Timeline: LGBTQ+ in Pop Culture 1934 - 2010

Updated November 29, 2022 | Infoplease Staff

Here are some key breakthroughs for LGBTQ+ persons in television, film, media, and theater.

by Jennie Wood
Rock Hudson

Giant footage

Rock Hudson

Angels in America

Archive Photos

Angels in America

Ellen DeGeneres

Photo by Alan Light

Ellen DeGeneres

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer footage

Willow and Tara

Neil Patrick Harris

Photo by Lan Bui

Neil Patrick Harris

1962 1985 1994 2000 2008
Nov. 20
The Children's Hour, a stage play by Lillian Hellman, premieres on Broadway. The play is set at an all-girls boarding school run by two women. A student accuses the two women of having a lesbian affair, an accusation which destroys their lives. The play is a huge hit despite the fact that at the time it is illegal in New York to make any reference to homosexuality on stage.
June 6
Advise and Consent, a film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, is released in theaters. The film features a rookie senator with a homosexual past as one of its main characters. The senator is played by Don Murray.
The Advocate begins publication in Los Angeles as a local newsletter by the activist group PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education).
Nov. 1
That Certain Summer, a made for TV movie, airs as the ABC Movie of the Week. It is the first TV movie to deal with the subject of homosexuality sympathetically. Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook, big name stars at the time, play lovers.
Jan. 24
ABC debuts Hot l Baltimore, a short lived Norman Lear series, which features the first gay couple on TV. On the show, the characters George and Gordon are an older gay couple.
Sept. 13
On the primetime TV series Soap, Billy Crystal plays Jodie Dallas, a gay man.
April 29
The Hunger, a horror film, is released. The film features a love triangle between a doctor, played by Susan Sarandon, and a vampire couple, played by Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie. The film develops a cult following, partly because of the lesbian seduction scene between Sarandon and Deneuve.
July 25
Rock Hudson issues a press release announcing that he has AIDS. His announcement elevates AIDS awareness to a whole new level.

Oct. 2
Rock Hudson becomes the first major celebrity to die from an AIDS-related illness.

Nov. 11
NBC airs An Early Frost, a TV movie of the week, featuring Aidan Quinn as a Chicago attorney who goes home to tell his parents that he is gay and has AIDS. It is the first major film that deals with the subject of AIDS.
July 25
The made-for-TV movie, My Two Loves, airs. The film features Mariette Harley questioning her sexuality after her husband dies. She has an affair with Lynn Redgrave in the film.
Feb. 7
The first kiss between a homosexual couple airs on network TV during an episode of L.A. Law. Abby Perkins, played by Michele Greene, and C.J. Lamb, played by Amanda Donohoe, kiss after Abby gets a raise. Advertisers threaten to pull their ads over the scene.
Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, a play by Tony Kushner, tackles politics, religion and AIDS from a gay point of view. In 1993, it wins the Pulitzer Prize for drama and goes on to be made into an HBO miniseries featuring Meryl Streep and Al Pacino.
April 29
On CBS' Picket Fences, two teenage girls kiss. The network demands that the scene be reshot in the dark.

Dec. 24
Philadelphia, a film starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington is released. It is one of the first major Hollywood films to deal directly with homophobia, homosexuality, and HIV/AIDS. The movie is directed by Jonathan Demme and goes on to win awards, including a Best Actor Oscar for Tom Hanks.
An Ikea ad runs on TV showing two men shopping for furniture together. This is the first TV commercial featuring an ordinary, gay couple.

March 1
During an episode titled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" of the popular sitcom, Roseanne, Mariel Hemingway kisses Roseanne Barr. ABC threatens not to air the episode, but does and 30 million people tune in. The series also features a reoccurring character, Nancy, played by Sandra Bernhard, who comes out as a lesbian during season five.

Nov. 10
An episode of My So Called Life airs featuring supporting gay character Rickie, played by Wilson Cruz, who crushes on boy classmate Corey.
Feb. 6
The made-for-TV movie, Serving in Silence airs, featuring Glenn Close and Judy Davis. The film challenges the U.S. military's position on homosexuality. Close and Davis both win Emmy Awards for their roles.
Jan. 18
One of the most popular sitcoms of all time, Friends, features a lesbian wedding of two supporting characters, Carol, played by Jane Sibbett, and Susan, played by Jessica Hecht. However, the couple is not shown kissing at the end of the ceremony. The episode is titled "The One with the Lesbian Wedding."
Jan. 11
ABC airs a ground-breaking episode of Relativity, which features a scene in which a supporting character, out-lesbian Rhonda, played by Lisa Edelstein, shares a passionate kiss with another woman. This is the first open-mouth kiss between two women aired on prime time television.

Ellen DeGeneres appears on The Oprah Winfrey Show and comes out as a lesbian.

