LGBT Media: Out and Proud Teens

I came out of the closet in my sophomore year of high school. Junior year my friends and I organized a Gay Straight Alliance. This made it easier to stand up to the bullies who’d been harassing me for over a decade. It gave me the courage to seek out LGBT adults for mentorship. It did not help me meet guys my age. Closeted men avoided me so as not to draw attention to themselves.

The recent Love,Victor focuses on a closeted teenager. It shared the strength’s and weaknesses of it’s predecessor Love, Simon; likable actors, uneven writing, a sense of humor and a fear of acting too gay. The writers say they’ll dig deeper in a second season. Their remarks inspired me to compile some examples of out and proud queer teens in media. Coming out doesn’t end the story or remove all conflict from their lives.

There are minor spoilers ahead.

The Role Model: Love, Simon’s Ethan

Clark Moore. Photo by Christopher Polk/ Getty Images.

Ethan is always surrounded by friends. He can dismiss a bully with a withering remark. Simon’s terrified of him. When circumstance forces them to talk Simon makes an ignorant remark about how “easy” Ethan has it. Ethan shuts him down. He didn’t get much screen time but actor Clark Moore made every moment count.

Other Examples: High School Musical- The Series’ Carlos. Merli’s Oliver. The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s Patrick.

The Best Friend: G.B.F’s Tanner

Michael J. Willett as Tanner

The leaders of the school’s top cliques decide they each want a gay best friend. They out Tanner and fight over his affection. Soon they’re giving him makeovers, defending him from bullies and confiding their problems in him. He discovers the limitations of this role fast. The film loses focus midway but the premise is smart. The gay best friend was a staple of romcoms and ensemble comedies throughout the 90’s and early 00’s. Teen examples are less common as they tend to be closeted or only out to a select few.

Other Examples: Mean Girls’ Damian.

The Bully: Sex Education’s Anwar

Chaneil Kular as Anwar

Closeted bullies are common. But Anwar’s a different beast. He’s out, proud and a vicious snob. He and his friends insult anyone near them. When he finally gets punched, it’s by another gay teen that he’s been bullying. He gets a more nuanced storyline in the second season.

Other Examples: Faking It’s Shane. 13 Reason’s Why’s Ryan. Heathers 2018’s Heather Duke. Speech and Debate’s Howie.

The Outcast: Were the World Mine’s Timothy

Tanner Cohen as Timothy

Timothy’s a target of bullies. Since he came out he’s only held on to a few friends. A magic potion allows him to turn his classmates gay. The revenge fantasy forces him to confront his own self-loathing. An interesting film that never quite lives up to its potential.

Other Examples: Boys in the Trees’s Jonah. Freak Show’s Billy. My So Called Life’s Ricky.

The Ally: Handsome Devil’s Ned

Fionn O’Shea as Ned

Everyone assumes he’s openly gay. He neither confirms or denies it. He’s too guarded to show interest in anyone. The jocks bully him regardless. When he meets a closeted jock he’ll be faced with a moral conundrum. Author and Director John Butler leaves Ned’s sexuality up to audience interpretation. Do you find that a cop out or does it make the film more interesting?

Other Examples: Mean Girls’ Janice. Struck by Lightning’s Carson.

The Mystery Crush: Love Victor’s Benji

George Sear as Benji

He’s handsome. He’s out. But what else do we know about him? He plays in a band, works in a coffee shop and draws. He’s there for our closeted protagonist to pin his hopes and dreams on. How has being out affected his life at Creekwood High? Maybe season two will tell us.

Other Examples: Alex Strangelove’s Elliot. Glee’s Blaine. Sex Education’s Rahim.

The Complex Protagonist: Glee’s Kurt

Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel

Glee ran long enough to put Kurt through a variety of story lines. He played the role of hero and villain, clown and victim, saint and sinner. But he survived high school while living out and proud. For all the problems Glee had, it fleshed out a complex gay teen protagonist.

Other Examples: Booksmart’s Amy. Degrassi’s Tristan. The Real O’Neals’ Kenny. Sex Education’s Eric. (Though Eric is rude enough to fit the “bully” role as well.)

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric

Who are some of your favorite examples? Have you watched Love Victor? How would you like to see him develop in Season Two? Read more articles on LGBT media here.