Here’s what we know about queer representation on TV: It changes everything. It changes things for straight people who have never met a gay person in their lives. It humanizes us. It opens the door for us into the living rooms of “mainstream” America and we sit down with these people who don’t know us and we have dinner with these people who don’t know us and we make them laugh and we make them cry and they come away knowing that there’s one kind of folks.
And it changes everything for gay people too. We are, all of us, born with an ancient need to stretch ourselves across the fictional universes of other people’s stories. If they can be heroes, we can be heroes. If they can find love, we can find love. If they can crash and bleed and break and claw their way back to redemption, well, then, so can we. If a young gay boy can get thrown into a dumpster and crawl out and come out and sing his way into the most prestigious fine arts school in the country where he can banish his bullies with a song in his heart and a smile on his face, we can really believe that it gets better. And if a young gay girl can break through walls she spent a lifetime building, stare down her deepest, darkest fears, and find the courage to crack open her own heart, we can be brave enough to love out loud too.
When I call Glee out on its misogyny, on its double standard of gay/straight physical affection, on its unwillingness to commit to its character development and tell us their real truths, it’s not because I’m jaded and cynical and like the sound of my own angry voice. It’s because when Glee does it right, it does it better than anyone. It heals us on a soul-balm level. I’ve written before about how constellations are nothing more than stories, the joining-up of unrelated points of light by people who wanted to make sense of the universe. When we look at the night sky, it’s not a jumble of glowing chaos. It’s Orion. It’s the Big Dipper. It’s Leo the Nemean Lion. And when we look at our own lives in the context of the stories we’ve been told, we’re not lost and alone and abandoned in a turbulent world without hope. We’re Blaine. We’re Brittany. We’re Santana. We’re Unique.
And when people who don’t know us — not really, not physically, not yet — try to work out whether or not we’re like them, the same thing is true: We are Kurt Hummel. We hurt and we love and we hope. Oh, we hope. And sometimes we do it looking fierce in one-sleeved woolen ponchos.
So, yes: I am a woman on a mission. And when Santana Lopez says “AfterEllen” out loud on Fox, five years after there were exactly zero lesbians on any major network, it only strengthens my resolve. It also makes me feel like the first time I went out on a date with another girl and she flicked her eyes up at me coyly over her beer and I was like, “Oh Jesus, she’s going to kiss me. Another girl is going to kiss me.” And she did kiss me, all gentle and firm and delicious and hops and jalapenos, and my heart ricocheted around in my chest like a pinball and my lungs forgot to do their job and all of my blood rushed to the surface of my skin, and I think what happened next was that I blacked out.
It’s like, Naya Rivera is saying “AfterEllen.” I see her lips going, “AfterEllen.” But it sounds to me very much like, “I love you.”—
- from Heather Hogan’s (afterelton.com) fantastic review of Glee ep 4.13, Diva.
ETA: Where I come from, ANY interaction between queer couples that shows signs of potential affection, or demonstrates that they are actually in a relationship is censored (hey, a silver-lining to the Klaine breakup? On TV here…it never happened. Because I suppose we weren’t suppose to think they had anything to break up in the first place……!). I therefore have a very, very deep appreciation for all the little things that push the boundaries of what the Powers That Be let us see through their glasses of discrimination, prejudice, homophobia and heteronormativity.
I know we want MORE queer visibility, more equality between the characters, and yes, we should absolutely demand more. But I’d also like to state how much it means to me, a queer kid in a country that throws us in prison for being gay, that I can see Blaine in all his glorious fabulousity as a Diva, or his blessed-incurable case of hearteyes that the Powers haven’t figured out how to censor yet [I can absolutely imagine them pixelating out his eyes every time he looks at Kurt! ssshh..no one tell them], or watch a character like Kurt Hummel -an incredible embodiment of someone who is so amazingly strong, powerfully different and represents so much of what they want to hide from us- come alive on my TV, or hear Santana uttering the words ‘afterellen’.
As we keep fighting for more, I take comfort in the little things that they try so hard to keep from us [and it makes me a little happier that there are others w/o access to online sites to watch uncensored versions of glee who can see these small gems, and hopefully to them, it’s enough light that they don’t feel so alone in the dark tunnel we’re stumbling along in].
“And when we look at our own lives in the context of the stories we’ve been told, we’re not lost and alone and abandoned in a turbulent world without hope”. Indeed.
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