Queer Heroes for Kids

In the past few years more and more TV shows have included gay characters, which is a very good thing. Game of Thrones, True Blood, Glee, Modern Family, Smash, Pretty Little Liars, American Horror Story, and many others. But of all those shows, the only one most kids are allowed to watch is Glee.

But if you want to give kids positive role models and the certainty that your feelings and that part of your identity are normal well represented and accepted in our society you’ll need more than just Glee. From a kid’s point of view there’s actually a severe lack of queer characters in the shows and films they get to see. All the Disney princesses marry princes. Pixar movies have married people, moms and dads, all over the place. Even the robots are matched up in obviously opposite-gender pairs. All the preteen sitcoms have girls chasing after boys and vice versa. If there is a character who has stereotypically "gay" mannerisms, that character is used for a laugh and not a lot else.

Those cartoons that actually should have gay characters have been effectively "straight-washed." The popular comic X-Men has had gay characters for quite a while, but when it’s adapted to television, none of the characters is anything but heterosexual. When Mystique and Destiny are included, they are no longer long-term lovers but "best friends." Northstar isn’t portrayed as gay, even though he was one of the first out LGBT characters in American comics.

Even the cartoons brought over from Japan and marketed to children have been "straight-washed" for Western audiences. In Dragon Ball any mention of the orientation of the gay character, General Blue, is censored. And Sailor Moon, which has no less than seven queer characters in the original version, has none in Western version. Some characters’ genders have actually been changed, and the lesbian couples are now "cousins," an old classic. The only LGBT character you could find that made it through was a minor character in Dragon Ball Z.

Many queer adults know what it was like to grow up with no media representation. It created feelings of isolation. It reinforced the notion that they were "other." And many thought that because they weren’t mentioned, they must have been something secret, something bad. Nowadays kids are coming out younger and younger. It’s increasingly common for them to come out at 12 or 13 years old. And what does TV present them? Only Glee.

But maybe that’s about to change. ParaNorman  (trailer below) is making a first step at least. It’s a stop-action movie with witches and zombies — all things my kids love. The movie is about how no one is totally what they appear to be….

ParaNorman Official Trailer #2 – Stop Motion Movie (2012) HD

Spoiler ahead… the chubby, silly kid is the bravest and most courageous of the bunch; the zombies aren’t bad guys; and the big, muscled jock, Mitch, is gay. That character’s orientation is only mentioned at the end of the movie, almost in passing. One of the female characters asks Mitch if he’d like to go to the movies with her, and Mitch says, "Sure." He then adds that he thinks she’d love his boyfriend. The girl looks disappointed, and the movie moves on to other things.

To some people this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Here’s this character, who is basically the stereotypical jock, but in this movie, this kid’s movie, he’s also gay. It isn’t presented with a "very special episode" vibe. It isn’t something hidden. It isn’t something Mitch is in turmoil about. It just is.

While stories of coming out and dealing with bullying are important for kids to see, they are not the only stories for LGBT characters. ParaNorman is a movie about a group of kids, and one of those kids just happens to be gay. I would love to see youth-oriented television and movies follow this example and expand upon it. Imagine what it would have meant to gay adults (who were all once gay kids) to have had a gay character on Saved by the Bell, Facts of Life, or He-Man, a gay character who was just one of the gang and a regular part of the story. Why can’t iCarly or Drake & Josh have a gay kid in the mix? I think they should, because visibility matters.

And of course conservatives in America are already jumping on it because, as Towleroad put it, the makers of the film dared to make the gay character a normal guy, not a twisted, pathological villain or eccentric outsider.

(via Gay Voices)

  

30 thoughts on “Queer Heroes for Kids”

  1. But if there are virtually no characters, then how is the media turning kids gay?

    Because it would be stupid to suggest that gay kids are gay for any other reason than seeing gayness. Of course.

    Also, I doubt there are many *teens* without crazy strict parents who would care if they watched Game of Thrones. Teens, kids they are not.

  2. “Many gay adults know what it was like to grow up with no media representation. It created feelings of isolation. It reinforced the notion that they were “other.” And many thought that because they weren’t mentioned, they must have been something secret, something bad.”

    That is so true, even to this day. And let me add to that description: When growing up with mass media such as TV, the lack of any normal gay character also caused millions of gays to think that they are the only ones who might be/are gay, reinforced, of course, by their attendance in churches all across America. How many of you thought for years that you “must be the only one in your [insert here: school, neighborhood, city, workplace and, yes, even your church]“?

