On his website Boy Culture, writer Matthew Rettenmund has put together an exhaustive list of LGBTQ characters, people, mentions, and moments on American primetime TV from the 1950s to 2000. Writing for The Advocate about the months-long project, Rettenmund explained:
I’d come up with the idea after stumbling upon a Wikipedia list that suggested the first gay reference of any kind of TV was a gay-panic joke on I Love Lucy in 1951. Earlier gags (if they existed at all, they were likely gags, not news breaks) may be unknowable since so much of early TV no longer exists, but thought a list similar to Wikipedia’s—with many more entries, organized strictly chronologically in order to tell a story—would engender clicks in a more fulfilling way than pictures of guys in underwear would. It felt like a way to document what was a decades-long process of slowly introducing the American public to LGBTQ topics and people in such a way as to engender “clicks” (of the channel) for TV stations while keeping tune-outs to a bare minimum.
Also, current social justice movements have presented us with the strange new pasttime of looking at recent history and judging how the people who came before handled complicated issues like race, sexual assault, and, yes, queerness. I felt a list that embraced LGBTQ representation in all its forms (the good, the bad, the you-sure-is-ugly) would perhaps provide a permanent, living record of the awkward queer-visibility movement on TV over time, allowing us to recall that some shows that were approaching the topic offensively may not have been doing so maliciously.
You can find the full list on Boy Culture.
[Photo: Will & Grace, NBCUniversal]