Opinion: What 'Glee' tells us about new LGBT allies
In "Glee," character Joe Hart, a Christian, tells lesbian Santana Lopez, "Love is love."
February 24th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Opinion: What 'Glee' tells us about new LGBT allies

Editors Note: David M. Hall, Ph.D., is he author of the book “Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment.” He is also the author of “BullyShield,” an iPhone and Droid app. Hall teaches high school students as well as graduate courses on LGBT issues and bullying prevention. His website is www.davidmhall.com and he is on twitter @drdavidmhall.

By David M. Hall, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The Valentine’s Day episode of "Glee" introduced the God Squad’s Joe Hart, a student who is a committed Christian. His only tattoos are bible quotes, and each of his dreadlocks is named after a bible verse. Joe wants to make Christianity cool, so the God Squad, a Christian club, agrees to sing “vocal valentines” for any student who dedicates a song.

When the God Squad sings to Rachel, an irate Santana - who was already angry with her principal because of his double-standard regarding public displays of affection between gay couples - asks if they are Christian. When they say yes, the cheerleader tells them she wants to send a “vocal valentine” to her girlfriend: “And I don’t mean my friend who’s a girl. I mean my girlfriend girlfriend. How’s that sound?”

Joe Hart appears dumfounded. He later explains to the rest of the God Squad that he never met anyone who was gay.

Toward the end of the episode, Santana and Brittany, her girlfriend, are sitting together at a Valentine’s Day party. The God Squad and Joe approach them about Santana’s request. “After thinking and praying about it,” he tells them, “I knew there was only one answer: absolutely. Love is love, man. So here’s for Brittany from Santana.”

God Squad breaks into a mash-up of "Cherish," the oldie, and Madonna’s version: “You don’t know how many times I wish that I had told you. You don’t know how many times I wish that I could hold you.... Cherish is the word I use to remind me of, your love.” Santana and Brittany start the song lovingly holding hands and end the song with a kiss on the dance floor to the applause of their peers.

In the following episode a gay teenager attempts suicide, and Joe invites Kurt, one of the show’s out and proud characters, to pray with the God Squad. Kurt, who questions God, joins them in prayer.

The storyline on "Glee" captures something larger that we are seeing with a new generation of allies (allies are people who support LGBT rights but aren't LGBT themselves). When I wrote "Allies at Work" in 2009, every ally I interviewed also supported LGBT pride. Today, we are encountering a different type of ally: one who supports LGBT people because they believe it’s the Christian thing to do. So they are supportive of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people though they may be conflicted over how they feel about “gay pride.”

Maggie Brennan is an 18 year-old high school senior at Central Bucks West High School in suburban Philadelphia. Brennan, a Christian, explains, “I wasn’t raised so much anti-gay marriage as I was pro-heterosexual marriage.” Just one year ago, Maggie did not have any important, openly gay people in her life, so she hadn’t carefully considered LGBT rights. However, she knew that God was loving. Last summer, a gay counselor at a writing camp had a powerful impact on her. Maggie became accepting of those who are LGBT.

I work with Fortune 500 companies across America on developing strong allies’ programs, and more and more I’m seeing young, Christian professionals join the LGBT groups as allies. However, that often comes with their own conflict. A young woman who recently graduated from college explained to me that she actively worked to make her workplace more LGBT inclusive. Assuming that she was an ally, she was invited to march in the pride parade. She felt uncomfortable and declined. “I want to be an ally, but I am also a Christian,” she explained to me privately. She believes that Jesus doesn’t want people to be gay but that he also wants a workplace where everyone is treated equally.

These are the faces of Christians championing LGBT equality among the younger generation today.

The faces of allies are changing, expanding. This new generation of allies have more diversity in views than many might expect. So what does that mean for American society?

When we reach out to allies, we have traditionally sought the most obvious person or people. However, if we are casting a wider net, we need to include allies more strategically. For example, a ban on same-sex marriage is on the ballot in Minnesota. We should be looking for Christian allies who support marriage equality. We need to remind ourselves that the Christian community is just as diverse as any other.

A similar strategy should be employed in the 33 states where it is legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or both. In fact, we may find many Christian allies who oppose marriage equality but support workplace equality. Many LGBT advocates are working for non-discrimination laws and such advocacy may provide an ideal collaboration with some of our religious conservative allies.

Maggie Brennan, the high school senior, explains that controversy surrounding LGBT equality “is a challenge that man and woman have built for themselves... I think it is a trial of human tolerance. Right now we’re failing a little bit. To overcome that prejudice would truly be God’s work.”

There are still LGBT youth who are mercilessly bullied, are thrown out of their homes, and commit suicide. At the same time, “Glee has captured something changing among the younger generations. It is wise for adults to follow their lead. Of course there will sometimes be limits to our areas of agreement. However, there is more common ground than was found in generations past. Finding that common ground is something that we owe to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. We also owe that to religious conservatives. It is a responsibility demanded of a pluralistic society, and it is Maggie Brennan, a Christian high school senior from suburban Philadelphia, who has reminded us that “we’re failing a little bit.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David M. Hall.

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Grace

    No no no. I believe in traoitidnal marriage. I think we should go back to traoitidnal marriage. Back to the good old days when marriages were arranged by our parents for the purposes of financial gain and having more than one wife was OK too (as long as you could afford it.)Yeah! Up with traoitidnal marriage! (I really want that second wife since my first wife is getting you know  a little chunky )

    August 3, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lincoel

    There are several denominations of Christians that are not only tolerant, but are embracing of LGBT because it IS the Christian thing to do. When my brother or sister is diminished by laws, then so am I. If you are interested, you should visit BelieveOutLoud.com and find churches that openly affirm the rights of LGBT to marry and fully participate in society and in our churches.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Fausto D. Fernandez

    Hey, this is all we need. We don't need you to love us, we just need you straights to leave us alone and not obstruct our lives.

    February 27, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mac58

    That was a given from second one when it was first advertised.

    February 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesiica

      It is really our human right to tell the truth no maettr what color or race you represent. To be treated fairly and humanly that is. What is their to be afraid of if you are standing for your rights and be able to tell the story so that they can learn from it. Inspirational that you only lost your fears ad shed tears to tell the truth that is courageous and admiring.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  5. David Trevaskis

    Thank you for giving voice to the Maggie Brennans of the world–someone who is trying to make sense of a world where love is both celebrated and attacked, depending on who you love. I appreciate her struggle and encourage her to focus on the good love brings to the world.

    There really isn't enough of it, as some of the comments here suggest.

    February 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chris martin

    Yeah TV used to be entertaining, now it's a platform to gather allies. TV sucks now..I won't watch it. Leave it to the LGBT and Lettuce people to ruin TV.

    February 26, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. chris martin

    People who only attack Christians, and do not stop to consider that Islam and Judaism also has similar beliefs...are gay ! I do mean that in the most negative sense. In my country that I fought for, that MY family built...we take pride in our heritage. You can call us anything you like..but when you force multiculturalism on people, and in the same breath want to be treated better than everyone else because you think you are somehow "owed" that? You're gay ! We have larger problems, like liberals who think it's a good idea to support opening our borders, so we expose our backside for terrorists who dont care about your issues.

    February 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Guy

      I'm confused how people wanting equal rights under the law are somehow trying to be treated "better than anyone else". Sorry, but your entire post smacked of idiocy. I appreciate your defense of this great nation, but that doesn't give you a right to decide how other people should be treated.

      And for the record, yes, gay people are "owed" equal protection under the law. It's called Civil Rights.

      February 27, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • taylor

      did anyone notice how nice and respectful the comments were on here before this one. all it takes is for one piece of hate (from either side) for people to start throwing around "gay" (in a negative sense) and "bigot". sad.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • MAtthew

      You sir, are a sad excuse for a human being.how disappointing!

      June 12, 2012 at 5:58 am | Report abuse |
  8. Michael

    I do not need nor want the love of hypocritical individuals that deem me less then they are just because they believe their religion and their beliefs gives them that right to treat me that way. Religion does not dictate nor approve HATE and those who do and excuse it claiming it as LOVE are not only liars but also hypocrites. You can't claim you love someone and call them a sinner in the same sentence.Just as you can not claim you love someone when you claim to love them but in the next part you then claim you HATE the sin. The ones SINNING are those who act as if they speak for their God and I say this as an openly gay atheist.Whilst I do have respect for other peoples beliefs I have no respect for intolerance or hypocrisy period. A true Christian loves they do not judge but the holier then thou individuals think they are above everything and everyone basically they think they are perfect and we are a disease that should be wiped out.Thats PURE hate right there there is no love in that period.Ive had Christians ONLINE tell me that I should kill myself for being gay that I am not wanted here that no one loves me.I know thats bs though hate is what is not wanted in this world yet so many Christians and NON CHRISTIANS alike continue to taint this world with it and spread that DISEASE in this world also.

    February 26, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. J.R.

    Such an awful show. It's be better if you didn't have such lame writers who think this is legitimate high school when it's really just some fantasy. And of course, we have them to thank for furthering the gay stereotype with Kurt instead of having a REAL gay person who is masculine and athletic. Sure, they have the gay athlete who almost killed himself, but where has he been all of this time? Why is he just a secondary character? Poor choice, GLEE, poor choice. Your show is to TV what the spring H.S. musical is to the theater industry.

    February 25, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • gerryfisher

      You're criticizing a show whose basic premise is that situations result in breaking out in show tunes for not being realistic enough? Your expectations may be out of line. And, even though my husband and I don't like Kurt very much, he's realistic. There are effeminate, fashionably dressed gay teens. The breakthrough here is that he's portrayed as "strong" instead of as a "weak victim." And Kowalski and Blaiine and Sebastian are there to show more diversity within "gay men."

      February 26, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. Alec

    I love how the author claims to have a "Ph.D" yet does not specify from what university or program.

    February 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LR

    The good old love the sinner hate the sin adage. While this may be good for the "allies" sadly it leaves Christian brothers and sisters who are gay feeling conflicted and flawed. Tolerance is a good beginning, but acceptance is the goal.

    February 24, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. esperando

    Hey MrMister. Pop culture has always had a certain level of "propoganda and indoctrination." What do you think "Leave it to Beaver" said about the place of women in society at the time? What do you think the almost complete absence of black folks on TV for decades said about their place? You used to agree with the propoganda, but now the culture has moved on and is leaving you behind. I'm sure plenty of people felt the same way about "The Cosby Show" for renegotiating black representation on TV. They probably viewed it as "indoctrination" and "propoganda" for a black family to be the center of the show, and for that black family to enter everyone's living room in prime time. Luckily, we didn't listen to their objections, and our society and culture are better for it. I hope for everyone's sake that we similarly ignore yours.

    February 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob P

    Thank you.
    It's good to have an ally who actually makes intelligent arguments for inclusion. I remember when GLBT people were always treated in films and television as the dark villains or with derision, and it was the only perception imprinted on the general public as a result.

    Now youth have positive role models with which to model their own developing self perceptions. Only good can come from affirming loving relationships.

    Thanks again.

    February 24, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  14. MrMister

    Wow.... I remember when TV shows were about entertainment, not propaganda and indoctrination.

    February 24, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • RossC

      Your memory is clouded then. TV has always been propagating an agenda.

      February 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |