Gleefully Gay
February 20th, 2012

It  all started here: an article on Huffington Post about a seven-year-old boy who proclaimed to his parents that he is gay.  A friend posted a link on Facebook.  I read the article, loved it, and reposted it on my own Facebook page with a comment that the boy’s parents were to be commended for their supportive response.  However, that is not all there was to the story.

As it was told by his mother, a significant part of the boy’s coming out had to do with his crush on the character Blaine from Glee.*  He apparently also has frequent exposure to gay and lesbian couples through his parents’ friends.  So as far as he is concerned liking boys is no bigger a deal than liking girls.  I was thrilled to learn that this kid is blessed to grow up in a family and community where such a confession at the age of seven was met with complete acceptance, but there is the question of how he came to consider his sexuality at such a young age in the first place.

Is there a chance that this boy decided that he is/wants to be gay based on a very likable character in a television show?

I thought about it and I think the Glee crush probably gave this boy the platform – context and vocabulary – to express himself, but wouldn’t have put the idea in his head. I’m sure there are lots of kids who watch Glee at impressionable ages and don’t walk away believing they’re gay.  But what if they did?  What if kids watched Blaine, with his bowties, crooning voice, and wisdom beyond his years and said, “I’m going to be like him.  I’m going to be gay.”?  What then?  Would it be the worst thing in the world?  And why do we hang the weight of the world on it?  We chalk most of what kids say at this age (“I want to be a ninja turtle.” “I want to marry you, Mommy.” “Girls are yucky.”) up to their being children and not up to permanent beliefs.  So why is this topic so different?

Unfortunately, the answer is easy: fear for our kids.  Not all kids live in environments as tolerant as that of the boy from the article.  To run around the grade school playground pronouncing your homosexuality carries risks, right?  It would have for us, certainly.  But what about for today’s kids?  They are growing up in a world with Glee on the air.  They are growing up in a world where gay marriage is legal in more than half a dozen states.  Is it really the taboo ordeal today that it would have been 25 years ago?  Or are we just projecting our own fears onto our kids?

I don’t know the answer to this question.  I’m sure it varies by region of the country, religious and political persuasions, and various other criteria.  But any way you slice it, I don’t see how this kid coming out as a seven-year-old should be a problem.

If he identifies as gay now, it’s great that he’s being supported, just the same as it’s great to be supportive of a kid when he says he wants to be a secret detective. If he decides later that he’d rather kiss girls that’s fine too. What matters most is not how he came to this identification, but the fact that he’s being given the space and support to decide for himself.

*For the purposes of this post I am entirely setting aside the issue of whether or not a seven-year-old has any business watching Glee in the first place.

3 Responses to “Gleefully Gay”

  1. Gale Says:

    I wondered if this post would be blogging kryptonite. Would anybody comment? If not, that’s okay. It was still an interesting topic to explore for myself. And in that vein I wanted to offer some further clarification of my original thoughts.

    I understand from friends of mine who are gay that they were aware (at some level) of their homosexuality from a very young age, but lacked the means (context, vocabulary, etc.) to express it. And for those kids who really are gay I am truly thankful that today’s culture has provided them the language (and tolerance!) to say so.

    But what I wanted to explore here is the kid who isn’t gay (or doesn’t yet know one way or the other) but wants to be gay because someone they admire (whether real or fictional) is gay. Unfortunately, I think this is a place where pop culture falls short. For most gay characters on television their sexual orientation is the foremost aspect of their personality. And this sells them short. Ideally a young person watching Glee who wants to be like Blaine would think, “I want to be kind, confident, and generous,” and not just, “I want to be gay.” There is much more to Blaine than being gay.

    Interestingly, even though it was a pioneer in the world of gay characters, one of the shows I think did the best job of surmounting this was Will and Grace. Yes, Jack was a giant stereotype (and hilarious!). But Will was far more nuanced. Since he was a main character the writers had to explore much more of him than just the fact that he was gay. Conversely, in the ensemble cast setting of Glee all characters are much more archetypal – the jock, the diva, the nerd, the rebel, and, of course, the gay.

  2. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Well, I don’t watch Glee (I never watched Survivor either- and many, many “popular” shows). So, I don’t really get what you’re saying relative to the characters.

    As for the subject matter, I think it’s more complex than any (straight) parent could know or anticipate – less if a 7-year old says this (don’t we all have crushes on all sorts of people at that age?). When an older child says something, it becomes a different matter regardless of what you think – perhaps because any parent would want their child to have the least resistance / prejudice through life as possible, no?

  3. Gale Says:

    BLW – You don’t really have to watch Glee to get the jist of it. What it boils down to is that the character Blaine is openly gay, confident in himself, kind, accepting, and a total dreamboat with a voice like butter. (The silver lining for all the ladies out there is that the actor who plays him – Darren Criss – is straight! ;) )