Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for October, 2012

Romney loses “Republican at heart”

Timothy Kincaid

October 22nd, 2012

Y’all may have heard of a sweet lil’ girl named Kelly Clarkson. The first winner of American Idol, she turned her moment in the sun into a strong decade long career, giving us such hits as A Moment Like This, Since You Been Gone, Because of You, Walk Away, My Life Would Suck Without You, Mr. Knowitall, and the ubiquitous (What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You) Stronger.

Being a Texas girl, Kelly calls herself “a Republican at heart.” But she told a British tabloid that she just can’t vote for Romney: (Daily Star)

Kelly added: “I’ve been reading online about the debates and I’m probably going to vote for Obama again, even though I’m a Republican at heart.

“I can’t support Romney’s policies as I have a lot of gay friends and I don’t think it’s fair they can’t get married.

“I’m not a hardcore feminist but we can’t be going back to the 50s.

Partners, the new Will and Grace

Timothy Kincaid

October 10th, 2012

Partners, the new CBS comedy on Monday Night, has a familiar feeling. It has the pace, the comedy, and even the same characters as Will and Grace (during their fresh and funny years).

The role of Jack is now Louis and is played my Michael Urie, who you may remember at Marc St. James on Ugly Betty. He has all the same flamboyant, over the top, self obsessed confidence that Sean Hayes brought to Jack mixed with Marc St. James’ quick wit. And underneath he is loving and generous and caring. This is a character that America should find comfortable and unthreatening, they already know him by another name.

Playing Will is David Krumholtz, whose character is Charlie, Louis’ best childhood friend. Except unlike Will, Charlie is straight (and yes, yes, I know so was Will for all practical purposes for the first several seasons).

The story line revolves around Louis and Charlie who are not only best friends but partners in an architect firm. They are joined by Wyatt (Brandon Routh), Louis’ nurse boyfriend who was raised Mennonite and is an anti-stereotype balancing out Louis’ manic antics, and Ali (Sophia Bush), Charlie’s fiancée. Rounding out the cast is RoRo (Tracy Vilar) their slightly inappropriate office secretary/receptionist.

It is no coincidence that the feel is so familiar. It’s a project of David Kohan and Max Mutchnick (Will and Grace creators) and is based on their own mixed-orientation friendship and partnership.

It’s fresh and crisp and a bit more risqué than they could get away with earlier. And last night I found myself laughing out loud in parts. While so far this show hasn’t found its feet (or its ratings) I think that it has real potential – if it is given a chance for word of mouth to spread.

It isn’t likely to change the world in the way that Will and Grace did. But it helps continue a comfort level that viewers have with gay characters and, consequently, with gay people. For eight years Middle America invited their old best gay friend into their home each week (and changed their views in the process). Maybe they will now have a new one.

When ignorant and stupid combine with privileged and entitled

Timothy Kincaid

July 16th, 2012

In one of the most truly stupid and whiny complaints I’ve heard this week, Russell and Lauryn Mark, both shooters representing Australia in the Olympics, are all upset that they can’t room together.

That’s not the whiny part – actually, I think the Olympic committee should find a way to allow couples to room together. If maximizing comfort and readiness are important to their performance, then that would probably be a smart move (though I’m sure the Australian Olympic Committee cares very little about my opinion on the subject).

The whiny part is this (Herald Sun):

But Mark says there is a clear double standard given many gay sportspeople on elite teams are in relationships but a heterosexual couple cannot room together.

“The stupid part of this, which I have argued to them, is that there are tons of gay couples on the Olympic team who will be rooming together so we are being discriminated against because we are heterosexual.” Mark said.

Ah, yes, tons of gay couples on the Olympic team. Tons and tons.

But this isn’t a case of stupid husband, tolerant wife. Nope, he truly found his match when he married Lauryn.

“I am very frustrated because in sport there are a lot of same sex couples and its OK to be partners with someone of the same sex but if you are heterosexual you are penalised.”

And let me guess… they also think it’s unfair that they had to pay for their wedding license when same-sex couples don’t have to pay for a license at all, right?

