Representation in The Queer Community

Why Representation in the Queer Community Means so Much

Being depicted correctly helps to fight against stereotypes and ignorance. And, this is not simply a theory. According to a 2015 study, straight individuals who are exposed to more gay TV characters are more receptive to LGBTQ+ equality. Additionally, a 2020 study by GLAAD and P&G discovered that LGBTQ+ visibility raised acceptance of homosexuality by up to 45%. So, representation in the queer community really does count.

Essentially, seeing LGBT people in the media normalizes their existence. Additionally, gay existence is de-stigmatized when these people have intriguing inner lives and genuine problems. While it isn’t an all round solution for sexuality and gender-based discrimination, LGBTQ+ representation in the media is a terrific place to start, especially for the elder generation who might hold the most stigma.

Representation in The Queer Community
© Marcelo Chagas

Types of Representation in the queer community

Idealistic Representation

This kind of portrayal takes place in a fictional setting where being LGBT is not demonized or subjected to prejudice. For queer people, these representations are almost utopian, giving them a glimpse of what life and society may be like in a setting where one’s gender identification and sexual orientation aren’t contentious topics. The distinguishing feature of idealistic queer representation is not that gay characters don’t have difficulties, but rather that difficulties aren’t at all related to queerness.

For instance, the fight between two feuding families in the fantastical setting of Wendimoor was the climax of season 2 of the absurdist television program Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The issue at Wendimoor was never about the fact that the two families’ eldest sons were in a romantic relationship. The same can be seen with the show Modern Family, where a couple and a part of the family are gay and they are shown doing their everyday activities like every other family. 

Token Representation

When an LGBTQ+ character either doesn’t have a significant role in the plot or doesn’t have their identity effectively addressed, queer representation is tokenized. Usually, this is done to appease the LGBTQ+ community, attract viewers and boost revenue. Without genuine meaningful representation, the idea of diversity is really just lip service.

Thankfully, tokenized representation has decreased in recent years because it is now exposed much more frequently. In the past, we’ve seen gay characters who, in all honesty, may just as well have been straight, such as Helena Cain in Battlestar Galactica.


Queerbaiting is the practice of including sequences that raise the possibility that a character is LGBTQ+ while leaving a glaring gap in the narrative for supporting or refuting evidence. The complicated connection between Rachel Berry and Quinn Fabray in Glee, Betty and Veronica’s kiss in Riverdale, and Finn and Poe’s bromance or romance in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are just a few examples of this in popular culture.

Listen, while it’s lovely to find unexpectedly gay subtext in programs, queerbaiting is really a marketing gimmick. Queer audiences are drawn in by creators’ claims that they might, just might, see themselves portrayed on screen, but this promise is never kept. 

Representation in The Queer Community
© Fariz Hermawan

Negative Representation

When gay characters are based on unfavourable stereotypes or persistently portrayed as evil or bad, this is known as negative representation. Take My Guardian Angels (单翼天使), a local Chinese drama produced in Singapore. The primetime TV show’s writers made the choice to portray a gay character as a paedophile who infects teenage boys with STDs. The studio eventually apologized for their discriminatory misrepresentation after a huge backlash among Singaporeans over this inaccurate stereotype.

Stereotypes can occasionally be funny inside jokes to members of the community. When stereotypes promote negative biases, they stop being funny and move into the realm of being very detrimental. This is especially true if the general populace already views LGBTQ+ people negatively; these prejudices create hazardous conditions and have an adverse effect on the mental and physical health of queer individuals.

Retroactive Representation

Retroactive representation occurs when authors overtly (and retrospectively) assert that particular characters are LGBTQ+, even when the narrative doesn’t provide any clear evidence of this. Weeks after the release of the final Harry Potter book, Rowling made the long-kept secret of Albus Dumbledore’s homosexuality public in 2007. Adding insult to injury, Rowling went on to completely demonize Dumbledore in the 2018 prequel movie Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

If something isn’t genuinely seen, it has no true meaning. Since this cheapens genuine allyship and genuine, realistic representation, we might as well receive no representation at all. It’s a way to remain progressive and an ally while avoiding the need to create convincing representations and put in the effort to advocate for LGBT people.

Representation in The Queer Community
© Andrea Piacquadio


Overall, seeing idealized depictions of LGBT individuals helps cishet people process and comprehend their queer identities as well as normalize the existence of queer people. It emphasizes the potential and strength of queer joy rather than associating queerness with misery and adversity. But it’s important to note that these portrayals don’t aid in their understanding of the difficulties LGBTQ+ persons actually encounter.

This kind of depiction may be uplifting and healthy for LGBTQ+ people, even escapists in some ways. It’s comforting to be able to imagine a society in which their personhood is accepted by their social networks, families, and governments without question.