Monday, August 14, 2006

A Lesson from "Play School"

Flicking through the TV channels recently, I came across good ol' Play School – an educational show for children that’s been on Australian television since 1966.

Oddly enough, there’s never any actual children on the show, just a regular cast of toys (including Humpty, Jemima, Big Ted, Little Ted, Diddle, and Owl) and two adult hosts.

Over the years, some of Australia’s best know actors have hosted Play School – including Noni Hazelhurst, Lorraine Bayly, John Waters, and Benita Collins. My mum always thought that being a host on the show would have been a great job.

I watched Play School as a kid growing up in Australia. I certainly don’t remember, however, hosts like Teo. Or perhaps more accurately, I don’t remember consciously thinking the types of thoughts I did while watching, as an adult, the antics of this particular Play School host of today.

In the brief segment of Play School I recently came across, handsome Teo was clamouring over large pillows, singing a song about being a polar bear. I must admit fleetingly thinking: now here’s a guy who would be a lot of fun in the sack.

Then I got to thinking about the genesis of such sexual feelings, and soon realized that even though Teo wasn’t around when I was watching Play School, I do remember observing, as a child, certain males and certain images of males that triggered something within me – a feeling that I soon realized set me apart from the majority of other boys my age. In retrospect, I can recognize such feelings as the first stirrings of my sexual – my homosexual – awakening.

I think most people – gay or straight – can recall similar childhood experiences of this type of awakening. Of course, the difference with gay people is that at an early age we soon recognize the need for various self-protective strategies in a society that demands conformity to a heterosexual ideal. In other words, we build and then go into a “closet.” The journey out of this fear-based place of refuge can be a long and painful process.

One of my earliest memories of male intrigue/attraction was focused on the following image from the cover of a 1970 compilation album of pop songs, entitled 20 Dynamic Hits.

This particular man was never identified on the album cover and, as I grew older, I could never match for certain his image with the names of the various male artists listed on the back of the album. As a child, I always associated this mystery man’s face with the lead male vocalist in the group Tee Set. Their hit song, “Ma Belle Amie,” opens the album.

Of course, thanks to the internet and, in particular, Google, I’ve recently identified my Mystery Man. He’s none other than American singer
Mark Lindsay. His song “Arizona” is featured on Side B of the album.

Among other things, this trip down memory lane reinforces my absolute disdain for those who insist that the homosexual orientation is somehow the result of environmental forces, and not an innate, God-giving gift to a minority of the human family.

I grew up with two brothers – both of whom, like me, observed the same things on TV, at the movies, and on album covers. And guess what? Neither of them is gay.

All of this reminds me of the recent controversy surrounding gay actor Chad Allen and the movie
End of the Spear.

As the May–June 2006 issue of
The Gay & Lesbian Review notes, “End of the Spear was being hailed by evangelical Christians as the next big movie to get their message out to the flocks. The drama about the 1956 murder of five American missionaries in Ecuador was poised for a zealous opening – until it was discovered that one of its actors, Chad Allen, was openly gay.

“All at once, what had been a must-see Christian movie was the target of a boycott (that evangelical weapon of last resort). The reaction seemed overblown even by fundy standards – could the private life of one actor really matter that much? – leading [gay commentator] Dan Savage to quip in The New York Times that these are the same people who think they can convert your gay son to heterosexuality, yet they don’t think Chad Allen can pull off acting straight for two hours in a movie. Once again, Savage is onto something.

“The religious Right is always saying that being gay is a choice, a lifestyle, perhaps just a phase you’re going through. But when it comes to discriminating against GLBT people, suddenly being gay becomes a fixed condition, a lifelong stigma, a basis for permanent exclusion. Logically, they should be happy that Allen got to play straight: who knows, it just might have stuck.”

Then again, it might not; especially if he's ever casually changing channels and catches Teo doing his polar bear routine.

Recommended Off-site Link:
Through the Window: Play School Turns 40 - Noni Hazlehurst and Rhys Muldoon (
The Age, July 13, 2006).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Soul Deep
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth

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