Authentic LGBTQ2+ representation in media matters, because we exist in every story…
By Jumol Royes
Long before I fanboyed over the Real Housewives, I fell in love with The Young and the Restless.
I was first introduced to the show as a kid waiting to be picked up from my friend’s house after school. While my buddy and I procrastinated doing our homework, his babysitter made sure to keep one watchful eye on us and the other glued to the drama unfolding on the television screen. “Nadia’s Theme,” Y&R’s iconic opening song, was background music to my childhood.
In between playing silly games and running in and out of the house to grab something to drink, I couldn’t help but get sucked in by the daytime drama and its colourful cast of characters. I caught glimpses of the indomitable Katherine Chancellor, Genoa City’s grande dame, who always seemed to be feuding with her archnemesis, Jill; and Victor Newman, a powerful business tycoon with a penchant for being a ruthless tyrant, both in business and in his personal life.
But what really got me hooked was the parade of handsome hunks featured on the show throughout the ’90s. I secretly salivated over a shirtless Nick Newman, one of my first boy crushes. Joshua Morrow, the actor who plays the character to this day, still gives me zaddy vibes.
I’ve watched Y&R almost religiously ever since, and was tickled pink recently to see fan-favourite couple Mariah and Tessa tie the knot in the show’s first-ever same-sex wedding. Portrayed by Camryn Grimes (who came out as bisexual in 2020) and Cait Fairbanks, the characters have been paired up on the show since 2017. Their marriage marks a milestone moment for the long-running soap, and signals a step in the right direction towards inclusion and representation.
“Our relationship has been incredibly supported by the fans so far, and that’s what makes this such a joy,” shared Grimes in an interview with People. “We feel like we get to give this gift back to them, and they get to watch our characters just be happy and in love, and it’s a huge culmination of their relationship’s journey.”
LGBTQ2+ representation is not only making strides in daytime television, but in prime-time TV, too.
GLAAD’s 2021-2022 Where We Are on TV report found that of the 775 series regular characters scheduled to appear on scripted broadcast prime-time programming, 92 characters (or 11.9 per cent) are LGBTQ2+, a 2.8 percentage point increase from the previous year and a new record high.
For the first time in the report’s history, lesbian characters make up the majority of LGBTQ2+ characters on broadcast shows, at 56 characters or 40 per cent, up six percentage points from the previous season; gay men represent 49 characters or 35 per cent, down five percentage points; bisexual representation comes in at 27 characters or 19 per cent, one percentage point higher than last year; and there are 42 transgender regular and recurring characters across all broadcast, cable and streaming, up 29 from last year.
Additionally, the study showed an increase in the racial diversity of LGBTQ2+ characters on broadcast and streaming, but a decrease on cable. At 58 per cent, LGBTQ2+ people of colour outweigh white LGBTQ2+ people on broadcast for the fourth year in a row.
Why does authentic LGBTQ2+ representation in media matter?
There’s a correlation between the way the world perceives and portrays us and how we perceive and portray ourselves. If we’re not accurately and fully represented in the shows we watch and the media we consume, it can make us feel invisible. For far too long, LGBTQ2+ folks were depicted in the media only in relation to trauma stories that reinforced negative stereotypes and failed to show our full humanity. The truth is, we exist in every story.
That’s why Mariah and Tessa’s made-for-TV wedding had such an impact on me.
Soap operas are often dismissed as pure fantasy or escapism, but at their core they’re all about families, relationships, sexcapades, emotional and moral conflicts, and navigating this thing called life. As a loyal fan of Y&R, I dreamed of the day when a same-sex storyline would take centre stage on the show and be celebrated. When it finally happened, it made me feel seen.
Best wishes and warm regards to the happy couple.
JUMOL ROYES is IN Magazine’s director of communications and community engagement, a GTA-based storyteller and glass-half-full kinda guy. He writes about compassion, community, identity and belonging. His guilty pleasure is watching the Real Housewives. Follow him on Twitter at @Jumol and on Instagram at @jumolroyes.