“When you don’t see yourself being reflected back at you, you’re implicitly told that you don’t matter. That your life does not matter, it’s not worth being told, it’s not worth being discussed.” – Ryan O’Connell, Writer of Special (Netflix Series)
From yoga classes to cooking shows to in-depth discussions on racial injustice in the United States, Midpen Media Center maintains a space where people have real and honest conversations. Our community has earned recognition for individual creativity, and our dedication to providing a platform to our media-makers is a small-scale reflection of public access television’s historic mission throughout the country. The acute local focus provides an opportunity for personal stories to connect with a relevant audience, and the accessible nature of these services means that everyone in our community is invited to join the conversation.
This month, we’ve been looking at these services through the lense of Gay Pride. During Pride Month, our LGBTQIA+ community is encouraged to join us as we share and celebrate stories of the queer experience. We firmly hold the belief that creating content to represent the wide spectrum of gender and sexual identities within our community is central to our mission of reflecting local diversity. This is key to the health of our community.
In this day and age, the mainstream conversation surrounding queer identity has been commodified to the point where its nearly unrecognizable. Unless LGBT Pride is marketable —rainbow stickers on the shelving of donuts at big-name corporations — it’s swept under the rug, hidden from the larger audience. LGBT lives have spent an eternity off-screen. Ryan O’Connell, creator of the acclaimed Netflix series Special, a portrait of queer and disabled experiences, said, “I wanna reach as many people as possible because if this show had come out when I was a teenager, it would’ve saved my […] life.” Seeing yourself represented in the media matters — and we recognize our responsibility in helping to create that media and make it accessible.
Researchers Sarah C. Gomillion and Traci A. Giuliano found this to be true when they conducted two studies on how the media affects people’s identities: “Participants listed several different shows and media figures as making them feel more comfortable with their GLB (Gay, Lesbian, and/or Bisexual) identities.” With Special providing a space for celebrating gay people with cerebral palsy and The L Word highlighting the intricacies of being a lesbian or bisexual woman, one would think we’re off to a great start. But is it enough?
A participant in Gomillion and Giuliano’s studies expressed that they wanted more stories about “normal people with normal jobs who just happen to be gay.” For queer people of color and queer transgender people, a story in which they can recognize themselves is hard to find on the screen to this day. That’s why we look forward to telling these stories. We already have a community that helps each other, whether through classes, self-care tips, or supportive panels. Bringing together our community during pride month to celebrate the queer experience is a step we’d like to take to make our community a richer, more welcoming place for creators of all identities—a place to feel safe, supported, and seen.
To share your pride story, email us at info@MidpenMedia.org.
This article was written by Evan Warren.