LGBTQ characters on daytime soap operas have evolved and multiplied in the decades since Ryan Phillippe played a gay teen struggling with his sexual orientation on One Life to Live in the early ’90s. Phillippe’s character, Billy Douglas, was the first openly gay teen on an American soap and a launching pad for Phillippe’s Hollywood career.
Since then, each of the four remaining soaps have told LGBTQ stories, with varying degrees of success. Days of Our Lives has won multiple GLAAD Media Awards in the process, and a number of actors, including Days’ Chandler Massey, General Hospital’s Lexi Ainsworth, and The Young and the Restless’s Camryn Grimes have won daytime Emmys playing LGBTQ characters.
Now General Hospital has ventured onto groundbreaking terrain with its latest one. Beloved nurse and mother-of-three Elizabeth Webber and her reformed-serial killer husband Franco Baldwin suspect that her eight-year-old son Aiden Spencer — grandson of GH’s premiere ’80s supercouple Luke and Laura Spencer — might be gay.
I applauded the show’s writing team for even considering going there. TV and movies rarely delve into the complexities of what it’s like to grow up gay, especially during those confusing years before sex and sexual attraction are really factors. What started as a bullying story on GH had the potential to turn into so much more.
Unfortunately, the execution has ranged from so-so to shaky. Aiden pretty much disappeared, and the story has become more about how his family members are coping with their suspicion that the little boy might be gay.
How could they be sure, you ask? Well, Aiden isn’t like other boys. He loves his princess pencils, enjoys baking, and fails to score an invitation to his best friend’s party (naturally, it’s a female classmate). He has to be gay, right?
Well, actually, dead wrong. This is where GH has made its most egregious misstep: Why does male + princesses + baking have to equal gay? The show is buying into the sort of creaky stereotypes that have hurt gay men for years. Aiden’s mostly offscreen classmates are falling for them, too. They apparently have taken to calling him “Gayden.”
But based on what? Aside from his penchant for princess pencils and baking, Aiden comes across as a traditionally male pre-tween. If he were on Grindr, he could conceivably describe himself as “straight-acting” before stashing away his pencils and baking pans.
So what if he’s quiet and introverted. Many quiet and introverted boys grow up to be straight. So do boys who bake. The world’s greatest chefs, many of whom happen to be straight, had to start somewhere. It’s OK for the parents of an eight-year-old boy to speculate about whether he might grow up to be gay, but why would his possible sexual orientation be presented as a family emergency before he even reaches puberty?
Speaking of Aiden’s family, GH’s latest LGBTQ story seems to exist mainly to create angst for them. How will his mother and stepfather deal with their shocking realization, which, is really only in the suspicion stage? How will his big brother Cameron cope with it?
These are all valid questions, but where is Aiden? Why is an LGBTQ storyline mostly about straight characters.
If General Hospital wanted to tell a bullying story with a real twist, I wish they would have been bold enough to go further than princess pencils and baking. Rather than trying to saddle an eight-year-old with a sexual orientation, they could have told a story about a kid struggling with his gender identity and included makeup, dresses, heels, and discussions about gender fluidity and what it means to be a boy and a girl, beyond the stereotypical interests.
Or if they were determined to go the “gay” route, why not have Aiden develop a crush on a male classmate? Sometimes little boys play “doctor” with each other, too.
When the seeds of the story were planted last year, daring seemed to be the direction in which it was going, but then Aiden became possibly gay. Not only would a transgender tween story have been a timely tale, but it would have felt more relevant and appropriate for an eight-year-old character than whether he or she might grow up to be attracted to other boys or girls.
What saves the story is the sweet performance of child actor Jason David as Aiden (when he’s onscreen) and how accepting Aiden’s mother and stepfather are of him. Sure, his cousin Charlotte bullied him mercilessly, and his big brother Cameron is more concerned about how Aiden’s “gay” behavior makes Cameron look, but at least we know that if Aiden were to identify as gay when he grows up, he wouldn’t lose his parents’ love.
Still, I wonder, how they would react if it turned out that Aiden might be feeling like a little girl trapped in a little boy’s body. How would pearl-clutching viewers respond? Both The Bold and the Beautiful and All My Children have told transgender stories in the past, but no daytime soap has told one through a character who is still a full decade away from adulthood.
In making this a story about sexual orientation, General Hospital is trying to spin a tale about acceptance. As the story is being told so far, though, the show is mostly feeding the “f*ggot” stereotyping that make real life so hellish whether or not you’re growing up gay.
PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS
I think I’ll pass on this one….
