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“Love in Gravity” Adds Nuance to the Coming-Out Trope

Byeveryviralnews_j7euq5

Oct 26, 2023

“Love in Gravity,” a scripted podcast presented by ViiV Healthcare, is a necessary listen. The pod aims to normalize HIV prevention in gay, bi, and trans Latine communities through stories of love, loss, and self-discovery. According to the National Institutes of Health, Latines get new HIV diagnoses three times more often than white, non-Hispanic people — further proof that content like “Love in Gravity” is needed.

The first season opens with a trio of men telling the story of Andrés Soto, voiced by Harvey Guillén, and his journey to discover what love, marriage, and family mean and look like for him. From there, each episode of the first season focuses on a different set of characters and their trials and tribulations.

There’s high schooler Julian Navarette, who’s trying to figure out if he should come out to his grandfather; there’s journalist Michael Pizarro, who goes back to Costa Rica to rediscover who his recently deceased father really was. Along the way, it’s a who’s who of Latine talent, including actor Wilson Cruz, who’s been holding it down for gay Latinos since “My So-Called Life”; “Saved by the Bell” breakout star Alycia Pascual-Peña; and writer John Paul Brammer of the viral ¡Hola Papi! column.

The second season, which dropped Oct. 5, follows one set of characters throughout its seven episodes — out bi pop star Jules (voiced by Marcel Ruiz of “One Day at a Time”), closeted gay football player Teo (Froy Gutierrez of “Cruel Summer”), and a supporting cast that includes the voices of Jessica Marie Garcia, Gina Torres, Cecilia Suárez, Lux Pascal, and Lisa Vidal.

While the first season shows many facets of the gay, bi, and trans-Latine community — self-loving and self-loathing, young and old, HIV positive and negative — the second season of “Love in Gravity” gets more into the nuance. It really delves into the motivations, quirks, and love story of its central pair.

Jules and Teo deserve center stage. So often, queer characters and Latine characters are stuck in the best-friend role instead of being able to be protagonists in their own stories. According to the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, only 21 of the top 900 films between 2014 and 2022 featured an LGBTQ lead or colead, meaning that only 2.3 percent of top films had a queer lead over the last nine years. Likewise, non-white people made up 19.9 percent of the leads in top films released between 2007 and 2022, despite making up 40 percent of the population. And when you combine race/ethnicity with sexuality? Well, let’s just say that exceptions like “Love, Victor” and “Love in Gravity” are extremely rare.

“Love in Gravity” seems to do the impossible in advancing the well-trodden narrative around coming out. Too often, the rare LGBTQ+ story we see in popular media focuses on coming out, making it seem like the only arc a queer character can experience. While coming out is one of the central tensions of “Love in Gravity,” the characters’ statuses as closeted or not don’t define them. The politics around who gets to be out and who doesn’t is outside them. It’s a roadblock to their happiness, not a defining trait.

Make no mistake, coming out has always been political. Back in the 1990s, President Bill Clinton instituted the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military, meaning you could be gay as long as no one knew. It effectively enshrined the closet into federal policy. That is thankfully gone, but even in today’s age of Obergefell v. Hodges nationalizing the right to same-sex marriage, we don’t have a strong narrative of respecting someone’s right to come out on their own terms.

In the 2000s, gossip bloggers like Perez Hilton made names for themselves by outing celebrities without their consent. He’s since apologized, but the basic narrative that it’s always better to be out (whether on your own terms or not) continues. Take Netflix’s recent “Red, White & Royal Blue.” In the film, young lovers Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) and First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez) are outed by a conniving journalist. The ensuing news story separates Henry from Alex, who gives an impassioned speech about how being outed was a violation. But that same process also allows them to end up (spoiler coming) happily together. It may not have been how they wished it would go, but it turned out better in the end.

That happily-ever-after-regardless script is the one we’ve been operating under. “Love in Gravity,” though, bucks that norm. There’s a moment when Teo is in danger of being outed and retreats. The show treats this event not as an opportunity to advance Teo’s development but rather as the real breach of trust it is. Even if others think it’s better to be out, the choice should be up to the individual. Teo is an expert in his own experience. He knows the consequences he’ll face and can make the best determination as to what to say about his sexuality.

Over the course of the season, the characters also discuss the real consequences a Latine pro football player would face for being openly gay. Teo comes from a small, religious community, and while it’s unclear how his church views same-sex relationships, their potential rejection is certainly part of his calculus. The costs are real and not to be glossed over, even for someone like Teo who is clear he’s gay and has no doubts about it.

In contrast, we meet Jules as an out bi man, catapulting into pop stardom. He has had relationships with men and women and is supported by his family and the industry at large. With that contrast, “Love in Gravity” shows that the problem isn’t some weakness on Teo’s part (or strength on Jules’s) but rather the systems and cultures they find themselves in. Some are supportive and some are not. And that’s true for both of our Latine protagonists — it’s not that our culture or communities are better or worse than non-Latine ones. It’s that queer Latine people can find themselves in supportive environments or dangerously non-accepting ones. And those structures change the real calculus around coming out, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Throughout this second season, “Love in Gravity” never takes away Teo’s agency. The show never makes his choices feel small or not his own. Instead, he’s granted the space, the nuance, and the compassion to decide what’s best for him. And that’s an addition to the coming-out narrative, the Latine coming-out narrative, that we can use.

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