Ignorant. Stupid. Privileged. Entitled. Whiny. Jerks.

I am celebrating Frank Ocean

Timothy Kincaid

July 15th, 2012

I don’t know much about urban music. Sure I know Beyonce’s music and can probably sing along to an Usher song or two, but beyond that I’m at a loss.

However I have, in a small way, been paying attention the way in which the attitudes of American black youth about sexuality are reflected in music and writing and I believe that I have been detecting a significant change.

In the Pre-8 world it seemed to me that black males loudly and proudly trumpeted their homophobia and black women either made the mildest of protests or offered excuses. That is no longer the case.

In the past four years we have witnessed a number of highly respected and influential black men – politicians, writers, sports legends, musicians, spiritual leaders, and even the President- have expressed their support for gay equality. The most established symbols of masculinity have made it clear that they do not see gay people as weak or inferior or less a part of the authentic black experience.

And it has impacted the community.

In the past, any suggestion that a rap artist might be gay put him outside the mainstream. If not totally ostracized, he was relegated to a niche and ignored (women have fared better, but only if they stayed semi-closeted). But when Frank Ocean released a statement revealing that his first love had been another man, the response has been noticeably different.

Writing for The Root, Helena Andrews says

“I could never make him love me,” Ocean sings on “Bad Religion,” the song about feeling alone in a non-relationship that first sparked the questions about his sexuality. Funny, listening to the track, one can hardly distinguish the anguish from the issue, or vice versa. Is he upset that he fell in love with a man or that he fell in love with someone who won’t love him back?

In the end, none of it really matters when your eyes are closed, eavesdropping on emotions that could easily be your own. And therein lies the strength of Ocean’s Channel Orange: You can choose to forget who he’s singing to or choose to unravel every allusion and turn of phrase. Either way, it’s good music.

Perhaps it is that he is skilled and talented. Perhaps it is the stark honesty within the poetry of his lyrics. Perhaps it was just the right moment. But the urban music world has coalesced around Ocean in a nearly universally supportive way.

And for what may be the first time in that genre, Ocean may have benefitted from his sexual honesty. His album is selling very well.

This is encouraging and a blessing in so many ways. Obviously, as a confirmation of the polls that show a shift in support for marriage equality among African American voters, this bodes well for future marriage votes – particularly in Maryland this November.

But even more importantly, this new attitude holds promise for those most impacted by HIV, young gay black men. Perhaps the single greatest factor in avoiding seroconversion are the voices in our heads, our perceptions of our own worth, and our sense of belonging. And for many young black men, acceptance of their own sexuality as being of equal value to heterosexuality comes too late.

I may be reading too much into this moment. Maybe I too desperately want it to be true. But I have hope that things have changed and I am celebrating the change I see.

A happy green glow

Timothy Kincaid

June 1st, 2012

In 1992, Marvel Comics outed the first mainstream gay comic book character, Northstar. To which I promptly though, who? I never was much of a comic book geek, but I know most of the major characters – okay, the really major ones anyway – and I had never heard of Northstar. Nevertheless this announcement deservedly got a lot of attention.

But it didn’t exactly rock the world.

When Archie Comics, that paean to middle-America and it’s values, had a same-sex marriage last December, fearful heterosexuals (including all half dozen of the Million Moms) were shocked. Shocked, I tell ya! But Kevin Keller was a new character reflecting a new reality.

Ah, but today the comic book community caught the nation’s attention. Today’s outing is a bit too big to miss: the Green Lantern is gay.

Coming in at Number 4 on ComicBookResourse’s listing, the Green Lantern is among the biggies, one of the superheros that everyone knows. Last year’s movie staring Ryan Reynolds pulled in boxoffice in excess of $200 million. This is no Northstreet, um Northbank, umm Northwhatever, this is a major figure in the world that is imagined in basements and treehouses across the nation, distinctly recognizable in the endless parade of “what are you exactly?” that knocks on your door on October 31st.

