4 TV Shows & Films That Made Me Comfortable About My Sexuality While Growing Up (And 1 That Should Have But Didn’t)

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Three years ago, after a trip to the LGBT Museum in San Francisco, I made the decision to publicly come out to my friends, family, and whoever else should stumble upon this blog. It wasn’t a huge surprise to those close to me; It’s not as though I’d ever hidden it. I had just never taken the opportunity to talk about it so openly.

My sexuality was always something that was just a natural part of me. It was as natural as my having two arms. Or green eyes. It was something I was born with and I didn’t feel the need to scream about it.

But after coming out, I realised how important that declaration is. After hitting the ‘publish’ button on this blog, I sat in fear over what the reaction of those around me would be. I knew most of my loved ones were open-minded but a part of me was still terrified that they’d react in a horrible way.

They didn’t.

Coming out is a huge part of someone’s life. We’re about to cross into a world where we’re more comfortable and upfront about who we really are. And we’re also about to discover who will join us and who will reject us.

I was lucky in that I was surrounded by good people. Not everyone’s that fortunate.

Every day, people are cast out of their homes after coming out. They’re beaten and abandoned and left to face the world alone. A friend of mine recently told me that he’d been considering coming out to his parents even though he knew it meant he’d never see them again. He just can’t stand that he has to keep lying to them about who he really is.

The best thing we can do is let those people who are rejected from their families, their homes, and their communities know that we’re here for them when others aren’t. Everyone deserves love.

And that’s why, as last Sunday was National Coming Out Day, I wanted to do a little personal and fun post to celebrate it.

I began thinking about the influences I had around me growing up and I realised that the only LGBT world I came into contact with was through media. TV and film were the only things that helped me understand how normal my sexuality was.

I wish I’d had the likes of Orange is the New Black while I was a teenager. That would have made things so much easier.

But I didn’t.

Instead, here’s a mini list of the shows and films that made the biggest impression and really stuck with me as I grew up …

1) Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Sarah Michelle Gellar was one of my biggest crushes growing up. I adored her. I even got my ears pierced multiple times because I wanted to be like her. As a teenager I’d sit down every week to watch a new episode of Buffy. That show was everything.

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But it was actually the character Willow who taught me a lot about how normal my sexuality was. Willow started out head-over-heels in love with Xander. Then she had the world’s sweetest relationship with werewolf/guitarist Oz.

After Oz left, Willow began dating fellow witch, Tara. And that was that.

No drama. (Well, except for the fact that she broke Oz’s heart by choosing Tara over him but then again he shouldn’t have just abandoned her in Sunnydale in the first place after sleeping with Veruca. … Yup. I was way invested in this show.)

I don’t remember how this show approached Willow’s sexuality – Whether she referred to herself as bisexual or a lesbian or even mentioned it – but all I knew was that one of the most beloved characters on my favourite show had fallen in love with both men and women, and that it was okay.

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Thanks, Willow. And thanks, Joss Whedon.

2) Friends

Have you ever gone back and watched Friends? It’s not great.

I mean, it’s still pretty funny and is an absolute classic but, jeez, that show has issues. Take a shot every time one of the characters says something homophobic, transphobic, or sizist and you’ll be on the floor before the first ad break. And let’s not even begin to dive into how destructive Ross and Rachel’s relationship was.

Nevertheless, it was Ross’ ex-wife Carol that made a huge impact on me as a teenager. She was married to a man and then married a woman. The story goes that it was during her marriage to Ross that she realised she was a lesbian but, to me, it was the idea that you could have a relationship with a man and a woman that stayed with me.

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It didn’t matter that the word ‘lesbian’ was nothing but a punchline on that show. (For real, watch the first series and hear the audience roll every time that word is uttered.) I was fascinated by the fact that relationships with people – regardless of gender – was possible.

3) Queer as Folk

When I was 13, I stayed awake long past my bedtime one night and turned the TV on to Channel 4 just in time to catch the first airing of Queer as Folk (the UK version).

I was immediately hooked.

I was probably way too young to be watching something so graphic but I loved it.

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There were no bisexual characters but that didn’t matter. Watching how Stuart Jones strutted around, not giving a shit, was inspirational. I wanted that confidence and I wanted that acceptance around me.

4) Dog Day Afternoon

What a random film to pop up on this list, eh?

