Teenage love—it’s hormonal, complicated, and makes for great television.
On Monday night, ABC Family’s The Fosters featured a kiss between 13-year-olds Jude and Connor. So what’s the big deal? The boys’ lip-to-lip contact is apparently the youngest same-sex kiss on U.S. television.
Jude and Connor’s BFF-level friendship has been building over the past two seasons. Connor was introduced to the show when he hesitated to fend off bullies who were picking on Jude for wearing nail polish—only to end up painting his nails in solidarity with Jude, which made for a delightfully heartwarming television moment.
On The Fosters, Jude’s journey of self-discovery regarding his sexuality has been an ongoing plotline. It became apparent that Jude had some sort of feelings for Connor early on, and more recently the chemistry had been bubbling, with subtle flirtation emanating from both sides. In the episode “The Silence She Keeps,” Connor adorably goes to link pinkies with Jude in the darkness of a movie theater, and there have been scenes where they hold their gaze long just enough to imply their true feelings, screaming on the inside.
So on Monday’s episode “Now Hear This,” Jude has that momentous “define the relationship” conversation with Connor to see exactly where they stand, and what all this tomfoolery really means. He brings up the time they’d previously kissed on a school camping trip while sharing a tent (the smooch had been off-screen and kept a secret masked as “something that was wrong”) along with the pinky-holding, and demands answers. Then Connor kisses him and… cue the fireworks.
The kiss between Jude and Connor isn’t a first in the world of television teenagers. When endgame Blaine and Kurt kissed for the first time on Glee, it wasn’t even the first time the show displayed some same-sex lip-locking. And Teen Wolf has featured some steamy same-sex scenes between the students at Beacon Hills High School.
But Jude and Connor are in the 7th grade (their actors are 14 and 15 respectively), a good few years younger than their Glee and Teen Wolf counterparts. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey of LGBT Americans, 12 is the median age at which members of the community first felt they might not be straight, and gay men reported that at around age 10 they first thought that they might be gay. It’s inspiring to see that young characters on television are matching reality. Jude and Connor’s nervousness—capturing the nuances of a young friendship—turning to something more is teen naturalism at its finest, and in some ways more so than the passionate sex scenes that LGBTQ characters are chalking up in pop culture nowadays.
The Fosters is already lauded as one of the most progressive shows on TV, with the heads of household being an interracial lesbian couple raising a family of biological, foster, and adopted kin. With the kiss on The Fosters setting a fantastic standard, we’re inching toward more accurate representation of LGBTQ youth in entertainment. It reassures all the real-life Judes and Connors out there that their feelings of self-discovery during those middle school and junior high years are valid, while also providing a heartrending example for those who don’t endure this to understand and learn from.