I love clothes, accessories and home decoration. So ever since cable TV put on these types of shows, I have been in seventh heaven! I enjoy watching schlubby women learn how to dress for success and watch as people with no decorating sense have their homes remodeled.
Since I've been watching these shows, two things came to mind. First, that they hire the cutest gay men! I can watch them forever! There is one in particular who I'd love to take home with me!
One of my favorites is David Bromstad, from HGTV's Color Splash. David stated that his decision to be open and honest was clearly the right one. "No one cared because I didn't make a big deal out of it," he said. "I didn't go like this: 'OK everybody, I want to sit you down. I'm gay.' It wasn't that. It was just me being me, and if by chance I happened to talk about it, it was nothing. Because I made it nothing, everyone else didn't care, either.
Mark Brunetz is the style-guy on Style Network's popular show, Clean House. He has made veiled references on the show about being gay. When interviewed, Mark said, "I have also been involved with the Trevor Project, which is a project designed to counsel at-risk-youth......" I'm happy he's giving back.
Vern Yip from TLC's Trading Spaces is also someone who has not really made reference to his sexuality on the show. However, when he was a student at the University of Virginia, Yip spent two years of summer and winter breaks working in the Transmitted and Transfused Viruses Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health, where he studied asymptomatic HIV in Hepatitis-C patients.
As for the show's sizeable gay following, Yip says he was shocked by the iconic status. Trading Spaces developed across broad audiences, including many gay and lesbian viewers. "I think it's a wonderful thing to have a well designed environment, and certainly I think people in the gay and lesbian community are appreciative of that."
Another favorite of mine, Clinton Kelly from TLC's What Not To Wear, says, "There is a gay sensibility that makes us a natural to be on the shows and to watch the shows." So even though he has not come out on the show, his statement is quite telling.
The second thing is that I began seeing GLBT couples featured on these shows. Instead of "husband and wife", they were called "partners." When I saw the first one, I thought it was a fluke. But no, these shows feature many GLBT couples. The first time I saw this, I cried. I was so happy that these shows are featuring GLBT couples in committed relationships.
What makes it the most special, though, is that these couples are treated no differently than straight couples. Everything is matter-of-fact. I believe these shows are doing a lot to normalize GLBT relationships. They show couples who share their lives and their homes together. They live in the suburbs and the city, and they want the same thing that their straight counter-parts want.
On November 28, 2003, Mike Fleming, a writer for Southern Voice, wrote:
You and yours, only better
Gay-inclusive cable makeover shows popular with wide audience
Maybe gay people are just more in tune with reinventing themselves and their surroundings. Maybe there's something to the stereotypes that gay men can make anything "a little more fabulous" and lesbians can "fix anything with the right tool."
Whatever the reason, gay viewers are flocking to the genre of reality makeover shows that restore, redesign and reinvent the looks of people and places.
I don't know if it's just gay people who are into reinventing themselves. I see a lot of straight couples who need help looking better or redecorating their homes. I think that the reality shows are reaching out to all sorts of people and GLBT people are part of that mix.
One of the most poignant episodes I watched was on Clean House from the Style Network. This is a show that features the messiest homes in the country. A crew consisting of a designer, a fix-it man and an organizer help the families get rid their clutter. They sell it at a yard sale, and the profits go towards redecorating the home.
Matthew Modesitt and Devon House were chosen because their house was in dire need of a clean-up. What made this show special was that they were acknowledged as a gay couple. Matthew had joined Devon in his home, but Devon did not give Matthew room to put his things away. Niecy Nash listened as Matthew shared his story.
When he came out, his parents did not accept him. When he arrived at Devon's home, he only had the clothes on his back. He stated that there was nothing he could call his own. By talking to both men, Niecy was able to show Devon how his treatment of Matthew was not equitable. By the end of the show, Devon and Matthew had a home they could call their own - together.
Clean House asked Devin how it felt to be the first gay male couple on the show. Devin answered: "I must admit that I thought the show would be easy. Instead, I learned a lot about myself, and the need to work harder to sustain a relationship."
Other decorating shows have jumped on this bandwagon. House Hunters International, a show on HGTV, featured a lesbian couple, Charlotte Stromwall and Karin Tingstedt, who were looking for a house they could share together in Malmo, Sweden.
Trading Spaces from TLC (The Learning Channel) featured Shira and Bryan Titen, a close-knit brother and sister. They described Bryan as a "color-blind gay man..." Also on TLC is My First Home. Episode 7 featured artists Rita and Marie who wanted to buy a home and get married in its garden. Episode 9 featured Amy Vasquez and Emily Miller, who wanted to buy a log cabin to share with Amy's 7-year-old daughter.
The Nation Responds
These shows have garnered a lot of responses, some good and some not-so-great. From Southern Voice Online comes this response:
The "g" in HGTV doesn't stand for "gay," but it might as well. One of the best things about this cable network is how seamlessly it integrates gay people into its many home and garden shows. In one of our favorite examples, the network re-aired Feb. 11 an episode of "House Hunters" featuring Georgia lesbian couple Sally and Leah. With a toddler daughter and a new baby on the way, they wanted to move from Snellville to Roswell to cut down on commutes.
"House Hunters" presented the pair like any other family, and didn't shy away from scenes that made clear they were a couple, from griping about their shared closet space to sitting with their arms around each other. So viewers around America got a lesson in gay family values along with learning the values of homes in the Atlanta suburbs.
Of course you can't have a good reaction without the bad. This is from Christianity.com:
Q: I love makeover shows and lately I've become a fan of the shows on HGTV. I love "Deserving Design, Myles of Style and Color Splash. I even order the free ones they have now On Demand when I feel like.
The only thing that concerns me is the trend I've been noticing lately of featuring more gay homeowners. It didn't bother me too much at first but now it's shown more and more. I guess from a secular stand point it's just a nod toward more diversity. But it's just a bit unsettling for me since I'm seeing more of it and will see more. Anyone else noticing it?
A: I think it's "dangerous." The more they put it on TV the more generally accepted it becomes. Within a generation, only "hard-core Christians" will see anything wrong with it.
BTW, when the show I'm watching features a single or "married" gay, I switch the channels. It will not become acceptable to me to act like the gay lifestyle is okay.
I'm really happy that these TV shows are bringing GLBT people into the homes of America. Many viewers live in small, rural areas. Some viewers watching the show may not have a lot of contact with GLBT people.
By featuring gay and lesbian couples, along with their families, HGTV, TLC and the Style Network are normalizing the relationships and lives that GLBT people lead. They will learn that GLBT folks want what the rest of America wants - a comfortable and safe home where they can be themselves and raise their families.
And as I said previously, these shows hire some really cute guys! Of course, any of these men can Come On-A My House!