Important LGBTQ+ moments in soap history from first gay kiss to domestic abuse

Whether you like keeping up with EastEnders and Emmerdale or following the drama over in Hollyoaks village, true soap fans will know that these long-standing shows represent more than just entertainment.

When Coronation Street first aired back in 1960 it was unimaginable that two characters of the same sex could ever a relationship.

Over the past six decades, serial dramas have continued to raise awareness of LGBT+ themes allowing people who may be experiencing such issues to know they are not alone.

Soaps play an important role in shining a light on real-life experiences, including those of people within the LGBTQ community.

Daily Star has taken a look at just a few of the ways soaps have broken LBGTQ+ ground over the years.

First gay character (Brookside, 1985)

Brookside introduced the first openly gay character in soap history in 1985.

Gordon Collins, played by Nigel Cowley at the time, had his sexuality discovered by his mum Annabelle when she learnt of his relationship with another man.

Although it caused the family embarrassment, they would go on to accept their son's sexuality.

The soap also explored homophobia within society, with the family becoming the target of thugs. Gordon's character led the way for other soaps to introduce their own gay characters.

First gay kiss (EastEnders, 1989)

Colin Russell was the first gay character on EastEnders, appearing in Albert Square just over a year after the show’s first episode.

Played by Michael Cashman, there was controversy at the time when Colin kissed boyfriend Barry Clark (Gary Hailes) in 1987 – even though it was just a peck on the forehead.

Two years later, Colin and new character Guido Smith (Nicholas Donovan) shared the first mouth-to-mouth kiss on a British soap – an estimated 17 million people tuned in to watch the couple’s kiss.

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It became one of the most ground-breaking scenes in soap history – but was deemed so controversial that some MPs called for the soap to be pulled from the air.

Away from the small screen, Lord Cashman has continued to fight for gay rights and equality, founding LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall and helping to make a rapid and peaceful change for the community within society.

First lesbian kiss (Brookside, 1994)

Brookside landed another ground-breaking moment for LGBTQ+ representation in 1994, airing the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss between characters Margaret Clemence (Nicola Stephenson) and Beth Jordache (Anna Friel).

Although it was a leading moment in soap history more than 20 years ago, the scene was included as part of the 2012 London Olympic opening ceremony, which was broadcast to a global audience of five billion.

The audience included 76 countries where homosexuality is illegal and therefore, the scene became the first gay kiss to be broadcast in these countries.

Exploring bisexuality (EastEnders and Emmerdale)

Tony Hills, who appeared in EastEnders between 1995 and 1999, was the first soap character to identify as bisexual.

The character, played by Mark Homer, appeared in the soap for four years and began a relationship with Simon, played by Andrew Lynford, during that time.

Speaking to the Huffington Post years later about the role, Homer said "it became apparent very quickly that there were lots of young men and women in the same position as Tony.

"I used to get so many letters from vulnerable teenagers who felt totally alone in the world. All of a sudden there was a person on the telly who they could identify with.

"I felt some kind of pressure to make sure everything was well represented. It was too important to get wrong."

Since then, Eastenders has gone on to have a number of bisexual characters including Sonia Fowler and, most recently, new commer Ash Panesar.

Emmerdale also explored bisexuality when loveable rogue Charity Dingle began an affair with Zoe Tate in 2001.

Introducing transgender character (Coronation Street, 1998)

Hayley Cropper (Julie Hesmondhalgh) quickly became one of Coronation Street's much-loved characters when she walked on to the cobbles in 1998 and told future husband Roy that she was transgender.

Much like society at the time, his initial reaction was to push Hayley away. However, Roy put friendship before prejudice, and the two became one of the most-loved duos in soap history.

When Hayley's past was exposed to the whole street, she was sacked from her job at Underworld and judged by many.

Along with the whole nation, the local residents' hearts later warmed and they accepted Hayley for who she was.

In 2010, Hayley and Roy solidified their relationship by marrying each other, as parliament had changed the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 so that transgender people could marry.

First Muslim gay character (EastEnders, 2009)

Syed Masood (Marc Elliot) arrived in Walford in 2009, battling with his Muslim faith and sexuality.

He became attracted to chef Christian Clarke (John Partridge), despite being in a relationship with girlfriend Amira (Preeya Kalidas).

