I remember when I was growing up I – like so many other little gay boys – watched Doctor Who religiously. At first, it was because I was in the right age demographic. But then even afterwards, when I was well aged out of that bracket, I still watched it every weekend (or at least the following day on iPlayer, once I’d stopped throwing up.)
Like so many kids, I didn’t know I was gay. All I knew is that when I watched Doctor Who and saw an LGBT couple or even a person, it gave me someone to relate to – and I didn’t even know I was relating to them. I just knew it made me safer.
The same is true of the show Skins. I thought of this the other day, for National Coming Out Day. Maxxie was the first character I knew that was gay (who wasn’t an alien, lol).
I was 15 when the first series aired, and it was the exact time I was wrestling with my sexuality. (Wrestling, lol ok sure)
But anyway, I was kind of waking up to my own sexuality and Maxxie was literally the only person in the whole entire world I knew who was gay, and who seemed real. He wasn’t a fake Doctor Who alien. He seemed real to me. A real person, facing real-life dilemmas.
Looking back, I’m so glad that Maxxie was around. I’m glad that Skins existed. Because it showed me the way, kind of. It showed me that it was okay to be gay. That you could be gay and have friends! You wouldn’t be completely ostracised if you came out!!! Hooray.
Maxxie had a family that cared so much that they didn’t even talk about it! Can you believe it?!!!!! Not even mentioning his sexuality. It just seemed crazy to me, at a time when my own sexuality was an enormous elephant in the room.
Not much has changed with me, to be honest. I mean, I know I’m gay now, but I’m still searching for those figures to relate to.
Right now, I’m watching Spartacus: Blood and Sand. If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically softcore porn interspaced with a few fighting scenes. It’s not great (although Lucy Lawless is obviously fantastic as ever.) but it does have a few gay characters in it. So naturally, I’m ploughing my way through the entire four seasons. That’s 39 episodes, all at around 50 minutes each. All to catch a glimpse of some gay characters.
But my point is this. I’m twenty-fucking-five, and I’m still scrabbling around to watch shows – any shows – that have some glimmer, some hope of an LGBT storyline. Twenty-fucking-five and I’m still searching for characters to relate to, even ones that are in a show that only has 64% on Rotten Tomatoes.
This is the reason I get so riled up when people say representation doesn’t matter. I’m not talking about the right-wing nut-jobs here either. I’m talking about your average joe here, who doesn’t understand why we need to have a black James Bond. The woman at the corner shop who doesn’t understand why “everyone on TV is gay these days”.
Well, I’m here to tell you that this is fucking why. So kids like me, or anyone else who is fucking marginalised, can see themselves reflected. So that they know that they are not alone and that there are people out there just like them.
So shut the fuck up Sharon, representation matters.