On January 11, TLC premiered a new special called My Husband’s Not Gay, about a group of Mormon men who admit to having homosexual desires yet choose to live a heterosexual life. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) naturally bashed the show, calling it “downright irresponsible,” insisting that it was “putting countless young LBGT people in harm’s way.” A petition posted to change.org, which gathered 70,000 signatures, called for the show’s cancellation, likening its message to “conversion therapies,” old-fashioned methods of “fixing” gay men that have long since been discredited as anything but harmful and ineffective.
One doubts if GLAAD even watched the show before releasing its statement, because secrecy and shame—the stuff that leads to tragedy for too many repressed individuals—is not what My Husband’s Not Gay is about. The men are extremely open with their wives and the world about their same-sex attraction (“SSA,” as they call it). There’s no talk of being “cured.” They know they can’t choose to not be homosexual. Their only “choice” is to not live as traditional gay males. “I like to say I’ve chosen an alternative to an alternative lifestyle,” one of them insists, before adding, “I’m interested in men, I’m just not interested in men.”
Flimsy as that sounds, it hardly qualifies as dangerous, not when TV continues its boom in gay visibility, offering a litany of role models and bad seeds and everything in between. Until recently, being gay on television was a lot like being on the Titanic: Either you were ushered into first class, where everyone was button-up and straight-laced, or you whisked down to steerage, where there was dancing and appletinis and girl talk. Now a bit of fluidity seems to be rising to the surface, a less orthodox element, where the lines that mark something as “gay” aren’t so clearly—and broadly—drawn.
This month alone, there’s a new season of HBO’s Looking, which shows a gay world far more credible and appealing than anything in My Husband’s Not Gay. I’ve only seen two episodes of the new Fox drama Empire, but so far I’m impressed with Jamal, the gay son of a hip-hop mogul who writes Drake-esque R&B and looks poised to shake up family business by coming out. Then there’s Frank Underwood, who returns next month in the third season of House of Cards. The protagonist of a major show, who boinks dudes so occasionally and so casually that his sexuality is a total non-issue, he’s more groundbreaking than all the Mitchs and Cams currently gasping and gesticulating through prime time.
After all, there are plenty of people in this world who don’t fit neatly into categories like “gay” or “straight,” and neither GLAAD nor anyone else has the right to tell them how to love or live. Unfortunately, My Husband’s Not Gay doesn’t add much to that conversation. In addition to being plain bad (it’s all so staged you begin to question if these people are even Mormon), the show manages to uphold every imaginable cliché. The boys go shopping together. One confesses his love of Les Mis. There’s even a joke involving a “wiener dog.” By the time the husbands tell their wives how cute they think a waiter is, it’s a wonder they didn’t call the show My Husband’s Completely Gay and He Won’t Shut Up About It.