Queer stories in film and TV are difficult to find. Happy queer stories are almost impossible. Queer cinema and the storylines on our TV screens too often end in devastation. Are these the stories we deserve to be hear? And who is qualified to tell us them? Nine times out of 10, when I finally find queer content to consume I can’t help but feel like the representation I’m being sold as relatable to me just doesn’t click.
Gay roles go to straight men, lesbian roles go to straight women, trans roles go to cis people and so on. I always find myself wondering: Is this representation real and is it enough? I know that cisgender, heterosexual people are too often labelled queer icons whenever they’re the lead in an LGBTQ+ movie, meanwhile openly queer actors have a difficult time landing big budget roles where they’re able to portray their identity.
So, if queer roles played by straight, cis people are beginning to feel exhausting instead of revolutionary, where do closeted teens like myself go to find the non-fictional queer stories we are deprived of in real life and on our movie screens? To know that when we are watching someone be queer, it isn’t just a job and an act, it’s life and it’s attainable? YouTube has been that place for me. More specifically, I’ve found a sense recognition in two queer science educators on the platform.
Mitch Moffit and Greg Brown run AsapSCIENCE, a YouTube channel with 8.1million subscribers and an aim to spark an interest of science in everyone. They’re also gay and in a long-term relationship, which they often talk about in their podcast Sidenote and on their second channel Greg and Mitch.
Mitch and Greg simultaneously make videos and podcast episodes about science and LGBTQ+ issues. They also extend their inclusive discussions to intersectional feminism, indigenous struggles, the refugee crisis and gun control, to name a few. Always making sure to amplify the voices of other minorities and shine a light on controversial topics most people are too afraid or too lazy to talk about.
Their discussions about gender roles and toxic masculinity resonate with me. I’ve always been afraid that I’ll lose the parts of my femininity I connect with when I’m able to embrace traits that are deemed masculine. But through educating me and unapologetically embracing their own femininity for their audience to see, they’ve allowed me and other viewers/listeners to understand you don’t need to lose one to gain the other. Femininity and masculinity aren’t two opposing forces, they work together and embracing them both can make us more complete, secure people.
This is just one of many examples of them using their ability to research information as a positive force in the world, and this is the first time I’ve seen science co-exist with queerness and social justice in this way.
Mitch and Greg have created a compassionate environment on a platform that is anything but. Despite many women, POC and queer YouTubers, there’s still a huge preference for straight, white, cis men. Especially those who have no interest in embracing empathy or creating a safe space.
This lack of representation exists especially in the category they fall into on YouTube - science education. Of course, they’re men and this comes with a lot of privilege in science. But this is something they’re aware of, and it’s something they talked about. They don’t shy away from discussing important things even if it makes a large portion of their audience uncomfortable or angry.
They’re not just great role models for LGBTQ+ people, they’re great role models for LGBTQ+ science lovers, specifically. By thriving in this space they’re paving the way for young queer scientists.
I never wonder why I connect with them so much, or what inspires me to continue to run social media accounts dedicated to them for almost 2 years. The feeling is always apparent and stays with me. Their comfort within themselves both as individual educators and as a loving couple and their willingness to share their life experiences online has allowed me to find a story, a real story, that makes me hopeful and that makes me happy.
Many others and I now see people like Mitch and Greg who we identify with on our screens, and we can relate to them as people, not just characters in a story.