Television, movies, and streaming services provide an endless supply of great LGBTQ+ storytelling. Along with new premieres, we can access older materials and see how representation has grown (see A History of LGBTQ+ Representation in Film). With everything from ten-minute shorts and episodic storylines to multi-season shows and full-length movies; from cartoons to documentaries; in all genres and languages; and with more out LGBTQ+ actors, directors, and writers having their artistic voices heard; there are more opportunities for all ages to enjoy LGBTQ+ stories.
That’s why it’s infuriating that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ “Parental Rights in Education” bill (HB 1557)—often referred to as the Don’t Say Gay law—aims to deprive children of accessing many such opportunities. Under this Florida law, educators who simply teach about the existence of queer people can be penalized with suspensions or full revocation of their licenses. Instead of trusting trained teachers and faculty to identify what materials are “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students,” the legislation gives full control to parents (often the loudest ones) to ban whatever makes them uncomfortable. It neglects the discomfort felt by students questioning traditional gender roles, handling attractions, expressing themselves, understanding their friends, and figuring out who they are. Schools and families should be working together to support children’s development, not hinder it.
Originally, I had planned to share a list of recommended LGBTQ+ films for children, but I realized (a) there are so many I need to watch (adding to my streaming queues now), (b) there are so many ways to categorize and critique them (i.e., age range, length, genre, release date, screentime or focus on LGBTQ+ characters, positivity vs. pain, etc.), and (c) I would only be able to judge from my limited perspective. For example, I couldn’t get into Steven Universe: The Movie (2019) because it was too bizarre and cheery for my taste, but maybe that’s perfect for a ten-year-old who watched the animated series. I loved Pride (2014), based on the true story of gay and lesbian activists supporting a miners’ strike in 1984, because I enjoy those British actors and am familiar with that time period, but it’s more for teenagers than children due to violence and risqué language. And lists keep forming as more content is produced, especially for pride month this June. XO, Kitty (2023), a ten-episode series spin-off of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before young adult books and movie franchise, hasn’t made it to most lists yet though it does a good job of depicting the emotions associated with coming out to friends, family, and oneself. It also shows the challenge to connect with a deceased parent and culture you barely know.
Common Sense Media has useful sections for parents and educators, movie and television ratings, and lists like movies with LGBTQ characters. Romper shared 15 Great LGBTQ+ Movies To Watch With Your Kids and Life Hacker collected 13 Animated Movies That Will Get You Fired in Florida (some banned movies include a “blink and you’ll miss it” reference to a same-sex couple). For teenagers and young adults, check out Good Housekeeping’s 45 Best LGBTQ+ Movies Ever Made or do your own search.
One important theme in many LGBTQ+ films for children and teens is the fear of coming out to one’s parents or anger of them not understanding you. While some movies focus on creating new families with those who accept you, many recent films are role-modeling how parents can be more caring and supportive. Love, Simon (2018) has touching scenes where Simon’s parents reassure him that not only do they love him, but that he will find love because he’s worth loving. It also includes a comedic montage of teens coming out as heterosexual to their devastated parents to show how odd it is that straight is considered the default in society. Its spin-off series Love, Victor (2020-2022) addresses a more complicated relationship between Victor and his Catholic Latino parents and grandparents. There are also stories like The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021) and Strange World (2022) where the main characters don’t need to fear coming out as their parents are cool with their queerness and same-sex or nonbinary partners. The fathers in these films do still need to accept that their children have different interests and skills that are just as valuable as their own, showing that communication can always be improved (and is needed for survival).
Instead of banning LGBTQ+ movies, parents should watch them and discuss with their children or in groups with other families. They can learn about other perspectives, listen to each other, enjoy entertaining stories, and better understand the world we share.