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2000: Queer as Folk Hits the U.S.

Queer as Folk

For 25 yearsOUT has celebrated queer culture. To mark our silver jubilee, we look back at some of the biggest, brightest moments of the past 9,131 days. 

When Queer as Folk premiered, it wasted no time showing stud Brian (Gale Harold) and teenage Justin (Randy Harrison) in the first male-on-male sex scene on American television. In its five seasons, the series featured more TV firsts, including the first gay adoption and the first serodiscordant couple. QAF was followed by many dramas with gay characters, yet few would focus on the bedroom, making it a bellwether for fearless queer representation. Here, Harold, Harrison, and co-stars Hal Sparks, Peter Paige, and Scott Lowell weigh in on its lasting impact.

On that first sex scene: 

Randy Harrison: I’d done graphic sex onstage already, and I just thought, It’s exciting that this is going to exist. I was desperate for those images when I was a gay kid growing up, and when you’re that desperate, they’re so powerful.

Gale Harold: I think we were both kind of terrified. It was kind of like being under a microscope. But there were parts of it that were just an incredible adrenaline high. It was so revealing and so intense.

On why the sex mattered:

Hal Sparks (Michael): I wanted my sex scenes to have meaning. I wanted gay viewers to see love. I thought it was my responsibility. We had to have as much love as Brian had partners. And that’s a lot.

Scott Lowell (Ted): It was very loose and we were very frank with one another, but the biggest hurdle for me was the psychological one. I was figuring Ted out, and soon I felt familiar with him. Then you found something beautiful in your co-stars, and when you kiss them, you kiss them for all you’re worth.

Peter Paige (Emmett): Straight friends of mine called me after they watched the pilot, saying, “I didn’t know that two guys could have sex face-to-face.” They thought we could only have sex doggy style. It was definitely educational.

On their favorite moments:

SL: I got to deliver the best speech in the show–in the first season. A character is trying to turn straight and we rescue him. We decide to let him go and Ted says, “Let God love you exactly as you are.”

RH: I love the end of the first season–Brian showing up to Justin’s prom. It’s this adolescent fantasy come true, and I think that some of the people most affected by the show were very young.

GH: I really responded to Brian’s relationship with Michael’s mom, Debbie [Sharon Gless]. She was his surrogate mom–she comes to his rescue.

On what it means for the future:

HS: I’m not worried about my son watching it when he gets older because the world will be different–at least that’s what I’m hoping. My dream is that he thinks it’s no big deal. It will be awkward, but not because it’s gay.

PP: People continue to discover it. They watch it with their kids. The clothes are a little dated, but not the stories. Because we’re still fighting the same fights.

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