Disney Channel to make history with first gay main character

Joshua Rush plays Cyrus Goodman in Andi Mack. (Getty Images)
Joshua Rush plays Cyrus Goodman in Andi Mack. (Getty Images)

Cape Town - The Disney Channel (DStv 303), available in South Africa and throughout Africa on DStv's satellite pay-TV platform, will soon break new ground with its first gay storyline and a main character going through a journey of self-discovery of his sexuality.

In Andi Mack, the 13-year-old main character Cyrus Goodman, played by Joshua Rush (15) will be coming out to his friends as gay, starting the storyline from the first episode of Andi Mack's second season.

Subsequent episodes will follow Cyrus' ongoing story, that will include wrestling with how to tell his new girlfriend Iris that he is actually falling in love with Andi's boyfriend, Jonah (Asher Angel). 

"Andi Mack is a story about tweens figuring out who they are," says The Disney Channel in a statement announcing the news. 

"Creator Terri Minsky, the cast and everyone involved in the show takes great care in ensuring that it's appropriate for all audiences and sends a powerful message about inclusion and respect for humanity."

The Walt Disney Company says: "Disney remains committed to continuing to create characters that are accessible and relatable to all children.

"For more than 90 years, The Walt Disney Company has been home to some of the world's most beloved characters and cherished stories.

"The Disney brand has always been inclusive, with stories that reflect acceptance and tolerance and celebrate the differences that make our characters uniquely wonderful in their own way.

"We constantly strive to live up to that legacy by continuing to create and share compelling storylines from our studios and media networks that entertain with inspirational and aspirational themes and reflect the incredibly rich diversity of human experience."

The move could rile DStv subscribers in Africa where countries like Nigeria and Kenya have increasingly banned several general entertainment and kids shows they say are promoting a "pro gay" agenda.

These African nations over the past few months ordered MultiChoice Africa to immediately remove content deemed offensive from several carried TV channels – including Disney's Disney XD channel for instance, as well as several shows on Turner Broadcasting Africa's Cartoon Network and Viacom International Media Networks Africa's Nickelodeon.

Since several of these channels have only one channel feed into Africa, the removal and banning of specific shows and content mandated by one country, means that it impacts the viewing and content available on linear broadcast channels to the entire sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa.