Representation and diversity are topics that, at this point, you’ve probably heard of. It has been proven that representation of identity in media directly impacts our self esteem. When you grow up not seeing characters in media who are similar to you, you start to believe that they don’t exist. That you’re the only one of your kind. You internalize this. Everyone internalizes it. And then you are treated like an outsider in real life. You are treated like you are, indeed the only one of your kind. And you’re treated like maybe you just shouldn’t exist. In fact, there is a term for this phenomena: social annihilation.
If you’re a person of color, disabled, LGBTQIA+, a religious minority, an immigrant, a woman—you most likely have tried to assimilate to survive. You’ve probably also learned that assimilating does not work. It kills a part of you—an inherent part of your core identity—to make others feel comfortable.
It sounds terrible, right? It is. We don’t want future generations to go through the pain we’ve gone through. So we need to change it. We need to show accurate representation, and normalize the inclusion of minorities in everyday life, as well as in the fantastical. We need to amplify minority voices so they are being heard, because we all need to hear them and listen!
Embracing your own identity is a double-edged sword. With self-acceptance comes liberation, but with it comes awareness of our erasure in the world. Here’s an example.
Growing up, I loved going to Barnes & Noble to spend the day browsing books and magazines on the shelves. It filled me with joy and inspiration, and because I lived in a small suburban town with very few businesses, it was a rare occurrence. I read constantly as a child, would devour anything I could read.
I went to Barnes & Noble for the first time in a while recently. I’m now 29. I came out of the closet 10 years ago. I’m still coming out as non-binary. I’m aware of who I am, I accept it, and I seek voices similar to my own to read (selfish? Maybe, but don’t we all do this?). I wanted the thrill of wandering and a book jumping off the shelf, perfect for me. I approached books by genres, bestsellers, alluring covers, prize-winners; any and every classification. I cracked books from names I’d never heard before. But the content, the stories—I couldn’t relate.
A story about a woman getting pregnant. A story about a woman running off with a man. A story about a bunch of cis-het men where the author pretends no one else in the world exists. A story about biological ties. A story about motherhood.
I felt a deep sadness. I left without a book. I had walked into a huge bookstore with an open mind and a willingness to spend my money on whatever caught my whim. And I couldn’t find a single book whose story I could relate to.
There are so many more people like me—so many people more othered by society than me. We exist, we exist in large numbers, and we write. So where are our books? Why aren’t they bestsellers?
It’s exactly this situation that should motivate all of us to write about our lives and experiences, and support each other. Write the content you want, no, need to see. And buy the content you want to read when you find it.