The Golden Girls has always been my favorite TV show, and for the longest time, I wanted to be a Blanche. Pretty and desirable and self-confident. But I always felt like a Dorothy. The smart, witty, but homely one. And when I came out at 17, I was chubby and had hair sprayed bangs and was totally awkward in my own body, which was very Dorothy. I grew up in a small, conservative town in Massachusetts, and the only other gay person I knew around my age was a boy from the neighboring town, Noah Grant – who was as Blanche. He looked like an extra on Queer as Folk, which is what I thought a gay man was supposed to look like – he was thin, he had frosted tips, he wore distressed Abercrombie jeans that made him looked like he’d been attacked by a mountain lion, and most importantly – he seemed comfortable with who he was and how he looked. I had only met him once at a drama club fundraiser car wash, to which he showed up in his married bio teacher’s Chrysler Neon (don’t ask, because I don’t know). And I wasn’t attracted to Noah Grant, but I wanted to have a friend who knew what I was going through – and maybe see Bridget Jones’s Diary with – so a mutual acquaintance gave me his screen name, which I’m pretty sure was NoahsLark69. And I was so nervous, but I worked up the courage and messaged him with “Hi! I’m Matt. We met at the car wash, I had a sponge!” And he apparently thought this meant something more, because he typed: “I remember, but sorry – you’re unfuckable”. And then he blocked me. And I was crushed. I’d already felt so shaky in my new identity, and how I looked and felt about myself, and now this other gay person seemed to be saying “I don’t even want to talk to you because of your appearance”. And I figured he must be right, and since I was gay, I couldn’t be fat, too. Because in my head, at that time, those were both strikes against me. And I knew, despite what my mom had read online, you couldn’t change being gay. So, I went on a diet. I jogged, and I counted calories; I started smoking cigarettes, and I lost 30 lbs. And I felt manic the whole time, just wide-eyed and crazy, like “I WILL DO THIS!”. And I got some pomade and a pooka shell necklace, and people started to notice me. And a few other boys from school started to trickle out of the closet, so I went on a few dates (which I didn’t really enjoy, and frankly would have rather been at home with a book, like Dorothy). And then one day out of the blue, I got an IM from Noah Grant, who cut right to the chase with “So I hear you’re fuckable now”. And I was disgusted, but I was also like “HA! I did it! POWER!” And he wanted to hook up, but I was like, “the only clap I’m interested in is applause, so no”. But that day solidified my belief that you’re only going to get attention if you stay “fuckable”. That was the rule of attraction. Well, years went by and I forgot about Noah Grant. And then last year, I read a tweet by the wonderful gay comedian, Guy Branum, on the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shephard’s death. He said that although it was great that people remember Matthew Shephard, that he wasn’t the only person who died at the hands of homophobic brutality. There was another man, Billy Jack Gaither, who’d also been murdered around the same time for being gay. I had never even heard of Billy Jack Gaither. Branum theorized that Billy Jack’s story didn’t make national news because he was not necessarily considered beautiful or well-off or young. And suddenly, Noah Grant and his comments came flooding back and crashing in on me. I had believed Noah this entire time. The power I thought I had, had always been his. And now reading about Billy Jack Gaither, and thinking about Noah’s comments, it seemed like not only does your fuckability matter in life, but apparently in death, too. Like, we don’t even get to hear your story because you don’t look like someone off the CW. And that made me furious at society; at Noah Grant; at myself – for feeding into it for so long.
I remember once in high school, my brother watched part of a Golden Girls episode with me, and asked, “Why does Blanche go on about her looks? She’s pretty, but she’s not prettier than the others”. And he was right. It was her attitude that dictated her appeal. She felt desirable inside, so she appeared desirable to others. I had the power in deciding if I wanted to be a Blanche or not. So now I’d like to say this, loud and clear, as a reminder to all of us: someone is not more important because they have abs or good hair or high cheekbones. They’re not better because they’re attractive. And a person doesn’t deserve to suffer less because they’re pretty or suffer more because they’re not. We are all beautiful; we are all fuckable. And we each have to find a way to believe that for ourselves, not because a magazine or Instagram or someone else, like Noah Grant, or Blanche, says so. Because remember – Blanche made Dorothy feel less than, but Dorothy was the queen of quips, she was a class act, and in The Golden Girls series finale, it was Dorothy who met and married a tall, sweet, handsome man that made her feel beautiful and heard no matter what. So you know what? I guess I am a Dorothy. And proud of it.