Thursday, October 16, 2008

Acceptance in the 21st Century

Society has changed a lot in the last 50 years. We've gone from seeing only white men on TV to seeing people of every race and religion - and most people accept that as the new norm and are happy with the results as it is a more realistic reflection of the diverse society in which we live. We have come a long way, but there is still a segment of the population that is not always getting positive press/reviews and that is the gay community.

There has been a lot of buzz lately on The Y&R Wiki and other message boards, about the possibility of one of the teen characters being gay. Some posters are appalled at the thought and have said they will quit watching if that happens. I feel badly that so many people are so closed minded to the realities of society in the 21st century. Patty, who is one of my friends on the Wiki put it in perspective beautifully;

"You know, I remember a time when people said they would quit watching a soap or a TV program if people of color were on. I remember when people said women couldn't be newscasters, do political commentary or be sportscasters. I remember a time when there were no Asian faces on TV, period. Hispanics were cast as buffoons or bandits. Liz Taylor rightly said that if it were not for gays, there would be no Hollywood. What would you think if you knew that most of the men you idolize on soaps were gay? Remember Rock Hudson? It's just a thought. Just my 2 cents."

Bravo!! I was thinking the very same thing!! Besides Rock Hudson, the names Tab Hunter and Richard Chamberlain also come to mind as two screen icons who have come out in recent years. Celebrities of all types still fear loosing their career, fans and a media backlash for coming out and admitting their orientation.

People seem to be somewhat more accepting of gay people in the 21st century, but no one seems to get off without a rough ride in the media and by the everyday people they encounter. In many parts of the world it is illegal to be gay. In many countries that claim that gay activity is not illegal, they still run the risk of loosing careers, accommodations, medical assistance, family and friends.

Even more tragically some are killed for being gay. It was ten years ago this month, that the world was shocked to learn of the horrific and brutal beating of the University of Wyoming in Laramie student Matthew Shepherd. Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998 he was beaten and left to die. He died in hospital on October 12, 1998. He was only 21. Sadly, he isn't the only gay person to die a violent death but his death did open a lot of eyes to the hatred and cruelty that still exists within so many people in our supposedly enlightened society.

I've always considered myself a bit of a loner and an outsider as I was never part of the in crowd. Some of the most loving, compassionate and accepting people I have ever met have been part of the gay community. I honestly believe that I would not be here today if I had not met some of the gay people that have been part of my life. They have gotten me through some of the darkest days of my life and stood by my side when others couldn't/wouldn't understand what I was going through when I was loosing my sight and dealing with other parts of my life.

I'm actually a little surprised that Y&R hasn't already done a gay S/L since the show has been a ground breaker for so many other topics over the years. They have featured S/L's on spousal abuse, alcoholism, 2 AIDS stories (first a white woman and later a black woman), date rape and other hot topics.

I think it is high time that we see a gay character and relationship on the show. It is not like the S/L is unheard of since other soaps ("All My Children" and "As The World Turns") and many prime time dramas like "ER" and comedies such as "Will & Grace" have featured gay characters in credible careers and relationships to broadcasting success and high ratings.

Patty was right that years ago we never saw minorities on TV unless there was a crime involved. Now thanks to courageous performers, writers, studios and networks who have bucked those established norms and knocked them into obscurity, we are seeing a wide variety of minorities, religions and assorted nuclear families on the small screen and the silver screen. The more we are expose to the realities of everyday life, the sooner we will all realize that there is nothing abnormal about a gay lifestyle.

There was an interesting article on gay soap actors and gay roles on soaps on last week. They talked about why it is so difficult for actors to come out and why the networks and studios are hesitant to do a gay S/L. The article also stated the obvious:

"(Roger) Newcomb adds that coming out could even save lives. Alarmingly, gay-teen suicides are still on the rise.

He points out, “The more visibility the gay community gets from out-and-proud celebrities, the better off we all are. Like it or not, actors are role models for many and their stories can help people of all ages deal with their own sexuality in sometimes less-than-accepting environments.”

You can read the entire article at;

To those who say no way will they continue to watch a show, we will miss you but there are millions of others who will tune in.

I find it interesting that some say no to gay s/l but have no problem tuning in to see alcoholism, drug abuse, physical abuse, gratuitous violence, adultery, murder, blackmail and other s/l, yet draw the line at a love story because of gender. Viewers have demanded to see ethnic minorities and even interracial relationships. You've accepted all that and can't deal with a couple of the same gender for religious or other reasons? Interesting moral compass!

This is the 21st century, not the 1950's, 60's or even the 70's!

Open your hearts and minds. Odds are you already know several people who are gay, but they are not telling you because they know you will turn your back on them or try to shove your values at them rather than excepting them for who they are - human beings who are deserving of the same rights, privileges and loving relationships that every other human being is entitled to!



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