Sandy McIntyre Is Determined to Cast More Queer People in Australian Media
For the sixth year in a row, POPSUGAR is dedicating the month of June to recognising LGBTQIA+ voices, having honest conversations about sexuality and gender, and honouring individuality, through first-person interviews and allyship guidance. The POPSUGAR team is sharing these stories throughout the month, so be sure to find all our pieces here.
Representation is crucial. Without representation on frequently consumed media, we have no basis for what is considered ‘the norm’ and while we can argue that the media doesn’t impact us; it definitely does.
Even if you’re careful to only consume the media you believe in, there is a lot of media that is outside of our control, such as billboards, video advertisements, ad pop-ups online, the music playing in shopping centres and cafes… that subconsciously influence our knowledge what is ‘trendy’ and ‘acceptable’.
Therefore, queer representation in mainstream media is crucial, and actor, producer, writer and model, Sandy McIntyre, hopes to make it happen.
Having worked as a television producer, making reality and lifestyle programmes within Australia for the past six years, Sandy is passionate about visibility when it comes to LGBTQIA+ and low socio-economic representation within the Australian media.
“I noticed a pattern early on, where it was acceptable for there to be queer producers but not queer content, purely because the ‘format’ doesn’t allow it or it’s ‘not appropriate’ for a 7:30pm time slot (yes, this was said to me),” Sandy tells POPSUGAR Australia.
“While I was working in this space, I was getting pretty down because I felt uncomfortable making shows that weren’t reflective of the life that I and so many others live. So, I created Queerful.”
Queerful — an online space — is a multimedia platform that allows Sandy to personally produce the content they adore, while simultaneously providing a platform for others within the LGBTQIA+ and cis/straight community to share their experiences.
Currently a website, the space aims to be a platform for creation within the community, whether it be video content, podcasts, music, TV shows, articles, short stories… you name it, Queerful hopes to be a space where queer stories can thrive.
Some of the best platforms and online spaces created come from a personal yearning for that place. All the best ideas are found by people who recognise a gap that needs to be filled, and in Sandy’s case, it was a noticeable lack of queer content in media representation.
Not only is Sandy passionate about creating an online space for queer stories, they also changed career paths in order to cast more people from the LGBTQIA+ community in Australian media.
“Because of how I was feeling in the production world, I decided to shift into the world of casting, so I had the opportunity to place LGBTQIA+ individuals in a program that allowed them to share their whole story and for their gender identity or sexuality to not be their identifier,” Sandy says.
“Us queers are often seen as ‘labels’ as opposed to fully formed individuals existing in society. I’m proud to say that I’ve since cast many individuals within our community and have also acted as a consultant, to ensure the cast and crew were educated when it comes to working with those who exist outside of the binary.
“I also introduced pronouns within email signatures at one of Australia’s leading networks and am making my acting debut on a television program later this year playing a non-binary person (that’s all I can say but I feel incredibly honoured).”
Casting in Australia is an overlooked space that lacks diversity and inclusion. A recent survey showed that 66% of Australians say they watch reality TV and 34% lie about watching it. That’s 90% of our population glued to these programs, but how often have we seen a queer person cast in these shows?
If we think on one of the most popular reality TV shows in Australia, Married At First Sight, there’s only ever been one same-sex marriage, which was between two women; and portrayed in quite a damaging way to fit the popular stereotype that lesbians are possessive and controlling.
Even when we think to popular TV shows in Australia, like Neighbours, Offspring, McLeod’s Daughters, Packed to the Rafters… we’ve seen minimal to no queer representation within these huge commercial programs. In Australia, important stories of diversity and queerness are found within independent spaces, which although those spaces are amazing, representation on a national scale is so important.
“The importance of having any story told authentically and safely is essential and there needs to be authentic representation in casting when it comes to queer roles. For certain shows to say that ‘the format doesn’t allow it’ is lazy, because we have the resources to change that. We can rework certain shows to ensure everyone has a place to exist within it,” says Sandy.
“The more queer representation we have on our screens means that there is a higher chance for our existence to be normalised and therefore protected. I’d say three times a week, I’m still discriminated against on the street and I know that queer representation on our screens will reduce that.
“I’d say the key factor is that we’re missing queer bodies in the room when these decisions are being made. We deserve a microphone and seat at the table to ensure that others realise that we’re not trying to take anything away from them, instead we just want to join the party. We’re a part of the world. It’s 2022 — we’re here to stay, to be seen and heard.”
Sandy’s own journey with queerness is ongoing. They initially came out to their mum while watching the OG Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and was thankfully met with love and acceptance. They asked her to keep it as their secret until they were ready to come out completely. She passed a month after their 18th birthday, and Sandy only recently found out that she never told their dad.
“Growing up in Campbelltown was a tricky situation. I understood from the age of four that I was an ‘other’. I was keenly aware that I was living in a world that wasn’t built for me and from then on, subconsciously went into survival mode until I knew I was safe,” Sandy says.
But even then, they used fashion as a way to express myself and to demand respect. From a very young age, they had a fascination with waist coats, noticing that every character in a film or TV show that was respected seemed to always be wearing one.
“I’d go to the local op shop with my mum and have one for every occasion; pre-school, family gatherings, weddings… because in them I felt untouchable.”
Sandy’s queer liberation commenced at 20, when they moved to London. Like so many of us who don’t feel like we belong, when they found themselves surrounded and embraced by like-minded people, they were able to realise their power, strength and vulnerability. They were at the very beginning of their journey, and the space they’re at now, took years to create and evolve.
“It wasn’t until my ex came out to me as non-binary in November 2017 that I discovered a whole new part of my own identity. Part of my journey involved me taking time out to invest and understand who I was (beneath the waistcoats!) at my core,” Sandy says.
“In October of 2020 I wrote a piece on Queerful entitled ‘Far From Manly’ where I came out as non-binary. I used the safe space that I had created to be honest with not only myself but with those around me.
“I’m incredibly blessed to feel safe with the community I have around me and to work in an industry who listen when I have a suggestion. Yes, it’s daunting but being queer you unfortunately get used to having to validate your identity.”
Everyone’s journey is different and none of them are straightforward. Although figuring out who we are can feel so endless and exhausting and overwhelming, there’s no rush to get to the finish line. I mean, once you get there, then what?
For anyone who is reading this article, and perhaps struggling to come to terms with or define their identity, Sandy just wants to say that they adore you.
“The best thing you can do, is go and seek community and resources online. There is a wealth of knowledge available and content creators online who allow you to learn and come into your own within your own time. It’s important to recognise that this is your journey and your journey only and it’s okay if it takes you a moment to figure out your next move,” Sandy says.
“It’s also important to mention the wonderful organisations available to us in the form of Minus18, Qline, Black Rainbow and Headspace to name a few.”
The time is now. Not only because it’s Pride Month, but because you deserve to settle into who you are, without shame or endless questioning. The best way to find yourself, is to experience the things you’re drawn to and to share your truth within a safe space of like-minded people.
“Pride is being inspired, hopeful, ecstatic and in a complete state of wanderlust. It’s to understand our worth and acknowledge those who came before us. It’s to celebrate diversity, inclusion and love!”