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Children's TV: Where the gays have no face

By Victoria Kallsen
On January 20, 2014

With a dearth of homosexual relationships and characters on the television screen, especially in media targeted for children, entertainment in this strain has cultivated the implication that homosexuality is immoral and taboo for younger viewers. To be clear, any form of sexuality is generally frowned upon in that market, but let's focus on where and why this particular absence exists in comparison to the heterosexual relations between characters. Rejection of the subject instills a lack of awareness regarding the LGBT community while simultaneously providing a sense of unease for many about the subject if they are otherwise uneducated on the matter.
Before you starting shouting, "Modern Family" at me (which would be ridiculous since you'd just be yelling at newspaper), let's talk about homosexual representation on television. It sucks. Have things improved? Certainly. Still, have we really moved past the stereotypes that shows like "Will & Grace" cemented? Flamboyance primarily defines many male homosexual characters and the macho short-haired lesbian trope pervade our television screens. Homosexual affection is all but nonexistent for shows; just ask yourself if the heterosexual characters find themselves in bed more or have more physical interactions than any homosexual counterparts.
Still, the primary complaint is where are homosexual characters in animation aimed at children? I'd like to think our lesbian Disney Princess story is upcoming. (Then again, these are the same people who needed 86 years to feature a black Disney Princess.) Children's television refuses to even explore the idea of questioning one's sexuality or the process of discovering it. Regardless of whether Burt and Ernie will be outed, children's television relegates homosexual relations to the higher realm of adult television, making it appear to be a more adult, taboo subject rather than a natural process.
Is this realistic? Nah. According to Dr. Erika Pluhar, reporting to Parenting magazine, between ages 9 and 12 children begin to have their first crushes and realize their physical feelings for either sex. The article also reports that many in the homosexual community recognized their feelings early on in life. Even before that, many are experimenting with their expression of their gender and themselves; studies referenced by Slate report that boys as young as 3 years old tend to push the boundaries of male gender roles.
Instead of embracing this type of discovery, children's TV has remained firmly silent on the subject. When homosexual youth are four times more likely than their straight counterparts to attempt suicide, according the Trevor Project, is this something we shouldn't address? (Yeah, I'm kind of assuming you have enough of a soul to agree that LGBT people deserve to live.) Am I arguing that we go outside the realm of appropriateness for this age group and show some wild group homosexual orgies? No. But is it really that unrealistic to show a little boy having a crush on another little boy instead? Will I ever live to see a Disney Princess marry ... another Disney Princess? When comic book characters are adapted for animated TV shows, could we keep their sexual preferences intact? Animation for children has remained a wasteland of social conservative garbage with homosexual parents and crushes non-existent with rare exceptions.
Simply put, behavior is learned. We learn how to interact and behave from our interactions from others and the messages we see on the screen. This is overwhelmingly important for younger viewers when children aged 2-5 spend over 32 hours on entertainment devices, and children aged 6-11 watch over 28, according to Nielsen. So with that in mind, having our shows be devoid of homosexuality in nearly every context - same-sex parents with families of their own, homosexual crushes and feelings, defiance of strict gender roles and stereotypes - informs children that homosexuality is bad behavior even though they were merely born with that orientation. It instills a taboo nature over the topic, an uncomfortability in discussing it, and a general perception that one's sexuality is immoral, deviant, and wrong. Frankly, that's disgusting.
In the wake of DOMA being overturned, LGBTQ activists may be searching for other causes to take up. Shouldn't further acceptance by media of perfectly normal expression of our sexuality be available to children today? Even the most accepting of parents may not think to discuss homosexuality with their children if it remains a non-issue, meaning they don't see it in their personal day to day lives. Let's stop allowing self-proclaimed moral guardians (looking at you, Focus on the Family and Parents Television Council) prevent perfectly reasonable expression of love and physical attraction. Let's see more homosexuality in children's programing instead.
 


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