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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Advice for College Freshman

Since my first semester of college just ended, I thought I would share some of the things I learned. For reference I go to a local community college, I’m a biology major, and I got a 4.0 my first semester:

  1. It’s literally just lecturing most of the time

Maybe this is because I only look core classes my first semester (history 1301, biology 1406, english 1301, and math 1314), but all we ever did was lecture and test. In high school you do a lot of busy work and activities, but there is no free time or “fun” days in college. The only class that broke this rule was my English class, where we did a lot of group discussion.

2. Give yourself time in-between some of your classes

Monday, Wednesday, Friday I had History from 10:00-10:50, and then my next class, Algebra, wasn’t until 12:00-12:50. I used the hour in between them to study and do homework, and it was so helpful! It was a designated hour to just work, and it really helped me stay on top of everything. It can be difficult to work at home, and it’s easy to talk yourself out of staying after class to work, so making your schedule with breaks in between is ideal.

3. Take good notes

This sounds like a no-brainer, but honestly it’s so important. I basically spent the entire semester trying to figure out what note-taking strategy worked best for me. I would recommend doing hand written notes if you’re able to, because I definitely retain more info when I write something verses when I type it. I also really like the strategy of condensing your notes down to key information that you’re still working on learning before a test or major quiz. It’s much more effective to study the most important/most difficult information alone, than it is to study everything your Professor lectured over.

4. Take advantage of your resources

This is something I wish I would have done more of. At my college, we have a writing center, and free math tutors which I never used, but should have. Having free resources is something you will probably never get again after college, so take advantage of them! Also, if you have a disability like me, sign up for disability services. They may not be able to completely accommodate you, depending on your needs, but in my case they were super accommodating and happy to help.

5. Do Practice Quizzes/Tests

Taking practice quizzes and tests online is the main thing I used to study. Just reading and highlighting your notes if often not enough. My biology textbook came with a code for online study materials, which is what I used to practice. I like practice tests because you not only need to know the information for your exams, but you also have to know how to apply it.

 

These were the most important things I took away from my first semester in college, academically speaking. Are you in college? What are your tips for college freshman / college students in general?

Independence and Chronic Illness

Disability often requires some of our independence to be given up. Personally, my independence has waxed and waned over the years continuously. While it’s nice to have periods of time where I’m capable of being very independent, it can be incredibly hard to have to relinquish some of that independence when my condition worsens. I was watching Jessica Kellgren-Fozard’s video about her personal relationship with independence and being chronically ill, and it made me think about my relationship with independence. I highly suggest watching the video, and subscribing to her. She is a disabled lesbian, from England where she resides with her wife and adorable dog.

At times, independence for me can mean being able to do my laundry or cook a meal. It may sound so simple, but these are the things so many people take for granted. Currently, independence for me means driving myself to school, and going to my classes. I still live with my parents, so some of my independence is relinquished to them; They cook most of the time, and they pay the bills (thank god). There’s meaningful independence is everyday activities, like doing the dishes or folding the laundry, that many able-bodied people fail to recognize.

My independence can fluctuate day to day, and even hour to hour. One day I can drive myself everywhere I need to go, and the next day I can barely take out the trash. This concept of ability changing on an hourly basis is something able-bodied people tend to struggle with. In their world, you’re either completely incapacitated or completely fine. I live the vast majority of my life in the in-between stages, which can make things complicated. It can also be difficult for my parents. They believe they know how I’m feeling by looking at me, but they’re often wrong. I get a certain look in my face when I feel like I’m going to pass out or vomit, but I can feel awful without the specific look. Sometimes I’ll say I’m feeling terrible, but because I “look fine” they ask me to do something immediately like feed the dogs or unload the dishwasher. It becomes frustrating when you want to help, but also just explicitly stated you aren’t doing well in the moment. Being the obedient child I am, I force myself to do what is asked of me even when it makes me feel worse.

I want to be able to help my parents whenever they ask, but it just isn’t a realistic “want”  sometimes. Learning to relinquish some of your independence to other people can be difficult. I’m someone who likes to be in control, and likes to be as independent as possible. Being chronically ill has taught me, that there’s strength in vulnerability. Knowing when to ask for assistance is a necessary part of being disabled, but it can feel demoralizing. It is however, a choice to relinquish that independence, which makes asking for help less patronizing to me. There’s so much strength in admitting you need assistance.

We live in a society that worships independence to an unhealthy level. No person, disabled or not, can do everything by themselves 100% of the time. You’re life’s worth shouldn’t rely on whether or not you can drive a car, or wash your own hair. All levels of independence are beautiful and should be celebrated. Relinquishing some of your independence does not make you weak, but instead shows an incredible strength.

