Imagine being a child in a world where you’re only exposed to opposite-gender attraction. You’d then have to go to school with that bias while meeting new people, making new friends, and starting to develop a sense of what you’re interested in and who you like. Imagine that person being someone of the same gender, what it would be like to know and feel that it’s wrong to have these feelings for them. Those attractions would be so inherently uncontrollable that everyone would see it, casting judging glances that cripple your heart with doubt. Imagine how it would feel to have that doubt instantly alleviated when the person you’re attracted to just so happens to like you back.
If you’re an LGBTQ+ individual, and/or if you’ve seen the short film In a Heartbeat, you definitely have an understanding of how this feels.
I absolutely loved this short film from the moment it started to the moment it ended. It showcased the wide emotional spectrum of what it’s like to grow up while discovering thoughts in your head that no one prepared you for. It told such a complex, relatable story that has you smiling in one moment, crying in the next, and saying “awww” more often than not. In my opinion, it’s just the thing that kids, as well as the adults who are raising those kids, need to see so they can understand that same-gender attractions exist, and feel like they’re not alone in the process of discovering them. It’s so great to see these kinds of stories put out into the world, especially since it touched on such important issues targeted at a younger audience.
The most important aspect of In a Heartbeat is the fact that it centers around two middle school students. We’ve seen stories about boys who like other boys, where they’re discouraged by society to act in alignment with their identity because it’s not the norm. However, we rarely see stories where this is happening to someone who is so young. This aspect of the short film changes the commentary so much, because then it becomes focused on the struggles of discovering your sexuality during the earlier stages of growing up.
When you’re a kid who’s discovering that you might be attracted to the same gender, you find yourself in such a vulnerable position. You were basically told from birth that you’d get married to the opposite gender some day, so coming face-to-face with a situation that hurls those instilled views out the window is quite jarring. We see this in In a Heartbeat by seeing just how panicked the main character is as he tries to pull his blissful heart away from the love interest. Yes, we could easily point this to the typical “OMG I don’t want him to know that I like him,” but considering the judgmental glances he received when the students at school saw who he was attracted to, I think he feared some sort of consequence for his feelings. Kids can be so harsh when it comes to something they think is out of the norm, and seeing that scene in the film felt as if the creators were reminding us that these attractions, even innocent ones between two young students, are still treated with disgust. I thought this bit of realism clashing with the amount of fluff in the story was a genius way to draw out sympathy for people who may be in the main character’s situation.
The portrayal of the attraction as this happy, impulsive, excitable little heart was beyond perfect. Though I don’t feel that it spoke directly to same-gender attractions, I thought showing it as such an innocent character was a good way to remind people that being attracted to the same gender feels very similar to being attracted to the opposite. You get giddy, and all you want to do is talk to the person, but you have this dumb brain that sometimes delves into some grossly negative logic, holding you back from a rejection that might not even be there. It spoke to the power behind romantic love, and the blissful determination of the heart pursuing the love interest insinuates that our attractions are too powerful to stop. Whether it was intentional or not, it was such a subtle way to normalize attraction to the same gender.
If you read this whole post and somehow still haven’t watched In a Heartbeat, please do so. After you’re done, watch it again. After that, show a friend. Show your family. Show a neighbor. Show your pets. Seriously, show this video to all of your acquaintances. This short film is so good for anyone of any community to see. Straight parents of LGBTQ+ kids could benefit from it by seeing what they may go through among their peers. Straight people in general could benefit from it by understanding just how hard it is to come to these realizations about your sexuality. LGBTQ+ kids could have a protagonist to relate to, and see that they’re not the only ones who struggle with these attractions. I think it’s so important to have media like this for younger audiences, and if children’s films and TV shows continue down this route, we just may see a world where same-gender attractions are normalized, and maybe sooner than we originally thought.