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'General Hospital' Writer on Its New Gay Character: a Follow-Up

On Friday I wrote this:

SamuelGeneral Hospital debuted a new character this week, a gay nurse played by actor Marc Anthony Samuel. To establish his character as gay, his first scenes involved him pulling out a tube of lipstick and offering to touch up a heterosexual woman. Oy.

In fairness to Ron Carlivati, who created the character, I'm reposting a note he left in the comments of the post, which has sparked a very robust back-and-forth discussion.

To Andy Towle and the readers of this blog: My name is Ron Carlivati and I am the Head Writer of General Hospital. I am also an openly gay man. I created the character of Felix Dubois, the "lipstick-wielding gay male nurse," and I am frankly appalled by the intolerance and internalized homophobia expressed in this post and in the majority of its comments. During my career, I have brought no fewer than six gay characters to daytime television: male, female, Black, White, Hispanic...all shapes and sizes. I have written coming out stories, gay bashing stories, gay marriage stories, gay parenting stories and gay love stories. I wrote the first love scene between two gay men that ever aired on daytime TV. I won a GLADD award for these stories. What exactly is it about this character that is causing such righteous indignation? The fact that he carries a tube of lipstick in his scrubs? SPOILER ALERT: Felix sells cosmetics to put himself through nursing school. This will be revealed on Monday's show. Not because I think gay men love lipstick, and certainly not to "establish" himself as gay. But even if that were the reason, so what? Does this make him too queeny? Not straight-acting enough? Is that the only type of gay character allowed on TV now? As far as I'm concerned, to be offended by this character is what is offensive. And just FYI, the majority of women (our core audience) I have heard from thus far about Felix have expressed to me how much they like him. The only people who seem to have a problem with him are certain gay men who are apparently afraid of a gay character who might be portrayed as a little bit effeminate. Well, I say shame on you, and shame on Andy Towle, too. Oy, indeed.

Mr. Carlivati also includes a few follow-up responses as the comment thread develops, which you can read there.

There's no question in my mind that Mr. Carlivati should be allowed the chance to develop his character more fully before judgment is passed and I regret if my commentary suggested that it should. My expression of "oy" over what I perceived to be a stereotype may have been hasty, but was also informed by having written this site for 9 years and seeing more than a few damaging caricatures in television and movies along the way.

I've also reported very positively on other soap characters written by Mr. Carlivati. I'm looking forward to seeing how his Felix Dubois character develops and thank him for his remarks and reaction.

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  1. I think I am more offended that Towleroad doesn't get a more pleasant template for its blog in desktop view (iOS view is hideous too btw). I have fine vision but it's hard to read the content and comments at times, usually have to zoom. Hopefully 2013 brings a new fresh look.

    Posted by: Stephen | Dec 9, 2012 6:36:10 PM

  2. Kyle, any reason that the "i hate femme" gays can never, ever put a face to their comments?

    and if you think gender-nonconformists "have it easier" ?

    hilarious - how's this: you self-styled "masculine" gay guys step up to be counted.

    i know so many masculine gay men. none, however, ever denigrate "effeminate" gay men, or complain about "gay stereotypes."

    why? because they're masculine, confident, empowered and their balls have dropped. a masculine man stands in solidarity with his perceived-effeminate brothers. only a cowardly insecure homosexual attempts to distance himself from them.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 6:36:24 PM

  3. curious, too - why do the Closeted Anonymous Commenters seem to be the ones rejecting diversity and duality?

    they seem to be the ones who "reject all things that are considered stereotypical...." but why?

    you can't drive an off-roader AND enjoy theatre? you can't be into fashion AND sports?

    of course, this is how trolls think. they confuse "hating effeminacy" with being "masculine" , just like anti-gay conservative males confuse "hating gays" with "being straight"

    and sooner or later both get busted with their ankles in the air shrieking "I"M A SIZE QUEEEN!"


    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 6:49:34 PM

  4. @LittleKiwi, I never said effeminate gay men are generally privileged. I said they're privileged when it comes to the effect of gendered stereotypes, while masculine gay men bear the brunt of this disadvantage. That is, when an ignorant straight person (and more than a few ignorant effeminate gay men) says, "No gay men are masculine", this has an effect on masculine gay men that it doesn't have on effeminate gay men.

    Posted by: Kyle | Dec 9, 2012 7:06:56 PM

  5. I think I understand what you are saying about the difference between "straight acting" and masculine, Kiwi. And thank you for the response. I agree. I don't think the anti-effeminate responses are very helpful at all.

