A Crazy Thing Called Representation

I can’t stop staring at them. Two women, the occasional tender peck, one of them is pushing a shopping trolley with whom I can only assume is their child, sitting in that little seat at the front of the cart.

I’m in a supermarket gawking at one of the sweetest families ever and I probably look like a fucking homophobe. One of the women looks back at me and becomes aware of my stare, and immediately I realise I’ve made her uncomfortable.

I’m wearing jeans, a white tank top and some Birkenstocks (without socks, sorry to disappoint), so I could be visually communicating that I’m also gay, or that I’m just from the inner west of Sydney—it’s a lost cause, they definitely think I’m just a straightie having a homophobic moment. I’m hesitating between two different brands of canned, whole tomatoes. One is imported, one is the generic Woolworths brand. I look away from the women and stare back at the cans of tomatoes, trying to look occupied. I want to kick myself for making them feel like I’m a judgemental dickhead sending them telepathic waves of hate. All I want to say is, “hey I wasn’t staring maliciously, I’m just a lesbian who hopes to have a family as lovely as yours one day, also I love your sneakers”. But that would probably make it weirder (like, 100%), so I leave it be.

It’s times like these—very banal, everyday situations—where you realise just how much diverse representation is lacking in our world. I’m not just talking about LGBT+ or People of Colour, I’m talking different bodies, different abilities, different religions. Different ways of constructing a life and different ways of existing. I’m so not used to seeing people like me, that when I see them in the wild, I can’t help but gawk in (often misconstrued) awe. Why am I so excited and astounded? It’s just a lesbian couple with their baby doing a round of weekly groceries. This should be normal.

When I was younger, as early as 8 or 9-years-old, I used have these moments where I was alone in my swimming pool, floating on my back, staring up at the sky and hoping and praying and willing that I was anything but gay.

Little Margot would think, “No, you’re not a lesbian. You’re not gay. Gay women aren’t like you, you’re feminine and you want to get married and have kids one day and no one in your family is gay, so you’re not gay.”

My pool was my place for deep self-reflection, but those moments were also my deep moments of repression. I had very little representation (in the media or in my life) of gay women, I had no idea who they were, what they did, how they lived their lives. I guess I had Ellen DeGeneres and I had my mother’s lesbian friend Bronwyn, whom I saw maybe 2 or 3 times total. Both women were not women I really identified with. So I just carried on believing that there was no way I could be gay, since I felt so different to the lesbian stereotype.

When I hear arguments against increasing diverse representation, I try to see if there’s any truth or reason behind their arguments, but every time I feel like they lose out. One of the common ones is that queer representation will “turn” individuals gay. But my parents are both heterosexual, my brother is heterosexual, and unless you count Ellen and Bronwyn, I was never really exposed to lesbians on TV, in films, in real life, prior to doubting my heterosexuality. Nothing happened in my life to make me gay, and queer representation definitely wasn’t the culprit since I basically had none.

I also hear, “but gay people are a minority so why shouldn’t their representation also be minor”. As far as I’m concerned white men don’t make up 90% of the population, and yet if we went by what films, tv, books and other media portray, you’d be led to believe that was the case. So I’m gonna go ahead and call that whole argument hypocritical bullshit. Often coupled along with this argument is the idea that “X” content only appeals to “X” people, and that it’s simply not a good “business” venture to cater to such a small market. But the thing is, gay representation (for example) isn’t just for gay people. No one limits their media consumption to only things that reflect themselves—we’re curious beings, so while we want to see our experience reflected, we’re also curious about how others live. But for minorities, we are shown how the majority live constantly, they’re seamlessly integrated in the media we consume everyday. We’ve seen them and now we want to see ourselves reflected too.

It’s also not necessarily just about quantity, it’s about diversity too. I want lots of representation but I also don’t want to see the same lesbian stereotype over and over again, I want to see different layers, different facets, different intersections. I want people who aren’t LGBT+ to understand that (ironically) just like everyone else, we’re all very different. We’re not reducible to the same two-dimensional stereotype.

Furthermore, while having zero to limited representation doesn’t stop anyone from being gay, it can make coming out easier. It can make conceptualising your identity easier, it can make self-acceptance easier, it can make you feel like you belong and even if we’re all different individuals and we’re not all the same, there’s at least someone you can point to and say, “Yeah, I relate to them”.

So if you see content out there that involves diverse representation, support it in whatever way you can. Share the trailer, see the movie, watch the series, read the book, tweet, gram, update your status. Make the effort to show people that this representation is wanted, appreciated and that we’re hungry for more.

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