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LGBT+ Media

LGBTQ+ Representation in Modern Family

What is Modern Family About?

Jay, Stella (Dog) Gloria, Joe and Manny Pritchett / Phil, Haley, Luke, Alex and Claire Dunphy / Mitchell, Cameron and Lily Tucker Pritchett - Pictured Above from Left to Right

Modern Family is an American family sitcom / mockumentary which revolves around three different types of families (The Dunphys, The Pritchetts and the Tucker-Pritchetts) who are all interconnected to each other through Jay Pritchett, the patriarch (Grandfather/Father) of the family. The show was incredibly popular, and it ran for 11 seasons from 2009 until 2020.

Throughout the series, the show tackled a lot of themes either relating to the family or to real life issues in the world around them such as love, bullying, age differences, family values. However, in this blog, we will be focusing on the theme of LGBTQ+ due to two of the main characters, Mitch and Cam, being a gay couple in the series.

How Mitch and Cam are presented in the show.

Mitch, Cam and Lily (Pictured in Season 1-2)

Mitch and Cam are main characters in Modern Family as well as being an LGBTQ couple, they appeared in nearly every episode throughout the show’s run as well as being a part of major storylines that either involved their family, the LGBTQ community, or a mixture of both worlds due to them getting married in Season 5 with their loving and supportive family by their side.

When we were first introduced to them in the first episode, they adopted a Vietnamese girl called Lily who they raised and deeply loved and the family fell in love with her when they introduced her in the first episode. In Season 3, they attempted to adopt another baby but sadly didn’t succeed, however by Season 11, they decided to adopt a baby boy after their adoption profile was reactivated.

Mitch and Cam getting married in the season 5 finale (Phil pictured above due to him being an officiant to the wedding)

A major storyline around Mitch and Cam started in the first episode of season 5 after it was revealed that California has legalised gay marriage, Mitch and Cam proposed to each other by the end of the first episode even though a few members of the family were helping both out with their own separate proposals.

Throughout Season 5, a few of the episodes built up the hype for Mitch and Cam’s wedding such as one episode introducing a new LGBTQ character to help with designing the wedding, those episodes all finally led up to the finale where Mitch and Cam finally get married in front of their friends and family even though there were many mishaps along the way.

How Jay’s views of the LGBTQ community change over the series

Jay pictured above in Season 11 smiling and wearing glasses

Jay was presented as a traditional old white American when the series began, and it was mentioned that Mitch had to come out to him three times due to him not understanding why his son is gay which led to their relationship becoming strained. Even though he becomes closer to them, there were moments that his old ideals got the better of him.

An example of this was in an episode of season one where Jay introduced Cam as his son’s friend which made Mitch mad at him and pointed out that Jay’s friend might be gay. This prompted Jay to become supportive and comforts his friend, even though this was revealed to be a way of Mitch getting back at his dad, it shows how he deeply supports Mitch.

Jay giving Mitch away at his wedding with Cam

Another moment where Jay’s old ideals backfired heavily on him was when he couldn’t get his head around Mitch and Cam’s wedding and claims that he didn’t want it to be a massive spectacle in the episode before the season 5 finale which caused a massive rift between him and Mitch.

However, in the finale, Jay realised the errors of his ways and redeemed himself to show his love and appreciation for the wedding as well as Mitch and Cam by not only providing his golf club as a venue to the wedding, but he also walked Mitch down the aisle.

Even though he never said it, it is shown how he loves them deeply at certain points in the show by helping with the renovation of their burned down kitchen, bonding with Cam over football, and interacting with their LGBTQ friends. But in the finale of Modern Family, he announces that he loves Cam like another son to him as well as Mitch. The show explored this personal growth from homophobia to acceptance and understanding.

What themes around LGBTQ were shown in Modern Family?

The whole family in the final episode of the show

Modern Family never shied away from tackling stereotypical topics in a few of the episodes as well as addressing real life issues that’s been happening in some of the episodes in the series or throughout the things that they say or mention.

Mitch never acted like a stereotypical gay person and his actor, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, is also gay and could therefore bring his lived experiences into the role. Cam did sometimes act flamboyantly in the earlier seasons, however both characters have their own individual aspirations such as Mitch being a lawyer and Cam having various careers before settling in as a openly gay football coach.

There were a few instances where there were some homophobic phrases or references to homophobia in the show, some examples comes from the first ever episode of the show when Mitch presumed someone called them “Cream Puffs” while the person was actually were commenting on the cream puffs that they were eating. Another example came from an episode where Hayley suggested that Alex was a lesbian though this wasn’t true. This was a powerful way for the show to address real life issues of discrimination in the LGBTQ+ community through comedy.

Did Modern Family impact the media / the world with their LGBTQ Representation?

Mitch, Cam, Lily and baby Rexford in the last episode of Modern Family

Throughout its 11 year run, Modern Family inspired other TV shows to either bring in more LGBTQ characters due to Modern Family having a few number of LGBTQ supporting characters as well as having Mitch and Cam as their main characters.

The show also made other TV channels make sure that they had a better and positive portrayal to their own LGBTQ couples or main /supporting supporting characters without causing any offense to them.

