Why We Need “Queer Eye”

It’s 2019, y’all! I say this because I think that some are still not here. Case in point, in June of 2019, many were not only celebrating Pride Month, but they were also honoring the lives lost for being LGBTQ. So let me add this aside, part of my desire to advocate for LGBTQ is because I’m in an interracial relationship. Far too often, I’ve had, let’s call them “discussions” with others about the differences between race and sexuality. What I see is that at one point (a little over 50 years ago), my boyfriend and I being in love was a crime. It was seen as offensive and an abomination. Now I’m not going to throw a certain influential book out there, but the same book that is being used to demonize the LGBTQ community is the same book that was used to demonize interracial relationships. I just needed to drop some of that knowledge for you to see the interconnectedness that comes with love.

So going back to it. June 2019 was an eye opening experience for me because as Pride Month was being celebrated by the LGBTQ community and its allies, an extremist and hate filled religious group was hosting a “Make America Straight Again” Conference, in Orlando, Florida, the same week as the 3rd Anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Currently, as I type this, my body has broken out with chills because I am still enraged as I attempt, yes, strongly ATTEMPT, to fathom the insensitive mindset of this “conference.” Desired expletives aside, June 2019 was also when I finally decided to watch the show “Queer Eye” on Netflix. 

I was hooked (my boyfriend even teased me for how emotionally invested I got in the show). In the first episode, Tan France, one of the members of the Fab Five, mentions that the first run of the show (“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”) was fighting for tolerance and now the reboot is fighting for acceptance. Since some find “Make America Straight Again” conferences a necessity, I stand by the LGBTQ community is fighting for acceptance. Why is this show about five gay guys running around the country serving up makeovers so important? Because it is. Because having shared an apartment with a gay roommate for two years in college, I would receive commentary about the “type of gay” he is. Because some people, as the show points out, have sadly, never interacted with an out LGBTQ member. So how would one see their humanity?

The respect I have for the Fab Five (Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, and Antoni Porowski) is that they are not afraid to be themselves on this show. Sure, there are some moments that are scripted (this is the nature of reality TV we’re talking about), but their vulnerability as they have attempted to receive acceptance and love from others is heartbreaking. Bobby talks about being cast from his church and feeling conflicted in his faith all because of his sexuality. Karamo has shared about being a gay African American and the weight that comes with that. Even Tan has touched upon being gay and a Muslim (I really hope they explore Islamophobia in another episode because there’s so much there that needs to be unpacked). But their personal stories aside, they seek to serve their heroes (the person they help in the episode) and they don’t do makeovers, they do make betters. It’s far too simple for someone to come in and change your life for the sake of helping you. The Fab Five seek to enhance the lives of their heroes and meet them where they are, which is beautiful for all of us to incorporate. 

It would be easier to just change a wardrobe, spruce up a living space, and walk away. Even when you look at their social media, you see that they are still keeping in touch with their heroes. An LGBTQ person is more than rainbows, glitter, and the like. They are real people, it’s weird that I have to type this. They are just as dynamic as anyone else is and unfortunately, because of who they love and how they identify, they are not collectively understood as being capable of individuality. There are so many teachable moments such as the question of “who wears the pants?” or even the visual of a trans man feeling his chest for the first time after reconstruction surgery that this show includes. Especially with the latter, you feel the emotion of finally fitting in to what you’ve always known was there. Reconstruction surgery or not, we’ve all experienced that moment when you just fit in and we can all admit how freeing that moment felt. 

In many other shows of a similar concept, the “makeover” is an alien transformation. With “Queer Eye,” they meet their heroes where they are with an elevated improvement and you can truly see the confidence that radiates from their heroes. What you also see from some of these heroes is their openness to how the LGBTQ community is more than their original thoughts. What this show does so wonderfully is start some of these conversations that are needed to be had. Instead of isolating ourselves to what is familiar to us, it’s perfectly acceptable to seek to understand what we do not innately understand. This is the precipice for how we will grow as a collective. During the most recent Pride Month, I saw so many businesses talking about donating money to LGBTQ causes and rainbow infusing their logos. It’s more than that. We need to share the stories and make sure their diversity is being honored too. And as Lin Manuel Miranda once so eloquently said at the Tony Awards:

“We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;

We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”

*Photo is courtesy of Cosmopolitan.