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Friends of Dorothy: Was 'The Golden Girls' Really As Queer-Friendly As Its Reputation Suggests?

By Jose Gallegos | /Bent July 10, 2014 at 10:29AM

“The Golden Girls” is a seminal queer classic, one that flawlessly incorporated aging women into NBC’s primetime lineup. Since its initial airing, the show has developed quite an immense following from viewers (especially gay men) who enjoy the antics and sexual escapades of Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia. But what I have noticed about some of the more prominent and vocal fans is that they tend to glaze over the show’s problematic depictions of LGBTQ characters, hailing these depictions as brave and flawless.
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THE TRANSGENDER PUNCHLINE

Gil Kessler (John Schnuck) – Appeared in “Strange Bedfellows” S03 E07

The girls endorse Gil Kessler, a wimpy politician running for City Councilman. When Blanche takes a folder to his house, she is unknowingly photographed by the paparazzi (who think she is Gil’s mistress). In spite of Blanche’s attempts to clear her name, Blanche’s roommates and the entire Miami press believe she is a home wrecker. 

Sophia and Gil drop a few hints here and there about the climactic reveal: Sophia says that there is something that she doesn’t like about him; Gil says that he always felt that inside him was “a great man trying to get out.” Gil’s transgender identity (he was born Anna Maria Bonaduce and lived as a stenographer and housewife) is used for shock value rather than a nuanced exploration of transgender identity. Even Dorothy shirks off Rose’s constant questioning about Gil’s transgender operation, shrilly responding that his “parts” were made out of “silly putty” (this response is more out of annoyance with Rose than cultural ignorance). The only moment of earnestness comes from Sophia, who says that she had a hunch he was Italian (as opposed to being surprised about Gil identifying as a transgender male).

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