The Importance of Positive Queer Representation
by Abbigale Kernya,
Youth Editor, KBI Inspire Magazine
Our Youth Editor, Abbigale Kernya, is a first year University student with a passion for music, art, reading, and film.
"Heartstopper depicts the innocence of first love, the struggles of being queer in a not always welcoming environment, but most importantly: positive queer identities and the overall celebration of love."
Originally a graphic novel by Alice Oseman, Heartstopper was adapted into a Netflix series this year. The impact of the eight-part television show was astronomical, to say the least. What makes Heartstopper so phenomenal is how Alice Oseman created a queer narrative that is both joyous and real, and more importantly one that is accessible to young teenagers. What’s significant about the LGBTQ+ representation in this series is that it does not shy away from the hardships that can happen from coming out, yet this story is not depressing or heartbreaking. Rather it is a celebration of youthful love, friendship and identity.
This story follows the life of fifteen-year-old Charlie Spring as he navigates his way through an all-boys school after being outed to his classmates. Charlie deals with homophobic bullying and feeling ostracised by his classmates while simultaneously being supported through his tight knit friend group - which is introduced to a boy named Nick Nelson.
Nick Nelson, a sixteen-year-old boy in Charlie’s school form group is the second half of this love story. Being a typical masculine “straight rugby boy”, Nick struggles with understanding his feelings for Charlie, and what it means for his sexuality. He battles with being closeted at home and in a toxic friend group. The journey in which we see Nick come to terms with his bisexuality is a monumental moment. The “Am I Gay?” Buzzfeed quiz, the Youtube videos putting into words everything you’re feeling, doubting yourself, finding a label that feels right - Nick’s experience with his sexuality in Heartstopper is not only accurate to millions of people’s experiences, but it is also celebrated as a good thing, rather than something to be afraid of.
Heartstopper depicts the innocence of first love, the struggles of being queer in a not always welcoming environment, but most importantly: positive queer identities and the overall celebration of love. The positive representation in Heartstopper is outstanding. Yet, it doesn’t feel like forced diversity. Every character feels natural, fully developed, and does not confine to the stereotypes that surround their identities. Such as Elle, a transgender girl finding new love and friendships, Tara and Darcy, a lesbian couple navigating coming out as a couple for the first time, and so many other casual queer identities interwoven in this coming-of-age story. From all things wholesome and sweet, millions of people can feel at home, seen, and welcomed within this story.
A story this popular demonstrates how positive queer identities are absolutely essential as more often than not, LGBTQ+ love stories are depicted surrounding violence, drug abuse, trauma, etc.
Heartstopper changes that narrative.
The show details how being queer and finding a community that supports you is possible. This narrative is absolutely essential for young teenagers. It leaves a positive impression that queerness is not centred around loss, violence, or tragedy. It brought forth a new wave of perspectives that will be absolutely life-changing to queer youth seeing themselves positively represented in media, possibly for the first time. Heartstopper brings hope, love, laughter, and inspiration to everyone regardless of their identity.