OPINION – They are holding the mirror up to Utah again and the reflection does not make a pretty picture.
The Learning Channel, once a pretty classy outfit in the world of cable TV, debuted its latest series Sunday night, a little dose of reality TV it calls “My Husband Is Not Gay.”
The show is built around several Utah Mormon men who are attracted to other men, but have married women to remain members of the church, which forbids homosexual behavior.
TLC has found a bit of a goldmine in Utah, previously airing such other reality shows as “Sister Wives,” “My Five Wives,” and “Escaping The Prophet,” all based on fundamentalist Mormons who are, or were, part of the polygamous communities spread throughout the state. “Sister Wives” and “My Five Wives” fail to show the reality of polygamy, the little girls forced into marriage with much older men, the fraud perpetuated by the group on local and federal governments, and the threat of eternal damnation if they refuse to participate in plural marriage. “Escaping The Prophet” showed some of the dark side of this culture, but was cancelled before all episodes were aired.
So much for reality.
TLC’s latest entrée reflects the attitudes of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the struggle members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community have in maintaining their good standing with the LDS church.
The focus of the show is on how the men truly believe that prayer can eliminate their sexual attraction to other men and that the “gay lifestyle” is a choice that can be reversed with prayer. Their belief is that prayer can “cure” their homosexuality or, as they prefer to say, same-sex attraction.
So much for reality.
There are a number of things wrong with all of this, of course, particularly the belief that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and that it is something that can, or should, be “cured.”
Sort of like going to the bishop who tells them: “Take two prayers and call me in the morning and we’ll see if you are a little less gay.”
At least it is less dangerous than the reparative therapies the LDS church employed in the past, which included electric shock therapy as a supposed “cure” for homosexuality.
The level of denial here is odious, but worse than that, this show is dangerous because of the undue trauma it creates for those who are members of the LGBT community who also wish to walk a spiritual path.
This is not a situation unique to followers of the LDS religion, of course, or members of the Utah LGBT community.
But, the venomous attacks are also not as open and hostile as they are in Utah where the predominant religion poured big bucks into a ballot proposition three states over to try to overturn the individual rights they had worked so hard to attain, or when the community sees the lengths to which the state government will go to in an ongoing, and what will prove to be fruitless, attempt to deny them the simple right to marry. Especially in a state that fails to prosecute the polygamists who take child brides, while persecuting a group of adults who only wish to make a lifelong commitment to the person they love who happens to be the same sex.
I know parents whose children have taken their own lives because of the alienation they have received at the hands of loyal churchgoers who have shunned them, people who live in secrecy for fear that outing themselves would ruin their standing in the community, people who spend a lifetime denying who they are.
It’s not easy living on the outside, especially when your happiness, your job, the roof over your head can be gone in an instant simply by saying, “I am gay.”
If it wasn’t so dangerous, so demeaning, it would be easy to just disregard TLC and its latest reality show. This sort of programming, as we have come to learn, is anything but reality and there is almost nothing that is truly spontaneous or a reflection of the moment, let alone the broader and more intellectual aspect of the human condition.
Reality TV, from the Kardashians to the “Duck Dynasty” crew, is nothing more than a succession of freak shows, geared to the basest intellect among us.
“My Husband Is Not Gay,” however, goes beyond; way beyond. This show isn’t about some talentless media icon who achieved celebrity as a result of a sex tape, it isn’t about some modern-day Beverly Hillbillies, and it isn’t about finding your soul mate on a high-stakes version of “The Dating Game.”
It’s about real people who are willing to do whatever it takes to fit into a society that will never understand who they truly are, how they truly feel, what they truly think.
We were taught in grade school about how the United States was this vast, welcoming melting pot where we could all live happily ever after.
The catch is, of course, that we can all live happily ever after only if we fit the rigid mold and do not threaten or question the pillars upon which this nation sits. To do so means there is something wrong with you, that you are different, and heaven forbid that we are different.
There is a magnificent scene from the movie “Midnight Express” during which the main character, Billy, is walking in a circle around this huge stone in a Turkish prison where the inmates have been so ravaged, so brutalized, so preyed upon that many were driven to madness.
Billy, while walking with the group of murmuring, muttering men, finally realizes that the system, the environment, his tormentors, will not win and starts walking the circle in the opposite direction.
One of the older inmates tells him that he must stop because they are all broken and walking the circle is what their life has become.
Billy says, “I am not broken,” and, in walking backwards around the circle, he unwinds all the wrong that has visited upon him and gains the courage and strength to do what it takes to remove himself from the prison.
It is a strong metaphor that should resonate among those who feel shattered, devastated, broken.
Perhaps the gentlemen featured in this reality TV show should have a private viewing of “Midnight Express.”
Perhaps it will give them the courage to walk the circle in the opposite direction.
Perhaps they will realize they are not broken and do not have to deny, any longer, who they really are.
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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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