I watched the Netflix series with my husband heart stopper† A day later I felt happy and rotten at the same time. I turned out not to be the only one. In the global LGBTQI+ community, many people were equally moved by the series, and like me, they recognized themselves in the story and the characters. The series was familiar and healing at the same time, and gave me something I didn’t know I needed.
I came out when I was twenty-eight. That was thirteen years ago. But now the series turned out to bring out all the feelings, experiences and emotions from my childhood to my ‘coming out’ – for the first time in my life. Emotions I barely knew, events I could barely remember. And why? I’m happy, haven’t I been lovingly raised?
Then I realized.
Never before have I seen a series with and about different LGBTQI+ characters that is so optimistic, heartwarming and pure. Without misery, aggression, drugs, sex, diseases or clichés. heart stopper may a coming of ageseries about being a teenager, it is above all a series that normalizes being lhbtqi+.
The series won’t let me go. Raises questions in me. What if, when I was still in the closet, I had known another LGBTQI+ person? What if I had seen examples like one of the main characters seeing on the dance floor? What if an lhbtqi+ character had only appeared once in books, in teaching material or on television? What if I had a teacher like the one in the series? What if it wasn’t talked about so negatively back then, if it was talked about at all? What if there weren’t any well-intentioned “having a girlfriend” comments and no lame gay jokes?
Those kinds of comments, usually not meant to be hurtful, kept me in the closet—not out of fear of the reactions of those around me, but out of fear that my life would change. And I didn’t know what that life would be like.
In the series I also recognize the fear that people would think that I was ‘it’. And the fear of losing control of my story. You want to tell it yourself, but remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. No one can find anything of your identity or orientation. And if you want to tell about it, it’s up to you to tell people who are important to you, when you’re ready. Because it’s your story and your life.
Also read: Only gay actors in gay roles – is it time for that now?
Pure, vulnerable and realistic
The conversation that one of the characters in the series has with his mother brought out the most emotions in me. So pure, vulnerable, realistic and beautifully portrayed. And again I was not alone. This scene touches a lot of community members and brings back the most memories. Good and bad. In my case good. The enormous relief of not having to carry my big secret with me anymore, to no longer play that other role, was a tremendous release. And I felt it again. heart stopper offered me the processing and closure of my coming-out, which I didn’t know I needed.
I don’t blame anyone. Don’t regret my ‘late’ coming out because I can’t turn it back and it made me who I am today. In retrospect I would have done it differently if I had dared and if I had known what I know now.
It is sad that it took until 2022 for millions of people in the world to recognize themselves in a series or movie for the first time. Their identity, orientation, story, emotions and struggles are presented in a beautiful, loving, sincere and positive way. This allows many to give their feelings from their teenage years, or later, a place.
But what dominates me and the rest of the community is a feeling of pride and joy that the great Netflix has dared to make this. The cast is very diverse and the production team is full of LGBTQ+ people. You see and feel that. I think LGBTQ+ people are better understood through a series like this.
And most importantly, I’m especially happy that this will help today’s LGBTQI+ youth to find and be themselves. That they see that they can be who they are, that they can love who they want and how happy they can be.
Not seen and not heard
Many people who do not recognize themselves in ‘the norm’ have a callus layer. They don’t feel seen and heard. Worse, they have accepted that they are not always seen and heard. Representation is the most important thing people need who feel ‘different’. On television and in films, at school and in reading and study books, in the people around you and at work – in short, in society. No matter how small or subtle words, images, (re)actions are, they make a difference. It’s never too late to realize that. It is important to normalize LGBTQI+ happiness, to break down barriers and stigmas and to create a society that is more accepting of each other.
heart stopper is a series about teens, but it’s not just for teens. The series is a must see for everyone: all ages, every company, every school and for any identity or orientation. And for those who have children, look together! It makes more difference than you think.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of June 25, 2022