Maureen Ryan on how irritating it is when television shows like, apparently, USA’s Common Law, feel the need to constantly reiterate that two men who happen to be close aren’t gay:
It’s past time to stop treating gay, lesbian and trans characters as The Other. When “Seinfeld” introduced the phrase “not that there’s anything wrong with that” in connection to the possibility of a character being gay, GLBTQ characters were a rarity on TV and thus that joke may have served as a sort of crude but useful enlightening tool.
Now that kind of joke — “We’re close friends, but we’re not gay!” — feels like a distancing technique, something that draws attention to gays and lesbians as something out of the norm. That feels wrong for a lot of reasons.
And honestly, who cares? In this day and age, are you telling me that two men who are best friends would constantly have to deal with the assumption that they’re gay? I just find the whole idea fairly preposterous. Who doesn’t know straight men who hang out all the time without anyone thinking about or guessing about their sexuality? How is drawing attention to not-gayness, at this point, anything but a representation of lingering shreds of mild but unmistakable gay panic
This seems like a relic of a transitional moment when lots of folks were starting to come out and straight people who previously had been unaware of the potential existence gay people started to get worried that they didn’t have valuable information they could use to keep from embarrassing themselves. Now, it’s true that said information remains relevant—no one wants to hit on someone who’s unavailable, be it because they’re gay or because they’re married. But we’re really at a point where even straight folks should have learned what makes for reliable gaydar and what doesn’t. Sharing a friendship or a roof with someone of your same gender doesn’t make you a homosexual: it makes you a person who craves connection with other people or who doesn’t have enough money to live alone. And the best way to find out someone’s sexual orientation is to get to know them.