Today, I’ve been thinking a lot about something that I don’t normally think about: coming out. I’ve done it a couple times, never to face much adversity, but I don’t ever intend on doing it again. I wear my not-straightness on my sleeve now, often mentioning my partner within minutes of meeting someone new.
I’ve been thinking about it today because I’m due to start writing my thesis, which is about the portrayal of romantic relationships in animation, specifically Disney fairy-tales. My thesis supervisor asked me at our initial meeting, “Why Disney?” There are lots of interesting and diverse and controversial representations of relationships in the media, she reminded me, so why Disney?
Well, I realised “why Disney” today.
Because almost three years ago I came out to my grandmother and my aunt as not-straight. I was scared and upset, crying, hugging myself, and they were very understanding and supportive. They asked me some questions and we had tea. But then my aunt asked me, “Do you want to tell the girls or should I?”
The girls? What about Jack? What about my godson?
She didn’t want me to tell him, or his little sister, Rebecca. They were too young to learn of my unheterosexuality.
So I didn’t tell them, and Jack still doesn’t know that my best friend Catherine is also the person I wake up with every morning; that we have plans for the future; that we celebrate our relationship on Valentine’s Day and that we sign birthday cards with both our names. Which means that someday he’s going to ask, “Why didn’t you tell me? All those years ago, why didn’t you tell me? Why did you hide this part of yourself from me?”
And when that day comes, I’ll tell him the truth. “Because your parents didn’t want me to. They thought you were too young.”
But, with all due respect to my aunt and uncle, they’re wrong.
Jack isn’t too young. He was never too young, because no one is too young to learn about diversity.
Hiding these things from children only narrows their view of the world; it forces ignorance upon them. It teaches them that anything that doesn’t conform to a certain way of living is a wrong way to live, and that’s a very dangerous message to send to such young, impressionable minds. It creates a divide. It says ‘this is how you should be; there are no other options’. It says, intentionally or not, ‘those who live any other way are lesser’.
I’m not looking forward to that conversation with my godson, one of my most beloved people. But Disney could have spared me that conversation.
Why haven’t Disney, with all their power and influence, shown children all the many different ways to live? Why does every princess share their ‘happily ever after’ with a prince?
Where is the untold tale of Prince Charming and The Knight in Shining Armour?
That’s the story that I want Disney to present to my godson and all the other children whose views of the world are still forming.
Sexuality shouldn’t need to be a conversation, let alone a secret. Children need to know that same-sex relationships exist and are just as legitimate as heterosexual relationships.
All media has the power to shape views and perspectives, but children’s media has the most power of all. The world they present is the world that children expect to live in.
Therefore, there is a responsibility to present to children a world that is rich in diversity, because that’s the world we live in.