Unlike Superman, there are actually more than one Green Lantern. It’s more of a job title that various humans are assigned across the 70 years that Green Lantern has fought for justice in brightest day or darkest night. In the August 2012 issue of Earth 2, DC Comics is reintroducing their first Green Lantern, Alan Scott, along with what appears to be his boyfriend Sam (who may be Japanese).

No doubt Fox Commentators will be offended. And all the Million Moms will be apoplectic. And anti-gays will accuse DC Comics of trying to brainwash their impressionable children with perverse values.

But comic books don’t teach values; they reflect where society is at any given point. And that place is getting better every day.

False promises at the Y

Timothy Kincaid

March 20th, 2012

Like all of us, at some point Michael Keister has heard the following words of advice

It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A
It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A
They have everything for young men to enjoy
You can hang out with all the boys

It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
You can get yourself clean you can have a good meal
You can do whatever you feel

And Keister took these words to heart. He also, it seems, believed that the YMCA is a “place that champions Christian values, such as decency, kindness, and fairness.” So Keister dragged his keister down to the local Y and signed up for gym membership and the associated shower, steam room, and sauna privileges.

But much to Keister’s dismay, he soon became subjected to unwanted attention. First there was one guy soaping up another in the open showers. And then there was the guy in the steamroom who showed Keister his erection and – apparently believing that he received some form of encouragement – proceeded to masturbate.

But the most disturbing incident is reported as follows: (Courthouse News)

“A short time later, after a workout, Keister entered the sauna. No one else was in the sauna when Keister entered.
“Soon, another man entered the sauna and sat down while Keister was reading a newspaper.
“Suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, the man reached over and firmly grabbed Keister’s penis, yanking on it, and would not let it go.
“Shocked, Keister grabbed the man’s arm, pried the man’s hand off his penis and yelled in disbelief.
“The man ran out of the sauna.
“Still in shock from what happened, Keister tried to collect himself and chase after the man. He went into the dressing area but could not locate him.”

The failure to locate the man must have been most disappointing.

And for Keister this was a turning point. He began to wonder whether it was safe to bring his 3-year-old son to the YMCA. (Let me briefly interject into this tale to offer some advice: If you are considering bringing a 3-year-old onto a gym floor, into a steam room, or into a sauna, DON’T! This is a serious health risk to children. Now back to our story.) He began to think that when he went to the Y, he should leave his family at home.

And when the next time Keister was at the gym some man propositioned him for a date on New Years Eve, he finally connected the pieces. And he’s so upset that he – and his wife, of course – are suing the Y.

It seems that Keister has realized that the ads which he read in Craigslist and the instructions in Cruising Gays are not just fictional erotica but that some men (most often those who are heterosexually married) actually hook up at such places. And Keister is (unknowingly) encouraging such men to approach him.

Fundamentally, members, such as plaintiffs, and their families cannot engage in routine lavatory behavior at YMCAs without ‘cruising’ men assuming they are signaling a desire for sex. Patrons are unknowingly answering ‘yes’ to solicitations for sexual interaction with strangers while being oblivious to the fact that the question is being posed to them. Its patrons thus are the unwitting targets and victims of sexual crimes, such as the ones suffered by plaintiff’s keister plaintiff Keister. [I apologize for the typo]

According to the news report, “the Keisters seek class certification, restitution, and compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract.” It would seem that contrary to promise, Mr. Keister indeed did NOT have everything for young men to enjoy, hang out with all the boys, or do whatever you feel.

Bad Christian B*tches? OneMillionMoms vs. GCB

Jason Cianciotto

March 16th, 2012

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of all contributors to Box Turtle Bulletin.

Update: OnMillionMoms has posted a new alert claiming that “most of last week’s sponsors…did not sponsor this week’s episode.” While the reasoning behind any change in advertising is unclear, GCB’s ratings did drop from 7 million to 6.33 million viewers and to a share of 5 in the 18-49 demographic. By comparison, the highest rated show last Sunday evening was “Once Upon a Time,” which attracted 8.6 million viewers and an 8 share of the coveted 18-49 demographic. Given the content of “Once Upon A Time,” which includes witchcraft, murder and adultery, I’m surprised OMM hasn’t targeted it as well. However, since the show does not poke fun at the hypocrisy of the religious right, maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised…

One million moms are on the march again. Well, not literally.

