A note to allies: homophobia exists

I know this is a particular bug bear of at least one of my readers, but it’s starting to play into something I’m seeing a lot of right now too. We seem to be at a particular juncture in the progress of acceptance where those of you who do not have a problem with LGBTQ people are assuming that everyone else in the world is just like you, and similarly unbothered.

This is pretty dangerous.

When I tell my straight friends that I don’t feel comfortable kissing my wife in a restaurant or not-gay-specific-bar, they say, “Who cares what other people think? Just do it anyway.” and I say, “I care what they think. Because there exists the possibility they’ll be so upset by it that my wife or I or both of us could pay the consequences in a very physical way.” And then I’m accused of being over dramatic.

I’m not. The statistics don’t lie. Nor does my life experience. Nor do the random sideways sneers I get just walking around town, looking queer. There are still an awful lot of assholes who have a bone to pick with me, and I don’t want to be nearby when they decide to do it. It may not be right and it may not be convenient but it’s reality.

So, to bring this back to Glee, affection for Kurt and Blaine is going to be different than it is for other couples. For myself and my wife, we’ve even been accused of not being in love because we don’t touch each other enough. The thing is, we touch each other all the time. We just know that it’s not a great idea in public. It’s not even that we haven’t been reckless in the past, and may be again, but when we do that, it is just that: reckless.

For gay teens, the problem is heightened because typically, parents aren’t happy about their teenagers making out in front of them. While straight kids will find private-ish public places, those places are simply unsafe for gay kids. If home isn’t an option, then they’re shit out of luck. In fanfiction, a lot of writers address this particular problem very well, and I would hope the Glee writers will succeed half as well.

So to close, it’s wonderful that you’re so awesome about us being gay, and being physically affectionate around you. It really is, and we appreciate that. What we don’t appreciate is how you dismiss our experiences and fears because they aren’t about you and because you’ve never had to worry about it.

And more and more, we — as a community — are getting more comfortable being affectionate in public. There are more safe spaces because there are more and more allies. But not everywhere is safe, and a lot of safe spaces aren’t as safe as they could be. Everyone has to decide their own comfort levels and that should be respected, not followed by cajoling and ridicule or dismissed as paranoia.


17 thoughts on “A note to allies: homophobia exists

  1. I don’t want to, I really don’t want to, but I see your point: living in NYC, I see m/m and f/f couples walking around together, and holding hands, all the time. Daily. Hell, my neighborhood may well be the lesbian capital of North America (or at least NYC). Before this I spent a decade in San Francisco.

    I always smile great big smiles when I see a couple of cute boys or girls walking past being lovey. It makes me happy. It makes me feel better about the world. It may also be a privilege of living here that I take for granted.

    I always assume Kurt/Blaine are less physical onscreen because the writers/producers are trying not to alienate their mainstream viewers; I had not considered that they are simply reflecting the reality of Klaine’s situation. So, ouch. But thanks. Always good to get educated.

  2. I consider myself a pretty savvy ally but I knew I was still heterocentric when, during the Prom Queen episode, I briefly felt annoyed that Kurt and Blaine weren’t shown slow-dancing together. I automatically assumed that the producers were pandering to the broader audience’s conservative sensibilities. Then I quickly realized, “duh”.

    Maybe one day we won’t need reminding. Maybe one day there will be no homophobia to struggle against… I want to see that happen in my lifetime.

  3. Thank you. As I think you know I’ve been intensely angry about this on LJ at various points. WMHS is not a safe space _and_ Kurt and Blaine both have reasons to fear physical assault, even if it were. I’m not going to get on the soap box again, because you’ve done it for me, but yeah. Times 1,000.

  4. I also tend to assume the slow-dancing thing is Blaine in particular not being comfortable with the idea of doing anything that makes them stand out in any way (besides being there together). Remember, he said he was keeping his tux choice subtle. If he got beaten up before, there’s incentive right there to be extra cautious, and the episode made it clear that he wasn’t very comfortable with going or with Kurt dressing to stand out. It makes their dance an even bigger deal for him.

  5. I agree so much with this post. I’ve seen a lot of those comments, saying that they don’t touch much so they don’t have a lot of chemistry or they aren’t in love, which is absurd, because we haven’t seen them anywhere truly private since they got together. I almost hope that the show finds a way to address it — maybe Finn can get confused about why they aren’t acting couply at some event or something — because I think people should understand and not immediately start shouting homophobia at Fox. Not to say that Fox can’t be criticized for a lot of things, but I wouldn’t automatically assume that they are choosing to censor.

  6. Brava! I also think that with (not all), but some fans they just want to see them kiss because it’s an attractive thing to see, and somehow they translate that into being an ally when all it’s really doing is filling their personal need.

  7. There is a lot of fetishising the gay going on with this right now. And, you know, it’s not the worst thing that could happen that a bunch of teenage girls figure out that it’s hot when two boys make out, just like it’s hot when two girls do or a boy and a girl do. I think the fetishisation is pretty normally when something goes from taboo to ok.

    But yeah, their love for Klaine is not as selfless as they want to believe it is. 🙂

  8. Oh hey, if I think Fox are keeping the boy kisses away, I’ll be the first person to stand up and tell them off (kinda what I do) but in this instance, they get a pass. While I do believe RIB could have snuck in a private moment somewhere, the last few shows were pretty busy, so yeah, and we got the “I love you” moment, which really, really made me pretty happy.

    I would love to see this addressed in the show. One of the most hurtful things that ever happened to us was being told (when we announced our wedding date) that people didn’t think we were really in love. Can you imagine someone saying that to Blaine?

