The Disney Channel will undoubtedly ruffle the feathers of One Million Moms this week, when it airs its first LGBT storyline on the series Andi Mack. On the season premiere this Friday, Andi’s friend Cyrus reveals he has a crush on the same boy she does.
The show, produced by Lizzie McGuire creator Terri Minsky, is pretty unusual fare for the kid-friendly channel to begin with: Andi (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) is trying to figure out exactly who she is after discovering her older sister Bex (Lilan Bowden), is actually her mother. Her closest friends are Cyrus (Joshua Rush) and Buffy (Sofia Wylie)—and she’s already got a middle-school crush, Jonah (Asher Angel), who, it turns out, turns Cyrus’ heart to jelly, too.
This season, 13-year-old Cyrus embarks on a journey of self-discovery as a gay teen. In the episode, Cyrus confides his crush to Buffy. The scene, and Buffy’s response, “makes for positive role models both for kids and adult viewers,” reports GLAAD. The storyline continues through the season, with Cyrus trying to figure out how to talk to his girlfriend Iris about his realization.
“With more and more young people coming out as LGBTQ, Andi Mack is reflecting the lives and lived experiences of so many LGBTQ youth around the country,” said GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis. “Television reflects the real life world and today that includes LGBTQ youth who deserve to see their lives depicted on their favorite shows. Disney has been a leader in LGBTQ inclusion and there are so many young people who will be excited to see Cyrus’ story unfold.”
In 2014, the Disney Channel series Good Luck Charlie presented a lesbian couple who were moms to one of the titular character’s friends. But even that minor reference engendered a boycott from OMM—and death threats against Charlie’s 5 year-old star Mia Talerico.
Debuting in March, Andi Mack has a median viewer age of 10, and it’s the number one series this year for girls and, in its time slot, for kids 6 to 14. (It’s also tops on Disney Channel VOD and Disney Channel UK.)
With an audience that big, a queer storyline can have a major impact.
“[It’s] is a story about tweens figuring out who they are,” said a Disney Channel spokesperson. “Terri Minsky, the cast and everyone involved in the show takes great care in ensuring that it’s appropriate for all audiences and sends a powerful message about inclusion and respect for humanity.”