This one goes out to every young LGBTQ kid out there, who has any doubt, whatsoever, that because of who they are or how they LOVE, they can’t achieve their dreams. ¡Si se PUEDE, mi amor! ¡Si se PUEDE!
Thank you @entertainmentweekly for the honor of gracing your #PRIDE issue! pic.twitter.com/4G2gwye0b9
— Wilson Cruz (@wcruz73) June 5, 2019
Entertainment Weekly is running six different covers to celebrate Pride Month, all of them are beautiful. The other covers feature gay trailblazers such as Neil Patrick Harris, Ruby Rose, Janet Mock, Anderson Cooper and Melissa Etheridge, But the one I want to discuss is Wilson Cruz’s cover story. Wilson plays Dr. Hugh Culber on Star Trek: Discovery who is partners with Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), making them the first openly gay couple on a Star Trek series. But this wasn’t Wilson’s first trailblazing role. Prior to Discovery, Wilson was the first openly gay actor playing an openly gay character on TV in his role as Ricky Vasquez on My So Called Life at the age of 19. Wilson was still in the closet when he auditioned for Ricky but promised himself that if he got the role, he would come out to his parents, which is what happened on Christmas Eve 1993. Unfortunately, his parents did not take it well and kicked Wilson out of the house.
[From Entertainment Weekly]
There was more than just a paycheck at stake for Wilson Cruz while he waited to see if My So-Called Life would be picked up to series.
“I was still in the closet when we made the pilot, but I had made an arrangement with myself that if the show got picked up, that I would come out to my parents,” the actor recalls in the current issue of EW.
It took months, but Cruz eventually got the call—and on Christmas Eve 1993, he told his mom and dad that he was gay.
“It didn’t go well with my dad,” says the actor, who was 19 at the time and living at home. “He kicked me out. I lived in my car. I slept on friends’ couches.”
Wilson’s story is, sadly, not unique. 40% of homeless teens identify as LGBTQ, most forced from their homes by disapproving parents or grandparents. Wilson did not begin filming My So Called Life for three months after he was forced out of his home. However, he remained committed to his decision because he felt playing Ricky was, “an opportunity to shed light on LGBT youth issues and give a voice to young people,” and the only way he could do that earnestly was to be out himself. It was admirable and extremely brave, and Wilson paid a high cost for his convictions. But his commitment to these values was incredibly important to so many kids watching. As many gay actors and advocates discussed at the Paley Honors last month, characters such as Ricky are sometimes the only role models LGBTQ children, especially closeted children, have. The tides have changed somewhat since 1993 but there are still plenty of LGBTQ kids living in inhospitable environs. So it’s important to support shows with positive LGBTQ representation to keep them on the air *coughOneDayAtATimecough*.
But it’s Friday so let’s end on a positive note. Obviously, Wilson went on to a successful career and continues to use his platform to advocate for the LGBTQ community. In December 1994, four months after My So Called Life first aired, they had an episode in which Ricky was kicked out of his house for being gay. The show’s creator, Winnie Holzman, worked with Wilson to get the episode right and to make sure he was comfortable with what was put in. By this point, he was in communication with his mother, but his father was still not speaking to him. Wilson told Vulture in 2014 that his father reached out to him after watching the episode, which eventually led to a full reconciliation.
If anyone wants to help homeless LGBTQ teens, here is a link to donate to Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors United Fund.
Photo credit: Twitter and WENN Photos