Nonexistent queer couples on TV wrecked my young love

Story by Clementine Evans
Copy Editor 

Illustration by Isole Kim
Co-Design Editor

I lived in an apartment where television was my pastime. I would sit on the couch for hours watching cartoons, news, or children’s shows. One thing that strikes me, now that I am older, is that there were no queer couples on those shows. 

Obviously, I do not have high expectations for producers of children’s shows. However, there were romantic relationships as well as crushes between straight characters on these shows. I never saw characters of the same gender having crushes on each other, or being in a relationship. 

“Relationship” for the mind of a seven-year-old meant a man and a woman crushing, then years later getting married and having a family and a happy life together. When I thought about my crushes, that is how I imagined my future with someone: the whole package. I never really figured out that the person I wanted this future with was right in front of me, because I had no role models to show me that it was normal to be a lesbian.

Recently reexamining myself, my past friendships and my romantic and unromantic relationships, I am also reexamining fictional shows that depicted people who do not represent our society as a whole. I also remembered my first crush on a girl, a crush that I did not even know about.

When I was in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade, I was best friends with this one girl. We can call her “Kelsey.” We were very close, sharing every secret we possessed with each other. I, however, never shared a secret with her that I did not even know I had. 

As we both grew older and became more mature, I began feeling a lot closer to her then any of my other friends. I did not think about it as a crush, but just that I liked her more than my other friends, but in a yellow heart emoji kind of way. I never thought that girls could like girls, because no one in my life, especially my world of fictional shows, had ever been part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Now, with the current state of acceptance and tolerance of LGBT+ people, there are so many more shows and movies with LGBT+ characters. Some of them portray these characters fairly, like Heartstopper and Ginny & Georgia, but others also heavily over-sexualize queer characters, like The L Word, Elite, and Gossip Girl. There are queer people who are just like characters on these shows, but that does not mean that we are all the same, cookie-cutter LGBT+ person. These shows are very recent and made for adults and teenagers, as they are rated R, TV-MA, or TV-14. This shows that when there is representation in television, it is only meant for an older generation of people who are supposedly more mature. Just because children do not know everything about the world does not mean society has to shield them from sexualities.

I am not only criticizing shows that I do not particularly like that do have queer characters. Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of my all-time favorite shows, which has an iconic lesbian couple that I worship. The producers of this show, however, villainize one of the girls and kills off the other. Gay characters do not emerge as victorious and heroic as the straight ones. When we are represented, we languish in the shadow of straight characters because society has deemed heterosexual people as normal and gay people as, well, queer. 

If I had had shows that portrayed gay characters, I honestly think I would have been able to figure out my own sexuality as a lesbian way sooner. It makes me sad that I was not able to see representation of people who really exist. There are so many more children’s shows today that portray a range of queer characters like, The Legend of Korra, The Dragon Prince, and Owl House. 

As I scrolled through old texts with Kelsey, I revisited our friendship and our past adventures together. It was only recently as a return to former experiences with her that I really discovered how much I cared for her. Every time we would see each other, I would get butterflies in my stomach. Now, I realize how jealous I am of the children of today and how many more opportunities they have to discover their identities. And after eight years, I have finally realized that the person I loved and admired the most was also my best friend.

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