The LGBTQ community has seen a spike in positive news over the last year, namely after marriage equality was instilled as a national right. This doesn't mean that all problems were alleviated overnight. And there is plenty more progress to be made.   

Early ripples of change

Awareness for LGBTQ rights and equality has become an issue championed by many, and there are positive role models to look toward that did not exist in such an outright way in the past. Coming from an accepting family made coming out relatively easy for Ross Mathews. He jokes that he "sort of came out in the womb." But this was not the case for many in the LGBTQ community in the 80s and 90s.

The early 2000s saw popular family-friendly television shows like "Gilmore Girls" factor being gay into its sense of humor. A few years earlier, in 1997, TIME Magazine hit newsstands with a photo of Ellen DeGeneres on the cover and the straightforward proclamation: "Yep, I'm Gay."

'"When I grew up, I couldn't point to anyone on television or in the public eye and say, 'Look, I can grow up to be like that: happy, healthy, proud, and openly LGBTQ.' Now kids can."'

Later that same year, DeGeneres’ fight was highlighted when she guested “The Oprah Winfrey Show” through a montage of public outrage from advertisers and the religious community. DeGeneres explained the processes that led her to publically come out, and how she had avoided talking about her personal life in interviews up until then.

That is something that Mathews touches on, as well. "When I grew up,” he says. “I couldn't point to anyone on television or in the public eye and say, 'Look, I can grow up to be like that: happy, healthy, proud, and openly LGBTQ.' Now kids can."

Taking another step

Children today can pick and choose their LGBTQ role models, and LGBTQ empowerment is easily had. And when their favorites celebrities come out as bisexual or queer, the fanfare of a segment on Oprah is no longer needed to justify it. While it’s easy to get caught up in how much progress has already been made, there’s never an excuse for complacency. This is something that Mathews works actively against.

“I take pride in using my platform to show LGBTQ kids everywhere what they can be. I also speak at events with the Human Rights Campaign and participate in pride events all over the country.”

Mathews feels we’re at a point where the community is showcased regularly through film and television, and this constant exposure to the LGBTQ community makes being queer less stigmatized. He adds “I believe that once somebody knows someone who is LGBTQ, they become more empathetic to the community. Since our presence in media is so much stronger, so many more people know us.”

As for the future of LGBTQ rights, there is always more advancement to be made. But Mathews is optimistic; he believes “our future is brighter than it has ever been.”