On July 12, after tiptoeing around the secret Sonny Kiriakis kept from his great uncle Victor, Justin and Adrienne’s son utters the words, “the thing is, I’m gay!” In true soap opera fashion, the storyline ended with that cliffhanger, at least for that episode. Fans had to wait until the next day to see Victor’s reaction, and based on Justin and Adrienne's concern, Uncle Victor does not seem to be someone who would be accepting.
Days of Our Lives, a traditionally conservative soap opera has never in its 46 years on the air had an LGBT character. In fact, not many daytime programs have added gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals to their extensive cast of characters.
In recent years, soap fans had the opportunity to see Bianca Montgomery grow up onscreen on All My Children. Bianca, the daughter of Erica Kane and Travis Montgomery came out at age 16 to her mother. Her coming out was one of the many challenges Bianca faced over the years. The rejection of her orientation by her mother and other family members was accompanied by bullying, but Bianca also allowed to make great strides in soaps. In 2003, she shared a kiss with her girlfriend and later became involved with Zoe, a transgender lesbian rock star. Five years later, Bianca continued to further the presence of LGBT characters in daytime television by having a child with her girlfriend and later getting engaged, resulting in soap operas’ first onscreen wedding for a gay or lesbian couple. Lately, Bianca has been developing feelings for Marissa, JR's wife. They recently exchanged a kiss, but with the change of format for All My Children, it is unclear if Bianca will still be part of the cast when the show airs online.
When talking about LGBT representation in soaps, no one can forget As the World Turns’ Luke and Noah. The couple had a rocky start as one of them had difficulties coming to terms with his sexual orientation while the other had been hurt too many times before. After they kiss, in what was daytime’s first-ever kiss between two gay characters, the two finally start dating. They realized they really cared for each other after Noah's dad tried to shoot Luke. Their storyline quickly became a fan favorite. Eventually the two split, Noah was left heartbroken and Luke found love again with a neurosurgeon, but his happiness ended abruptly with the death of his new boyfriend in a train accident. The ‘Nuke’ storyline came to an end as ATWT was cancelled, and while most of the other characters found a happy ending, that wasn't the case for daytime’s gay super-couple. Fans are now trying to revive their storyline with an online campaign to develop a film around Luke and Noah.
Another recent contribution to soap operas is the return of Phillip Chancellor III on The Young and the Restless. The character, played by out actor Thom Bierdz, returned in 2009 after faking his death in a car accident in 1989. When Phillip returns to Genoa City, he comes out and admits going into hiding because he feared rejection based on his sexual orientation.
Daytime’s newest out character reflects the progress made in recent years when it comes to equality. Following Sonny's coming out, we learn that he had nothing to worry about. The reaction he received from Uncle Vic is exemplary. Sonny admits that his parents did not understand his sexual orientation when he opened up to them a few years prior, but attending PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meetings answered many of their questions. His onscreen coming out to uncle Vic was similar. Victor asks if it “just a phase” but Sonny assures him he’s been gay his whole life. The episode even highlights marriage equality and hospital visitation rights. Sonny explains he will be unable get married in their state, and Uncle Vic worries he won't have his partner at his side if he were hospitalized. Ultimately, we see Victor wanting to protect Sonny from anti-gay attitudes as the episode focuses on the need for strong support of LGBT from family and friends, something Sonny will need to overcome any discrimination he may face.
Sonny’s story remains to be told, but unlike his daytime predecessors, he is starting in a much better place. With his family by his side, he will have people who support him and love him for who he is.