The latest issue of "Glee," titled "Never Been Kissed," was a stunner. Here's why:
1). In light of the recent suicides of at least half a dozen gay or questioning youth in the U.S., as a result of being bullied at school, this episode was timely in showing just how unrelenting and even violent bullying can be. What I love is how "Glee" moved bullying from something mildly humorous--for example, when, in season one, Kurt requested a few moments to remove his designer coat before his bullies tossed him into a garbage dumpster (don't get me started on the message being gay is no better than being common trash)--to a more realistic depiction of what really goes on in public schools. Who among us can't relate to the mental and physical torment Kurt was subjected to in this episode? I found myself getting more and more furious every time he was slammed into lockers.
2). Is the character of Shannon Bieste supposed to be transgendered? (Maybe I'm just slow, and everyone else has already figured this out.) Regardless of what sex Dot-Marie Jones, the actress who capably plays this part, is, the depiction of Bieste is all about opening viewers's eyes to the challenges transgendered people face in a world that likes--relies on?--its labels of human beings falling under either the male or female umbrella in a way that feels comfortable to us. Bieste makes me uncomfortable, no doubt about that, but seeing her helps me to tear down my preconceived notions of what femininity is. In the same way I'd always hoped people would tear down their notions of what masculinity is when they interacted with me.
3). When I saw the Dalton Academy, an all-boys school, I got a glimpse of what school could really look like for young people, if, as the authorities at Dalton had done, a zero tolerance policy for bullying was adopted. Imagine...a school where people's differences make no difference; where gay and straight students get along because sexual orientation is a non-issue; where students are able to focus on academic excellence and not living in fear. Watching this, I wondered how different my grade school experience would have been had I attended a place like Dalton; how differently I would have felt about myself both in school and after I graduated from it. Clearly, Dalton is a visionary ideal, but should we expect anything less from our own schools?
4). After the big, burly football jock Karofsky kissed Kurt--and I mean KISSED him--I was so stunned, I had to rewind the DVR and take another look, and then another, just to be sure I hadn't imagined it. Wow! I began to think about the jocks who tormented me in school thirty-plus years ago, how I suspected they might have been gay too, because they seemed so intent on beating up on me, even though I couldn't have been less of a threat to them. Unless, of course, every time they saw me, they were reminded of something they couldn't accept in themselves. Thankfully, none of them ever trapped me and laid one on me. I would have felt exactly as Kurt did: shocked, repulsed, and violated. I would have derived no degree of comfort to know they were gay just like me, that's for sure.