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Adam Polaski

'Glee' Movie Continues LGBT Exclusion in 'Born This Way'

Filed By Adam Polaski | August 18, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Born This Way, Brittany, Chris Colfer, Glee, Kurt, Lady Gaga, LGBT references Born This Way, Santana

GleeBornThisWay.jpegAll summer long, the cast of Glee has been touring the country performing some of the most popular covers from their Fox comedy series. The entire cast of Glee kids has been on board, including out gay character Kurt (played by Chris Colfer), bisexual character Brittany (played by Heather Morris), and closeted lesbian Santana (played by Naya Rivera).

Just last weekend, Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, the frivolously 3D film that chronicles the tour and juxtaposes musical performances with pseudo inspirational segments profiling fans of the show, debuted in theaters. It didn't do so hot, nabbing only $6 million in more than 2,000 theaters.

Yesterday, I took a listen to the soundtrack from the film, which features the live versions of songs like "Don't Stop Believin,'" "Dog Days Are Over," and "Jessie's Girl." Also included is "Born This Way," the cast cover of the Lady Gaga hit.

In May, we saw the specific references to the LGBT community cut out of performances of "Born This Way," which Gaga had previously touted as this generation's new gay anthem. One line - "No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgender life, I'm on the right track baby, I was born to survive" - was excised or skipped over during Gaga's Good Morning America performance and the Glee TV version of the "Born This Way" episode.

The Glee concert and movie version of the song are also missing the LGBT references.

In place of the LGBT line, the Glee kids repeat a previously-sung line, "No matter black, white, or beige, chola, or Orient-made, I'm on the right track baby, I was born to be brave." The "Don't be a drag, just be a queen" line is still in place (take a listen, at around 2:33, in the clip below).

This is not to say that Glee is homophobic; it's not. It features some of the most positive LGB messaging on television, with five LGB characters, at least two LGB actors, a prominent anti-bullying arc, one of the most high-profile young, gay fictional couples ever, and dominant themes of self-acceptance.

Rather, the decision to excise the LGBT-specific references is confusing. Why, on a show that's so committed to diversity and anti-bullying messaging, would a song like "Born This Way" be maneuvered away from being too LGBT-specific? Especially when the LGBT lyrics are removed and replaced by race-specific lyrics that had already been referenced earlier in the song?

A representative from Glee was not immediately available for comment.

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I've explored this a few times on my blog. From other stuff that's been changed/omitted in the show, it would appear to be the trans reference that they're avoiding. The Rocky Horror Picture Show episode removed the word "transsexual" from "Sweet Transvestite" and also had a loved/trusted character use the slur "tranny" without any of the adults in the scene objecting or contextualising it.

It's sad. At first, my suspicion was that this was coming from the writers themselves, but more research into Ryan Murphy (he wrote the RHPS ep) shows that he can actually be super good about trans issues (his pilot, Pretty Handsome, that never got picked up, has some scenes in it that would break your heart in two). Even on The Glee Project, he's made a few comments that would lead me to believe he'd enjoy writing a trans character, and is quite aware.

So, yeah, it could be FOX that's the problem, and it's very, very sad that a show that has tackled so many queer issues so well has managed to marginalise trans identities in the way it has.

Glee and their producers have already proven multiple times they are transphobic, but I'm surprise they even "Prayed the Gay Out" in Lady Gaga's song. Are they trying to get Michele Bachmann to watch the movie?

It's good that they chose to excise a really positive aspect of the song's message while substituting with the racially-problematic aspects of the song. -1 point for excising and another -1 point for off-color racial language. Hurray for everyone...

Wow, thanks for not gratuitously including the T when talking about Glee! (seriously, *not* sarcasm)

When ppl promote things that are only positive for non-trans gay ppl, I wish they would all be that honest. I don't even have an issue with non-trans gay ppl leaving trans ppl out of things, or even working against their interests, I just wish they would own it, and not pretend they care about trans ppl at the same time. :)

I've been trying to be more conscious of that. Glee's been accused of being transphobic, and there's no trans representation at all, so I felt it best to stick with "LGB."

Personally, I appreciate you being senstive to this. :)

Likewise, I really appreciate how conscientious you were about this Adam. Now if only GLAAD were so astute.

I'm kind of saddended that Lady Gaga has never defended her song and her art to the fullest on this matter. To change a song because a single line may be offensive to a few people...

This is saddening and distressing on several levels. Lady Gaga usually steps up and defends her material against censorship, nothing so far. Granted "Born This Way" inc references to Ethnic minorities, but I think there is no dispute about the main intent to honor gender & sexual orientation. Then to cut "Gay, straight, Lesbian, Bi, Trans" out of it completely eviscerates the song. What then is the point!? Glee's main thrust is to be LGBT and Diversity embraceing - then this!? It's hypocritical. I hope to see a petition campaign to let the production co. know how many fans are upset by this betrayal!

She's got her check, everyone knows her original release version (and by extension, she) is pro-LGBT, what the hell does she care?

She steps up to defend her "art" when it is convenient. I've heard nothing but crickets regarding her poor choice of lyrics about ethnic minorities, nor anything about her gaffe exploiting wheelchairs for her "art".

I recall that she spoke out against Malaysia's ban on her song, though. Something along the lines of "If you [Malaysians] want to hear my song, you need to rise up and fight censorship." Can't sell singles to people who don't know your song.

Though to respond to your question "What's the point!?", you might wonder even with the lyric included, what the point of the song is. The fact that it's apparently written to be pro-LGBT makes sense, but then she also throws in everything else: income level, race, ethnicity. So it becomes a pretty diluted message about "everyone is great" with no real thrust in particular for LGBT issues specifically. It doesn't really make sense that it's a LGBT anthem, since its lyrics, by weight, are equally distributed to everyone under the sun.

Of course, the LGBT aspect has more weight because of the "born this way" line being commonly associated with the LGBT struggle (nor does it really make sense that people who are poor, black, white, "beige", "Cholas", Lebanese or "Orientals" need to be reaffirmed that they were "born this way"). But that's an issue with her thought process and writing that she hasn't acknowledged either short of calling critics "haters".