Queer as Folk

Title: Queer as Folk - Television Series
Available: Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

Queer as Folk is a popular program about young gays and lesbians. The program has mature scenes. There are a number of love scenes, some objectionable language, and portrayals of young adults taking mood-altering drugs. We do not recommend teenagers watch the show, without parents present, who can talk about the content of the episodes, especially regarding the responsible sexuality and drug use.

Queer as Folk aired for several years. The North American version of the show was filmed in Toronto, Canada. The show gives brief pictures of the lives of a number of gay men and lesbians. The first episodes of season one focus mainly on the lives of twenty-something gay men. In the episodes, scenes tend to focus on the gay men's trips to gay clubs, gay bars, and their attempts to have sex with attractive men. The lives of real gay men and lesbians does not center around gay bars, gay clubs, and sex. Most of the lives of gay people are much less interesting than what is depicted in Queer as Folk.

The program is not only about passion and sex. Woven through some of the episodes is valuable information about homosexuality, sexual orientations, parenting gay and bisexual children, homophobia and hate crimes, and HIV/AIDS.

Portions of Queer as Folk are very profound. Michael is a comic book collector and expert. In the second season, Michael makes profound observations about the gay community. Those observations make a very powerful introduction to this review. About comic book heroes, Michael observes, "In many ways . . . these super heroes were a lot like me . . . at work they are meak and unappreciated . . . when they are around other people they can never let anyone get too close for fear that their true identity will be discovered. Yet with all the villans . . . trying to destroy them somehow they survive . . . I believe the same about us. That's what the comics have shown me; that despite everything we will surive. And we'll win . . ."

Michael's comparison is insightful. Gay people have been murdered at the hands of the very governments that had an ethical obligation to protect their gay citizens, have been bashed and murdered in hate crimes, have been damned or killed by religious people, and have been subjected to years of prejudice and discrimination. But the gay community is strong and vibrant. The gay community has survived all of the persecution. The presence of the gay community is a miracle of survival, and is a testimony to the deep inner strength of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

Theme: Sexual Orientation

Queer as Folk explains a number of very important things about sexual orientation, and the causes of homosexuality.

Season 1, Episodes 5 and 6:

There is a theme in these episodes that a 17 year old is not old enough to know he is gay. Episode 5 sees Justin's mother telling Justin and the counselor that Justin is only 17 and it is too young to have "those" feelings. In episode 6, Debbie and Jennifer talk over drinks. They were 15 and 16 years old when they first had sex.

Comment:

Straight people know they are attracted to members of the opposite gender when they are in their teens. Many gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers know who they are attracted to at the same age. The sexual development of gay and bisexual people is not developmentally delayed. While not all gay and bisexual teens understand they are gay when they are teenagers, they will feel attraction for members of the same gender.

Season 1, Episode 7:

David and Mike talk in one of the scenes. Mike learns David was married and has a son. He asks, "So you weren't always gay?"

David replies, "No, I was always gay. Just did not want to admit it. And being the overachiever that I am, I figured that if I worked hard enough I could be anything I wanted, including straight, so I married . . ."

Comment:

Many gay men and women have tried to live as straight people. They married, had children, and raised those children. Being married, having children, and being in a traditional family did not make them straight. Gay people are not magically turned straight by marriage, by having sex with a person of the opposite gender, or by having children.

Theme: Ex-Gay Counselling

The series Queer as Folk examines the controversial issue of counselling that attempts to change a person's sexual orientation.

Season 1, Episodes 11, 12, and 13

Emmett makes a deal with God, if he does not turn out to be HIV positive. Because of the deal with God, Emmett tries to become straight. Emmett goes to a Christian group that attempts to change the sexual orientation of gay people. Ted, who seems to understand God's love, talks to Emmett. In a powerful scene, Ted explains God's love for gay people. Ted comments, "He created you in His image . . . And since God is love and God does not make mistakes, you must be exactly the way He wants you to be, the way He intended you to be. And that goes for every person . . . every faggot. We're all His and He loves us all."

Ted's explanation of God's love seems to be exactly what Emmett was needing to hear. Emmett decides to leave the ex-gay Christian group. Fortunately, Emmett makes the decision, before he gets into a serious long-term relationship with a woman. When gay people have straight marriages, their spouse and children are often hurt.

Comments:

Relevant comments about ex-gay counselling from this web site, www.createdgay.com, appear below:

A sexual orientation is not a disease. Attempting to cure homosexuality is like trying to cure having red hair. One can mask having red hair with dye and one can mask homosexuality by acting straight, but one does not cure homosexuality or red hair.

Unlike diseases that need to be treated or cured, one's sexual orientation does not need treatment. A homosexual does not need to be cured of being gay any more than a heterosexual needs to be cured of being straight. As early as 1935, Sigmund Freud wrote the mother of a homosexual man saying, "Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness." The American Psychological Association's position is that gay and bisexual people are not mentally ill because of their sexual orientation and do not need treatment for their sexual orientation.

