Writing by Kim Koelmeyer
The influence the media has on our conceptions of the world is so perverse and far reaching. As a result, representation is essential for many social movements, including the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, faithful, meaningful representations of LGBTQ+ people in media are few and far between. But when they’re done right, it makes my Bi little heart sing. So today I thought I’d focus on all the strides we’ve made, and sing the praises of my favourite LGBTQ+ characters; hopefully your heart will sing too. Also if your fave isn’t here, I profusely apologize but one human cannot consume the entirety of media—this is an entirely subjective collection.
- Korra (The Legend of Korra)
The Legend of Korra, much like its titular character, barged in and broke many walls for race, gender, and sexuality. Korra, a bisexual woman of colour, is the protagonist in the follow up to the wildly successful Avatar: The Last Airbender as the next reincarnation of the previous Avatar, Aang. The story follows her journey of coming into her own as the Avatar, getting knocked down and getting back up in the process.
My favourite portrayals of LGBTQ+ characters are those that don’t make a thing out of it, and Korra is a shining example of this. Her friendship and eventual relationship with Asami was a slow burn, starting from a love triangle with resident heartthrob Mako, morphing into a close friendship, and culminating in them coming together in the series finale, to the rejoice of shippers internet-wide.
Korra was such an important step in LGBTQ+ representation. It placed a strong, burly, confident, yet impulsive and flawed human at the helm of a successful franchise, front and centre. Though the animated series has long since ended, fans are eagerly awaiting the comics that will pick up right where it left off, and give us all the Korrasami we’ve been desperately wanting in our lives.
- Haruhi Fujioka (Ouran High School Host Club)
Haruhi is a bit of a weird choice, ‘cause she’s not explicitly not straight, and not explicitly trans, but her IDGAF attitude has earned her a place in my heart. Haruhi’s story takes place under the backdrop of Ouran Academy, a private school for the richest of the rich, and the occasional outstanding scholar (Haruhi). Through a series of bizarre events, Haruhi has to pose as a boy and work in the school’s Host Club. For anyone wondering—a Host Club is where a bunch of good looking boys sit around and tell girls how pretty they are. So naturally, wacky hijinks ensue.
Throughout the series, Haruhi finds herself giving her first kiss to a girl, dressing in both hyper masculine and feminine clothing, and riding a horse and carriage alongside a speeding car (unrelated, but badass). She deals with everything with a sense of indifference which was very refreshing and eye opening when I first saw it. In her words “what matters is who you are rather than what sex you are.”
I think the fact that there was no confirmation of her sexual orientation or gender identity just further enforces that it really doesn’t matter. It also makes a great case for the fluidity of gender and sexual orientation, because she, and the rest of the hosts, fluctuate within the spectrum with every episode.
- Josh (Please Like Me)
Please Like Me, written by and starring Australian comedian Josh Thomas, deals with a whole host of issues, including relationships and mental illness, all with a consistent gloss of Thomas’ signature humor.
The show begins with Josh being dumped by his girlfriend, making out with a stupidly attractive guy the same night, and then waking up to find out his mother has attempted suicide. Cue a series of similarly poorly timed, unfortunate events that unfold over the next few years of Josh’s life, with some amazing ones along the way.
Now I wouldn’t call this show a first, or a groundbreaking leap for LGBTQ+ representation in the sense other characters on this list are (though it is a groundbreaking show in its own way). I just genuinely enjoy watching the character Josh go through life with his painfully relatable observations. Seriously, if you want a solid portrayal of both 20 something life and modern Australian culture, I highly recommend you check it out. Be prepared to feel all the things.
- Yuri Katsuki and Viktor Nikiforov (Yuri on Ice)
Yuri on Ice was one of the juggernauts of 2016, bursting in and amassing a huge international following. It depicts Yuri Katsuki’s climb from anxious, failed figure skater on the brink of retirement, to a force to be reckoned with. Along with him every step of the way is his coach Viktor: a world- renowned skater with gold medals (and flowing silver hair) dripping off him. As the two make their way towards the top, their coach-skater relationship blossoms into more.
Same sex relationships, especially male/male relationships are often hyper-fetishized in anime, which often works to rob them of their personhood outside of being gay. Yuri on Ice served as a breath of fresh air and an encouraging step forward in moving beyond the damaging images of LGBTQ+ people we’ve seen.
When it comes to LGBTQ+ representation, we definitely have a long way to go. But along the way, it’s important to look back and see just how far we’ve come. And with a past like this, I’m hopeful for what will follow.