Should Non-Queer People Play Queer Characters?

There’s nothing more disappointing to me than enjoying a queer character in a show, looking up the actor, and finding out they aren’t a part of the LGBTQIA+ community at all. It’s not like there’s a shortage of talented queer actors; Hollywood just doesn’t cast them. With over 10% of the population being LGBTQIA+ in some capacity, there’s definitely a plethora of talented queer actors, probably even some that identify the same way as their character does.

Representation is incredibly important for every minority group. While there’s been more LGBTQIA+ representation in the media in 2017 than ever before, we still have a lot of progress that needs to be made. It would be ridiculous and wrong for someone to play a black character if they weren’t black, so why do we treat sexuality and gender that way? Sure, some non-queer actors do a pretty damn good job playing queer characters, but they just don’t have the experience. They don’t know the struggle, and it really shows when they do interviews about their show/movie. As much as I think we really need to support queer media as a whole, I would rather support queer artists making LGBTQIA+ content.

As a young queer person, I often find myself finding other LGBTQIA+ identifying people, mainly queer women, to look up to. I really needed solid representation when I was figuring everything out, and straight women playing lesbians on TV just wasn’t what I wanted or needed. I also have a problem with the specific type of cis-straight-heteroromantic people that are casted. They are almost always white, able-bodied, and financially privileged. The real LGBTQIA+ community is diverse in every sense of the word. Hot white gays are not the majority, and their stories are not the most important ones to be told. Queer people of color, and disabled queer people’s stories and accomplishments are constantly being erased.

The history behind the character is important. People who are figuring out their gender and/or sexuality need to see queer people living “normal” lives. Straight-Cis-Heteroromantic actors just can’t possibly convey that, or be that representation off the show. Recently, Stephanie Beatriz’s Character Rosa, on the TV show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, came out as bisexual. The only thing that’s cooler than Hollywood actually letting someone say the word “bisexual” on TV, is that Stephanie is bisexual. She is a perfect example of good queer representation. I wish we saw this more often.

Do you think non-queer people should play queer characters? Who are some of your favorite LGBTQIA+ actors?

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How did you know you were gay?

Even though I’ve been out for a few years now, I’ve never really had anyone ask me “How did you know you were gay?” until a few weeks ago. One of my lab partners (who’s also gay) asked me this kind of out of the blue while we were working on our lab report after class. Honestly, I didn’t have a great answer prepared.

I told her about an experience I had sophomore year of high school, where I randomly had a huge crush on this girl I didn’t really know in my Chemistry class. I wrote about that crush a long time ago, but I’ve since come to some other realizations. I think she could have been replaced with a thousand different people and it wouldn’t have made a difference. It’s not that I don’t have standards, or that I’m attracted to every girl I come in contact with – that’s far from the truth. It was just a period of time where I was questioning and figuring everything out, and she just so happened to be in the same class as me.

Now, my lab partner wasn’t exactly satisfied with this story. “But how do you know it wasn’t just her?” That question threw me for a loop a little bit. There’s no good answer, I just do. It’s a feeling that, I don’t feel the need to question anymore. For me, sexuality isn’t a complicated part of my life. I know how I feel, and who I like. It’s just that simple. It wasn’t that easy in the beginning, but over time the doubts left and I feel perfectly content with the conclusion. I don’t have some great story about being swept off my feet by the love of my life, and I don’t think having that kind of story is necessary. I wanted the experience to be casual and simple, and it was.

Her questions came from a place of curiosity, but they definitely made me think about a few things. Why are people so obsessed with knowing every thought that goes through queer people’s minds when questioning their sexuality or gender? Also, why do they feel the need to question it’s authenticity? One of my favorite qutoes from Denice Frohman’s poem “Dear Straight People” is:

” Dear Straight People, I’m tired of proving my love is authentic, so I’m calling the reparations on your ass. When did you realize you were straight? Who taught you?Did it happen because your parents are divorced? Did it happen because your parents are not divorced? Did it happen because you sniffed too much glue in fifth grade? Dear Straight People, why do I have to prove my love is authentic? Why do I have to prove my love is authentic? Why do I have to prove my love is authentic?”

I get a whole lot of “I would have never known” and “Really???” This has to do with the fact that I don’t look queer enough in straight people’s eyes. I wear makeup, have shoulder length hair, and generally act feminine enough to be shoved (forcefully) into the straight box. I can look in the mirror and think, “wow I look really gay today” (in a proud way) and still no one suspects a damn thing. The authenticity of my gayness is questioned because I don’t look the part or fit perfectly into the tiny box created for the stereotypical lesbian.