The conservative group OneMillionMoms (OMM) has abandoned its unsuccessful attempt to oust Ellen Degeneres as the spokesperson for JC Penny, targeting the advertisers for ABC’s new hit show, “GCB.”

According to the group, “OMM is disgusted with the new program…which is blasphemy at its worst! It is based on the book “Good Christian B*tches”…[and]…blasphemes God…”

Blasphemy is the act of speaking sacrilegiously. If the definition fit, OMM would have good reason to target GCB. Freedom of religion is a human right that should be protected from defamation, whether Christian- or any other faith-bashing.

However, the devil is in the details for the fundamentalists at OMM, who are missing a critical difference: GCB does not mock Christians. It mocks those who blaspheme Christianity, abusing it as a justification for hypocrisy.

This may be hitting too close to home for OMM, a subgroup of the American Family Association (AFA), an organization on the “frontlines [sic] of America’s culture wars.”

Labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the “sins” perpetrated by AFA’s spokespeople include calling Islam “the spirit of Satan,” claiming that “homosexuality gave us Adolf Hitler,” and stating in a recent Twitter post that efforts to mandate insurance coverage for contraception are “totalitarianism on hormones.”

Like the wealthy characters in GCB, the AFA ignores the commandment to “love thy neighbor” in exchange for a religion that not only justifies defamation, but also is very profitable. AFA reported over $19 million in revenue in 2010.

ABC is clearly luring its “Desperate Housewives” audience with a neighborhood populated by wealthier, Texas socialites. These ‘Christians’ are still angry about how they were treated in high school by Amanda, the protagonist, who returns home to live with her mother after her Ponzi-scheming, adulterous husband dies.

This “come to Jesus” experience converts Amanda to a life that honors real moral values like supporting her children through hard,  honest work—even if it’s in a Hooters-like restaurant called “Boobylicious.”

Despite Amanda’s genuine efforts to make amends, her neighbors respond with anything but forgiveness. Altered by plastic surgery and dressed in the finest stereotype of gold-plated, gun-wielding, Texas couture, these characters use Bible verses like bullets to rhetorically inflict vengeful wounds that, while not mortal, are always aimed at the heart.

The Lord saith “vengeance is mine,” but these Texans have selectively forgotten that verse, which is precisely the point.

Trading gun for Bible verse slinging, the ladies attempt to “out-Christian” each other, leading to outrageous displays of hypocrisy. For example, After Amanda revealed during ‘prayer’ before the congregation that Boobylicious is actually owned by Carlene, GCB’s villainess, Carlene is too bedridden with embarrassment to attend church the following Sunday.

Holding his Bible, her husband offers spiritual support. “There is nothing in this book that says you can’t own a boobie bar.”  Paraphrasing Proverbs 31, he continues, “You are a virtuous woman, priceless beyond rubies.”

After a friend offers to sing this week’s choir solo in her place, Carlene is far more motivated to go to church, jumping out of bed and yelling for her maid, “Carmelita get in here! The show must go on! Where are my rubies?”

While OMM is blind to its hypocrisy, the abuse of religion that occurs at the intersection of faith, money, and politics is obvious to many Americans and to GCB’s heroine. “God, she’s such a Pharisee,” laments Amanda, comparing Carlene to the legalistic religious leaders chastised by Jesus.

“Well, someone’s been reading her new testament,” replies her mother.

“No, I just googled ‘hypocrisy,’” quips Amanda.

As the series progresses, I think Amanda will continue to struggle with what it means to be a real Christian, while Carlene demeans salvation into an excuse for behavior that is anything but loving.

In the mean time, OMM continues to target the show’s advertisers. In a recent update, the group claimed “victory,” including a purported direct quote from Kraft foods. “Philadelphia [cream cheese] has decided to pull its advertising from GCB … We have received complaints from consumers and their opinions about our advertising are important to us.”

