This Made Me Realize Why Nonbinary Representation Is So Important
Seeing nonbinary people — those who don't strictly identify as male or female — in media is so comforting. Straight white people get to see themselves represented in all forms of media and in a million and one storylines, whereas LGBTQ characters are normally reduced to negative tropes or coming-out stories.
Don’t get me wrong, coming-out stories are an important part of the queer community, but they certainly aren’t the only stories we have to tell. While there is an increasing number of gay, lesbian and even elusive bisexual characters on television, nonbinary is still a relatively new concept to the general populous, and so it hasn’t really hit the entertainment media yet.
But it’s important that we do have representation. It makes us feel validated and certainly goes a long way toward making us feel less alone when one might otherwise be the only nonbinary person one knows. It’s also a contributing factor for a lot of people coming to terms with their gender identity and defining what nonbinary means to them. I know I was late to the party in figuring it out for myself, and it was through meeting other nonbinary people online and seeing LaFontaine (played by Kaitlyn Alexander) in the hit web series Carmilla that really pieced all my feelings about my gender together for me.
So if you’re someone who is questioning your gender identity or if you’re a nonbinary person who is looking for some representation across various media, I’ve compiled my three favorite sources of nonbinary representation.
Carmilla is a popular web series about vampires, feminism, pop culture references and a lot of gayness. There is also a movie coming out soon. Not only does the series have a super-diverse cast and 90 percent queer characters (whose storylines don’t revolve around coming out at all!), the show also features a nonbinary character, and it’s just… not a big deal. All the other characters just roll with it and LaF doesn’t have to explain themselves to anyone.
Watching LaF in Carmilla was a really bittersweet moment for me. It confirmed all my own feelings about my gender and also came at a time when I wasn’t outing myself as nonbinary to a lot of people, so it was definitely heartwarming to see what my life could be like in the future.
I actually reviewed the entire second season of Couple-ish over on the Bella Books blog. It’s another web series starring Kaitlyn Alexander as the nonbinary protagonist. They get a new roommate and it turns into a whole fake-green-card-relationship fiasco. If you like queer content, romance, couples' YouTube channels and all of the drama, you’re going to really like this show, and the best news is they’re making a prequel really soon.
What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
This book, featuring a genderqueer protagonist called Toni, hit a lot closer to home based on that fact alone. Here’s the actual review I left on Goodreads when I first read this book: "Reading a book with a genderqueer protagonist — a genderqueer protagonist with the same name as me, no less — was an absolute treat. Toni has the LGBT* group of friends at University (or College, since it’s set in the US, my apologies) that I wish I had."
While the plot was relatively low-key, it is only so because it has a strong sense of social realism. The situations and characters were all relatable, which I feel is a key aspect to any YA fiction novel.
Despite the fact that Toni and I have a lot more in common than just our names, Gretchen was my favorite of the two. Her key characteristic of not completely understanding but being completely accepting was a trait I find super-endearing. Toni, as much as I can personally understand and sympathize with his battle regarding gender identity and pronouns, as well as the distance separating them, is kind of a jerk to his girlfriend for the majority of the novel. I don’t hold it against him. I get that Gretchen kinda messed things up first, but I find Gretchen to be the more likable of the pair.
Maybe it’s because Toni and I are too similar.
Overall, this was a super-necessary story, and it just felt good to read a story that could have been about any two people, but it was about a couple I could relate to.