LGBTQ people are becoming more and more prevalent in our society, so why are they seen as taboo for children?
Children’s television has become more progressive over the years, bringing more diversity to the screen, but many still question: why is LGBTQ left out? Shows like Sesame Street have worked to put more diverse representations of people on television so that kids can see an example of themselves on the screen, but there has still been a major lacking of LGBTQ characters in kids’ TV.
One argument against LGBTQ characters is that sexuality, and gender identity in general, are too complex for children to understand, and it is not something that should be taught until kids reach an older age. However, many have noticed that networks like Disney Channel and Nickelodeon still feature straight relationships on popular children’s television shows, and have no problem showing displays of affection between teenage characters.
These networks have made attempts to include LGBTQ characters, but are almost always met with controversy from more conservative parents. For example, Disney Channel’s “Good Luck Charlie” had an episode where Charlie has a play date with the next door neighbor and her parents are very surprised to find out that she has two moms. The episode was met with some praise, but overwhelming backlash from conservative parents all over the nation.
Conservative parent blogs such as “One Million Moms” have created efforts to keep children’s television “appropriate” by boycotting LGBTQ television shows and episodes, most recently the Disney Channel show “Andi Mack.” “Andi Mack” was groundbreaking for Disney because it featured Disney’s first openly gay character, Cyrus. Even though there was some controversy, many critics praised Disney for taking a huge step for LGBTQ inclusion while also making the story line comprehensible for children. The word gay is never used, but it is made clear that Cyrus is different, and that’s okay. Although it isn’t used as the main plot point for the series and Cyrus hasn’t yet been given a love interest similar to those of the straight characters, the mentioning of his sexuality is a huge step for children’s media.
On the other side of the debate, many argue that LGBTQ people are a part of life, and they deserve to be featured on television. Many children of past decades have expressed how they felt lost until a much older age about their sexuality and/or gender identity because they were never introduced to LGBTQ people through television at a young age. It is important to show these characters because it makes LGBTQ kids feel less alone and gives them a representation of themselves on screen. They also help to back up the idea that who you are is okay and promote tolerance of diverse individuals. By teaching children at a young age about diversity and tolerance, LGBTQ kids can grow up in a much more accepting community.
Many people also ask: if not now then when? Childhood is a time in a person’s life where they learn the most they ever will about the world around them and are virtually free of bias. So, they should be taught tolerance and acceptance of people who are different at an early age. If LGBTQ characters are represented on television then kids will go into life with an understanding of sexuality and gender that promotes tolerance rather than hate and confusion.
Working towards more LGBTQ inclusive media for children is an important step that should be taken by society to encourage acceptance of diverse people. If such characters are represented on a mainstream platform, it could help to decrease LGBTQ hate crimes and suicide by teaching children about tolerance beginning at a young age. LGBTQ youth will see themselves represented in the media and learn that who they are is okay and that they have people around them who are accepting of them and their identity.
Grace Beilman // Staff Writer