Empire had its pearl-clutching, two-hour season finale last night. So naturally, The Advocate is already thinking about season 2!
Cocreated by out director Lee Daniels, in its first season the show was lauded for shining a spotlight on a range of LGBT issues, among them child abuse, coming out, and homophobia in the world of hip-hop. But there's always more ground to cover.
At a recent panel discussion at Outfest Fusion, a film festival that focuses on LGBT people of color, Daniels asked the audience for topics that they wanted to see next season. But there wasn't time to cover them all! So in the spirit of continuing the conversation, we asked our readers for input on LGBT storylines that they wanted to see on Empire. Here are 15 of the best responses.
1.LGBT Youth: Homelessness and Suicide "Young gay teens being disowned or kicked out of their homes for being gay," says Tony Velasquez. "Second this," adds Tony Belch. "And more than a few end up hustling (i.e., prostitution) to support themselves." Rafael Alvarenga notes that suicide is a major issue among young LGBT people, and television is "something that many of our gay youth look to as an answer for the small-mindedness they encounter."
2. "Down-Low" Relationships "We need to delve more into the stigma of down-low relationships," says Brian Germann. "There should be a storyline about the men who speak out against homosexuality while they are, in fact, having secret homosexual encounters."
3. HIV and PrEP "Contrary to popular belief, I think HIV would be a great topic!" says Kenneth Allen. "Some people would rather not discuss HIV [and] AIDS because of the stigma and ignorance surrounding the disease. They're too [conscious] about what it'd do for a show like Empire. Just like how [How to Get Away With Murder] season 1 ended [in which one of the characters tested positive]. It makes you look at the show another way now."
To incorporate this topic, Julie Robinson proposes that a HIV-positive character could be "a new serious [R&B artist] love interest for Jamal."
"PrEP," adds Paul Ciulla, referring to a daily treatment that prevents HIV. "It needs more exposure."
4. Transgender Characters "A trans character played by a real trans person of color, not a cisgender [nontrans] person portraying a trans person," would be great for the show, says Gregorious Maximus, pushing back against Hollywood's tendency to cast cisgender actors in trans roles.
Eric Selvey says a potential character could be a trans "male rap artist whose transition is discovered after his success." Bill Halliburton would also like to see a transgender singer next season. Julie Stefani says the role is unimportant, as long as he or she isn't a prostitute.
Jake Schmidt adds that he would like to see transphobia highlighted.
5. LGBT Seniors Ran Mullins would like to see more of the "divide between older and younger LGBTQ persons! We should support and respect one another more!" Mark Alan McRoberts also wants to shine a spotlight on "older LGBT folk who are rejected by so many in our youth-obsessed minority."
6. More Gabourey Sidibe "Give Becky a cool storyline. We need more Gabourey!" says Brian Germann.
7. Bisexuality Percy Ogden would like to see characters who identify as straight but are "curious." Amy Leibowitz Mitchell wants Empire to have out bi characters: "actual bisexuals who don't hide behind hedging/avoiding the word bisexual. And no crappy stereotypes or tropes."
8. Parenthood and Adoption A storyline involving the possibility of Jamal being a father was featured last season. But our audience would like to see this further developed, with F Mari Lassalle proposing adoption as an option. Martin William McLaughlin goes a step further, proposing a custody battle over parental rights.
9. Same-Sex Marriage Could there be wedding bells for Jamal? Martin William McLaughlin wants to hear them.
10. Lesbians "A real lesbian relationship and not just a lame kiss between two women," says Carla J. Edwards. "Or Hakeem hoping to have a [three]some."
11. Racism in the LGBT Community "It's great how the show is taking on homophobia in the African-American community," says Douglas Melilatt. "Now let's see it take on racism in the gay community." Lori Clark agrees, wishing the show would address "racial division in the LGBT community."
12. Politics Matt Pankey wants to see how changing local, state, and national laws, many of them discriminatory against LGBT people, affect the characters on the show.
13. LGBT Roles that Push Against Stereotypes A trans chef. A gay business executive. A lesbian rabbi. LGBT people come from all walks of life, and that should be reflected more on television.
14. All Body Types Kevin Olomon jokes that he wants to see a "chubby-chaser romance," and showcasing characters of all sizes would be a big step in that direction.
15. LGBT Athletes Michael Sam (pictured above right with fiance Vito Cammisano), Jason Collins, Brittney Griner, and more are breaking barriers in real-life sports. Why not on television? Mark Alan McRoberts proposes that the show could incorporate a "professional athletic who sings and falls for a man."
Any other ideas? Let us hear them in the comments!