Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Influence of LGBT Characters

From a young age I knew there was something different about me. Since I grew up in a Conservative Christian environment, I never really understood what this difference was. I didn’t fall into stereotypes that other girls around me had: I gravitated towards hanging out with boys, played in the mud, liked comics, and was involved in almost every sport. More notably than any of that: I didn’t really find myself liking boys. Sure I thought some were cute, but I found myself staring at the blonde haired girls more than not.

Despite this, I still didn’t understand that this meant that I wasn’t straight. It wasn’t until I started watching shows and reading books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) characters that I realized that I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling. I distinctively remember the first time I was “exposed” to an LGBT character in a show: it was Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (pictured above with her girlfriend, Tara). When Willow started realizing that she liked girls it made me start realizing that I was like her; I too liked girls (as well as guys). Here was a strong, book smart (not to mention Wiccan) female character who also was figuring out that she was a lesbian. This character crafted by Joss Whedon was just one of many of his LGBT characters in his other works.

Willow wasn’t the only character that helped me blossom as an LGBT youth. As far as literature, I fell in love with the character of Lucy from the Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell. Lucy was a rising star in the IT side of the FBI and happened to be a lesbian. Then I found out that not only was the character a lesbian, but the Author, Cornwell, was as well. That’s when my young head realized: gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender people were all… well just people. We hold all different jobs in the world and our sexuality was just one aspect of ourselves. It’s a little sad to me that it took reading/watching these characters to realize that but at the same time it definitely helped me and shaped who I am today.

Once I started realizing what exactly “gay” was, it was easier for me to pick out who was and who wasn’t in film and literature. I immediately started to gravitate towards the LGBT characters in shows and also started watching shows that predominantly featured LGBT characters. Shows like Queer as Folk and The L Word quickly became my favorites. Other shows that happened to have LGBT characters also were high on my list.

Then I started writing about them myself. In fact almost every one of my written works has a main character that is part of the LGBT community. Writers write parts of themselves in their characters so why not use my experiences with sexuality as a tool to help others? It is my hope that my own characters will help other members of the LGBT community like the Whedon and Cornwell characters helped me.

In this day and age we are seeing more and more LGBT characters on the screen and in books but there was a time where they weren’t as prominent; times where having a gay character was “edgy” (and heavens forbid we had a trans character on a show). Entertainment reflects what’s going on in that time period and with more and more acceptance of LGBT characters we’ve seen an influx.


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