James Dashner’s multi-million dollar Maze Runner sequel, Scorch Trials, came out last weekend, and never having read the book, I didn’t know what to expect. So when the characters were gradually introduced, I wasn’t looking at them as characters from a book, but as actors on a screen. What I noticed was fairly typical to Young Adult movie adaptations: a majority white cast, but a purposeful representation of racially diverse characters. Leaving the movie, however, left me with a different feeling entirely. I noticed that throughout the whole movie there wasn’t a single openly queer character mentioned. I hadn’t realized it because I wasn’t expecting one. Despite the growing number of openly queer characters in movies, books, television, and other forms of media, introducing a queer character still holds shock value.
First let me start by defining what ‘queer’ is. Queer, meaning strange or odd, was used as a derogatory term for homosexual men, but has evolved to become an inclusive umbrella term for LGBTQ+ (or MOGAI) people. Queer media has been rapidly growing since the 1990s, from Ellen DeGeneres coming out on national television in 1997 to filmmaker Wang Chao’s gay-centric film being shown in China. However, a rise in queer characters is simply not enough. We need to raise our standards.
Many people measure queer media using the ‘10% standard’. Since it has been estimated that nearly 10% of individuals are queer, we believe that only 10% of the media should feature prominent queer characters. This means that 90% of the media we consume will be void of queer representation, which is completely unacceptable. During the 2014-2015 primetime TV season, GLAAD estimated that only 3.9% of shows featured an LGBTQ+ character. Of those queer characters, 43% were women and 34% were people of color. To put it into perspective, that means that only 1.6% of television characters are queer women, and 1.3% are queer people of color.
You can also see these representational disparities in areas like school curriculum. Even outside of the United States, the civil rights movement and history of prominent Black leaders of the time are being taught to students, whereas the Stonewall riots are never mentioned. Throughout my middle school experience, I did not read a single book in which a queer character was mentioned.
This lack of queer characters also allows for a lack of intersectionality in media. Intersectionality was first coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in 1989, but it would seem as though the media still does not know how essential it is to diversity. If your aim is to represent Asian people, you have to represent different types of Asian characters, not just the stereotypical straight, shy and demure ones. Queer Black disabled women have just as much of a right to be represented as straight White abled men.
In summary, queer people are tired of being doled out scraps and then expected to be grateful. We are tired of cliches and harmful stereotypes. We are tired of our personal experiences and struggles being compared to other marginalized groups. We want intersectional, multi-dimensional, and positive representation, as it is the only way our society can move forward.

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