No doubt that society influences all teens gay and straight. However, in this post, I want to speak about the influence towards teens who identify as gay and those who are questioning their sexuality.
I stopped watching Glee after what I thought to be a controversial episode. The show is no stranger to pushing the envelope, which if done right, can be a positive thing. However, in one episode, the show pushed too hard and too far, enough for me to call it quits. Here’s a brief description of the storyline: Kurt’s two friends, Blaine, who is gay, and Rachel kiss at a party, after which Blaine begins to question if he is really gay. Before going on a date with Rachel, Kurt and Blaine are talking about the kiss. Blaine admits to Kurt that he liked the kiss and is trying to figure out who he is. Kurt is angered and starts listing all the reasons why Blaine is gay and can never be anything else but gay. Everything that Kurt lists is stereo-typical of course. After pondering things and another kiss with Rachel, Blaine concludes that he is in fact gay. Kurt’s smile seems to say, “See I told you so.”
So what’s my beef with the episode? Kurt’s insistences that because Blaine acts a certain way, and likes certain things, Blaine has to be gay – and nothing else but gay. Blaine wasn’t allowed to question his sexuality. According to Kurt, and thus the writers of the show, if Blaine fit the gay profile, he had to be gay. I wonder how many teens watching that episode, questioning their sexuality, went, “Well, I fit that profile, too, so I must be gay.”
I wonder what would have been the big deal if Blaine turned out to be straight. Could a straight guy be a bit more effeminate, sing in show choir, and have a great eye for fashion? Or did that profile only fit a gay character? It seemed that for a show celebrating the diversity and uniqueness of people, the characters were pretty much typecast. They played into the roles society predetermined.
Whether we like it or not, homosexuality is being embraced more everyday. We see this on TV, in movies, in books, music, religion, and politics. From Primetime TV to the Disney Channel, teens and kids are seeing gay characters in a light I didn’t see growing up. In some ways this is great, in that gay people should be portrayed as they are – people, like everyone else. They are parents, children, neighbors, co-workers, clergy, and role models. On the flip side, there are other ways we find homosexuality being portrayed that brings about confusion. For instance, a TV show highlights two teen girls experimenting with each other. They have been dared to do this in order to turn on a group of guys. They continue to engage in this because the guys like it, and so do they.
Some teens watching this show are left with deep personal questions. They begin to process everything they feel inside with what is right and true. There are other teens, though, and most times girls in this situation, who will watch this show and determine making out with the same sex gets a certain guy to like you. And so she decides to mimic what she’s just watched on TV. Both groups of teens begin a wild ride of emotions and confusion.
When a teen comes out as gay, today, we need to ask them how they define the term “gay” and how it applies to them. Some teens are truly attracted to the same sex and thus define themselves as gay. Some teens define themselves as gay because they fit the profile determined by society, and others proclaim their gayness because of an online quiz on “How to Know if You’re Gay.” Other teens are not sure why they are gay, if they are gay at all, and are simply confused looking for clear answers to their hard questions.
As youth workers, knowing the message society is broadcasting, are we communicating a louder message to our students?
Are we helping them understand that they are each made in God’s divine image?
Are we helping them understand that God’s view of them trumps the view of society – every time?
Are we helping them understand what it means to see people as people God loves, including themselves?
Are we helping them embrace their unique talents and personalities, and to follow after God with no regrets?
Are we helping them to allow Jesus to define their sexuality, rather than the threads of society?
Would love to hear your thoughts?
Shawn / @611pulse