However, Kraft’s response to a GCB supporter was entirely different. “The brand has decided to redirect advertising to other programs with an established audience…. [T]his decision was not linked in any way to the content of this particular show.”

So much for the commandment to not bear false witness.

GCB puts religious hypocrisy on display before over 7 million viewers, according to the show’s latest ratings. Perhaps that’s the real reason OneMillionMoms is so upset. GCB lifts the proverbial choir robe worn by these modern-day Pharisees, and what’s underneath ain’t pretty.

Am I too late for the “Tranny Look-Alike Contest”?

Timothy Kincaid

March 9th, 2012

If I believed in reincarnation, I’d be convinced that someone truly slimy in a previous life is being punished by being Khloe Kardashian in this one. Completely lacking in class or personal dignity is one thing, but to be astonishingly stupid while doing so is a fate I’d wish on no one.

Entertainment sources tell the same story, but for amusement sake I’ll quote the Christian Post (they must be beside themselves in glee):

The 27-year-old conducted an on-air interview with reality TV star Scott Disick on her program “Mix Up w/ Khloe Kardashian Odom” on Dallas radio station Mix 102.9, when she began criticizing his style.

“What kind of homo are you? Seriously? That is not what men…a straight man doesn’t carry a Birkin Bag,” Kardashian told Disick.

The word “homo” is slang for homosexual, but the slang is often used to insult gays, and 28-year-old Disick was not impressed with Kardashian’s choice of words.

“Listen to me. First of all, you shouldn’t say homo on the radio. It’s not a bad thing to be a homosexual. You’re making it sound like a negative thing. Third I’m not a homosexual. Fourth, I didn’t come out of the closet. It’s a man bag,” Disick shot back at Kardashian.

A defiant Kardashian went on to defend her use of the word, insisting that she is not homophobic and in fact the opposite.

“First of all, let me just tell you: I am the queen of my gay community which I love and adore. And I promote doing the tranny look-alike contest. I am queen bee over here so don’t even try it,” Kardashian warned.

All I can say is that for a queen bee, whatever that might be, Khloe seems to have an instinct for just the wrong word and very little understanding of LGBT people. None of the transgender people I’ve encountered were trying to look like anything other than themself, consistent with their internally experienced gender.

And, just in case she momentarily got confused and really meant drag queen (or perhaps drag queen bee), I offer this advice:

Khloe, if some drag queen said she was trying to “look just like Khloe Kardashian”, believe me, honey, that wasn’t a tribute.

Kristy McNichol comes out

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2012

I was under the impression that Kristy McNichol, child actress star of Family and Empty Nest, came out decades ago. Guess I was wrong, because she just made it official. (People)

McNichol, 49, who has lived with her partner Martie Allen, also 49, for the past two decades, decided to make a statement about her sexuality and share this photo because she is “approaching 50″ and wants to “be open about who I am.”

She “is very sad about kids being bullied,” her publicist Jeff Ballard tells PEOPLE. “She hopes that coming out can help kids who need support. She would like to help others who feel different.”

Kristy certainly went through her own period in which she desperately needed support and even after two decades of self-exile, there’s a certain sincerity to the announcement. Let’s hope that informing the last 15 people who weren’t aware of her orientation will not only serve to bring closure to Kristy but will encourage some teen out there who has the faintest clue who she is.

Welcome out, Kristy.

Chaz Bono can’t dance. And that’s a good thing.

Timothy Kincaid

October 4th, 2011

Chaz Bono can’t dance. It isn’t a gender thing or a self-perception thing or an effort thing. It’s just a sad reality thing: Chaz Bono can’t dance.

And I’m glad he can’t. Here’s why.

When it was announced that Chaz, a transgender man who was known to many as Cher’s daughter Chastity, would be competing on Dancing With the Stars, those who ‘love the sinner but hate watching him on TV’ threatened to boycott. The Christian Post did a good job of collecting the real-sounding excuses for objecting to Chaz.

