REPRESENTATION: Crushes and WLW Relationships On Television
“Why would someone be afraid of two people in love?”
This question may have crossed your mind in different words or maybe not at all. This is a question I asked my mom when I was maybe in third or fourth grade. I didn’t know that there were labels people had to use when it came to sexuality. I thought there was love and that’s it. My mom looked at me (she’s always been really religious; I never questioned it), and she told me, “Because it’s unnatural.”
I asked my dad the same question I asked my mom. He sat down, and his ring clanged against the floor as he told me to sit down as well. Thinking I was in trouble for being curious, I looked down at my hands. He looked up at the ceiling, and I looked with him to try to see if he was looking for an answer written on it. He looked back at me, and he said, “I don’t know.” He took a deep breath, one of those breaths where you can hear the heaviness of someone’s thoughts, and said, “I think people are afraid of what they can’t control.”
“Kim Possible” was my favorite show. I would watch it with my brother Mike, and I thought Kim was so cool. Mike said once, “It’s like you’re in love with her or something.” Cue my cheeks heating up and my eyes being pulled to the ground by a mystical force. Then he said, “But that’s not possible because you’re both girls.” It wasn’t the fact that I loved a cartoon character he saw as a flaw; it was that Kim Possible and I were both girls. I remember hesitating and wanting to say, “Watch--when I’m older, I’m going to marry Kim Possible and you’ll see.” And then I remember thinking, Wait, she’s a cartoon character. I can’t marry a cartoon character. That would raise a lot of questions. Kim Possible was a girl who could save the world, and she was strong and beautiful and brave. That’s all I ever wanted to be, a girl who’s strong, beautiful and brave. A girl with the power to save the world.
My mom would bring our four-person family to church every Sunday, and I never questioned it. Until I heard someone say two men or two women can’t love each other because the world started with Adam and Eve. I stood up, walked over to the person on my tiny, little legs, and asked why that mattered. The person looked startled that this tiny child in a bright pink dress was asking them about controversial topics and said, “It’s unnatural.” I always protested going to church after that.
I don’t remember the exact year I started watching” Glee,” but I remember crying when Santana’s Abuela didn’t accept her. I remember thinking, “If I weren’t straight, my mom wouldn’t accept me.” At first, my mom didn’t accept me. I remember Santana being my favorite character, someone making a joke that I had a crush on her and me getting bright red and claiming I was straight. I definitely had a crush on her. I loved Santana for her strength and ability to stand up for those she loved and the things she believed in. I loved her how she was feisty and how she was reckless and alive. She loved her loved ones with every fiber in her being, and she wouldn’t hold back in dance numbers. But when it came to same-sex love, it was the only time she was afraid, even if it was only a little. Once she did accept it, however, love changed her perspective so much that “silly superstitions” didn’t get in the way. Santana told Brittany, the girl she was in love with and would marry, “I’ve been bullied, outed, misunderstood. I honestly thought I would never find real love.” This sentence made me realize that everyone deserves love, and I hope to god everyone finds it. Unfortunately, there are some people who either don’t believe they’ll find it, or homophobia keeps them from even looking for it.
I remember singing along to a love song from my favorite movie, “Quest for Camelot.” Mike told me, “You shouldn’t sing that. Or if you do, you have to change the pronouns. Or only sing the girl part.” I got really defensive about it and asked why. “People might think you’re weird or something.” I was in love with the main character, Kayley. That was why I was singing a love song with her. Although I don’t remember much about the movie, I remember Kayley being strong, brave and beautiful.
The strange thing is, now my mom asks me questions about the girl I like. My dad only listens if I talk about her, and his girlfriend sometimes asks me to talk about her. If my dad mentions to any of our extended family how I want to take a road trip to Tennessee (where the girl I like lives), they’ll ask why. He says he doesn’t know; he just knows I do.
I can’t remember my first LGBTQ+ book or my first LGBTQ+ movie. I only remember the ones I’ve seen and read. I don’t remember when or where I found them. I do remember that I identified more with the girls who were “softer.” I felt like Casey from “Atypical.” I wasn’t Izzie; I would have welcomed a new kid to my track team with a sign or something. I dress and sometimes act like Toni from “Riverdale,” with a camera around my neck and flannels around my hips. I never had a mean streak like Cheryl. I remember wanting to protect the mean girls, hold them because they gave me the feeling of not being mad at the world or just wanting to be loved in a way they didn’t feel they were. It made me realize I’m more the girl who brings out the softer sides of girls who act all tough.
In seventh grade, I remember telling my best friend, “I think I like a girl.” She got really excited and asked me who she was. I said her name, and I talked about how she gave me butterflies when she smiled at me, how I’d blush if I looked up and saw her looking at me. But I never doubted I was straight.
I remember my family and I were watching “The 100” together, and I really liked it. I hardly remember anything specific about it, though; I couldn’t tell you why I liked it or who was my favorite character. The only thing I remember is Clarke and Lexa kissing and my dad immediately turning off the tv. I asked why, and he just walked away. He simply said, “We shouldn’t watch this show anymore.” I’d never seen him do that about anything before. It bothered me for so long. I can’t remember how old I was either. The show didn’t impact me directly, but my dad’s response to it did. It made me think you shouldn’t talk about things that aren’t heterosexual. It supported the thought in my head my parents had planted, that “gays and rainbows aren’t right.”
A year later, one of my closest friends at the time came out to me. I thought, Whoa, I’ve never actually been close to someone who wasn’t straight before. I mean my cousin-once-removed is gay, but I’ve met him maybe three times. I never thought it was unnatural; I thought she’s happy, so I’m happy. I’ll always accept her, no matter what.
After that, she showed me more books and movies with LGBTQ+ representation. I think that was the time I started seeing more same-sex couples. I also was exposed to more sexualities. I remember reading “The Song of Achilles,” and thinking the characters were so cute together. I remember my grandfather asking what I was reading, and I said Achilles falls in love with his best friend. My grandpa said, “Oh, I didn’t know Achilles had a girl best friend.” I said, “In this version, his best friend is a boy.” He just looked at me, said “Oh” and then got really quiet. It’s the only conversation we’ve ever had about love.
Although I’ve never faced blatant homophobia, a part of me didn’t want to accept I wasn’t straight. My parents never wanted me to be queer at all, so when I first started coming out to people they were the last ones I told. The first thing they said when I came out to them was “don’t tell anyone.” They said don’t hold your girlfriend’s hand in public, and don’t be overly flirty with her in front of anyone. Keep it a secret as much as possible. I’d never felt so much shame in one place from my parents. I ran back to my room and cried.
Every time, I watch a movie/tv show or read a book with LGBTQ+ representation, it gives me hope. I love seeing these couples being happy together, even in public. I love seeing couples that fit together. It plants this dream in my head that one day I’ll be with a person and we can go to pride parades and be in love, and we can go on cute dates, hold hands whenever we want. We can kiss in public, and we could hold each other even if other people can see us.
The LGBTQ+ representation in books, tv shows and movies helped me accept who I am, no matter what, and even if I don’t have a label, I’ll never be unnatural. They taught me to be strong and brave, they taught me to love with every fiber of my being, and they taught me to stand up for all I believe in. Most of all, these characters taught me love is real, beautiful and pure. No one should ever have to hide it.