LGBTQA at school and in media
By Maggie Davis
This school year many new clubs emerged in our school, and we also have seen our own Gay-Straight Alliance come forth in our school community.
Cristy Merk, the teacher in charge of the GSA, said their goal is “basically to provide a place for everyone to feel welcome to come, we want to spread awareness about certain things.”
Sophomore Morgan Chambers said that it’s like “one giant support group.”
The GSA also is a great resource for anyone who might feel scared or confused about who they are or what they feel. There are students that are involved that could give advice, or might be going through the same experience that others are. Recently, the GSA has posted flyers around the school to inform students about utilizing preferred pronouns.
It has been a huge year for the LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Asexual, Aromantic, and Agender) community. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal throughout all 50 states, people have celebrated visibility days on social sites, and LGBT+ characters have started emerging in media.
Or have they?
LGBT in Media
Recently on social media sites, a trending tag #LGBTFansDeserveBetter sparked a campaign after LGBT+ character, Commander Lexa of CW’s The 100 was killed off this season. Lexa (played by Alycia Debnam-Carey, from Fear the Walking Dead), was in an open romantic relationship with the female lead, Clarke. After her death, the show’s staff received an enormous backlash from their LGBT+ fan base, news sites like Inquisitr reported that fans felt that her death was “disrespectful to the community as a whole.”
Aside from the trending tag, these fans have put their anger toward finding a way to aid their struggling peers in the community. With an end goal of $45,000, a kickstarter was founded to be donated to a non-profit organization called The Trevor Project. It strives to help and provide support for LGBTQA people (ages 13-24) struggling with suicidal and self-harming thoughts.
The LGBTQA community is near its limits about media representation. It can be perceived that many openly LGBT+ characters are used as plot devices. In 2014, GLAAD published a report called Where We Are Today on TV that gave statistics about the diversity of television series. Overall, out of 32 shows that were considered LGBT, only 33 returning characters were LGBT+ out of a total of 813 “regular” characters. That boils down to 0.04 percent of television roles that year.
While there has been an increase in recent years, a message of tolerance in media for the community has come from source that was widely unexpected: children’s shows.
Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra (2012-2014) was brought out as a sequel to their previous hit, Avatar: The Last Airbender, aired four years earlier. Korra is the new avatar, and she teams up with her friends, Bolin, Mako, and Asami, to try and restore balance to the physical and spirit worlds. In the series finale, she and Asami disappear, with an implied start of a romantic relationship. An online blog called Queer Quest said about the interaction, “The content was admittedly ambiguous, but the intent was not” since the creators of the show were extremely outright about their intentions.
Steven Universe on Cartoon Network has also stepped forth about gender roles and identities. Steven himself is a very emotional character, influenced into action on a whim of anger or sadness. He is also drawn towards romantic things, being wholly satisfied and happy with the lovey-dovey ending. Steven has also been shown in the episode, “Sadie’s Song” wearing a dress comfortably on his own will, to sing and perform in his friend’s place. Many cartoons use situations like that as gags for male characters, but these are extremely foundation elements to Steven’s character.
Is it making a difference?
“A lot of your generation [the students at Perrysburg Schools] is very accepting if you find out a friend is gay, it’s not a big deal, and you’re like ‘oh, it’s just my friend, who cares?’” Ms. Merk said. “And I think it is because it’s everywhere, and people have just grown up more used to it because of the media, and it’s just stuff that you’re around. I feel like people are just more accepting of it because it’s not as big of a deal.”
Even some stars have stepped forward in support of their LGBT+ fan base. Star Wars lead Mark Hamill said in an interview, “fans are writing and ask all these questions, ‘I’m bullied in school… I’m afraid to come out’. They say to me, ‘Could Luke be gay?’ I’d say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer… If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves.”
Representation is such a huge deal because it is so important for feeling valid. People feel good when there are characters that are easy to relate to and stand behind, especially when they’re represented correctly and fairly. Healthy relationships and lifestyles can impart healthy wisdom and tolerance to watchers.
The Perrysburg High School GSA is a great start for LGBT+ students to find an outlet and form the potential for a great community. Students can talk, interact, and get involved. Tolerance makes a difference.
Perrysburg High School’s new GSA is opening a lot of opportunities for representation at school. What about representation in today’s media?