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Finding Queer Identity Through TV Representation

Posted on March 26th, 2019

Posted in Bi Health, Bisexual Health Awareness Month, and Blog

By Charmee Taylor

Deep deep in the dark closet with only fear of anyone knowing, truly, who I am, I’m under my blanket in my apartment in Echo Park. It’s a Saturday and the LA sun comes up. I pull out my laptop and open it to a HelloGiggles article that I peruse and “Brown Girls series” pops up at the bottom of the article as an advertisement; I need to know more. I binge watch it. This series follows two women of color on their journey living in Chicago. Think Girls but more brown and more queer, so inherently better. I drown myself in this series. I feel overflowed with visibility; I’m seen for the first time. The voice that felt like it was cut off by Ursula herself is now singing, my spiritual self is heard. I cry tears of joy because finally I know who I am. I cry tears of sadness because the series ended and now I have to step back into my own reality of loneliness because people who look like me on screen aren’t queer and if they’re queer they aren’t black. Two of my worlds collide for the first time. I can actually convince myself to take a step forward out of that scary yet comforting closet. I can see the light of myself thriving and surviving. It is uncertain but I see that it is possible. I owe this pride to the Brown Girls series.

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When I stopped to think about the first bisexual character I’ve seen on TV, I had to enter the depths of my mind. To be honest, I couldn’t really think of a bisexual character on the major TV network that wasn’t totally sexualized or disappeared after two lines. So I thought and thought and thought and the only thing that I could think of was a series that I watched because I just so happened to be reading a HelloGiggles article about horoscopes and at the very bottom there was an advertisement that read, “We spoke to the women behind “Brown Girls,” a viral web series that’s headed to HBO.” The last time I had seen something like that it was in reference to Awkward Black Girl, so I felt that it was my responsibility to find this series and binge watch it, and I did. Watching this series was the first time that I felt that I was seen, heard, and my experience was of value. It felt almost like my spirit was empty and the remedy to this curse was brown, queer, sex positive, women thriving and surviving in my birthplace of Chicago.

“‘Brown Girls’ is an intimate story of the lives of two young women of color. Leila is a South Asian-American writer just now owning her queerness. Patricia is a sex-positive Black-American musician who is struggling to commit to anything: job, art and relationships. While the two women come from completely different backgrounds, their friendship is ultimately what they lean on to get through the messiness of their mid-twenties.”

Let’s back up again. I’m from a small town in Pennsylvania and the first time I heard the term bisexual was in high school. There was a girl on my cheerleading squad who spouted off that she was bi in a bus on our way to cheer camp. Girls started whispering, “Well that’s… weird,” as they side eyed her aggressively. Myself included. We had to have a meeting in the cabin of our Wake Forest Cheer Camp varsity cabin. This moment was the epitome of what biphobia looks like among  straight white girls, of course with the exception of me: the random black girl on the squad. I just wanted to fit in; I needed to fit in. I always felt like I wasn’t like the rich white girls who had everything, so I joined the mean bullying party of unacceptance. This stuck with me: if I say who I am with pride I won’t be accepted by my white friends. So I repressed this moment and shoved it down, far down in the confines of the closet that I had created for myself in my mind, reminding me to never come out.

The hardest part of accepting my own sexuality was the fact that I’m very much attracted to men, which was soooooo confusing. I have fallen in love with men, several times. My first love was a man. It’s really easy to hide behind those relationships, however toxic or confusing they are. In many ways I feel that it’s more confusing because you’re always stuck in this space of trying to understand what these two worlds mean. Understanding for yourself and understanding for others. In many ways I feel that my being bi happened this year. But it didn’t; I just chose to recognize it this year. A huge part of my being has been repressed but mostly because I didn’t have language that clearly articulated these spaces that I was in. I didn’t have visuals that played out a queer relationship that was thriving. That wasn’t even an option with my very Christian, very heteronormative upbringing. I even went to a school that started a campaign for abstinence and modesty putting the onus on women to stay pure. A part of feeling like I was close to God was fitting in, which meant to survive I had to push down whatever thoughts, feelings, and/or crushes on girls I had. I remember thinking that it was a demonic spirit trying to tempt me in and if I could push this feeling away I would be closer to God.

When I first saw a bi character on screen (only two years ago), it rocked my world. A lot of that had to do with representation. I made it my goal this past year to prioritize queer projects. I did a film last summer called Lucky about a gay high schooler trying to come to terms with her sexual identity when the two worlds in which she lives in can only accept one part of her. The prep school that she attends can’t accept her blackness and her home in Inglewood can’t accept her queerness. Almost as if women can be one thing and one thing only, it becomes very dangerous for Lucky to have these dueling worlds she lives in. Playing Lucky changed everything for me. It was like my Oprah “Ah-Haa” moment. I realized last summer that I was hiding behind straight relationships because I didn’t want to face myself.

This year I’m producing a project called Polygone; “A polyamorous triad (he, she, and they) and their child come to the largest obstacle they’ve ever met: falling out of love. Rather, some staying in love, some finding new love and one falling out of love. Polygone follows the life of Sam and Parker who have been married five years, and Alex…their other equal partner”. This project is near and dear to my heart because although I don’t identify as poly I recognize that it’s my responsibility as a non-poly person to use my privilege and platform to bring awareness to other identities with in the LGBTQ umbrella. Just like it’s the responsibility of white allies to clean up the messes their ancestors made hundreds of years ago with slavery and Jim Crow. Unfortunately, this responsibility falls on the disenfranchised communities at large. Not only is it our responsibility to exist in a world that wasn’t created for us, but also to fight for fairness within that world with far too heavy of a burden. But somehow we do it.

We launched an Indiegogo campaign for the Polygone TV pilot on March 15th. The best way to support these kinds of stories, which demand and deserve attention, is through financing them. I think back on seeing the series Brown Girls and wonder where I would be without people who backed a series that literally saved my life. A series that spoke to me. These stories would not exist without a vision and the people who worked tirelessly who didn’t identify as black or brown or queer but used their platform to make it come to life. If you would like to give, please go to igg.me/at/polygone and follow us on all socials at PolygoneTheFilm.

Looking back at my journey, it wouldn’t be the same without the crucial part that representation in the media played in my journey. How it helped me come to terms with my identity, how it helped me to see healthy gay relationships. I’d like to do that with Polygone and every project that I work on in whatever capacity I can. I exist in several worlds at once, which I consider a privilege. I’m bi, I’m black and beautiful and if I can recreate that on screen then I know that I’m doing what I was put on this earth to do.