Davina Kotulski

Why aren't there more regular LGBT people in the media?

Filed By Davina Kotulski | July 15, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: Julianne Moore, Richard Socarides, same-sex marriage, sperm donor

Has anyone else noticed a preponderance of LGBT people selling out the community? I thought closeted LGBT people like Haggard and Craig were bad for our community, but lately it has been "out" LGBT folks that seem to be doing a disservice to our community.

kids_are_alrigh.jpgRichard Socarides wrote the anti-gay, political double-speak talking points in support of DOMA and DADT. He had the audacity to sell his community out by authoring a talking point about the President recognizing same-sex relationships which stated, "These decisions are best left to state and local governments and private institutions. But since the President does not believe that the federal government should recognize gay marriage, he does not believe it is appropriate for scarce federal resources to be devoted to providing spousal benefits to partners in gay and lesbian relationships."

Couldn't he have just stopped with "These decisions are best left up to state governments"? Did he really have to emphasize Clinton's lack of support for marriage equality and go as far saying the president "does not believe it is appropriate for scarce federal resources to be devoted" to spousal benefits for LGBT Americans?

It would have been nice Socarides had invited the President to commission a study to look at the fiscal impact of providing spousal benefits to same-sex couples, as the Bush Administration did. Under Bush, the Congressional Budget Office determined that extending marriage to same-sex couples would save the government one billion dollars.

A more pro-active, gay-friendly talking point would have been: "President Clinton has signed the DOMA to preserve states' rights to decide who should be able to legally marry." No need to insert his negative personal opinion and then follow it up with this bogus talking point "I believe that all Americans -- gay or straight -- who are willing to work hard, pay their taxes, play by the rules, obey the law and be good citizens -- should be treated fairly and have equal opportunities to prosper. No other president has taken more steps to bring gays and lesbians to the table. And despite my personal feelings about same-sex marriage, I don't think we as Americans should discriminate against anyone."

Um, denying us equal marriage rights means that we are not being "treated fairly," nor are we having "equal opportunities to prosper" and this is what discrimination looks like. It is even more offensive that this placating "You should be grateful for what you get queer!" message was written by a gay man.

No one can screw us like our own, which brings me to my next outrage.

The Kids Are All Right, but is this movie? Please tell me why when we are fighting a rabid comeback of the Anita Bryant's "Save Our Children from the Homosexuals" campaign would a lesbian filmmaker write a movie where a sperm donor of a lesbian couple can come in and start screwing the more femme woman in a long-term committed relationship? I'm not encouraging censorship, but how about some solid images of healthy same-sex couples and their families in the media first. Must we cater to the homophobic collective unconscious? You might note that on L-Word and Queer as Folk both femme lesbians who gave birth to the children had affairs with men.

I'm not saying this does not happen on occasion, but because the anti-gay movement fails to see same-sex parents as real and adequate parents and because they affirm that homosexuality is a choice, the next main-stream movie about LGBT people could have not played into anti-gay stereotypes.

How many of us hunger for images of regular LGBT people on the big screen or on TV? Yet, we continue to see endlessly lonely and single gay men and their fool-around fag-hags, lesbian serial killers, married men on the down-low, and one-dimensional clown-like flamers. Some of you might argue with me that these are regular LGBT people, but I know we are more diverse than this and to be clear, you can be a flamboyant, feminine gay man and be multi-dimensional. However, the media seems to forget this. They will show us "truth or dare" style straight girl kisses a la Sandra Bullock or run "Girls Gone Wild" commercials for the straight dudes, but for media images of regular LGBT people we have to watch Ellen.

I'm not sure where this blog is going. I guess working so hard for equal marriage rights for over a decade and to have our relationships respected and seen as equal and then seeing Julianne Moore play a lesbian kissing her sperm donor just bums me way out.

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I would love to see trans people on the airwaves who aren't the subjects of sweeps-week sob story documentaries or are Springer-style crazies. A normal, working-class guy or girl would do just fine, thank you. Don't even need to mention that they're trans.

At least then when people start into that "Oh! Just like that Tyra Banks special!" I can turn around and say "no, like that girl from ____ - you know, the one that's happy, well adjusted, and socially acclimated?"

(I'm right there with you, in other words.)

I couldn't agree more, Austen. Taking the "I'm trans, so what?" approach has certainly helped make sure that my career didn't change as a result; indeed, it has gone better since. But that's a product of unique circumstances and unique privileges, and it would be silly for me to pretend otherwise.

Stephanie | July 15, 2010 2:36 PM

"Please tell me why...a lesbian filmmaker would write a movie where a sperm donor of a lesbian couple can come in and start screwing the more femme woman in a long-term committed relationship? I'm not encouraging censorship, but how about some solid images of healthy same-sex couples and their families in the media first."

I saw the movie last night and take no offense at the filmmaker's choices. In fact, the "femme" woman make the moves on the sperm donor guy and just what are "solid images of healthy same-sex couples and their families" anyhow?

Every person, coupled or not, has a different notion and variation of family and, frankly, I am tired of seeing white-washed versions of queer people and our families given preference just for the sake of seeming "normal" so homophobes and right-wingers feel better about us--and themselves.

