Even if it weren't Gay Pride month, with all of the parades and hoopla typically associated with the festivities this time of year, California's recent same-sex marriage ruling has put gay issues back on the cultural front burner. This week, two especially notable cable programs take a very personal look at what it means to be gay in today's society.
First up is FX's
(airs Tuesdays at 10 pm/ET, following the
"mini-sode"), with a compelling and emotionally grueling hour spotlighting same-sex parenting. Like a less exploitative
, this episode of Morgan Spurlock's walk-in-another-person's-shoes reality show invites Katie, an outspoken Morman mom with two adopted sons- who was herself adopted- to leave her California family to spend a month in the Michigan farmhouse of Dennis and Tom, who are raising four adopted sons of their own. Her beliefs are challenged, but not exactly swayed, at watching two loving men raise four apparently well-adjusted children (one of the boys' birth parents are even part of the extended family, we learn). The question here is whether Katie, who believes a mom-and-dad household is the only way, will see this household as an affront to so-called "family values" or as reinforcing the value of family.
"I feel absolutely welcome here," says Katie initially, but she soon feels threatened whenever her beliefs are challenged, seemingly unaware that her own feelings that gays and lesbians shouldn't be allowed to adopt are threatening to Dennis and Tom's very way of life. Katie sees these men as good guys and great parents, and is even introduced first-hand to people who testify to the inadequacies of the current foster-care system, but she remains implacable. 30 days of exposure to the reality of the situation does a lot to humanize the opposition, but it really doesn't change anything. Which makes for an unusually realistic, if sobering, object lesson in human dynamics- and a stark depiction of the obstacles gays face in making societal inroads if their basic rights are going to continue to be subjected to a popular vote.
Taking a much more anecdotal approach to what it means to be aware of being gay, Cinemax's latest "Reel Life" documentary
When I Knew
(Wednesday at 7:30 pm/ET), based on the book by Robert Trachtenberg, is about people of all sorts describing "that moment when you realize that the world around you isn't really designed for you." With humor and no small amount of pain, a cross-section of men and women open up with disarming frankness about when they realized their "otherness," whether it manifested itself in a crush on a friend of the same sex or, in one case, a fascination with the man on the Doan's Pills box- or, in another, a boyhood fixation on
("I guess I'm into bears"). Some embraced their sexuality, others fought against it, and many (but certainly not all) faced rejection from friends and family as they came to grips with what they knew to be true about their sexual orientation. The variety of responses speaks to the diversity among the gay and lesbian population. Lesson: No two gay people or lives are alike, just like in the straight world.