Gay people are good parents and do not need to change their sexual orientation to be parents. The American Psychiatric Association indicates studies show that the children of gay and lesbian parents are not qualitatively different than the children of straight parents. One can read about that on the American Psychiatric Association web site.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, no "rigorous" scientific studies show the benefits of therapy aimed at changing a gay person's sexual orientation. Rodrigo Munoz, a president of the American Psychiatric Association, is quoted as saying "There is no scientific evidence that reparative or conversion therapy is effective in changing a person's sexual orientation. There is, however, evidence that this type of therapy can be destructive." Some risks of therapy that attempts to change a gay person's sexual orientation include the following:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Self-destructive behavior

More information about the American Psychatric Association position can be read on the web sites of the American Psychiatric Association and the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists. One can read about the American Psychological Association's position on Reparative Therapy, a therapy aimed at changing gay people's sexual orientation, on the University of California - Davis web site.

Organizations representing over 470,000 United States mental health care professionals take a stand against trying to use therapy to change the sexual orientation of gay people. Those organizations include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of Social Workers. There appears to be agreement among the professional associations representing social workers, counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists that counselling should not have the goal to change an individual from gay to straight. Anybody considering therapy to attempt to change either themselves or a loved one's sexual orientation should exercise extreme caution!

Theme: Parenting Queer Children

There are a few lessons parents can learn from Queer as Folk.

Season 1, Episode 4:

Justin is a 17 year old gay teenager. His mother, Jennifer, suspects he is gay. She asks him if he has a boyfriend. When he says he does not, she asks who Brian is. Justin, who is driving the family car at the time of the conversation, stops the car, gets out and runs from his mother. Justin does not go home the night his mother questions him about being gay.

Debbie, Mike's mother, is involved with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). When Justin shows up at her home, she talks to him and then takes Justin to his home. She tells Jennifer, Justin's mother, that she told Mike she knew he was gay to save him the pain of telling her that he was gay. She recommends not asking - just saying, "I know."

Comments:

Coming out is very difficult. The most difficult person for a gay or bisexual youth to tell could very well be his or her parents. Fear of rejection is very high. Anything parents, family members, friends, teachers, and pastors can do to make coming out easier is very helpful.

Try to keep the doors open. Let youth in your life know that you care, that you will listen when they want or need to talk to you, and that will not reject them if they do something you do not like. Say positive things about gay people when your children are young, so they will not fear your reaction, if they are queer.

There are many books, seminars, and programs for the parents of straight kids. The parents of gay, lesbian, and bisexual children do not have a lot of support in our society. Support groups can help parents of queer children understand their children and better parent their queer son or daughter. The organization Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides a network of support for the families of queer people. People who have gay, lesbian, or bisexual family members or friends may want to check the resources they have available in your community.

Season 1, Episode 5:

Justin's mother, Jennifer, talks to Debbie over a cup of tea. Debbie informs Jennifer that Justin is not gay because she smoothered him. She continues, saying, "They talk big and they act tough, the truth is the thing he fears the most, he's afraid of even more than his dad finding out and beating the shit out of him is that you will stop loving him." Debbie advises Jennifer to make sure Justin knows he has not lost her.

In a powerful scene, Justin's mother tells Justin, "Stop running from me, because I am not running from you. I'm still your mother, and you're still my son, and I still love you!"

Comments:

In this scene, Justin's mother told him what he needed to hear the most. She let him know she loved him and that she was not going to stop being his mother.

There are times when people fear rejection so much they act out. They might say or do things in an attempt to push people who care away. For some people, saying or doing something to cause somebody close to reject them can be less painful than losing somebody important because of their sexual orientation. When a gay or bisexual son, daughter, loved-one, or friend tries to push you away, do not leave. That is the time you are most needed. Hang in there. Your hanging in there will say, "You are loved, you are worthwhile, your sexual orientation does not determine your worth."

Season 1, Episode 7:

Justin and Justin's parents are having a discussion. Justin's father says he is going to send Justin away to school, so he can learn discipline and learn about being a man. The discussion becomes more emotion-laden and Justin's father slaps him.

Justin's response to being slapped carries an important message. Justin tells his father, "If you want to hit me again, go right ahead. Only I'm not going to cry like some little faggot. And if you want to send me away, that's alright too. I bet more [deleted reference to a type of sexual activity] goes on in a boarding school than in a back room at Babylon [a gay club]. But whatever you do, it's not going to matter, because I'll still be your queer son."

Comment:

Some gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified youth feel they are no longer welcome at home. They may leave home, due to feeling unwanted or due to abuse. In some cases, they may be thrown out of their home, by parents who want nothing to do with a queer kid. A few extreme cases have seen parents kill a queer child.

