Closet-Dwellers of the Mind

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THE MOST INSIDIOUS FORM of anti-gay representation is not in religious broadcasting—which speaks only to the converted—but in seemingly gay-positive films and videos. It’s not just that Will of Will & Grace is never allowed to have a boyfriend or that “the Fab Five” in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have no life of their own except as they can serve straight men—all of which has been generally discussed. The danger comes from a strange inversion in recent movies and television shows whereby the only people who have trouble with homosexuality are gay men. Straight people are presented as perfectly relaxed about it; it is the gay men who for unexplained reasons are not able to deal with their sexuality. There is no homophobia except in their own minds.

The worst offender on television seems to me to be the otherwise exemplary Six Feet Under. To be sure, one of the episodes in the first season depicts a young man murdered by homophobic thugs, a murder that impels David to tell his fellow deacons at his up-tight church that he’s gay. But David’s sexual paralysis seems to be his own doing. His brother tries to set him up with a guy and claims to have “gaydar,” a term that offends David. His sister couldn’t be less interested in what he does in bed. His mother, after she’s inadvertently told that her son is gay, tries to get him to talk about it after reading the requisite books for parents. This scene of the understanding parent and the silent, tormented child is one that’s played over and over again. Of course, in real life some parents are more accepting of homosexuality than their children. Andrew Holleran has written about how his mother attempted to broach the subject even as he vehemently rejected any attempts to discuss it. But this is the only case I know of in literature. Still, one would think from the media that all parents are pflag members long before their children come out to them. In the same episode, David’s African-American policeman boyfriend Keith is assigned by his superior to restrain homophobic protestors at the gay man’s funeral. Although black and gay, Keith finds only acceptance on the LA police force, which is not generally regarded as a bastion of tolerance and understanding.

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