The Disney Channel is introducing a gay storyline for the first time in its show Andi Mack.
The channel is to set to make history when its season two premiere airs on Friday in the US.
It will see best friends Andi (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) and Cyrus (Joshua Rush) both admit they are attracted to the same boy.
A Disney spokesperson says the show “sends a powerful message about inclusion and respect for humanity”.
The statement added that the show’s creator, Terri Minsky – who also made the hit Disney show Lizzie McGuire – and her team took “great care in ensuring that it’s appropriate for all audiences.”
The series is a coming-of-age show that revolves around 13-year-old girl Andi and her friends Cyrus, Buffy and Jonah.
In the season premiere, Andi is dealing with feelings for a boy she knows when her best friend Cyrus realises that he has feelings for the same boy.
Cyrus’ story develops in later episodes as he begins to understand himself better with the help of his friends and family.
Rush said he was “so proud to bring Cyrus’ groundbreaking storyline to life”.
‘Thought, care and authenticity’
To ensure Disney told the story in a sensitive and respectful way, they worked with child development experts on the storyline.
They also consulted PFLAG, the US’s biggest LGBTQ organisation.
Their executive director Dr Jaime Grant said: “Coming out requires honest self-reflection, no small amount of bravery and a safe place with at least one trusted person.
“Andi Mack’s creative team captures this moment of revelation with such thought, care, and authenticity, it will be a memory moment for some, and a teachable moment for many.”
Kim Sanders from LGBT rights group Stonewall said: “It’s great to see Disney taking this step. For young lesbian, gay and bi people it sends a powerful message, demonstrating that they are not alone.
“We need to see more people with different sexual orientations and gender identities on TV and in film.”
Andi Mack’s average viewer is 10 years old. This means it will attract a similar audience to Beauty and the Beast, the 2017 adaptation of which featured the film side of the Disney franchise’s first gay character.
In the film, starring Emma Watson, gay character LeFou comes to terms with fancying his sidekick Gaston.
The reworked Power Rangers film, which was out earlier this year, also had an openly gay superhero in it.
Yellow ranger Trini is depicted in the film as having “girlfriend problems”.
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