The fact of the matter is that sending a son or daughter to another school, to a Bible college, to an ex-gay ministry will not change the young person. A gay or lesbian person cannot be made straight by threats, discipline, abuse, and rejection. Even being disowned, kicked out of home, beaten up, or murdered will not change the fact that a person is queer,

Season 1, Episode 8:

In a scene in episode eight, Brian takes Justin to Justin's home. A conversation takes place between Justin, Justin's parents, and Brian. After Justin decides he will return home, Justin's father lays down the law. He tells Justin he cannot go to gay bars and that he is not to talk about his "disgusting life style."

Brian's response to Justin's father's rules is, "In other words, for Justin to live here with you, he has to deny who he is, what he thinks, and how he feels. That is not love. That's hate." After the conversation, Justin decides not to stay at his home. He leaves with Brian.

Comment:

Under-aged people, queer or straight, should not be going to bars. Parents can be expected to set limits on the places where a teenager may go, and bars are not a good hangout for underaged youth.

There is a problem when a parent does not want a queer son or daughter to talk about their sexuality. On topics as important as sexuality and sexual partners, the doors of communication need to be kept open. When we refuse to let a queer person talk about their sexuality, we are not treating that person with respect. Not letting queer youth talk about their sexuality reduces opportunities to talk about important things, such as what love means, how to tell if you are really in love with a person, how to turn down an invitation to have sex, and how to reduce the risks of sexually transmitted infections.

Theme: Homophobia

There is personal and institutional based homophobia. There is a tendency for large organizations to be very conservative. Because organizations are conservative and slow to change, elements of homophobia can be found in many organizations. Queer as Folk shows elements of individual and organizational homophobia.

Season 1, Espisode 7:

Justin is called homophobic names and gets into a fight in the locker room at school.

Season 1, Episode 8:

A group of students at Justinís school knock the books out of Justinís hands, use derogatory terms about gay people, and push Justin around.

Season 1, Episode 16:

Justin sees a student being harassed by a group of students. The student is accused of being gay and derogatory terms about gay people are used. When Justin steps in to try to take pressure off the student, he is also verbally harassed and is pushed.

One of Justinís teachers refuses to stop students from calling Justin insulting gay terms, even when he is made aware of the situation and hears the comments.

Season 1, Episode 17:

ďFags dieĒ is spray-painted on Justinís school locker, and his locker is set on fire. His attempts to start a gay-straight alliance at school are rejected by administration. The principal refuses to even take the request to the school board, until there is a public protest at the school and political pressure is exerted on the principal.

Season 1, Episode 22:

Brian dances with Justin at Justinís high school prom. Later that night, another student assaults Justin. Justinís injuries are serious.

Comment:

A 2007 Advocate article on the PlanetOut web site says over 150 thousand students in the United Kingdom were bullied because they are gay. The article also notes 2/3rds of gay and lesbian students report being victimized by homophobic bullying. Showers and locker rooms are especially dangerous places in schools. Often, there is less supervision in showers and locker rooms. When students are naked taking showers, they feel more vulnerable and may feel very uncomfortable if they feel a gay student is looking at them. Many queer and questioning students do not feel comfortable in school. The drop out rate is higher among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.

Fortunately, progress is being made. Many schools are trying to create safe environments for students. Programs to combat bullying, racism, and homophobia are being introduced into many schools.

Season 1, Espisode 7 and 8:

Justin's father was angry with Brian for having sex with his son. When Brian is driving home, Justin's father rams his car into Brian's Jeep two times. At a later date, Justin's father attacks Brian. He punches Brian until Brian falls to the ground. When Brian is on the ground, Justin's father kicks him.

Comment:

Being gay is not a crime. Gay bashing is a crime. Unfortunately, gay people are often the targets for crime. A June 13, 2007 Advocate article reports on a study conducted by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. According to the article, 13 out of 100,000 gay men and lesbians reported being the victim of a hate crime. That compared with 8 in 100,000 for black Americans, and 12 in 100,000 for Jews, and 15 in 100,000 for Muslims.

Season 1, Espisode 20:

Vic is charged with indecent exposure when he uses a public restroom. The police officer that charged him lied about what took place. After an investigation, the police officer involved appears to have been guilty of entrapment on previous occasions.

Season 2, Espisode 10:

A dead man is found in a garbage dumpster in the gay district of the city. When the police find no ID on the man, the detective says, "This is a Jane Doe case."

Comment:

For many years, it was a crime to engage in same-gender sexual activities. The police were used to enforce societyís hatred and fear of gay people. In some police departments, there are still homophobic elements present. While many police departments in Canada and the United States are trying to work with the gay community, there are elements of homophobia present in police forces. Amnesty International published a book, Stonewalled-Still Demanding Respect: Police Abuses Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in the U.S.A., outlining the problems of queerphobia within American police departments. A review of the book can be found on the Stop Hate book review pages.