The Out List

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Out List TV Poster Image
Poignant LGBTQ docu highlights respect, acceptance.

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Positive Messages

The documentary addresses the importance of accepting people for who they are, and the right of all individuals of any sexual orientation to live without fear. Themes like single-sex parenthood, gay marriage, gender transitioning, discrimination, HIV/AIDS, and religion are discussed. Compassion, empathy, and integrity are all major themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

People featured are LGBTQ leaders in their own right and exemplify courage by living openly in a society that is not always receptive to them. They come from various racial/ethnic, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, and sexual orientations.


Violence against the LGBTQ community and suicide is discussed.


Same-sex relationships, drag queens, non-traditional gender typing, and HIV/AIDS are themes here; references are made to wearing fake breasts and grabbing male genitals.


Words like "ass," "pissed," "p---y," "s--t," and "f--k" are sometimes used; rude gestures are sometimes shown. Folks use terms like "sissy," "queer," "butch queen," and "homo" to describe themselves.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking hard alcohol and getting drunk is occasionally discussed; a photograph shows someone smoking a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that HBO's The Out List -- which features a range of notable representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community discussing the challenges and opportunities of living in a sometimes unwelcoming society -- is one to watch and discuss with your teens. The issues discussed range from discrimination, AIDS, and suicide, to gay marriage and parenthood. There's some strong language throughout ("ass," "pissed," "p---y," "s--t,"  "f--k"), and epithets like "sissy," "queer," "butch queen," and "homo" are used to self-describe. Expect a few references to male genitals and other sexually-charged topics. Despite the controversial nature of many of the issues discussed here, the central message is the importance of respect for all human beings.

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What's the story?

From the creators of The Black List and The Latino List comes THE OUT LIST, a documentary that profiles notable leaders of the American lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community. Actors like Cynthia Nixon and Neil Patrick Harris, comedians like Wanda Sykes and Ellen Degeneres, and activists like author Janet Mock, discuss the emotional challenges they faced before coming out. They also share the triumphs they've experienced after finding the courage to live openly and unapologetically as who they are, as well as the obstacles they continue to face thanks to prevailing social norms and the lack of laws that protect them. Also contributing to the conversation are athletes like Wade Davis, community leaders like Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, musicians like Scissor Sisters' lead singer Jake Shears, politicians like Republican leader R. Clarke Cooper, financial guru Suze Orman, and HIV/AIDS activist and ACT UP founder Larry Kramer.

Is it any good?

The poignant and sometimes humorous interviews offer first-hand accounts of the difficulties individuals face when coming to terms with their sexual orientation, as well as the efforts they made -- and continue to make -- to protect themselves from ridicule, discrimination, and even violence as a result of living publicly as a member of the LGBTQ community. The documentary also highlights the various cultural, religious, political, and economic ramifications of choosing to live openly, and underscores the failure of American federal laws to protect them.

Some folks will be surprised by what they learn here, like the role that drag queens historically played in the fight for gay rights, and the diversity that exists within the LGBTQ culture. Viewers might even be taken back by the discrimination that exists within the community, too. But The Out List's overall themes are clear: People should be allowed to live visibly as who they are without being fearful, and all human beings deserve to be validated and respected.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Out List portrays the history of the LGBTQ community in America and around the world. What are some of the major issues surrounding this community today? Why don't all laws in the United States protect the the rights of LGBTQ Americans? Is this different in other countries?

  • What are some of the stereotypes about LGBTQ people featured in the media? What is the impact of these generalizations? Is there a difference between the way LGBTQ characters were portrayed in films and TV shows 30 years ago and the way LGBTQ characters are portrayed today?

  • How does The Out List promote compassion, integrity, and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?

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