    Also, to add another TV series that (finally!!) brought out a young gay character/actor was Ugly Betty. This one was extremely important because, even though briefly, it showed the general public that boys don’t “just become” gay by emulating someone else on TV, but discover their homosexuality at even earlier ages. But, of course, our ignorant religious right and the Republicans pounced on this show for having the “audacity to publicly present” a young homosexual character/actor — not only under 18 years old, but even younger than 16!

    Apparently, before any American media can recognize a ‘category’ of its public, it’s more important that we can laugh at them first before they can be considered with any seriousness and normality.

    1. After re-considering my last line above, I offer this ‘correction’ for better clarity (and because trying to edit the posts require an act of Congress).

      Apparently, before any American media can recognize a segment of its general public, it’s more important to them that we first laugh at and/or ridicule them before they can be considered with any seriousness and normality.

      1. That pretty much sums it up. I’m happy to see some bright teens taking an active role on this blog who are experiencing more positive news in the media despite the religious filter in this country. If gay themed programs are on TV, curious kids will watch it with or without their critical, religious parents. I know I would have. If it dosen’t exist on TV then it doesn’t exist even in this age of the internet.

        Can you imagine growing up as a gay Amish kid in America?

  3. Speaking of kids coming out early (age 12, etc.), I’d just like to share this one with you all. He’s so smart and well-spoken =)

    1. Thanks for that link….what a spectacular boy! It’s these stories, for those of us that work with youth, that keep us energized and the need to continue onward.

      I saw “ParaNorman” last weekend with a young adult. I don’t think I liked it as much as “Up”, but I sure like the idea of a gay jock as ‘no big deal’. How come nobody has asked who the gorgeous teens are sitting on the sofa together?

    1. I came out when I was 12, and my parents were fortunately completely accepting. There were some real douchebags in my 7th grade class, but fortunately they were gone the next year.

      1. I’m truely happy for you J. Now you do not have to live your life as a lie. To come out at age 12 and later to enter high school as who you are is fantastic.

  4. I said to my parents “I think I’m gay,” when I was ten. They laughed it off, said it was a phase. I’m a few years older now and gay. No surprise there, huh?! I am so glad I grew up in Scandinavia where guys like me don’t have to hide much. Many of my gay classmates (4 in my class of 2013) have already come out, some since middle school, like me.
    We have many examples of gay youth on the general broadcast and more on cable television. I hope the U.S. catches up soon. But then again, in the scope of democracy and nationhood, the U.S. are still mere petulant Teenagers compared to us and other eastern nations.

    1. Sweet story Liam. Yeah, how about that….it doesn’t ‘wear off’ does it?!

      I think that this whole concept of ‘pink boys’…complete fluidity with boys experimenting in sex roles would really stab at the heart of the homophobic beast in the US. That and some updated role models in grade school textbooks.

    2. @Liam. I think you hit the nail on the head. Which is amazing as you are so young. I have often described America as like an adolescent in terms of emotional and intellectual development . Although bright and with a lot of potential, we are immature when compared to the older, more mature and experienced nations of the world.

  5. Well written Penboy and very true.

    Not to turn this into a video posting thread but this kid has my vote in the guts division

  6. In Belgium we’ve seen the introduction of a gay character (who even kissed his boyfriend in the ‘revealing’ episode) in a very popular soap series on national television. And last year there was the superb coming-of-age movie ‘Noordzee -Texas’, which featured gay teens discovering their feelings… But despite these efforts I’m under the impression that being gay still remains a bit of a taboo in our country, especially amongst teenagers (and I speak from experience, being a secondary school teacher). And that’s a real shame in one of the still very few countries in the world where gay marriage and adoption has been made possible…

  7. I like the message of this article and I think it’s good to have examples in the media for queer kids, but I feel like I should probably point out that lumping Game of Thrones in with them is not entirely accurate. For starters, the books existed LONG before the shows, or this more recent trend in portraying gays in everyday television that the post refers to. I do find it interesting however that the shows, which largely follow the books very closely, take quite a few liberties in how they portray Loras and Renly. The book hints at there being something going on between them. It’s not particularly hard to pick up on you pay any attention, but at no point does Martin come out and definitively show that they are involved.
    Anyone who has seen the first season of the show couldn’t miss their relationship if they tried. It’s thrown directly into your face. Now I don’t necessarily dislike that, the show does a good job of dealing with it. But at the same time, while I like seeing a larger gay presence in television; I don’t like that the story was added to as a means of creating a bigger buzz. I think that homosexuality should be acceptable to casually display in media, I don’t think that it should be used to generate interest about how “edgy” or “progressive” a show is being, that no different than incorporating into the plot for a cheap laugh.

