Love, Simon & Coming Out

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

“When you were little you were so carefree. But these last few years, more and more it’s almost like I could feel you holding your breath. [...] You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in a very long time.”

Last week, Her Campus York U writer Rowan O’Brien shared some of her thoughts about the new film Love, Simon, and how she could relate to it as someone who was closeted in high school. This week, I will continue in this vein, and talk about my own thoughts on Love, Simon, and what the film got right about the experience of coming out in high school.

Photo via IMDb

Love, Simon, based on the novel Simon vs. the Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli, tells the story of 17-year-old Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), who hasn’t told his family or friends that he is gay. When Simon develops an online friendship with another gay student at his school, a classmate finds evidence of the email correspondence and uses it to blackmail Simon. When Simon refuses to further tear apart his friend group for the benefit of the blackmailer, the emails are leaked and Simon is forced to confront the consequences of his secret being revealed to the whole school.

When I saw Love, Simon in theatres, I expected  a light-hearted, hokey coming-of-age story of Juno (2007) or The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) sort of influence – and that is exactly what I got. Love, Simon was everything I love – and everything I hate – about its genre. Though at times it felt like much of the dialogue had been picked out of a random lottery of pop culture references, Love, Simon was also heartwarming and genuine in a way that queer stories are often not allowed to be.

My main critique of Love, Simon is that it felt like the straight person’s queer movie. Its marketing framed the film as a movie that everyone could relate to. Simon, we were assured by all promotional material, is just like us, whether we’re part of the LGBTQ+ community or not. This is a nice sentiment, but I wish it hadn’t resulted in a movie that felt like watered down version of some of the great queer teen movies (think But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)). Despite this, I think the strengths of the film lie in its depiction of coming out in high school.

I came out when I was around the same age as Simon. I was in my final year of high school, approaching the brink of adulthood, and finally coming to terms with my queerness after years of placing it on the backburner. I’ve seen a lot of coming out stories in film and in television since then, and very few of them get it right. What I love about Love, Simon is that even though it’s the story of one boy’s coming out journey, there’s a universality to it that many queer people can relate to.

Source: IMDb

One of my favourite scenes in the film takes place just after Simon comes out to his family. We see him exploring his new life as an out gay person; Googling how to dress like a gay men, trying on new clothes, and explaining to Blue, his online crush, the “newness” he is experiencing. When I first came out to my family and close friends, I remember feeling that same newness. I wasn’t a different person, just as Simon is insistent that he doesn’t want his family to see him differently, but I felt like  a new version of myself. I started to feel more comfortable talking openly about my crushes and dressing a little more masculinely.

In another scene in the film, and arguably the most tear-jerking one, Simon’s mom (Jennifer Garner) addresses his coming out. She describes it as Simon finally getting to exhale after years of holding his breath. This is something that I really connected with as a queer person who has had the experience of coming out. After years of feeling confused, and in many ways, ashamed of my identity, finally telling my loved ones that I’m queer was relieving.

Source: IMDb

Love, Simon doesn’t do a perfect job of representing all types of queer experiences, but it cannot be expected to. The truth is, everyone’s coming out story is different. What the film accomplishes, despite its flaws, is providing a sweet, romantic story for a marginalized group that often do not get to see themselves in these types of movies. In a world where many LGBTQ+ youth still do not feel safe to come out, Love, Simon is a small beacon of hope. Due to its popularity with mainstream audiences, Love, Simon gives me hope that more queer stories can be told in mainstream media.