Queer joy

When we see queer characters portrayed in books or movies, we are used to seeing them struggle with their identities, their relationships and coming out. It is rare to see a LGBTQ+ person in media live their life freely and happily. They are not accepted by family members and friends, are forced to hide their romantic relationship, often they are killed off before they even get to have one. While it is extremely important to talk about the trials that queer people must face, it is also important for everyone to see that being queer can bring happiness, peace, and contentment to one’s life.

Representing queer joy means telling people, especially young queer people, that they are not destined to be sad and alone forever, that they, like any other human being, deserve good things. In particular, there are two pieces of media that are useful to illustrate this topic: Heartstopper and Our Flag Means Death.

Heartstopper is a graphic novel by Alice Oseman turned into a tv show by Netflix. It portrays the love story of two high school students, Nick and Charlie. They face all the trials that being queer entertains, and the show doesn’t shy away from their hardships. The thing that distances this queer show from many others, however, is that sadness is not its focus. The focus of the show is not on Nick’s struggling with his identity or Charlie facing his bullies. This is a love story, the story of two teenagers falling for each other. This is also the story of a young trans girl, Elle, being recognised and accepted as a girl, and falling in love with a straight guy, the story of a lesbian couple, Darcy and Tara, deciding to publicly announce their relationship. This is simply the story of a group of queer teenagers being young, having fun, finding love, friendship, and acceptance.

“For me, it’s just about celebrating queer joy,” Oseman says. “Above all, I hope that it just makes people smile and brightens their day -but I also hope that it inspires, particularly, young queer people to believe that they can find happiness and find romance and find friendship.” Queer people deserve kisses under the rain, snowball fights, and dates at the beach, and they deserve to see that represented in media.

Around the same time Heartstopper came out, Our Flag Means Death was streaming on HBO. This is a romcom about an aristocrat, Stede Bonnet, abandoning his lavish life to become a pirate and the famous captain Blackbeard. This show touches coming out in a way few others have: basically, not at all. Stede and Ed/Blackbeard fall in love naturally, the fact that they are two men is almost insignificant. Is it realistic? Not at all, and it doesn’t need to be. The whole crew is made up of people who, for some reason or another, are different, we even have a non-binary character who canonically uses they/them pronouns. None of them are ever ridiculed for it, they are accepted as if it was the most natural of things.

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