Also, why must we, as a community -- and as individuals -- always be reactive to anti-gay forces and put forth only "regular LGBT people" in the media? Who are these "regular LGBT people" and do/would they represent the true beautiful rainbow of real life queers if, indeed, they were in the media?

I am a goldstar lesbian, a queer feminist dyke and I in no way want to be any part of "regular LGBT people." The Kids Are Alright is a film. A very well-made and interesting film to boot. It's art, not necessarily an "answer" to homophobia or anti-gay forces within out society. The success or lack thereof of The Kids Is Alright will make mainstream moviegoers and the film industry more (or less) receptive to more queer-themed movies and give more queer filmmakers the chance to make their films, tell their tales and, if they want, use their films as a vehicle to preach their views.

"The femme" woman make the moves on the sperm donor guy."

Of course she does because lesbians, especially femmes, are really just waiting for that right man to come along and save them from their twenty year relationship with a woman. And of course there are plently of movies about women leaving their marriages of 20 years with men for another women, right?

I'm saying, can't we get through at least one lesbian mom character who doesn't diddle dudes. I know plenty of them. If this is all we got, one crappy movie a year with lesbian content, can't we do better?

PhoenixRising | July 15, 2010 4:00 PM

"I am tired of seeing white-washed versions of queer people and our families given preference"

By whom or in what forum are these images published or shared, the ones you're tired of?

I don't know whether we saw the same movie, but I think we live in the same culture--- in which a mainstream feature film centered on a lesbian couple and their children has never happened before. It's hard to understand how you're tired of something that has never occurred.

Maybe the rest of your comment is directed at political advertising, but that's a separate arena IMO. This movie was not made to support a political outcome, that's for sure.

I share Davina's distaste for Lisa the filmmaker's choice to make her subjects more marketable and palatable to mainstream audiences by introducing Mark Ruffalo's dick into the plot. It's offensive, tired and frankly boring.

Making a film that literally enacts a stereotype takes no imagination, creativity or effort. There were literally thousands of ways to show the crisis in the main characters' marriage that didn't require a penis. Lazy, and a waste of the talents involved.

Davina, a lot of LGBT folk don't want to see themselves portrayed as normal. If they're not totally stereotypical flamers, they'll complain that the media is trying to keep us "closeted." In my opinion, these are the people who insist on applying the hateful word "queer" to every Gay, Bisexual or Transsexual human being. They'd never admit it outright, but they accept the hetero-bigot's concept of LGBT status as deviant (which is what "queer" means). They've been thoroughly brainwashed into a heterosexist mindset.

Stephanie | July 15, 2010 3:08 PM

Again: WHAT. IS. "NORMAL"? Do the homophoes and the gaystream get to decide that for all of us, too?

To be clear. I never said "normal." I said regular, not perfect or boring. Also I love flamers. However, I am saying there is no equality in the media. Lesbians who sleep with men and lesbian serial killers. How about some regular families? I know several lesbian parents who don't sleep with their daddy donors or their adoptive children's bio daddies. Some are butch-femme couples, some are multi-racial families. They have challenges, but they don't change their sexual orientation when a man comes along. Anyway, that's my 25 cent rant.

Funny thing is Davina that there have always been gays, lesbians, plenty of bisexuals and some transsexuals on TV and in the movies. You just have not known who they were. I think you complaint is not with the reality but rather the scripts. Surely you saw what happened to Ellen's career when she actually let it be known she was lesbian. She was able to recover which says a lot about how far our society has come in the last few decades. It wasn't, however, easy. Now picture what would happen to the career of a transsexual who was just living her life as a woman and then disclosed that she once had a penis. Actually you know the answer because there have been several.

So, I think your complaint is that scripts often show the fringe and not the normalcy of many GLBT lives. But I assign blame for that on the ratings game. Maybe some producer will test the waters soon with a sitcom. They could call it "Golden Boys" and feature 4 older single gay men. But if they did "Golden Times" featuring 2 older transsexual couples the actresses and actors who applied for the parts would probably be "natals" because no actual stealth actresses and actors would want the parts.

Let Tolstoy explain why "The Kids Are Alright" exists: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." No one wants to watch a movie of a typical happy family. That's why movies and TV shows are full of single-parent families. Starting with a happy family and introducing conflict (the sperm domor!) makes the dull interesting.

Playing devil's advocate here (and didn't see the movie), but lesbian couples who negotiate a poly situation so that one can have some bi- time are in fact "regular" people too. And this doesn't even take into account the possible motive of parenting a child.

I do hear what you're saying, and yes, the timing is poor, but negotiated poly (in both same-sex and opposite sex couples) is more common than you think, and can be practiced ethically in a loving framework.

I think 'negotiated poly' and 'a lesbian partner cheating with a man' are kinda two different things?

As I said, I didn't see the movie. But I didn't see this distinction in the article, so I don't think it's the crux of the complaint.

I think perhaps what Davina means by 'regular' isn't lesbian couple equivalent of a Father Knows Best couple. An really, you can't have just happy and even-keeled, you need some tension/conflict of *some* sort.

