My family is in process of purchasing our first home, so our TV has consistently been glued to the Home and Garden Network (HGTV), which offers a slew of shows to help educate viewers on buying and decorating a home.
HGTV occasionally educates viewers on something much more important though – the network often models what equality for gay and lesbian couples should look like.
LGBT people are quite accustomed to invisibility in entertainment media. We are used to turning on the TV or going to a movie and not seeing any relatable characters. So, my husband and I were absolutely gleeful the first time that we saw a gay couple on House Hunters. We figured it was an isolated incident – like the gay couple we saw on Bridezillas years ago, but now that we have months of HGTV watching under our belts, it is quite evident that HGTV is committed to showing that there are many different types of families looking for homes.
We have seen LGBT people of all different strains: young and old, singles and couples, with children and without children, white, black, Latino and Asian.
The special piece of HGTV’s brand of equality is that it is never about them being gay and it is never about them not being gay. They look at each family they profile through the lens of the house they are trying to buy or sell or the room they are trying to decorate (e.g. Bill and John are looking for more square footage to accommodate their growing family).
This has not gone completely unnoticed – there are scattered complaints around the Internet of HGTV “normalizing” gay people and “forcing alternative lifestyles down viewers' throats.” But for the most part, this representation has a positive impact on the movement.
Entertainment media has been one of the most important soldiers in the battle for LGBT equality. Studies consistently show that people are more likely to vote for equality when they know someone who is gay or lesbian. There are many people in this country who have not known any LGBT people personally, so media images play a significant role in forming their mindset on equality. When they are able to see gay couples do something as relatable and non-threatening as purchase a house, it helps to reduce the “other” factor.
As our movement toward equality progresses, how entertainment media portrays our community will hopefully journey more toward the matter-of-fact images modeled by HGTV.
Photo credit: HGTV on Facebook