Thinking back to the plethora of television shows, movies, and music that shaped my upbringing, the media I absorbed during those influential years was exhaustingly heteronormative.
The first time I ever saw a gay person who was depicted as a human being with feelings, instead of as a side character diminished as a stereotype for comedic relief, was when “Glee” started its first season in 2009. I was 9 years old, and my mother banned the viewing of this “godless” production in fear that it would turn me into a homosexual. The prohibition did not stop me from secretly consuming the weekly program at friends’ houses, and ultimately, I became the raging homosexual that she cautioned me about, or rather I came to terms with my own sexuality.
It is clear that my obsession with the show was due to a lack of representation of LGBTQI+ people in the media. According to a diversity study by GLAAD, for the 2008-2009 scripted primetime broadcast television season only 16 of the 616 series regular characters counted on the five broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, and NBC) and 19 of the recurring characters were LGBT. To minoritize further, while 66 percent of this already minimized representation were gay males, 14 percent were bisexual females, 11 percent were lesbians, 6 percent were transgender, and 3 percent were bisexual males
Although I would love to blame the musical disaster for my romantic and sexual attraction to women, “Glee” was incredibly groundbreaking in featuring multiple regular and recurring characters throughout their six seasons who spanned the entire LGBTQI+ spectrum. Citing another follow up diversity study by GLAAD, the 2018-2019 broadcast, cable, and streaming television season featured a record high of 75 LGBTQ regular characters (8.8%) with bisexual characters making up 27% of all LGBTQ characters and 26 regular and recurring transgender characters.
When you are able to see people who look like you, act like you, speak like you and come from the same place you come from, it serves as an inspiration. There is still such a long way to go, but there is so much opportunity for LGBTQI+ people today to create and contribute to a history of queer media that is sorely underdeveloped.