Why Does Queer Representation Matter?
Today’s guest post comes from sci-fi horror writer Alice B. Sullivan, whose debut novella will be published in August 2021. She also writes #OwnVoices fiction on her website.
Why Does Queer Representation Matter?
Pride can be defined as “consciousness of one’s own dignity.” Dignity can be defined as “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.”
LGBTQ+ people often hide in fear of not being worthy, in fear of betrayal, hate, disrespect, and slander.
As a member of this community myself, I know, so strongly, why genuine LGBTQ+ representation in media matters more than simply making the media “diverse.” When there’s an LGBTQ+ character, we see media ignite, and more often than not, non-members and non-allies have something to say. It’s usually along the lines of “why? Why did this character need to be this or that?”
A character is how the writer perceives them to be. As non-LGBTQ+ people exist, so do LGBTQ+ people. The only difference is LGBTQ+ people are either not represented or often misrepresented, and seldom do we get our happy endings.
We, LGBTQ+ people, want to see ourselves in characters the way non-LGBTQ+ people can. We want to see those characters be strong and fight as if to lend us their strength and courage during our own hardships. We want to see those characters live and love as if to remind us we’re worthy of life and happiness. We want to see those characters get happy endings because maybe, just maybe we’ll get those happy endings, too.
Representation matters because it gives us strength, reminds us that we aren’t alone during our most difficult journeys, and helps us to walk when all we feel like doing is crawling.
The community as a whole has come such a long way. We stand with awareness of our own dignity, pride, and value as more genuine representation surfaces. We get our happy endings. Our characters are more than just their sexuality/preferred gender or to create diversity. Our characters aren’t sexualized but instead, find their own worth and romance.
Genuine representation matters because we deserve to have our stories told. We deserve to see ourselves conveyed accurately. We’re more than just our sexuality or gender. We’re people.
I write scifi/horror, specifically apocalyptic fiction, and I often include representation; however, their identity isn’t put on show, so it doesn’t come off as abnormal in the universe. I do this because I write about the change I want to see in the world (not only that, but in a universe where the world has fallen apart and voracious, flesh-eating monsters are hunting you, I don’t think someone’s identity would be at the top on the list of things to worry about). When I create my characters, I know their identity and personalities and how that goes with the course of the story. There’s no rhyme or reason when I choose my characters’ identities, but when I do, I ensure each and every one is as fleshed out as they need to be. My characters just are because that’s how I think they’d be if they were a real person.
My favorite author Seanan McGuire, under the pseudonym Mira Grant, often includes LGBTQ+ characters in her books, and I’ve always appreciated the accurate representation, as well as her amazing stories. Mira Grant is a science fiction storyteller, and one of her books in particular, Alien: Echo, really stood out to me with its accurate representation of not only young love but young lesbian love. The protagonist, Olivia, is strong, capable, intelligent, quirky, and in love with the popular girl in school. When aliens attack their colony, Olivia needs to use everything she has learned from her parents, both xenobiologists, to stop these creatures and get off the planet safely. Olivia resonated with me because she reminded me so much of myself when I was in high school and in love. Trying to impress the girl I had feelings for, thinking I was failing miserably, all the stupid things I’d say because of word vomit…Olivia is that, and it’s wonderful. She has flaws and quirks, but Mira Grant gives her this amazing storyline where she succeeds, fails, needs to try again, needs to try something different…Olivia feels like a real person, not just a character to check a box. Alien: Echo is a fantastic story of love and heroism in the perspective of a young lesbian head over heels and trying to save the planet. Mira Grant accurately represents LGBTQ+ people as well as gives us the stories and endings we deserve.
I believe, if we keep creating content where LGBTQ+ people can just be without pointing fingers at their sexuality/preferred gender, it will stop being such a taboo–newer generations will see it for what it truly is: people being who they are. From this, the world can progress for the better because representation not only matters to the people represented, it matters to the progression of society.
You can learn more about Alice, and pre-order her new novella, on her website.