Last week Monday I shared with parents at a PFLAG NYC meeting some of my experiences raising a gender nonconforming son in the early ‘90s, a couple of decades before the gender revolution and the terms I wish had existed back then. I learned after my talk that, in addition to parents whose young kids were also gender nonconforming or transgender, some had older children – teens and young adults – who’d come out to them recently as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer. One mom expressed her confusion understanding her child. Others worried about what being LGBTQ might mean for their child’s safety at school or acceptance by members of extended family, their neighbors or church.
Those moms’ feelings stuck with me the next night when I remembered I’d already watched this season’s final episode of The Real O’Neals, a sitcom that focuses on gay teen Kenny’s life after coming out to his religious Irish Catholic family. And amid rumors the show might not be renewed for a third season, I was reminded how important the ABC-TV family comedy really is to both parents of LGBTQ kids and their children, especially given the current political climate of our country.
The facts remain the facts:
- 26% of LGBTQ youth surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign say their biggest problems are not feeling accepted by family and bullying at school.
- Of the 1.6 million youth who experience homelessness in the U.S., 40% of them are LGBTQ, the majority forced out by rejecting families.
- More than 80% of 10,000 K-12 educators surveyed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, reported “heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students,” including LGBTQ students. Four in 10 said they heard slurs directed at students in those groups in the first few weeks following the election.
We desperately need a show on primetime network television that can, with the heart and humor The Real O’Neals displays, help a teenager adjust to being openly gay in Trump’s America.
Another facet only The Real O’Neals delivers is a real-life demonstration of how divorced Catholic parents don’t have to hate each other and can co-parent in loving, supportive ways that put their LGBTQ kid first. Although he didn’t remodel and move into the garage, my “wasband” (so much nicer than “ex”), and I remained close friends and strong advocates for our kid after divorcing when he was 10 years old. And America needs to continue seeing a mom like Eileen O’Neal who doesn’t completely understand her gay son, but who loves him, even though she screws up occasionally and says things that aren’t appropriate.
I know I’m not the only one who wants to know what gay teen Kenny will face with the recent national rise in homophobia and bullying.
I know one TV show can’t be all things to all people, but when you have a vulnerable minority like the LGBTQ teen community starved for representation, I’d like to think ABC-TV will follow its much-needed When We Rise miniseries presented earlier this year with a third season of The Real O’Neals. I know I’m not the only one who wants to know what gay teen Kenny will face with the recent national rise in homophobia and bullying, or how his friend Allison will handle dealing with her parents abject rejection since discovering she’s a lesbian.
ABC will be making their decisions about the 2017-18 season soon, so now is the time to show some love for The Real O’Neals. Because every little bit helps, there are ways you and your friends can let the network know you want a third season.
First, you can tweet and post your support for the show. Use the hashtags #TheRealReason and #TheRealONeals. You can also tweet your support to @TheRealONeals and @ABCNetwork.
And secondly, like me, you can continue to watch past episodes of The Real O’Neals online.
Thanks for supporting LGBTQ kids everywhere!
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