Timeline: Gays in Pop Culture 1934 - 2010

Here are some key breakthroughs for gays in television, film, media, and theater.


Rock Hudson
Giant footage
Rock Hudson
Angels in America
Archive Photos
Angels in America
Ellen DeGeneres
Photo by Alan Light
Ellen DeGeneres
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer footage
Willow and Tara
Neil Patrick Harris
Photo by Lan Bui
Neil Patrick Harris

by Jennie Wood
1962 1985 1994 2000 2008
1934
Nov. 20
The Children's Hour, a stage play by Lillian Hellman, premieres on Broadway. The play is set at an all-girls boarding school run by two women. A student accuses the two women of having a lesbian affair, an accusation which destroys their lives. The play is a huge hit despite the fact that at the time it is illegal in New York to make any reference to homosexuality on stage.
1962
June 6
Advise and Consent, a film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, is released in theaters. The film features a rookie senator with a homosexual past as one of its main characters. The senator is played by Don Murray.
1967
Sept.
The Advocate begins publication in Los Angeles as a local newsletter by the activist group PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education).
1972
Nov. 1
That Certain Summer, a made for TV movie, airs as the ABC Movie of the Week. It is the first TV movie to deal with the subject of homosexuality sympathetically. Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook, big name stars at the time, play lovers.
1975
Jan. 24
ABC debuts Hot l Baltimore, a short lived Norman Lear series, which features the first gay couple on TV. On the show, the characters George and Gordon are an older gay couple.
1977
Sept. 13
On the primetime TV series Soap, Billy Crystal plays Jodie Dallas, a gay man.
1983
April 29
The Hunger, a horror film, is released. The film features a love triangle between a doctor, played by Susan Sarandon, and a vampire couple, played by Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie. The film develops a cult following, partly because of the lesbian seduction scene between Sarandon and Deneuve.
1985
July 25
Rock Hudson issues a press release announcing that he has AIDS. His announcement elevates AIDS awareness to a whole new level.


Oct. 2
Rock Hudson becomes the first major celebrity to die from an AIDS-related illness.


Nov. 11
NBC airs An Early Frost, a TV movie of the week, featuring Aidan Quinn as a Chicago attorney who goes home to tell his parents that he is gay and has AIDS. It is the first major film that deals with the subject of AIDS.
1986
July 25
The made-for-TV movie, My Two Loves, airs. The film features Mariette Harley questioning her sexuality after her husband dies. She has an affair with Lynn Redgrave in the film.
1991
Feb. 7
The first kiss between a homosexual couple airs on network TV during an episode of L.A. Law. Abby Perkins, played by Michele Greene, and C.J. Lamb, played by Amanda Donohoe, kiss after Abby gets a raise. Advertisers threaten to pull their ads over the scene.
1992
Jan.
Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, a play by Tony Kushner, tackles politics, religion and AIDS from a gay point of view. In 1993, it wins the Pulitzer Prize for drama and goes on to be made into an HBO miniseries featuring Meryl Streep and Al Pacino.
1993
April 29
On CBS' Picket Fences, two teenage girls kiss. The network demands that the scene be reshot in the dark.


Dec. 24
Philadelphia, a film starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington is released. It is one of the first major Hollywood films to deal directly with homophobia, homosexuality, and HIV/AIDS. The movie is directed by Jonathan Demme and goes on to win awards, including a Best Actor Oscar for Tom Hanks.
1994
An Ikea ad runs on TV showing two men shopping for furniture together. This is the first TV commercial featuring an ordinary, gay couple.


March 1
During an episode titled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" of the popular sitcom, Roseanne, Mariel Hemingway kisses Roseanne Barr. ABC threatens not to air the episode, but does and 30 million people tune in. The series also features a reoccurring character, Nancy, played by Sandra Bernhard, who comes out as a lesbian during season five.


Nov. 10
An episode of My So Called Life airs featuring supporting gay character Rickie, played by Wilson Cruz, who crushes on boy classmate Corey.


1995
Feb. 6
The made-for-TV movie, Serving in Silence airs, featuring Glenn Close and Judy Davis. The film challenges the U.S. military's position on homosexuality. Close and Davis both win Emmy Awards for their roles.
1996
Jan. 18
One of the most popular sitcoms of all time, Friends, features a lesbian wedding of two supporting characters, Carol, played by Jane Sibbett, and Susan, played by Jessica Hecht. However, the couple is not shown kissing at the end of the ceremony. The episode is titled "The One with the Lesbian Wedding."
1997
Jan. 11
ABC airs a ground-breaking episode of Relativity, which features a scene in which a supporting character, out-lesbian Rhonda, played by Lisa Edelstein, shares a passionate kiss with another woman. This is the first open-mouth kiss between two women aired on prime time television.


