When I was a young teen I saw a film on TV about a high school girl with a thing for wearing hats and dark hair that I think she eventually cut short. She realised that she was queer and had a ‘coming out’ party in her backyard. I’ve never been able to find out what it was called but I’d love to see it again because it captured my imagination. If you have an idea, please tell me! Seeing someone I could relate to on TV was so important because it helped me to figure out more about myself. I wasn’t exactly sure how I related to her, but knowing that I did at all was comforting. I always thought it would be cool to come out in style like that but in the end I was too scared.
It’s heartwarming now to see ‘teen’ romantic comedies like Love, Simon (2018) and Alex Strangelove (2018), and TV shows like Degrassi: Next Class (2016 - ) helping to show not straight teenagers being a part of everyday life. In 2009, season 3 of the UK version of Skins launched. The whole season arc was a mutual coming out story between two of the characters, Naomi and Emily, who ultimately began a relationship. It holds a special place in my heart for being so relatable and cute. ‘Naomily’ gifs can still make me squee. They were reluctant to admit their feelings at first, but in time felt no choice if they were going to be happy. This is an idea that resonated with me. It’s like there is a point where any sadness that may come from coming out is outweighed by the sadness of not.
I wonder how I would have felt seeing these things when I was in school? I’d hope I would be more inspired to come out or have better understanding of what I was feeling. It’s much better than me watching Casper (1995) and pondering that I want to both be Christina Ricci and be slow dancing with Christina Ricci.
There was the 2000 film But I’m A Cheerleader, a cheesy, literally campy, satire reality movie. It is a movie about an anti-gay conversion camp that has its problems, but is ultimately beloved in the queer community for being an early awakening for many, and being so relatable despite the satire. It even teaches that you can be cheerleader and a lesbian at the same time! I didn’t see it until 2004, however, but it was while sitting next to my girlfriend. The same year that My Summer of Love came out starring Emily Blunt in a queer romance, it’s a rollercoaster of a movie that cemented my forever crush on her.
In recent years adult actors playing realistic queer characters in media like Carol (2015) and the Black Mirror episode San Junipero (2016) have been great to have in the mainstream. Their portrayals have stood out and have been applauded by the queer community for having realistic emotions and relationships with other queer characters. I’ve also noticed a rise in bio pics like Battle of the Sexes (2017) about tennis champion Billie Jean King, and Freeheld (2015) about police officer Laurel Hester. They don’t always show ideal scenarios, often some sad realities about family not being accepting, but they are ultimately inspiring. I do hope they also have a role in helping adults learn more about themselves and possibly even come out as a result.
It’s very special seeing more queer representation now, especially with lead role characters. It’s so much more valuable than having them be a ‘read between the lines’ character and unmentioned like I saw as a kid in A League of Their Own (1992) or Are You Being Served? (1972 - 1985). Every time there’s good representation in mainstream media, it leads to happier and safer lives as more and more of society get on board with different types from the sexualiy and gender spectrum. I can’t wait to see what characters I get excited about next.
Jaslyn Heaphy is a queer femme from New Zealand. She is Host of Up In Ten Club, the motivational podcast that helps you get out of bed, and Co-host of High Expectations Podcast, which is about relationships, pop culture, friendship, films, books, sex positivity, music, and whatever they feel like talking about!. She is also a standup comedian, pun battle champion, zine maker, and a bullet journal enthusiast. When she's not being creative she can be found on a bicycle or enjoying pizza.
Want to hear our take on But I'm a Cheerleader? Listen to our episode!