I'm a firm believer that media representation has a huge impact on how we see the world.
That's one of the reasons I campaign for diversity in TV and movies. There's perhaps no better example of why representation matters than this lovely post from an Orphan Black fan/Tumblr user "Her-insect-reflection," which was shared on the show's official site.
In the post, she explains how Orphan Black helped her mother better understand the LGBTQ community.
First a little context: Orphan Black has been much praised for its LGBTQ representation. The show stars Tatiana Maslany as a group of cloned women, and one of the characters she plays is a lesbian scientist named Cosima, who is in a relationship with a woman named Delphine (Evelyn Brochu). Fans often refer to the pair as "Cophine." Another protagonist is a gay man named Felix (Jordan Garvis). And in one second season episode (which I wrote about here), the show introduced a brand new clone who is a transman named Tony (also played by Maslany).
With that in mind, read the full post here:
So I've know that Tony was important, like known it and preached it, but it wasn't until I was watching Orphan Black with my mother and could see her reacting to Tony for the first time that it really hit me how important this character is. Not only is he offering representation that we rarely see, but I had the chance to see one individual's whole perception of a minority group shift today.
My mother didn't handle my coming out well, but over the years she has come around. She loves and supports me, but she has continued to struggle with the LGBTQ community as a whole. She's reached out and tried, and it's been through TV shows (and books) and mutually loved characters that we've been able to rebuild our relationship. Last year when I recommended Orphan Black to her because it was so important to me, things changed forever.
First it was her love of Cophine. Out of everything that I had suggested she watch, that she read, or sent her, Cophine was the first same-sex couple that she actively shipped (without knowing what shipping was). She wanted them to be together. She wanted Cosima to be happy. She wanted Delphine to stand up and declare her love. I saw my mother change in the way she talked about my girlfriends and my friends. She saw how normal and how okay and how beautiful it all can be.
Second it was her love of Felix. It wasn't just me any longer. It wasn't just cute femme lesbians that appear on TV. This was a gay man that my mother fell in love with and absolutely adored. This was a character that engaged in sex work and drugs to pay the bills. This was a character that is so overtly sexual but is also soo much more than his sexual orientation. I saw my mother open up and accept a wider range of people into her life. I saw her stop using slurs and derogatory language. I saw her stand up and defend complete strangers.
And lastly it was her love of Tony. Tony changed everything. I saw my mother struggling at first, but as the episode progressed, I saw her slowly fall in love with him. She had her questions; Felix answered some, Tony answered some, and I answered some. This character was in one episode, but he impacted my mother the most. She sat there and reflected over her past comments and actions. I watched as she realized how insensitive and oppressive she had been. I watched as she worked through correct pronoun usage. I watched as she struggled with the realization that sexual orientation, gender, and sex are so much more complex than she had allowed herself to comprehend in the past. I watched her come to the realization that the question of surgery wasn't the most important part of this story or this character. I saw her come to realize how hard it must be for Trans* identified people to work in our current binaries. I saw my mother's world change.
And for the first time, my mother turned to me and apologized. She apologized for the conversion therapy she tried to put me through, she apologized for the preaching about sin and hell, she apologized for suggesting I was mentally ill, she apologized for pushing me out and away, she apologized for missing soo much of the last 10 years of my life, she apologized for not getting it and for not loving me like she should have. For the first time since I began to realize that I was gay, my mother and I were able to communicate and have a moment. Tony Sawicki just changed everything. My relationship with my mother won't heal overnight because of this, but it has begun to, and because of that, I will forever be grateful to Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Garvis, and Orphan Black for the opportunity to reclaim this relationship.