Why is representation and seeing others ‘like you’ in the culture around you important, especially when growing up?

Image: ‘World’ by Anna Frances from the Bi in the 2000s™ illustrative series.

Anna Frances explores further why she thinks seeing someone ‘like you’ in the culture around you, effects how you see yourself, and also can effect how you see others.

Even as someone that, from the outside, may not seem to be the obvious candidate to feel unrepresented in the UK (I’m coming from a place of privilege; I’m white, I was raised in a family where I always felt I had enough) I still felt, and still to a large extent feel, the confusing and frustrating feeling that there was and largely still is a lack of representation of LGBTQ+ (and specifically applicable to me, bisexuality) visibility in the culture and media around me.

As someone that identifies as bisexual, what impact does this have, you may ask?

Well, I’ll explain.

Firstly, it felt dislodging. As a female, seeing the culture around me tell me that 50% of the population were ‘valid’ people to love (i.e. men), and 50% of the population (women) as not represented as loving other women, and therefore, by this absence, ‘not valid’ people for me to love, I ended up questioning if my love was real at all.

Due to the lack of representation, the feeling that you have to pretend you don’t love someone, or don’t have feelings for someone, when you do, is actually incredibly toxic. It’s toxic because you feel you may be alone in this, with the shame of not really understanding why you seem to be feeling what (as the culture around you suggests) no-one else is feeling, or has felt, anywhere, in existence.

It can also feel isolating. Who can you be honest with about this topic that isn’t visible anywhere? What would happen if you did speak out? What would happen if others did the same? As a young person, this can seem incredibly daunting. As an older person, I would argue, this can often feel no different.

Everyone’s experiences are unique to the individual, and I can only speak on behalf of myself and from my own experiences. For me personally, the lack of representation of people ‘like me,’ in time, felt like a wound. And it’s taken time to heal.

The statistics around the amount of people that are in the LGTQ+ community at school that have been bullied, are worrying to say the least.

According to ‘The School Report’ (2017).’Nearly half (45 per cent) of LGBT pupils – including 64 per cent of trans pupils – are bullied for being LGBT in Britain’s schools’ (from the Stonewall website).

There’s statistics to show that this fear surrounding being LGBT does continue into adulthood:

‘More than a third of LGBT staff (35 per cent) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination.’ (Source: LGBT in Britain, ‘Work (2018) from the Stonewall website).

Homelessness is still a problem; in 2018 18% of LGBT people had experienced homelessless at some point in their lives. I just think this is unacceptable (LGBT in Britain (2018) ‘Home and Communities’ – from the Stonewall website).

I just think this is unacceptable, and things need to change.

I’m aware that things are changing, but I think the progress is slow. I’ve noticed that there are more roles in more mainstream film and tv shows, for example, with characters who are something other then heterosexual. I suppose my concern is, with the commercialisation of the Pride flag, I’m worried these roles will be seen a cultural ‘token,’ and that things may revert back to heterosexual narratives only, when the rainbow Pride phase ‘fad’ is over over. We are all rainbow. We don’t need to buy a sandwich to prove it.

I think the power of story telling is huge, in how we treat ourselves and others. It was for this reason that I launched the Bi in the 2000s™ art and merchandise series, to create images that represented 1.) how I felt about the lack of visibility of bisexuality and lgbtq+ topics in the 2000s, and 2.) create paintings and accompanying products that in themselves are a representation of bisexuality and lgbtq+ perspectives. I believe these alternative narratives are more important now than ever. We live in a time when the Pride flag is increasingly co-opted for commercial use, with the key messages potentially lost.

I believe in the power of art and culture and sharing how you feel. I believe everyone’s voice matters, and that when you silence some people and not others through the means of censorship or otherwise, this is going to create a state of imbalance in communication that may unfortunately hurt people, and create the illusion of separation. I believe its all the same love, and I believe we’re all connected, and we’re all amazing 😊

Find out more:

If you’d like to find out more about the Bi in the 2000s merchandise, you can click the ‘Shop’ icon on the left hand side of this blog, or you can visit anna-frances.com/shop

🌈I’ve recently launched a Bi in the 2000s™ illustrative series, that explores themes around bisexuality (I identify as bisexual) and lgbtq+ visibility.
🌈I created the series to address the urgent need of representation of bisexuality and lgbtq+ communities.
🌈You can check out the Bi in the 2000s™ organic cotton merchandise on the website address below:

Merch🏳️‍🌈:anna-frances.com/shop

You can also find me on these platforms, where I post art, lifestyle, dance, music, healing and well-being posts 🌈❤️✨

Blog: anna-frances.com
YouTube: Anna Frances Healing
Twitter: @annafranhealing

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