You’re no different

Disney Channel’s decision to include a character coming out on “Andi Mack” is a big step for the network, and it’s important for LGBT+ representation in the media.

In a dimly-lit café, Cyrus confessed he wasn’t happy for his friend. She was officially together with the guy she liked, and he was jealous. When Buffy, his other friend, asked if he liked her, he shook his head. Then it dawned on her: “You like [him].” Cyrus’s response: a nod.

And thus history was made.

(Disney Channel)

Disney has never had a lead gay character in one of their live-action shows before Oct. 27, 2017. The closest they came in the past was featuring two moms on an episode of “Good Luck Charlie” and some minor queer characters on Disney XD cartoons. Not only does it show that Disney itself is becoming more progressive, but it’s important for the kids watching the network as well.

Growing up, I didn’t have any gay characters on TV to look up to. Granted, I had no concrete idea of my sexuality at that point in my life and I didn’t watch “Glee.” I thought my feelings when looking at the guys on magazine covers and wondering if boys at my school looked like that were feelings to be ashamed of. I still liked girls and thought they were cute. Or at least I tried to. I “dated” a girl in junior high while unconsciously burying myself under hampers of clothes in the closet I was making for myself. Maybe liking boys was only something to be fetishized by some of the girls who dominated the boys’ love anime and manga scene. Maybe it was for guys to use if they were promiscuous. I couldn’t do that. Where would I fit in?

[I was] unconsciously burying myself under hampers of clothes in the closet I was making for myself.

— Luke Reynolds

If Cyrus had existed when I was younger, I would’ve realized something pivotal: I am not alone. There’s someone my age that feels the same way I do. He might be fictional, but he still feels real. Besides, what if this guy is actually the testament to other kids? Wouldn’t that mean there are other boys who like boys or girls who like girls out there? That means I’m truly not alone.

Although I didn’t make the realization I was gay until last year, I’m thrilled Disney will let kids watching “Andi Mack” know that liking the same sex isn’t different from liking the opposite. Love is love, no matter what. They need to know that from a young age.

Love is love, no matter what. [Kids] need to know that from a young age.

— Luke Reynolds

It’s a good thing we’re in a changing climate in terms of LGBT+ representation as well. Authors have started writing books for younger readers featuring characters who identify as members of the community. Parents are wanting to learn what it represents. Kids are finding themselves more and more curious about where they stand and why some of their peers like certain people. Now is the best time to let LGBT+ voices educate people about what they stand for and let those who are insecure or afraid to be confident in their valid emotions.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be controversy. Disney’s decision has been met with backlash from parents who believe the network is “supporting homosexuality.” One group, Million Moms, called for a boycott on the show, saying “By choosing to move in the direction of more ‘adult’ stories and content, the Disney Channel … may be choosing to sacrifice something far more precious…children’s innocence.” The conflict has even reached outside the United States. The president of the Kenyan Film Classification Board banned the show from airing in the country due to his and his culture’s belief that “children must be given correct information that family is a union between people of opposite gender.”

Disney has complied with Kenya’s wishes, pulling the show throughout the country and the surrounding area. In an official statement, they said, “While our shows are developed for global audiences, we are committed to respecting each market’s cultural sensibilities, compliance rules and regulations.” But that still makes my heart sink. It’s unfair to the children who identify themselves as anything except straight in those countries to not be told their journey is shared and okay. They are confined in places where they can be charged as criminals and even killed for engaging in homosexual activity. No one should have to face that, regardless of their beliefs.

(Walt Disney Records)

While it’s important to understand other cultures, persecuting humans just because they love genders that oppose the norm isn’t okay. We are all the same underneath our gender identity and sexuality; we are flesh and bone, blood and pumping heart. We can love whoever we want no matter what those in the homophobic society put in our way. Disney, who I never expected to recognize LGBT+ individuals, took that step. God bless them. Our world is changing to become a place that welcomes those of all different types. I’m happy Disney Channel is opening their doors with “Andi Mack.”

Updated at 10:11 a.m Nov. 30 with infographic by Fatima Kammona.