Why quality representation matters

Growing up as a queer person, a majority, if not all, of the media I was exposed to portrayed soley heterosexual relationships. I never saw my own identity reflected in the characters I was seeing on television. It is crucial to have LGBTQ+ representation so queer people feel seen and understood in their identities and to help normilize queerness in the eyes of society. 

However, a TV show can’t just toss in a “gay best friend” to check off the inclusivity box. Countless shows use the same one-dimentional gay character: one who’s only struggle stems from their sexuality and who plays into harmful stereotypes. But queerness is not one dimensional and can’t be easily confined into a single box, so neither can queer representation.

Not all representation is created equally. Just because a show has LGBTQ+ characters does not make it the model for all representation. Here are my rules for realistic, inclusive LGBTQ+ representation:

1.Queer characters should be played by queer actors. These actors are able to relate to the experiences of their character in ways that straight, cisgender actors could never do. Further, it provides opportunities for queer people to secure roles.

2.Shows should higlight characters’ struggles as a result of their LGBTQ+  identity, but they should also have storylines apart from their queerness. All too often, a queer character’s only personality trait is their sexuality, which is unrealistic to the entirety of the person. 

3.Queer representation should not be limited to white, gay men. TV shows should feature more queer people of color, as well as a variety of different identities in the LGBTQ+ community. 

Looking at this list, you may be wondering if there are any shows that manage to fit this criteria. I am here to tell you that there are some incredibly realistic portrals of the queer experience. 

First, Young Royals, a Swedish series on Netflix, follows Prince Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding) and his relationship with Simon (Omar Rudberg). The representation is one of the most realistic I have ever seen. The queer characters exist naturaly in their sexualities; it does not feel forced at all. The characters are played by actual teens that have realistic qualities such as acne.

Sex Eduation, a Netflix original, does an amazing job at portraying a variety of LGBTQ+ identities. This show has lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual and nonbinary characters. Cal, a nonbinary character, is played by Dua Saleh, who is also nonbinary.

Last, The Wilds, which can be watched on Amazon Prime, follows a group of girls who are stranded on a tropical island as part of a psychological experiment. It is an excellent portrayal of a queer relationship between two girls and deals with issues such as religious trauma as a result of growing up gay and a member of the church. 

Whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or not, it is important for everyone to be exposed to media that includes natural, quality queer representation. The industry has made huge leaps in the past few years at including better representation, but there are always improvements that can be made.