#20GAYTEEN: LGBTQ+ in Mainstream Media

Kit Lam (text)

Caitlin Ison (graphics)

As an member of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s always reassuring to have people to look up to. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find an someone of representation when you live in Asia. The idea of LGBTQ+ has been such a taboo in Asian culture for a long time, which makes it especially more difficult to find examples. However, it is 2018, and there has been an increasing amount of LGBTQ+ representation in all media, especially in Asian media. It’s not a lot, but it is an improvement on the amount of representation there is.


The more recent positive events that put the LGBTQ+ community in the spotlight of Asian news includes that India legalized gay sex and that Hong Kong’s legislation just announced that same-sex marriages made overseas would be recognized, granting them the same rights as heterosexual couples in Hong Kong. I’ve been researching and there are support groups for members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as LGBTQ+ legislators fighting for rights. Pride parades are held yearly in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Taiwan currently recognizes partnerships, but the LGBTQ+ community has been trying to move forward for the push of the legalization of same-sex marriage; however, recent news articles indicate that conservative groups have been trying to delay legalizing marriage equality. I have heard nothing but love from my Taiwanese friends, knowing that most of them will vote in support of same-sex marriage in recent events. In Vietnam, same-sex marriage is legal; however, these couples do not have the same rights as straight couples. It seems like that Asian culture is not very accepting of the idea of LGBTQ+, but trust me when I say that there has been more improvement in recent years than there ever was.

I have not noticed much Asian queer representation in Asian entertainment content. There is Holland, a gay K-Pop idol who performs songs on the feelings of homosexual relationships in South Korea, a country that has not been particularly known for being friendly with members of the LGBTQ+ community. In Hong Kong, one of the most well-known broadcasting companies, TVB, created the role of a transgender woman in the drama Legal Mavericks; however, the character was played by a cis-gendered female.


As there is not much LGBTQ+ representation in Asia, I had to heavily rely on Western culture, mainly through entertainment. There are so many characters on television nowadays who are a part of the community, including Captain Raymond Holt and Rosa Diaz on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Kevin Keller, Cheryl Blossom and Toni Topaz on Riverdale, Alex Danvers, Maggie Sawyer and Nia Nal from Supergirl, and a couple of the characters from Orange is the New Black just to name a few. The whole Queer Eye franchise is based off of gay men (and the trust of their style). Ellen DeGeneres is constantly promoting pride and equality on her daytime television show, always reminding her audience “To be kind to one another.” In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of artists who have come out of the closet. Some of the names that I can think of when I link music to pride include Lady Gaga, Troye Sivan, Sam Smith, Kehlani, Demi Lovato, Halsey, and Hayley Kiyoko. Of course, there are many more.

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As a Kiyokian (Hayley Kiyoko’s fanbase), I must dedicate a paragraph in this particular article for her (sorry for the bias!). Fans have nicknamed her Lesbian Jesus as she has done an amazing job in advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. Hayley released her debut album this March and has been calling this year #20GAYTEEN. She’s half-Japanese, half American, and represent queer women of color. She is an absolute inspiration and that’s why even though we may not have grown up around the same culture and environment, she is someone I can relate to - she is a true Asian queer representation that I absolutely adore and look up to!

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Transgender individuals have been more accepted in recent years. I came across a video on Facebook the other day from Mic Dispatch, which was about transgender men modeling. I remember the first time I actually saw transgender representation on media, which was not really that long ago. I think Laverne Cox being able to play the role of Sophia Burset on Orange is the New Black was my first impression that transgender individuals can actually thrive in any area, but also be comfortable in their own skin. I hope that the entertainment industry continues to keep an open mind and give more chances to people whose normal are not based on societal standards.

I want to emphasize the need for individuality, whether LGBTQ+-related or not, through two quotes from people that I admire.

  • Chella Man: ”Be your own representation.”
  • Chella Man is a deaf genderqueer artist that goes by the pronoun he/him. I have massive respect for him because he is a deaf, Jewish, half-Chinese transgender. He is someone that I can relate to very much. His quote means so much to me as I somewhat feel trapped in my cultural norms and expectations, and through that, I should rise as my own representation in a society where there are not as many people like me.

  • Kim Namjoon (RM of BTS) United Nations' Generation Unlimited speech: "No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, gender identity, just speak yourself.”
  • BTS is a K-Pop group that I have been following since 2014, and their songs are usually concerning of modern society’s issues (including LGBTQ+ issues). I have found comfort through their songs when I feel down. Although this quote is not specifically targeted towards LGBTQ+ issues, I think it can be linked to the topic of individuality. Often society makes people lose themselves, and people put themselves into the molds that are created by cultural ideals. Individuals have to first learn to love themselves - accepting themselves for who they are, and then be able to speak for themselves - being brave enough to express yourself.

There are more positive LGBTQ+ role models in the media now than ever! I think this also shows that if more and more celebrities can come out to the public and be true to themselves, or show their support for the the community, this shows that maybe the world is becoming more acceptable and respectful of each individual, no matter the sexuality, gender identity, or however people identify!


Haru Sukegawa

a thing about Lisa