“I personally do not mind watching Chaz,” wrote Callisandria2. “The problem is that I watch this show with my 10 year old daughter. I am sure the show will talk about Chaz and the controversy, and I am not ready to explain all of that to her yet. We just barely covered the birds and the bees. We always watch one show together, in the fall it’s DWTS, and in the spring it’s American Idol. Looks like we will try X-factor instead this season.”

Other fans were more blunt.

“Manufactured genitalia is not the conversation I want to have with my children,” said trident606.

Some fans had moral issues regarding Chaz Bono’s gender reassignment and refused to accept Bono’s “male” status.

Many posters were less concerned with Bono’s gender status than they were with the fact that he is not really a “star” in the first place.

“The name of the program is Dancing With the Stars. Since when is Chaz a star?” said an anonymous poster. “Okay, he starred in his own documentary about his transition to male, but other than that what has he done with his life? Stardom? Not hardly. I think I’ll pass on watching this season. Maybe they’ll get some stars next season.”

(Well… okay, I can agree with the last one. I do refer to the show as Dancing With the Has-Beens.)

But the show didn’t budge and the sinner-lovers didn’t boycott. And, as usual, DWTS is a hugely successful crowd pleaser. And, as it turns out, Chaz Bono can’t dance. At all. Even if you have a few cocktails. And squint.

Nope, Chaz Bono can’t dance.

Which is, as I said, a good thing.

Because while the judge express admiration for Chaz, they give him low scores. And on DWTS, the judges scores are combined with the viewers’ called-in votes to determine who will be eliminated. So unless the voters “save you”, your ability to impress the dance judges is what advances you each week. And so far this season, Chaz Bono has survived the first two eliminations with abysmal scores.

If Chaz could dance we might assume that his continued presence was due to fancy footwork or judge favoritism. But unlike the charming and Carson Kressely (who also appears to be a crowd favorite), Chaz’ continued presence can only suggest that DWTS’ voters have connected.

So just who are these viewers that are tuning to watch and vote for the transgender man with “manufactured genitalia”? Who is it that is choosing

Well, if you know a bit more about the demographic, you might understand how Jennifer Gray and Ralph Machio are “stars”. DWTS is the most popular show among adults ages 50 and over. The median viewer age is 60. When Aunt Thelma gets with her friends to watch, she’s the youngster in the room.

Yesterday, Chaz achieved a bit of an accomplishment: his dancing was even worse than the week before. Going into tonight’s elimination, he has 18 out of 30 point, three below his nearest competitor.

The odds are that Chaz will go. But whether or not the voters save Chaz Bono’s dancing feet, they’ve spoken their opinion loud and clear.

They may not fully understand why Cher’s little girl is now a rather hefty man with a beard, but he’s welcome in their living room. And that’s why I’m glad that Chaz Bono can’t dance.

Gaga’s marriage push

Timothy Kincaid

June 16th, 2011

I don’t tweet. Lady Gaga does.

Which means, if I understand this correctly, those of you who decide to check BTB will get my opinion when you get around to reading it, while 10,958,546 people get Gaga’s opinion more-or-less immediately.

And here is what they have been reading today:

Annabel – discussion thread

Timothy Kincaid

February 22nd, 2011

While the death of gay-themed book stores (and the waning of traditional book stores in general) has cut back on one’s ability to peruse shelves of books with gay themes and characters, there is still an abundance of gay literature available. You may have to search online, but it is there.

Books on gay politics, theory, history, biography and erotica abound. But nothing is more important than novels, books which tell our stories and which connect us to the world. Fiction removes the specifics of real situations and generalizes in a way that allows a reader to step outside their world, empathize with a character, and share a new experience.

And there are many many novels available which express the lives of gay men. Some of them are even worth the time to read. Fewer, but still present, are novels which share the dreams, passions and possibilities of gay women.

But novels – or fiction of any sort – which share the lives of the trans members of our community are almost unheard of. And what fiction that does include trans characters or stories can feel a bit like ‘oooh, look at the freak’ or Very Very Earnest, neither of which make for a particularly pleasurable read.

