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What does “Family Friendly” Mean?

March 17, 2010

I recently linked to a story and commentary on an effort in Florida to withhold a tax credit for companies filming TV and movies in Florida if they featured gay characters.  Advocates argued that the tax credits should only benefit shows and films that are “family friendly.”

It was also reported that Johnny Weir, the three time US National Champion and two time Olympian figure skater, was not invited to join the “Stars on Ice” tour because he is not “family friendly” enough.  Weir’s sexuality has never been confirmed, and he believes it has nothing to do with his sport.  Regardless of whether or not he is gay, he is generally perceived that way, and regardless of whether the Stars on Ice tour didn’t invite him based on that perception (as tour executives claim), the issue I’m taking up is the recurring use of the expression “not family friendly” to describe gay people.

These sorts of innocuous phrases, with such vicious and divisive implications, are dangerous and need to be called out and addressed head-on.  The irony is that one of the big fight right now that the gay community is undertaking is an effort to have their families be legally recognized as such in the eyes of the law.  With one breath opponents are saying we’re not “family friendly”, and with the next they’re railing against our efforts to ensure we are legally recognized as families.

This is just another effort to try to maintain the “us vs. them” way of thinking about LGBT people.  The implied message here is that being gay and being focused on family are mutually exclusive.  This is nothing short of an effort to keep gay men and women out of the mainstream.  As the GLAAD blog points out:

To say that Weir is “not family friendly” would be a clear jab at his perceived sexual orientation. Weir is extremely involved with his family. He is putting his younger brother through college, and supports the family financially because his father’s disability prohibits him from working. Weir’s dedication to his family can be clearly documented in the Sundance series, Be Good Johnny Weir, which follows him and his family and friends through his life and career as a championship skater.

On a related topic, there is more on the media’s treatment of Johnny Weir below the jump.

In two exchanges from a Canadian sports channel:

“We should make him (Weir) pass a gender test at this point,” Goldberg said and Mailhot then jokingly suggested Weir should compete in the women’s competition.

And then

“This may not be politically correct,” Mailhot said during the segment, in which Weir, known for his extravagant performances and fashion flair, was shown sporting a semi-sheer, pink-and-black costume he designed himself. “But do you think he lost points due to his costume and his body language?”

Goldberg replied that Weir’s feminine style may reflect badly on other male figure skaters. “They’ll think all the boys who skate will end up like him,” he said. “It sets a bad example.”

Johnny Weir responding to homophobic comments made my commentators.

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