    I wonder about some things though. For instance, I was watching a wonderful interview where Viola Davis spoke about how she initially struggled with whether or not to take on the role of a maid in The Help. She initially imagined the negative reaction she would receive from the black community in general.

    Sometimes, if a minority group feels that they are being represented in one way over and over again, it can lead to discontent, especially if the members of that minority group do not identify with the way they are being represented. I'm wondering if some of the "anti-effeminate" responses her are a manifestation of that discontent, and not just a manifestation of self-loathing closet cases.

    As a "double minority", I know it can be difficult when you feel like you don't have any control over how you are being represented. I suppose the solution is to make our own programs that represent us the way we would like- although getting those programs to the majority audience seems like the hard part. Perhaps the solution is just to ignore representations of yourself that you don't identify with, but it can be hard to do when they are persistent. Then you have to go out and interact with the majority, who then have expectations.

    But thank you again for responding Little Kiwi. I think this is an interesting, though heated, discussion.

    Posted by: Matthew | Dec 9, 2012 7:37:49 PM

  6. "Plebe" indeed.

    Posted by: Fu'ad | Dec 9, 2012 7:49:05 PM

  7. I love LITTLEKIWI

    You need more praise, always on point!

    Posted by: Devonasa | Dec 9, 2012 8:03:18 PM

  8. Gay stereotypes are the only stereotypes
    TV allows. Look at Ross on The Tonight Show, he's stricktly there for straight people to laugh at him just for what he is. You couldn't do that with any other minority group. Those Amos and Andy days
    are over for all other minorities but not for gay people.

    Posted by: Sean | Dec 9, 2012 8:17:50 PM

  9. Oh well,folks need lipstick.

    Posted by: greenfuzz | Dec 9, 2012 8:21:16 PM

  10. for those who need it spelled out:
    it is the use of the term "straight-acting" that perpetuates an idea that gay men cannot be "masculine"

    why? because you're judging masculinity through some bogus societal perception of heterosexuality.

    if you want people to think that Gay Men Can Be Masculine, you need to stop using the phrase "straight-acting". all that phrase does is drive home some meaningless drivel about "gay isn't masculine. if you're masculine you're kinda straight"

    no. you're not.

    one can be visibly, identifiably, and *obviously* gay and still utterly fit what current society deems to be "masculine"

    and if those of you out there and on here want more people to know that "gay men are also masculine" you can utterly play a part in making that happen: adopt some sort of visual iconography onto your oh-so-masculine self that lets people know, even complete strangers, that you're also GAY.

    straight people see gay people all the time, every day, and may not always know it. if you want those strangers (as it appears posters on here do...) to know that gay men are also masculine, you'd do well to take my advice. find a way to make it pretty darn clear that your brilliantly masculine self is also gay.

    *elegant curtsy*

    that would do a heck of a lot more good than coming online to vent fury and wish that openly gay "effeminate males" would disappear. or something.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 9:22:02 PM

  11. "That is, when an ignorant straight person (and more than a few ignorant effeminate gay men) says, "No gay men are masculine", this has an effect on masculine gay men that it doesn't have on effeminate gay men."

    Kyle, articulate that further. What specific effect does it have on "masculine" gay men? What "brunt" are they bearing?

    I've never once heard "an effeminate gay person" say "no gay men are masculine" - mainly effeminate gay men tend to be, you know, OUT, and being OUT means you're actually interacting with tonnes of gay men on a regular basis.
    It's only ever the closeted types who hold on to some imaginary concept of "the gay scene" who make-up that straw-man argument and expect it to be taken seriously.

    But nice try!

    I'm not sure which "masculine gay men" you're talking about. I've never met a confident masculine gay man who has the sort of worries you're talking about. They left that nonsense behind when they came out.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 9:26:36 PM

  12. Standing up and applauding Rob Carlivati! The internalized homophobia within our community is disgusting. Hey guys, guess what? Gay men come in all shapes, sizes, demeanors, styles, colors and a plethora of other traits that we should celebrate instead of trying to pick apart.

    You should all be ashamed but then again this is the internet and people seem to think they can do and say whatever they feel like with no consequences.

    Shameful and thank you Mr. Carlivati for all you've done for our community.

    Posted by: Bobby | Dec 9, 2012 9:34:56 PM

  13. Sorry, that was supposed to be RON Carlivati.

    Posted by: Bobby | Dec 9, 2012 9:37:20 PM


    Posted by: KMF | Dec 9, 2012 9:46:58 PM

  15. "Are effeminate gay characters "over represented" or are many non-effeminate gay characters *accurately* represented by their refusal to identify as "gay" in the programs?"

    Kiwi has raised a very intereting question here.

