Today I wish to touch on something near and dear to my heart, especially as a media professional: free speech.
TLC has launched a brand new reality series, My Husband’s Not Gay (Sunday, 10 p.m., TV-14, CC, 60 mins.). Before this show had even broadcast one episode, gaystream groups groups around the country have been asking for its removal.
As a member of LGBTQ community (I am a gay leatherman, for those who wish to know), here is the this queer’s take on it:
1. Welcome to America and welcome to the First Amendment/Free Speech. As we have witnessed just last week in Paris with the Charlie Hebdo murders, and anger over the recent film The Interview, free speech isn’t free. Having an opinion that angers others is part of the process. Some people believe their viewpoint is the correct one only, and journalists and staff members of a newspaper were killed because of “offensive” speech. Free speech isn’t defending what you agree with, it is defending something you don’t agree with.
2. When gaystream LGBTQ activists ask for something to be removed because they don’t agree with it’s content, they espouse the same values that homophobic and hate groups use in order to decry the same when pro-LGBTQ characters and shows are broadcast. Just because you don’t agree with it or like it doesn’t give you the right to have it removed.
3. Will showing reparative therapy hurt people? Is reparative therapy violent? These are value judgements. What works for one person or doesn’t work for another is solely for them to decide. Whatever journey one chooses to take (and in this country, we have the option of living openly or not) is their business. I have to admit this: this may be the gutsiest show on any network, and props should be given to the people involved for allowing themselves to be subject what will invariably be harsh criticism and public outrage. Their lives are out in the open currently, and not just behind a keyboard espousing their viewpoint. This is THEIR journey, not yours. You are being allowed to witness it, which in of itself should be reveletory.
4. Much of the hubbub behind this repeal is the online petitioning of the Human Rights Campaign. I suggest a counter program, where TLC investigates the police detainment and recent charges brought against one of their founders, Terry Bean. If you want to talk about transparency and helping young people not being exploited, then start in your own backyard.
5. If anything, instead of attacking the program, which is a truly pseudo-liberal bandwagoning tactic, counter with a more positive take on what this program offers. Take the high road instead of pointing the finger. The struggles these men face are not new, and they are not going to go away any time soon. This show was heartbreaking. I could honestly feel that these men, and the women who love them, struggle daily. Faith is a funny thing, and questioning it because of a biological imperative can easily tear one apart at the seams.
6. Sex isn’t sexuality. These “straight” men are attracted to men. I am attracted to black women. Always have been. Always honest about it. Other than my mother, only one woman graces the walls of me and my husband’s home: a poster Tina Turner from 1997, and even my husband thinks she is a stone fox.
Concerning the content, something struck me as quite interesting: I don’t know how these relationships stack up to other LDS relationships but something seemed clear: the women of this program seemed like second stringers in their relationships. This show is about the needs of the men, not the women. I don’t know if all Mormon lives are built upon this premise, but if anything, it paints them as almost stuck in a 1950s television program, like Barbara Billingsley was gonna ask where Wally and the Beaver were.
Do I support this type of television show? I enjoy documentaries with substance and something to say, and this definitely feels more like a trashy reality television program. (For the record, I find most television to be pretty damn dull.) But advocating for its removal based upon YOUR value system truly goes counter what those of us in the queer community have been battling since even before the Stonewall Riots.
But then again, as I told our local paper Just Out several years ago, I am always surprised at how conservative the alternative lifestyle community can be, especially when people refuse to allow voices of dissent to be heard from their own “community”. These voices of exclusion, in this particular instance, were directed at making the entire LGBTQ community more sanitized for heterosexual consumption as opposed to the “rainbow” coalition some will speak of. One of the people they wished to exclude was a 60 year old grandfather, and a Vietnam veteran at that, who worked a regular job as a bank manager. Why? He marched with the Leather contingent (his first ever Pride event at that), and some found one of the parade entries to be distasteful and obscene, even though no rules or laws were broken. His daughter and grandson were there, and didn’t understand what the fuss was about at all. They just got to see grandpa have a great time.
What I would definitely find more interesting about this show: Shorter program, tighter editing, more focus. It wanders a little and causes it to drag in some parts. Additionally, even if this show is canceled or goes into hiatus, I would love to see where these men end up in five years time and have them reflect on the changes since the first time they were on TV.
Do not miss out on an opportunity here for real education, outreach and growth. If anyone ever told you it would be easy, they lied to you. And, let me be honest: I am glad Honey Boo-Boo is off the air.
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr.
Photo courtesy of TLC network, 2015.
originally published 12 January 2015