It’s safe to say that ex Dance Moms star, teenager JoJo Siwa, has a fair few titles under her belt. Sold out arena tours. 12 million YouTube subscribers. Global merchandise collections. Time’s 2020 list of the 100 most influential people…in the world. And she recently opened up about her sexuality. With a massive following, particularly amongst young children, this came as a massive win for the LGBTQ+ community, most especially for queer youth.
Siwa has announced she doesn’t feel the need to label herself and has said that she chooses to “keep things in [her] life private until they are ready to be public” which, I can only imagine, allows for a sigh of relief amongst her young followers who may also be struggling with their own identity. Her handling of her coming out is commendable for a 17-year-old constantly in the public eye, as it’s not only a testament to her own level of maturity, but also demonstrates to people all over the globe how much power comes with embracing the infinite unknowns of our individual identities.
Now, JoJo Siwa doesn’t owe anybody anything. But possibly the most inspiring aspect of her coming out is that she knows this. She is aware of this. She hasn’t crumbled to any sort of pressure or felt as though she needed to squeeze into a mould of what child stars should look like, or what LGBT people should look like. Watching her claim a space for her queerness because that is what makes her feel most whole, most content, leaves open a door for future generations of children to own their truth, not because they’re expected to, but because they want to.
And so, with all of this in the front of your mind, now for the hopefully shocking and genuinely depressing facts that prove the monumental importance of having LGBTQ+ representation in the worlds of our children. In Britian’s schools, 45% of LGBT pupils are bullied for their sexual and/or gender identity; half of LGBT pupils hear homophobic slurs ‘frequently’ or ‘often’; and just 1 in 5 pupils will learn about same-sex relationships during their school career. And, of course, an honourable mention to guidance given to education providers by the Department for Education stating that schools will be required to consult parents on their relationships education policy (leaving just enough leeway for your average homophobe to deny queer children equal access to the sex education and support that their fellow classmates receive).
Children having idols matters. It is important. Dare I say, vital. But having idols that not only are seen to embrace their true selves, but also have shared experiences with today’s youth, is crucial. Having real people live out their authentic lives gives children around the world the courage to do the same. Queer representation has come a long way, but nowhere near far enough. JoJo Siwa has made a lot of children feel seen and feel heard, and I think that is a greater measure of success than anything else.
Live your truth. But most importantly, let children live theirs. Without question. Without doubt. There are worse things that could happen – the kids are alright.