However, how about for a change the drama is something *other* than 'one girl cheats with man' or 'crazed lezzie killer'? What about something like The Birdcage, even? Joni meets Chachi, Chachi is homophobic, issues ensue?

Though really, what I am waiting for is for the gay relationship to just be something taken for granted. How about some kind of drama totally unrelated to sexul orientation, or same-sex couples, it just so happens that the couple is same-sex? And have that put a different spin on it, 'cause you know, were aren't just the equivalent of opposite-sex couples (Stephanie's point).

This very director had a movie (High Art) with a lesbian couple (and even involved a lesbian love-triangle) in which the drama didn't really revolve around the fact that they were in a lesbian relationship, but that one of the owmen was codependant with her gf, and had a serious drug habit and other personal demons.

It is taking the HRC approach a step more in the process. I do wish that there were some good media reps for us and of us.

I don't see many LGBT people like I know on the TV, but that's mostly because unless they're outrageous in some way you're not going to notice them. Austen wants trans people on TV and for their transgender status to not even be mentioned - well, then how would you know em when you see em? Perhaps there are plenty on their right now. Same goes with gay and lesbian and bisexual journalists, pundits, cooks, producers, etc.

It's hard to imagine a regular anyone on TV. You mention Ellen D., but most regular folks I know aren't multi-millionaires who've been pop culture icons for going on two decades.

On the other side, though, I'm working my way through one of those "Top 50 gay film" lists. How many of those movies are about super rich gay people just trying to make in this homophobic world? They could use some regular-ness there, but as someone pointed out above, queer people don't like to see themselves as regular. We always have to be rich and fabulous in our own media.

For what little it's worth, here's a brief example from early on, back in March of 2005 in Philadelphia, promoting that year's edition of the Baseball Prospectus. You won't mistake the fact that I'm trans, but it never comes up. (Some folks might notice he uses "Chris" instead of Christina, but I didn't officially change my byline until that summer.) Afterward, the host admitted he'd had no idea going in.

I do some television gigs just about every spring to promote the new edition while on the book tour. The hosts never bring it up, and neither do I... although my voice is a little better (I hope) now as opposed to then.


Both the original article by Davina that kicked off this discussion and the many intelligent comments that have followed have been extraordinarily interesting, varied, and of significant intellectual quality. It therefore seems incumbent upon me to substantially lower the cultural and intellectual level of the discussion by noting that the introduction of Mark Ruffalo's dick into the plot, as indicated by PhoenixRising above, would be a welcome addition to any movie from my point of view. Forgive me!!

Because we don't make for good TV or movies if we're "normal" - unless it's a tragedy!

Bil, maybe they could make it about a bunch of gay friends, one of whom 'gets religion' and turns Republican? *That* would be a tragedy, and would have lots of normal gay ppl for it to play out against.

The main point/observation/reality that you are making as a lesbian... of the stereo-typical story line of "the lesbian always gets her man" in American Cinema, I think is being truly missed by some of these comments.

We have seen this storyline again and again in "Kissing Jessica Stein", "Puccini for Beginners". Even mainstream pop movies w/"lesbianisque" characters in "Wild Things". As you already mentioned the same "lesbian gets her man" tactic was used in Queer as Folk and The L word. We do have "Fried Green Tomatoes" but one did have to practically stand up in the theater and scream THEY ARE LESBIANS! Don't even get me started on the HORRIFIC film "Bound" that is put up again and again as an "example" of butch/femme dynamics/relationship. That one always piss' me off.

The reality of a storyline w/out a dick involved in lesbian film does not seem unreasonable nor too far fetched of a goal, especially from a lesbian film-maker. But then again "in the biz" Chaiken had ZERO issue or concern w/selling out lesbian "images" and only continues to beat the dead mare w/the reality show "The REAL l word".

The mere mention of this observation/complaint, lesbians are told real lesbians are boring, stop your bitching, you are repressed or be more "open minded LIKE ME!" *eye roll on the last one*

But hobestly, how many gay male movies show a straight woman saving the queer by f***ing him?

On a positive note I will recommend a few positive/funny/dramatic/interesting lesbian films:: SAVING FACE, FIRE, PARIS WAS A WOMAN

Just a few recommendations of really interesting great lesbian films that don't involve the RIDICULOUS concept... "The Lesbian Gets Her Man" storyline. Interesting real lesbian cinema that a dick doesn't f*** it up.

"Saving Face" was phenomenal. And I hadn't realized the wonderful Joan Chen (as mother) was in it until I actually started watching it. We need more flicks like that out there.

Oh I couldn't agree w/you more regarding the film AND Joan Chen. This is why it was my FIRST recommendation for a lesbian film.

Another VERY ignored film that I should have recommended and EXTREMELY well done w/Rachel Ward and Bernadette Peters is Bobbie's Girl. Believe it or not, a Nominated Daytime Children's Special that beats the freaking SKIRTS off HALF of the crap listed on any "Best Lesbian Film" countdowns.

I higly recommend this beautifully well written, acted film, that actually succeeds in making the the lesbian couples sexuality nothing more then a everyday family fact.