Love, Simon: If Only Coming-Out Really Was That Easy
WARNING: Spoilers for Love, Simon below.
Love, Simon is funny, charming, and a positive film for many people in the LGBTQ+ community. This movie had me leaving the theatre with a bounce in my step, high on the fact that I just saw a romantic comedy with a gay protagonist. The future is well underway. However, all that being said: we cannot forget that a lot of our LGBTQ+ youth do not have the support our protagonist had.
Love, Simon is a coming-of-age coming out story that centers on the protagonist, Simon, a high school senior with a loving family who lives in a lovely suburb that could be anywhere in America (but it’s actually in Georgia). He stops to get iced coffee every morning with his best friends on the way to school. He’s not one of the popular kids, just a nice guy who has a minor role in his school’s theater production of Cabaret. He’s your typical high school kid.
When someone from Simon's high school anonymously posts online about being gay, Simon emails them with his own secret: he’s gay, too, and no one knows. He and Blue—the pseudonym for the mysterious gay kid— begin to email back and forth, relating their experiences of being closeted to one another and ultimately fall in love.
We were anxious with Simon when his classmate Martin found out his secret and blackmailed him. Tears threatened to fall not only when Simon was outed anyway, but when his friends also abandoned him. Then, we felt even more emotionally undone when Blue, his mysterious email pen-pal, told Simon he couldn’t talk to him anymore. We sighed with relief when Simon’s parents stopped being awkward around him, and we cheered when Blue revealed himself at the Ferris wheel. The happy ending had everyone leaving with warmth in their hearts and positivity in their minds for more LGBTQ+ representation in the future.
Simon had a story that felt safe and had a great ending where everything worked out for him. He comes out to his family and they are accepting (if a little confused at first on how to proceed), and even though his friends are mad at him, they aren’t mad that he’s gay, but that he lied to them as a result of being blackmailed by Martin (fuck Martin). Not at any point did I feel that Simon was in danger, that he was going to be kicked out of his own home, that his friends would be weirded out by his being gay, or that he would be physically assaulted by his classmates.
The worst thing that happened to Simon was the scene where the school trolls made a production on a cafeteria table about Simon and the other out gay kid, Ethan. Simon is immediately rescued by the drama teacher and the bullies have to apologize—which incites a positive moment, where Simon and Ethan get a few minutes to bond over the difficulties of being out as gay. Add to it that he and his friends make-up and he finds out who his secret email love is. It’s all just so good and positive and pure.
One of my favorite moments in the film was when Simon was emailing Mr-Mystery-Gay about how he might come out and be proud when he goes to college. Cue musical dance sequence outside a college dorm with Pride flags abound. This moment stuck with me because I often felt the same way that Simon did. Ever since I was in elementary school, there was a rumor that I was a lesbian. It was a rumor that would follow me until I graduated high school. I always denied it for many reasons, but it was mostly because I was afraid that I would be bullied worse than I already was. I oftentimes entertained the idea of coming out in college as bisexual (and later pan, when that term came under my radar) because I would be away from the people I feared. The Pride posters adorning Simon’s dorm room walls, along with the flamboyant choreography made light of his reverie, but man, I’d been there and it felt so good to be seen by this film.
The LGBTQ+ community faces a lot of trauma on the daily, and it’s nice to have something like this where everything works out. But this is not the reality for many LGBTQ+ youths. Simon’s family was supportive, but 57% of youth who are out to their family are frequently verbally harassed. His friends did not care that he was gay, and they even waited by the Ferris wheel cheering Simon on while waiting for Blue to reveal himself. Yet, 60% of LGBTQ+ students who are out at school are called names or verbally bullied. Human Rights Campaign also reported that 30% are afraid to come out to their families because they do not feel safe—that’s nearly 1/3 of LGBTQ+ youth. Around 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+. Simon was a white protagonist, but Black LGBTQ+ people are 1.3x more likely to experience hate-based violence than their white counterparts.*
Love, Simon was a positive story, which is something the community needed during these trying times. It’s good that the movie didn’t capitalize on the trauma we in the community frequently face (the term gayngst exists for a reason,) and instead made something that we can laugh and cry with over and over again without needing to drink afterward. So, let’s use the good vibes generated by this film to raise awareness about the issues LGBTQ+ youth face.
Hopefully, the world will change and everyone can have a coming-out story as wonderful as Simon’s.
* All statistics found through the HRC website, notably the 2017 National Coming Out Day Youth Report.