Janet Mock

20 Great Black LGBT TV Moments

As media is becoming increasingly (andfinally) diverse, we reflect on some of the biggest Black moments on the small screen

Janet Mock

The Black LGBT media takeover is finally here. The once marginalized and erased voices of the community, we now have platforms that we could have never dreamed of in the past.  Here are 20 of our biggest, proudest moments:

1) The Women of Brewster Place: Based on the Gloria Naylor novel of the same name, the 1989 miniseries showcased a same-sex relationship between two Black women and the trials and tribulations that came along with it during those times.  This was the first time in television history that a lesbian relationship was featured so prominently in a storyline during primetime hours. 



2) TV's FIRST Gay Wedding:  Roc doesn't get the props it deserves for being a groundbreaking show, likely because the Fox sitcom focused on a working class Black Baltimore family and was the (genius!) product of Black showrunners. In a season 1 episode in 1991, Shaft actor Richard Roundtree appeared as the younger brother of family patriarch Andrew Emerson and wed his male partner. In NINETEEN NINETY ONE. 

3)  “Labels” – This 1996 episode of Moesha discussed the topic of homosexuality when Moesha (played by Brandy) went on a date with her best friend’s cousin.  The cousin was gay and confided in her, which Moesha then gossiped about at school, leading to a powerful conversation for the show’s primarily Black, teenaged fan base.

4) Carter Haywood on Spin City – In 1996, Michael Hoffman appeared on the hit ABC sitcom for 7 seasons as Carter Haywood, a Black gay man who was the Head of Minority Affairs at City Hall in NYC.  The character was a change from the norm of how Black gay men were portrayed on TV as hairstylists or snap queens.  The show also showed the struggles of what gay men went through when adopting a child.

5) OZ When the HBO series debuted in 1998, it brought a lot of attention to the sexuality of inmates in prison who identified as heterosexual all while having gay relationships in prison—opening many eyes to the fluidity of sexuality. 

6) Wanda At Large – Comedian Wanda Sykes, who won a 1999 Emmy as a writer on The Chris Rock Show, made history in 2003 as the first Black lesbian to star in her own sitcom. Though it was ultimately short-lived, the moment truly mattered.

7) The Wire – One of the breakout characters of what is often called “the greatest show in TV history” was a gay drug dealer named Omar, arguably one of the most compelling Black male characters to appear on the small screen.  Other gay and lesbian characters on the show would also present a more nuanced look at Black same-sex loving life.

8)  Noah's Arc – The 2005 television drama that followed the ups and downs of 4 friends was often referred to as the Black gay Sex and the City. With over-the-top storylines and even more outrageous characters, the show almost instantly became a cult classic—so its cancellation after just two seasons came as a big shock. A feature film, “Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom,” was produced in response to the outcry.

9) The D.L. Chronicles The show, which made its Logo debut in 2007, followed the complicated life of Boo, and his relationships with his girlfriend and male lover.  The series had won numerous awards, including the GLAAD Media Award for Best Anthology Series in 2008. It has the added distinction of being both the first Black show and the first show produced by a cable network to win the award.

10) Gee Sessions-Small and Juan Session–Eloping in 2009, they became the first Black gay male couple to be featured on the HGTV hit show House Hunters.  The two are currently living in Atlanta, where they host upscale events, run a foundation and maintain a lifestyle website. 

11)  Rupaul’s Drag Race –  Since 2009, Rupaul’s Drag Race has been a staple of the Logo Network.  Now in its 8th season, the competition continues to grow in popularity and ratings.  The show is important as it showcases an often marginalized group within the Black LGBT community: drag performers.

12) Robin Roberts Interviews the President – In May of 2012, President Obama sat with the anchor, who hadn’t yet been vocal about her sexuality, to discuss his support of marriage equality. She would later confirm her relationship with a woman via a Facebook post.

13) The WWE's Darren Young Comes Out – During an interview in 2013, Young became the first wrestler still actively under contract to publicly identify as a gay man.

14)  Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce Since 2013, the New Orleans bounce legend has left a mark on television, one “shake” at a time. Big Freedia doesn’t fit into a tidy, heteronormative gender box, something rarely seen in media or discussions of Black LGBT life. Her presence on television is not only refreshing, but necessary.

15) Octavius Terry and Jamal Sims Wed at the Grammys – The gay Hollywood socialites said “I do” before an audience of 30 million during a Macklemore performance of “Same Love” at the 2014 Grammys.

16) Jussie Smollet’s Groundbreaking Role on Empire: As Jamal Lyon, Jussie Smollett became one of the breakout stars of the hit show Empire, which debuted in January of 2015. Jamal struggles to find his way in the hetero-dominated music industry, while battling with his bigoted father, Luscious; however, the love and acceptance he receives from other family members challenges the stereotype that all Black people are homophobic.

17) Laverne Cox at the Emmys  – Earlier this year, Cox became the first transgender woman to receive an Emmy nomination.  Although she didn’t take home the trophy, no one will ever forget her slayage of the red carpet and what it meant to the LGBT community to be recognized for her work in acting.

18) The Prancing Elites Project – Making its television debut in April of this year, this reality show follows the trials and tribulations of 5 Black effeminate Black gay men from Mobile, Alabama who have a controversial dance team. The show was a breakout hit and was picked up for a second season. The Prancing Elites will also join Reverend Al Sharpton, Patti Labelle and Common for a special concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act next month.

19) Janet Mock x Oprah – In May of this year, The interview between the MSNBC host/activist/author was a watershed moment in Black LGBT history, as Mock was able to provide Mother Oprah and her audience with many teachable moments and expose the world to the trans community in a way that had never been done before.

20) The Rise of Black LGBT Web Series – The internet is quickly replacing TV as the go-to place for the best original programing, and the Black LGBT community is taking part, with shows like BaitDrama QueenzEntangled With You, and many more. In May, Out TV announced they will be bringing two Black gay web series, Triangle and Freefall to television in over 26 countries, continuing the growing landscape of black LGBT lives portrayal on television.

 

These defining moments in television history are only the beginning.  This movement will help to create a normalcy within the black community and prevent erasure of marginalized voices.  From writing, music, television, and more, the Black LGBT media movement continues to grow and remind the world about the importance in realizing that all black lives matter.

 

George M. Johnson is a blogger located in the DMV area.  He has written for Musedmagonline.com, Blavity.com, Rolereboot.org, and Ebony.com. Follow him on Twitter @iamgmjohnson

 

 





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