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Wilson Cruz played a gay teen getting kicked out of his house on TV. It helped his real-life family.

A new, powerful documentary, "Playing Gay," hopes to shed light on how gay television characters helped Americans come to embrace marriage equality for all.

Wilson Cruz played a gay teen getting kicked out of his house on TV. It helped his real-life family.

Wilson Cruz was kicked out of his parents' house when he told them he was gay.

At the age of 18, a year earlier, he got the audition that would change his life.

At the end of that audition, for the critically acclaimed series "My So Called Life," Wilson paused at the door.


Assuming he would never see the casting crew again, he teared up and told them how important it would have been for him as a gay teenager to see a gay teenage character on his TV screen.

He got the part. A year later he came out to his parents at Christmas. They kicked him out.

And he spent four months being homeless and couch surfing with friends, until he earned enough to get his own place.

One year later, around Christmas, the episode in which his character gets kicked out by his parents was aired.

When his dad watched the episode about his character being kicked out by his parents, it helped them reconcile.

"My mother and brother were working on him at home too," said Wilson when I spoke with him, "but I think the episode was the clincher."

Wilson went on to become an outspoken activist, championing the rights of gay teens of color.

Television is more than just entertainment — it's more powerful than we think. It has the power to change us

As more LGBTQ characters started to appear on television, people's attitudes about gay people also adapted. People in their homes, seeing relatable characters on TV, started to understand that gay people were just people, like anyone else.

Image via "Exposure to the Lives of Lesbians and Gays and the Origin of Young People's Greater Support for Gay Rights," Journalist's Resource.

TV didn't always do great things for gay people.

Back in the golden age of television in the '50s and '60s, gay characters were somewhat of an anomaly. They usually appeared as murderers and crazy people.

In 1959, actress Sheila Kuehl played teenage genius Zelda Gilroy on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." She became so popular that they decided to give her a TV pilot. But when the president of CBS saw the pilot, he was not amused.

Things stayed that way for a while for most gay characters.

In the '70s, things started to change. And it was one TV episode in particular that was instrumental in changing how gay characters were played.

"All In the Family" was the first to truly break stereotypes.

In its fifth episode, grumpy, racist, homophobic patriarch Archie Bunker teases his son-in-law's friend because he's effeminate. But Archie has his mind broadened when his son-in-law reveals that it's actually Archie's friend, Steve, an ex-football player, who's gay. And his effeminate friend is the one who's straight. Over a manly beer-drinking and arm-wrestling challenge, he tells Steve what his son-in-law said, thinking he'll laugh. And then this happened.

Archie learns that gay people aren't walking stereotypes. GIF from "All in the Family."

That episode was so powerful that in real life, President Nixon had a weirdly panicked homophobic conversation about it in the White House that he actually recorded.

Ellen DeGeneres came out on national television in front of 42 million people in 1997, and the conversation changed again.

GIF from "Ellen."

And as she came out, people across the country started to become more accepting of gay people.

There are more stories just like that, all over television.

And throughout the last decade, as more people got to know gay characters on TV, more people supported gay marriage.

Image via GLAAD.

So what makes TV so much more powerful than other mediums to change people's minds?

When you watch a TV show, you get to see characters develop over weeks and months.

You relate and connect to them in a way that a single two-hour movie just doesn't allow.

The story of how TV helped influence our country's attitudes toward our gay friends is an important one.

And they're making a movie about it.

Producer Wilson Cruz and the film's director, David Bender (who happens to be a former mentor of mine), would love for you to hear their stories. A donor has offered to match every dollar donated, up to $10,000.

Learn more at their Kickstarter page and judge for yourself if this is a story worth telling. (I'm totally biased, but I think it is.) And since TV has the power to change lives, mind help changing theirs and sharing this?

UPDATE Aug. 17, 2015: With 24 hours to go, they're almost to their goal and have been given $15,000 in matching funds. For every dollar you donate, they'll get an extra dollar. Check out the campaign here.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.