  8. To continue with my cultural “Phase” analogies, I’ll present my idea of the Five Phases of Homosexuals in the Media (in the USA, anyway). All dates are approximate. I did this very quickly, so some of you may have additional material to add to it.

    What Josh has posted could be represented by the Fourth Phase of Homosexuals in the Media blending into the Fifth Phase.

    Phase One was (and is continuing to be) the nearly total depiction of [all?] homosexuals as nothing more than “those types of men” who do nothing but act like and dress like women as cross dressers and drag queens for the primary purpose of sleazy comedy (including musicals) to be laughed at while the remaining few in any “dramatic role” are generally reduced to ugly drag queens with makeup running down their faces for the purpose of visual humiliation. Never were there any consideration that teens or for that matter, anyone under the age of 21 could be a “disgusting homosexual.” This Phase served American media very well through the 1960s and early 1970s.

    Phase Two was finally the acceptance of drag queens & cross dressers in a more positive light (including commercial acceptance) for serious entertainment purposes. These included live drag shows on stages of night clubs, but also “just beginning” to make their mark on national TV comedy & variety shows with Milton Berle and Flip Wilson (examples). The “gay closet” is just getting mentioned — before this, it would have been the dungeon with shackles.

    Phase Three is public recognition that homosexuals do exist in families and in various careers, primarily in Entertainment, but also [some] white collar and blue collar American workers and [maybe] even in the Military [but they must still be discharged at any cost, no matter the embarrassment]. All of this is still quite hushed up, of course. This phase is also the public recognition of the “closet,” but now with [slowly] revolving doors. Variety shows including the Late Night shows feature more light-hearted comedy in their routines and acceptance for entertainment value (still to garner laughs).

    Phase Four is the full media recognition of homosexuals in every facet of our lives and careers, including Politics. This is now fodder for all sorts of media entertainment from comedies to talk shows to serial dramas and even movies with gays as primary cast members and characters. We’ve now shown that they can be and are everywhere and TV is now actively seeking them out for their “headline acts” for news, musicals, varieties, and even military. And the media is starting to recognize that some homosexuals can easily take on acting roles previously reserved for only the “most heterosexual” [and gays in the deepest of closets]. And we’re now just touching on the very sensitive issue of homosexual teenagers and minors with, unfortunately, records of these young people committing suicides because of the continual negative assessment by religions worldwide.

    And now we’re also entering Phase Five where it is soon becoming a normal workforce in the media with gays in every aspect. We are now opening up to the ideas that homosexuality isn’t just “created overnight” by a “blossoming teen into an adult,” but in fact, recognizing that boys and girls are expressing their sexuality during their coming of age and some are doing it on the “big silver screen.” It’s become serious, now and all forms of media are presenting homosexuals to the public to show them (for ratings, of course) that they are “our next door neighbors” including teens and young teens. TV news and talk shows are presenting programs “showing off” and presenting the public with the younger generation expressing their sexuality and “gender-bending” at even younger ages.

    This is just a very brief and quick summary of gays in the media as I’ve experienced. I’m sure many of you may have your own ideas to add to this. That’s OK. It shows that we are now talking more about this throughout the various media and that can only be good in the long run even if we stumble a few times getting there.

    1. Sigh, someone mentioned about the openness of homosexuality being its downfall.

      If you come out at 12, whats the point if you can’t honestly gay up with a boy until 18 without risking your ass because the laws are set by prudes? Just wait, really.

      Rather be closeted, hidden and free at 14 than named a sex offender for being open, with a 14 yo friend and investigated by the police. Times changed, who is to blame? Not sure.

      1. While the Age of Consent Laws are murky in the US for homosexual ‘acts’, it’s still basically the age difference between the two boys and if one is under 16. It would be rare that two boys 14yrs old experimenting would be indited as sexual predators. But…some states still have ignorant, antiquated statutes. Usually, it’s a hysterical parent, relative, neighbor or politically motivated DA who ties to take something this innocent to a ‘sex offender’ level.

        1. nope and nope, if you are caught, it may be a crapshoot whether you get a dickhead DA who will ruin your life by placing you on the sex offenders list. However, some states have minimum sentences for ‘sex crimes’ regardless of circumstance.

          The boy jailed for 6 or was it 10 years in Texas for oral sex on a 15 yo when he was 16 is surprisingly common. 14 is the modal age (most common) for ‘sex offenders’ to commit their ‘crimes’ because of the consent laws applied as they are.

