In today’s day and age, we are all aware of the immense power that media holds. Most of us fall asleep scrolling through Instagram and wake up to checking our Snapchat notifications. Whether we would like to admit it or not, what we see in the media can play an important role in how we view and identify ourselves. Now apply the same effect to an 11-year-old individual who is only trying to discover themselves. The Rainbow Center’s “By Us, For Us: Creating Media Within the LGBTQ+ Community” explored the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in mediums and how this can affect one in the early stages of their life.
The presentation was led by five undergraduate students who all created projects that touched upon the issue of the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in media. These individuals were all recipients of the UConn IDEA Grant, which awards funding to students to allow them to pursue their respective project.
“I want to create the content that would have helped me understand my queer identity with better clarity earlier in life,” eighth-semester senior studio art major Blue Wallick said. Wallick created 20 paintings to represent all different identities. They interviewed a variety of different people, taking things that they learned and incorporating them into a unique and personalized painting. Wallick wanted to convey to the audience that someone's sexuality and identity does not make them any different than the person standing next to them. Someone who is transgender is trying to be happy and comfortable in their own skin, as someone who is heterosexual would. One of Wallicks’ main goals while fabricating their creative project was making sure there was more representation. They stated, “I did not want this to be sourced from my own identity, but from different people with different stories.” To see snippets of their artwork one can go to www.bluewallick.com.
Amelia Bowman, a sixth-semester student exploring an individualized major, has written a post-apocalyptic book for her IDEA Grant. A lover of fiction and writing, she spent all summer writing up to four hours a day to make her 130,000-word novel come to life. She defines an apocalypse as, “The end of the world, but more specifically the end of a way of life.”
For example, Syrian refugees who had to sacrifice everything, sometimes even their life, have gone through an apocalypse. Her novel is intended to challenge the stereotypical path that works follow when discussing an apocalypse. The straight, white individual survives it, while everyone else is considered an alien. Speaking about herself and her co-hosts she described their mission as, “We are all looking to create media, to create whatever it is, that people can look at and see parts of themselves. When I was growing up I loved young adult fiction. I didn’t see anyone that looked like me. I didn’t see anyone that vaguely represented me in any way, to be quite honest. Especially in fantasy when usually anyone who is an other, is an alien. So that was kind of the message I got. That I was an alien.” Through her personal anecdotes Bowman highlights the importance of representation in media. Especially as a child, it is imperative that one can see themselves represented in some sort of medium. Whether this be in a book, a TV show or a movie, it will allow the child to relate to someone who is not themselves.
There is very little LGBTQ+ representation in media. This is detrimental to everyone. Children are enclosed in a box with the same recurring, stagnant themes that have been around for centuries. Not only is it imperative for a child to realize that they are not alone, but also to have someone they can relate to, even if the character is fictional. Media is essential to identity formation and it is crucial that young adults see themselves represented in authentic ways.
Thank you to the Rainbow Center and Amelia Bowman, Kenny Glazer, Taylore Grunert, Kat Folker and Blue Wallick for continuing the discussion of media representation in today’s society.
Jordana Castelli is a campus correspodent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.