Kristina Kiritchenko, Submission
(Clarification before reading: sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as gender and sex, are totally different things.)
The latest Disney film “Beauty and the Beast” advertised itself as having “an exclusively gay moment.” Since then, there has been this ongoing debate about LGBT+ representation in popular media and its impact on children—as demonstrated by Michaela Bush’s recent Opinion article—even though the “moment” was barely on screen.
When I was younger, I wore dresses with flowers on them, liked carrying purses and had a “husband” in kindergarten. Throughout my early upbringing, my heterosexual parents raised me to be a lady that would one day be a man’s wife. Even though that is a possibility, they missed the other side: that I could be a woman’s wife. I knew since puberty that I liked both genders, but it took me a decade to come to terms with that by 2016. Why? Because I didn’t know my sexual orientation was valid because I never knew bisexuality existed.
Disney never covered that growing up, nor did television or any of the media I consumed as a child. What resulted was 10 years of depression, anxiety and deep-rooted feelings that I was flawed for being the person I was born. If I was given the choice to be straight during the early days of my struggle, 12-year-old me would have done it. But why?
Because that’s what the world told me I should be. Since I was an infant, my parents pushed me into heteronormative relationship goals, movies taught me that only the guy and the girl should fall in love and my church told me that it was a choice and the wrong one would lead to an unfortunate eternity. All of this is what caused me to struggle with the person I am because no one ever told me that my love is real and valid. I never had that represented to me in any capacity.
For anyone who is this upset about the possibility of “explicit” themes of LGBT+ representation in Disney and other media, take what you are feeling now and project it. Now all media is only LGBT+. You feel uncomfortable? You feel attacked? That’s how the LGBT+ community has felt for decades. If you do not feel anything, it is because you have never been underrepresented.
Beyond that, the only thing that parents are pushing onto their children when it comes to their gender identity is by only allowing pink dolls in the “girls” section and blue trucks in the “boys” section. This doesn’t matter! I agree with you that children are “quite innocent,” but we seem to differ in what that means. Children have no concept of gender identities when they’re young.
A truck is a truck, a doll is a doll and it doesn’t matter if you play with it or not. It’s only when a parent steps in and says, “No, Jane. That’s a boy toy,” do parents force these “adult concepts” onto their children. Not once in my research or in my life have I met an LGBT+ parent who forced their identity onto their children.
In terms of this “sensitive subject” and “explicit themes,” LGBT+ is not sexual deviance, dysphoria or perversion. Stop thinking that we’re hypersexual people wanting to expose our children to legitimate adult content. The problem encountered with LGBT+ themes is the implication that this is something wrong, that this is something inappropriate when it’s just as normal as heterosexuality (as proven by the 2011 Census results). We come to this conclusion due to the severe lack of representation in the first place. If I would have been introduced to the concept of bisexuality when I realized that I liked two genders, I wouldn’t have had the mental strain that I lived through as opposed to having the heterosexual way of living “pushed in my face.”
This is not a choice. What is a choice, however, is normalizing the LGBT+ community within media representation so that no other child similar to me has to actually be hurt because they do not know that their sexual orientation or gender identity is valid and not “inappropriate.” The latter being residual ideology left from the 1950s’ notion that homosexuality can be equated to child predators.
To refute the “theory” that children are better off raised by heterosexual parents, a 2014 survey conducted by BioMed Central found that the child’s health and wellbeing was better with same-sex parents versus heterosexual parents.
Furthermore, the only threat to the child’s wellbeing was harassment incurred by other children and parents of heterosexual families. This same conclusion was found by Walter R. Schumm of Kansas State University in his 2016 research, and I encourage you to look up all the other credible surveys, studies and research on this topic. (Both of the cited findings are available through the university’s access to EBSCO if you would like to read them in full.)
I do agree that “facts—not ideology—determine reality,” so here are the facts: Gender is a social construct of identity (sex is the biological term regarding sexual organs), LGBT+ is not a choice (we’re born this way) and media representation of LGBT+ helps to normalize the community for those struggling to realize that they exist and for those who need to learn that we do exist. As a result, since this is all about children’s well-beings, LGBT+ children learn at a young age that they’re valid, heterosexual children learn that LGBT+ people are normal and less mental strain (and physical violence) will occur by all parties involved.
Also, LeFou was gay in the original Disney film, but it was nice to finally have that “explicitly” in the remake and I look forward to how “it will only become more explicit” in the future.