    Personally, I think that a lot of the "masculine vs. feminine gays conflict" has to do with whether your goal is to advance gay acceptance generally or validate each member of the gay community individually. If the goal of portraying gays in entertainment is the first (gaining acceptance) then making gay men look more or less like straight men is best. It could be argued that when society views gays as "just like everyone else" THIS is when getting them to accept more feminine men will be easier. Then again, who wants to tell someone that he should go to the end of the line when waiting for justice? It's a real dilemma.

    Posted by: Mary | Dec 9, 2012 10:00:42 PM

  16. This is just sloppy writing and doesn't make logical sense. How many lipstick tubes does Nurse Felix carry around that he would have just the right shade for her? If he thinks that one color is right for every woman he is not going to sell any makeup.

    Can we just bring back gay male nurse Mo-Mo from Nurse Jackie and actually give him something to do?

    Posted by: Ruddigore | Dec 9, 2012 10:35:56 PM

  17. I don't really get the flak.

    Soap operas are filled with ludicrous caricatures of human beings. Yes, this character is silly and stereotypical, but that's been true of almost every major female character in soap operas for the past sixty years or so.

    And picking on the content of soap operas is sort of like picking on a mildly racist 90-year old great-uncle. Is there really that much point? Both are going to be on their way out, soon enough.

    Posted by: Nat | Dec 9, 2012 10:36:05 PM

  18. The funniest comments here are the ones that say that it is "homophobic" to object to gay stereotyping. These poor deluded souls have so absorbed the stereotype that to them being effeminate is the same thing as being gay and objecting to portrayals of the former is homophobia. I can't think of a better illustration of the damaging impact of stereotypes. To those commenters, while some gay men are effeminate, being gay and being effeminate are 2 different phenomena. You might disagree about whether Carlivati's writing is good or bad, but it isn't homophobia to object to a gay stereotype.

    Posted by: Ben | Dec 9, 2012 11:21:20 PM

  19. Ben, you're full of s**t. :-)

    Thanks for sharing.

    Nobody here, in any way, stated a belief that being effeminate is the same as being gay.

    Trolls and their strawmen. The only men that they can ever get.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 11:30:23 PM

  20. I think the character is offensive. I am really surprised that a gay writer would agree to be a part of this.

    Effeminate gay men do exist, and I have no problem with that. But why do writers like Mr. Carlivati only show gay men as effeminate? It is interesting that Mr. Carlivati did not think to assign lipstick duty to a straight character. That does seem to me to be discriminatory stereotyping. It is very disturbing that network TV would pay a gay writer to produce discriminatory material.

    Posted by: Timothy | Dec 9, 2012 11:30:41 PM

  21. How is it, specifically, "discriminatory", Timothy?

    This "type" of gay man exists. How is it "discriminatory" to show that?

    Attempt to use specifics. It'll be fun to watch you fail.

    "But why do writers like Mr. Carlivati only show gay men as effeminate?"
    Specifics, please: which specific writers and which specific characters?

    you can't name any "non-effeminate" characters in entertainment?

    do you consider yourself "masculine"? if so, based on what criteria?


    and what specifically makes this "discriminatory"?

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 11:38:04 PM

  22. Would somebody *please* pass the popcorn already?!

    Posted by: peterparker | Dec 9, 2012 11:39:41 PM

  23. no butter on mine. i'm an effeminate stereotypical gay and i'm watching my figure.

    just kidding. i'm stoned and eat whatever i want because i'm a stereotypical Canadian.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 11:41:41 PM

  24. It was such a good article and so much related to our directory.
    werbegschenke fur Geschaftspart

    Posted by: werbegschenke fur Geschaftspart | Dec 9, 2012 11:46:32 PM

  25. i think what we're seeing from the insecure boys who are freaking out is sort of akin to getting one rude comment said to you in a social situation.

    you had a great night. everything went well. you looked awesome. everyone complimented you. except for one person who made one rude remark. and because of that one rude remark you freaked out and your mood changed and you obsessed over that one rude remark and forgot all the other good stuff that went down.

    that's what this seems like. a character that represents (let's be honest) the Type of Gay Man that the complainers in here were conditioned to "not be like" is on a show. And it scares you. And so you scream "why are we always being shown as effeminate/!?!" when you, and we, are NOT.

    it's just that that's the "type" that reminds you of the insults and mockery dished out by the straight bigots in your life whom you've not yet stood up to. so it takes up a lot of room in your mind.

    it's not that "most" portrayals are effeminate. because they're not. it's that that's the one portrayal you still have an insecure knee-jerk aversion to.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 11:47:40 PM

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