My other self is on tumblr. My other self follows (mostly) twenty-something lesbians who love television. I didn’t think much about how different my tumblr self is from my other social media self, until a friend recently started following me on tumblr, and I realized how strangely different I must seem on tumblr, to a friend whom I know from elsewhere.
Today, a post by a cishet, white man, about his relationships with lesbians, was trending on one of my sites. I rather like this guy. I see him as a queer ally, and I have no issue with the content of that specific post. There have been many days when I don’t look at what’s trending, so I assume that, at one time, it has happened, but I have never seen a post by a lesbian trend on that site.
I never expected to be represented in visual media, and when they tried to represent me, they failed miserably. The L Word had nothing to do with me or my life, and I am nothing like Big Boo, whom I can’t stand. I have always said that I would rather not be represented, than be represented poorly, and for me, that’s still true.
And yet, as much as I wish it weren’t so, representation does matter. I knew as an adolescent that I didn’t like boys, because I kissed one, and it made my stomach hurt. I thought that I would just be alone, and that was okay. I already knew that I was weird. It wasn’t until I saw Sharon Stone kiss her girlfriend in Basic Instinct that I understood what my desires meant. I had never before seen a representation of a lesbian. It was another four years before I met a lesbian in person.
I love television. I watched the bisexual curiosity of the daughter on Picket Fences. I watched Xena. I watched Buffy. I watched so many others. I watch terrible television (i.e., Jane the Virgin) for the queer content. I didn’t/don’t like many of those characters, any more than I like all queer persons, but I nonetheless need my people.
Yesterday, on The 100, a young adult television show, immediately after consummating a lesbian relationship, one of the partners was hit by a stray bullet and killed. Television characters die all the time, and as a rule, I’m a fan of killing them off every now and then. But there is a trope, in television, in which lesbian characters nearly always die.
My regular self doesn’t really care. I move on to the next show. But my other self, the tumblr self, actually mourned when Xena died. When Tara was shot, that self knew that every time I was attacked, that could happen to me. My other self expected it to happen to me. When Justin, on Queer as Folk, was attacked with a baseball bat, my girlfriend at the time started crying. She made me promise that I wouldn’t let that happen to me. My other self desperately wants to see a representation of me, even a poor representation, that doesn’t end up dead. My other self is surprised that I’m going to turn forty soon. I have been told repeatedly that I wouldn’t.
The kids whom my other self follows on tumblr are talking about suicide. Without positive representation, they can’t see themselves in the future. They’re talking about how their parents don’t accept them, and how their communities hate them, and how they invested so much in a representation that suggested that one day, things might get better. And now, like so many other times, what is represented is that lesbians don’t fare well. My other self is not protected by my regular cynicism, and a part of me aches, knowing that these kids have so little support, and that these representations of doomed lesbians mean so much to them.
I have been out for twenty five years now. The world has changed tremendously. This self is happy that I got sexy texts today. This self lives in a queer-friendly urban area, and unlike my teenage self, has no trouble getting laid.
But my other self, which I try to relegate to tumblr, can’t help but notice that my people are almost never trending. My other self is mourning for Lexa, from The 100, a show that I don’t even like. I’m not mourning because she died. Everybody dies. I’m mourning because these young lesbians still only see representations of lesbians who get killed. My other self is still afraid to use public restrooms, avoids most parts of the country, and can’t travel to many parts of the world. My other self is very aware that those representations could be me.
I don’t really want to bring my other self here. It’s too vulnerable, and I’d rather keep it on tumblr, with kids who aren’t old enough to pretend that they’re safe. But today, I looked at tumblr, and I read their pain, and then I looked at this other article, where I saw a post by a straight man about his relationship with lesbians. It was the first time that I had seen the word lesbian trending on that site, and today, I can’t pretend that representation doesn’t matter. Because today, my other self, and television fans, and the kids whom I follow on tumblr, are burying another lesbian.