LGBTQ+ History Month: Stories to Be Told, Voices to Be Heard
There’s an unfortunate running “joke” within the LGBTQ+ community that we can’t get too attached to queer shows and characters because they’ll quickly get canceled. That same notion expands to other diverse stories, as well. This year alone, 17 of the 23 shows on just one major streaming platform that have been canceled (so far) had queer or POC representation, or a female lead—and most were canceled after just one season.
Queer and other diverse stories are often used as capital to garner attention and press, but not treated to the same kind of follow-through the more “traditional” stories are given. They’re not written or picked up as frequently, and, as demonstrated, they’re definitely not renewed as frequently.
Queerness in the media has been strongly associated with tropes like mental illness, disease, perversion, or crime. Queer characters are often killed off for shock value (referred to as the “Bury Your Gays” trope) and, when queer stories do become popular, they’re primarily centered around cisgendered, white, and male characters—not representative of the vast diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.
Representation in media plays a critical role in how queer people are perceived by the world. Our stories are more than stereotypes. We are more than our challenges. The intersections of our diversity are unparalleled. Yet, we still face threats to our human rights on the basis of our queer identities. Massive strides have been made with LGBTQ+ representation in media, but there is still so much work to be done.
So what do we as an industry do? We build the diverse talent we want to see in the world.
At Frame.io, our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) mission is to build a culture across the media and tech industries where people of diverse backgrounds, identities, expressions, and abilities have equal opportunity to create.
It’s not just about representation on screen, but throughout every step of the process—from pre-production all the way to the screen. One of my favorite examples of this is the dedication to mentoring trans talent on- and off-screen with the documentary, Disclosure, directed by Sam Feder and executive produced by Laverne Cox. The documentary delves into Hollywood’s portrayal of trans people in film and television, and shines a new light on the trans experience. Feder and their team prioritized hiring trans crew members. When a key role couldn’t be filled by a trans person, the non-trans person in the role mentored a trans fellow. In an interview with Decider Feder said, “Any project that has studio-backing has no excuse not to follow this model if they say that they’re trying to do things right.”
It’s this type of insistence on change that will lead to the representation we want to see. Each of us plays a role in making this happen, as individuals, as a company, and as an industry.
Frame.io is committed to influencing how the media and tech industries—historically lacking in diversity—support underrepresented groups. That work starts with us. In the last year, our company as a whole has made significant progress in our DE&I mission. Today, 13 percent of our employees self-identify as LGBTQ+. Our Recruiting Team has worked hard to build a qualified, diverse talent pool resulting in 50 percent of all incoming management and leadership positions being filled by people from underrepresented groups. Our DE&I Core Team is building mentorship opportunities for students interested in media and tech.
And our work certainly doesn’t stop here.
Whether it’s via social media, web series, TV show, film, or any other medium, today we’re sharing a reminder that the world needs our stories. And they need them to be presented in ways that are truthful and clear-eyed, so we can be seen as people who experience life in all its nuance and complexity, not just as stereotypes but as fully fleshed out human beings who laugh, cry, love, and conquer problems large and small. Stories have always been a means of connection, and only through telling them honestly can we make progress.
So, how are you going to tell your story?