I really REALLY wanted to make a comment but after reading those already here killed too many brain cells to actually give a chit enough to make one. I am more concerned on how we get Mayor Pete in the oval office than how an 8 year old fag is being presented on an effing soap opera.
“Rather than trying to saddle an eight-year-old with a sexual orientation, they could have told a story about a kid struggling with his gender identity and included makeup, dresses, heels, and discussions about gender fluidity and what it means to be a boy and a girl, beyond the stereotypical interests.”
Or maybe how about just exploring—and not “struggling”—with gender EXPRESSION and NOT gender identity — which is infinitely less regressive, conservative and stereotypical than either the one you’re complaining about or the trans narrative you’d prefer, Ironically.
A story about gender identity has nothing to do with being gay.
Let’s face it, soap operas are terrible with gay storylines, and deal with the struggles (or not) of at 8 year old is bound to fail from the beginning
“Why does male + princesses + baking have to equal gay?”
What non gay 8 year old boys are into princesses? I suppose there could be one or two out there somewhere, but come on. We all know which 8 year olds are the gay ones exactly because of stuff like this. It doesn’t mean all gay boys are into princess stuff, but it does mean that boys that are into princess stuff are gay.
Plus, it’s a delicate area that they’re treading new ground with. I’m not sure there’s any other way to ease viewers into this concept other than using subtle stereotypes that they’re already comfortable with. Lets wait a generation or so before we push for the 8 year old who’s into Drag Race, Grindr and pRep.
To be fair, a lot of gays are not into princesses (not even as preteens), but of course in those cases someone will complain about the character being too heteronormative
Or a better scenario; why not have Aiden actually be straight and just doesn’t give two cents about how others seek to stereotype and shove his identity into gender conforming boxes,
The twist could be, that Aiden is str8 but his complaining brother or sister is actually gay or transgender or BOTH.
Now that would be an interesting storyline.
When I was 8, I was into princesses and my best friends were girls, so those tired stereotypes don’t mean anyth..oh, wait. Well, my partner was “all boy.” He wasn’t into princesses, so there-oh wait, he asked Santa for a Suzy Homemaker Easy Bake Oven. Funny, maybe times have changed, but none of the straight boys seemed to be playing princesses and Suzy homemaker or hanging out with the girls when I was 8.
The whole gender thing has gotten a tad extreme when it comes to children. Playing with dolls, liking to play in make-up, being an effeminate male most of the time doesn’t mean that you’re trans. It often has more to do with gender expression than gender identity or feeling trans. And yes, while sense of gender and orientation are different things, they’re not entirely separate all the time. If you’re a very young male who is effeminate and is into “girly stuff” there’s a pretty good chance that you will end up being homosexual/homo-romantic/having overall homo preferences/gay. And there have been extremely young people that have said they are gay. It’s weird how folks are constantly talking about toxic masculinity but at the same time get really offended when it comes to stereotypes. Pick a side people. Now people want to tell stereotypical gay men that their childhoods didn’t exist.
Ultimately, it’s a messy topic, because you don’t want to sexualize a child. And a child could grow to be anything and see themselves as whatever. However, don’t be so concerned with covering all the corners that you deny people’s histories. Sometimes the “queer community” just ends up coming off as anti-gay by being so obsessed with embracing all these litanies of identities, by telling effeminate men or men who aren’t entirely homo that they should stay away from “gay”, by trying to snuff out any form of “gayness” in people who are not adults. It’s just getting tiresome.
On another note, it is a soap opera. So, they likely inevitably mishandled things.
Oh for crying out loud people. The kid’s wearing a lamb’s wool vest and a bow tie. At this point, the only question is who does he want to impersonate on the 2029 edition of Snatch Game.
Until puberty kids generally don’t know a lot about sex, or even if they are gay. I find having a ten-year-old declaring his sexuality on a soap to be ludicrous.
First of all, if you read the article FULLY or watched the show, you’d know the kid hasn’t declared anything. he’s just acting effeminate and THE PARENTS are speculating that he might be gay. That’s evidently the issue…that the storyline is focusing on the parents’ reaction to the possibility that the kid MIGHT be gay. A more careful reading just might prevent you from looking like you have no idea what the article is about next time.
“Aside from his penchant for princess pencils and baking, Aiden comes across as a traditionally male pre-tween. If he were on Grindr, he could conceivably describe himself as ‘straight-acting’ before stashing away his pencils and baking pans.”
Jeremy can squeeze a Grindr reference into literally anything! Even an article about an 8-year-old on a soap opera. Well I’m sure “General Hospital” will still be around about 12 years from now, so maybe we’ll find out.
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