Pride 2020: LGBTQ+ representation with a small window of visibility

For our final Pride article, our writers discuss the LGTBQ+ representation that gets less exposure

multiple writers
25th June 2020
Pride month is all about embracing yourself and celebrating the representation that pushes for a more accepting world. But this week, to conclude our wonderful Pride series, our writers talk about the representation we don't see as often. These identities of gender and sexuality deserve more exposure, but for now, let's celebrate what we do have.

Todd Chavez, Bojack Horseman

Credit: IMDb

It took until the end of season 3 for Todd to address his sexuality, but we finally got there. Todd at the time was with Emily, and he didn't feel much attraction to her, but rather he enjoyed the companionship. He described himself as "nothing" when the conversation of his sexuality was brought up. In season 4 we got into a deep-dive into the world of asexuality, with Todd finally coming to peace with the term asexual after initially rejecting it.

However, Bojack Horseman discusses asexuality in a way that's much different to most (and limited) depictions. Rather than being seen as an emotionless being, Todd enjoys relationships. Just because you are asexual doesn't necessarily mean you're aromatic. When Yolanda asks Todd out and he tells her he's asexual, she confesses that she is too, and that's why she wants to date him. Later in the series, Todd makes a dating app for asexuals and dives into the difference between sexual and romantic attraction. Bojack Horseman managed to teach people more about asexuality than the education system.

There's a myth that asexual people aren't actually non-sexual, but Bojack Horseman teaches us that it's a genuine sexuality that is severely under-represented.

Credit: Youtube

The most important thing about Todd's sexuality is that it doesn't define his character, not even a little bit. It's a part of him, but he only starts questioning his sexuality at the end of the third season. Todd and his final girlfriend of the series Maude are both asexual, and the show never once forces sex within their relationship. There's a myth that asexual people aren't actually non-sexual, but Bojack Horseman teaches us that it's a genuine sexuality that is severely under-represented.

Sophie Hicks

Bojack Horseman was a show that revolutionised the tragi-comedy genre, kicking off Netflix’s original series slate with a story as funny as it was heart-breaking. Naturally, most of the characters on the show fell victim to the “not doing the right thing” scenario, but Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul) stood taller than most of the cast of characters.

Credit: IMDb

Todd’s main story arch followed him getting his life together after so many years, while always having the best interest of others at heart. At first, this seemed like the unsaid explanation for his lack of personal life, that is until he reveals that he doesn’t really have any sort of sexual attraction to anyone. The revelation was quite surprising, not because the possibilities of his sexuality seemed restricted, but because asexuality continues to be underrepresented orientation in media and often left out.

Distinctions between sexual and romantic relationships are how relationships should be understood as a whole

Credit: IMDb, Netflix

I have to assume that many, like myself, hadn’t considered asexuality themselves and so Todd’s exploration of himself became a wonderful educational moment in a show that’s downtrodden by characters’ mistakes. Making the distinction between sexual relationships and romantic relationships in the arc felt like a crucial moment of how relationships should be understood as a whole, and it brings a surprising amount of comfort when the distinction is met.

Although asexuality still doesn’t receive as much representation as other LGBTQ+ orientations, Todd will always be an exemplary addition of bringing awareness to the community.  

Peter Lennon

Theo Putnam, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Credit: Netflix, IMDb

Since its debut on Netflix in 2018, fans have lauded the representation of Theo’s storyline as a transgender man. Introduced in season one as Susie Putnam, one of Sabrina’s best friends, Susie was the victim of bullying by small-minded transphobic classmates for failing to address their gender directly. As they gradually discover their identity over the course of the series, Susie begins to identify as Theo during season two. As they become more confidant with their gender identity, Theo gains the courage to come out to their friends and family and attempt to gain acceptance at school, using the boys’ locker rooms as their first step before eventually trying out for the boys’ basketball team.

Sabrina represents a voice for the LGBTQ+ community which has had the chance to develop and grow

Portrayed by non-binary actor Lachlan Watson, who prefers they/them pronouns, their character Theo prefers to be referred to using he/him pronouns. Her friends offer nothing but love and support for Theo’s coming out, although Harvey is initially confused about Theo’s gender identity before being corrected by Ros. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina represents a voice for the LGBTQ+ community which has had the chance to develop and grow over the course of the series, with Watson explaining that their real life experience has helped shape Theo’s arc.  

