Sterotypes and non-visibility is harmful

The more you see yourself in stories, the more you understand yourself.

That’s a premise central to our authorship and why we want to see more LGBT characters, autistic characters and characters from other minority groups in books and movies.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: This is something that the majority groups, the ones belonging to the norm, take for granted. They are surrounded by role models, characters they can identify themselves with and experiences they can relate to.

It’s therefore difficult, for them, to understand what representation really does to you. What it really means to see yourself in the stories around you.

But imagine for a moment, and this is something most folx from the minority spectrum can do, if you are feeling something and you can’t actually place it and understand if it’s something normal. Does everyone feel like this? Is this an actual thing or is it my mind making it up? Am I normal?

Cis-people, white people, heterosexuals, cis-males and neurotypical: The more groups you belong to, the less likely it is that you understand this because you’ll never have encountered or experienced a situation where what you feel isn’t normal.

Heterosexual cis-males being in touch with their emotions is one exception. If that’s you, you’ll know what we mean when we say that seeing yourself in the stories around you means a lot to your self-image and understanding your own experience.

Of course, then we’ll need to see ourselves in the right kind of settings in stories. People of colour are seen frequently now in movies and books and have been for a long time, but their role is still mostly stereotypical and complementary to the main, white, character. A side-kick to a white person; the bad guy; the funny person or a martial art hero. Rarely do you see a non-comedian movie with a person of colour as the main character playing “a role”, rather than “a person of colour”.

So people of colour get to see themselves in stories, but it’s not a good story. It’s one that keeps cementing the connection of white supremacy and non-white inferiority and stereotypes. Of people of colour being anything other than a person and individual.

Other minority groups such as non-heterosexuals have been seen less frequently in stories and books in the past, but once they show up it’s mostly as the gay friend sidekick. You know, the feminized gay guy who hangs out with his girlfriends and offer advice on relationships and fashion. And don’t get us wrong, it’s not a problem per se, but narrowing down non-heterosexuals to one single role is problematic from both a representative point of view and a stereotypical one.

Lesser-known minority groups such as non-binaries barely exist at all in stories, while other better-known groups such as transgender or disabled are known but are still barely represented in any movies or books.

And what does all of this do to you as a member of one or several of these groups?

Well, self-image can dip, questioning yourself and your experience is second nature and a feeling of not belonging becomes a subtle companion throughout your life.

All of this could be alleviated with more positive role models, more and wider representation where people from minority groups are either portrayed as people, not as a member of the group or as a statement with a role widely opposite from the stereotypical one.

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