          1. I said that; one boy under 16 (14 in this example) and an older boy of the AOC, 16. And a DA who pushed that the 16 yr old was a ‘sexual predator’ simply because the other boy was 14 and has no legal, consensual choices. I also said that in the majority of States, two 14yr olds together will generally not be caught and classified as sexual predators….but overacting, ignorant parents could push for counseling.

    2. @Penboy.
      That is really great news. If it is a video presentation, I for one would like to see it. Maybe Josh would post it. And we were the first to read of these phases right here on Milk Boys.

    3. I don’t know if “phases” is a concept that really works with gay representation in the media. A grand unified theory of medial gay liberation would be interesting though.

      In any case we began being portrayed much earlier than the 60s and 70s: the German film “Anders als die Anderen” in 1919 was the first film about homosexuals (a passionate plea for gay law reform). The Hays Code that censored US films from around 1930 was motivated in part by too many naked boys playing Roman catamites in historical films. After the Second World War Kenneth Anger and Jean Cocteau made independent gay films; Gore Vidal wrote the first gay American novel about a teenage love affair in 1948, at a time when many GIs still had fond or repressed memories of passionate pairings in foxholes and barracks from Iwo Jima to Berlin. Shortly after the UK matinee idol Dirk Bogarde played a blackmailed homosexual in 1961 in “Victim” (encouraging in part the law reform of 1967).

      Homosexuals were almost always tragic figures: Dirk Bogarde’s character was, if I remember correctly, the first homosexual NOT to die in a film. ALL the others were murdered or killed themselves before the lights came up in the cinema. That was maybe the biggest and most important change in media representation of homosexuals: We didn’t have to die.

      Your phase four where “we’re only just touching on the very sensitive issue (for whom?) of gay minors” is historically wrong. Gay minors were touched on (poor choice of verb) at least as early as the 60s and 70s (ignoring Gore Vidal’s novel) – eg Death in Venice and the Danish You are not Alone. With law reform in the west the grown-ups dropped the kids and left them to fend for themselves.

      The 80s, 90s and 00s were a Golden Age for Queers, but with the backdrop of plague and the strangling of the sexual revolution that fagdom used to champion. Now all we want to do is marry and have kids and be normal.

      But we didn’t evolve to be just like straights. We really are here for a purpose. Evolution created us to be shamen, to be questioners, to be uncomfortable, to be between the sexes, the sexualities and the realities. We are a corrective for society, outside their normalcy, decrying their normalcy, seducing straights, creating alternatives. We are different and we have to stay different. We grow up with a unique view of the world. We are absolutely essential to the health and survival of society.

      I hope this little rant makes sense. I’m not (yet) entirely sure what I’m on about but I hope I find out soon ;-)

  9. This picture is from a movie?
    and guys im looking for some gay cinema movies or series if u know anything good plz tell me!


  10. Penboy:

    To continue with my cultural “Phase” analogies, I’ll present my idea of the Five Phases of Homosexuals in the Media (in the USA, anyway). All dates are approximate. I did this very quickly, so some of you may have additional material to add to it.
    What Josh has posted could be represented by the Fourth Phase of Homosexuals in the Media blending into the Fifth Phase.
    Phase One was (and is continuing to be) the nearly total depiction of [all?] homosexuals as nothing more than “those types of men” who do nothing but act like and dress like women as cross dressers and drag queens for the primary purpose of sleazy comedy (including musicals) to be laughed at while the remaining few in any “dramatic role” are generally reduced to ugly drag queens with makeup running down their faces for the purpose of visual humiliation. Never were there any consideration that teens or for that matter, anyone under the age of 21 could be a “disgusting homosexual.” This Phase served American media very well through the 1960s and early 1970s.
    Phase Two was finally the acceptance of drag queens & cross dressers in a more positive light (including commercial acceptance) for serious entertainment purposes. These included live drag shows on stages of night clubs, but also “just beginning” to make their mark on national TV comedy & variety shows with Milton Berle and Flip Wilson (examples). The “gay closet” is just getting mentioned — before this, it would have been the dungeon with shackles.
    Phase Three is public recognition that homosexuals do exist in families and in various careers, primarily in Entertainment, but also [some] white collar and blue collar American workers and [maybe] even in the Military [but they must still be discharged at any cost, no matter the embarrassment]. All of this is still quite hushed up, of course. This phase is also the public recognition of the “closet,” but now with [slowly] revolving doors. Variety shows including the Late Night shows feature more light-hearted comedy in their routines and acceptance for entertainment value (still to garner laughs).
    Phase Four is the full media recognition of homosexuals in every facet of our lives and careers, including Politics. This is now fodder for all sorts of media entertainment from comedies to talk shows to serial dramas and even movies with gays as primary cast members and characters. We’ve now shown that they can be and are everywhere and TV is now actively seeking them out for their “headline acts” for news, musicals, varieties, and even military. And the media is starting to recognize that some homosexuals can easily take on acting roles previously reserved for only the “most heterosexual” [and gays in the deepest of closets]. And we’re now just touching on the very sensitive issue of homosexual teenagers and minors with, unfortunately, records of these young people committing suicides because of the continual negative assessment by religions worldwide.
    And now we’re also entering Phase Five where it is soon becoming a normal workforce in the media with gays in every aspect. We are now opening up to the ideas that homosexuality isn’t just “created overnight” by a “blossoming teen into an adult,” but in fact, recognizing that boys and girls are expressing their sexuality during their coming of age and some are doing it on the “big silver screen.” It’s become serious, now and all forms of media are presenting homosexuals to the public to show them (for ratings, of course) that they are “our next door neighbors” including teens and young teens. TV news and talk shows are presenting programs “showing off” and presenting the public with the younger generation expressing their sexuality and “gender-bending” at even younger ages.
    This is just a very brief and quick summary of gays in the media as I’ve experienced. I’m sure many of you may have your own ideas to add to this. That’s OK. It shows that we are now talking more about this throughout the various media and that can only be good in the long run even if we stumble a few times getting there.

