If you’re like me, evenings after work include catching up on your favorite TV shows. I watch everything from Primetime dramas to reality TV shows as a way to decompress. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community who has worked with Queer and Trans young people for years, I am always hoping more shows will represent our identities in authentic ways that give visibility to our community beyond a comedic story line or hot girl fantasy.
I’ll admit I was late to the party when it comes to an amazingly powerful show, The Fosters. A few months ago, as new parents looking for options to binge watch on Netflix, my wife introduced me to this show. I had heard about The Fosters from students I knew who watched it, but I’d never checked it out as I wrongfully assumed that a show on Freeform wouldn’t be for me. It only took a few episodes for me to be hooked, and honestly, for it to change my life.
The Fosters is a show about family. It happens to involve a lesbian couple as parents to a blended family of adopted and foster kids who experience a myriad of teenage challenges and relationship hurdles, all while focusing on the main premise, love. The mothers, Stef and Lena, played by Teri Polo and Sherri Saum, represent LGBT love the way I’ve always wanted to see it on TV. Their authentic intimacy and portrayal of love between two women is soft, sometimes challenging, and most importantly, believable.
For me, I’ve seen other same sex couples whose story lines I appreciate in TV shows, but most often, their intimacy and sex scenes seem written to be too reminiscent of porn-like fantasies straight people impose on gay couples. Polo and Saum are beautiful together, and the way they parent, live their lives, and manage their relationship is groundbreaking.
Not only does The Fosters honestly capture the life of a same-sex couple, but it also follows their five teenagers through countless story lines that powerfully push the boundaries of many social issues. This show includes multiple interracial couples (including Polo and Saum,) explores realities for Trans characters related to safety and intimacy, exposes harmful truths within the foster and justice system, presents challenges many LGBT youth face as they come into their own sexuality, and highlights current realities for DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants in this country.
Each of the five seasons flows between multiple story lines that align to challenge racism, sexism, heterosexism, and countless other social issues faced by far too many Americans. The writers of the The Fosters crafted a show that is enjoyable and funny while balancing real life with characters I would love to know.
If you’ve never seen The Fosters, I would say check it out. After all, I watched all five seasons within weeks because the power of seeing a family like mine drew me in and left me feeling connected and understood in a way most media misses. I aspire to have a family like the Fosters, to adopt kids who need a good home, and to raise young people who are socially aware and use their privilege to improve the lives of those around them.
Not only is there power in seeing a family like mine represented on TV, but now there are thousands of viewers using this show as a catalyst for change in their own lives. Fostering visibility for LGBTQ+ people has been often overlooked in media. As someone committed to enhancing support for marginalized people, I say The Fosters is changing the world. Don’t miss out!