I am a strong ally of the LGBTQ community, but I have to admit I wasn’t always so vocal about my stance. Once upon a time, I didn’t really think much about anyone else (which, to be fair, is an exceedingly common human quality). It wasn’t until my college roommate came out as gay that I began to understand the struggle that the LGBTQ community deals with. I watched him struggle on how best to tell his family, how to find his first boyfriend, and so many more questions that I had never thought about. For me, it was always, “This is who I am and I will live as I want.” When my roommate came out, I realized how little I understood about the world around me.
That story has a point, and an important one: I didn’t think about anything other than heterosexual (and, if we’re being completely honest, white) culture and values. A lot of this is because, growing up, there were few mainstream gay representatives. Unless you were already a part of the LGBTQ community, all you really knew as a straight person (and to be fair and specific, I was living in Texas at the time) was what was taught in school—if your school even taught about the history of LGBTQ rights.
Lately, mediums across the board have begun including more diverse stories, especially from the LGBTQ creatives. This is incredibly important. While gay rights may be improving in America, the normalization of LGBTQ individuals and their culture is still underway. Just last weekend, I was at a wedding in Milwaukee where a gay couple danced during the reception and straight men gathered to glare at them. This is just an anecdote, but it is one that is repeated throughout the country in communities where LGBTQ acceptance is anemic.
One of our favorite examples of better LGBTQ representation comes in the form of Steven Universe. While this show is definitely coded and not as explicit in its depictions of LGBTQ individuals, its creator, Rebecca Sugar, is not afraid to be vocal about her stance on LGBTQ themes. At Comic-Con in 2016, Rebecca came out publicly as bisexual when asked why Steven Universe had so many episodes that dealt with women’s empowerment and LGBTQ themes. Anyone who has watched the show can testify that it feels far more progressive than your run-of-the-mill children’s show.
Another LGBTQ creative telling her story? Gabby Rivera. The writer for “America,” Marvel’s first queer Latina superhero, Gabby shares a lot in common with the main character. Both grew up in the Bronx, both identify as Latina, and both are queer. Gabby created the titular America Chavez’s backstory of being raised by two mothers that gave their lives to save their home world. It’s clear that America stands for a lot more than just another superhero in the Marvel Comic universe.
I think that there are a lot of people in the world that have simply never really been immersed in gay culture. Sometimes due to bigotry, but sometimes simply due to an absence of mainstream LGBTQ characters and stories. We are given plenty of straight, white role models to follow, but until more stories are told, these minority cultures will never feel truly normal to the general public. Like I talked about in last week’s post, normalizing LGBTQ culture across mediums, including advertising, is an important way to move the country forward socially.