Strategies for Engaging with LGBTQ2S+ Representation in Media

Though 2SLGBTQ+ characters, situations and themes are becoming increasingly prevalent in the media, it is sometimes difficult to interpret representations.

After all, like other human beings, 2SLGBTQ+ people can be villains, fools or rivals, and many “negative” characters are richly portrayed and written. Never having a 2SLGBTQ+ villain would be just as poor a decision as the tradition of portraying 2SLGBTQ+ people as only the butt of jokes or as sociopaths. The following questions can help in contextualizing these representations:

  1. For whom was this media work made? What is its purpose?
    All media works construct the realities that they present to their audiences. The images we see are representations that are often simplified for ease of consumption or tied to commercial interests. How would different audiences respond to the work? Might commercial considerations (including industry “conventional wisdom” that might not actually be supported by financial reality) get in the way of authentic representation?
  2. Whose voices and interests are being represented? Whose are absent?
    This is a very important part of critically engaging with media because it asks the question of who has control over meaning and identity. Is queerness being represented from its own perspective or is it being represented as it appears to an outsider?
  3. What do the images and narratives say about 2SLGBTQ+ people?
    When 2SLGBTQ+ characters and situations appear, are they presented as being representative of the entire 2SLGBTQ+ community, or is queerness presented in a way that acknowledges difference?
  4. If the representations in question utilize humour, are 2SLGBTQ+ people in on the joke? Or are they the joke?
    This is an important distinction to grasp and can sometimes be quite tricky depending on the media work under scrutiny. Ridiculous and humorous representations serve a wide variety of purposes and humour can often broach topics that would otherwise be too sensitive or difficult to deal with. That said, there is a difference between a humour that “others” people and one that is inclusive.