Two events this week of great magnitude to the LGBT community were just seen as daily occurrences. But I assure you, they were not.
Both are media-related and, if we’ve learned anything in our community, it’s that being out changes the world, and being out in media reaches the masses and educates the general public on who we are and what we are all about. Let’s not forget there are many places in America that still don’t know us, where we don’t reach, but that the media certainly can and will reach.
As someone who is in media and has fought for changes in media for almost 50 years now, this week is almost monumental. Why?
In movie theaters across the country, a film called “Love, Simon” opened. It’s the story of a young gay man coming to terms with his sexuality and — guess what? — it has a happy ending. That may seem trivial to you, but here’s a shocker: It’s the first time in history such a movie comes from a major American studio — not only wide release, but a promotional budget that smaller movies such as “Big Eden” and “Broken Hearts Club” (which I adore) didn’t have.
Up to this point, we’ve had “The Boys in the Band,” with a sad group of gay, bitter men hating themselves; “Philadelphia,” where we were dying; and “Brokeback Mountain,” where we were gay-bashed, killed and closeted. Each was a trailblazer for its era but, thanks to activism, times and movies have changed. “Love, Simon” was number five at the box office when it opened last weekend.
Then there’s television, an area that has had my attention since 1971. It is the most important way to reach people in those places were we activists just don’t have access. Television breaks barriers in ways we can’t. Entertainment can simply spotlight something without being a giant searchlight. Take “Will and Grace,” for example, or Rachel Maddow or Ellen. They make the point that LGBT people are, in simple terms, not a threat; that they are just like everyone else.
CBS recently premiered a new television series starring Alan Cumming called “Instinct.” It’s a drama starring an out gay man, whose character is an out gay man. That has also never happened before. We’ve always been comical figures, like in “Will and Grace” and “Modern Family.” But in a major starring role being a serious character? Never before on television.
We’ve been costars in trailblazers such as NBC’s “Nightshift” and “Major Crimes,” in which the gay character plays an Iraq veteran and, the other, a troubled gay youth. But the major character being a gay man in real life, and on a major network in a serious role — this is history.
These are incredible changes for many of us who came from a time when we didn’t even appear on television, let alone star in a comedy or drama or serve as a network news anchor. n
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.