This month, the GSWNY Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee is celebrating Pride! Throughout June, we’ll share more about the history of Pride, as well as highlights from LGBTQ+ representation in pop culture, highlights of community members, tips for allies, as well as local resources.
The last 20 years has seen an incredible rise of LGBTQ+ representation in pop culture. More characters, storylines, and projects are happening than ever before. This week, we wanted to highlight some of the ground-breaking moments over the last few decades in the worlds of television, film, and music.
Naturally our timeline begins when Ellen DeGeneres came out on the cover of Time Magazine in 1997, with her titular television show character following the same day. This historic moment paved the way for more actors to feel comfortable being true to themselves and lighting the way for more LGBTQ+ characters.
As a matter of fact, the following year saw the premiere of Will & Grace, a cultural phenomenon that was the first primetime sitcom that had gay characters as leads. In 2000, Dawson’s Creek was the first show to depict a kiss between two men.
That same year, Queer as Folk was the first drama that told the stories of gay men and lesbian women, with stories covering coming out, discrimination at work, same-sex marriage, and adoption.
While television made progress, movies still lagged. Chinese American filmmaker Alice Wu released ‘Saving Grace’ in 2004, a lesbian rom-com that hits on the struggles of gay Asian Americans. In 2020, Wu’s second movie ‘The Half of It’ was released on Netflix and tells the story of a Chinese American teenager who befriends a jock and falls for his crush after he hires her to write love letters.
Finally, in 2005, ‘Brokeback Mountain’ became the first same-sex romance to succeed with both critics and audiences and went on to win three Oscars.
In 2009, Modern Family premiered, showcasing two gay main characters and helped normalize both their relationship and same-sex parenting.
New ground was broken in 2014 when Laverne Cox, a trans actress on Orange is the New Black, was nominated for an Emmy, becoming the first openly transgender person to receive a nomination in an acting category.
Two years later, actor Amandla Stenberg, known for their roles in The Hunger Games and The Hate U Give, came out as non-binary.
Many people might remember the 2017 Oscars as the time the incorrect envelope was given, causing the wrong people to believe they had just won Best Picture, but that wasn’t the most notable thing. The actual winner, Moonlight, was the first LGBTQ+ movie to win in the category.
Later that year, Asia Kate Dillon became the first non-binary main character in their role on the show Billions. Dillon continues to advocate for roles to be non-binary, and asked that their character in the upcoming John Wick movie reflect this.
The first mainstream teen romantic comedy featuring a gay lead, called Love, Simon, was released in 2018. Its success led to the creation of a Hulu show, Love, Victor, which premiered last year.
While he enjoyed the success of his number one hit, Old Town Road, Lil Nas X used the opportunity to come out as gay to his Twitter followers in 2019.
During the Emmys that year, Billy Porter made history when he became the first openly gay Black man to win a best lead actor Emmy for his role in Pose. 2019 also saw comedian Lilly Singh become the first openly bisexual woman of color to host a talk show.
In 2020, several notable actors came out as non-binary. Elliot Page, known for roles in Juno, Inception, and the Umbrella Academy, announced they were also transgender. Broadway star and Grey’s Anatomy alum Sara Ramirez came out in an Instagram post and will play a non-binary character in the Sex and the City reboot.
Zaya Wade, daughter of Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union, embraced her truth and came out to her parents as transgender.
Earlier this year, Demi Lovato came out as non-binary and discussed their journey to discovering who they are and their identity.
Two important notes: First, the above is just a few of the many examples of progress, especially in recent years. Second, while yes, progress, is being made, we know there is still a long way to go. Issues still arise with typecasting LGBTQ+ actors into roles as they identify, while cisgender and straight actors can play anyone. The representation of the community can also perpetuate harmful stereotypes, depending on the situation. While we are excited by how far the world has come, we know there is still a long way to go for true equality.
- LGBT Milestones In Pop Culture
- History Making LGBTQ Moments in Pop Culture
- Library of Congress: LGBTQ+ Pride Month Resources
- Teen Vogue: Demi Lovato Wrote a “Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community” | Demi Lovato’s Letter (NOTE: As of May 19, Demi Lovato’s pronouns are now they/them)
- Elliot Page Is Ready for This Moment
- JoJo Siwa Opens Up About Coming Out as LGBTQ: ‘The First Time That I’ve Felt So Personally Happy’
Did we miss your local celebrations? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!