Last night’s episode of Glee is being hailed by critics and fans as one of the best episodes yet and there is already chatter about a second Emmy nomination for Chris Colfer, who portrays the openly gay character, Kurt Hummel. For me, the episode struck a nerve, brought back bad memories and was extremely uncomfortable to watch.
In the episode, Kurt’s father (who previously warmed our hearts with a beautiful coming out scene) suffers a heart attack and while most of Kurt’s classmates turn to God for comfort and guidance, Kurt rebuffs all prayers and religious talk as he professes his atheism.
In my (sometimes unpopular) quest to see complex LGBT characters, I was hoping that the show would go the opposite direction and have Kurt embrace God to showcase the religious diversity in the LGBT community. I was yelling at the TV for him to not be so angry toward the religious advances – I could see the anti-gay articles forming about how the gay character is anti-God.
I get it though. I understand why Kurt was so quick to dismiss any talk of God. I understand all too well – unfortunately, Kurt’s anti-religious feelings hit close to home for me and for many other gay people.
Even the most devout gay believers have been burned by religion and we all have the nightmare wounds to prove it. For me, it was being a 12-year-old closeted boy sitting in a rural Nebraska church trying not to cry as the pastor dedicated his entire sermon to the Hell-worthy trespasses of AIDS-carrying homosexuals. Or there was the time at a friend’s wedding, where the priest took the opportunity to talk about how we must resist the demons behind homosexual marriage.
The money and the power behind our movement’s opposition is almost exclusively religious based, so it makes sense that Kurt would not feel that religion is the most comforting place to turn in his time of need. In the end, I am happy that Kurt’s religious response was portrayed in this devastatingly realistic way.
Moving forward though, we do need to eventually evolve the conversation. Oftentimes our fight for equality is framed in a religion vs. gay rights dynamic. We need to rebel against this frame – religion and LGBT issues are not antithetical to each other, there are straight religious advocates for equality and there are very religious gay people. Despite all the pain that has been endured, many LGBT people have found religious homes in welcoming environments and I do hope that this religious diversity is eventually reflected in portrayals of gay characters.
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