There’s something really screwed up about the way we talk about queer representation in children’s media.
In the U.S. culture at least, there’s this instantaneous association of queer people with sex. Queer people are automatically highly sexual individuals—ergo, not ‘appropriate’ for the eyes of little kids, all of whom MUST BE STRAIGHT, RIGHT, whose heads we think would probably just explode when confronted with the oh-so-incomprehensible suggestion of gender and sexual orientation diversity existing on this planet.
Deeply ironic since—oh let’s look at Avatar the Last Airbender, the show. It features kids at ages 12-16 kissing (always het, of course)—and even strongly implies that two characters are engaging or planning to engage in some heavy petting at night. No one screams for the sexual neurosis of the child fans.
But it’s impossible for, eh, a ten year old on the sequel show to be queer, maybe have a crush on someone of the same gender. That would just make straight
adults kids uncomfortable, obviously!
People who would like to see the queer community represented (aka most of us queer people) are forced to preface any sort of headcanon or fan theory about a character being gay or trans* with, “I know this would never happen in a kid’s show/I know this isn’t true,” because… the idea of an ACTUAL CANONICAL QUEER CHARACTER IN A KID’S SHOW IS—just not possible, right?
Because if we don’t acknowledge the absurdity of actual representation while saying, “hey, I read this character as a lesbian,” people will hammer us with “THAT’S NOT POSSIBLE, IT’S NOT TRUE, THIS IS A KID’S SHOW, STOP TALKING ABOUT KIDS THAT WAY, YOU’RE MAKING ME UNCOMFORTABLE, KIDS SHOULDN’T THINK ABOUT THINGS LIKE THAT.”
As if we aren’t aware of the impossibility of ever seeing people like ourselves in children’s entertainment.
As if we need to be told that we will only ever be seen as perverse deviants.
As if we need to be told that no one wants to see us.
But I have to ask you, person concerned with the frailty of our children’s minds:
What do you think that tells queer kids?
I’ll tell you, from my own experience as a child who knew they were queer:
- It tells us that we’re gross, that we’re not appropriate to be seen by other children, or even anyone.
- It tells us that we are perversely sexual.
- It tells us that we’re not normal.
- It tells us that we’re not as important as straight, NORMAL children.
- It tells us that we deserve to be neglected and ignored.
- It tells us that we’re alone, that queer children like us don’t exist.
A phrase I see around fandom a lot is, “People just aren’t ready for a kid’s show with/about a gay character (much less a trans* kid).”
So I’m just going to throw it out there—
When do you think people will be ready?
If you heard a tv show about a gay kid was going to premiere next year, would you be okay with it at that time?
How about in five years?
When are queer kids going to be able to pick up a book or turn on the tv and see someone like them, a queer character, to let them know that they’re not alone; that it’s fine to be whoever and whatever they are; that they’re not abnormal; to realize hey, I think I am like this person; to have a way to talk to their family about their identity; so that they maybe won’t have to learn self-loathing at such a young age?
What exactly do you think needs to change this to happen?
Perhaps a better question: When are YOU going to be okay with it?
And why aren’t you okay with it now?
It is National Coming Out Day!!! Which I totally support!!!
But I just wanted to say that I also support those in the world who can’t come out right now, not necessarily because of shame or denial, but because of circumstances that would leave them unsupported, abused, or in some other kind of difficult situation. I actually think that coming out is a privilege, and when I came out I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I was not relying on anyone financially and I was also surrounded by caring and loving friends and family. It is important to recognize that not everyone will find themselves in such a comfortable position. So on this day of acknowledging the power of being out, proud, and part of a wonderful community, I would also like to acknowledge the people who are unable to participate in the coming out process today; there is NO shame in making a decision in which your current safety, sanity, and support system are not compromised, so take care of yourself, first and foremost, and know that if and when you DO come out, you will be welcomed with open arms :)
human equality > marriage equalityyes yes, yall! same sex marriage is all fine and good, but there is also the subject of PEOPLE’S LIVES AT STAKE that has unfortunately taken a backseat to marriage equality for TOO LONG, and its NOT okay and we are doing a DISSERVICE to our queer youth, our fellow LGBTQIA PoC comrades, and our trans-identified family. marriage is easy to support, but do you know about the importance of using the preferred pronouns of trans people in your neighborhood or workplace or church? do you know the importance of not passing judgement on queer youth who resort to sex work to keep themselves fed and sheltered? do you recognize your own privilege as a non-PoC in the community and how that affords you safety, acceptance and benefits that many queer PoC do not have? these things are important, because, unfortunately, support for marriage equality does not equal support for all LGBTQIA identified individuals. this fight, although necessary, is not manifesting itself in the order that is best for humanity; it is backwards as shit. but i will take it! i will! i just urge everyone to understand how complicated these puzzle pieces are to put together, and to not forget about the thousands, perhaps millions of people who are a part of this community whose needs will not be met with the passing of a marriage equality bill. </rant over>
Why Asexual Education and Awareness is A MUST
I was doing some research for a project, and needed to find information regarding contraception and birth control. It instantly dawned on me to go to Planned Parenthood, a company I interpret as knowledgable, accurate, and respectful in terms of sexual health. On their site I found plenty of information on contraception, including types I had never heard of, explanations of the different types, how various types work, effectiveness, and plenty of other things; it was exactly what I needed to know, and I was very excited that so much valuable information in regards to sexual health was easily accessible online.
