Even the fiercest of today's LGBTQ icons were once confused queer kids. For Pride Month, Billy Porter, MJ Rodriguez, Billy Eichner, Ryan O’Connell, Kiersey Clemons, Shangela and Josh Thomas recount to The Hollywood Reporter the early moments of LGBTQ representation that struck a nerve with their young selves and helped form their developing LGBTQ identities.
For a young member of the LGBTQ community, navigating adolescence can be a long, lonely and confusing path. Even the smallest glimpse of queerness onscreen can prove to be life-changing for queer kids who long for anything to help them understand themselves. Before coming out — when LGBTQ identity struggles are almost entirely internalized — television screens and movie theaters are able to act as transformative portals of experience to life outside of the closet.
In the landscape of today’s film industry, which can host a gay teen romantic comedy like Love, Simon in mainstream theaters and celebrate a trans-led drama like Pose on cable, it’s easy to forget that positive LGBTQ representation is a largely modern-day phenomenon. When GLAAD’s "Where We Are on TV" report first launched in 2005, LGBTQ characters made up less than 2 percent of the characters on television. For the 2018-19 season, the report saw that number rise to a record 8.8 percent. However, for many of those responsible for creating the dynamic and diverse slate of LGBTQ stories on screen today, seeing any part of themselves reflected on screen growing up was a rare impactful event.
Whether it was sneaking in a late-night glimpse of a same-sex kiss or being able to relate to a visibly queer character on film, the moments of LGBTQ representation that stick with queer people say a lot about how they formed their own identities — and for some, it seems the most important images were the ones that were missing from the screen.
This Pride Month, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with seven members of LGBTQ Hollywood, who opened up about the moments of queerness on screen that helped shape their identities. Read on to see what they had to say.