I have long believed that the best way to change attitudes toward gay people is for gay individuals to live our lives openly without drawing unnecessary attention to our sexuality. That is, we treat our sexuality as just one aspect of who we are. We let our friends and family know that we’re gay, bring our dates (or spouses) to social events just as do our straight counterparts, but don’t bring up our sexuality any more than they bring up theirs.
I hope that the media adopts a similar attitude towards gay characters. That it let us know that they’re gay, but otherwise show them living their lives with joys and struggles similar to those of straight people. One reason I think Ellen DeGeneres‘ 1990s sit-com slid in the ratings after she came out was that it made too much of an issue of her sexuality. Had it perhaps not focused on her sexuality (as Will & Grace (at least the episodes I saw) did not focus on Will’s), it might perhaps have attracted a larger audience. (I’m not the first to make this claim.)
With that in mind, I offer one cheer (but not more) to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for promoting today’s episode of the CBS soap opera As the World Turns where “teen character Luke comes out to his parents, Lily and Holden.” I am delighted that a popular daytime drama would introduce a gay character.
That said, I don’t think GLAAD’s Public Service Announcement (PSA) which aired after the show will do much to help. Instead of asking that people become allies and friends to LGBT people, we should just let viewers experience the character and his relationships to his family and straight peers. As they get used to a gay character, they will see his sexuality as just one aspect of who he is — and see openly gay people in general as part of the fabric of contemporary society.
Regularly seeing gay characters on their favorite shows, people not already favorably disposed to homosexuality will likely start developing more positive attitudes towards us. I feel this PSA tries to force the issue rather than allow people’s attitudes to evolve gradually, naturally. When people’s attitudes so evolve, they become more genuinely tolerant, accepting even, of gay people.
I witnessed this with my family as well as with Republican colleagues. Because I came out and then continued to act as I had before I was out, they saw that coming out did not cause me — and by extension other gay people — to conform to narrow stereotypes they may once have had. As a result, those stereotypes crumbled.
Rather than put out this PSA, GLAAD might better the community by making sure that Luke does disappear from the show now that he has come out. (Which they may already be doing.)
It’s a very good thing to have a gay character on a show where the principal characers are straight. Those who regularly tune it to Will & Grace are likely already favorably disposed to gay people. Those not so favorably disposed wouldn’t watch it anyway. When a soap opera — or any TV show or movie for that matter — which appeals to straight people portrays a gay character in a positive light, it does much to correct social misunderstandings of our sexuality.
I am thus delighted that Luke Snyder came out today on As the World Turns and commend GLAAD for promoting the episode.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com