The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled on Friday, June 26, that same sex marriage is a constitutional right. For many, this is a time of celebration. For others, it is intimidating and uncertain. For me, this is a time of peace. The gay rights movement in America has had its ups and downs, but this latest ruling from SCOTUS is a reminder that equality is slowly but surely coming to all Americans. There is a sense of tranquility that comes with that.
Over on Netflix, subscribers can stream all episodes of “Queer as Folk.” The show is about a group of friends (all gay men) who come across the hardships and pleasures of being homosexuals in America in the early 2000s. The show ran from 2000-2005, and much has changed since that time period. In a binge watch of the first season (2000-2001), the characters take the audience on a journey through an America that was still having trouble accepting even the existence of homosexuals, let alone giving them equal rights.
There is Brian, the self-absorbed, promiscuous, stereotypical top, who scores on an almost nightly basis. However, when he produces a son via IVF, issues begin to arise. He shares custody with the lesbian woman, Lindsay, who carried his child. Lindsay co-parents with her lover Melanie, but Melanie doesn’t have any parental rights over the baby. Even though she is more of a parent to the baby than Brian is, Melanie cannot even see the baby when he is in the hospital. Only family members can be with a hospitalized baby, and she is not a family member under the law. She cannot marry Lindsay or obtain parental rights (the law of the land states that a child can only have two parents). Eventually, Brian gives up his rights so Melanie can adopt the baby, but it’s not a choice he wanted to have to make.
Another character, Justin, is a gay teenager who struggles through high school as a homosexual. After Justin engages in a consensual sex act at school with a homophobic jock named Chris, Chris becomes increasingly aggressive towards Justin. Fearful that Justin will reveal they had engaged in a homosexual act together, Chris continually bullies him at school in order to intimidate him into silence. The adults do nothing to prevent it, and this eventually leads to devastating consequences.
In general, while watching the first season, what becomes apparent is that gay rights are also heterosexual rights. If a man who identifies as heterosexual is revealed to have engaged in a homosexual act, his reputation is at very serious stake. But does it really matter if a guy wanted to experiment sexually with another guy? Does it even mean that he’s gay? Shouldn’t he be protected from harassment just as much as anyone else? Why should he feel the need to bully another boy so no one finds out that his sexuality is more fluid than expected?
And what about alternative families? That’s not strictly a homosexual issue. I’m reminded of Jason Patric suing his ex-girlfriend for the right to parent his son. Patric and his ex were an unmarried couple (by choice) and produced a child through IVF. However, from a legal perspective, he was only considered the sperm donor because they were unmarried. His ex cut him out of his son’s life after they broke up. Had they been married, he would have automatically received parental rights.
The truth is that gay rights are also heterosexual rights. When gay people have the right to have homosexual relations without stigma, then that means a heterosexual who engages in a homosexual act will not be stigmatized. If homosexuals have the right to alternative families, then heterosexuals also have that same right. Gay rights establishes equality for people of all sexual orientations.
We are all queer as folk, and equal rights are slowly coming to us all. Much has changed since the year 2000, when “Queer as Folk” first aired on Showtime. In watching reruns of the show and reading about the current celebrations surrounding the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage, there is a sense of peace. In “Queer as Folk,” the characters are trying their hardest to live fulfilling lives while operating under limited rights. But they press on and still hope for change. On Friday, this country saw a huge change. Homosexuals have gained what they knew would eventually be theirs: the right to form families under the protection of the law. There is now peace.