Disclaimer: I really do love Queer Eye. I love Tan, Jonathan, Antoni, Karamo, and Bobby. I love their repertoire and their sincerity and occasional cheesiness. I love all the jokes about how Antoni can’t cook (I know you can, babe — everyone else is just jealous because you are beautiful). I adore how Queer Eye and the Fab Five explore different expressions of masculinity and what it means to be a man, and a gay man. It can be Jonathan’s luscious locks or high heels, and also Karamo’s bright jackets and confident swagger.
Season 2, which premiered earlier this month, was, as always, an emotional journey. The first episode had me (and Antoni) in tears. Season 2 also marked a change in the Fab Five’s clients — there was one woman and one trans man (both incredible episodes).
I love how Queer Eye explores different depictions of masculinity and queerness.
I dislike Queer Eye’s heralding as the LGBTQ+ show on television that is going to Change the World and Everyone in It. Maybe more importantly, LGBTQ+ is about all genders and races and expressions of gender, not just gay men.
Research by Malinda Oh, as seen in an article by Laura M. Jimenez for the Journal of Lesbian Studies, shows that of young adult books about queer protagonists (of which there are few already), more than 50 percent are about gay boys, mostly white, and only 25 percent are about girls. This includes all characters, not just protagonists. Jimenez writes that “less than a tenth of a percent of these books included a lesbian. Although the number of books with LGBTQ characters have quadrupled over the last five years, the number of lesbian characters remains startlingly low, prompting the question: Where are all the lesbians?” Jimenez makes the connection between sexism and the lower number of lesbians than gay men as well as the near miniscule number of trans characters of either gender or bisexual characters.
I think we can all agree that representation is important — we want people to be able to see themselves in quality television, movies, and books. Especially for the younger LGBTQ+ folks growing into their identities, it helps to see a variety of characters and people to connect with.
If what we are looking for is LGBTQ+ reality TV shows, let’s also do:
Bisexuals Build Your Home: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but with bisexuals! Let’s be real — bisexuals are in some desperate need of mainstream exposure. The other day someone asked my bi friend if she was her “straight self” or her “lesbian self” today. That’s effed up.
Lesbian Thespians: Like So You Think You Can Dance but with theater and lesbians. Or maybe a show that tracks the revival of The Killing of Sister George.
Transgender Trailblazers: A Shark Tank-type show with the judges being successful trans businesspeople, and then they give money to support cool projects that uplift the community.
Asexual Athletes: What do people do with the time they don’t waste thinking about sex? Train and exercise, possibly.
Pansexual Bake-Off: Viewers discover different sexual expressions while honing their cake-making talents.
We could have any number of shows with a whole rainbow of LGBTQ+ people, and even scripted movies and TV shows with queer characters and actors where the plot is not queerness.
Hearts Beat Loud is one excellent example of this; if you haven’t seen it already, you need to! Biracial queer actress Sasha Lane, who plays Rose, told the Los Angeles Times, “Is it really [freaking] sad that maybe Hearts Beat Loud was the first time that I actually saw myself [in media]?”
So the takeaway is: Please write and produce more diverse LGBTQ+ content for representation in youth media. If you want to take any of my ideas, by all means, run with it. We can do better in 2018 than five cis gay guys as the representation of the entire LGBTQ+ community for a mainstream audience, and also for our youth.
AMY DEPOY is a senior at Yale University and an intern for Ms. Magazine.