Sunday, March 4, 2012

Intersectionality and Kinship on Glee (Carla's Blog Post #2)

Glee is a television show known for representing gay teens. The character Santana Lopez is a representation of a queer woman of color that depicts some issues of family and denial that queer individuals of color face.
In the episode “Mash Off”, Santana was insulting Finn Hudson, a straight male character, in a hallway. Frustrated with her insults, he called out loud enough for the entire hall to hear, “Why don’t you just come out of the closet?” He goes on to call her a coward, and walks off down the hall. There is no punishment for Finn’s behavior, no action on behalf of school administration. Santana later slaps Finn, angered that he dismisses it, because he believes that the whole school already knows. What Santana exclaims is the reality of the situation-it is not only the school that will know, but everyone. Santana is afraid of how her family will react more than anything.
In the next episode ("I Kissed a Girl"), Santana comes out to her grandmother. Her abuela (grandmother in Spanish) played a large role in her life. Their conversation alternates between Spanish and English, placing an emphasis on Santana’s Hispanic heritage. The scene displays the various factors that affect individuals with intersecting personalities. Her grandmother’s culture and religious views ultimately come together in her response to Santana’s admittance. “Esto es una verguenza (This is a disgrace). The sin isn’t in the thing, it’s in the scandal when people talk about it aloud.” Here, Santana’s grandmother addresses an approach to sexuality that is often seen in LGBTQI communities of color –one that prefers to hide sexuality than to address it. Bradshaw and Letuka’s article on the Down Low examines such a phenomenon as occurring more often in communities of color. Such research focused on heterosexual males having sex with males, however, and did not address such behavior with females.
Santana also has to face the possibility of losing her family because of her sexuality. When Finn outs her, word reaches the public because of her cheerleading coach’s local political campaign. She fears how her parents will react if they find out, breaking down in tears and telling school administrators “I haven’t even told my parents yet”. The reality of the temporal nature of biological kinship ties is shown when she comes out to her grandmother. Her grandmother, who played a large role in raising her, tells her that she no longer wants to see her. In Kath Weston’s “Forever Is a Long Time: Romancing the Real in Gay Kinship Ideologies”, she addresses the various types of families acknowledged in kinship ideologies. The article reveals that in the 1980s, when the trend of “coming out” first began, many gay individuals found that family relationships that they once considered to be permanent were actually at the risk of being severed. The relationship between Santana and her grandmother is both biological and emotional, with Santana expecting her grandmother to “be there” for her because of her reliability over time as well as her blood relation to her. While Santana still has the support of her friends and parents after she has come out, she no longer has a relationship with someone that she considered to be close kin.

Bradshaw, John and Letukas, Lynn. "The Low Down on the Down Low: Origins, Risks and Identifications" In Health Sociology Review Vol. 19, Issue 4 December 2010.
"I Kissed a Girl" Glee. Fox. Fox TV, California. 29 Nov 2011.
"Mash Off" Glee. Fox. Fox TV, California. 15 Nov 2011.
Weston, Kath. 1998. “Forever is a long time: Romancing the real in gay kinship ideologies”.