I never thought an episode of Glee could effect me so much. Glee is my guilty pleasure, and I mean guilty pleasure – I usually am in it for the musical numbers and don’t really expect anything else out of it.
But tonight’s Glee left me not only in tears, but shaken. Hurting and full of rage. And I still haven’t quite gotten over it. I know that this is fictional, and I know that none of these characters are real – except that they are, in that people like them truly exist.
I’m talking about Finn and Santana. And what Finn did to Santana.
Look, Santana can be cruel, mean, and out of line, no doubt about it. But in the end, when you actually listen to her insults, she never insults someone with something really personal. She could have brought up his father. She could have brought up Burt running for Congress. She could have brought up how he was strung along by Quinn into thinking he was Beth’s father. Hell, she could have even brought up how he didn’t get that recruitment from Ohio State that he wanted. But she never did, because even though she enjoys insulting Finn, even she knows that there’s a line you don’t cross (I will note that it’s a shame that fat jokes are apparently okay).
On the other hand, Finn didn’t insult her – he revealed a very personal part of Santana that he had no right to bring up. Not only that, but outing someone can have serious consequences. He essentially opened her up for possible harassment, violence, and abuse. And guess what? That’s what happened with the campaign commercial. True, Santana isn’t the direct target of that commercial, but it’s still harassment.
Santana didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that. Coming out is something extremely difficult for a lot of queer people. When I came out to my friends in high school, I may have seemed casual about it, but I was fucking terrified! What if my friends were disgusted? What if they told everyone else? Hell, I haven’t even told my father yet for fear of how he might react. We don’t even get along, but it would still kill me if he disowned me and cut me off from my family. But considering how gung-ho he was about corporal punishment when I was a young child, there’s a real possibility that I should be afraid of telling him.
Much less being outed by someone else! I’ve had friends out me to other friends in the past (and I know they didn’t mean ill). And whenever that happens, I stop breathing and my heart clenches in fear because there are just so many possibilities as to how that other friend might react. I might not outwardly show it and play it cool, but it’s still terrifying because I didn’t get to prepare for the reaction that might come. I didn’t get to gauge the risk myself.
Also, the whole point of coming out is that you get to choose who to come out to. About who matters enough for you to share that personal part about yourself to or if you’re comfortable enough to let the whole world know. About gauging whether or not sharing that part of yourself is worth the risk of alienation, harassment, or even violence.
I’ve seen people argue that this is better for Santana, since she shouldn’t have been in the closet anyway – but even when someone does come out, they aren’t required to come out to everyone. And I’m not just talking about the campaign commercial. I’m talking about the fact that he more or less announced it to the school. If Santana wants to come out, she should be able to choose who she comes out to. And, guess what, it’s unlikely in a place like Lima, Ohio that she’d choose to come out to everyone at school, considering her personality. And that’s her right. I’m not out at my workplace because you can’t really choose who you work with most of the time. You can’t just cease to come in contact with people if they decide they hate you for being queer. And you can’t just change jobs if things get bad, either. It’s the same with school. You might have a few friends you come out to, but not the whole school, because most of the time, you can’t swap out classmates or just move somewhere else when things get tough.
Finn robbed her of her agency in outing her like that. And that’s fucking wrong.
Oh, and did I mention the part where it opens Santana up to harassment, abuse, and violence? I would think that’s in a whole different league than having to deal with Santana’s insults that are only directed at him and not announced to the world.
To make it worse, he acts like it’s no big fucking deal. Hello, did he not see what Kurt went through? He obviously did, considering he refused to stand up for Kurt when he needed him (and he calls Santana a coward?). No one cares? Bullshit. If no one cared about their peer’s sexuality, why did Kurt get bullied? And if it’s something that you honestly think no one cares about, why did you use outing her against her will as an insult and form of revenge? Finn obviously knows that outing her is a hurtful thing to do. He wasn’t just calling her out on her shit. There’s a reason why he practically announced it to everyone instead of talking at a regular volume.
Finn shouldn’t have outed Santana. What he did wasn’t right nor was it justified. It’s not defensible. It wasn’t equal to what Santana did to him. Santana may be a bully at times (what she did to Rory during dodgeball was pretty terrible), but you don’t get to use something as private as sexuality as a weapon against them. Kurt’s already shown that.
And this comes from someone who was bullied for years at school. Those were really tough years, and while I could be a little shit at times, I couldn’t imagine ever forcing someone out of the closet as retaliation. Because it’s the wrong thing to do as an even remotely decent human being.
Oh, and even if Santana doesn’t have to face alienation, abuse, or violence on the show as a result, that doesn’t make Finn’s actions any less horrible. Because Santana will still have to live with the fear and uncertainty that someone may take personal offense in her mere existence and deal with the fact that she didn’t get to choose to own her public queer identity on her own. Realizing you’re queer can make it seem like your life is out of control enough without adding the loss of control of choosing who to share that part of your identity with.
In conclusion – outing someone without their permission or against their will is an awful and wrong thing to do, no matter how terrible that person might be to you. It comes with some very real and terrifying consequences for the outed. Also, coming out is a very personal journey and decision for queer people that allows them control over their sometimes seemingly out-of-control lives, so please respect that.