While gay characters have become a staple of the television landscape, it's only been in recent years that the gay teen has been explored more and more. Seriously! Look just about any place on the TV dial these days and you'll find a plethora of teen characters who just happen to be gay.
And, in step with the overall representation of gay characters being more than just the sidekick or the very special guest star, these teens are not only series regulars who rank with the straight besties but, another new trend, they’re less worried about their sexuality than other big problems.
Look at characters on popular, mainstream series like “The Vampire Diaries,” “Days Of Our Lives” and “Pretty Little Liars,” and these kids are dealing with other issues like, in many cases, trying to stay alive!
Let’s take a look at some of our favorite teen gays currently on the air.
Shane (Michael Willett) and Amy (Rita Volk) on “Faking It:” The latest MTV comedy premiered earlier this week and we’ve got not one but two gay characters. Shane is the most popular teen at Hester High and while she initially fakes being a lesbian to get in with the popular kids, Amy quickly realized that maybe she has more feelings for her BFF, Karma (Katie Stevens) than she realized. (“Faking It” airs Tuesdays at 10:30pm on MTV)
Josh (Steven Krueger) on “The Originals” & Luke (Chris Brochu) on “Vampire Diaries”: New additions on sister CW series. Newly dumped Luke has a twin who’s a witch and is finding life in Mystic Falls is full of pretty people but most of them like to drink blood. Over at the “TVD” spinoff, Krueger’s Josh owned his sexuality from his first appearance on the “Vampire Diaries” spin-off and has bigger things on his mind like navigating life as a newbie vampire and trying to stay alive. Perfect examples of how not to make a character’s sexuality be the most interesting thing about them. (In case you missed it, read my interview with Brochu here and check back tomorrow for my chat with Krueger)
Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell) and Paige (Lindsey Shaw) on “Pretty Little Liars:” I fall to sleep every night saying to myself ‘Paily will get back together! Paily will get back together!” OK, that may be a (slight) exaggeration but there’s just something about our lesbian couple on the ABC Family thriller that I love. And like any good soapy drama, you’ve got to keep the audience wanting more. And while it seems like forever that we went through Emily’s coming out on the show, she’s taken ownership of herself and was the one to end the relationship due to Paige’s missteps. Fingers crossed they find their way back to each other when Season 5 airs this summer.
Santana (Naya Rivera), Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), Blaine (Darren Criss) and Unique (Alex Newell): Fox’s long-running “Glee” overall is hit or miss but it definitely regularly hits the bullseye by portraying ever kid in the spectrum and that definitely includes sexuality. Gay teens like Kurt and Blaine, a lesbian in Santana, bisexuality in Brittany (Heather Morris) and trans with Unique were all featured prominently and the fans, not-so-surprisingly, love every minute of it.
Ian (Cameron Monaghan) on “Shameless”: As the recent fourth season wound up, Ian was hitting the lows of manic depression and, as is usually the case, just when you count the Gallaghers out, the family that will probably never come out on top at least has each other. Ian’s relationship with Mickey (Noel Fisher) has been a rollercoaster but if you say anything about how the show has portrayed the same sex relationship, it’s as screwed up as everyone else’s! Bring on Season 5, “Shameless!”
Danny (Keahu Kahuanui) on “Teen Wolf”: Oh, Danny. Adorable, clueless Danny but, to his credit, being gay is something he’s owned and fans love whenever he pops up. And he even got a bonafide love interest this past season with Charlie Carver’s werewolf Ethan. And while Ethan isn’t in the upcoming 4th season, out creator Jeff Davis is bringing in more teen gays to keep Danny company. Cue locker room scene!
Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr) on “House Of Lies”: What kind of kid would money and power hungry Marty Kaan have? A teen who sometimes dresses like a girl yet hasn’t quite figured out where he falls on the sexuality spectrum. This past season, Roscoe connected with Lex (Bex Taylor-Klaus) a boy who identified as a girl and while the relationship didn’t work, Roscoe’s journey continued to be profound and compelling. (Check out my recent chat with Leonard here)
Will Horton (Guy Wilson) on “Days Of Our Lives:” While technically only 19 years old, in soap opera years that’s still plenty of time to pile on the angst. Will endured a tough coming out process, an unexpected pregnancy (a little back slide to his ex Gabi, post-coming out) resulting in him being a teen father and, now, a husband since he recently married his true love, Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith). With daytime programming on the decline over the last decade, gay storylines have helped keep the shows buzzy and, as a result, alive. (Weekdays, NBC)
Imogen Moreno (Cristine Prosperi): You may think “Glee” has had the most varied representations of the LGBT community but that award really goes to the Canadian-based “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” And what would the current world be at Degrassi without our favorite bisexual Imogen? Quirky, dorky but undeniably witty and cute, she’s the one we always root for in both romance and in life. But whether she’s stealing kisses with Fiona or Adam, her spirit never wavers and we love her for it.
Walt (Brendan Dooling) on “The Carrie Diaries:” While we wait to see if the CW’s 80’s prequel to “Sex And The City” gets a third season, we’re still blown away by the emotional struggle of young Walt as he came out, got kicked out of his house by his parents and, just as he was getting things under control, the AIDS crisis hits New York City. Though the time may have been in the past, Walt’s journey was as easy to relate to as ever.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.