Doctor Who exterminated my fears as a queer kid and I can’t wait for more LGBTQ+ representation

On the left: Mara Harris sits opposite a table. On the right: A young Mara Harris in a Darlek

Mara Harris, an ambassador for LGBTQ+ young people’s charity Just Like Us, writes for PinkNews about how Doctor Who changed their life as a queer kid.

My parents always love to tell people the story of the night the ‘reboot’ of Doctor Who aired in 2005.

I was three-years-old and sat mesmerised in front of the TV for the entire episode, barely even moving to blink. From that moment I was hooked.

I watched every episode as it aired. I cried when the doctor regenerated, and when companions left.

I shook with fear as all the aliens graced the screen (the Gelth really got me back in the day, apparently), only to be filled with inspiration when the Doctor would make an epic speech and save the day.

Having grown up, and rewatched all of the episodes with the knowledge I have of myself now, I have realised the show was such an important part of my queer journey, in so many different ways.

It exterminated the usual heteronormativity we see in TV shows growing up.

There were the small realisations that the strong feelings I had for the amazing women in the show (like Rose, for example) weren’t just me ‘admiring’ them or just ‘really, really liking’ them. They were my first little celebrity crushes.

I was 12 when Michelle Gomez took on the character of the ‘Master’, aptly renamed ‘Missy’, showing the audience directly that Time Lords can regenerate into any gender, as the Doctor would later go on to do.

Being out as non-binary now, I truly appreciate this aspect of the characters. It showed me that gender was as flexible as I wanted it to be. And it also showed me that gender was as important as I wanted or needed it to be, as there were so many other fun things and amazing qualities you can have outside of that.

LGBTQ+ representation throughout the show’s run helped me normalise queerness in all its forms as I grew up. Even now, when I rewatch episodes, I feel a sense of pride.

Ncuti Gatwa will be the first non-white lead of Doctor Who. (Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Brilliant bisexual characters like Captain Jack, River Song and Clara, who would casually mention the people they’ve been in love with and flirted with. People who had stories outside of their sexuality.

Wonderful lesbians like Bill, Vastra and Jenny, who got to have great romances with other women, yet were all brave, clever and funny in their own right.

Even minor mentions of LGBTQ+ characters, like the old wives in the Gridlock episode, all helped normalise LGBTQ+ people within a prime time family show.

Being able to watch a show as a kid allowed me to embrace my queer identity before waiting until I was an adult to get any kind of representation. It was so comforting.

Now I get to experience a sense of nostalgia, without sacrificing my identity and connecting with it in new ways each time.

Knowing that the man who rebooted Doctor Who was also a part of the LGBTQ+ community is everything to me. Learning that the queer moments I saw as a kid were included because the showrunner cared about having LGBTQ+ people in the show, and were not there as ‘tokens’ that ‘ticked boxes’ for people, made me care about the show even more than I did before.

From finding out Russell T Davies rebooted Doctor Who, I was able to find and watch other beautifully heart-wrenching shows he’s written that I have just loved. Shows like It’s a Sin, Years and Years and Banana.

All of them telling emotional queer stories, with queer actors at the centre. They truly are shows made by the community, for the community, which is still very rare to see.

Seeing the recent news that Russell T Davies is coming back to the show with Ncuti Gatwa and Yasmin Finney joining the new cast fills me with even more excitement and joy than I can properly express.

A new era with a gay man running the show and a trans woman on the cast showcase how successful LGBTQ+ people can be, and I’m sure the storylines will show that as well.

Just like three-year-old me, I’ll be watching with wonder when the new series airs (again, making sure not to blink in case I miss anything).

I know there will be many, many queer people like me doing the same, alongside a new generation of children who will, as I did, be able to watch the show, and find a home in it.

The future is here, and it will be fantastic.

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