Kate Dunkerton

Florence, Sex Education

In all honesty, I remember my disinterest in Netflix’s Sex Education quite vividly, thinking that it might just be another cliche show. But then one day out of the blue, I came across a gifset from Season 2 which featured Gillian Anderson talking about asexuality to a young teen and I remember getting chills as soon as I read, “Sex doesn’t make us whole. So how could you ever be broken?” Although popular media platforms talk about sex positivity and LGBTQ representations, certain topics come up in discussions way less than the others. As the show is on Netflix and has a younger demographic, it can help people who are struggling but don't see representation that speaks to them.

Asexuality is often left out from the mainstream, which is why it is crucial to talk and learn about it

Credit: IMDb

Asexuality is presented through Florence who has been cast to play the role of Juliet in Romeo & Juliet. However, due to the absence of her chemistry with Jackson, she is interrupted mid-rehearsal by Lily who tells her “This is a play about horny teenagers. I don’t believe you want to have sex with him at all.” This eventually leads her to discussing this with Jean, saying it's true and the pressure put upon her by her peers is making her feel "broken". In the realm of discussions around gender and sexual identities, asexuality is often left out from the mainstream, which is why it is so absolutely crucial to talk and learn about it. To understand the various gender and sexual identities out there, developing a healthy relationship with what we choose to identify with or not, is important to live a well-functioning life. Being a teenager is an important point in life where people start to learn about the expanse of human life and its various facets, Sex Education does a brilliant job in handling such an important subject with empathy and sensitivity.

Arnojya Shree

Óscar Ruiz, Las Chicas del Cable

Transgender representation is very slim when it comes to TV shows. However, one Spanish female actress who deserves substantial praise is Ana María Polvorosa for her role as transgender man Óscar Ruiz in Las Chicas del Cable.

Credit: IMDb

In season two, Óscar Ruiz comes out to his girlfriend Carlota as transgender, explaining the struggles of growing up as transgender and the abuse he faced from his father. In his heart-breaking story of his dad’s refusal to accept him as transgender, Ruiz tells us: ‘’I managed to control my impulses out of fear of my father, but now he isn’t here’’. Ruiz goes on to say that his transgender identity is completely out of his control. In spite of his dad’s refusal, Carlota lovingly accepts him.

Ruiz's story will resonate with countless transgender people

Unfortunately, there is no doubt that Óscar Ruiz’s story will resonate with countless people who identify as transgender. Transgender identity is awfully misunderstood bearing in mind that there are approx. 200,000-500,000 transgender people in the UK alone. We imminently need more transgender stories on mainstream TV to raise awareness of such a marginalised group in society.

Louise Cusine

Even Bech Næsheim, Skam

Norwegian teen drama Skam did amazing things in terms of representation. It continues to be underrated 3 years after it ended. I cannot stress this enough; everyone should watch Skam. Season three gave us Isak Valtersen as the main character; a closeted gay teenager coming to terms with his identity. It was an incredible season; beautiful and sad and real. But the character I want to discuss is Isak's love interest, and eventual partner, Even.

It is essential representation to see characters like Even be openly pansexual, emphasising the wide spectrum that is sexuality

Left to right: Even, Isak.
Credit: IMDb

Fans speculated about his sexuality, assuming he was bisexual or even gay like Isak. However, in the following season, it was confirmed that he identified as pansexual. It was so lovely to see this being represented onscreen and incredibly validating to many fans. It wasn't made into a big thing, it was just there. It also felt particularly important because of Even's character arc. His identity was never just a throw away plot line. He struggles with mental health issues and we go on a long journey with him while he works on himself. In season four, we finally see him happy, healthy and accepting of his own identity. It is essential representation to see characters like Even be openly pansexual, emphasising the wide spectrum that is sexuality. Hopefully, we are heading into a world where wide representation on TV is a given. Every young person growing up and struggling with their identity deserves to see themselves represented on screen.

Amy Brown

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