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Does Promoting Transgender Cameos Mean The Young and the Restless is Finally Ready to Tell Another LGBT Story?


Caitlyn Jenner, Melissa Ordway, Candis Cayne

CBS Daytime's The Young and the Restless is getting buzz due to a cameo from transgender actress (and Caitlyn Jenner BFF) Candis Cayne. The Dirty Sexy Money alum is playing Abby (Melissa Ordway) and Stitch's (Sean Carrigan) wedding planner on the sudser. 

Entertainment Tonight revealed Jenner stopped by the set of Y&R to visit Cayne. Considering Cayne appears on Jenner's recently renewed reality series, I Am Cait, the daytime sudser is likely to continue benefiting from free PR from both the mainstream and LGBT press for some time. Does this mean the CBS soap is actually ready to tell an LGBT story again?

Y&R hasn't had an LGBT  character of any significance on the canvas since the exit of Rafe Torres (Yani Gellman), the lawyer Adam Newman (then-Michael Muhney) seduced in order to keep his criminal activities a secret. Prior to the Rafe/Adam saga, Y&R brought back the character of Phillip Chancellor III (Thom Bierdz) and revealed he faked his death to stay in the closet.  This was circa 2009, 2010.

 For the 750th episode of the Daytime Confidential podcast, Luke and I interviewed CBS Daytime boss Angelica McDaniel, we asked if the show would ever tell another gay story. She said it was up to the writers. 

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Last May, TV Insider's Michael Logan asked current Y&R executive producers, Jill Farren Phelps and Chuck Pratt (the latter of whom also serves as head writer), if they planned on telling gay stories. Here's an excerpt:

Greg Rikaart recently gave an interview stating that he wants his character, Kevin, to be gay. What are the chances of that happening? There's a rabid camp of fans who want Kevin to get it on with Detective Harding.  let another show beat us.

Phelps: Really?

Yep, Harding and Fisher. Their squish name is Harder. 

Phelps: I never heard that before. I don't go online.

Pratt: With the right circumstance and right characterit could be Kevin or someone elseI would love to tell that story. I've told a gay storyline on every show I've ever been on, and it's odd that there isn't a gay relationship on Y&R.

Phelps: It would need to feel fresh and not just a box we check, just because that's what people expect. It needs to be more than that. It needs to be about characters the audience cares about. You can't do a gay storyline just for the sake of it.

But Y&R is the only soap without LGBTQ characters and the show's track record is abysmal. The two or three gay characters that have popped up over the years have quickly vanished. Is there fear at the network that mainstream America—Y&R's core audience and the people who keep it No. 1—just can't handle a gay story?

Pratt: We shouldn't do a gay storyline because we're the only ones who don't have one. I would look for the story that's never been done. Lord knows, I did that on All My Children with a lesbian story that got me in nothing but trouble with everybody. But it was a fun story. [Laughs] And it sure hadn't been done before. I can't imagine there's a storyline—be it gay, lesbian or transgender—that wouldn't be acceptable on a soap at this network. Or anywhere else. I have never encountered a situation on any show where they say, "You cannot tell that kind of story" or "We don't do that on this show." Maybe years and years ago that happened but not now. And, even if there was that pressure, I have to be in charge of the storytelling. I can't be the one in charge of being politically correct. I leave that to others and then, unfortunately, they'll have to deal with me. My job is to create the storylines that will keep this show successful and keep it number one. My job is to never let another show beat us.

Phelps said a gay storyline would need to feel "fresh", yet the show did storylines about evil doppelgangers, plastic surgery to assume a new identity and drug-induced amnesia—all done to death staples in daytime—in 2015. Pratt finished the interview by saying his job was to never let a show beat Y&R. While sister soap The Bold and the Beautiful hasn't bested Y&R in the Nielsens, it did go there first with an actual transgender storyline, as opposed to stunt casting. 

Earlier this year, B&B revealed fashion model Maya Avant (played by contract actress Karla Mosley) had been born a biological man. The show proceeded to tell a frontburner storyline about Maya's struggles to live her truth, complete with a splashy romance and a family for the character. 

It's great that Y&R is getting mentions in the trades for Candis and Caitlyn. It would be even greater if they realized it's time to have a significant gay character and storyline on this 40-something soap's canvas.