UPDATE: A petition on change.org has garnered almost 80,000 signatures demanding that TLC cancel My Husband's Not Gay, saying the show, "promotes the false and dangerous idea that gay people can and should choose to be straight in order to be part of their faith communities." Today, GLAAD released a statement supporting the petition and denouncing the network. Says GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, "By investing in this dangerous programming, TLC is putting countless young LGBT people in harm’s way."
TLC's latest special, My Husband's Not Gay, is exactly what it sounds like. The show, airing January 11, follows the lives of three married Mormon couples, all living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Each of the men openly discusses their attraction to men, but refuses to identify as gay.
"I like to say I've chosen an alternative to an alternative lifestyle," says Tom, the sole bachelor of the group, who is actively seeking a woman to marry. As devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, these men believe that a heterosexual lifestyle is the only acceptable one, and therefore have married or want to marry women. Rather than try and eradicate their sexual desires, they simply ignore them. In an odd contradiction, for these men, being attracted to other men is inevitable. But, being "straight" is a choice.
"Gay" is not a phrase these men use to describe their sexual orientation — hence the show's title. Instead, in reference to their predicament, they mention "being attracted to men," or "these feelings." "I get a little defensive when somebody calls my husband 'gay,'" one woman admits. Another wife sits and smiles sympathetically at her not-gay husband as he talks about how he's definitely into guys.
My Husband's Not Gay highlights a clash between historic anti-gay doctrine in the Mormon church and mainstream society's growing understanding and acceptance of non-heteronormative lifestyles. While years ago, these men might have been shamed into silence or too terrified to admit their sexuality, now they feel free to acknowledge it somewhat (and in a very public forum at that). Being "gay" (or "attracted to men") is still forbidden if you're LDS, but these couples see it as more manageable. It's like craving a (also banned by the church) beer or cup of coffee, but not drinking one.
Of course, this kind of qualified openness still comes within a context of fear and prejudice. It's important to acknowledge the risk these men have taken to be so open. Still, a closet is a closet, even if the door is wide open and there's a woman in there with you. It's no surprise that TLC climbed in with its cameras, too. My Husband's Not Gay is the perfect mixture of obvious, exploitative, silly, and grim that we've come to know and hate-like from the The Learning Channel. This is, of course, the network that brought us My Strange Addiction, Breaking Amish, and all 19-and-counting of the Duggars. The network has made millions on these fringe lifestyles — thanks to millions of us watching them. (The Wrap)