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What I Learned From ‘Love, Simon’: Gay Is the New Straight

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“Love, Simon” is a gay teen romantic comedy coming out to theaters Friday, March 16. While attending an advance press screening of the movie, I felt so many emotions in such a rollercoaster motion. I could relate hard to the Simon character, even though I’m straighter than a stick. All I wanted for him in the end was happiness. When the movie ended, I felt satisfied and happy that the character could find love and peace.

But I started wondering how other teens will receive this? How can I let whoever is reading this know that this is a good thing? How would define what I had heard and seen?

Then, I got it. I understood now: Gay is the new straight.

The day after the screenings, I was one of the young reporters gathered at the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead to interview the shot-in-Atlanta film’s director, Greg Berlanti, and two of the leads in the movie, Nick Robinson, who plays Simon and Alexandra Shipp, who plays Abby.

Sitting down with these three as well as my two other VOX colleagues and college reporters Urvi Agrawal from the Emory Wheel and SCAD Connector reporter Allison Bolt made the whole experience seems slightly surreal.

  1. I was sitting in front of the man who has produced some of the best CW superhero shows of our time, including “The Flash,” “Super Girl,” “Arrow” and “Black Lightning.”
  2. I was sitting in front of two actors who I have seen time and time again; whether on what was once ABC Family or Lifetime, I grew up seeing them on screen.
  3. I was in a super fancy hotel that was super intimidating to be in, because I had never been in such an environment before.

So, yeah, I had nerves. Yet, once questions were asked and answered, I got comfortable. I really wanted to learn where their minds were, and how they perceived and reacted to their characters.

It seemed like some questions were easy for them to answer, and some, they stuttered. Some answers were intellectual, and others were just funny.

Watching the film, I had even forgotten the Simon character was gay until he kissed his soon-to-be boyfriend. I started to think about my generation and how we’re really comfortable with LGBT culture.

Yes, there will always be people who don’t believe in gay love and whatnot. But we’re getting comfortable. Talking with Berlanti, Robinson and Shipp really proved that.

“Before my work on this film began, I thought that you should be able to love whoever you want,” explained Robinson, who plays the film’s title character. “Someone close to me actually came out around the same time that we started filming, so I felt much better equipped to just have a conversation, and I hope that people take that away from the film as well.”

When he said that, I realized he was right. Movies, books and shows are now portraying gay people in a positive light, so it makes people want to have a conversation. Most people can’t relate to being gay, so now, young people are asking questions and learning about themselves that many generations before us didn’t know or experience. As youth, it’s OK to be free to explore who you really are and be OK with that. We live in a world where we are now becoming used to the LGBT community and we are accepting everyone for who they are.

From left: VOX staffer Destine Manson, Emory Wheel reporter Urvi Agrawal, SCAD Connector reporter Allison Bolt, “Love, Simon” actors Alexandra Shipp and Nick Robinson, VOX staffer Jasmine Martin, “Love, Simon” director Greg Berlanti and VOX staffer Kenneth Franklin.

“I have a lot of LGBTQ friends and family members who are gay, and so for me, it was more so about being honored to be a part of this educational process and to create allies within people who see this movie who don’t know very much about the community and don’t know very much about how to speak in the vernacular and things like that,” said Shipp, who plays Simon’s friend Abby.

So, from the observations of our world now, we see there is more support for not only people who are gay, but for people who don’t know or are unsure about the community. We learn how to become allies and support the people we know who are embracing who they are.

Added Shipp: “We can be so insensitive as human beings sometimes, and I think that this movie does show you — especially between Simon and his dad, you can really see that those little things that we say off the cuff when we’re thinking nobody’s really listening. Or we say, ‘Oh, you have to have a sense of humor.’ Well, no, things that you find funny actually hurt me. And so, when I got into this, this was definitely something where I can help now educate people. And people want to know, they’re just afraid to ask.”

Even though there may always be people who don’t support LGBTQ individuals, most people today do, and there is a sense of emotion and friendship that is taking place between straight youth and LGBTQ youth, because people want to learn and know what to do and how to support. It’s what’s happening now.

Reflecting over all of this has made me glad that a movie like this is coming out. It can help start conversations and answer peoples’ questions that they probably would never otherwise get to ask.

“Love, Simon” is a movie that can definitely help people not only embrace themselves but also help outliers, who want to know and learn. Bringing it all together, gay really is becoming the new straight.

Despite those who don’t want it to happen, LGBTQ people are a part of society and our culture. Whether straight or gay, we all are educating ourselves and becoming a stronger and more positive society for everyone.

So, you should check “Love, Simon” out. You’ll probably learn a thing or two.

Jasmine, 16, attends DeKalb Early College Academy and considers herself a quiet but loud social justice warrior.

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