Cartoons & 'The Gay Agenda'
I knew that I was gay before I even really knew what being gay was. In the second grade, I had a crush on my best friend, Alex. I remember wanting to hold his hand, and him being the reason I really wanted to go to school every day. The day I transferred, I cried because I knew that I would never see him again. I had never witnessed two men holding hands or kissing, and I had not yet heard any of the statements that reinforce homophobia like “that’s gay” or felt the sting of being called a "faggot". Every queer individual has their own story about how and when they “knew”, but in my case l just had a different feeling about this boy in my class. It would be years before I put a label to this attraction, and face years of depression and self-hatred stemming from religious intolerance and heteronormative societal pressures. But, for a short period in my life I didn’t see anything different about wanting to hold hands with Alex.
Early in 2017, I wrote a piece for Odyssey “What Do LGBT Cartoon Characters Mean for the Future?” Disney had aired its first same-sex kissing scene, and straight people were up in arms. You would have thought that the Russians had hacked into our airwaves and were pushing propaganda, but the only thing allegedly at work was “the gay agenda”. This is bigot speak for “these people actually want equality”. Those who already ignore their children’s questions about religion, politics, and sex found another thing that “we don’t know how to explain to the kids”. So when Moana directors hinted at the possibility of there being a gay Disney princess coming soon, all hell broke loose. The gay agenda was back at it again, to destroy the minds of young impressionable children with *gasp* an animated character that actually represents real people. This totally unnatural and morally corrupt concept, unlike a giant Beast locking a young girl in a castle until she falls in love with him, or a bitter stepmother serving her stepdaughter a rooffied apple, or wait, Disney romanticizing colonization, and turning the capture and rape of Pocahontas into a love story, could alter the minds of America's children. The backlash didn't suprise me, so I decided to sit this round out for the sake of my own mental health. Arguing with bigots who recycle the same arguments that have been repeatedly refuted and debunked felt pointless. But after taking a few weeks to allow my thoughts to settle, writing felt like the only outlet.
One out of four families has someone in it who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Not discussing sexuality won't change this. Cartoons aren't going to "make your child gay". Just like watching Disney’s movies that forced the heterosexual lifestyle upon me, didn’t turn me straight. But they will help shape your child's view of LGBT folk. So we should call backlash to gay cartoon characters for what it is: Homophobia. The individuals who also have something to say when LGBT progress happens, do have something against LGBT people. I have never seen so many “I’m not homophobic but…” tweets in my entire life. The bottom line is, you don’t have the right to “agree” or “disagree” with my existence. Being black and gay, it is all the more frustrating to see these responses coming from the same people that rally against white folks who disagree with representation and safe spaces for people of color. Our struggles are not seperate. We live in a world of many intersections of identities and struggles, and in this case there is a bitter hatred of the idea that LGBT people even exist. The "I have nothing against gays but…" argument is just an attempt to save face. Trans YouTuber Kat Blaque put it perfectly when she tweeted:
LGBT acceptance would include complete indifference to LGBT representation. It would be celebrating the normal feelings all young people have and acknowledging that straight kids aren't the only kids who have those feelings.
People have this really strange idea that LGBT representation in media means sex. While this ultimately shows that what queer folks do in the bedroom is always on their mind, this isn't what that is. I can't even count on one hand how many times I've seen a gay sex scene on TV. People are ready to grab their pitchforks and light up their tiki torches seeing same-sex couples holding hands. But somehow don't have a problem with straight couples tonguing each other down on shows for kids. That right there is bizarre.
Navigating through life is difficult when you don’t see yourself anywhere. You may have somewhat of an understanding of who you are, but the media can shape whether this view is positive or negative. I can credit discovering movies and books about LGBT people of color with saving my life. In a perfect world children wouldn’t have to worry about relationships, and whether or not their identities are valid. But that world would also have to be without parents cooing over how 3-year-old boys and girls would make a cute couple, and me seeing grown ass adults encouraging boys to have girlfriends in the 3rd grade.
These characters have the ability to bring a smile to a child's face who feels that the world is against them, and no one should be against that.