Syed told Christian he is gay and in love with him – but under pressure from his family, gets married to Amira.

His feelings for Christian prove too strong – so Syed came out.

He married Christian in 2012 and the couple leave Walford hand-in-hand to embark on a new life in America.

10 years later, the first lesbian Muslim character was introduced to the show.

Iqra Ahmed (Priya Davdra) arrived in Walford with her sister Habiba (Rukku Nahar) having run away from an arranged marriage and quickly sparked romance with neighbour Ash Panesar.

Abuse in LGBTQ+ relationships (Hollyoaks, 2010)

Hollyoaks began a dark storyline in 2010 when Ste Hay (Kieron Richardson) entered an abusive relationship with evil Brendan Brady (Emmett J. Scanlan).

This was not the first domestic abuse storyline Ste had been a part of, this was the first such storyline to be broadcast on a British soap between a same-sex couple.

As dark as the plot was, the couple were shipped by many fans and Ste's character had deep-rooted feelings for Brendan, even after the abuse.

The storyline was fundamental in many ways, including Ste's character coming out as gay and the actor himself, Kieron Richardson, also announcing his sexuality during a live interview on This Morning.

Hollyoaks series producer Paul Marquess said at the time: "This story is about not being afraid to be who you are and while this is something Brendan struggles with, Ste is refreshingly accepting of his feelings towards another man," he continued.

"I hope viewers will be glued throughout the twists and turns as we unravel how Brendan came to be the twisted person we have been watching on screen."

Trans actors cast in trans roles (Hollyoaks and EastEnders)

Although Corrie introduced the first transgender character, Hayley Cropper, they cast a cis person to play the role.

In 2015, Eastenders introduced Stacey Slater’s (Lacey Turner) half-brother Kyle, played by trans actor Riley Carter Millington.

Along with this groundbreaking casting, the exciting thing about Kyle's character was that, once came he out to Stacy as trans, news she is supportive of), his storylines no longer revolved around his identity and he was afforded the same treatment as other characters on the show.

Also in 2015, Hollyoaks also introduced a trans character Sally St.Claire played by a trans actor Annie Wallace, who went on to be nominated for a Scottish BAFTA for the role.

Both castings became monumental in soap history, with huge praise from the LGBTQ+ community.

Although Kyle's character left a year later, Sally has become a figurehead of the Hollyoaks community, even beginning a same-sex relationship with former flame Myra McQueen.

Asexuality explored (Emmerdale, 2018)

Emmerdale's Liz Flaherty (Isobel Steele) earned heaps of praise from fans when she opened up about her sexuality to brother Aaron Dingle (Danny Miller) in 2018.

In a heart-to-heart between the siblings, Liv told Aaron: "I’ve done my research, I’ve been looking online, I knew I couldn’t be the only person that felt different."

Explaining what her asexuality meant, she continued: "I don’t have sexual feelings for people, and that’s alright. You can still have romantic feelings and be attracted to people, just not physically."

One Twitter user commented at the time: "Liv's storyline in #Emmerdale has already got me feeling emotional.

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"Asexuality is such an important subject to tackle. I remember in my teens and early twenties, wondering why I was the only person who didn't feel sexual attraction to anyone.

"Trying the opposite sex, trying the same sex. Wondering why I always found it way too easy to become emotionally attracted and attached to people, but never wanted anything physical. Feeling for so many years that I must just be broken.

"So glad a UK soap, and one of my favourite shows, is finally giving some ace representation."

First non-binary character (Hollyoaks, 2020)

Hollyoaks casted Ki Griffin as non-binary character Ripley Lennox in July 2020.

Ripley has won over viewers and fans are about to see more of the clothes stall trader.

The character's friendship with Brooke Hathaway, played by non-binary star Tylan Grant, will grow further in upcoming scenes.

Unsure of what to wear, Brooke consults Nancy Hayton (Jessica Fox) and Darren Osborne (Ashley Taylor Dawson), but things don't go to plan for the teenager.

Ripley soon manages to take Brooke's mind off things, and in the process mentions their non-binary support group.

Perked up from this illuminating conversation, Brooke later announces that they're non-binary.

After opening up to their friends, Brooke receive love and support from the villagers.

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