Editors' Note: Guest blogger Bill Konigsberg is the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of Out of the Pocket and a GLAAD Media Award-winning sports writer. Bill came out on the front page of ESPN.com in 2001 with his essay "Sports World Still a Struggle for Gays." The article won the GLAAD Media Award for digital journalism the following year.
There I was, innnocently watching Glee last night, when suddenly, out of nowhere: A Bobby Framingham moment.
Yes, Glee's Kurt (Chris Colfer) got his first kiss tonight. It wasn't by his new love interest, Blaine, an openly gay boy from a nearby private school. Instead, it was by a bully. A football-playing bully, at that.
I didn't see that coming. Well, I should say I didn't see that coming until about 10 seconds before it happened.
Go, Glee! While I admit the scripts are uneven, this show is definitely breaking new and important ground. And I'm tickled that they decided to make the homophobe a closeted gay kid who plays football. Makes me wonder if the author read Out of the Pocket...
It also made me ponder whether the gay football player is now a stereotype. Odd, that! Why a football player? Why not a baseball player, or hockey player, or soccer player? Have you noticed this? Nowadays, it's always a football player.
When I wrote Out of the Pocket, I chose football for the protagonist, Bobby Framingham, even though I was a baseball player in high school. I think I did that because of what football stands for in our culture. While baseball is the All-American sport, football stands for brute masculinity. I think choosing a football player is our way of directly challenging the idea that homosexuality is exclusively about gender identity.
Sometimes it is. It doesn't bother me in the least that Kurt wanted to sing with the girls on tonight's episode of Glee. I truly believe that Kurt exists. But it's also true that the closeted football player exists. And all sorts of other gay kids. And we need to see more examples of that. Characters who are truly masculine, and gay, and not, well, bullies.
Blaine is not a bad answer to that. He seemed like a gay kid, who, like most gay kids (like most kids in general), is neither fully masculine nor fully feminine. Human. We haven't had enough of those in the media, yet. Not enough Bobby Framinghams. Because, of course, those kids are the ones that make America the most nervous.
I've always said that Homer Simpson had it right. In the episode Homerphobia, Homer says, upon finding out that his new friend (John Waters) is gay: "I like my beer cold, my TV loud, and my homosexuals flaming!"
So true. The fact that masculine gay dudes exist mucks up what is otherwise quite simple. Without them, gay and male simply means female, just as without feminine gay girls, gay and female simply connotes male. It's this middle area that makes a lot of America uncomfortable.
In my humble opinion, anyway.
I'm curious to see the reaction to the kiss! Fifteen years ago, this would have been scandalous. Now, I'm not sure it is. I do hope they keep the closeted gay kid as a character, too. Because that kid is a human being, too. Yes, he's awful right now. Yes, he'll need to make major amends to Kurt. Bullies are the worst. But he's real, too. Being gay and afraid of it leads people to do all sorts of awful things (Roy Cohn comes to mind). A world where we decide those people are forever lost is a decidedly less interesting world.