Blog #3: Swift Spark and Representation

By now, there’s less than 50 days left until the campaign launches. We’re also about halfway through Pride Month, a month centred around the LGBT+ community. A month where corporations feel the need to make money off of us by turning their logos into a rainbow variant for a few weeks, only to never acknowledge us throughout the rest of the year.

I said ‘us’. I myself am part of the LGBT+ community – I am a twenty (21 soon)-year-old transgender man. I am also biromantic and asexual, meaning whilst I do not experience sexual attraction, I am romantically attracted to both men and women.

I grew up in an unaccepting environment. When I was young, my parents were vocally homophobic. By no means as bad as some parents, as I still live with them even though I’ve been out as bi and ace since I was 13. And it seems like my parents are learning to be less homophobic as they now have both a son and a niece who are part of the LGBT+ community (although the ‘they have a son’-part is still a difficult concept to grasp).

I was bullied off my first high school for liking girls after the same people that bullied me in elementary and middle school joined the school. And if it hadn’t been for this new high school, where I met other trans and gay people in my class, I probably would’ve believed the straight people in my life that were telling me there was something wrong with me.

I came into my sexuality at the forefront of a new era where the LGBT+ community became more accepted. Gay marriage wasn’t even legal in the USA before 2015. In the UK, it became legal in 2013. In Canada in 2005.

Even in my home country, The Netherlands, it has only been legal for a few months longer than I’ve been alive – April 2001.

And what’s worse – there’s European countries where it’s not legal to be married to a same-sex spouse. Switzerland will be legalising it next month.

But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s accepted by everyone. LGBT+ people still face issues every single day, and lawmakers are still trying to pass laws that threaten our rights to exist. Childhood heroes are actively speaking out against us. Thankfully, there’s more people in support of us than against us, and we hope that balance doesn’t tip in the other direction.

To bring this back to Swift Spark and the Defense Five – I grew up in a time where LGBT+ representation in media was nearly unheard of. Especially in family and children’s media.

Of course it’s okay to ask when it becomes ‘appropriate’ to introduce gender identity and sexual orientation to a child, but when it’s behaviour that enforces ‘traditional gender roles’ and straight relationships, it’s not even thought about twice.

Kids need to be able to see themselves represented in the media. Be it gender, race, sexual orientation, disabilities, or anything else – no child should feel like they are abnormal for any reason.

This is what Swift Spark and the Defense Five strives to do. By producing our series independent from studios and distributors, there is no one telling us what to do. No one can censor our content.  Shows like The Owl House and Gravity Falls are two popular examples that have attempted to tell progressive storylines, only to be shut down – one was forced to change the storyline, the other was completely cancelled.

I don’t want my vision to be compromised because some conservative might get upset. I don’t want to change who I am for this conservative, either – and no child should be made to believe that they should, either.

This means that more than likely, going independent with this series is the only way it’ll truly come out as intended, telling the stories I want to tell without having to cover anything up for ‘sensitive’ right-wing eyes to cry over.

So be it – it is time for a wind of change to blow in the animation industry, and perhaps the film industry as a whole. It is time to stop pandering and to accept this part of our world as a normal, accepted piece of the puzzle that shouldn’t be forced to change its shape.

Looking at the ‘core cast’ of Swift Spark and the Defense Five, which I consider to be 10 of the most prevalent characters that are involved in the majority of the episodes, 6 of them can be considered LGBT+ in one way or another.

But this doesn’t mean I intend to have any of them be ‘token’ characters – characters that are there for the sake of being, without having any merit to the story. Most of the characters will just ‘be’, without ever drawing any attention to who and what they are. It is not necessary to acknowledge the LGBT+ community with fanfare and confetti and fireworks – we just want to exist. But we want to be more than just a background character that shows up for 24 frames in a movie, only for people to still freak out about the fact that we’re even there.

We deserve to have our stories told just as anyone else. And if that means we have to make our own, then I’m not afraid to be one of the people to do so.

Swift Spark and the Defense Five will handle topics I struggled with as a child and teenager, things I learned as an adult which I wish I’d known about sooner. I wish I’d grown up in a more accepting environment and hope to be able to take part in the creation of this new world for the future generation.

If you think representation matters, you should follow our Kickstarter. Independent cartoons tell real stories, rather than stories that have been fine-tuned and perfected to the just adequate, milquetoast levels that are acceptable according to executives.

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