Sunday, March 5, 2017

Remembering CBS' "Schoolbreak Special" ("What If I'm Gay?")

I was hopping around YouTube last night and discovered this CBS "Schoolbreak Special" titled "What If I'm Gay?" from 1987. It was an hour-long special about a group of high school students and their reaction to one of the teens coming out as gay.

The three main characters were Todd, Kirk, and Alan. Todd and Kirk were high school soccer stars, both of whom had serious girlfriends. And Alan was the nonconformist of the group. (Basically, it's Archie, Reggie, and Jughead, if we're to use Archie Comics analogies).

Judging from the first fifteen minutes of the program and from his concerns about being a late-bloomer, people are led to assume that Alan is the one who is going to wonder, "what if I'm gay?"


But that's before Alan accidentally discovers some gay pornography tucked away in Todd's desk. Todd explains it away by saying that he just got it for the articles, but it's clear that something is up with our soccer fan!


Kirk struggles with his new understanding of Todd's sexual orientation and the two boys get into a few public scrapes. The end result is that Kirk now knows that Todd is gay and that he's managed to out the boy to the entire school!


Fortunately, Alan is much more understanding. His uncle isn't that much older than them and he came out a few years ago. Alan remembers how isolated that his uncle was and how difficult it was for him to cope. He reaches out to Todd and tells him that he needs to learn how to like and accept himself. He also promises to be there for his friend.


Soon enough, Todd finds himself increasingly isolated from most of the other students and he ends up breaking up with his girlfriend. He turns to his guidance counselor, who affirms much of what Alan has already told Todd. The guidance counselor suggests that Todd see a therapist to help him cope with all of these life changes and to figure out how to move forward. But he assures the boy that there is no reason that he cannot lead a good life.


"What If I'm Gay?" ends with Todd confronting Kirk about their feuding. He points out that the two used to fool around when they were younger and suggests that this might be what's really upsetting his friend. He tells Kirk that early experimentation is normal for young teens and that it doesn't mean that he's gay. He tell his Kirk and he wants his old friend back. Kirk doesn't fully embrace Todd, but he agrees that they don't need to be enemies.


"What If I'm Gay?" was surprisingly well done. Todd is on the road to accepting himself. He's got friends and supporters, but everything isn't perfect. It came out when I was in high school and struggling with being a gay teen in pre-Internet small-town USA. I really wish that I had seen this program when it first aired. I really do think that it would have been helpful for me.

You can watch the entire program here.

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