I don’t mind answering these questions, or most questions for that matter. However, I am tired of both people in my day to day life as well as society as a whole questioning who I am because I don’t fit the mold. So, how did I know I was gay? I trusted myself, and through lots of introspection discovered the answer to this aspect of my life. Maybe it’s not the best answer, or the answer people want to hear, but it’s the most honest one.

National Coming Out Day 2017

Happy National Coming Out Day!

For those who do not know, National Coming Out Day began on October 11th, 1987 when half a million people marched on Washington for LGBT Rights. Since that day, October 11th has been used to celebrate coming out and being out. Many people also use this day to come out for the very first time, or come out to a new person/group.

I remember when national coming out day came around while I was still in the closet. I felt a sense of urgency to do it that day, but got nervous and waited some more. National Coming Out Day is not supposed to pressure anyone to come out when they’re not ready, so if you’re in the closet and don’t feel ready – don’t come out today! This day did give me a little nudge to bit the bullet and tell my parents. I think it was beneficial to me to have national coming out day take place during the time I was deciding when to come out.

Part of me feels like we shouldn’t have to “come out” per se. We should be able to just start seeing someone, or have it come up in conversation. A big dramatic “let’s sit down and cry moment” isn’t always necessary or wanted. If that is your experience, there isn’t anything wrong with that, coming out to my parents was mildly dramatic, but if that’s not the experience you want then it doesn’t have to be that way.

For me, being out is liberating and incredibly important. I always try to be the “out person” that I needed when I was questioning my sexuality. Being out for me can also be very political, especially right now. Having out role models is crucial for people in the closet. It’s also really important for everyone else to see that LGBTQIA+ people are not some far off distant idea, but rather are your neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family members.

I hope everyone has an incredible National Coming Out Day, and is able to celebrate being LGBTQIA+!

Gender and Chronic Illness

Most abled people assume that if you get sick there will be a doctor there full of empathy and ready to save the day – this however is not the narrative of many people who have chronic illnesses.

While I personally have never been straight up told I’m faking it, it’s been implied and stated multiple times that I was being dramatic or “just had anxiety.” I feel like it’s important to note that every time this has happened, it was coming from a man. I came to the realization a long time ago that a lot of medical professionals see me as a teenage girl who’s over dramatic and just wants to get a few days off school. This profiling happens before I open my mouth and once that decision has been made in their mind it is nearly impossible to change it.

Many people who end of being diagnosed with endometriosis or ovarian cysts are told that it’s “just their period” and that they need to learn how to deal with cramps.Women and feminine presenting people are disproportionally targeted when it comes to doctors disbelief of their symptoms. Men and masculine presenting people on the other hand often try to “tough it out” and don’t go to the doctor until long after it’s necessary due to being afraid of not “taking it like a man” ; or they do go to the doctor and the doctor essentially tells them to “man up.” These gender stereotypes are incredibly harmful, especially within the medical world.

Back in February of this year I had an electrophysiology study, and the experience was less than pleasant. After the study I had a reaction to the medication they gave me to speed up my heart rate, and my whole body began to tremor. A rapid response team was called and all of the nurses were visibly concerned, and knew something was wrong. The doctor who came in however, was super nonchalant about everything and left the room while I was still having the tremors.

Later the next morning when my doctor (at the time) came to see me he said he thought I had anxiety and that’s why the whole incident occurred. Obviously that was not the case, and he just didn’t want to figure out what is actually wrong with me. There are two conclusions I’ve drawn from this situation: 1) because I’m a teenage girl he thought I was being dramatic, 2) it was going to take time and testing to figure out what’s wrong with my heart (plus I’m considered a “complicated care”) so my situation would not be easy money for him.

This is just one of many events where men downplayed my symptoms / disability and reduced me to “just an anxious teenage girl.” Not all chronic illnesses are created equally and not all experiences with chronic illness are the same. Gender and Sex can be a huge factor is getting a diagnosis, even when your illness has nothing to do with either of those. Have you ever had a bad medical experience due to your gender? Did gender or sex affect your diagnosis process?

 

The Language of Disability

Not that long ago I didn’t consider myself disabled. Society had taught me disabled people were in wheelchairs, had some level of impaired mobility, or had moderate to severe cognitive disabilities. Sure chronic illness had completely taken over my life, but in my eyes I wasn’t disabled enough.

Fast forward to maybe nine months ago, I realized I was in fact disabled by my chronic illnesses and took on the label with pride. For me disabled is both a description of how chronic illness affects my life and a political label. I don’t have a problem with being referred to as disabled, because it’s true.

A lot of people however don’t seem to like the word “disabled.” When I was in high school I applied to become a “Best Buddy” which is a program where you befriend someone in the special education program. Fortunately or unfortunately for me (depending on how you look at it) they didn’t have enough special ed kids for all of the volunteers to have a buddy, so I never got one.