Finding what I needed in record time, I decided to browse the site a bit. As gender and sexuality really interests me, I went into the “Sexual Orientation & Gender” tab. Now, not going to lie, this was a bit of a test. As an asexual woman, I like to see if organizations go beyond gay/bi/straight when referencing sexuality. I had high hopes for Planned Parenthood, but they went ahead and simply said,
“Each of us also has a sexual orientation. You may be bisexual, gay, lesbian or straight.”
Well, that was a let down.
I continued reading.
I saw a section that asked “What is the Kinsey Scale?” and, knowing the scale, was sure that asexuality would now be mentioned; while the Kinsey Scale is outdated, it’s better than nothing. Planned Parenthood mentioned the scale as such:
They excluded the “x” group—asexuals—a group included in the Kinsey Reports.
So now I’m getting mad. Not only is this organization which is a very large resource for millions of people nationally ignoring the existence of identities beyond gay, bisexual, and straight, they further excluded a group purposefully from a scientific study that officially included them.
Now I want to see what else is on this site. I found this gem:
Okay. Now I’m mad. This company has more than enough money to have proper resources on human sexuality. Asexuality is affirmed by most knowledgable psychologists as existant. While asexuality is not as well understood or evaluated as other sexual orientations, many researchers and doctors are aware of its existence and are studying it further. It is a thing that exists, even if Planned Parenthood doesn’t acknowledge it.
Many will say, “Why is it important to have your orientation acknowledged on a site for sexual health? It has nothing to do with you if you don’t have sex!” I always hear people ask, “Why do you need awareness for asexuality?! You guys don’t have any hardships to overcome!” I am used to having my sexual orientation ignored by the masses and insulted by the ignorant, but it is this silence and lack of awareness that is the problem.
Until I was 19, I did not know asexuality was an orientation. Like tons of other important things, sexuality was hardly discussed in sex ed class. But when I was as young as 16, I did know I did not want to have sex. In fact, the very thought of having sex made me anxious to a point of preventing me from having relationships during middle school and high school, when teens are starting to date. But I did not know what was wrong with me. Because there had to be something wrong with me; I knew that there were gay people, straight people, and bi people, but I was not any of those things. There had to be something wrong if I was not one of those three things, right? Right.
If there was something wrong with me, doctors would find it. Because that’s what doctors do, they find things that are wrong, they help people. So at 18, the summer before college, I went to my gynecologist and explained my lack of sexual desire. I had blood work done, and an invasive, painful pelvic exam. The only time anything had entered me was at 18 by my OBGYN after I previous explained my fear and hatred of being touched. (Irony.) The exam showed nothing wrong. My blood work was normal. I was healthy. The doctor said it was mental, that I should see a therapist.
So I did. When I entered college, I started seeing a therapist for my sexually defunct nature. For months I went to this therapist, and spilled my heart about my hatred of sex, my dislike of being touched, and my dispare at feeling like a broken human being. I told my therapist about every drunken time I tried to touch another person, men and women, trying to force myself in my drunken stupor to enjoy being touched, to enjoy touching. I told about how every time, even in my drunk state, I hated it. The therapist told me to masturbate, that it would jump start me sexual desire. When that did not work, I had the therapist claimed I must have been sexually abused as a child; I remember, for a moment, thinking maybe I was, even thought deep down I knew no such thing ever happened. I was willing to believe I was sexually abused as a child, at the suggestion of a professional, in an attempt to find a reason for my brokeness.
Finally it became too much. I went to Anna, the one person I trusted more than anyone at my school. She is the openly queer student affairs head at my college, and I trusted her so, so much. I went to her office one day, and just broke down crying. I spilled everything: the sexual hatred and fear, the inability of doctors to cure me, my loneliness and self-hatred. And then she said, “Carly, it’s okay. I just think you’re asexual.”
I was 19 before I heard that word in such a context. I was 19-years-old before another human being acknowledged that I was not broken, defunct, sexually repressed, closeted, or ill. I was 19-fucking-years-old before I was able to look at myself and not completely hate what I saw, and was able to accept myself as I was.
This is why we need education and awareness. This is why Planned Parenthood needs to include asexuality on its website. Because I lived years hating myself, not knowing what my true nature was, not knowing I cannot fix what isn’t broken. And I don’t doubt that there is another 16-year-old in my old situation, looking from a cure to their problem, hoping to find why they feel like such an outcast. Just imagine if they go to Planned Parenthood’s website and see, under that same category I just viewed, the inclusion of asexuality as a valid orientation. That could save them the years I spent hating myself.
Asexual education, awareness, and inclusion is not a cry for attention or to ruin safe spaces. It’s not just about wanting to feel special or wanting to make things difficult. It is about making sure people can grow up and be assured that they are not broken, that they are not alone, and that their existence is acknowledged.
Even the rhetoric of the “It Gets Better” campaign pisses me off because it implies that passive acceptance is all that’s needed to combat the oppression of GSMs and that oppression of GSMs only happens for a brief period of your life and if you endure it it will get better.
It doesn’t get better if people passively accept the status quo, it needs to be made better.
The It Get’s Better campaign shouldn’t be focusing on stories telling people to endure and accept, it should be a campaign focusing on telling people to organize, focusing on education, focusing on making it better so that the stories telling people to endure are made irrelevant.
The focus of the campaign is wrong, the rhetoric of the campaign reflects that, and the only people better off from it are the white cis people who were able to capitalize on creating a faux-movement which implies people should accept a status quo of GSM oppression.