147 years after the abolishment of slavery,
48 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
43 years after the Stonewall riots,
13 years after civil unions between same-sex couples became legally recognized in Vermont,
8 years after the first same-sex couple was legally wed in Massachusetts,
the first Black president in United States history publicly came out in support of marriage equality. In an election year.
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
adultskids 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?