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Media companies take a more progressive stance on gender

By Aysha Mahmood
On February 24, 2014

More now than ever, media has grown more and more progressive in terms of the way it represents gender and sexuality. Facebook, for example, recently added 50 new options for gender identity, allowing users to finally select something that accurately reflects who they are. Ranging from pangender to genderqueer and even intersex, the choices Facebook has included accurately reflects the diversity and differences of this day and age.
The addition to such a popular social media site encourages a more LGBTQ user friendly environment and acceptance among those who identify as being something different than themselves. For people that have struggled to stay in that "male and female" box, the ability to say who they really are to their friends and family is one of relief and confidence. It's also worth noting that users now have the ability to choose the pronoun they'd like to be referred to publicly, (he/she/or the gender neutral they.) Too often, we address others of being a male or female, but hopefully with the new terms added, we can address people properly and become more informed of the term they identify as being. This addition of terms can help combat the stigma associated with being transgender or androgynous and is ultimately a reflection of how progressive our generation has become.
Not only have changes been made online, but television shows, especially for children, are also becoming more liberal. The show "Good Luck Charlie" introduced Disney Channel's first openly gay couple before ending their final season. According to the company's statement, "The episode was developed to be relevant to kids and families around the world and to reflect the themes of diversity and inclusiveness." Although the aftermath of the show resulted in threats made to the several of the actors, Disney has taken a step in the right direction. The hundreds of thousands of kids that watch this channel will know it's OK for someone to have two moms or two dads. For those who actually have gay parents, the episode is a chance to reassure them that their family is just another one on the block. Differences aren't bad, but instead should be embraced.
Disney has also recently reflected these views in its recent hit movie "Frozen." The movie features Jonathon Groff, the first Disney prince to be voiced over by an openly gay actor. If that wasn't significant enough, the movie also presents a scene with a gay couple. The character of Oaken, the man that owns the shop in the mountains, is suggested to be gay. When he turns to say, "Hello, family!" what appears is not a woman, but a man - a man with three children nonetheless. Like "Good Lucky Charlie," Disney has once again reassured children of gay couples that these types of families are normal. Not only are they normal, but these families are also presented as having positive characteristics. They are overall happy, caring and often times rather humorous.
"Frozen" was No. 1 in the box office for weeks and the fact that so many young people have watched it will hopefully result in a more accepting and tolerant attitude towards people different than themselves. Of course, "Frozen" is just one movie. But all movies, even Disney ones, can be seen as political; and the political message Disney has taken here is a subtle but strong one. The Walt Disney Company has been around since the 1920s and for a gay actor to be voicing the hero along with the presentation of a gay couple, however short its presentation was, is such a significant event.
2013 was a year in which Disney took huge steps to include more diverse characters, which makes me curious to see what Disney has up its sleeve for this upcoming year. With its progressive route, I have to wonder, is it finally time for a gay Disney princess?
Even if that idea isn't currently on the table, there's no doubt media has progressed in showcasing gay characters. Since media is a reflection of society, I would like to say the increasing amount of differences of people I see on television is representative of the progressive attitudes of gender and sexuality in our communities today. Movies, television, and even social media sites, have a way of breaking open the door to the sheltered and presenting people with different views and perspectives other than their own.
In hopes of becoming a more tolerant and accepting community, social media sites and television alike should look to these examples and produce material that continue to reflect that diversity. I really do believe that our generation is growing up to be the most libertarian of its kind. And I for one am proud to part of it.

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