Queer Mormon Women*: The Effects of Inclusive Television

gleeby Allison Renee

This post is a part of the Queer Mormon Women* series.  Click HERE to see all the posts to date.

My story begins with the TV show Glee.

That’s right. Glee.

I started watching Glee back when I was a pretty hardcore Mormon in college. The show appealed to me and my friends because they sang “clean” versions of popular songs and it seemed like a fairly wholesome show. Of course, when the character Kurt started exploring his identity as a gay kid, we got a little uncomfortable. Was it really okay for us to be watching this show that so clearly promoted homosexuality? After about the first half of season one we all made the conscious decision to stop watching it because we just couldn’t support such a show.

I probably would have stuck with that decision if it hadn’t been for Darren Criss and his debut as Blaine, the lead singer of the competing show choir group called the Warblers. Darren was a big name in the Harry Potter fandom and I was intrigued by the fact that he was going to be on Glee. So I watched a video of the Warblers singing “Teenage Dream” and I fell in love all over again. Soon after that I decided it was probably okay to watch the show, so I caught a few episodes here and there but was never quite as dedicated as that first season.

Fast forward to March 2012. It was spring break. I was visiting my mom up in Flagstaff and spending all my days on the social media site Tumblr. A friend of mine had convinced me to start a blog on Tumblr several months before, but I had been too busy to really get into it until that March. My spring break just happened to coincide with a fan-driven “Klaine Week,” which was all about creating art, poetry, and stories about Kurt and Blaine from Glee. They were boyfriends now, something I had managed to miss in my on-and-off watching of the show. It had been a couple years since I had really been into reading fanfiction, so I decided to give it a try. I wasn’t going to read anything too crazy, but a cute little story about Kurt and Blaine holding hands couldn’t be too scandalous, right?

Soon after I started reading the stories, I saw a post on one of the blogs I followed calling for “auditions” for a Glee-based role play group. Each person would play one of the characters from Glee, writing a blog and interacting with the other characters as if they were actually Blaine or Rachel or Sugar Motta. There were a few spots open and I was tempted to apply. I had never participated in a role play group before, but it sounded like an awesome mix of writing and improvisational theatre and I could tell it would be right up my alley. One of the characters still up for grabs was Blaine’s older brother, Cooper Anderson, who was scheduled to appear in an upcoming episode. I threw caution to the wind and applied for the group. Minutes later I was contacted by one of the admins and had a quick conversation with them. Basically, they loved my application and wanted me to play Cooper.

I didn’t know what to do. I was okay with reading about Kurt and Blaine as gay characters in love, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to actively participate in something that promoted their homosexuality. I was scared. I even had a moment of serious doubt where I knew that if I agreed to take part in this role play, I would undoubtedly be going down a path that I could never return from. It was scary and exciting at the same time and in the end I decided to go for it. I accepted the role as Cooper and it changed my life forever.

I think now that the fear that I felt was probably not inspired of God. But sometimes I still doubt my decision to play Cooper. I worry that I chose the wrong path in life. Things will probably work out in the end, but what if they don’t? What if I have been deceived? What if Satan was tempting me to join that role play group because he knew that he would lead astray one of God’s dedicated followers? In my heart I don’t believe these things, but I have been taught my whole life that they are true and it is incredibly difficult to ignore those deep-seeded teachings.

When I’m feeling good about life I recognize that God loves all His children and He wants them to be happy. I know that my girlfriend makes me happy and I truly look forward to spending my life with her. I think God can see how happy I am and I think that pleases Him. I can see a future in which the church eventually accepts and supports its LGBTQIA+ members. Maybe it won’t be any time soon, but I have hope that it will happen. And when that day comes I will be absolutely thrilled.

Until then, I hope that we can tone down the guilt and shame that is associated with identifying as LGBTQIA+. It’s so hard to accept yourself and live authentically when part of your core identity is made out to be wrong. It’s hard to feel that you are inherently not good. It is absolutely something that can and will be overcome time and time again, but it is so hard. So if you’re reading this, take a few minutes this week to tell someone on the outskirts of church culture that they are awesome.

And if you get a chance, watch Glee this Friday night. Spoiler Alert! Kurt and Blaine just got married.

Allison is a queer graduate student at Northern Arizona University. She lives with her girlfriend, Blaise, and their puppy Elsa. Allison and Blaise are getting married, too.

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6 Responses

  1. spunky says:

    You are so right, Allison Renee! It never occurred to me that having openly gay characters on TV shows was an issue. I confess I was shocked when I read that your BYU friends decided against the show because it promoted homosexuality. It is funny the things we do in the name of “doing the right.” I’m glad you’ve set an example of how powerful those influences can be for good, and for taking the leap to play Cooper in the role-play group!

  2. EmilyCC says:

    I have often wondered how a show like Glee would help (or be problematic) for a Mormon LGBTQIA* kid. I love this glimpse and congratulations on your marriage, Allison! (My sister lives in Flagstaff–we will have to get together!)

  3. C. M. says:

    First of all, congrats on your upcoming marriage! How exciting 🙂

    And how true that representation matters. I had resigned myself to a life of living in the closet before I fell into the “Rizzoli & Isles” fandom – and those two aren’t even gay! They just have so much insane chemistry, I couldn’t help delving into fanfiction and then tumblr, and here I am. Queer as all heck, and only able to admit it because I could NOT contain how much I want those two women to get together.

    (I actually wrote a paper about the subtext on that show when I was a senior at BYU. My professor fully supported it!)

  4. I have heard fellow Mormons argue that Mormons should not watch shoes like Glee that have likable homosexual characters, and it often appears to me that this attitude is a way to protect our own prejudices, by avoiding seeing people and ideas we are afraid of portrayed in a positive light.

  5. Ziff says:

    Great point, Allison, about how showing LGBTQIA characters prods us all along to the reality that not everyone is the same when it comes to sexual orientation and identity. I don’t have a link at my fingertips, but I read a number of times that research had shown that straight people’s willingness to support legalization of gay marriage goes up noticeably if they know someone who is gay. It makes sense, then, that having LGBTQIA characters on TV shows is kind of a shortcut that makes use of fictional characters to introduce more people more quickly, and that might hopefully push us all toward more acceptance more quickly.

  1. February 21, 2015

    […] by Allison Renee This post is a part of the Queer Mormon Women* series. Click HERE to see all …read more       […]

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