LGBTQ+ Media Representation Makes a Difference

By , 17, Contributor
June 23, 2022

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a same-sex couple in a movie. As a questioning eighth-grader, it felt groundbreaking to watch two girls fall in love onscreen the same way that I had always seen heterosexual couples fall in love.

This feeling of being seen and valued is why I love media like movies, books and TV shows. These stories allow us to understand each other and see ourselves in characters’experiences. Indeed, representation is an impactful way to help underrepresented groups feel seen.

In celebration of Pride Month, I asked teens about their favorite media—movies, TV shows, books, etc.—that depict positive and accurate representation of LGBTQ+ folks and experiences. I also asked them to speak about what it’s like to feel represented. I learned a lot, including how much Heartstopper has made an impact!

Why Representation Matters

“Being represented makes me feel seen and ‘normal,’ if you will. It reminds me that who I am is OK and that even if not everybody accepts it, I don’t have to hide myself.”
–Jay, 16, Lawrenceville, NJ

“It’s important to see myself in media. Having people to look up to and relate to makes me feel less alone.”
–Josephine, 17, Camden, DE

“It feels good to see characters in a show or movie who are like me. When I see shows or movies with characters who identify like I do, it makes me very happy, especially when they are shown in a positive light.”
–Sarah, 19, Burlington, VT

“Growing up, I would skip through shows just trying to find an ounce of representation. I see so many happy straight couples in shows and I just wanted to see happy same-sex couples, too. Being represented makes me feel seen.”
–Jessica, 17, Lawrenceville, NJ

“Being represented is so important because I and many others could be provided with diverse role models that don’t promote a singular blueprint for what a person ‘should’ be.”
–Ash, 16, Camden, DE

“[Representation] matters because I get to see different ways that I as a queer woman can move about the world. Seeing different ways that people like me can live is really special. It makes me feel seen in a society where my experiences are often not prioritized.”
–Yale, 18, Oak Park, CA

“If I had not had that representation, I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to come to terms with my identity. I think it’s necessary for good representation to continue so queer youth can have that positive influence.”
–Jordan, 19, Lawrence, NJ

What media examples positively represent LGBTQ+ experiences for you?

The Owl House is definitely my first choice. One of the characters, Raine, is nonbinary and the show doesn’t make a big deal about it. It’s not like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re nonbinary?!’ It’s just, ‘OK, this is Raine and they’re my friend.’ It’s not some big crazy thing, it’s just normal. I like being able to see that, it makes me really happy.”
–Jay, 16, Lawrenceville, NJ

“I loved watching Pose. It takes place during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in NYC when the ballroom scene was huge. It follows a bunch of LGBTQ+ characters, mostly transgender characters, and how they deal with discrimination and with HIV/AIDS.”
–Sarah, 19, Burlington, VT

Love, Victor on Hulu. It focused on a Latino boy who comes out to his family. Throughout the story the family goes through ups and downs with accepting who he is or more so understanding it. I find it to be very relatable. There are not many shows that show the LGBTQ+ community within POC (people of color) cultures.”
–Jessica, 17, Lawrenceville, NJ

Gideon the Ninth positively represents queer experiences by cementing queer relationships at the center of the novel. The book wouldn’t work without the queer relationships that are in it. It’s written by a lesbian, which is super cool.”
–Yale, 18, Oak Park, CA

Big Mouth and Sex Education are two shows that not only accurately represent the LGBTQIA+ experience but also put it in a way that highlights some of the struggles as well as successes.”
–Blake, 16, Lawrenceville, NJ

Love, Simon was the first LGBTQ+ movie that I ever watched, which inspired me to come out about a year later! I’d also say Stranger Things did a really amazing job with how they wrote Robin and her coming out story. And the video game The Last of Us character Ellie, too!! It means a lot to me :).”
– Jamie, 17, Lawrenceville, NJ

Finally, lots of love for Heartstopper

Heartstopper, more explicitly the comics, is such great LGBTQ+ representation. There are trans, lesbian, bisexual and gay main characters. They are portrayed in healthy relationships with problems besides just coming out and homophobia. (But those are also portrayed very well.)”
–Ash, 16, Camden, DE

“One of the ones I’ve seen with the most accurate/positive representation is Heartstopper, both the comics and the show. Nick’s internal struggle shows that it’s OK to not know and figure it out as you go. It also helped show that you don’t have to please others to fit in.”
–Amalie, 17, Lawrenceville, NJ

“The Netflix show Heartstopper did an amazing job of showing LGBTQ+ characters in a positive light….I love the show so much that I’ve been trying to get the graphic novels that it’s based on, but the first volume is sold out everywhere.”
–Sarah, 19, Burlington, VT

Heartstopper I feel is meant for us. Queer people aren’t made side characters or caricatures or stereotypes. It is simply the story of love between two boys. It doesn’t make you dig to find something to relate to, it is there and it is wonderful.”
–Josephine, 17, Camden, DE

“One of my new recent favorite shows has to be Heartstopper. Most shows that have LGBTQ+ representation tend to focus on how hard being part of that community can be. While they are not wrong, sometimes it’s just nice to watch a cute little mushy love story.”
–Jessica, 17, Lawrenceville, NJ


Photo by Shingi Rice on Unsplash

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