New shows moving away from old stereotypes of gay life

By Dillon Lives

Ever since the lifestyles of LGBTQIA+ people have become more visible through social media, we have become better represented in movies and shows designed for viewers of all types and ages. This gives young people who are figuring out their sexuality a chance to be seen and heard. But it is still all too rare to see a story that fully represents us and our true potential as diverse human beings.

“The Boys In The Band,” a play that debuted off-Broadway in 1968, is a relic of the bad old days. It portrays a group of gay men who are constantly engaged in petty arguments; there are even racist comments. The play’s comedic relief is provided by a flamboyant, promiscuous man. These stereotyped cliches perpetuate ideas and expectations about a community whose members actually have a vast range of personalities and backgrounds.

Stereotyping is harmful. During my freshman year of high school, some people — not knowing anything about me or my sexuality — would say that the only reason that they would want to be my friend was because they “always wanted a gay best friend.’’ I can only suppose that these students’ bizarre notions came from the entertainment industry’s false representations of my community.

This is where new media can make important changes. “Pose,” an FX show released in 2018, challenged its audience’s assumptions about the transgender community by conveying how AIDS created a wave of discrimination against transgender people. It showed what a struggle it was for the characters to chase their dreams in the face of transphobia.

Movies or shows like “Pose” recognize queer people as human beings. And there are others that do so, too: “Love, Victor;” “Euphoria;” “It’s a Sin;” and “Moonlight” are all changing the narrative in a positive direction. Now that allies have access to accurate representations of the LGBTQIA+ community, they can learn more about us and the challenges we still face. Those challenges range from dealing with homophobia in public or at school to getting kicked out of home because your parents won’t accept who you are.

The documentary “Paris is Burning,” which came out in 1990, was unusual for its time. Filmmaker Jennie Livingston spent time at Harlem drag balls, where a dance known as “voguing” caught her eye.

“This is a film that is important for anyone to see, whether they’re gay or not,” she told The Orlando Sentinel in 1991. “It’s about how we’re all influenced by the media; how we strive to meet the demands of the media by trying to look like Vogue models.”

But “Paris is Burning” was about more than just a dance, she said: “It’s about survival. It’s about people who have a lot of prejudices against them and who have learned to survive with wit, dignity and energy. It’s a little story about how we all survive.”

Another example of hopeful change: Last year’s documentary “Disclosure,” which took on Hollywood’s traditionally problematic representations of trans people.

More accurate portrayals by the entertainment industry can help inspire queer people to accept and express ourselves positively, and give us the confidence to come out to family and friends. The new shows are doing just that.

The old entertainment media stereotypes caused the kind of homophobia that can destroy relationships. The new media productions, by providing accurate representations, are helping LGBTQIA+ people to learn to build relationships with other queer people. And it can help them to make their own family with the people who love them for who they are.

Dillon Lives is a pseudonym for a 17-year-old who lives in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and is not out to his parents. “Love, Victor” and “Euphoria” are two of his favorite shows.

This story was posted in the Washington Blade