Pride month has come and gone, and so have all of the rainbow flags representing the alphabet soup of sexual orientations and identities in the queer community. It has been two years since same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States. It truly is a time for celebration – for the most part.
As any queer person can testify, there are still problems that need to be addressed: homeless queer youth, bathroom accessibility, conversion therapy and representation in the media.
As of June 30, China has banned all portrayals of homosexual relationships in any online content. Like the United State’s Hays Code of 1930, this is an attempt to ban anything that does not align with the country’s supposed moral values, and alas, being queer often clashes with traditional views of family and sexuality.
I hate to break it to China and religious fundamentalists in the United States, but censoring queerness doesn’t do anything.
By censoring portrayals of queer relationships and queer people in the media, we lose that valuable resource known as knowledge. And it is not just in China this censorship takes place. It happens here in the United States too, but it is more subtle.
The Motion Picture Association of America has long been accused of giving higher content ratings to movies that feature two people of the same gender kissing. The documentary “This Film is Not Yet Rated” goes into detail about how the MPAA has lax standards when it comes to straight relationships but will be overly harsh when queer — specifically homosexual — relationships are onscreen.
The movie “G.B.F.” was rated R for sexual content. There are scenes of the gay main character making out with another guy and some sexual innuendo, which is expected (it’s a teen comedy). However, when compared to “Mean Girls” — which has sexual innuendo, swearing, numerous make-out scenes between straight characters (one of which is implied to be an incestuous relationship between a character and her cousin) and a PG-13 rating — it seems that these two films were graded differently. “G.B.F.” had something more that “Mean Girls” did not: gay characters in a relationship.
This censorship is a serious problem because even though few would like to admit it’s true, we learn a lot about our world from media, not just movies. Whether the representations are flat caricatures or accurate portrayals, we learn about different cultures, religions and countries from what we see on the screens surrounding us. Even when seeing a fictitious queer relationship on television, we still form patterns of thought and behavior as we internalize and process what we see. These patterns then help us interact in the real world.
When moral guardians say a queer relationship or a queer character isn’t fit to show kids, it implies that being queer is bad, something that needs to be spoken about in hushed whispers, something wrong, something sinful. We’re teaching kids to form a behavior where they see queerness as inherently inappropriate. And for those queer kids, they’re going to internalize that being queer is a mistake. But that’s not something I want to teach to children, teens or even adults. As a creator, I’d want to show them the ups and downs, the joy and sadness that comes with being human.
And, of course, there are the warm fuzzies I get when I see another asexual on the silver screen. I’m not lying when I say tears come to my eyes when I see Voodoo from “Sirens,” one of the few asexual characters in television. There is nothing like the feeling of seeing someone like you, knowing that you’re not alone in your experience.
I’m tired of having queer relationships being censored, especially if it’s “for the children.” For some people, it’s an unfortunate but true fact: Some children are queer. I was one. At times, I felt so alone, so confused. It wasn’t until I read books about bisexual characters, saw a touching romance between two girls and heard the word “asexual” that I realized “straight” was not something I had to be or even was.
So let those two guys kiss each other when they’ve been separated for a long time. Let those two girls call each other pet names. Let the trans woman and the cis man hold hands. Censorship doesn’t protect the children from being queer. It just makes knowledge less accessible and twists perceptions.