Last Sunday night, the Disney Channel made news by including a same-sex couple in an episode of Good Luck Charlie. By Wednesday morning, various organizations such as One Million Moms had succeeded in broadcasting this 1-minute clip across diverse news outlets. More pointedly, by Wednesday morning, the news had hit our Facebook feeds where knee-jerk reactions and commentary reigned supreme. Some of our LGBT friends were celebrating Disney’s inclusiveness, and a good many more of our conservative Christian friends expressed outrage over Disney’s broadcasting “the homosexual lifestyle” into their living rooms.
Because we both value intellectual integrity, our first course of action was to see what Disney actually broadcasted. The 58-second clip shows a dialogue in which Taylor comes over to Charlie’s house for a play date. Our conservative Christian friends were particularly aghast because Taylor has two moms. If, on the off chance you haven’t already seen the clip, we’d encourage you to watch it for yourself:
After watching the clip, Lindsey was especially bemused that conservative Christians were more concerned about the morality of Taylor having two mommies than about the way Amy (Charlie’s mom) seems to belittle and dismiss Bob (Charlie’s dad) at every opportunity. Somehow, it’s perfectly acceptable to Christians that Disney places a laugh reel right after Amy goes after Bob by saying, “Are you sure that I’m right and you’re wrong? Always.” Sarah noted that this clip is nothing more than two parents bringing their child to a play date. The show does not use the words gay, lesbian, or sex. Bob resolves his confusion over Taylor’s mom’s name by simply remarking, “Oh! Taylor has two moms.” There are no public displays of affection of any kind, between any characters in the clip.
But, there’s a world of difference between what actually aired on Disney and how conservative Christians have reacted to the event. Yesterday, Sarah’s friends took to filling Sarah’s Facebook inbox with messages after Sarah commented about the event. Sarah received messages like the following: (1) “I love you, but I don’t agree with your lifestyle choice. I just don’t want my daughter exposed to that lifestyle.”; (2) “I have no problem with you gay people, but you shouldn’t get to take over everything even television. It’s not fair to innocent children.”; (3) “I’ve always liked and respected you, Sarah, but putting a gay couple on children’s television is just a ploy to indoctrinate them with liberalism and gay marriage.”; (4) “I don’t agree with homosexuality, period. The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it. Live your life the way you choose, but don’t put it on my kid’s TV show.”; and (5) “Please don’t take this personally. It’s not about about you. I just want my kids to grow up normal, you know? You and Lindsey are celibate. Why should this bother you?”
Why did we take the time to type out some of these messages? We’re not interested in ratting out Sarah’s friends or gaining sympathy for ourselves. We started this blog with the intention of sharing our story, and the things we post here are things that have actually happened. Sure, yesterday’s comments were fueled by reactions to a lesbian couple on a children’s television show. But, comments in the past (and if trends hold, comments in the future) can be triggered by something as simple as walking through a doorway together into a person’s church, family reunion, or living room.
We have an odd sort of situation. If people just meet Sarah, it is very rare that their gaydars ping. The second people see the two of us together, unfortunately it’s all too clear that we are members of the LGBT community. Lindsey has never had an especially strong gender-conforming appearance and, as such, negotiates a good deal of behind-the-back gossip. When we walk into our home parish together and stand together in the front row, we know other parishioners are aware that an LGBT couple stands in their midst.
There’s another odd dynamic at play. To use a Bostonian saying, we’re both wicked smaht. Sarah regularly gets asked to help our friends’ kids and teenagers conjugate Latin verbs, finalize essays, and solve assorted math problems. Lindsey is frequently pinged if a kid ever needs help with math or science homework. And there’s the occasional situation in which Sarah pings Lindsey because Sarah has been assisting with a math homework set that has turned to physics. In these situations, to use an expression of ours, no one gives two figs about our sexual orientations, our gender identities, our relationship status, or our tendency to tag-team when helping kids with diverse problems. To the parents and their children, we become an available combined brain that’s more reliable than Wikipedia and more conversant than Google…. at least when it comes to high schoolers and their homework.
The different dynamics at play remind Lindsey of past experiences in some Christian communities. As soon as Lindsey disclosed anything related to LGBT status, Lindsey was no longer welcome in lay ministry but could warm a pew and could tithe. If you have ever been in that situation personally, we’d venture a guess that you bristled. That reaction is totally normal and totally okay. If you’re a reader who doesn’t understand why that kind of statement might make people bristle, here’s the deal. That statement says, “We’re not interested in getting to know you as a person, but we’ll gladly fill out a receipt for you.” And now, we’re back to Good Luck Charlie. You see, many of the friends who sent Sarah assorted Facebook messages, who don’t want their kids “exposed to the gay lifestyle,” are the same people who send their kids to Sarah (and occasionally Lindsey by proxy) for homework help.
As we’ve shared before, our vocation to celibacy does not make us immune to discrimination. We are just as much members of the LGBT community as people who are currently sexually active or who desire to be sexually active some day. We could very easily be in exactly the same situation as the couple featured in Good Luck Charlie if we were ever to bring a child over to another child’s house to play. Enabling two children to play together is, fundamentally, an act that invites relationship rather than the exchanging of services. When our friends tell us that they don’t want a gay couple broadcast into their living room by television, we immediately question whether we would even want to visit their house for dinner. After all, if a person is threatened by a 58-second display of another’s humanity, how could we possibly feel comfortable being present for 58 minutes to eat dinner… or 30 minutes to play a board game… or 3 days to help them recoup from surgery… or… or… or… The activities people share when they are honestly in relationship with each other are myriad and endless.
It’s especially challenging when so many people who are reacting to the seemingly benign relational exchange in Good Luck Charlie begin their reactions with “I like you and I respect you, but…” We find it incredible that, for some people, the only time they will utter the words, “I like you” in our general direction will be before they issue a scathing critique of our way of life. Are they really rejecting our commitment to radical hospitality that spurs us to be available when their kids need help with their homework? Do they object to our commitment to eat dinner together every night barring truly extraordinary circumstances? Do they want to pathologize our relationship with Christ and with our church family? How could it be that, even though we generally open our lives up to those around us, these “friends” have seen nothing worth praising or viewing as positive?
Sometimes it seems that where many straight, conservative Christians are concerned, LGBT couples have so many strikes against us before ever setting foot in the door. We can only say, “Good luck, Susan and Cheryl. Thanks for your courage in searching for suitable playmate for Taylor.”
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