I've been following a couple of stories lately. One is about the Massachusetts Catholic school that recently accepted, then rejected an 8 year-old boy because his parents are lesbians. The other is that juicy media firefight sparked by "Straight Jacket," the Newsweek story questioning why heterosexual actors seem to play gay characters in films and on television, but gay actors can't return the favor . Part of that particular story focuses on the openly gay Broadway actor Jonathan Groff, who plays new heartthrob Jesse St. James on the television show Glee.
Glee is where the real story is, folks. With singing gay football players, Down Syndrome cheerleaders and dancing wheelchairs, Glee is changing the world, one 12 year-old at a time.
We're not an especially conservative family. I could use that "some of my best friends are gay" line without a blink. Our kids all have friends with gay parents. We live, after all, in Massachusetts, where you can't throw a pebble over your shoulder without bruising a liberal forehead.
Even here in gay-friendly Massachusetts, however, we have a long way to go. Kids still fling around "fag" and "queer" as insults at the high school. There is a valid fear that the same-sex marriage law will be repealed here as it was in Maine. That's why I'm so glad to watch Glee with my 12 year-old. Or rather, so pleased to be in the living room with him as he is prompted to talk about the different characters and issues paraded before us on Glee in ways he never could if it were just Mom lecturing him about acceptance.
Gay characters abound in Glee. The lead, Rachel, has two gay dads. That quicksilver actress Jane Lynch, who is openly gay in real life, plays Sue Sylvester, that sadistic sort of lesbian coach all of us had at one time or another. Santana, the most conniving Cheerio, gets it on with Brittany, the dumb blond Cheerio, usually in a 3-way, who originated the line, "Did you know dolphins are just gay sharks?"
In fact, the most powerful story line in Glee follows scene-stealing Kurt, the openly gay fashionista played by Chris Colfer. When Kurt first came out to his dad Burt, played by Boston comic Mike O'Malley, as a rugged, macho tire salesman, I fully expected the stereotypical showdown. After all, when Quinn (who headed up the Celibacy Club) got knocked up, there was no surprise: Her parents promptly threw her out of the house. Yawn.
But no, no Nanette! Instead, what we got on Glee was something very, very new: a father who accepts his gay son. "I care about you very much, which is the important thing," he says, "and I'm glad you had the courage to tell me."
Glee viewers are currently treated to a more nuanced struggle, as Kurt and his dad try to connect now that the truth is out and so is Kurt. There are other questions, too: Will Kurt find a boyfriend? Will Kurt's dad marry Finn's mom? Who knows? Who really cares?
What matters is that my 12 year-old son -- and lots of other kids -- watch Glee. They might not want to talk to their parents about acceptance and tolerance, and they might scoff at all of this new anti-bully legislation being touted by their schools. But, when something is on the news like a kid being banned from a Catholic school because his moms are gay, my son and his friends are truly puzzled. They can't imagine why. As they see it, if you're gay, you're gay. If you're not, you're not. What matters is that you're human, you try to be a good person, and you try to love your friends, your family, and -- by extension -- everyone around you.
A lesson learned from Glee, it's cause for song and dance.
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