Toronto
3 min

Watching Jane Millionaire?

Queer coupling ready for prime time

Credit: Xtra files

Maybe marriage isn’t actually the final frontier of gay and lesbian rights. Maybe it’s marriage reality TV.



You know, the right to marry a millionaire who isn’t really a millionaire, or to have your friends, family and the North American public arrange your marriage partner, and then get hitched in front of many millions of viewers. We shouldn’t just want the right to get married. We should have the right to do it in the same 15 minutes of really bad fame as straight folks.



After all, on the face of things, gay people are making some great headway in the domain of reality TV.



Richard Hatch, the scheming gay nudist, won the first Survivor, setting the stage for the proliferation of reality TV shows, depending always on the must-have gay character.



Since then it’s almost impossible to keep up with reality gay men and lesbians. Survivor has had at least two more gay men, The Amazing Race had seven over three editions. The Mole had gay boy Jim and even a real live (not-too-threatening) lesbian named Jennifer, presided over by openly gay host Anderson Cooper. Proving that greed is thicker than identity politics, Jim helped vote Jennifer off the island. (I know I’m mixing my reality TV metaphors. On The Mole you get executed, so even better – the gay boy helped kill the dyke.)



We can sleep in the mud, compete for scraps of food and immunity and otherwise survive on deserted islands and Australian outbacks. We can find clues and race around the world. We can engage in subterfuge and kill each other.



But there are some things that we just can’t do on prime time network reality TV.



First, we can’t couple up. We are not the stars of Joe Millionaire or the Bachelor or Bachelorette or Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire or Married By America. Finding that perfect life partner remains exclusively heterosexual.



And second, we can’t have sex. We are not the stars of Temptation Island, where the sole objective is to get straight folks to cheat on their partners. In keeping with the Adam and Eve motif, temptation apparently also remains an exclusively straight pursuit.



While we may bring a little extra spice to the adventure shows, we are not ratings makers when it comes to sex and marriage.



Mind you, some networks are a little bolder than others. MTV has long been ahead of the pack. Its Real World, in which a pack of hipsters live together while the camera rolls, has long had real gay folks who have real gay sex. And Bravo now bring us Gay Weddings. The camera follows four gay and lesbian couples planning their nuptials. It’s… well… earnest.



But the major networks will have nothing to do with it. Gay sex and gay marriage just aren’t made for prime time.



Reflecting the schism in the gay community, there will no doubt be very different views about which of these exclusions is the real insult, the real threat to gay and lesbian equality or liberation or citizenship.



Maybe the sexual liberationists should be demanding the right to seduce on prime time. After all, who could be better at it than gay boys? We could teach the straights a thing or two.



And maybe the equal rights folks will change their tune a little, and secure us a spot in the next Marry A Moron show.



Or maybe we should be trying to get our own queer culture reality TV shows like The Gay Bath, or Cruising The Parks. For the lesbians, perhaps we could have One Degree Of Separation, where a group of gals hang out together for six months in a loft, and the winner must avoid having sex, breaking up and then staying friends with everyone else – or owning a cat with anyone.



Or maybe we should hold our breath, and hope that the dumbing down of the idiot box will pass, and that we will have survived with our dignity intact.



Except that it’s already too late.



* Brenda Cossman is a member of the board of Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra.