My diversity philosophy is simple: I believe it is the duty of every writer to create stories in which the characters are from diverse backgrounds. Our work should reflect the actual, real-life demographics of the United States. We need to see LGBTQ characters in TV and film at a percentage reflected by the research. The same goes for other underrepresented communities. Those from racially and ethnically diverse communities need to be included in our work at a rate equal to or above the percentage reported on the U.S. Census. Only when we have stories that include us ALL, can we claim we are a diverse industry.
WHAT DO I MEAN?
My goal is to create a diverse cast of queer characters of all races, ethnicities, able-ness, and spiritual beliefs in order to foster and encourage honest conversation about gender, sex, and sexuality in conjunction with race, disability and spiritual beliefs.
I delve into these non-traditional, non-mainstream communities and demographics, in an effort to increase visibility of the often silenced voices of diversity. My hope is to ensure our TV and feature viewing reflects the actual demographics of the United States, not just 1-2 primary communities.
For example, the LGBTQ community constitutes 4.5% of the general U.S. population. Yet, according to GLAAD, while Broadcast prime time shows have now exceeded that percentage (roughly 6.4% of characters being LGBTQ), cable, streaming and features all lag. In fact, features DROPPED 5.6% between 2017 and 2018, with only 12.8% of the 100+ films featuring an LGBTQ character, most of whom, GLAAD points out, seemed to be afterthoughts and were deemed “insufficient.”
This is unfortunate, and the catalyst for why I write stories with uplifting messages featuring prominent LGBTQ characters and “fringe” or niche ideologies.
I take a similar approach to ethnic and racial representation, as well as disability. Latinos account for the largest growing demographic in the U.S., yet the community is just recently getting more representation in entertainment. Native Americans and other indigenous people are rarely represented in TV and film. When they are, they are generally the bad guy in some way. So I give a platform to them in a way that honors them and their heritage and positive history.
If we are going to ask for and work toward diversity, then we must truly diversify by writing the majority of characters as non-cisgender heterosexual white characters. After all, according to the last census, cis white people are now a minority in the U.S.
BEYOND MY PHILOSOPHY
Our experiences are interesting and different from those in the mainstream, yet all too universal and familiar.
Our lives are shaped by fighting against cultural ideologies that cisgender heterosexuals, mainly males, don’t understand and who cannot fully understand the nuances of our queer lives.
What’s not understood is that the LGBTQ experience intersects all aspects of our lives. And I show this in my work:
Consider the tale of a bisexual man who reenters his Kansas hometown — a town that ran him out because of his sexuality and away from his secret husband — and starts a marijuana dispensary against the wishes of the townspeople. Will his sexuality be all that people see, or will he be seen as the entrepreneur he truly is, regardless of his sexuality?
We rarely see BDSM- and sex work-positive stories; most shows fetishize these and fail to accurately portray BDSM and/or sex work in a true and honest manner, one of absolute trust in another and always 100% consensual.
What of the person who came out late in life, who had to live in fear their 40-50 years, living until now, when it is safer for them to say, “I AM QUEER!”? We don’t see those stories often either.
We see many coming of age and coming out tales, but they are all too often relegated to asides, brief mentions; they are rarely fully explored. The LGBTQ community is rich with narratives and anecdotes rarely shared as anything more than a quaint side story or modest attempt to diversify a performance. Our stories are rarely placed front and center, despite how diverse and profound the LGBTQ experience is.
These are the tales I tell, the stories I weave. I draw upon my personal experience as a queer person and tell our stories in a way that doesn’t make us into stereotypes or look like we are angry.
I see our community experiences as something to celebrate, not as a secondary or tertiary story like or a comedic plot device. I see the LGBTQ community as one that is diverse and more “normal” than most “normal” people, one that should be the lead storyline, not relegated to an aside.