Well, I started watching ‘grown up’ films at a very early age thanks to the fact that my parents didn’t treat their children as though they were morons who couldn’t tell fact from fiction. I was a film addict from birth.

And after watching The Godfather Trilogy when I was about 13, Al Pacino quickly became one of my favourite actors of all time (because, let’s be honest, why wouldn’t he?)

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Dog Day Afternoon is also one of my favourite films and one I loved to watch a lot as a teenager. I’m not even going to go into why – It’s too wonderful for words.

In this film, Pacino plays Sonny, a man who has two wives – One a cis female with whom he has two children, and the other a transgender woman named Leon.

I could write an essay about all the different political and social issues this film manages to touch on but, for its time, the film’s presentation of sexuality was pretty controversial.

Our protagonist is robbing a bank to pay for his wife’s gender reassignment surgery. And while there are a few gawks and whispers from people in the background, his sexuality is never actually questioned.

He’s never told that it’s wrong. He never actually has to outwardly defend himself. He simply acknowledges his “darling wife Leon whom (he) love(s) as no man has loved another man in all eternity” and his “sweet wife Angela” in a matter-of-fact way.

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The film presents the fact that you can love anyone – whether they’re cis female, cis male, or transgender – and that’s that. Society’s a judgmental asshole but you can always find people to support you. (As long as you don’t then go and rob a bank.)

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And the ‘You should have made me comfortable about who I was but failed in a major way’ award goes to …

Sex and the City

This is disappointing.

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If there’s one episode I absolutely, positively refuse to watch of this show, it’s episode ‘Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl’ in season 3. This episode is hurtful. Really hurtful to the point where it almost makes me want to cry.

Because I loved this show. Absolutely loved it. But I will never forgive the writers for portraying bisexuality in such a cruel way. The biphobic language throughout this episode while Carrie “tries to understand her boyfriend’s sexuality” is horrific. And what’s even more horrific? The fact that she never actually comes to understand it. The episode ends with, ‘Bisexuals are loose, immoral, attention-seeking, dirty scum. In fact, bisexuality isn’t a real thing. And I’m better off staying the fuck away from them all’.

Why, SATC?

You were such a groundbreaking show for so many topics. Why did you have to be part of the rampant bi-erasure that’s so prominent in our society?

In six years, you addressed this subject once and completely fucked it up.

In all that time of telling us women that we should be open and proud of our sexuality, all bisexuals were then slapped across the face in under 30 minutes and made to feel ashamed.

What’s even more surprising is that this subject was butchered to death even though one of its leading actresses is bisexual.

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Great job.

 

 

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7 thoughts on “4 TV Shows & Films That Made Me Comfortable About My Sexuality While Growing Up (And 1 That Should Have But Didn’t)

  1. You are so right about Friends- they have a lot of laughs at anything to do with being gay or just not being heterosexual. I think Carol (I think that was Ross’ ex-wife’s name?) was probably one of the most well adjusted and normal characters on the show, if memory serves correctly! I don’t remember that SATC episode at all for some reason, but what the hell?! That show is known for being so liberal minded towards sexuality but then to be like that? Carrie can be so self centered though, so it’s almost not surprising- apart from the fact that she is not real and so the writers could have given her a more open mind! Ugh! And, like you say, especially considering Cynthia Nixon has a wife in real life. Even though I love SATC I do think they have made some big mistakes over the years.

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      • I actually liked her when I first started watching it as a teenager but started to find her too “me me me” after a while! Now when I rewatch them I find her annoying and selfish. I love Sam and Miranda now!

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  2. Growing up, I thought TV had little impact on me. Probably because I used to watch less than now. But “Friends” is something that was an influence for most people… and it still is in part for some, as the show is very much still alive on DVD or in digital format, as new generations discover it. I still love this show.

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  3. I remember watching Queer as Folk and being SO enthralled thinking that I was totally watching something XXX. 😀 I do have a question though, were there any BOOKS that you read before or after coming that I should make sure to have in our library here at the school? When I took over there were no gay or lesbian books but I’ve been slowly growing the collection over the past year and a half. I would love to know if there are any must-haves on your list. ❤

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    • Haha I definitely thought QAF was some XXX thing I was watching too.

      My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman is a great LGBT-themed book and it’s a YA one too. And The Color Purple is a terrific one. Other than that, I’ll have to really have a think and get back to you. That’s so fantastic that you’re putting those books into your library.

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