Queer representation on TV better, still has growing pains

“Her name is Naomi,” said Emily in an episode of “Skins,” the popular TV show. “She’s rather beautiful, so I’m nailing her.” In one of the best coming-out moments in television history, Emily’s bold statement told viewers that coming out doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience.

In recent years, as the LGBTQA community has become more widely accepted, TV has gotten better at reflecting its progress. But while strides have been made, modern shows could do more.

“Family Guy” makes a gay joke at least once per episode, and while the writers may try to defend it because they make fun of everyone, the stereotypes are hurtful. In an era where kids are looking to television for guidance, they should be given support and hope, not ridiculed.

Also, while a lot of the shows currently airing have a myriad of great gay and questioning characters, there’s a significantly lower number of bisexual and transgender ones.

This needs to change, because for marginalized teens that fall under these categories, it’s damaging to see a lack of representation even in the most inclusive shows.

Recently, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation released its annual report on LGBTQA television representation. Each year, the report serves to announce which stations and which shows are doing well and which need improvement.

“TV hasn’t merely reflected the changes in social attitudes; it has also had an important role in bringing them about,” said the report. “Time and again, it’s been shown that personally knowing an LGBT person is one of the most influential factors in shifting one’s views on LGBT issues, but in the absence of that, many viewers have first gotten to know us as television characters.”

Queer representation on mainstream television is important. Media should reflect society, not the other way around.

Recent shows have included more gay characters in their main lineup. “Teen Wolf” has gay werewolves, “Glee” has gay drama geeks, and “Orange is the New Black” has gay prisoners. But what really counts is the quality of the representation.

There are some shows that do it right. “Glee” portrays the struggles of being transgender and trying to find oneself, and Miss Hudson of “Elementary” isn’t defined by her female gender identity. “Lost Girl” has a well-portrayed bisexual character with meaningful relationships with both men and women, breaking many stereotypes.

However, even with this progress, the shows with harmful stereotypes outnumber the quality ones.

It’s easy to improve on this. Add more bisexual characters, add more lesbians, add gratifying emotional relationships for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

It’s important for shows to have proper LGBTQA representation because it’s a good way to educate people on the challenging social issues of our time, and it shows how the world really works. Queer people exist, and keeping them out of TV is just as harmful as telling them, “You don’t belong.”

“(This is) a time when an acknowledgement of homosexuality has entered all aspects of popular culture, when diversity and acceptance are the words of the day but by no means entirely the deeds,” said the editors of Entertainment Weekly in 1997 when Ellen DeGeneres won Entertainer of the Year.

Our culture is growing and changing, and TV should celebrate that. So if you’re thinking about writing for a television show, add some characters who aren’t straight, and make them quality characters.

Everyone deserves to see themselves in a well-written television character.