You’ll Be Amazed How Far Back Queer Imagery Goes In The Media

Steven Capsuto’s relatively new book talks about LGBTQ representation in 20th-century television!


Another month of pride is coming to an end, and while the grand celebrations will largely be over, we can always still take the deeper meanings with us as the year goes on. One great way to close up pride month is to take a look at this relatively new book that was released in January, Alternate Channels: Queer Images on 20th Century Television, written by Steven Capsuto.


image via amazon


Capsuto not only wrote this novel about queer people in 20th century TV programs, but he was also the lead historical consultant for the acclaimed docuseries Visible: Out on Television (2020) on Apple TV+. He grew up in the Philadelphia area and earned his B.A. from Rutgers University. He then began researching queer images on television in 1987 when he was a student volunteer at a lesbian and gay crisis hotline.



Since 1990, he has given video-illustrated lectures in dozens of cities about televised LGBTQ portrayals. From the 1980s to 2000s, Steven oversaw the GLBT Library/Archives of Philadelphia (first the library and later the archives). He served as a consultant or researcher on the documentaries After StonewallTV Revolution, and The Question of Equality. He lives in New York City, where he has a translation and language services business. In 2016, Egales published his English translation of Manuel Ángel Soriano’s book Homophobia in 1970s Spain: Psychiatry, Fascism, and the Transition to Democracy.


Capsuto’s research and knowledge of LGBTQ history and culture have brought him to the release of his new book. It explores the battle for LGBTQ representation on television in the 20th century, which pitted sexual-minority groups, such as those from the Mattachine Society in the 1950s or GLAAD in the 1990s, against powerful far-right religious organizations, which made tv executives get caught in the crossfire. Even in today’s tv programs, the fight for LGBTQ representation is still ongoing, with queer characters in some shows either succumbing to stereotypes or not receiving a storyline as gratifying as their straight counterparts.


image via Kevin Riordan/staff on the philadelphia inquirer


Going as far back as the 1930s with queer undertones in radio programs, Capsuto’s explanation of queer representation in the 20th century is breathtaking, informative, and also really sad. It highlights the stereotypes of “bad” queer people being villainous and “good” queer people being severely flawed at best. Capsuto documents countless famous or now-forgotten programs, characters, and political skirmishes, while examining gay portrays on tv as well as the very rare bisexual or transgender portrayals.



Capsuto’s book is a revised 20th Anniversary Edition, which was fact-checked from the very beginning and reinstates material that the original publisher decided to cut out as well as incorporating over one-hundred images that weren’t part of the original publication. The first edition of the book was originally a semifinalist piece for the Stonewall Book Award! Capsuto wrote his book by looking at archived material, broadcast recordings, and interviews with showrunners, network and studio executives, and early activists!


If you’d like to know more about Steven Capsuto, you can check out both his website and his Facebook page. If you’d like to take a look at his book and purchase it, you can look at various online bookstores!

featured image via alternate channels and amazon