Tom Acton
8 mins

As a young teen, I started to realise I was different - while all my friends got girlfriends, I sat on the sidelines, wishing I could be doing what they were doing because that was the norm, it was incredibly difficult for me to understand what my emotions were doing at that age, I just wanted to be like everyone else but it felt like the world would collapse around me if anyone found out I wanted to be dating boys.

I was very lucky growing up - sadly not a comfort a huge percentage of those in the LGBTQIA+ family share - my family were accepting and rather liberal, so why did I feel like being gay meant the end for me? Because to me, it didn’t seem normal - we’re brought up on things that keep us entertained, and every single thing I consumed as a kid into my teenage years was all straight relationships, being gay didn’t seem normal, as I hadn’t grown up seeing it as something that was common.

They often say those in the LGBTQIA+ family don’t really start living their lives until they come out, and are comfortable with who they are. Isn’t that crazy? I was 18 when I came out, and it’s probably only in the last few years that I’ve truly become comfortable with my identity, because it’s something I’ve had to unlearn from childhood, and undoing what I perceived as normal. I just wish I had more role models or exposure to the LGBTQIA+ world from a younger age, so growing up I didn’t have to worry about it not being normal. 

Representation in entertainment media for kids and family is SO important. It’s essential, and not just for those kids who start realising what their identity is, all the kids who may have friends who realise these things too, and need a friend to be there for them while they become who they are meant to be, with no judgement. Representation is important for everyone, to create a more accepting society. For young LGBTQIA+ kids, seeing a character that is Trans, Asexual or anything else that falls under LGBTQIA+, will be unbelievably helpful to them feeling normal - and less scared to own their identity - as to them, it’ll be shown that it’s normal, and there are people like them.

It has come a long way since I was a child, but we are still so so so far away from where we need to be, there have been positive steps - such as a recent kiss in Disney / Pixar’s new film Lightyear, of course there was the expected back lash and bans in countries where being any form of LGBTQIA+ is illegal (don’t get me started) - but even just it’s existence could be the difference to a young girl who is starting to realise she’s just like the lovely couple in the film. It’s important its done in the right way too, and not a light touch - if you are committed to creating good role models for the LGBTQIA+ community, it shouldn’t be hinted at in a “we want to make it seem normal so don’t want to draw much attention to it” way, make an integral and core part of the story, and perhaps as these kids grow up, they’ll find comfort in their identity much sooner and not be stuck scared for many years what will happen if they show who they truly are.

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