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The Power of Conversations - LGBTQ+ Stories

Author: Tsara Shelton
Author Contact: @TsaraShelton on Twitter
Published: 15th May 2021 - Updated: 6th Sep 2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: LGBTQ Stories - Mainstream Publications

Summary: Tsara shares the memory of a conversation she had about LGBTQ stories in movies and on TV.

Main Document

Ronnie (they/he) had a conversation about gay stories in movies and tv with their aunt, Tsara, several years ago that continues to be relevant and worth exploring.


Several years ago my nibling, Ronnie, and I were having a conversation. [List of definitions.]

They were concerned about (okay, they were 17 years old at the time so it was more like "complaining with budding passionate opinions" about) representation of the LGBTQ+ community in movies and on TV. "It's always either a joke, a trope, or only about how hard it is to be gay. We are used like a trope or a cliche. Or when the story is more honest about us, it's always about the struggle. It's rare that the characters are complete complex people who just happen to be trans."

"Well," I remember saying, thinking about the lesbian storyline in the screenplay I wrote, "that's a good point, and I agree. But," and here I began to both make excuses for and honestly explore the value of my lesbian storyline, "stories about the hardships, the emotional influence and toil, are a powerful way to reach people and even change behaviors. Change lives. Sometimes we can't know how harmful our jokes are, or how brave someone is being when they come out, if we aren't offered those personal painful narratives. In fiction and nonfiction."

Ronnie sort of shrugged and turned away from me with an attitude of "I don't think my aunt gets it" and went back to singing along to their K-pop playlist.

(Article continues below image.)

Ronnie and TsaraRonnie and Tsara


But I think about this conversation, this topic, a lot. Like, a lot.

The balance between diving into the fight and hurt from being marginalized, misrepresented, constantly stereotyped, turned into a punchline, told to "relax, stop overreacting" etc, and not getting stuck in the hurt while creating the misconception that we are ONLY the hurt.

It happens with so many stories we try to bring to light. Stories of being gay or trans, stories of being black in America, stories of being a woman in a man's world, stories of being disabled - visibly or invisibly. We are all deciding what to believe about who we are while growing up in the environment surrounding us. We are influenced by our personal physiology and psychological makeup, our homelife, our community, our society, the stories we are fed and feed ourselves.

This month is Mental Health Awareness Month [list of awareness dates]. So, we want to be aware of how we can take care of our mental health and how we can recognize and respect the various challenges for others. Part of this is by admitting and sharing how we harm each other - most often unintentionally, but also most often because we aren't listening to each other well or with an appropriate amount of empathy - when we create and are complicit in allowing unnecessary obstacles to self-realization, actualization, and agency.

I think we should write, read, tell, watch, listen to, create more complex stories of each other. We are more than sexual assault survivors, bi-sexual parents, black behind the wheel, or disability activists. We need to be careful of telling only these stories because they make cliches of us.

But I have, so often, been given strength from the story of someone else who was sexually harassed and reacted in similar fashion to myself. I felt less shame as I sent an invisible hand of love and support to the person sharing their story. I felt validated, I felt like I was right to keep asking for change because if it hurt not only me but others too then it really was hurtful. I mean, think about it. We often see other people handing things that hurt us and conclude we are weak. But, in truth, we generally look like we're handing things, too.

It's this way for so many. Ronnie and I were talking about people who are gay, trans, bi-sexual, Agender, etc because that's what they wanted to talk about. And I was thinking about the lesbian storyline in my screenplay because the character, Jade, wanted not to be in love with her girlfriend, Raven, and then when that love was wonderful wanted parents that wouldn't think it was sinful. These things were hurting her. But, also, Jade is so much more. She likes music, loves math, struggles with a fear of dogs, wants to be less materialistic but thinks most minimalists are just jumping on a trend. None of that is in the screenplay, though. Only the stuff that is relevant to the struggle she's having with her sexuality. And, she is struggling. And her struggle with be familiar to someone and might help them change, feel less alone, or be kinder to a neighbor.

Indeed, I have witnessed people change their beliefs when told the story of a personal struggle. Almost always, though, it is a tipping point and they have been told similar personal stories several times before. But an expertly revealed kernel of truth planted in a ready mind, one that has been tilled by preceding stories, can blossom into change.

Yet, Ronnie is right. We need to be careful. Our stories need to be inclusive and bigger. Our narratives need to be more than only revealing the hurt, the reasons we hide, the reasons it hurts to hide, the reasons we hurt ourselves. We don't just risk spending too much time commiserating and licking our wounds, but we risk telling an untruth by putting too much emphasis on that part of our truth. We then expect to hurt, we get used to it and feel as though we're supposed to be used to it; we shrug off the pain of others when too many of the stories tell us that's the way it is without enough stories of this is how it also is and how it could be.

I'm not offering a clear answer but I do have a strong belief. I strongly believe conversations matter. I truly think listening well, discussing these issues, and caring about everyone in our world is where the most important stuff happens. More than any conclusions Ronnie and I made (and anyway, those conclusions keep leading to new ideas and different conclusions) it is the conversations we have and how we have them that matter most.

I know it has mattered most to me.

I think I'll call Ronnie now and see if they want to have another conversation.

Author Credentials:

Tsara Shelton, author of Spinning in Circles and Learning From Myself, is a contributing editor to Tsara's personal blog can be found at Keep up to date with Tsara's latest writings by following @TsaraShelton on Twitter.

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Alphabetical list of gender identities.

2Transgender Reporting Guide
How to write about transgender people.

3Glossary of Sexuality Terms
Definitions of sexual terms & acronyms.

4Glossary of Gender Terms
Definitions of gender related terms.

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• (APA): Tsara Shelton. (2021, May 15). The Power of Conversations - LGBTQ+ Stories. Retrieved September 23, 2023 from

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