a word about representation

Allrighty, so, here’s a thing: I track the Danny Mahealani tag (people who know me are having a very hard time containing their shock right now…) and have for about a year, and I love how busy it’s been recently. But I keep seeing a particular kind of post tagged with him that’s been bothering me, so I want to address it. Some disclaimers to keep in mind: I have no inherent issues with Sterek, I fully support people shipping what they want to ship and hoping it will be canon. I’m not telling anyone they should stop doing the things they enjoy. Knock yourselves out!

But here’s what I keep seeing: posts about why Sterek should be canon that focus on the idea of queer representation — ie, it would be amazing for Teen Wolf to show two “straight” characters are actually queer by getting Stiles and Derek together — which briefly address the notion of Danny as positive queer representation and then write him off — “I love Danny, Danny’s great, but he’s just a minor character.”

So let’s be clear: I love Danny! Danny’s great! He’s just a minor character!

He is also a big fucking deal and his existence is genuinely important, when it comes to representation. Yes, even though he is a minor character. Here’s the thing: Danny is a gay man of color on TV aimed at teenagers.

Those are really rare. Like, really, really rare. In any kind of media, anywhere. And that’s a huge problem.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that my real life job is in the HIV field. Recently, I attended an event that was examining the rising rate of HIV infections among young, queer men of color. How bad are those rates? Really bad: the CDC just released a report that if rates continue current upwards trends, that out of all of the gay and bisexual men of color who are college age right now, half of them will be living with HIV by the age of 50. The rate of new diagnoses in young gay and bisexual men between 2008 and 2010 increased 22%, and over half of all new diagnoses are among African Americans. (Latinos are the second most affected group. Danny is neither of those, obviously; he’s Hawaiian - but through most of the last decade, Asian & Pacific Islanders’ rate of new diagnoses increased steadily while all other ethnicities in the U.S. declined, and A&PI folks have the lowest rate of HIV testing of any ethnic group in the U.S.) 

Anyway, point is, two of the panelists — both themselves young, HIV-positive, gay men of color — mentioned in their comments that they never had any sense of community. In fact, according to my hastily scrawled notes, what one of them said was: “When you’re a gay man of color, it’s like you don’t exist. ‘Gay’,’ and ‘man of color,’ are not concepts that are linked in our color. And if you feel like you don’t exist, why bother to protect yourself?”

It’s no exaggeration. The two communities are often presented as if they’re against each other - remember when Prop 8 passed and the media decided it was because black people don’t like gay people? Which 1) was never anything but ridiculous, but 2) also implied that there was no such thing as someone who was both gay and black. 

The panelist’s point wasn’t just that it was rare, it was that it was isolating. It actually hurts people. The lack of community means a lack of support; it means a sense that you’re the only one dealing with things, and having no one to turn to. It means prevention and safety and other health message aren’t reaching you. It means you are at higher risk for things like HIV.

We all know TV as a whole is pretty white. The reason there is a channel that is explicitly targeted for African Americans is because everything else is implicitly targeted to white people. It’s already really rare to have a general interest (read: assumed audience is majority white) show with a POC lead.  So when we think “gay character,” let’s be real, most of us probably picture a white dude. When there are gay characters on TV, that’s generally who they are. That’s what we see. Default white, default male, strays from default in sexuality! (And this does not even get into many, many other facets of identity, for example, how cisgender is such an assumed default that a lot of people don’t even know that it’s a thing at all.)

When we’re talking about representation, we need to remember: white and male shouldn’t remain our culture’s defaults any more than straight should, and the fact that they are cultural defaults is hurting people. Danny, as a character, is important because he is a character who is both gay and non-white. Yes, he’s a minor character — and I think we all know how I feel about his increased role this season (spoiler: my Danny tag has been “moar danny always" for ages) — but that does not mean he isn’t incredibly important, just by being on the show in the first place.

So when you talk about why it would be important for representation to have Stiles and Derek be queer and get together, hey, do your thing. Just please don’t brush off Danny’s importance, because he’s actually already providing a kind of representation and affirmation that neither Stiles nor Derek ever can. 

1 year ago · 242 notes

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    I agree with this which is why they should make Danny a main character. I still would like to see Sterek, but for...
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    So, I do not really watch this show hardcore, but relevant post is still relevant.
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