    This was really good. My mom and I talked about it a bit over hot dogs with mayo. Seriously, we did. It’s one of my favs.

    But more seriously I liked this piece. I copied and pasted in Pages (a.k.a Word for PC users) so that when I take Human Sexuality 101 in college I can remember it, and quote you.

    1. Thank you very much for that. :D

      But, as I said at the top and end, it was just a quick and very brief idea of the culture of media and homosexuality. I considered more of the “logic,” than any of the absolute details. So, before you just: “when I take Human Sexuality 101 in college I can remember it, and quote you,” it’s really meant to be used as a “guide,” so feel free to update it and add to it — which will make it more usable.

      rodney brought up some very good details, and he’s correct, but my intention was more of a broad (and brief!) brush stroke of how media handles homosexuals and homosexuality. Even today, for TV, it’s more of a collection of “sound bites” just to get the viewers, and then, invariably, let them down with non-fact$ and religiou$ influence.

      And, as such, “Phases” are, like in every cultural aspect, blended from one into the other and vise-versa because that’s the way culture “progresses” — nothing cultural is ever “absolute.” That’s also why I stated the dates were only approximate — don’t take them as “literal.” Just as humans pass from a pubescent phase into an adult phase, some of the former is retained in the latter and, just as much, some of the latter influences the former. So, I feel that Phase(s) is a correct terminology for this phenomena.

      BTW: I’d never heard of Pages so I looked it up — it’s ONLY for the iPad? (I have a 17″ MacBook Pro.) How “complete” is it? It also looks to be very similar to a layout (Publishing?) application? My preference thus far has always been WordPerfect (except for the Mac OS X which I use Word very sparingly).

      Again, thanks. :D (And I put ketchup, mustard and relish on my hot dogs.) :D

      1. @Penboy
        BTW: I’d never heard of Pages so I looked it up — it’s ONLY for the iPad? (I have a 17″ MacBook Pro.) How “complete” is it? It also looks to be very similar to a layout (Publishing?) application?
        Go to:
        http://www.apple.com/iwork/pages/
        To me it is just as good as Word. I’ve never heard of Word Perfect by Correl. Thanks.


  11. Pete:

    Speaking of kids coming out early (age 12, etc.), I’d just like to share this one with you all. He’s so smart and well-spoken =)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGTmRpIdYlA

    I came out to my parents when I was 10 because I was afraid some of my friends would tell on me. Better I I tell my folks first, right? Well my parents said they’ve always known since I was 7 spied kissing the boy at tennis camp. My folks said they wanted me to discover myself in my own time.

    But Christ, they ignored me. Said “Yeah, yeah” and returned to talking about the Mets. I’m a junior now. Still gay. I have a supper supportive Mom. My Dad passed away.

    What I think is great about this video (and I downloaded it) is that he does it on YouTube. Talk about coming out! He is way more brave and comfortable with himself than I was at 10. Either that, or clueless. I wrote him through YouTube and he’s older now and he never got bullied in a dangerous way. If anything, he said, the bullies were more impressed that he didn’t try to hide it.

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