The title of this post is taken from the old expression “being gay is harder than being black. You don’t have to tell your mother you’re black.” I’m sure there are arguments on both sides, but it’s still clear that telling your parents you’re gay is a miserable moment for a lot of people. That was made very clear on this week’s episode of Project Runway. And the moment was heart-rending.
Project Runway is a favorite show of mine. This season, the finalists were cut down to four, three men (all gay) and one woman. The real killer of the show, however, is that, while all four get to design a collection for New York Fashion Week, only three actually get to show it. One of the four is eliminated in the semifinal.
One the the four finalists was Michael Costello, a young man who had taken a lot of abuse from the other contestants during the season for his lack of patterning skills but had still managed to prevail in the judge’s eyes. He gradually won over the other contestants with his warmth and sincerity and by this semi-final episode was well accepted. Michael has a young son we saw during the season, and a couple times he made references to a woman as “i would date her” so it wasn’t completely obvious if Michael was gay or straight — until the semi-final episode when Tim Gunn goes to visit the contestants and checks out their progress. In that show, the audience meets Michael’s life partner who explains that Michael’s parents have only become supportive of him since he got on the show. Prior to that they kept insisting that he leave his partner, give up fashion designing, come home to their (Italian Catholic) household, get a job and marry a woman (which he had done in the past, producing his son).
Sadly, Michael was the contestant eliminated in the semi-final (Personally, i thought it should be Gretchen but that’s not what happened). The man was devastated. He broke down in tears. Why? Because he didn’t get to show his collection? No. Because now his parents would say “I told you so” and insist that he come home. Even though he had come in fourth among thousands of applicants, they would still not consider him a winner.
I know how hard it must be for parents to give up their ideas of “how it’s supposed to be”, especially when the way it is seems to defy strongly held religious beliefs. But if God is Love, then surely these moments have a clear message. In light of The Trevor Project and all the young people who suffer because of other people’s expectations, parents and family have a special responsibility to not make their lives harder. “It gets better” should be a message all parents hold dear. And i hope Michael Costello knows that their are millions of people around the world who are very proud of him.