    “Come on dude, you’re not *that* into him, you guys never even hold hands.”

  9. God I’d love to be in a place like that. We don’t even really hold hands in London. More likely to, but still don’t really.

    I remember, as a child, being in Boston of all places. I saw two men kissing in the park. My mom was horrified, but I was fascinated. Same holiday, I saw two men kissing at the theatre. Can’t remember the show, but I remember intermission very well. This was a very long time ago — maybe 1984.

    In my mind, Boston is still the gayest place in the world. Heh.

  10. I’ve brought it up here before, but I don’t think the issue is as simple as entirely diagetic homophobia (ie Kurt and Blaine are reacting to homophobia in the world that they live in) or entirely non-diagetic homophobia (ie the writers/Fox trying to avoid alienating conservative viewers/sponsers, and writing Kurt and Blaine’s world around that). I think it’s both.

    Ryan Murphy has actually been pretty upfront about the fact that he’s trying to serve multiple audiences, and that staying “family-friendly” is a big motivator. In the post-Golden Globe Hollywood Reporter article, he said “…parents look to the show as something aspirational and inspirational. We all realized that we have to be a little more careful when it comes to sexuality. …From now on I will sweat every single word and how we’re presenting it.” (This was in reference to Finn ejaculating on people and some of the sexy photoshoots cast members took part in, but I find it hard to believe that it doesn’t apply as much if not more so to the gay relationships—the fact that Brittany and Santana went from necking to hair-brushing in private spaces, and went from “having sex” to “talking with their mouths close” in dialogue, is probably relevant here.) Prior to the big fan push for Brittany/Santana, he told Heather Morris that they wouldn’t show a Brittany/Santana makeout scene because “since we’re a primetime television show, he didn’t want to do that.” (The Advocate interview with Heather Morris)

    And even when Murphy is on board, other forces are clearly at play. Prior to filming Duets, while criticizing Modern Family he said, “I’m directing the episode where [Brittany and Santana are] going to kiss a couple of times. The key is to do it a couple times so it doesn’t seem forced.” When it went to air, what was shown was a single chaste necking scene where no lips touched–which has nothing to do with public displays of affection, because it took place in Brittany’s bedroom (and despite all this, it was reported variously as a lesbian makeout scene and a lesbian sex scene, which pretty well illustrates the kind of forces that the writers and the network are working around). Compare and contrast with the scene in the episode before, where Finn and Rachel made out and negotiated boob-touching to zero outcry. The next scene of Brittany and Santana in private space revealed their relationship by showing Santana brushing Brittany’s hair. Compare and contrast with the reveal of Quinn and Finn’s secret relationship in the same episode, where they were shown making out in bed.

    After the Kurt and Blaine kiss, Murphy said “I don’t think it’s too much if it’s done, you know, honestly and with the right intent. You know, I mean part of the stuff for some of that was just the fan demand for those two was so strong,” which I think shows pretty clearly that when it comes to the gay relationships, Murphy is really aware that he’s doing a balancing act between the segments of the fan community that want to see gay relationships/gay sexuality, and the segments that consider a single kissing scene between a queer couple “too much,” especially if it isn’t “earned” in a way that isn’t required for scenes of straight sexuality. (http://www.hollyscoop.com/glee/glee-cast-reacts-to-gay-kiss-it-was-perfect-timing.html)

    I’m happy to see people calling out entitled fans of boy-on-boy kissing who don’t know and don’t care about the realities of gay life, and it makes perfect sense to acknowledge that there are plenty of reasons beyond homophobia that can and do account for why Kurt and Blaine haven’t kissed again onscreen, including both plot and character-based reasons. But I am really wary of completely negating or neglecting the commercial and critical forces that also shape the show’s relationships. As much as the writers are committed to showing realistic and meaningful gay relationships, they are also committed to keeping their sponsers, and neither Santana/Brittany nor Kurt/Blaine would ever have happened if there hadn’t been fan demand (ie potential profit) behind them to counter lost viewership due to homophobia.

  11. Oh, yeah, not negating — giving the benefit of the doubt on that one! As I’ve said previously, I may be eating my words in S3, but I’m hopeful this will be handled properly.

    The point I was getting at was the tendency by people to act like there’s no reason in the world not to make out at bus stops, and how that extends to demands that their favourite queer characters get it on.

    The commercial constraints are one thing, but fandom does seem to want something that would make almost no narrative sense.

  12. I realized a few days ago- I’ve never seen my son kiss his boyfriend. And to be honest the only time I ever saw a guy kiss another guy before Glee was on Torchwood. But times are changing so fast and for the better- When my best friend from High school came out to me 17 years ago it was to let me know our third member from our trio had just died from AIDS and that she was marrying another woman. I grew up very fast that day. It all makes sense now why people called me a lesbo- 2 of the three of us were gay and I didn’t even know it. I’m the straight one… Fast forward to 10 years ago when my 4th son came out to me- like I didn’t already know- it was no surprise and we were all good with it. I now live in a tiny little Southern town and homophobia is all the rage. As an openly secular homeschooling Catholic mom of a gay son, I’ve got so many strikes against me I can’t even begin to describe how interesting my life has become- But I’ll keep fighting for gay rights and long for kissing between lovers of any sexual orientation. I’m a better person for it.

  13. This actually made me really happy. Thank you for being that voice that some people need to hear. Keep fighting; not just for your son, but for the other two women in your “trio”. It’s a beautiful story. Thank you. 🙂

  14. Pingback: Straight allies can forget that homophobia exists | gaelick

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