The Roseanne spin-off The Conners featured an important coming-out story for Darlene’s 12-year-old son Mark this week. Early in the reboot’s run, before Roseanne Barr was fired from the show she created for sending racist tweets, there were storylines about Mark being bullied for wearing gender-nonconforming clothes to school.
In this week’s episode, Mark (Ames McNamara) experiences homophobia after he's called to the principal's office for breaking the school’s “No PDA” rule for kissing the boy he likes.
He and his crush Austin are called to the principal’s office with his parents, Darlene (Sara Gilbert, who is a lesbian) and David (Johnny Galecki), and Austin’s homophobic grandmother. With his grandmother in the room, Austin spurns Mark and denies he wanted to be kissed, alleging that it was all Mark.
The episode provides a platform to educate viewers of the dangers of homophobia and the importance of being loving and supportive of LGBTQ kids.
After some back-and-forth over who is telling the truth about the kiss, Austin’s grandmother says, “Who are you gonna believe? My kid or the boy with the nail polish?”
“You raise your kid however you want, but I’ve got enough on my plate raising Austin by myself,” she says. “I don’t need your kid confusing him into thinking he’s something he isn’t!”
“Maybe you don’t want to accept the fact that your grandkid might be gay, but you scaring him into denying it is just going to ruin his life,” Darlene fires back.
Later, Darlene and David approach Mark in his room as he’s removing the nail polish that was weaponized against him.
Mark tells his parents he’s mad at Austin and at them for encouraging him to be himself.
“You told me I shouldn’t hide who I am, and look what happened,” he says. “My life would be so much easier if I wasn’t gay.”
“You should be mad and you should stay mad because you’re amazing and everybody else sucks,” Darlene says.
The scene ends with Darlene and David group-hugging their son while Mark says, “I love myself! I’m glad I’m gay! Leave me alone!”
Watch the clips below.