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Meet the first ever openly gay lead in an American broadcast drama

Adam Bloodworth April 13, 2018

For the first time ever, a queer character will take the lead in an American broadcast drama.

It seems unbelievable that this representation has come so late, given the wide cultural acknowledging of queerness on TV that has accelerated of late.

New Netflix film Alex Strangelove, for instance, has moved the ‘coming out’ conversation along for a modern audience by presenting queerness lightly.

The film addresses the concerns of young queer people who may not be condemned for being gay and who live in tolerant cultures, but still face issues all the same.

Then there’s the new and joyously authentic Queer Eye, an earnest rehashing of the show which was called Queer Eye For The Straight Guy – a title which polarised gay people from straight people – but now it feels like it unifies them.

The latest CBS show, though, is pushing boundaries further.

Instinct, a drama about a former CIA operative who has become a university professor and best-selling author, has been described as witty, fearless, loyal and eccentric by Instinct showrunner Michael Rauch.

“The loving same-sex marriage he’s in may be the fifth most interesting thing about him,” Rauch expressed in a recent interview.

Related: Netflix film Alex Strangelove confirms the industry’s new commitment to queer storytelling

For queer audiences, it’s immensely refreshing to see queer culture represented as a non-story – ironically, it may be the biggest story in queer TV in years.

The brilliant Alan Cumming, who is himself bisexual, plays lead Dylan Reinhart in the show which explores the complex life and work of the intellectual figure.

There are a number of casual scenes interspersed within the story of Dylan at home, with his husband Andy but at no point does the show specifically pull on Dylan’s sexuality for a story.

Instinct follows Dylan’s career as an expert about psychopaths and murderers – he publishes a novel called Freaks within the show and there could be parallels drawn between character and sexuality as a political statement, but mostly, it’s not.

Related: Glee creator Ryan Murphy’s new TV show Pose could be the most important thing to land on screens

Rauch goes on to say: “While I hope that some viewers do talk about Dylan’s sexuality, I’d like him to be judged by his virtues, flaws and quirks, not by who he loves.”

Queer representation on TV has never been better, but a history of queer television makes for shocking reading.

It was in 1989 that ABC drama Thirtysomething first broadcast two men in bed together, which was the first time any primetime drama had done so.

And a raft of shows in the nineties including Dawson’s Creek and Buffy promoted the queer cause – but even then, as Rauch goes on to say, “queer characters find their representation in the ensemble.”

“We in TV have the privilege of being invited into the homes of millions, not to mention their gyms, cars, waiting rooms and subway rides.”

Related: The Golden Girls will be reborn as a gay TV series called Silver Foxes

“We have the opportunity, and I believe a responsibility, to represent the world we live in with authenticity.”

Dylan Reinhardt is a confident step away from the ensemble.

More: Alan Cumming, American television, gay TV

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