As someone who has had a large part of my career grounded in the public eye, I have dealt with my fair share of praise, but with that praise has come a lot of hate.
When I first found out that there was going to be a reality TV show based on Fire Island, I have to admit I was extremely skeptical because this island sees a lot. It’s a refuge for the LGBTQ community to find sun, fun, and whatever else you’re looking for.
The boys are everywhere, excess is plentiful, and while many find peace and quiet on this paradise of an island, many travel to Fire Island to let loose and party till the wee hours of the morning.
After watching the first trailer released for the show I found myself uneasy at what was initially being shown. It’s what you would expect from any reality TV show. There’s drama, drinking, hooking up, and more drama.
Am I surprised? No.
Reality TV as we’ve come to know it thrives on it’s audiences watching characters they love to hate, and hate to love. I say characters because that is what anyone who signs up for reality TV becomes, a character.
While I wasn’t asked to participate in this specific show, I have been asked to participate in two other highly known gaycentric shows. The offer to have yourself, and ideally your work taken to another level is beyond tempting, but as we’ve watched, ridiculed, and ultimately trashed many gay men’s lives, I just couldn’t stomach the thought of my message of love and positivity being twisted by producers and editors into something other than that.
It’s what you sign up for when you agree to do reality TV. You are basically agreeing to allow someone else edit your life, which often is very different than how we all try to personify our lives. We live in a world where everything is filtered, edited, and photoshopped, so when a TV show comes around that is a little more real many find themselves feeling personally objectified and stereotyped.
I get it completely.
I understand why so many gay men are not super pumped with how we are being depicted in this new show. As a community we’ve been fighting for equality, to be taken seriously, and to not be demonized, and it feels like this show may fuel the flame of so many stereotypes so many of us fight against.
However, I think we all need to stop and take a deep breath before we jump down the throats of all these guys, and this show.
Firstly, the show hasn’t aired yet, so we don’t fully know what is going to come up, and how these guys are going to depict our community. For all we know there could be some serious conversations had about very serious subject matter that often doesn’t get such a public platform.
My fingers are crossed.
Secondly, this show like every other reality show doesn’t represent all of us, and while I wish more than anyone that we could have a gay Oprah, it just hasn’t happened yet. I’m trying my hardest to be that person, and spark important conversations, but even I’ve been told to, “kill myself,” because of something I wrote that was misinterpreted.
If anyone is down to make this show please hit me up.
We’ve got Anderson Cooper, Nate Burkas, Andy Cohen, Ru Paul, and many others that have made themselves household names through TV, but I think we still struggle to have someone be the voice of our community. It’s an incredibly difficult task to ask of anyone, and as gay men we’re still figuring out so much.
We will never be able to please everyone, and this show is a prime example of that. For all the guys frustrated and outraged by Fire Island, there are a lot out there that are super excited to watch for whatever reasons.
What disappoints me more than anything is that the show hasn’t come out, and we’re already making judgements about it. Yes, I’m not thrilled that our gay community has another show where we aren’t depicted as powerful, successful, and business oriented people, but what reality TV show focuses on those attributes?
In some ways I’m not pleased that this is our latest feature in mainstream media, but I’m trying to find the bright side to this latest show.
For one thing, I know some of the guys personally, and they’re total sweethearts. Yes, they’re young, good looking, and have wild sides, but who doesn’t?
I think that many of us need to take a long hard look in the mirror as we start to place so much judgement on these guys because I bet everyone who is quick to rip these guys to shreds has done everything they dislike. Sure, it hasn’t been on TV, but it’s happened.
I think it’s beyond ironic that so many gay men are so quick to bully, judge, and belittle anyone that doesn’t fit their ideals. This is what we’re fighting against, so how can we progress when our own community can't back each other up. I’m not saying you have to be the biggest fan of everything that comes your way, but what I am saying is to be careful with what you put out there, respect others, and don’t go below the belt.
Remember we all have the power to do more, so if you don’t like something be the change you want to see.
I think if anything we need to use this show as a jumping off point for a larger discussion about our media as a whole, and what we’ve allowed and ultimately fed into. While lots of people loved to hate Finding Prince Charming, it was still watched enough to be renewed for a second season, and don’t even get me started on the Real Housewives franchise.
I’d be the first in line to sign up for a TV show that went deeper, talked about things like HIV, Marriage Equality, and LGBTQ rights, but that show doesn’t exist. It isn’t sexy, fun, or super exciting, but it’s what we need, and from the sound of it, it’s what a lot of us want to see.
I think what we all need to remember is that we’re one step behind our straight counterparts because until we finally come out, we’re left hiding some of the most authentic pieces of ourselves. We don’t follow one pretty line of growing up and maturing. We have to pave new paths and roads for ourselves, find mentors that can share their wisdom, and fight even harder to just be ourselves.
Ultimately, what I hope comes from this show is that we do get more gay men into public spheres to represent us on all levels. I hope that the boys say words like HIV, kiss other boys, and show some of the magic that so many of us have experienced while on Fire Island.
Remember everything happens one step at a time, and while this isn’t necessarily the equality we’ve all been looking for, it still is a step somewhere. I wish all the guys luck with there new found notoriety, and hope we’re all pleasantly surprised.