As part of the Hop Against Homophobia blog hop (http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com) in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia (May 17), I have been asked to talk about my perceptions and experience with homophobia. As a writer, I think the place where you can gauge social issues best is in the everyday entertainment that people seek out on their own.
In 1995, when I was still in medical school, I remember seeing a news story on how a popular soap opera, All My Children, was going to be featuring a storyline containing a gay male character, Michael Delaney. Out of curiosity, I set my VCR (remember those?) to record the show, and began to watch. The promised storyline was of a high school teacher, while discussing the Holocaust, who reveals to his class that he is gay (http://youtu.be/m63fRN2cdI8). He was immediately canned from his teaching job (of course), and the major characters did an interesting dance of taking sides on whether it was okay to be gay, especially if one has influence over young minds. Eventually, after a polarizing storyline that culminated in a murder trial, he gained a measure of acceptance from several of the major characters. One of his students, Kevin Sheffield, came out during the storyline and faced the retribution of his family, which eventually led to a storyline about gay “deprogramming” (aka conversion or reparative therapy). He also eventually found a measure of acceptance.
That was all well and good, and the show’s writers should be praised for their efforts. But what was the fate of those characters in the long run? The teacher was written out of the show after two years, followed by the student. I think that says more about the audience’s acceptance of the show’s message than anything else.
Fast forward to 2005, and another gay soap opera storyline came to my attention, this time on As the World Turns, when the son of one of the power couples, Luke Snyder, falls for his straight best friend and comes out to his parents after going to various extreme measures to conceal his orientation in the face of his father’s growing suspicions (http://www.youtube.com/user/MarkDutchViewer has posted most of the episodes of Luke’s story). After an intense internal conflict, his family eventually comes to accept him wholeheartedly. Of note, the best friend rejects him and their friendship more or less ends.
So what happened to that character? He remained a regular on the show, and in 2007 a love interest was created in character Noah Mayer. The two of them went through many trials, but remained committed to each other in spite of them, until they finally broke up in 2010, though they continued to interact through the course of Luke’s next relationship (Luke and Noah’s story was faithfully chronicled by http://www.youtube.com/user/LukeVanFan). The two gay characters remained series regulars from their introduction though the entire remainder of the show’s run, until it went off the air in 2010.
What a difference a decade makes! In 1995, the AMC gay storyline was a flash in the pan, but in 2005, the ATWT storyline was fully incorporated into the mythology of the show. That’s progress, but there’s still a long way to go. Witness the passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One by 60% of the state electorate. My thoughts on THAT particular travesty are here. Complacency only leads to retrenchment of opposition to the GLBT community’s right to exist as equal citizens in a modern and civilized society.
As a writer who employs a number of gay characters, set in a society that accepts them without question, I hope I may have some small part in erasing the blight of homophobia on our social conscience. Please feel free to leave a comment below. I will perform a random drawing from the comments submitted up until May 20th, and award the winner with a free print copy of my first book, Sunset (should he or she desire it). Please include a valid email address when you post (it is not necessary to include the address in the text of the post itself), and I will contact the winner for their shipping details.
(Note: I reserve the delete comments from my site which are needlessly abusive, flagrantly inflammatory, or contain obvious advertisements.)
Don’t forget to take a look at the thoughts of the other participants in the blog hop at http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com.