"I'm having a proper, full-on gay crisis!"
Watch Heartstopper actors Kit Connor and Joe Locke explore London for a Netflix video
Warning: contains spoilers
“I’m having a proper, full-on gay crisis!” Nick Nelson exclaims the morning after he’s googled ‘Am I gay?’, kissed a boy for the first time and scored 62 per cent in the ‘Ultimate Gay Quiz,' in a moment that feels so relatable to me, at 24 years old.
As I write this, it’s been a month since Heartstopper was released on Netflix. An adaptation of Alice Oseman’s graphic novels, Heartstopper has quite rightly taken the LGBT+ community by storm. It feels like a breath of fresh air. Finally, a queer romance in a mainstream television show that isn’t overshadowed by death or trauma, or some other stupid trope that LGBT+ people are tired of seeing. It’s real – at least as real as a fictional show can be. But there are so many moments that our community can finally relate to.
Growing up, I didn’t have any positive representation for understanding my bisexuality. The first time I asked what ‘gay’ meant my parents hushed me and told me I’d find out when I was older. Boy, did I find out!
The moment you realise you’re LGBT+, you then start looking back on your youth.
Moments that should have been so obvious that you were gay weren’t obvious at all because there was no representation to show us that it was allowed. I remember the first time I listened to Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ and thinking, "Wait, you can do that?" Now, at 24, I look back on the times I spent being jealous of both Beck and Jade in Victorious not knowing which one I wanted to be and which one I wanted to kiss, or the moments I spent obsessing over Emma Watson, or Hermione, thinking I just really really admired her. I have so many moments so glaringly obvious to me now but I was so blatantly unaware of back then, moments that I’ve now seen Nick Nelson go through in his character arc - like his confusion as he stares at both Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom knowing he should be crushing on the one but wondering if he also fancies the other. His "full-on gay crisis" was so cathartic for me to watch as it gave me hope and gives me hope for the next generation. If I watched that at 12, would I have known sooner? Could I have lived my bisexual fantasy at high school just as he’s doing in the TV show? Will it allow the younger generation of questioning queers to realise and embrace themselves earlier and quicker? I can only hope!
Listen to 'I Kissed A Girl' by Katy Perry
A moment that I found most peace watching (ironically, through tears) was the moment in the final episode that he finally comes out to his mum. The conversation was so pure and reassuring and almost verbatim how I came out to my own mother when I was 17.
Although the heartfelt moment is more poignant in the televised version, my mother’s complete and total acceptance of who I am was utterly and totally a breath of relief – as it is for Nick in the show.
I look back at other media that I’ve felt this release through watching. There’s only one other event I can think of that comes in Love Simon when he comes out to his mother, and she tells him that he can "exhale now” after holding his breath in with a secret for so long. Again, another heartfelt and totally accepted moment between mother and son. But why, out of the countless rom coms out there, do I only know of these two moments to relate to? I’ll admit I haven’t seen every pride movie that exists but in Brokeback Mountain one of them dies and I could never get my head around why everyone loves Call Me By Your Name.
I love seeing queer representation in a lot of media and was so happy the first time Willow and Tara kiss on Buffy, like the iconic Villanelle and Eve kiss in Killing Eve and even the relationship between Ellie and Dina in The Last of Us II. However, in the interests of preventing any further spoilers, let’s just say as happy as these moments make you, they’re just moments. They rarely become anything further and mostly end in some kind of disaster.
Which is why Heartstopper is so refreshing. No disaster. The first time I watched it I was just waiting for the plot twist (maybe Nick will kiss a girl and try to hide his identity, Charlie will go back to his manipulative ex, or Harry, the homophobe, turns out to be gay). But an unfortunate plot twist never arrives. You sit and wait for the gooey, pure, happy moments to turn but they just… don’t. So, what you’re left with is just… gay people… existing… and being happy about it. It’s almost fantastical!
Heartstopper finally has the representation I dreamed of when I was younger. I hope young people will watch it and realise their experiences aren’t weird or abnormal, but rather something to celebrate - something to run into the sea and declare at the top of your lungs! Just like Nick Nelson.