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Betty White’s “Golden Girls” Character Made Her the Ultimate Gay Icon, and Here’s Why

Betty White was known for her stance in support of Gay men and the LGBTQ community until her death.

Betty White’s pivotal presence in Television will forever be impactful, as much as her activism. During her lifetime, White believed in equality and the rights of gay men, among other prestigious feats that she stood for.

Although the Hollywood sage recently passed on, her words still resonate in the hearts of gay men that knew her. Her characters in TV shows like “Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” were also reminiscent of her support to the LGBTQ+ community. Here’s how White captured the hearts of many.

How did betty white pass away?
THE GOLDEN GIRLS — Season 1 — Pictured: Betty White as Rose Nylund — (Photo by: Herb Ball/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal) Image: Pinterest

White’s Rose Nylund Made Gay Men Feel Represented

When Betty White appeared in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” she played Sue Ann Nivens, the flirtatious and happy-go-lucky character who could have easily passed for a gay man if she was male.

Sue had a grace and poise that made her gay fans gravitate towards her. She held nothing back and always had a double entendre when making comments. 

However, her role as Rose Nylund on the 1985 TV show “Golden Girls” has a more prominent influence on social issues surrounding homophobia, marriage equality, and HIV. Rose was quite the sweet and gullible character, but she stole the heart of the LGBTQ community.

Many viewers will never forget the cultural reset in one of the show’s episodes that tackled the issue of HIV/AIDS. This was at a time when the immune disease was considered an illness typical to the LGBTQ community. 

In that particular episode, Rose had gotten a blood transfusion unknowingly from an HIV patient and had to be tested after 72 hours to be sure of her fate. That scene remained indelible for many because it showed that HIV was not based on sexuality.

how did betty white pass away
Image: Pinterest

How “Golden Girls” Got Its LGBTQ Fan Base

“The Golden Girls” further solidified their LGBTQ support by introducing a character who was not mentioned from the start. The plot followed how Dorothy (Bea Arthur) brought her lesbian friend, Jean, home to the rest of the “golden girls.”

At first, Dorothy worried about how Jean would fare with the golden girls that included Rose, Sophia, and Blanche. However, she fit right in and even developed a crush on Rose. Although Rose did not feel the same way, she approached Jean most graciously to foster a healthy friendship. 

While the various topics on LGTBQ and social justice developed through the show, White’s Rose Nylund was at the center of it all. Another instance was when Blanche’s brother Clayton came visiting.

Clayton was in the closet for the longest time, and even his sister had no idea. But when he met Rose, Clayton did not find it difficult to tell her about his sexuality. Because Rose worked at a grief counseling center, she was able to listen and understand Clayton. 

Image: Pinterest

White’s Advocacy for the LGTBQ Community

Just like her TV characters, Betty White had a wholesome way of supporting social justice connected to racism and sexuality. One part bubbly comedian, and one part activist, White was America’s sweetheart. 

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Emmy-winning actress was at the forefront of advocacy for diversity and was also against homophobia. White once shunned opinions that she should remove a black performer from her show.

In the same vein, White was outspoken and knew just how to use her platform to list the visibility of marginalized communities. Once speaking about White, Ruben Gonzales, the executive director of LGTBQ Victory Institute, said:

“Betty White understood the power of television to shape American culture and used it to bring light to issues and people that were misunderstood or vilified.”

Image: Pinterest

How Did Betty White Pass Away?

Betty White’s life was an enduring one because way beyond her classic TV stints, her career stayed relevant through to the social media age. White stayed alive long enough to become the oldest living member of the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

However, three weeks shy of her 100th birthday and just a day into the New Year, White’s death was announced. How did Betty White pass away? 

This has been the question asked by many fans as they mourned the exit of the superstar. White’s long-term agent and friend, Jeff Witjas, announced her passing on the 31st of December, 2021. Witjas shared that White stayed close to her Los Angeles home until the time of death.

Days after her death was announced, the LA death certificate county released the cause of death. White had passed on after a cerebrovascular accident, also known as stroke. The star who died at 99 was cremated, and her remains were given to Glenn Kaplan, who is in charge of her advanced healthcare directive. 

Ashabi
Ashabi
Ashabi is a writer who enjoys reading and putting her dynamic thoughts on people, places, and concepts into writing. Her range of writing interests includes literary works, creative writing reviews, lifestyle, celebrity catchups, health, travel, world news, and Poetry. Ashabi is a graduate of Linguistics, and she has an avid interest in entertainment, languages, and global history.
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