Nick Robinson as Simon

Everyone loves Love, Simon. It is an 8.0 on IMDB (The Deer Hunter gets 8.1). Over at the Tomatometer it is rated at 92%. The reviews are generally very good. It’s a gay teen love story that keeps its audience very safe. The amalgamation of an after-school special with bubble-gum movie making is appealing and harmless enough. Nick Robinson (Simon) is adorable. Simon has understanding liberal parents a cute sister and they all live in a cute suburban home. Simon has good friends (they are all cute too). When he is outed his friends take exception to Simon’s dishonesty rather than Simon’s sexual orientation. Greg Berlanti, who is gay, directed the film and Simon is presented with no affect at all. Natasha Rothwell as an incensed drama teacher is superb.

In the end, love is everywhere.

Chances are, however, that a real Simon (gay or gender nonconforming) will be pretty miserable.

Religion plays a big part in how a sexual minority kid will perceive his standing in the world. About 26% of the population are evangelical Christians. Another 9% (out of 22%) are conservative Catholics. There are orthodox Jews and conservative mainline Protestants too. Add them all together and there is probably a 40% chance that Real Simon’s parents will have a religious conflict.

Moreover, you don’t have to be religious to be a jerk. Add a batch of morons to the mix and now what are the odds?

Now even if we get past that part, even if Simon isn’t schlepped off to some reorientation camp by his parents, how about all of the other parents in the neighborhood and what they teach their children? There are many variables. Obviously locale plays a big part. A kid in Mississippi with very liberal parents is still in deep shit if he is gay or trans.

Affluence is also part of the calculus since more prosperous people tend to be better educated. Better educated people are usually more tolerant. Nevertheless, Robert P. George and Ryan T. Anderson are just two examples of well educated schmucks.

Then let’s assume that the kid, like the vast majority of kids, is in public school. Even in very liberal Oregon a high school principal was recently canned for his bigotry as part of a settlement with the ACLU. Even if everything else magically falls into place there is still the potential of being confronted with an idiot for an educator. And it’s not just the principal. Each class exposes the child to another opinionated adult (and we are all opinionated).

We have made remarkable progress but we are not even close to the finish line. We might be done when every adult in America accepts the simple fact that sexual orientation and gender identity provide natural variants of human sexuality and that they are not choices. Even then there will be people who think that gays should be celibate.

If you think about it, the message that the hate groups send, day after day, is that sexuality is a choice and that anything differing from the heterosexual-cisgender model cannot be approved of or “normalized.” Tony Perkins and Mat Staver are not abnormal for being obsessed psychopaths. No, indeed. It is your seventh-grader who is abnormal and he is a dirty little pervert as well because of something over which he has no control.

At the same time, in their upisdownism way, the hate groups are making bigots into persecuted heroes. This affects not only how the teen is treated by others but how he feels about himself. They chip away at ego strengths, replacing them with insecurities.

Love, Simon is cute as hell and even moving at times but it does not depict the realities for a sexual minority teen and that is a shame. As a society we should be better than what we become when we marginalize a child. Treating our children as pariahs is simply unacceptable.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.