I had a very sheltered and closeted childhood. My parents would rarely let me see anything other than cartoons, because the rest of the content on television was for ‘grown-ups’. As I grew older though, heading into my teens, I saw other content, but still nothing too scandalous or bold, for fear of retribution. I wanted to be a good child in my parents’ eyes. Slowly and steadily, they allowed me to watch content other than cartoons and game shows like Crystal Maze. I could finally watch films!

 One of the first proper grown-up films I saw was Jurassic Park at the cinema. Over time, my parents started relaxing a little bit about what we could see on television and at the cinema. We started watching sitcoms like Friends, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One of the things that my younger self started noticing was that even as a teen, I would analyse this media deeply and think about them. Take the sitcom Friends for example. Friends is centred around friendships and connections, and how they blossom into impenetrable relationships that leave a lasting effect on the individuals and all the people surrounding them.

I was impressed with Monica’s journey, but I never really related to women loving the men or having sex with them. Whilst millions across the world had their hearts melting over Joey’s signature charm, looks, and line “How you doin’?”, it made me wonder why characters in the show hated on the lesbian couple – Ross’s ex-wife Carol and her partner Susan. I related more towards the two women being a loved-up couple and looking after Ross and Carol’s son Ben than Chandler and Monica being all mushy over one another.

I never really related to women loving the men

 At that time, as a teen, I had no idea about my sexuality and didn’t give it much thought – because of my cultural and religious background and conservative family, I always assumed I was straight. But seeing those two women in a romantic relationship triggered something in me and got me thinking. It was the spark and the catalyst I needed to start on the journey that would lead me to accept myself for who I am and to come out to others too.

Now many years later, I am more self-assured about my sexuality and identity, and I know who I am and what I want. I am out to my friends and family. Seeing that LGBT representation in a sitcom deep down helped me understand myself. I struggled with the fact that whilst my friends in school were going bonkers over Joey being so handsome or Chandler being so perfect for Monica, I could not partake in their excitement. Why wasn’t anyone talking about Carol and Susan? As a teen, I repressed my curiosities and inquisitiveness and kept it to myself. Hence I never voiced my thoughts, and no one was there to answer my questions.

As an adult, I can finally talk about them. Thankfully, times have changed and we are seeing a lot more LGBTQ representation in the media, in the form of sitcoms, films, songs, or books. Why is greater diversity in terms of representation of sexuality and identity important to showcase in media, you might ask?

Well, in my opinion, seeing variation in sexuality and identity helps propagate this message that there are different kinds of people in the world, not what is deemed the ‘norm’ in society. Break the norm by being visible, as opposed to being rendered obsolete or unseen. Seeing representation helps the conversation get started and aids in creating an important shift in social consciousness – people are far more forthcoming and welcome towards change and granting acceptance.

times have changed

When I saw The L Word as a teen, it was such a hassle to sneakily use a proxy website to access the show in the school media lab. But it opened a whole new world to me. Here I was, a confused individual who had only ever known from her parents’ and society that I would grow up to marry a man. The truth was, I was intrigued by watching women loving and being with other women. I secretly enjoyed it and never told a soul that I watched what I did. Even though I wasn’t sure about my sexual identity or labels like bisexual or lesbian, I knew that what I enjoyed watching was not normal or accepted in my society or culture, so I had to keep it to myself.

Seeing the characters come out to their families and friends made a huge impact on me. It planted a seed that eventually paved the way to the future realisation of and fostering a great sense of affirmation of my sexuality and identity. Just like how it helped me, seeing LGBT people being represented in media can have a major and life-changing impact on millions of impressionable minds confused about their own identity and sexuality. It can not only help them get a sense of self-worth and esteem, but also make themselves feel empowered through the power of media, that they are represented, and that there are others out there like them. They are not alone.

So why do I volunteer with Lesflicks? What does Lesflicks mean to me? Because visual representation and seeing LGBT individuals coming out in media made such a dramatic effect on my life, when I found out about a volunteering opportunity at Lesflicks, I could not resist the urge to offer my services. In my opinion, they are a purveyor of quality content for lesbians – bringing films and series with lesbian and bisexual representation that can help fellow closeted queer women realise their sexualities, and help them feel reassured and find mental peace and harmony after coming out. Lesflicks truly exists to serve and support the LBTQ+ population all around the world. They write about, host, and support films and series that are made by, for, and about LBTQ+ women. I am grateful to them for flourishing and creating that space in a heteronormative world—it is much needed! If you’re interested in volunteering opportunities with Lesflicks, I would recommend finding out more and joining the team.

This article was written by:

Aisha

PR/Marketing/Writer

She/Her