I was 12 -- slightly chubby, painfully awkward, and hopelessly crushing on a neighborhood girl called Mia -- when Talia Winters, a character on an American science fiction television show Babylon 5, was programmed with a "sleeper" personality that effectively killed her.
Ms. Winters was a member of the Psi Corps organization assigned to the titular 5-mile-long space station to serve as its second resident telepath. She was beautiful and smart. Oh, and she was bisexual.
I remember crying uncontrollably but failing to verbalize why her death impacted me so profoundly. I was too young then to explain that Ms. Winters' implied relationship with Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova offered an escape from my gloomy reality of growing up queer in Bosnia and Herzegovina -- a post-communist country widely touted as one of the most tragic examples of how unrestrained chauvinism can result in a massacre of an entire community. Remained by newspapers and electronic media, political discourse and everyday conversations of how good I had it because I survived a four-year-long war, I felt incredibly guilty whenever I gave in to my desires and dreamt of a world that wasn't about just surviving; a world that would allow me to be happy, one that would not frown upon what I had felt for Mia; a world to which Ms. Winters provided a glimpse into.
I clung onto this dream of a different world three years later when, after I moved to Hamburg on a sporting scholarship, a pretty girl called Anna noticed me looking at her and in crippling panic yelled "dyke" during a school assembly. I kept dreaming at 18 when, following a series of drunken kisses in seedy Stockholm bars, I wrote a love note to a colleague -- a note she later posted on work bulletin board with "homo" scribbled on it. Still, I trusted that life could be better and I desperately needed shows like Dark Angel, Xena the Warrior Princess, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to tell me I was right. But what I got instead was a narrative in which characters I identified with were unlikely to stay alive for more than a few episodes let alone get their happily ever after. In fact, gay and lesbian characters are so frequently killed on television that they have their very own trope -- Bury your Gays.
Imagine then how refreshing it felt to be given a show like CW's The 100 that built its credibility around not only a seemingly progressive take on LGBT relationships but also an open promise to treat the community with respect by avoiding the pattern of killing lesbian and bisexual characters perpetuated recently by True Blood, Scream Queens, Supernatural, Orphan Black and Chicago Fire.
The show was initially delivering on its promise -- capturing beautifully the slow evolution of a relationship between Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey), the commander of the Grounders clan, and Clarke (Eliza Taylor), the leader of a group of juvenile delinquents sent to Earth to see if it is survivable. However, the turbulent episode entitled "Thirteen" that aired on March 3, 2016 put a halt on their budding relationship as Lexa was killed by a stray bullet right on the heels of her sleeping with Clarke. For many, her death became another example of a well-known trope playing itself out and it hurt all the more precisely because The 100 had held itself out as a beacon of positive LGBT representation.
Fans worldwide revolted. Their sense of betrayal and disappointment echoed in a massive LGBT fans deserve better campaign -- outcry that was tweeted close to 300,000 times in just a few hours. One fan wrote, "LGBT fans deserve better because after some time it starts being hard to see ourselves die/never get a happy ending." Another commented, "How about LGBT storylines that aren't infused with death or heartache."
Rousing these and similar sentiments was only the start of the campaign as fans promoted a fundraising drive for a suicide prevention charity, "The Trevor Project," which is aimed at LGBT youth. The drive raised $35,000 in less than a week. A fan who donated $300 wrote, "After the episode aired, [...] suicide hotlines were being passed around like wildfire. The hope for this story, for these two characters, to be treated with honor and respect was snatched away in a matter of seconds. To all of those who lost their will to live, who needed someone (fictional or not) to be there [...]; this is for you."
I donated too thinking that Lexa's death wasn't just ridiculous and sloppily handled; it was also deeply rooted in a far too familiar narrative of pain and misery I would have accepted years ago as a queer kid who surrendered to being sad. But not anymore because I deserve better and it is high time television shows recognized this fact.
To find out more about "LGBT fans deserve better" got to -- www.lgbtfansdeservebetter.com