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 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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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture