Since the premiere of the Roseanne reboot (now sans Roseanne Barr and retooled as The Connors), Darlene’s (Sara Gilbert) son Mark (Ames McNamara) has been dropping hints about his sexuality while being openly gender non-conforming.
[warning: spoilers ahead]
In this week’s episode, titled “A Kiss Is Just a Kiss,” Mark comes out as gay to his parents after kissing a boy at school.
Darlene gets a call from the principal that a meeting is in order because a photo of Mark and his friend Austin kissing had made its way onto social media.
When asked if Austin is Mark’s boyfriend, Mark explains the kiss happened in an excited moment after the two boys found out personal pizzas were being served for lunch.
Sharing that it had been the first kiss between the two, Mark tells his mom that Austin “only told me he was gay last week.”
But during the pow-wow in the principal’s office, Austin’s grandmother adamantly denies her grandchild is gay. And to Mark’s surprise, Austin agrees with his grandmother.
When Mark’s dad David (Johnny Galecki) tells the grandmother that Mark doesn’t lie, the grandmother shoots back, “Who are you going to believe? My kid or the boy with the nail polish?”
Darlene doesn’t hold back, telling the grandmother, “Maybe you don’t want to accept the fact that your grandkid might be gay, but you scaring him into denying…it’s just going to ruin his life.”
Later that evening, Darlene and David find Mark in his room, dejected as he removes his nail polish.
“You told me I shouldn’t hide who I am, and look what happened,” says Mark. “My life would be so much easier if I wasn’t gay.”
And that’s when Darlene delivers the goods.
“This is not your problem – it’s their problem,” explains Darlene. “Austin’s a jerk for turning on you, and his grandma’s a jerk for not caring how much she’s hurting the two of you. You should be mad, and you should stay mad ‘cause you’re amazing and everybody else sucks.”
And David jumps in with, “I think the hard part is that you know who you are at a very early age – and that’s great – but until the other kids catch up, it might be a little lonely.”
The scene ends with a family hug and Mark announcing, “I love myself! I’m glad I’m gay! Now leave me alone!”
The message is an important one for young LGBTQs and their parents to hear and see.
According to a study by The Trevor Project, the national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people, queer youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year.
Forty percent of transgender people say they have attempted suicide with 92 percent of those individuals reporting their suicide attempts were before the age of 25.
Good for the team at The Connors for giving the TV audience a clear, positive portrayal of coming out.
The Connors rose from the ashes that was Roseanne Barr’s reboot of her titular sitcom’s cancellation after the comedian tweeted racist messages about former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett.
The Conners airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.