Looking for Similarities

I wrote a poem about my experience with dissociation and depersonalization the other day, and I thought I would share it. When it was particularly bad for me, I wish I would have known what was happening and known other people were going through it too.

 

I feel disconnected from my own being

I look into the mirror and I do not know who I am

And not in a philosophical way

 

I am surprised by my own reflection

I do not know what I look like

Pictures from six years ago show who I think I am

But the mirror is telling me a different story

 

When people tell me I’m pretty, it does not feel like a compliment

I could not tell you if my body is objectively beautiful or not

 

I remember who I was before

What I wore

How I did my makeup

What I looked like

Now I am not sure

It’s one hell of a coping mechanism

 

I spend half an hour staring at myself in the mirror

Not because I’m vain, but because I’m curious

Have I always had this freckle next to my bottom lip?

When did my eyes get these gold specks in them?

I feel as if I am examining myself under a microscope

Looking for familiarity

 

My most recognizable feature is a line of three freckles on my right leg

It’s so minuscule and yet it reminds me, in times of desperation, that I still have the same body

 

My phone recognizes my face as three different people, as if it knows my inner thoughts

I constantly compare photographs from Christmas of 2015 to recent pictures, to find similarities

I’m playing Where’s Waldo with my own body, but I don’t win anything in the end

Not even satisfaction

 

My soul walks around this world and my body is just along for the ride

Showing up in my reflection to remind me how separated I’ve become

Maybe this is why I don’t go shopping

I’m too old to be dressing up a doll

 

 

 

P.S. If you haven’t seen yet, I’m doing a Q&A in honor of Queerly Texan turning one! Leave your questions in the comments below on this post or the Birthday post!

Happy Birthday Queerly Texan!

Today, December 12th, 2017 Queerly Texan turns one year old!

I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for a whole year now! When I started this blog last December, I thought I would post for a couple of weeks, maybe months and then stop. This community means so much more to me than I ever knew it could. Having a place to express the trials and tribulations that come with chronic illness has been very cathartic. I’ve also been able to write extensively about LGBTQIA+ rights, and other social justice causes which fills my heart with joy.

In the past year, I’ve posted/re-blogged over 150 posts, gained 275 followers, and have been able to have some amazing conversations with people all over the world. I’m looking forward to seeing where this blog goes, as well meeting new people and having many more conversations. I have never done a Q&A, so in honor of Queerly Texan’s birthday I thought I would do my first one! Feel free to ask me questions down in the comments about anything and everything, and I’ll answer them in a post soon.

Thank you so much for following Queerly Texan, liking, re-blogging, and commenting. I sincerely enjoy each and every comment, and I love talking with ya’ll. There have been many days that reading the comments has lifted my spirits. Here’s to many more years!

Thank you all,

Alyssa

 

Shit My Ableist Family Members Say: Chronically Misunderstood

After spending Thanksgiving with my extended family, I realized about 95% of my conversations with them included a lot of ableism and me gritting my teeth. There’s some of things they’ve said to me recently:

  1. “I’m so glad you’re better!!!”

My Grandmother told me how happy she was that I was all better at Thanksgiving, when I literally had an endoscopy the day before. About 80% of the time I was at her house I felt like I was being stabbed in the stomach, but my face told another story. Just because I’m good at pretending to be “fine” for your sake, doesn’t mean I’m not screaming in pain.

2. “You’ve learned some great life lessons though”

Yes, I became sick as a child so I could learn a few lessons. One of them is how absolutely insensitive that comment is. Another, is how to restrain myself form decking you in the face.

3. “Do you have a real life now?” or “Are you truly living now?”

Apparently my life wasn’t worth living when I laid in bed sick for months, but dragging my aching body around to school is a meaningful and “real” life.

4. “Sometimes God just answers prayers slowly”

While I am a Christian and believe in God, the idea that one day God is going to magically cure me is ridiculous. Some problems don’t have resolutions, and that expectation leads to devastation.

5. “People who apply for disability are just lazy”

If I wasn’t a minor I definitely would have been on disability, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Also, wow just wow.

6. “I just don’t know how it’s possible that you’re STILL sick!”

Touche

…but it’s called “chronic” illness for a reason.

 

These are just a few of my favorite gems! There’s many, many more and a part two may have to happen soon.

What is the most ridiculous thing people say to you about your chronic illness(es) / disabilities? I’m sure you all have some great stories!

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.