So when I ran across Annabel by Canadian author Kathleen Winter my interest was piqued. I picked it up on whim, and I’m glad I did.

Annabel isn’t strictly a trans story (the main character was born intersex) but it does speak to gender discovery and is likely to have feeling of familiarity to both intersex and trans people. This is not my story or my experience, so I can’t be much of a judge as to its honesty or accuracy.

While this book is not without some technical and literary flaws, I’m enjoying the story. However, I wonder what our trans and intersex readers think. Have any of you read the book?

Please share with us your perspectives on this book or on other trans literature.

NOTE: I’m still a few chapters from finishing – and no doubt there will be others who will want to pick up the book without having the story spoiled – so please don’t give away of the plot.

Adios Betty la fea

Timothy Kincaid

April 15th, 2010

For four seasons ABC’s Ugly Betty has delighted us. Drawing on it’s Columbian telenova roots, it was over the top, lunatic, and histrionically dramatic. There were murders, embezzlements, and plots and schemes ranging from sabotaged runways to stolen sperm.

But in spite of the improbable antics (or perhaps because of them) this show managed to present America with a broad range of gay characters, full of depth, unique, and interesting. Gone were the sincere very special after school movie characters who were gay bashed or dying of AIDS. Absent were the poor rejected teen thrown out of the house by conservative and disapproving parents. There wasn’t even the obligatory closedted gay character brought on to bravely come out and fall in love only to be written out once the drama was over.

Instead, Ugly Betty gave us LGBT characters who were integral to the story line and who were as fabulous, fierce, flawed and frantic and the straight characters around them. The more important included:

Marc St. James (Michael Urie) – Marc was the gay stereotype on steroids. He was flamboyant, bitchy, fashion obsessed, self centered, and above all insecure. The personal assistant to the show’s chief villain, Marc was (along with his best friend Amanda) Betty’s tormentor. He ran a daily blog on Betty’s unfashionable attire and came dressed as her for Halloween.

But over the show story arc, Marc came to represent personal growth and redemption. As he developed a fondness for Betty, he also developed character and personal integrity and, in time, his shallowness became more of a mask behind which he quietly did the right thing. Part of his transition is founded on his interaction with Justin, in whom Marc saw a younger version of himself. Once a principle schemer and betrayer, by the end Marc was in many ways the conscience of the show.

Alexis Meade
(Rebecca Romijn) – The first season’s drama revolved around a Mystery Lady who, in bandages, was somehow scheming with the villain, Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams) to take over Mode Magazine. She was revealed to be Alex, the older son of the Meade media mogul, once thought dead but now returning as Alexis after a secret sex change.

This could have been played for laughs – and it was in many ways. And Alexis’ sexuality was a bit confusing as it seems that she had dated women in her male past (perhaps out of expectation) and now dated men. But the show was careful to clarify that Alexis was transgender, not a man in a dress, and that this was not the same thing as gay. And while her transgender status was at times more of a gimmick, this was one of few fully developed transgender characters on a television show.

Alexis was not in the fourth season.

Justin Suarez (Mark Indelicato) – When we first met Betty’s nephew Justin, then a young teen, gaydar across the nation went off. Effeminate, obsessed with fashion and pop culture, and possessed of a vibrant and sunny disposition, Justin was recognizably pre-gay. But unlike shows that go for the easy drama, Justin’s storyline was not all just “picked on at school” or “caught wearing mother’s clothes”. Instead, while Justin was at times tormented and hated P.E., his was a primarily happy life with a supporting mother, cool aunt, and doting grandfather.

Much of the conflict in Justin’s plotline revolved around his family’s uncertainty as to how to be there for Justin without pushing him in any direction. Particularly sensitive was the way in which Marc, as a mentor, never presumed that Justin was gay and was supportive of Justin’s brief exploration of liking a girl. Even half way through the final season, there was no certainty that Justin was a gay character. But in the last few episodes, he came to know himself, find a boyfriend, and come out to his family in a sweet and – for this show – surprisingly non-dramatic way.

So good-bye to Betty and all of her gay family and friends. I’ll miss them.

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