Glee, Modern Family, Orange is The New Black: These shows, among others, all feature main characters who are part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Through more representation of these types of characters in the media, some believe that their increased publicity has helped the LGBT community both in TV and in real life.
Julia Leland (’16), a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Club at ASL, believes that the media has increased their exposure of and has gradually improved their portrayal of lesbian, gay, transsexual, and bisexual characters. “Before it was the stereotypical gay: The guy who dresses up fashionably, struts down the hallway, that type of thing. They are starting to represent more of a mainstream type of kid who ends up coming out as either queer or anything in that realm,” she said.
Math Teacher Frank Sousa not only agrees with Leland but also believes that the media has come a long way over the years in terms of how gay people are represented on television. “In about the last 10 years, things have really changed for the positive. Gay characters on television shows are portrayed in a more positive way than they used to be,” Sousa said. “They were [in the past] portrayed as very stereotypical, or negatively, or not at all. They just weren’t mentioned, which is just as bad.”
Andrew Bake (’15) who is also part of the GSA Club, believes that the “benefits [of TV shows featuring LGBT characters] outweigh the costs. It helps introduce the idea to people who haven’t come across people with different sexualities. It helps them discover and come to terms with it.”
Leland also believes that Hollywood’s role in promoting all sexualities has allowed more people to come out of the closet. “It makes people who are coming out a lot more comfortable coming out. There’s a lot more support in that area [because of TV shows],” Leland said.
The reason for an increasingly accepting community, Lynn Albright (’15) argues, is rooted in the media’s increasing exposure of lesbian, gay, transsexual and bisexual life. “Particularly in the 50s and 60s [LGBT people] were like this faceless group of others, so people didn’t have so much of an issue with discriminating against [them],” she said.
In her more conservative hometown of Houston, Albright has noticed the far-reaching effect media has in supporting lesbian, gay, bissexual and transsexual relationships. “Knowing that these characters are present in these people’s minds and maybe affecting their personal beliefs is very exciting,” she said.
While representation of LGBT characters has developed in recent years, Leland believes that there is still not enough representation of certain members of the LGBT community in media. “I think [that] the stigma that if you’re [bisexual], you’re slowly just becoming a lesbian, or you’re just messing around is still present in the media,” Leland said. They don’t really talk about bisexuals as an identifying concept. I do think that [bisexuals] are still part of the ‘invisible group’.”
Albright attributes TV’s increasing amount of LGBT characters to the media’s realization of the importance of sexual representation. “It is 2014 and these stories can be told and these stories don’t have to be hidden behind implication and innuendo and I think that it’s important,” she said. “These things are being talked about and shown openly. It’s just that [the LGBT community] is a real group of people and if this television show is trying to reflect people, it makes sense [for them to be represented].”
At the end of the day, Leland, who is bisexual, believes that media has played an overwhelmingly positive role in her life. As she put it, “media definitely helped me come to accept who I am.”