‘Queer As Folk’: A wel­comed LGBT rep­re­sen­ta­tion

GA Voice - - The Power of Lgbt Media -

As a Mil­len­nial, I was for­tu­nate to see the ris­ing place­ment of gay char­ac­ters on main­stream tele­vi­sion. How­ever, I re­mem­ber a point where there was noth­ing pos­i­tive in which I could iden­tify with, as a gay teen. Most pro­gram­ming was heav­ily straight and if gay char­ac­ters were in­cluded, they were the punch­line or stereo­typ­i­cal hy­per­bole.

This was dis­cour­ag­ing to boys, like my­self, who were try­ing to make sense of the feel­ings and con­flicts ex­pe­ri­enced while grow­ing up with same-sex at­trac­tion. This lack of mean­ing­ful rep­re­sen­ta­tion be­gan to change for me with the pre­miere of Show­time’s “Queer As Folk” on De­cem­ber 3, 2000.

I re­mem­ber anx­iously wait­ing for the two-hour pre­miere to be­gin as I pre­pared for class the next morn­ing. In high school, it was pro­pi­tious that I had pre­mium ca­ble in my bed­room. My par­ents thought I was be­ing a re­spon­si­ble stu­dent by be­ing in bed be­fore 10 p.m., but I was on a covert mis­sion. Still clos­eted at the time, I wasn’t ea­ger to ex­plain ei­ther what I was at­tempt­ing to watch nor its TV-MA rat­ing.

The show be­gan with a very fast-paced in­tro and theme song en­ti­tled “Spunk” by the mu­si­cal duo Green Buck. My heart raced as I tried to fig­ure out what would be the best vol­ume, loud enough to hear the lines but low enough to avoid my mom barg­ing in my room to in­quire. My eyes were filled with plenty of eye-candy as the first scene opened in a col­or­fully vi­brant night­club with hun­dreds of men, and some women, danc­ing lib­er­ally to techno mu­sic.

“The thing you need to know is it’s all about sex” was the first line in­tro­duc­ing one of the main themes and also a lead char­ac­ter, Michael. The next two hours were filled with plenty of the afore­men­tioned sex, drugs, pol­i­tics, un­com­mon fam­ily dy­nam­ics, and lessons in un­re­quited love. In that time, I was en­tranced; I was in an­other world where I wasn’t a mi­nor­ity, but was in the ma­jor­ity. I be­gan to get an­swers to many ques­tions, some of which I didn’t know to ask. The show pro­vided much in­sight and re­vealed there were peo­ple just like my­self. I no longer felt alone in my sex­u­al­ity, es­pe­cially, with my new­found friends that made this show a hit.

Weekly, I found my­self iden­ti­fy­ing with char­ac­ters on the show. It was easy to con­nect with Justin Tay­lor, a seven­teen-year-old naive high school se­nior look­ing to bond with an­other male coun­ter­part. He soon finds this at­tach­ment in Brian Kin­ney, the pro­mis­cu­ous bach­e­lor who avoids re­la­tion­ships at all cost. I, too, was around his age when I met my older boyfriend. I can also re­call be­ing clue­less about the com­mu­nity in which I de­sired to in­ter­act.

We see this cou­ple go through a se­ries of tri­als; one of the most prom­i­nent was when a class­mate at­tacked Justin in a hate­ful rage af­ter his se­nior prom. This piv­otal mo­ment shed light on gay bash­ing, which was rou­tinely brushed un­der the rug in main­stream me­dia. It was easy to align the sub­ject mat­ter to the real death in 1998 of gay teenager Matthew Shep­ard, which was also mo­ti­vated by anti-gay ha­tred. View­ers were given a wide-an­gle per­spec­tive on what an event like this does to the psy­che of the vic­tim and the ef­fects on those peo­ple around them.

An­other char­ac­ter I cul­ti­vated a con­nec- tion to was Michael Novotny, the 29-year-old av­er­age boy-next-door and hope­less ro­man­tic who forged a very tight-knit re­la­tion­ship with his hi­lar­i­ous mother, Deb­bie. His char­ac­ter brought warmth to the show. Once I came out to my mother, we shared a sim­i­lar con­nec­tion to that of th­ese char­ac­ters.

“Queer As Folk’s” five sea­sons sup­ple­mented me in high school through my first years of col­lege. It was a show that gave me hope and en­cour­aged me in ado­les­cence; it pro­vided a sense of se­cu­rity and con­fi­dence while liv­ing in a world that de­mo­nizes LGBT peo­ple. The writ­ing added depth and breathed life into vary­ing gay char­ac­ters, out­side of the stereo­types that were so pop­u­larly pro­jected. The sub­jects and themes op­er­ated like a tu­to­rial on what to ex­pect in the real world as a gay per­son.

Al­though the show didn’t have any main char­ac­ters that fea­tured peo­ple of color, the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing gay re­mains quite fluid with sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences that tran­scend race. In my adult life, I’ve met many peo­ple like Justin Tay­lor, Brian Kin­ney and Michael Novotny. Thank you, “Queer As Folk.”

By KEVIN DWAYNE “My par­ents thought I was be­ing a re­spon­si­ble stu­dent by be­ing in bed be­fore 10 p.m., but I was on a covert mis­sion. Still clos­eted at the time, I wasn’t ea­ger to ex­plain ei­ther what I was at­tempt­ing to watch nor its TV-MA rat­ing.”

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