“Glee” is always bringing up hot topics that other primetime shows don’t dare to touch. There have been outcries by religious and conservative groups about a show being on before the 11 o’clock news that speaks about rising contemporary issues. Why is it so highly contested? Because of what seems to be the public’s number one enemy: gays. Yes, Ellen Degeneres busted the door wide open to the television’s closet in April 1997 after coming out on her own show (to a therapist played by Oprah Winfrey no less). Over time, every show either had a cast mate who was gay (“Will and Grace”), had a gay friend who usually served for comic relief (“Modern Family”), or gayness simply existed in a form of hyper sexualized entertainment (“A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila” or any season of the “Real World”). “Glee”, on the other hand, does something radically different; it tackles lesbian and gay issues without the fluff. There are no happy endings or modest pecks on the cheek as if seeing gay love was something to be untouched or if gay people being slandered and beaten up all the time wasn’t a reality. TV life for queer people is almost always either tragic or comedic. “Glee” lives in the gray area: sex for the first time between two guys, gay bashing within the homes, and public outing of one’s sexuality.
A past episode, “World War Glee”, breaks open a discussion that has rarely, if at all, been shown on cable television: the phenomenon of being outed. Outing is the act of publicly revealing of one’s sexuality and/or gender identification before the actual person is able to. After aggressively tossing insults to each other during the show, Santana, the school’s head cheerleader, in efforts of apologizing to Finn for her constant insults in efforts to bring peace among the Glee club, does so by continuing the jabs, calling him “Lumps the Clown” and saying how his girlfriend should watch him around holiday time because she can use his blubber in his breasts to make candles for Hanukkah. Whoa. But Finn decides to go for the lowest blow by yelling down a crowed hallway, “Santana, why don’t you just come out of the closet?” Her face shows silence…and detriment.
As much as television portrays being gay as being fun and full of glitter, it is real times, like this, in television history that makes some people nod their head in agreement and memory of the pain it feels to not be the first one to tell, especially to the ones they love. Some people have been there, being outed before their time. Before parents, friends, teachers, classmates, or any community that you find supportive but not yet comfortable in sharing every piece of yourself, someone takes that right away by screaming down a hallway or over the internet (the latter being the loudest. People underestimate the power of Facebook status’ and wall comments). Though Finn ignorantly tells Santana in the end when he is confronted that “everyone knows and no one cares”, the truth is, it’s not always ok that no one cares. Coming out is a process where people want people to care. The moment that a deep self is revealed to the world can make or break what your outlook on what life as a newly discovered queer person means. This is a time to be nurtured, not neglected.
It is important to recognize the various ways that we may be outing people without their permission and remain supportive and respectful, however comfortable or uncomfortable knowing (or not knowing) makes us. A voice used to out could be the beginning of a hell, or the end of a life, for a person.
Here are some of the dangers of outing someone:
- Losing one’s job or chance at job advancement or promotion
- Leaving an opening for public speculation and retaliation; if one person can do it, why can’t we all?
- Outing someone may also result in outing their partner, who may not be out to their community/job/family either
- Loss of support within ones community
If you or someone you know has or is in danger of going through this experience, please seek support through local or national hotlines such as the GLBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564.