I did go to a training class after school one day, and something from it has stuck with me. They talked about how you shouldn’t ever say someone is disabled, instead say “a person with a disability, differently abled, or handi-capable.” The funny thing about the language of disability is I only see parents/caretakers asking people not to say disabled, never actual disabled people. I’m sure there are disabled people out there who don’t like the term, but I personally haven’t run across any. Many people take on the label with pride and try to advocate for themselves and others with disabilities.

I personally have a problem with the term “differently abled.” Disabled people aren’t differently abled, they are disabled. There are things we can’t do, point blank, end of story. For me some days I can do something and the next day I can’t, but there are also things that I’m never abled to do no matter the circumstances. “A person with a disability” isn’t offensive, I just find it unnecessary. The argument for the other side is that you should put the person before the disability. I feel you don’t have to take that literally. As long as someone is being respectful and isn’t  using a demonizing or belittling tone, then there isn’t anything wrong with saying “disabled people” or a “disabled person.”

Of course you should treat someone like a human being, and not reduce them to their diagnosis. However I don’t fid it necessary to say “person with a disability” every time you speak about disabilities. What are your thoughts? Do you use the term disabled to describe yourself?

Trumps Latest Attack on Trans Rights

I would like to say I was surprised to wake up yesterday morning and find the tweets about banning trans people from the military, but honestly nothing he does shocks me anymore.

This however did seem out of the blue to me. No conversation, only a declaration. While technically nothing is set in stone or law yet, even stating these kinds of hatful things is harmful. This is the slow way to eventually ban trans people from existing. If they can’t go to the bathroom and can’t in the military, where can trans people exist then?

I wouldn’t say that I personally support the military in all of its endeavors, but being pro-military or not isn’t what this is about. Your gender shouldn’t determine what you can and can’t do or what you can and can’t be in life. If your willing to put your life on the line, you should be welcomed with open arms and allowed to live an authentic life.

Trump claims trans people are a “burden” due to their medical costs. The US military has quite the track record of not taking care of their veterans, or active duty member for that matter when it comes to health care of any kind. Not to mention not all trans people medically transition, and you shouldn’t assume they will or want to.

There are also over 15,000 trans people currently serving in our military. What’s going to happen to them? He acts like he’s stopping trans people from joining the armed forces, but no trans people are already serving.  You cannot end sometimes career because of their gender identity. Are you going to discharge them like they did back when “don’t ask don’t tell” was a law? We’re going backwards on the progress we’ve made.

I believe this is just the beginning of an attack on the LGBTQIA+ community. He’s gone after trans people multiple times now, and it isn’t going to stop unless there is enough backlash. Even then it may not end. Gaby Dunn made a video about this, and she believes that Trump is going after trans people first, because they don’t always get the support that other members of the LGBTQIA+ members receive. I completely agree, and since that’s probably true everyone in the community, and everyone who is a decent human being, should show up and support trans people.

The LGBTQIA+ community is resilient and we will not let him get away with this.

Reclaiming LGBTQ+ Slurs

In the past five years or so “Queer” has become an increasing popular label for many people to describe their gender and/or sexuality. However not that long ago it was widely used as slur to harm the community. Is it okay to “reclaim” slurs?

I’m coming from the stand point of someone who has never been called a slur. Sure I’ve heard them many times, in both positive and negative ways, but no one was referring to me. Queer is a word I sometimes use to describe myself and the community. When writing “Queer community” I often wonder if that phrase is offensive to some people in the community. To be honest I use it mostly because saying LGBTQIA+ community over and over is long, and begins to feel repetitive. I would never mean for it to make someone feel uncomfortable or bring back bad memories for them.

For many people like me, we’ve never heard “queer” used in a negative connotation so it doesn’t seem like a negative thing. Recently I was watching Ash Hardell’s video about this topic and they had some really great things to say. Ash talked about how “Queer” is not commonly used as a slur anymore, and they felt that in order to reclaim a slur is shouldn’t be commonly used. Maybe it’s just the area I live in but I’ve never heard someone say “queer” as a slur. They also brought up the point that “Queer” originally meant “peculiar or odd” and didn’t have a violent background like some of the other slurs.

There are other slurs like the f word, or the d word, or the t word that haven’t been completely reclaimed. A handful of of people will use the word to describe themselves in order to try and take back the power from the bullies and hateful people who have used it towards them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing this, but using the word to describe a whole group of people can be problematic. Some people who have been deeply hurt by a certain word do not want to be called that in way, shape, or form. Labels are all about personal preference, and some words shouldn’t be used to describe a group of people as a whole.

How to you feel about reclaiming slurs?

Do you use any reclaimed slurs to describe yourself?