Last week, Glee gave me a few minutes of happiness, a small, exquisite brain vacation. Kurt, dealing with homophobia from friends and bullies alike, snuck into a rival boy’s school to spy on their Boy’s Choir, The Warblers, and was serenaded by a possible love interest to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” The way it was shot was very smart, allowing the audience to place themselves between Kurt and Blaine, to experience those first initial stirrings of puppy love tangled up with a vocal performance that has been rolling around in my head for a week.
I am not going to discuss how many times I watched that segment of the show. Seeing that overly romanticized “Boy Meets Boy” moment elicited some mixture of wistful longing for a something that will never happen and a Mirror of Erised moment where I had to wake myself and push back against the manipulation. Wishing intensely that it would have happened for me when I was younger, or that it would happen now isn’t productive.
I went to a High School where my father was a teacher, and I wasn’t out to him, so I couldn’t have a boyfriend. And while I’ve come to an uneasy truce with my body issues, I am still totally oblivious to people showing me positive attention and the only thing I’ve ever learned about flirting is that fat people aren’t supposed to do it. Once upon a time I used to go to dance clubs and not smile at anyone because I was mortified by the idea that they would see me and be repulsed by my attraction to them so I’d stand in one place and smoke half a pack of cigarettes and go home miserable. But that’s all changed now. I don’t go to clubs anymore.
It felt unfair that I was being invited into this vision of young, attractive, thin love just to be reminded the second that it was over that it didn’t apply to me. But even worse was that the one person I identify with on the show, Coach Bieste, was mistreated, insulted, patronized, and subjected to an apology from the very people that hurt her. Every single episode with Dot Jones in it has made me cry. Every single one. I identify with Kurt from time to time, because I went through those things when I was younger. But her experiences are all the things I am going to go through for the rest of my life.
Glee doesn’t tolerate gender variance in women. For Kurt, it is fine. Kurt is the show’s baby, Kurt is the show’s lesson. People are mean to him, but he is eventually victorious. But when Sue showed up to a date in the first season in a zootsuit, she was spurned for another woman. When Mercedes reimagined the role of Frank-N-Furter in the Rocky Horror episode, she did in a way that was unmistakably feminine. And now we have Coach Bieste. Who is tortured repeatedly for being gender variant. The members of Glee Club used the thought of her to kill their sexual urges, and Will FUCKING TOLD HER ABOUT IT. And then told her it wasn’t personal.
Over and above how shitty it was for the characters to do that, the show dressed Jones in lingerie and made her look grotesque in the characters’ fantasies about her to drive the point home. This actress was handed a script that said to her “We think you are an ugly person and we think that might be good for a few laughs.”And all season Sue Sylvester, the one character who should fucking know better attacks her incessantly, letting her know that she isn’t wanted, loved, or respected. The sight of a lesbian actress playing a straight woman harassing a butch woman for her gender presentation gives me motherfucking Kyriarchal vertigo.
But while this is going on, no one acknowledges that she is being attacked for being gender variant. Kurt’s oppression is discussed at length, constantly, but all we hear her say are things like “I know I’m different.” To recap: being attacked for being an effeminate man is terrible, and we’ll talk about it and come to a resolution, but being a masculine woman means you should just get used to being everyone’s punching bag.