First Disney character to come out as gay

Ellie Simmonite reports on the history of LGBTQ+ characters in Disney's repertoire, as the company reaches a new milestone

Ellie Simmonite
25th February 2019
Image- Flickr- Shakir Superville

Despite being a nearly twenty-year-old woman, I will hold my hands up and shamelessly admit that yes, I have a subscription to DisneyLife and yes, I love watching Andi Mack.

For those of you not boldly whipping five pounds out of your student loan each month to indulge in this world of tween living, Andi Mack follows a group of teenagers learning both about the world they live in and themselves.

In recent weeks the show has placed a particular emphasis on the coming-out journey of Cyrus, a bubbly male lead, and on February 8th an episode aired called “One in a Minyan" which resulted in him becoming the first ever Disney Channel character to come out as gay. Disney has been making a clear and highly progressive decision to include representatives of the LGBTQ+ community across their films and shows over the past few years, ranging from LeFou in 2017’s Beauty and the Beast to Gravity Falls’ favourite police duo Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durand, but this was their first explicit in-show acknowledgement of a character being a gay.

What makes this even more wonderful is the fact that Disney made a conscious decision to introduce their first openly gay character to a Disney Channel show as opposed to a movie, allowing them to tailor their approach to Cyrus’ coming out to Andi Mack’s usual demographic of six to fourteen-year olds in a delicate and receptive manner. The fact that they also chose to introduce Cyrus’ struggles concerning his sexuality at the very start of season two and then give him thirty-four episodes to discover himself, shows both adults and children alike that coming out is something to be done when the individual is ready. Besides this, Disney made the commendable decision to not make Cyrus’ coming out scene, to his long-time crush Jonah, a big blow up moment. There was no dramatic head spinning scandal involved or fifty-piece string orchestra playing in the background, just Cyrus turning to Jonah, the words “I’m gay” being spoken in a silent room and Jonah’s reply being “Yeah? Pretty cool” with a smile.

Such a purer and heart-warming message of acceptance is exactly what needs to presented to young people who may find themselves in Cyrus’ shoes or who may just lack an understanding of the LGBTQ+ world. Joshua Rush who plays Cyrus put this best himself when in a PeopleTV interview he regarded, “the most important thing for [him] when [he] got this part was to do it right […] because [he] knew that people were going to end up seeing this and being like ‘wow that’s me, I identify with that, I can be who I am now”. Rush’s determination and successful achievement in portraying Cyrus in this way gives me so much hope for the continued positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community both by Disney and in other forms of media and I truly believe the world will be all the better for it.

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