Conclusion

In summary, Modern Family did represent the LGBTQ+ community to a high standard throughout the show’s run and made Mitch and Cam one of the most iconic couples in the media due to their stories and relationship throughout Modern Family. They also employed a gay actor to play a gay man which is important not only for representation but in ensuring the characters and stories are realistic.

Categories
Additional Needs and Disabilities ADHD Autism Dyslexia Dyspraxia LGBT+ Neurodiversity Personal Story Self-Description SEND Social Stigma

Neurodiversity: Gender and Sexuality

Introduction and defintions

It is well noted through observation and research that there is more gender diversity in neurodiverse people than neurotypical people. As gender and sexuality are social constructs, there is speculation that this relationship is due to the fact that being neurodiverse means you are less likely to adhere to cultural and social norms.

You may be wondering what all these terms mean:

  • Neurodiverse/Neurodiversity/Neurodivergent – variation in in the human brain. This term is used by people to express that their brains are wired differently due to having neurological conditions and/or disorders: ADHD Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, etc.
  • Neurotypical – this is a relatively new term that is used to describe people whose brain develops and functions in ways that are considered ‘normal’. It is the opposite of Neurodivergent.
  • Gender Diversity – is a measure of how much people’s gender differs from cultural or social norms due to their sex at birth.
  • Sexuality – is all about how someone identifies themselves in relation to the gender or genders that they are attracted to.
  • Social Construct – something that only exists as a result of humans agreeing that it exists.
  • Cultural and Social Norms – rules or expectations based on the shared beliefs of different groups of people that guide behaviour and thoughts.

Talking about experiences and difficulties of the LGBT+ community is extremely important to ATLAS members. This is not only because ATLAS want to be strong allies and raise the voices of minorities, but because a number of members are also part of the LGBT+ community themselves.

“When somebody refers to me as female, I think ‘oooh not really but close enough’. It took me a long time to realise that I don’t experience femininity and being female in the same way [as the people around me] because I am not really female.”

ATLAS member
Close up of a palm with the LGBT+ rainbow flag painted on it with a heart drawn in black biro on top of it.
Image by Sharon McCutcheon

Autism and Gender

ATLAS members reflected on how they weren’t told about the relationship between Autism and gender diversity when they were diagnosed:

“When you are autistic you experience gender in a very different way … no one mentioned this to me when I was diagnosed”

ATLAS member

I am nonbinary, I don’t talk about it much because it doesn’t come up that much. It’s very common with Autism but no one told me!

ATLAS member

How masking impacts self-discovery

Masking is a survival technique that is used by people with Autism to hide behaviours that may not be accepted by the people around them. This is often achieved by learning to display neurotypical behaviours. Ultimately, masking results in having to hide the true self to be protected from negative consequences.

“Masking is a trauma response and trauma screws with everything. Trauma affects people with autism a lot more. I don’t know where the mask ends and where I begin.”

ATLAS member

ATLAS members raised that as a result of masking, it can be difficult to work out who they are:

“When I was younger I would take behaviours I would see and mask using them. A lot of people I was around were heteronormative. It makes it hard for me to understand, I can’t always get my head around what I am or what I like because I have masked for so long.

ATLAS member

As a result some members felt unable identify with labels, which could help them find support from peers and communities:

I went to a university LGBT+ society event and someone came up to me and asked: Well what are you? Why are you here? I don’t know what I am because I find it really hard to process.

ATLAS Member

Labels

“Some people find labels helpful and some people don’t.”

ATLAS member

“For me it was empowering to have my labels, it helps me to break everything down to feel like I have control. But labels are limited in how they explain me. Something I found hard to understand was ‘comphet’: How much is me wanting to be loved? How much is me wanting men to validate me? and how much of it is attraction?”

ATLAS member

Comphet stands for compulsory heterosexuality. This is where heterosexuality is assumed and enforced by society.

“On a call I do at uni they put their pronouns in their Zoom names.”

ATLAS member

ATLAS members and staff loved this idea: members and staff are now invited to put their pronouns in their Zoom names if they want to!

A white board being held up that reads in rainbow coloured letters: Hello, my pronouns are ...
Image by Sharon McCutcheon

Family Stigma

“People in my family are really against it [LGBT+].”

ATLAS member

Whilst family relationships can be extremely important for the wellbeing of children, young people and young adults, unfortunately stigma can lead to bullying, rejection and internalised stigma.

“My dad was very girls belong in the kitchen, seen and not heard. He wanted me to be his little girl and when I didn’t he came to disown me for it. It makes it hard for me to accept who I am. I have never felt comfortable with who I am or how I am. So when I hear people who are able to find themselves, I just don’t understand how they can make those decisions. I was told I couldn’t be gay or bisexual because I was just masking.”

ATLAS member

“Fortunately, I know how some people have a good accepting family, really only my mum accepts. My dad and my sisters think I am going through some sort of phase and that I’m probably stupid.”

ATLAS member

Final thoughts

“I think it is interesting how people have such different experiences.”

ATLAS member

Neurodiverse people, people with Autism, people with disabilities are just as different and individual as neurotypical people, people without an additional need or disability. Talk to us, listen to our experiences and ideas: we are experts in our perspective and have a lot to say!

To make sure that the voices of children, young people and young adults with additional needs and disabilities in the LGBT+ community are heard ATLAS will be starting drop-in sessions to provide a safe space and a platform for voices to be raised.