"The world of soap opera has changed enormously," says Brian Frons, daytime prexy at Disney-ABC Television Group. "About 20 years ago, when 'All My Children' introduced the idea of two women being interested in each other sexually, ratings fell and the storyline was dropped. The current character, Bianca, was once defined strictly as 'the lesbian.' Today, she has transcended her sexuality. She is one of the most important characters on 'All My Children,' having had a child of rape, having had the child stolen and having had to fight to regain her child. Women all over America were rooting for Bianca to get her baby back."
On CBS, "As the World Turns" introduced 17-year-old Luke a year ago, and since then the character has admitted and accepted his sexual orientation. "We saw him come through that," says Passante, now head writer at the venerable soap. "He has become far more out and proud, truthful about who he is. This is a kid who is waiting for the next best thing to happen, and we're going to follow him every step of the way. People have accepted it as something that happens in the natural course of family life."
Gay is no longer these characters' major distinguishing trait. "I think gays are going to become more fully rounded characters in soaps -- characters with love lives who just happen to be gay and are involved in other stories," Passante says.