April 30
The coming-out episode of Ellen airs. In the episode, the main character, played by Ellen DeGeneres, comes out to her therapist, played by Oprah Winfrey. The episode, titled "The Puppy Episode", is one of the highest-rated of the series.

Sept. 21
The NBC sitcom, Will & Grace debuts. The series is built around four main characters, two gay men and two heterosexual women. The series goes on to air for 8 years, win 16 Emmys and become part of NBC's highly successful Thursday night "Must See TV" lineup.
May 24
The season finale of Dawson's Creek features the first passionate kiss between two men to ever take place during primetime. Jack McPhee (played by Kerr Smith) shares the onscreen kiss with boyfriend Ethan (played by Adam Kauffman) in this episode, titled "True Love." Earlier in the series, McPhee comes out after briefly dating Katie Holmes' character Joey.

Daytime soap All My Children breaks new ground when the character Bianca Montgomery realizes she's a lesbian. Bianca, played by Eden Riegel, is the daughter of Erica Kane, arguably the most popular character in the history of American daytime soap operas. It is the first time that a major, continuing role has a homosexual orientation on daytime TV.

Dec. 3
Queer as Folk begins airing on Showtime. Set in Pittsburgh, the series tells the story of five gay men. The show is a U.S. version of the UK TV series.
April 26
In the Friends episode titled "The One with Rachel's Big Kiss", Jennifer Aniston's character Rachel kisses an old friend from college, Melissa, played by Winona Ryder. After the kiss, Melissa confesses her love for Rachel.

The popular TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer paves new ground by becoming the first show to develop a gradual, accurate, and full-blown lesbian relationship between two of the major characters, Willow, played by Alyson Hannigan, and Tara, played by Amber Benson.
Feb. 14
Rosie O'Donnell comes out as a lesbian and discusses her sexual orientation on the daytime talk show, The View.
Sept. 8
The Ellen DeGeneres Show, a daytime talk show, begins airing on NBC. As of 2011, the show has won 32 Daytime Emmy Awards.

The Rawhide Kid, a Marvel Comics character since the 1950s, makes his first appearance in a comic as a homosexual.

April 23
ABC airs the first lesbian kiss on daytime TV when Bianca kisses Lena on All My Children.

July 15
Bravo debuts Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a reality television series. The show features a team of five gay men who perform makeovers on straight men. Each of the five guys has an area of expertise: fashion, style, personal grooming, interior design and culture. The show becomes a rating success and wins an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program.
Sept. 8
Showtime debuts The L Word, a television drama which focuses on a group of lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends in Los Angeles. The series airs for five years.
Dec. 9
Brokeback Mountain, a major motion picture is released, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two cowboys in a gay relationship. The film is directed by Ang Lee and receives several awards, including three Oscars.
Actor Neil Patrick Harris confirms that he is gay in a People magazine interview, saying, "I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love."
Aug. 17
As the World Turns airs the first ever kiss on American daytime TV between two gay males. The characters, Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer, are referred to as Nuke by fans.
Aug. 16
After the overturn of the same-sex marriage ban in California, Ellen DeGeneres marries actress Portia de Rossi at their home.
Feb. 13
In the first same-sex legal wedding ever televised on American daytime TV, ABC's All My Children airs the lesbian nuptials of Bianca Montgomery and Reese Williams. The characters also break ground by the level of physical intimacy between them on camera, something never seen before on American daytime television.

May 19
Fox debuts Glee, an American musical comedy-drama, which focuses on a high school glee club. Over the course of the show, the glee club members deal with social issues, their relationships and sexuality. The show is a commercial success for Fox and wins several awards.

Sept. 23
Modern Family, a mockumentary-style television comedy, debuts on ABC. The show features three interrelated families. One of the families is made up of Mitchell, his partner Cameron, and their adopted daughter, Lily. The series is a commercial and critical success, earning high ratings and multiples Emmys, including multiple wins for Best Comedy.
July 30
The Kids Are All Right, a motion picture directed by Lisa Cholodenko is released. The film features Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a married lesbian couple who each gave birth to a child by using the same sperm donor. The plot centers on the couple, their now teenage kids, and the sperm donor dad who re-enters their lives. The film receives rave reviews and wins many awards.
Jay-Z voices support for gay marriage. He is soon followed by other big names in hip-hop including 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and Macklemore.

Alan Scott, also known as the Green Lantern, is revealed as a gay man in DC Comic's "Earth 2." The formerly married father of two first appeared in 1940.

Marvel Comics hosts the first same-sex wedding, joining Northstar (who became the first openly gay character in 1992) and his longtime partner Kyle in "Astonishing X-Men #51."
Successful R&B singer Frank Ocean reveals his first love was a man.

“Same Love,“ a marriage equality anthem by Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis hit the charts, jumping to the Top 5 on Billboard’s rap music chart.

Archie Andrews (of Archie Comics) dies after throwing himself into the path of a bullet meant for his openly gay friend, Senator Kevin Keller.

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