Queer People Tell Us How Queer Representation Needs To Change

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Queer representation in media has drastically increased over the years. It has become easier to find relatable queer characters with intriguing plotlines. Several movies have been released that revolve around queer characters (like Happiest Season and Portrait of a Lady on Fire). Most of the TV shows that are released have at least one main character who is queer. Performative representation and token queer characters will only appease the audience for a short period of time. We talked to some queer teenagers to see what changed they wanted to see in mainstream queer representation.

Involve Queer Voices

“I believe that more queer voices need to be involved in the making of media. There are some queer experiences that only queer people can bring to life in film and television,” says 19-year-old queer Shubham, a second year college student.

The nuances of queer life and culture can only be accurately portrayed if there are queer people actively involved. Otherwise, chances are that the movie or show will rely on tired and overused tropes for their queer character. Having a token gay character who is there for comedic relief isn’t groundbreaking, it’s just lazy writing.

No More Coming Out Stories

“Too many movies focus on characters coming out to their family and friends. Plus they tend to imply that people in the closet are tricking the people around them,” says 16-year-old Riya*, a nonbinary bisexual student.

Coming out is not a one-step process. It is something queer people have to do every time they meet new people. Queer audiences are tired of watching stories about characters coming out. While there is nothing wrong with stories focusing on coming out, it tends to become repetitive after a few movies.

The Cheating Storyline

Portraying queer people as unfaithful further propagates the notion that queer people have no moral compass and lack restraint. The overuse of the trope implies that queer people cannot be monogamous and have no boundaries.

“Just because someone is bisexual doesn’t mean they’re going to sleep with every person they come across. The cheating bisexual trope generalises all bi people as promiscuous and adulterous,” says bisexual 18-year-old Shruti Dubey, a first year college student.

Bury Your Gays Trope

The Bury Your Gays trope is where LGBTQ+ characters are killed off disproportionately often and usually without justification. One of the first and most notable examples of this is Tara Maclay’s death in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). She was killed by a stray bullet. The trope has persisted over the years and in 2016, three popular TV shows killed off a queer woman in essentially the same way. The female queer characters were killed by a stray bullet, right after they started a romantic relationship.

“In half the shows I’ve seen, one half of a queer couple gets killed off by some freak accident. I love tragedy but at the same time I’d like to watch a show where I’m not stressed about a queer character being killed off for shock value,” says genderqueer 18-year-old Sanvi Deshmukh, currently studying psychology.

Considering the low amount of queer representation in media, the deaths of so many queer characters makes it difficult to enjoy media as a queer person. By killing off already underrepresented queer characters, the validating, heteronormativity is maintained.

Lack of Aromantic and/or Asexual Representation

Explicitly asexual and/or aromantic characters are hard to find in works of fiction and are often portrayed in a harmful manner. The sparse amount of representation asexuality gets is disappointing and representation of aromantic characters is even harder to find. In a world where most television and movie characters have storylines focusing on romance, aromantic people are often left behind in representation.

“I rarely see asexual characters portrayed in mainstream media, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an aromantic character,” says Praneel Shah, an asexual 17-year-old science student.

Reduction Of Trans People To A Joke

“Something you find in India, in Bollywood, in popular culture and mainstream media, in films and shows is a reduction of a transperson to a joke,” says transwoman Dr. Trinetra Haldar, influencer and trans rights advocate in an interview with SheThePeople.

Bollywood movies such as Laxmii (2020) and web series like Pati Patni Aur Panga (2020) portray trans people as punchlines to a joke that only misogynists and transphobes would enjoy. Their entire identity in the movies and series exists to add a hint of drama to the plot.

*We have changed the name to protect the identity of the mentioned people.

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