What Would Kurt and Mercedes Do

The words that stick in my mind from Saturday Night Glee-ver were never said.

“What would you do?” Wade/Unique asks Kurt and Mercedes.

We don’t hear their advice, but we find out later that their advice was to not wear the dress and heels, to not stand out, and not to be Unique.

That’s right — Kurt and Mercedes gave this advice. You know, those two who always keep their heads down, try to blend in, and believe it’s best to just be like everyone else, because it’s too risky to be yourself.

I mean, this is the reasoning they started to give Sue when she asked about the encounter. Basically that Unique wouldn’t fly in Peoria Ohio. Some examples of other things that might not either: taking your gay best friend to your evangelical church; being a gay kid who won’t apologise; a black Maria in West Side Story; boys who sing girl songs and wear skirts, etc

For me, I have to land on Kurt’s own gender issues. A lifetime ago, I wrote that Kurt is not cisgender. Racheline at Letters From Titan then wrote a lot of really smart things, especially about wearing hats in church.

But as Biyuti has pointed out, Kurt has asserted his masculine identity once. (He’s also denied being gay and confessed to being in love with Rachel). (and I don’t mean to deny Kurt his own ability to self-identify — I just know that I alternately will claim membership with either gender depending on the situation, and maybe he does too).

And it’s not even that I’m going to insist that Kurt is genderqueer — but he does have gender issues. They may not be his own, even, but the result of years of being insulted by being called a girl, and being betrayed by his own gender, if he does identify as a man (as Unique says Kurt does). Why wouldn’t he be uncomfortable when an apparent boy comes to him, with a similar girl-voice and says he wants to be a girl? I’m surprised he didn’t actually freak like he did when Blaine was experimenting with Rachel.

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19 thoughts on “What Would Kurt and Mercedes Do

  1. of course! but that’s the point I’m making. He said it and he had a reason to say it. People say things that aren’t true about themselves and sometimes things are true in one moment that isn’t in another.

  2. Just on Kurt and saying ‘I’m a guy’. He’s also very clear he’s not interested in the high heels, fishnets, and lipstick wearing that go with being Frankenfurter, even though Will assumes he will be. And he doesn’t even want to do the show initially, for fear of causing scandal.

  3. which seems bizarro, right? Kurt afraid of causing scandal? I mean, he’s been afraid of causing his dad to be harassed, but other than that, he’s worn a corset in school, and a skirt.

  4. Thinking again, Kurt points out that a school in Texas couldn’t even do Rent, and that it got cancelled after causing such a scandal. So it’s probably more that he’s just aware of how Rocky Horror would go down. Still, he’s being a downer and not wanting to try. But this is separate to then having people assume he would go for Frankenfurter. He is very clear that he is ‘a guy’ in conversation with Burt (I think, over the whole taking Finn for tacos or whatever). On the one hand he tells Mercedes ‘Fashion knows no gender’, but he would still not call what he is doing ‘cross dressing’. It’s interesting that he explicity reject three of the main markers of Frankenfurter’s outfit (heels, fishnets, lipstick) at a point when we already know he has worn the fourth in the form of a corset – to school no less.

  5. I think what Kurt himself would do and what he would advise someone else to do are two very different things. Kurt is super-protective of everyone but himself. He didn’t care about getting made fun of himself singing a girl’s song, but the second he knew his father would get hurt by it he couldn’t do it. If he’s being looked at as a mentor, I think he knows firsthand how vicious kids can be and he doesn’t want to give this kid advice that will just get him hurt. He may also remember Blaine’s advice to him about standing up to your bullies and what happened there.

    I think if Kurt were actually in Wade’s situation, he would probably be wearing women’s clothes. He’d also take a lot of heat for that, and he knows it, but he didn’t let that stop him from walking around school in ten-inch heels or wearing other things that he knows will not necessarily improve his bullying situation. I just think his protective instincts may be taking over and that’s why he’s not telling anyone else to do what he’d do.

    I think they’re both also teenagers from small-town Ohio and neither knew exactly how to respond. Remember that even Kurt never met another gay person until a year and a half ago. If the question was more directly framed about times that either of them has had to suppress their identity and been unhappy (Mercedes dieting on the Cheerios and Kurt dating Brittany and singing Mellencamp, for example), the response might have been different. Although I still don’t think Kurt would be likely to advise other people to do what he himself would do in most situations.

  6. Interestingly, I agree that kurt has gender issues, but I think this is also why he appears firmly rooted in his identity as a man because he’s had to spend more time thinking about what it means to be a gay man with a high voice and love of fashion. I don’t doubt that he has spent a great deal of time interrogating himself just to suss out whether or not there is anything not cis about him.

    I also think that (and this is obvious, based on my post) that kurt and Mercedes advising Wade/Unique *not* to be out is good advice. These two characters (queer guy and Black woman) are both best suited — in combination — to understand the challenges Unique might face.

    And, one random stat: TPoC and/or gender variant PoC are more likely to be out or express their gender identities in high school than white ones. It is also (probably) why they experience a great deal more bullying (from both students and administration).

  7. I think you’re right that Kurt can be anxious to protect other people, knowing the consequences himself. But he can also push for others to take even riskier steps, as we see in his urging Karovsky to ‘Come out, make a difference’ at Prom. The first person Kurt came out to was Mercedes, in tears, next to the lockers. I had forgotten that was before he even came out to his dad. In the immediate context of Prom, Kurt’s own actions have already made the dance floor somewhat ‘safer’ as the rest of the students do applaud his ‘Eat your heart out Kate Middleton’ acceptance speech. But while he may think he has given the necessary space, Karovsky knows differently. In relation to Uniquie, Kurt is at least partially right not to push, if the reaction of Jessie St James is anything to go by. He is wrong in so far as the rest of the audience then seems to relish the whole number.

