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I don’t know what your family dinners look like, but in my house, they’re pretty boisterous, usually ending up with a political discussion of some sort. It’s never boring. We all have very strong opinions. Whether we’re talking about healthcare, education, the state of the economy, national defense, or the marriage equality debate, by the end of the evening you’re sure to know where everyone stands on each issue. Sometimes, we agree, sometimes we don’t. But we’re always left with more knowledge than what we had before because of the exchanging of ideas and the different perspectives each person brings to the table. It gets us thinking. And one of the things I love talking about most is television and how the landscape is changing, with it becoming more and more inclusive and more accurately representing today’s America, and what it means to be  family.

These days, I’m enjoying ABC Family’s, “The Fosters.” It’s the story of a bi-racial lesbian couple, Stef and Lena Adams-Foster, raising a combination of biological, adopted, and foster children. I love it because it shows that family comes in all different packages. And just because you don’t share a blood line, doesn’t mean you’re any less of a family. The Fosters motto is, “DNA doesn’t make a family, love does.” And I wholeheartedly agree. So, imagine how surprised I get when I see people on message boards or on Facebook, calling the series, “sinful.” And that they’ve had enough of the “gay agenda” and the “brainwashing” of our kids. These same people are the ones that say, they’re not bigoted or hateful, they just believe being gay is a choice and you should choose heterosexuality to avoid going to hell. And to stop shoving homosexuality in their face. That they don’t need to see gay people on TV because even though they believe, “gays have the right to exist and not be persecuted,” they clearly don’t have the right to actually, live. That they are not worthy of telling their stories on television because, “it’s not normal!!!” And these shows make it seem like it’s “part of the mainstream when it’s not!”Hmm, that’s not being bigoted? Sounds awfully hateful and prejudiced to me. So, let me try to understand this, just because homosexuals might be in the minority, that means they shouldn’t be treated equally? Wealthy people who fall into the 1% are definitely not part of the “norm,” but you see their stories all over television. How about Italians? How about the Irish? How about left-handed people? Do they make up the majority? I don’t think so. Does that mean then we should avoid depicting their stories? How about people of color, women, etc? Should they be excluded as well? What year is this? What makes one group more worthy than another? I thought this was America. The land of the free. A country that embraced diversity. Are we not a melting pot of different cultures? Isn’t that why our ancestors chose to come here? I just don’t get it. Don’t we learn from each other? That it’s our differences that can teach us things? Isn’t there value there? Expand your horizons as they say. That it could lead to a more understanding and peaceful world?

Which is what The Fosters does. It gives you a chance to step outside of your own box and “travel” to a different land. It enables you to take a trip without actually leaving your house and provides a glimpse into how other people live. It teaches you about humanity. That even though we are different, at the heart of it, we are all people just looking for love and to live life to the fullest. And that living is so much more than existing. And we should all have the chance to live our lives without fear.

The stories you see on The Fosters are not part of some “agenda.” They’re honest portrayals of people that live among us. That it is not some, “lifestyle.” They are your co-workers, your employers, your law enforcement, your national leaders, your children, and so on. This show reflects our world. And what makes it even more interesting is that the people telling the stories are using their own lives as inspiration. Series writer and executive producer, Joanna Johnson, is a lesbian herself, who along with her wife, are raising a blended family. They have two multi-racial, adopted children. The Fosters is their life! If you’re a fan of the soaps you may recognize her from, “The Bold & The Beautiful.” She played late-blooming lesbian, Karen Spencer.

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In addition to Joanna, The Fosters is also reflective of the lives of Co-Creators and Executive Producers, Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige, who are also gay.

The Paley Center's Annual Los Angeles Gala Celebrating Television's Impact On LGBT Equalitypeter

They feel very strongly about presenting characters in a truthful way that is representative of a lot of youth out there who don’t often see their experiences on television. Which is what made last week’s episode of The Fosters so groundbreaking. It was the youngest same-sex kiss in TV history. And it created a lot of buzz, both negative and positive due the age of the characters involved. But Bradley’s response to those who question the decision to show two 13 years sharing a kiss, is this:

“Everyone has a first kiss and you remember it. How old were you?” Ninety percent of people who have an answer come back and say, “I was 12, 13 and 14 years old,” and I say, “Exactly. It was time to see this, time to put this up for the world.” Then people understand, they’re able to wrap their heads around it.” (Star Tribune)

If you’re curious about the scene and what has everyone talking, here it is:

What’s great about this moment is it shows the struggle two kids are having when facing their feelings. It speaks to a lot of young people who are going through the same thing, what it means to question who they are and that fear that comes along with it. And The Fosters handles it with integrity. Just like everything else on this show. Nothing is done for shock value. It’s simply the telling of stories that everyone can relate to on some level. Whether you see yourself in Jude and Connor, or Stef and Lena, this is a series that is about love. About growing up. About marriage. About life. It’s about the human experience. It’s about finding where you belong, just like the series’ theme song says. And I think that’s what we’re all looking for…a place we feel welcome. And that place is family. No matter what package it comes in.

The Fosters airs Monday at 8pm on ABC Family

http://m.startribune.com/entertainment/celebrities/295109001.html?section=/entertainment

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