Guest Blogger

Glee tackles bullying, the closet, & football

Filed By Guest Blogger | November 10, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Entertainment
Tags: closeted celebrities, gay kiss, Glee

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 Bill_Konigsberg.jpgin 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.


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They tackled another stereotype with Coach Bieste and pointed out that bullying is devastating no matter the age of the victim or perpetrator. I found both story tracks to be well done, and I hope they continue to unfold as thoughtfully as last night's episode.

I noticed that too. The tie-in between Kurt's bullying (physical mostly) and Beast's (verbal and mental) was superb. I really liked last night's episode.

It was a surprise at first but yeah...the most homophobic bully in school a closeted jock? We as gays find no surprise in that, but middle-America watching this will have their eyes opened hopefully.

You say this would be scandalous fifteen years ago. Maybe for American TV, sure. I can recall though a Brit-made movie (that was a pretty big hit on the US Indy market) called "Beautiful Thing". One of the boys started out as a somewhat-bullying soccer jock before kissing the other gay kid. This reminded me a little of that.

"football stands for brute masculinity" - I think you hit it perfectly. I also enjoyed the scene when Kurt asked the kids in the Glee Club at the all boys school if they were all gay - and they weren't. It was a brief nod to show that the gender binary in boys expressing something society believes to be feminine isn't necessarily an indicator of sexual orientation. A bit of a ying to the yang of the football player.

My 13-year old daughter and her friend saw it coming right after the first scene with the bully. I think it's interesting the kiss between Will and the coach made a much bigger impact (as in emotional struggle) on my daughter and her friend than Kurt's kiss which was kind of no big deal.

Funny, the fact it was a "gay kiss" for Kurt never consciously occurred to me at the time; I think because it was in the context of violence/desperation, it didn't "feel" like a kiss. Huh.

And coming from Louisiana, football was EVERYTHING, and one's absence from the playing field in high school had better mean you were severely disabled or under five feet tall. My jock brother was quarterback, and I opted to be drum major of the marching band. Thank God I had "Kurt's Dad," because he proudly videotaped us both, from the game right on through the halftime show.

I also saw the episode and like many, Kurt's kiss came out of nowhere. I was surprised he called it his "First kiss that counted." This was not a romantic kiss, but one that came from the fear the football player had of himself. He needs to still get a first romantic kiss, because that one would really count.

Beast's kiss was expected once she said she had never been kissed. The whole episode was handled well. I also loved the song the girl's picked to sing.

I am still going to watch Glee because I love the characters, but myself and other trans people are still waiting for a good episode(s) that shows the problems trans teens have in school. Being gay is not the same, and the producers need to get off of their high horse and actually tackle this important issue. Only then will the trans community as a whole embrace Glee.

battybattybats battybattybats | November 11, 2010 8:40 PM

Totally.
Especially considering the stats.

The Australian stats are self-identified G/L=2.7% of population. Transsexual and the best international estimate is 1 in 500 and so there's at least one transsexual in almost all schools.

Then there's 4% of people are Intersex, while many don't know they are Intersex it's still far more common than people think and is still an important school issue and the show should address it. There's more Intersex people than are Gay or Lesbian!

Then the rest of non-transsexual Transgender? Well good numbers we don't yet have but they range from the low estimates of the APA 2%-3% of males (they seem not to know about FtM yet) to the Thai school that put in a Transgsender toilet that found 10%-20% of males where self-identifying as Transgender (again what about FtM?). Thats a lot of transgender people at every school.

Then there's Same Sex Attracted, the term used by LaTrobe university and they reported at the NSW parliamentary forum on homophobic bullying 4 days ago that 10% of highschool students are same-sex attracted and 6% of primary schoolchildren are already aware of being same-sex attracted. While in adults the rate has been put at 20%.

And that same parliamentary forum heard testimony from the Gender Centre of Sydney of the experiences of transphobic bullying in schools being more violent and a very significant issue in the state. Something shown by these stats http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/06/04/2918401.htm

The show needs to address the experiences of these other large and too often ignored groups. Heck the whole of the GLBTI community needs to address these demographics! By numbers we aren't GLBTI but more like BTILG. By degree of human rights abuse we are more like ITBLG.

I'd love to see this real world addressed on Glee.

That kiss was assault and the fact that he's secretly gay seems like he has a pass at being a bully. Sorry, but this episode made me want to scream. Kurt can't hide the fact that he's gay, so he gets singled out all the time. The masculine gay dude gets to hide in his brute masculinity closet and assault kids at the same time. I don't care if it shows america that masculine gay dudes exist. This is not the first time that masculine gay men have been depicted in the media or in pop culture. It's a tired cliche. Are masculine gay dudes really in need of this kind of depiction so that the straights can see that they exist. If so, then why the heck would they be so excited to see that the masculine gay dude is the bully. This reasserts the notion that homophobic bullies are themselves gay, which is usually not the case. Homophobia bullies are usually straight. This trope needs to disappear.

"That kiss was an assault..."
Amen! That was no more a real kiss than the attacks I suffered regularly from 'my' closeted homophobic bully in High School gym class were sexual for me. (HE got off from them, I later realized..)

While the closeted gay jock/bully is something of a stereotype, I think it helps tell the story of how people like Kurt pave the way. When I was in high school, I didn't realize I was gay but apparently everyone else did. Now that I'm an adult, I often hear "but you don't act gay" and I need to explain how that is NOT a compliment. I haven't made any conscious changes to my behavior or mannerisms, but who knows what early fears of exposure may have affected my later behavior? Inside I am the flaming high school student, who deserves the same respect as the more "acceptable" adult.

Kurt - and people like him who are simply not masculine or feminine in traditional ways - are heroes for not trying to hide who they are. The closeted bullies/jocks are tragic figures we should invite into their real lives without ever excusing the cowardice they inflict as bullying on others.

As one of the people who is trying to obtain workplace protections for GLBTQI people in Indiana, I notice that much of the opposition consists of men whose mannerisms and demeanor would have atrracted the same bullying in high school that I did. Even fairly effeminate (not a slur, just a description) men who are not comfortable with their own sexuality can find ways to bully as a means of deflection.

It was another great episode, but Kurt still deserves a real kiss.

I really enjoyed the episode, thus far the season seems to have been struggling to find a voice and I think with this one it's getting on track. I admit to being worried about next season though.

I'm really glad that Kurt looks to be getting a lovelife as that's been one of my pet peeve's thus far.

"It's this middle area that makes a lot of America uncomfortable" and it's the middle in which most human sexuality exists. The gay/straight dichotomy is a myth.