  8. “He is wrong in so far as the rest of the audience then seems to relish the whole number.”

    I think another important point, although I feel a little bit odd writing this, is that Wade passed really really well. I would be that the audience members that did not already know Wade did not realize that Unique was not a ciswoman. I would have been curious to see the reaction of the other members of Vocal Adrenaline and Wade/Unique’s parents after the performance.

  9. I think it is important to remember that Wade/Unique asked a question about coming out under a specific set of circumstances. He wanted to go on stage in a relatively high stakes competition and sing as a woman. I think Kurt and Mercedes are correct that this is a terrible idea. Vocal Adrenaline has been shown be a very unhealthy and competitive environment. To make a major change to a performance without warning his team mates and adviser is both unprofessional and bluntly unsafe. He is very lucky that the performance went to well.

    If he had asked more generally about coming out, their response would probably have been different. I think there would still have a been a learning curve and confusion for Kurt and Mercedes, but I can’t imagine them being unsupportive. But I think Kurt would have been honest about what could become a dangerous situation.

    I think Kurt knows that to survive as a out teen in Ohio you need to pick your battles. That is how I see his actions with regards to Karofsky/Prom, Rocky Horror, and Defying Gravity. He sees that Karofsky being in the closet is toxic Dave himself and contributes to making Mckinley unsafe for everyone. Therefore he urges Karofsky to come out and accepts the title of Prom Queen. He thinks (correctly IMO) that these actions will make positive changes. Rocky Horror is being done for the wrong reasons and thus has little potential for a positive impact. Defying Gravity has consequences for a variety of people and benefits only to Kurt himself.

  10. Man o’ man, I am SO not on-board with this. Kurt’s a guy. A guy who really, really likes other guys. Likes them as sex objects, likes them as lovers. Likes them as potential romantic partners. He’s also a small city kid with an ego. He thinks he knows it all but in fact he’s a kid who’s been on a plane twice in his life and if it wasn’t for Glee club that wouldn’t have happened. As such, Kurt’s got life issues: what is he going to do with his life? Which dreams to pursue, and which to let fall away.

    Unique is a chick. Ok. Alright. The rest of us need to get over ourselves and deal with it. That includes Kurt.

    What often gets lost in all the talk about this show is how deeply, profoundly, conservative this show really is. Just ponder the gender bias here and elsewhere is, and the conservative nature becomes apparent. It’s like “oh, Kurt/Blaine doesn’t fit into our box of what a guy SHOULD be like, so let’s slap another, different label on him” instead of expanding the notion of what a guy/man is. Kurt like shiny sparkly shit and can sing high. That doesn’t man him a woman. It makes him a guy who likes shiny sparkly shit who can sing high. Unique’s the chick here. And as a woman, I welcome her ’cause she is awesome.

  11. The corset is something we’ve only heard about from other characters though, not seen. Isn’t it fairly likely that someone less fashion-aware (and I can’t remember who said the corset line originally, unfortunately) identified it as such when actually Kurt considered it something else? The way someone might identify the kilt as a skirt when Kurt explicitly DIDN’T. Even when he’s wearing gender-ambiguous clothing, fashion knows no gender &c., KURT at least tends to consider them, if deliberately not masculine, then at least, “suitable for men”.

  12. I would argue the Lady Gaga outfit included heels, but I admit my knowledge of fashion is limited. My guess is that he is willing to play with wearing feminine fashion/attire, but no go fully into what he feels is cross-dressing.

    Kurt likes to control how much he is identified as feminine. He prefers to be socialize/perform with the girls, but emphatically states to his father that he is a guy. He makes careful choices about the gender balance of his outfit in a variety of circumstances. I don’t feel I have a good handle on his internal rules of expressing gender, but I am almost certain they exist.

  13. In addition to Gwena’s observation below, there’s also the fact that David tried to kill himself not too long ago.

    We know Kurt’s never really followed social protocol for gender expression, so he’s probably dealt with varying degrees of bullying most of his life, and while I believe he certainly thought about suicide, it never really pushed him over the edge. 1 week of it did push David, though, and that’s bound to have affected him on some level.

    I think that this part of Kurt’s story is about understanding experiences outside of his own. Kurt knows what he can endure, what’s happened to him, and who he is, but he’s realizing that it’s not the same for everyone. The bullying didn’t end up driving him to suicide, but he’s seen it drive someone else. While we don’t know the full extent of his past bullying, or Blaine’s beating, I assume Kurt’s never really had the living shit beat out of him, but he knows that within Ohio (possibly even Lima) there’s people capable of doing it. He’s probably spent a long time thinking about his gender, and I think he’s come to the conclusion that he’s a man, but not everyone is going to come that conclusion, and he has difficulty understanding that (BIOTA).

    So he’s already very aware of the possible consequences, doesn’t know how Wade/Unique will handle those consequences (or just how well Unique passes), and (while not responsible in the least) already has one person’s suicide hanging over his head. Couple all this with his ignorance and dismissal of identities outside of his own and his reaction actually makes sense. It may not be right, but it seems in character.

  14. I am rather worried we will find out about the reactions later.

    Alex Newell plays a woman incredibly well — when he first did an act in drag on The Glee Project, he literally came alive. So it wasn’t a surprise to anyone who followed that, but it’s certainly striking in the episode!

  15. The Lady Gaga outfit definately included heels but then Kurt’s comment in SNG that he never thought he’d seen Finn ‘dress up as Lady Gaga’ suggests he saw the glee club members as dressing up as specific character who is already identified as female (although massive debates could be had about that) rather than engaging in the ‘cross dressing’ signalled by Frankenfurter.

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