Why does positive representation matter in books?
Positive representation matters in media and books, and here’s why: The impact starts young. And it casts ripples throughout the rest of our lives.
When I was growing up there was no Korra & Asami, or Sailor Moon for me to cling to. Stories like that didn’t exist for me. Lgbt+ people were not visible in my life. And when you lack the images of yourself, or those images are ugly, it warps your own psyche. I was surrounded by negative stereotypes and an ignorant environment. So I hid the best part of me. Not until later did I begin seeing positive representation, where queer characters could be together without committing suicide, or murdered. It finally showed me that I wasn’t alone in my experiences, showed me I was visible, that my love mattered.
That I mattered.
That marginalized voices deserve to have their stories told, deserve their own stories. And that impact feels as real as magic.
What would it have meant to you to have books like yours growing up?
There was a lot of subtle bullying from my piers growing up, as I was the "weirdo" or loner who didn’t fit in with everyone else. So to have a book with representation in it would have been a life changing thing and saved me from a lot of internalized pain. Though, I would’ve probably felt I needed to hide a book like that. My household was conservative, and I grew up in an non open church. But to have a story where teenagers could be who they were and were open to love would have been an eye opener for me. It would have made me realize a lot sooner who I was without having to go through a lot of the inner torment. I think for that reason, like many authors, is why I write stories to broaden that experience for others.
There is a generation of people out there who have been irrevocably changed and altered by a single show or story. What was the first book you read as a kid that featured an LGBTQ character and how did that change you?
The first person I really remember making an impact was Ellen DeGeneres. When she came out on her show, it was such a huge thing for people to witness because it had never been done before. Even though I wasn’t out then I remember how the people around me reacted, it wasn’t positive. Internally I don’t think I ever realized how that weighed on me until later on.
What would you tell your teenage self now?
When I was 19 I was still hiding who I was and depressed. Now I’m writing for other queer hearts who need it. I wish I could have showed my teenage self that back then. Told her that she mattered, that she is fearfully and beautifully made.
"Start telling the stories that only you can tell — because there will always be better writers than you, there will always be smarter writers than you … but you are the only you." -Neil Gaiman