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From Boy Bands To Baywatch: 15 Things From the '90s That Sparked Our Queer Awakening

From Boy Bands To Baywatch: 15 Things From the '90s That Sparked Our Queer Awakening

90's Gay Kid Awakening Time Capsule
Disney, Fox, Saban Entertainment

Everything from the '90s that helped the gays know themselves in and out!


What was your '90s gay awakening like?

90's Gay Kid Awakening Time Capsule

Disney, Fox, Saban Entertainment

If you're missing the '90s, you are not alone.

Every decade has its ups and downs and pieces of history that still get talked about years later. Bright colors, a move toward inclusion, and presidential scandals dotted the 90s, for better or for worse, and if you were a queer kid growing up in the mix, there were plenty of things to help get you through and come to terms with the full scope of your identity.

Here are 15 things 90's queer kids clung to as we moved through our gay awakening.

Boy Bands

the backstreet boys


Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, Hanson, Boyz II Men... the list goes on, and on, and on. There was plenty of competition for the "main" boy band of the mix (my vote will always go to Backstreet Boys, get off my back) and even if there's never going to officially be a winner, we loved the entertainment they brought all the same. A major part of the boy band fandom revolved around the crushes. Taylor Hanson, Nick Carter, Justin Timberlake, and Nick Lachey seemed to be on everyone's bedroom wall... And we were all super stoked when Lance Bass officially became part of the team.

Girl Bands/Pop Divas

The Spice Girls


Spice Girls, En Vogue, Destiny's Child... The female pop groups weren't as numerous, but they were just as exciting all the same, and without them, we wouldn't have been introduced to Beyoncé. For the females, however, the 90s focused more on solo divas like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, who each established themselves as a powerhouse in their own right. We all love a pop girlie, and we wanted to emulate everything that was the ultimate stage presence from all of these queens.

Teen Beat/Tiger Beat

Teen and Tiger Beat were all you needed for the latest goss in the teen entertainment world. The magazine itself ran from 1967-2007, so it's not like the '90s were the only time it saw any popularity, but it always covered the biggest teen celebs in the mix and we ate up every issue. These mags were where you "casually" cut out that picture of your secret crush under the guise you were simply "a fan of their talent."

Xena: Warrior Princess

xena and gabrielle


Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi-yoooo... If you've seen the show, you already know all about her war cry, and I'm sorry if I murdered the spelling. Xena was, is, and will always be a total icon, both in the queer world and elsewhere. If only she and Gabrielle were allowed to fully explore their relationship, but that's neither here nor there...

Gullah, Gullah Island

gullah gullah island


Gullah, Gullah Island was a Nickelodeon/Noggin show that took place on a fictional island with a family and a giant tadpole named Binyah Binyah Polliwog, If you saw the show, you're already humming the "Gullah Gullah" theme song, and if you remember anything from the show, you'll remember what it taught you about life, culture, and how to get along with those who differ from you.

Tiffani Amber Thiessan

tiffani amber thiessan


Anybody who watched Saved by the Bell was in love with Tiffani Amber Thiessan. She was a queen to us all, gay or straight, and her time as Kelly Kapowski cemented her as a '90s heartthrob during the show's run, as well as her role as Valerie Malone in Beverly Hills 90210 right after.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

jonathan taylor thomas


For a solid period of time during the '90s, it didn't seem like you could turn anywhere without seeing something about Jonathan Taylor Thomas, or more affectionately known as JTT back then. He voiced Simba, played Randy on Home Improvement, and starred in multiple movies as one of the biggest names in entertainment for the decade -- and he was easy on the eyes the whole time.

Power Rangers

Power Rangers

Saban Entertainment

Even though it didn't officially happen until recently, the Power Rangers were always a queer escape for those who felt ostracized from the world. Although representation has always been weaved in the show somehow, we're at least happy it's getting more these days. Plus, the original Blue Ranger, David Yost, wound up coming out after leaving Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in 1996.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

willow and vamp willow

The WB/The CW

Okay, so, even though the queer storylines on Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn't technically start until the early 2000s, the show was already embedded within queer culture, and also featured a football player coming out of the closet in a move not commonly seen for the time. Plus, lesbian vamp Willow... why did she get so little screen time?! Also Faith, is just gay culture, periodt.

The Craft

the craft

Columbia Pictures

This one was technically a tie between The Craft and Charmed, but since Charmed likely wouldn't have existed -- or at least been as successful -- without The Craft, then Fairuza Balk it is. Although the film isn't explicitly Sapphic with the female leads, it's since become embedded within queer culture and is still one of the best movies of its (and all) time.

In Living Color

men on film in living color


In Living Color was all about representation, both for the Black community and even some for the queer community, as well. A series of sketches within the show, "Men on Film," involves a gay couple who review movies on public access TV similarly to how Trixie Matel and Katya break down pop culture. Plus, In Living Color introduced the world to Jennifer Lopez, which we're also not super mad about.


original baywatch


From Daddy, I mean David Hasselhoff to all the other shirtless men and beautiful women, Baywatch was, at least, the show that helped me, personally, learn I was gay. (I was always here for Hobie. Always!) At one point, Baywatch was the most-watched show globally, and those of us who got to experience the hype first-hand will always remember how it felt. Plus, this was the easiest way to get away with having pictures of shirtless men who paraded around the show.

Living Single

living single


Queen Latifah led the glorious Living Single through the '90s, and a season three episode of the sitcom offered a fresh and new take on lesbian coming out and wedding plans. Outside of that, the show represented women -- particularly women of color -- in all of their various nuances and interests and still resonates within the queer community today.

My So-Called Life

my so-called life


My So-Called Life introduces us to Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez as a bisexual character before he ultimately went on to come out as gay. He's known for his representation, especially for the time, but he's also touted for having the best sense of style (duh) and being among the more intriguing of characters on the show.




Salt-N-Pepa were among the greatest of hip hop power couples in the '90s. Although there's only speculation when it comes to the sexual orientation of Pepa (she's a legend either way), these two legends still represented what it meant to be a strong, black woman in a male-dominated industry.

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Andrew J. Stillman

Contributing Writer for

Andrew J. Stillman is a freelance writer and yoga instructor exploring the world. Check him out at or follow him @andrewjstillman on all the things.

Andrew J. Stillman is a freelance writer and yoga instructor exploring the world. Check him out at or follow him @andrewjstillman on all the things.