Why we need to see more LGBTQA and neurodivergent characters in books and movies

When was the last time you saw an LGBTQA or neurodivergent character in a movie or book? Apart from some anime (especially Yuri anime), they are far and few inbetween and the lack of representation is sorely hurting. Even thought the LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) representation is growing nowadays (even in Hollywood movies) the TQA part is still sadly absent. Asexual characters in books? Aromantic or autistic characters? Transgender representation? What LGBTQ fantasy books can you mention? 

If you’re an ally reading this post (i.e someone who is cis, hetero and/or neurotypical but stand by the LGBTQA and neurodivergent community), you might ask why that is important. If you are a member of the LGBTQA and neurodivergent community you might already know the answer. 

How you most likely grew up

Most of the books and movies around us are cis-, hetero- and neurotypical-focused. Heterosexual couples come together, no one questions their gender, and everyone functions as “you would expect”. The movies and books represent what is considered normal and we all learn how we should be and act from that which we have around us. You can argue that the cis-, hetero- and neurotypical representation is still toxic, and you would be right, but at least you know you exist in this world. You know that your experience, desires, and way of function are normal. Few queer and neuro-divergent people can say the same thing.

How the world is for most queer and neuro-divergent people

Most queer and neuro-divergent people haven’t seen themselves in stories when they grew up. Most go their whole life without ever seeing themselves in movies and books. And what does this do to you, you might ask? A lot of the effects are things that cis-, hetero- and neurotypical people take for granted, never reflecting on. But here are some of the effects:

Understanding your experience

When you don’t see yourself in the surroundings, you lack representation. Is your experience normal? How can I put words on what I feel? How do I deal with my problems? The learning that automatically happens for cis- hetero- and neurotypical people is totally lacking for queer and neurodivergent people, leading to both confusion and loneliness. In some cases, it means you never get to even understand what you’re feeling and it leads to:

Discarding your experience

If you don’t see yourself in your surroundings, you might start to believe that maybe your experience isn’t valid at all. Maybe there is something wrong with you? Or maybe you never get words to even describe what you’re feeling, so you label yourself “strange” and go on with life. This can be seen in anything from living life as a straight and cis person to blaming yourself for why you just can’t “get it together” and act like “normal” people. This leads, not unexpectedly, to a lot of mental health problems, ranging anywhere from anxiety and depression to suicide and substance abuse (suicide rates among transgender youth is, for example, much higher than for cis-youth in the same age group)

What the world could look like

Imagine what the world would look like where everyone got to understand that what they are feeling is normal, and had the resources and representation to help guide them on their way in whatever their experience was. We got to experience this when we first watched She-ra (2018). Up until then, we had lived our lives as cis-people, either not having words to describe what we felt or feeling it wasn’t welcome so we pushed it aside.

A short while before finding She-ra, we’d found out there existed a word called “genderfluid” and “agender”. That was the first time we understood that what we’d felt our whole lives actually was real. It wasn’t just “being strange”.

When we watched She-ra, we realized for the first time what it meant to feel that you belonged in this world. It was something we’d never reflected on before, thinking that it was normal to never feel you fitted in anywhere. It was one of our strongest experiences on understanding our queer side (the autistic side came from this video), and one where we understood what lack of representation really does to you: Lonely, confused, and considering yourself “not normal”. We believe we can all agree that’s not how we want others to grow up.

Final thoughts

Representation, or lack thereof, is a crucial part of making queer, neuro-divergent and other minority groups feel either welcome or as they don’t belong. It helps form the identity, giving resources and guidance to what you feel and how to solve your problems. It’s a vital part that most cis-, hetero- and neurotypical people take for granted, but is sorely lacking for the queer and neuro-divergent community.

For those wishing to explore queer representation, we can recommend, not only She-ra but our favorite anime

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