Writing Contest “Diversity” Pug Noses and Powerful Spices

Illustration Story für Zeitgeister
Illustration: © Tobias Schrank

What does a child feel who sees no children like itself in the cinema, in books or on television? Who is far too often busy trying to overcome distances? Only in the big city does Lara Shaker see herself represented and taken care of – and she is happy that diversity has become a little more “normal” in the meantime.

By Lara Shaker

When I was little, Disney princesses were all white, slim, blond and had little pug noses. So, I knew early on that my big, Kurdish nose would never attract a prince. And it was only later that I admitted to myself that I sometimes wished it might at least fascinate a princess. Nevertheless, back then diversity was already important to my eight-year-old self; it’s painful when your appearance is similar only to the wicked stepsisters. 

Later I was allowed to go to the cinema on my own, I was no longer dependent on TV programmes that only depicted the girls from school. After the third high school movie at the latest, it became clear to me that even in the cinema, I see myself at best as the “before” version in a typical comedy in which the main character transforms from the “ugly duckling” to a prom queen. Whereas ducks are beautiful animals, but I then turned my back on the film industry and lost myself in young adult novels that made me forget that I didn’t fit into society. 

At school I was considered special. The teachers praised me because there were only a few like me who made it. Where I come from, they always said. Ironically, none of them knew exactly where I came from. But it had to be far away, because my eyes are dark and when I unpacked my lunch, they felt compelled to open windows, because it smelled strongly of spices. A girl outed herself as bisexual in grade 7. To me it sounded like a serious illness, because from then on everyone kept their distance from her. In retrospect, I wish I’d had the courage to tell her how strong that actually was of her. 

Finally: Representation

It’s about six years later. I live in Berlin and shout “Support gay love!” with thousands of others at the Pride parade. My friends and I are perfectly normal here, maybe even dull, because this is Berlin, where diversity is a given. I exchanged my first kiss at a women-loving-women party, but I keep it a secret for a long time. Not everywhere can I talk about it out loud, not even to myself. 

The university closes during the coronavirus pandemic. I lose my familiar surroundings and feel lonely again, out of place. During the lockdown, I visit my parents back home. My little sister tells me about the new season of Sex Education. I ask her if it’s worth watching. I hear the series features several homosexual couples. “And there’s a new character who’s non-binary!” my sister reports. I’m glad that these are the heroes of her youth and wonder how I would have grown up if I too had experienced so much representation. I wish it for all children. Without diversity, there can be no normality.