Feb.
Ellen DeGeneres appears on The Oprah Winfrey Show and comes out as a lesbian.


April 30
The coming-out episode of Ellen airs. In the episode, the main character, played by Ellen DeGeneres, comes out to her therapist, played by Oprah Winfrey. The episode, titled "The Puppy Episode", is one of the highest-rated of the series.


1998
Sept. 21
The NBC sitcom, Will & Grace debuts. The series is built around four main characters, two gay men and two heterosexual women. The series goes on to air for 8 years, win 16 Emmys and become part of NBC's highly successful Thursday night "Must See TV" lineup.
2000
May 24
The season finale of Dawson's Creek features the first passionate kiss between two men to ever take place during primetime. Jack McPhee (played by Kerr Smith) shares the onscreen kiss with boyfriend Ethan (played by Adam Kauffman) in this episode, titled "True Love." Earlier in the series, McPhee comes out after briefly dating Katie Holmes' character Joey.


Dec.
Daytime soap All My Children breaks new ground when the character Bianca Montgomery realizes she's a lesbian. Bianca, played by Eden Riegel, is the daughter of Erica Kane, arguably the most popular character in the history of American daytime soap operas. It is the first time that a major, continuing role has a homosexual orientation on daytime TV.


Dec. 3
Queer as Folk begins airing on Showtime. Set in Pittsburgh, the series tells the story of five gay men. The show is a U.S. version of the UK TV series.
2001
April 26
In the Friends episode titled "The One with Rachel's Big Kiss", Jennifer Aniston's character Rachel kisses an old friend from college, Melissa, played by Winona Ryder. After the kiss, Melissa confesses her love for Rachel.


May
The popular TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer paves new ground by becoming the first show to develop a gradual, accurate, and full-blown lesbian relationship between two of the major characters, Willow, played by Alyson Hannigan, and Tara, played by Amber Benson.
2002
Feb. 14
Rosie O'Donnell comes out as a lesbian and discusses her sexual orientation on the daytime talk show, The View.
2003
Sept. 8
The Ellen DeGeneres Show, a daytime talk show, begins airing on NBC. As of 2011, the show has won 32 Daytime Emmy Awards.


Feb.
The Rawhide Kid, a Marvel Comics character since the 1950s, makes his first appearance in a comic as a homosexual.


April 23
ABC airs the first lesbian kiss on daytime TV when Bianca kisses Lena on All My Children.


July 15
Bravo debuts Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a reality television series. The show features a team of five gay men who perform makeovers on straight men. Each of the five guys has an area of expertise: fashion, style, personal grooming, interior design and culture. The show becomes a rating success and wins an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program.
2004
Sept. 8
Showtime debuts The L Word, a television drama which focuses on a group of lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends in Los Angeles. The series airs for five years.
2005
Dec. 9
Brokeback Mountain, a major motion picture is released, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two cowboys in a gay relationship. The film is directed by Ang Lee and receives several awards, including three Oscars.
2006
Nov.
Actor Neil Patrick Harris confirms that he is gay in a People magazine interview, saying, "I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love."
2007
Aug. 17
As the World Turns airs the first ever kiss on American daytime TV between two gay males. The characters, Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer, are referred to as Nuke by fans.
2008
Aug. 16
After the overturn of the same-sex marriage ban in California, Ellen DeGeneres marries actress Portia de Rossi at their home.
2009
Feb. 13
In the first same-sex legal wedding ever televised on American daytime TV, ABC's All My Children airs the lesbian nuptials of Bianca Montgomery and Reese Williams. The characters also break ground by the level of physical intimacy between them on camera, something never seen before on American daytime television.


May 19
Fox debuts Glee, an American musical comedy-drama, which focuses on a high school glee club. Over the course of the show, the glee club members deal with social issues, their relationships and sexuality. The show is a commercial success for Fox and wins several awards.


Sept. 23
Modern Family, a mockumentary-style television comedy, debuts on ABC. The show features three interrelated families. One of the families is made up of Mitchell, his partner Cameron, and their adopted daughter, Lily. The series is a commercial and critical success, earning high ratings and multiples Emmys, including multiple wins for Best Comedy.
2010
July 30
The Kids Are All Right, a motion picture directed by Lisa Cholodenko is released. The film features Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a married lesbian couple who each gave birth to a child by using the same sperm donor. The plot centers on the couple, their now teenage kids, and the sperm donor dad who re-enters their lives. The film receives rave reviews and wins many awards.

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