can freely create the stories they want to tell with the characters they want to create.
Because the gods know, they need it more than anyone. We need to carve out our own mountain and stand on the top of it alone. We need to stop looking towards mainstream media representation as our only saving grace. By and large it is dominated by people who do not have our interests at heart or worse yet, have extremely flawed ideas about us and what stories we’d like to see. Or they seem to consider us to be inherently tragic, doomed to death and despair, never to have our stories told. It explains why there are over a 170 lesbian, gay and bisexual characters in media who were simply killed off, as opposed to a paltry 29 who were written with happy endings.
What we need, now more than ever, is to encourage positive, good, well written and diverse LGBT+ representation that will capture the nuances of being LGBT+. We need MORE stories, MORE space, and MORE spotlights to shine on the big stage.