As a queer-identifying individual, I grew up watching and enjoying films that talked about LGBTQ+ issues. These films had characters who were going through similar struggles around identity and self-acceptance.
Although I have a lot to thank these films for, I find myself feeling more and more frustrated by Hollywood’s inability to stray from stereotypical portrayals of LGBTQ+ stories.
In most contemporary depictions of the common “coming out” story, the act of coming out is the only way LGBTQ+ characters are able to fully accept themselves and live happy and authentic lives.
Coming out to their families and friends is also the only way that these characters are able to find love and enter a healthy relationship with someone else.
The issue with this narrative is that it convinces audiences (particularly younger audiences) that coming out is a requirement for identifying with the LGBTQ+ community — an implication that is not only harmful, but unrealistic for teens living in unsafe spaces.
In films like “Love, Simon” and “Happiest Season,” which are specifically targeted toward teens and young adult audiences, the main characters’ continuous fears around “coming out” to their families and friends play an essential role in the plot.
At the end of both films, when the characters Simon (“Love, Simon”) and Abby (“Happiest Season”) finally come out, they become visibly lighter and happier, which is not surprising since they have supportive families.
This is not the case for all young queer people, though, which is why Hollywood needs to refrain from putting so much weight on coming out stories and give more attention to self-acceptance stories.
Although LGBTQ+ films that demonstrate familial acceptance and unconditional love have helped erase some of the stigma around the LGBTQ+ community, they are not nearly as groundbreaking as they think they are.
Many queer people like myself want to see stories that depict LGBTQ+ characters playing an active role in the plot in a way that does not relate to coming out about their sexuality or gender identity.
In addition to recognizing the harmful nature of the “coming out” narrative, Hollywood needs to reevaluate how it writes LGTBQ+ characters.
The “lipstick lesbian,” “butch dyke” and “flamboyant gay” stereotypes desperately need to be left behind, or at the very least taken away from the spotlight of LGBTQ+ representation.
While “Love, Simon” and “Happiest Season” do not strongly enforce these stereotypes, films like “G.B.F.” and “The Prom,” which are also directed toward teens and college-aged students, definitely do.
While I recognize the positive impact that LGBTQ+ stories and characters have had on my own life, I also recognize that contemporary films marketed to young people need a deeper level of LGBTQ+ representation before it is too late.