The young man looked into the television camera and described his wrenching dilemma: His longtime partner had been diagnosed with AIDS and needed hospitalization. He would need time off from work to nurse his friend.

He would have to tell his boss about his situation and disclose that he is gay. He spoke to her. He didn't know how she would react. She wept in sympathy for his ailing friend. Then, "I knew she was on my side," he said.

A woman told of her feelings after she revealed her homosexuality to people close to her. "I felt stronger," she said. "I could take the world on. After all, the most difficult thing in my life I already did," she said.

These vignettes were part of a new show called "Significant Others" that began last month on channel 33, Arlington cable television's public access channel.

The show, a mixture of profiles and interviews, is the first in Arlington and the second in Northern Virginia that is geared to gay audiences. The first was "Gay Fairfax," which is broadcast in Fairfax County.

"Significant Others" was created by Russell C. Snider, 37, a freelance video producer who lives in Arlington. Snider produces the show, does the editing, writing, audio work and most of the camera work.

"We've had too small an ability to portray ourselves as we actually are," he said in an interview. Coverage of gay issues in the mass media is "very sparse, generally inaccurate and inconsistent," he said.

The show made its debut Oct. 11 with a program on "coming out," the process of acknowledging one's homosexuality to others.

The second program, which is airing this month, discusses human rights and employment discrimination. The December program is geared toward the holidays and will be about gay men and women, and family relationships.

"The primary goal I have is to portray us as fully functioning, productive members of the community," Snider said. "Most gay people are like everyone else: mainstream, conservative, regular," he said.

Lee Stinnett, president of the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said the show helps fill a need for "another viewpoint" on the gay community. "There is so much negative stereotyping, particularly on television, particularly on conservative religious programs," Stinnett said. Members of the alliance have contributed money and ideas for the show, he said.

When it was announced that "Significant Others" would be broadcast, channel 33 received one critical phone call, said Vivian A. Schaefer, executive director of Arlington Community Television, which runs the station.

Since the program began, "there've been at least 10 to 20 calls to say it's great it's on the air," and no negative calls, Schaefer said.

More than 100 people attended a party marking the premiere of the show. It was an impressive turnout, Schaefer said. "It demonstrates the need for this kind of programming," she said.

Any Arlington resident can use the facilities at Arlington Community Television, Schaefer said. "We train them on the production equipment. They produce their own programming. They can do anything they want as long as it doesn't break any laws," she said.

Programs compete for air time on a first-come, first-served basis, she said. Producers who submit eight programs in a year can earn a regular time slot.

Each "Significant Others" program airs on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 8:30 p.m. and on the third Sunday of the month at 7 p.m.