Opinion: Let LGBTQ+ be seen
Written by Elizabeth Harris
When it comes to visibility, we are a very different society than we were even five and 10 years ago, but there’s still a long way to go.
Every year GLAAD, or the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, does a report called “Where We Are on TV” in which they analyze the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks and predicts the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and streaming services for the 2016-2017 TV season. This year, representation was at a record high with 43 (4.8%) of the 895 series regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming in the coming year identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
But the numbers aren’t the only defining factors of representation.
For example, though bisexual representation rose 10 percentage points from last year, many of these characters still fall into dangerous stereotypes about bisexual people- such as an inability to stay in a steady relationship because of their perceived uncontrollable promiscuity, or an indecision as to whether one is gay or straight.
Another major flaw in modern representation is a perpetuation of the “bury your gays” trope, an observation of the more than 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters on scripted television that have died since the beginning of 2016- not counting tens of others in other years and on other mediums. This has shown to be more damaging than some, including scriptwriters, intended.
Sarah Kate Ellis, The president and CEO of GLAAD said on GLAAD’s Twitter: “When the most repeated ending for a queer woman is violent death, producers must do better to question the reason for a character’s demise and what they are really communicating to the audience.”
But themes like this can affect the LGBT+ community on a more personal level as well.
“It’s something that affects our community in a way that goes beyond the sadness and fear to be who we are,” bisexual Franklin College sophomore Marie Ostendorf said. “It makes us feel small, insignificant.”
Kaitlin Cory, a sophomore at NPHS thought the same. “The fact that so many queer characters die and don’t end up with a happy endings in the media suggests that those queer characters are not as important as the straight ones. And since queer viewers look up to these- generally rare- characters, it sends them the message that queer people are expendable and not as important.”
But these recurrent themes aren’t just disheartening to queer females who already know who they are, it can also be harmful to young girls who haven’t had a chance to explore themselves yet.
“It does almost nothing but teach young kids that who they are is just a minor character compared to a whole community of straight and cisgender people,” NPHS freshman Mia Garrity pointed out. As a result of the lack of LGBT+ models in media, “Sometimes (children and young teens) don’t have a way to figure out that they’re queer.”
Mia’s older sister Melody Garrity, a Junior at NPHS agreed. “I feel like it tells younger girls that they need to be afraid to come out or express who they truly are because of how other women have needed to hide themselves in the past.”
This doesn’t only affect the people watching it on a personal level, it can hurt ratings altogether. “Killing these people can also stop most of the LGBT+ people that watch the show/movie or read a book from continuing to watch or read.” Garrity said.
Although, Ostendorf takes this as a challenge as a feminist and a bisexual female in our society. “On the other side, it makes me want to rise up against these injustices and fight harder for my right to be who I am. And I am hoping that other queer women feel the same.”