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Seth Taylor is a teacher and writer in Southern California. where he lives with his increasingly precocious tween daughter. He's a contributor at DadCentric and Culture Brats and is featured in BlogHer’s Voices of the Year 2012 anthology.

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10 Gay TV Characters I Remember Most

By Seth Taylor |

Thanks to ABC Family’s new series The Fosters for sponsoring this post. Click here to see more of the discussion. Also, watch the series premiere of The Fosters on Monday, June 3 at 9/8c only on ABC Family.

I’m 42 years old, but my gay lifespan has been much shorter. I didn’t come out until well into my adulthood. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention to how our culture treated gay people over the years – in particular, how the media presented them.

If you’re gay, odds are good that TV portrayals had an influence on your coming out process – for better or for worse, depending on the decade.  Maybe you watched a show with a character with whom you identified, who made you feel less isolated.  Maybe you watched a show where gay people were the target of mean-spirited mockery, and it kept you living in a closet longer than you might’ve otherwise.

Over the last couple years, television has gone to considerable effort to normalize gay characters and bring them into the mainstream.  But this certainly wasn’t always the case.  When I look back over my long life as a TV viewer, I can think of several characters that influenced my own coming out – in a range of ways.  You may have a list of your own.  Here’s mine.

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Gay TV Characters

1977: Jack Tripper from Three's Company

The first gay character I ever saw on TV was Jack Tripper, the male third of Three’s Company. I know. He wasn’t actually gay. He pretended to be gay so that his landlord Mr. Roper wouldn’t have a problem with him shacking up with Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers. If I recall, Jack (played by John Ritter) was a skirt-chasing dawg, and part of the comedy was in the fact that he had to femme it up whenever Mr. Roper came sniffing around, on the lookout for any potential impropriety. I was just a kid at the time. Back then, Jack Tripper mainly taught me that gay people existed to be made fun of. Not a great lesson, but this was the same decade that spawned bell-bottoms, pet rocks, and Farrah Hair. What can we do but forgive, right? I’m sure there were other gay characters, actual gay characters, crossing various TV thresholds in the 70s. But I only remember this guy, who played gay solely for laughs. The wrong kind of laughs. (Photo Credit: kingworldnew.com)

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Seth Taylor

Seth Taylor is a teacher and writer in Southern California. where he lives with his increasingly precocious tween daughter. He's a contributor at DadCentric and Culture Brats and is featured in BlogHer’s Voices of the Year 2012 anthology. Read bio and latest posts → Read Seth's latest posts →

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5 thoughts on “10 Gay TV Characters I Remember Most

  1. Jen says:

    Were you not a fan of My So-Called Life or did you not see it? Because I found Wilson Cruz’s portrayal of Rickie Vasquez to be immensely important in how it showed the issues GLBT youth (and adults) had to deal with during that time period. I’d put him at equal level with Kurt on Glee, or maybe even a little higher, because My So-Called Life felt much more real overall as a show.

    -Jen

    1. Seth Taylor says:

      Rickie absolutely would’ve made the list had I seen MSCL during its run — I don’t think I was watching a lot of TV during the year it was on the air, so I didn’t see Cruz’s heartfelt portrayal until years later. But he’s definitely a worthy addition to the list!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Obviously this shows that I’m a lot younger than to know many of these shows (or at least watch them when they originally aired) but the first I remember is Marco and then Dylan on Degrassi. I’m still sad they wernt together in the end :(

    1. Seth Taylor says:

      Yep, if you’re a DeGrassi watcher, you’ll probably *somewhat* younger than me. I do vaguely remember those characters though… a very sweet portrayal of a gay couple, I’m told.

  3. monty says:

    There was also the couple on Desperate Housewives…one was a lawyer and they were adopting…also on the same show, Catherine ran away with her new girlfriend, a reformed exotic dancer!

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