Gay characters have really been through it all, haven’t they?
Our representation in the mainstream has been an uphill battle from the start. Our storylines began as tragic tales, attempts at romance eradicated by tragedy and heartache. Our depiction evolved into comedy, often being portrayed through an extreme stereotype, our motivation to simply aid the straight character’s romantic pursuits.
In fact, most gay characters’ predominant trait is their sexuality. Now, we have LGBT shows and movies with gay characters who are defined by their other traits as well…they just happen to be gay. You know, like reality.
Most recently, we’ve seen more of our culturally diverse, non-sexuality defining selves in our favourite shows. In 2017, our stories are raw, refreshing and honest. Finally, gay characters are at the forefront of mainstream media. Our relationships aren’t revelations, they’re fact. Sexual curiosity is treated as reality, rather than taboo. The sex scenes themselves, (whilst still lacking lube) allow the camera to linger longer than the typical fade to black.
So with gay representation becoming more positive than damaging, we look at the most honest representations of gay people in 2017 so far…
Lionel: Dear White People
Netflix’s Dear White People is a must-see as a deeply intellectual, respectful show and also for pure entertainment value. It’s a series that doesn’t shy away from topics of race, gender and sexuality.
Getting to watch Lionel, a young Black man, come to terms with his sexuality is a fulfilling experience for us as viewers, and not something we often see on television. Historically, the episodes focused around Lionel will confront Black families with a reality they may not have encountered anywhere else.
Over the course of the 10 episodes, we see Lionel navigate university through a queer lens, not often portrayed in pop culture: There’s a threesome and a crush on his roommate, Troy. But viewers also see the character struggle with how to define himself within the gay community and come to terms with his own sexuality.
When he does come out, it’s to his roommate, and it receives little reaction. To see Lionel get such a much-ado-about-nothing response to his coming out is a heartwarming triumph.
Ryan: 13 Reasons Why
Attending the #GLAADawards last night was the highlight of my year so far. Being in a room filled to the brim with loving, supportive, compassionate LGBTQ+ creatives, allies, icons, volunteers, and trailblazers was a new experience for me and one I'll never forget. The love in the room was palpable. The words spoken by Patricia Arquette, @alexandrasbillings, Tarell Alvin McCraney will not be forgotten. It was an honor and a privilege to share a table with the Orlando Pulse survivors, and my ♡, @wcruz73 Seeing LGBTQ+ people celebrated for their work by their contemporaries gave me goosebumps. I love being gay. I love being a gay actor. I love being a gay actor playing a gay role on @13ReasonsWhy, with queer writers and costars and producers. I say that because I don't have shame anymore about it. I love celebrating other gay actors and writers, musicians, activists, and allies. There's still work to be done, especially with our current administration, to ensure LGBTQ+ people are represented fairly and accurately. To ensure LGBTQ+ people are not silenced by the media. I'm committed to the resistance, and you should be too. (Also, the number on my breast pocket is for the @trevorproject suicide hotline. If you're LGBTQ+ and struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, call) A post shared by TOMMY DORFMAN (@tommy.dorfman) on Apr 2, 2017 at 5:16pm PDT
Tommy Dorfman’s portrayal of Ryan in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why shows him as a three-dimensional, flawed human. He’s a queer intellectual, quick-witted, nonchalant and his sexuality is never questioned, compromised or vilified.
Speaking to Attitude about his role as Ryan Shaver, he said:
“So many shows and movies that are being made today are all about coming out, which is an important story to tell and has been told, so to have the opportunity to play a character that is just comfortable with himself and advocates for gay people and doesn’t have the sort of drama“
Off camera, Dorfman’s an advocate and an activist. He regularly posts on social media in support of LGBT and women’s rights. He’s also becoming a bit of a fashion icon, being styled by Christian Cowan, the boyfriend of Paper magazine’s Drew Elliott, and wearing Vivienne Westwood to the MTV awards.
Salim & Jinn: American Gods
The new fantasy TV show American Gods, recently aired what critics are describing as ‘the most explicit sex scene to air in a TV drama’.
In the show’s third episode, audiences are introduced to gay Muslim character Salim – who has just moved to New York City – and strikes up a conversation with taxi driver Mousa Kraish, who is later revealed to be a mystical Jinn.
The pair’s relationship is explored in some detail, accumulating with the sex scene, which to begin with, is so grounded reality I was experiencing déjà vu. Finally, from a genre that typically steers clear of LGBT characters, a realistic exploration of gay sex.
The further into the sex it get’s, the more it stretches into the fantastical, but the point of what we are witnessing, for the first time on television, should not be dismissed.It’s an incredibly sexy scene, and every moment of it is important…right down to one of the men ejaculating flames into the other. Get the Savlon.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Bryan Fuller said:
“We want it to be a genuine relationship that the audience and the characters are invested in.”
It may seem like just a sex scene, but these are the moments that will help to normalise gay sex to an audience that may still need educating.
Lope & Hallett: Alien: Covenant
Rarely are action hero’s depicted as gay, but in the latest of the Alien franchise, Lope (Demián Bichir) and Hallett (Nathaniel Dean) are two members of the crew who just happen to be married.
The couple’s status is barely acknowledged throughout the film, but that’s the point. There’s no song and dance about their sexuality, it’s just there. Respect to Ridley Scott for doing what Beauty & the Beast failed to do: make a character’s sexuality known in a subtle and ignored kind of way.
Demian Bichir’s Sergeant Lope’s commented on the movie’s exploration of a gay relationship:
“We are all couples on this ship, all kinds of couples, even men and men. For me that’s a beautiful side of the story when you can have these two almost iconic macho types being together and loving each other and being a part of keeping everyone alive.”
Barry Jenkins explores the experience of queer black men and their challenges, with 2017’s Oscar winning drama, Moonlight. Whilst the story remains ambiguous about Chiron’s sexuality, it does so without shame, and explores a gay character going through struggles with a delicate realism.
The character of Juan, Chiron’s mentor, embodies some of the hardest masculinity in the film but is also the epitome of gay acceptance, breaking down barriers about race and sexuality through a simple understanding look.
Finally, a gay kiss between Chiron and his childhood friend, Kevin shows more intimacy than most of 2017’s movies have shown; the deep struggle of Chiron’s sexuality is released through a kiss under the stars. It’s a powerful moment, and one that was awarded the MTV Movie & TV award for best kiss. Kevin’s shoulder ends up as a pivotally intimate place for Chiron to lay his head, in perhaps the film’s most beautiful, heart-stopping moment.