Society has a huge part in shaping who we are today. The majority of a society forms the norms, or the behaviors viewed as acceptable by society. In America, some examples are tipping your waiter, shaking someone’s hands when you first meet them, and being a cisgender heterosexual person.
We live in a predominantly heteronormative society. As a result, being on the LGBTQ+ spectrum can be overwhelming. Whether you are trans, gay, or whatever the case is, you are not within the societal “norm.” This has affected, and confused me in more ways than I’ve cared to realize. From having to come out as gay to feeling a little weird for holding a girl’s hand in public, the social norms instilled in me have to be constantly broken.
An example of one of the ways social norms can affect LGBTQ+ are behavior in relationships. Society teaches girls to be submissive to the man, and let him initiate, pay for dates, etc. Society also teaches men to be dominant, suppress feelings, and embrace masculinity. Who assumes what role in a same sex relationship? How do you put aside all the things you were taught to be the norm and establish a productive relationship?
Another thing is the way homosexuality is viewed in general, like the stereotypes most commonly associated with it. Society will fetishize women who like women. Society views gay men as effeminate and the perfect BFF for straight women. Society invalidates bisexuality and claims it’s solely a “college experience,” or that bisexuals are confused. Society will reject transgenderism by stating they are not real men or women.
Societal pressure forms a lot of our initial thoughts on a subject. This is why LGBTQ+ visibility is everything. It’s important that as we progress as a society and become more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, and provide accurate depictions of these individuals. It’s important to me, because I grew up viewing homosexuality as wrong. As it is slowly normalized and, if properly and positively, presented in television, music, art and other forms of culture; future generations will become more tolerant. LGBTQ+ youth will feel less condemned and more free and open about themselves.
It’s the same concept as having a black barbie doll. You want little black girls to grow up loving themselves and the way they look, so you want visibility in the forms that they will see themselves in a positive and inclusive manner. Just like Moana being a positive representation of people of color, specifically Pacific Islanders, shows like “The L Word” can provide a similar feeling for LGBTQ+, specifically lesbians.
Another way television has contributed to breaking the stigma include, Disney having it’s first on air same sex kiss on their cartoon “Star vs. the Forces of Evil.” Disney also introduced their first same sex couple, as parents in the show “Good Luck Charlie” in 2014. Some television characters that represent the LGBTQ+ community are Sophia Burset, an incarcerated transgender woman in Orange Is The New Black; Jamal Lyon, a gay man struggling for his father’s approval in Empire; Ilana, a bisexual woman who loves sex in Broad City; Ian Gallagher, a low income, gay teenager in Shameless; and Emily Fields, a lesbian, with a father in the military, in Pretty Little Liars. These characters portray a lot of underrepresented groups and can be relatable to any young person growing up in these circumstances.
There are also musical artists who are representing the LGBTQ+ community. Syd tha Kyd, who just released an album titled “Fin” in which she sings exclusively love songs about women. We also have Sam Smith, who is a gay musician that holds 4 grammy awards. Another artist is Mary Lambert, who collaborated with Macklemore in the song “Same Love,” a song actively fighting the stigma of gayness in hip hop. For me, personally, music is one of my passions and greatest loves, so finding musical artists who sing about experiences and feelings I can resonate with as a queer person is one of the most rewarding things.
It is important to notice the ways in which society is moving towards a more accepting and open platform towards the LGBTQ+ community. Visibility and positive portrayal of LGBTQ+ individuals in all forms of culture will definitely have an influence on society as a whole, and on pop culture. Hopefully, these lead to a more tolerant society, and less stereotypes in our community.