We all know them, those two gay dudes in coming of age shows, where one of them is a super stereotypical gay man with a quirky and flamboyant personality. Meanwhile, the other one is a sad closeted gay teen with so much internalized homophobia that he projects it onto his surrounding through homophobic behaviour or by bullying the out and proud gay kid.
And at the end of that glorious build up story they randomly start to kiss and the bullied kid has actually been in love with their bully this whole time. A great enemies-to-lovers storyline, right? No. This is one of the most toxic beginnings of a queer relationship. This romanticising of intense bullying is pretty common though in gay relationships that are portrayed in media. But what does this want to show young queer people? Oh, yes, you have to feel sorry for the people that make homophobic remarks about you on a daily basis, because they might be gay, just like you. Yeah, that is not how real life works.
Gay teens are 4 times more likely than straight teens to attempt suicide, according to the Child Mind Institute. Their bullying experience in school is the main trigger of this suicide attempt, these exact bullies are triggers. And the mainstream media wants to make us empathise with them? People that literally cause other people to take their own life. And then we are even supposed to ship them after the homophobic bully finds out that he himself is also gay and had just been repressing his anger and his crush on the victim by physically and mentally tormenting them.
The portrayal of non-heterosexual characters is so rare, that we have to accept those stories. We think that is how our relationship should work, because we know nothing else. Queer love stories get shown so little that we watch dozens of seasons of a show just for the five minutes of a queer, but actually toxic, relationship. But I won’t accept those “love stories“ anymore. We deserve a nice and queer relationship with healthy characters and a healthy development.
But what is an actual healthy relationship? There is mutual respect and trust between the partners. That is one of the most important aspects. There should not be a power dynamic, like a teacher and a student or a bully and a victim. Their relationship prior to their romantic engagement should not have set unhealthy dynamics between the partners. Also, both should be able to be completely honest and they should be able to compromise if there is a fight. A couple that does not talk but only stares at each other is an unhealthy one. The biggest issue that couples have, especially in the media, is a lack of communication. They lie to each other and don’t trust one another, if they would just sit down and talk for 30 minutes most of their problems would be solved. But no, in the media, they are only allowed to stare at each other at a safe distance and if their affection is shown, it is only on a physical basis.
So, we do not need another Eric and Adam from “Sex Education”. We need another Syd and Elena from „One day at a time“. Syd and Elena are one of the best existing portrayals of a queer relationship. They are not stereotypical queers but also not just a straight love story but with two queer people. No, their love story establishes exactly like a real queer one. They start off by questioning whether the other one is gay and then they go on several cute but awkward dates, both too scared to make a first move. They face many problems that queer couples have to face on the daily basis, like the fetishizing of lesbians by a bunch of straight guys or the fear of holding hands in public. These are the real daily struggles of queer people. This shows us that the media is able to represent us correctly but choose to go with the outdated „he is a bully but gay“-storyline.
This also shows us how outdated Hollywood’s view on gay representation is and it is mostly caused by a straight directors or writers, who just wrote a gay character so the real queer people would watch their show. This is a phenomenon called Queerbaiting. The term queerbaiting, according to dictionary.com, refers to “the practice of implying non-heterosexual relationships or attraction (in a TV show, for example) to engage or attract an LGBTQ audience or otherwise generate interest without ever actually depicting such relationships or sexual interactions.” These writers mostly do that so they won’t be called ignorant or non inclusive.
That is why we need a queer writer for every queer story portrayed in the mainstream media. We do not need another heterosexual woman, fetishizing gay men or another heterosexual man, fetishizing lesbians. Every writer’s room connected to a gay love story should have a queer person in their space who has experience with a real gay love story.
Our voices should no longer be silenced. We should have a seat at the table. I demand that if there is a show with a queer relationship, then we need a queer writer in the writer’s room. This person can create a realistic portrayal of a gay relationship and can maybe even create an actual healthy character with their own personality that does not consist solely of them being queer.
Paula Charlotte Madest, 12b