From the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s, in telenovelas, you can count on one hand how many gay characters that were presented in the TV format. The gay characters who were portrayed in the telenovelas perpetuated all the popular stereotypes: Swishy men in stereotypical jobs like hairdressers, interior decorators, or fashion designers or the gay best friends.
There were a few telenovelas in the beginning who steered away from that stereotypes.
The earliest example of the telenovelas is Primer Amor in 2001. Bruno Baldomero Cano a young boy falls in love with his school teacher and think he is ready to come out. He tells his older brother and they discuss the issued without theatrics or judgement. They end up working together to resolve the issue and come to the realization that it is not the time for him to come out. Although this was only a short segment, it did a great job with showing the relationship between Hispanic/Latin families ability to deal with the topic of homosexuality peacefully.
In 2005 in Barrera de Amor, its protagonist acquired a gay man as a business partner and best friend. The homosexual had been rejected by his family because of his sexual orientation. He lives with another character who adopts a daughter and he acts as the child’s father, living a celibate life until we are near the end of the story when he finds someone and reconciles with his mother. The show showed that although one may have an alternative lifestyle he/she can still be a productive parent.
La Reina del Sur had a lesbian character who had a relationship with another female character. The show broke boundaries for women to have a same-sex marriage and it not used has a “sexual allure” for the viewers. Click link to view full episode
21st century Telenovelas
Modern day Telenovelas are definitely making a wave when it comes to the representation of LGBT characters in Hispanic/Latin Media and they have taken it to the next level.
Univision aired the first gay wedding in a telenovelas on July 20113 in their show in novela “Amores Verdaderos,” or “True Love.”
This moment was historic on many levels. It was the first time a gay wedding aired in a novela produced and distributed by Mexico’s largest—and notoriously conservative—media conglomerate Televisa -GLAAD notes
The episode aired in a week when Univision set a TV ratings milestone with its average of 1.81 million viewers aged 18-to-49, besting Fox, NBC and CBS.
I think I just witnessed the first gay wedding in Hispanic television history #AmoresVerdaderos
— Danny (@JairJaimes) July 23, 2013
Telenovelas appeal to Hispanic/Latin families all over the world so much that it is, attracting up to two billion people. Due to its massive platform telenovelas has the power to shape and move the culture for their Hispanic/Latin audience.
According to a 2012 HRC report, a woeful amount of hate and violence is regularly directed toward LGBT people in Latino communities. This stems from rigid, outdated gender roles with little tolerance for anyone who is not a straight man brimming with machismo or a subservient woman. 2012 HRC report
Although in the beginning, some of the telenovelas may have perpetuated those stereotypes, over time things have changed. I personally believe it’s due the cultural acceptance of the LGBT community and push for human rights. The cultural shifts and advocacy groups such as GLAAD have challenged production companies such as Telemundo and Univision to step up to the plate and change their format one that represents equality for all Hispanic/Latin people.