An important episode of Dawson’s Creek titled “True Love” aired fifteen years ago, featuring a few short seconds of a kiss between it’s two characters Jack and Ethan. While this may seem like no big deal today, it marked a defining moment for U.S. television: being the very first “passionate” kiss between two men on primetime TV.
The Huffington Post noted the importance of this kiss as a start to what’s become the current state of acceptance surrounding same-sex love and LGBTQ representation in pop culture today.
From series like How to Get Away With Murder — which leveled out the playing field between gay and straight sex scenes — to shows like The Fosters — which featured the youngest same-sex kiss to date — we’ve come to a point in television where we’re breaking down the walls, ridding of stereotypes and creating gender freedom for all. To think that in 2000 a kiss was deemed groundbreaking, in 2015 we’ve taken strides upon strides toward equality on American television, with much more work still to do.
However, it’s still important to celebrate how far we’ve come thus far. HuffPo notes that in 2013, the GLADD Network Responsibility index didn’t rate a single channel as “excellent” in it’s grading of gay representation on TV. Fast forward to in 2014, ABC Family, HBO and MTV all made the list.
While the increase in LGBTQ characters on television doesn’t necessarily mean an increase of acceptance in our world or our nation, it does help in making baby steps toward that. According to a professor at Northeastern University, who has done extensive research on gay representation in pop culture, simply watching a gay character on-screen helps foster acceptance and reduce prejudice toward the LGBTQ community, giving people a means of connecting, building a relationship and even relating real-life circumstances to that character.
Even more important, gay representation on television especially helps gay teenagers feel visible, less isolated and more comfortable in their own skin. It assists in preventing bullying and suicides and supports teens in simply being themselves. It helps parents learn, accept their children and eventually result in building families in which being gay, straight, bi, trans, whatever means absolutely nothing.
Today let’s celebrate how our culture has grown to test the boundaries, break ’em down and finally create a level playing field for all. Today — fifteen years after that “passionate,” groundbreaking Dawson’s Creek kiss — almost every show has a gay character, and it’s no big deal… And that’s precisely how it should be.
Launch the gallery above to see 14 more significant LGBTQ moments in television and how they’ve helped garner equality and acceptance for all.