Recently, the Netflix show Heartstopper has taken the world by storm. I get the bragging rights of having been in the fandom since the comics were out, so I was very excited for the release of this show. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
About a year ago, my younger sibling came out to me as queer. They are still in elementary school, and I was afraid of how they’d be treated since the reactions to me coming out in middle school were less than kind, I was very concerned about how their peers would react. And yet I was pleasantly surprised by how much the school environment has changed in the six years since I’ve been in elementary school. People were more open and accepting, and their school even has an LGBTQ acceptance club.
I say this because I think that these two things point in a very hopeful direction for LGBTQ youth. Even though the world is absolutely terrifying, with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida and transphobia on the rise in Texas, I want to take this article to acknowledge how far we’ve come.
Heartstopper gives us respite and joy that has been missing for so many queer youth for so many years. To have something that is just cute, and has a lot of representation and diversity that was obviously written with great care, it really means a lot. For a show with such explicit queer themes to have become so popular with straight fans also means a lot, and it makes my inner child so happy to see shows like these.
It brings me nearly to the point of tears to think about how many young queer people are growing up in a time with shows like these. Even though it doesn’t do much to change the terrifying reality for queer youth today, it gives us a warm blanket of comfort and representation that many people didn’t have before us. Representation isn’t the be-all-end-all of activism, and seeing ourselves on the screen won’t change all of our issues. However, it is still important for LGBTQ people to be able to see themselves on screen, which is why the popularity of this show is so so important for us.
More and more shows targeted at young people have included queer characters, like She-ra, The Owl House, and more recently, Heartstopper. While there is something to be said about the importance of shows for queer adults (which is why shows like Our Flag Means Death are so important as well), shows that let young people know it's okay to be queer are so important as well. Even if a child isn’t queer, it allows empathy to be built and allows children to see different experiences from their own, but also to notice how they really aren’t so different after all.
And for queer youth, it allows them to find one tiny mirror in a world full of windows, one place where they can see themselves reflected in the shows they watch and the stories they read.
And I don’t know, but that feels pretty damn important too.
is a young writer from Ottawa, Canada. When he isn’t in school, he enjoys reading, writing, crochet, and playing with his two cats. Their favorite genres are horror and fantasy, and they enjoy all things strange. You can find him on Instagram at @nate_fahmi
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