You Can’t Just ‘Love, Simon’ Your Life

Before I came out as bisexual to my parents, I told my best friend that whenever I felt nervous about it or alone in my secret, I would watch a particular clip from the movie Love, Simon. After a less-than-ideal coming-out experience with his parents, Simon’s follow-up conversation with his mom is one of deserved acceptance and empowerment. “You are still you,” she tells him and then says, “You get to be more you than you have been in a very long time.” Every young person expressing their truth to loved ones wants Jennifer Garner to tell them everything is going to be alright. But as my friend put it that day, “You can’t just Love, Simon yourself like that.”

It could not be truer that coming out stories like the one in Love, Simon are just not attainable for some individuals. This points to a larger problem: most queer media tells stories that—while comforting, empowering or moving in its own right—are just not relatable to queer youth.

Some cliches appear time and time again in LGBTQIA+ movies, notably the “Coming Out is Hard” or “I’m Still in The Closet” variety. As someone who spent five years pretending I was straight, I won’t deny the power of these films. While the Netflix original Alex Strangelove’s main character explored the possibility of his bisexuality but ultimately decided he identified as gay, watching someone audibly consider and validate bisexuality was deeply empowering for me as I was finding out my own identity. Happiest Season might’ve seen one of its main characters struggling to come out to her parents, but it still provided visibility by becoming a mainstream lesbian Christmas movie.

One man with Pride flag, other man hugging him Samantha Hurley from Burst However, these coming out stories—while full of substance for those in the same position—often lack relatability. Love, Simon is still a source of comfort for me because of its perfect ending and radical acceptance, but chances are, your student body is not going to be cheering you on to find your secret admirer, and chances are your parents might not be as quick to find the perfect words like Simon’s mom. Similarly, Happiest Season falls short by closeting one of its main characters. While it is certainly a step forward to have an LGBTQIA+ Hallmark-esque movie at all, there remains an almost nonexistent genre of movies that feature healthy, prideful, realistic queer couples as main characters. While coming out stories provide support for those struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, these stories cornering the market of queer representation leaves out couples wishing for their own stories to be told.

A perfect solution to this problem is difficult to formulate, especially since the already existent queer movies don’t get enough funding and audience as it is. However, there are still movies that do it right. Booksmart includes no grandiose coming out, no stories of conversion therapy or affairs, and while it is not necessarily an LGBTQIA+ movie, one of the main characters is gay. The movie focuses on two best friends’ night to remember, but Amy’s quest for young love gets so many things right: the awkwardness of new experiences, the speculation as to whether your crush also likes girls and the rush of reciprocated feelings.

If more movies focus on realistic queer central characters rather than simply qualifying for the “LGBTQIA+” category on Netflix, greater representation is sure to follow.

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