8:02 am EST, June 28, 2016

Petition calls for Disney to honor Orlando victim by making him ‘Star Wars’s’ first LGBT character

There’s a beautiful petition online asking Disney and Lucasfilm to make Orlando victim Drew Leinonen the first LGBT character in the Star Wars movies.

His name was Christopher Andrew ‘Drew’ Leinonen, and he was one of the 49 victims of the horrific Orlando shooting on June 12.

Drew was also a friend of IGN Comics editor Joshua Yehl, who has started an online petition on Change.org asking Disney CEO Bob Iger and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy to immortalize him in the next Star Wars film — as the saga’s first ever LGBT character.

In the petition video, Yehl not only explains why his friend deserves this honor, but he also emphasizes the very real need to normalize LGBT humans on screen, in order to create a ripple effect in the real world.

Yehl mentions both Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) as great examples of representation that isn’t only matter-of-fact (meaning the narrative doesn’t try to ‘justify’ or ‘excuse’ their inclusion), but also adds something positive to the story.

And he’s right. We need minorities on our screens exactly so they stop seeming ‘other,’ and while Hollywood is slowly beginning to bow to the pressure when it comes to female and POC characters, the lack of LGBT characters in big franchise films is frankly astonishing. Last year, Disney had a grand total of zero LGBT characters.

“This is a universe with Wookies, Jawas, and Hutts, so why can’t there be a visible LGBT character on screen?” the petition reads. “It’s vitally important that LGBT people are included in mainstream media because it will show that we don’t need to be feared or hated or hidden. We can be part of the rebellion and we can fight evil, and we can do it while being who we are with pride.”

Related: Is Star Wars setting up Poe Dameron as its first queer protagonist?

And really, those words could ring true for any franchise, whether it’s Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or Harry Potter. While TV is doing marginally better on the inclusion front, we’re still left with a media landscape where LGBT characters either die en masse, or are invisible. Neither option is acceptable, and neither option reflects a world we want to live in.

This petition is a wonderful example of showing how art can, in fact, inform and reflect real life.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our righteous desire for artistic integrity, we forget that art ultimately serves as a window to the world, and that sometimes, we need to blur the lines to give reality a little nudge in the right direction. Normalizing LGBT characters on screen will help audiences get over their fear of the ‘other’ this community represents. And, just maybe, there’d be a little less hate in the world as a result.

“This tragedy happened because of hate, but Star Wars is something that unites people,” writes Yehl in the petition. “So fulfilling this request would only serve to bring more love into the world, and that’s what Drew was all about.”

So help #PutDrewInStarWars (hey, he can be Poe Dameron’s boyfriend, since we’re still holding out hope that he is, in fact, an LGBT character). Let’s tell Disney we want them to honor the memory of Drew Leinonen, while also taking an important step towards LGBT inclusivity. Sign the petition right here.

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