why lgbtq+ representation matters in literature.
“none of the queer people on tv made sense to me…” representation in literature is a topic that is rapidly evolving. in today’s editor’s note, assistant managing editor molly harms discusses the importance of representation in literature- and her personal journey in discovering that.
By Molly Harms
Reading is definitely my favorite hobby. Even as my schedule gets busier and reaches its maximum capacity, I try to carve out as much time as I can to read. Growing up, I loved reading about other kids who were just like me: bookish and introverted. As I grew older and began to understand my identity more holistically, I saw less of myself in the books I was reading. I no longer identified as just an introverted reader – I was now a fat, queer girl who had to search (a lot) to find books about other people like me. I couldn’t relate to the skinny, straight girls I was reading about and I began to doubt myself. I wondered whether or not my identity was valid because I couldn’t find books with characters who looked like me or experienced similar things.
Some critics argue that representation isn’t the most important thing in books. They say that fiction doesn’t need to represent real life because it’s created and imaginary. Others (myself included) argue that accurate representation is one of the most important things in literature. As I personally experienced, not being able to find portrayals of yourself in the media can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Since I wasn’t reading about other lesbians like myself, I thought there might be something wrong with me. None of the queer people I saw in the media were like me, and books, my usual safe space, offered no help.
I grew tired of the lack of representation on my bookshelf, so I actively sought out queer books and didn’t stop until I found them. I poured over book lists and spent hours on Goodreads, and when I finally began to find queer books that had characters I could relate to, my entire world opened up in the most amazing way. I remember feeling so incredibly validated when I read my first book with a normalized queer character – someone whose identity was comprehensive outside of their sexuality. None of the queer people on TV made sense to me, but I began to fall deeper in love with literature as I was exposed to more LGBTQ+ characters. Books and well-written queer characters were able to show me that I belong and that there were other people like me in the world. Now, I love having the opportunity to uplift diverse voices through my involvement with Violet Margin. Helping other people see themselves in literature is something that’s really important to me because of the impact it had on my acceptance of my identity.
Molly Harms is the Assistant Managing Editor at Violet Margin. She is a sophomore at the University of Illinois in Springfield studying public policy and political science. To read more from Molly and other members of the Violet Margin team, follow the Violet Margin blog here.