As the homophobia turns

When GLAAD and CBS joined forces to run a public service announcement about tolerance alongside a teen coming-out story line on As the World Turns, the haters turned up the heat

BY Damon Romine

May 18 2006 12:00 AM ET

For the past few
weeks it seems like I’ve been spending more time in
the fictional soap city of Oakdale than in my office
at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Because it’s still rare for gay characters to
populate daytime television, the fact that Lily and
Holden’s son Luke was coming out on As the
World Turns
gave cause for celebration, and
GLAAD wanted to help spread the news.

My association
with the CBS soap goes back to the early ’70s. In
rural Kansas our rooftop antenna only picked up nearby
NBC and CBS affiliates. With just two choices, my
mother and grandmother both watched CBS during the
day, and I got hooked on that network’s soaps as
well.

I remember my
excitement back in 1988 when As the World Turns
introduced daytime’s first gay male
character—and one of the few gay characters
anywhere on television—Hank Elliot. Hank really
was a touchstone for me as a young gay man. After watching a
confused Steven Carrington on Dynasty and Al
Pacino’s dangerous Cruising, it was nice
to be able to identify with someone who lived a pretty
“normal” life in a pretty
“normal” city like Oakdale. Well, as normal as
one gets on a soap.

Fast-forward 18
years. I’m sitting in an office with As the World
Turns
executives and actor Van Hansis, who plays
Luke. We’re discussing the importance of
Luke’s story today for gay youth and their
families. As I give Van pointers on talking to the
press about his gay character, I’m impressed with how
seriously he is taking his real-life status as a role
model.

Luke coming out to his father on ATWT | Advocate.comLuke (Hansis, right) coming out to his father on
As the World Turns.
 

Moreover,
I’m struck by the very public statement he’s
about to make.

In January
ABC’s General Hospital helped GLAAD kick
off our “Be an Ally and a Friend” campaign by
airing a public service announcement featuring two of
its young stars. Now CBS and As the World Turns were
enthusiastically joining our campaign, with Van and
his on-screen mother, Emmy winner Martha Byrne, taping
their own PSA. The script went like this:

Lily (Martha Byrne): Every day people face
rejection, prejudice, and violence because they’re
gay. But you can make a difference.

Luke (Van Hansis): Send a message of support
and acceptance. Be an ally and a friend.

A joint press
release from As the World Turns and GLAAD was
released announcing the coming-out story line and the
airing of the PSA on May 9. Unfortunately, it came as no
surprise that the virulently antigay Traditional
Values Coalition—which claims, among other
things, that “homosexual behavior is no different
than tobacco or alcohol abuse”—launched
a weeklong crusade against CBS, As the World Turns,
and GLAAD.

Tags: World

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