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Oz (1997)

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

BILLIE KEANE as portrayed by Derrick Simmons on

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I was in my adolescence in the late 90s and I watched Oz when it was on air, but didn't start from the very beginning. So I didn't catch (or at least don't remember) the very first episodes and missed this Black gay character, Billie Keane. I did some research and he apparently had a three episode arc that involved him lusting after another inmate, getting badly attacked by him, going to the hospital and then being transferred to the gay section of the prison. That's pretty rough, but so was the whole show. And somehow my pubescent self was always glued to the screen. However, I wasn't really there for the character development. I was there because Oz showed dick. I hadn't yet named that I was gay, to myself or the world, but I did know I liked looking at dick. And Oz even showed gay sex. Except that it was rape. And then I started thinking. What are the impacts of not ever seeing gay sex (simulated or real) except in illicit porn or as forced rape? Visibility is vital because of the impacts on self-esteem, but also because film/TV is an important part of our education and socialization. Absent actual role models or adults willing to have in-depth conversations, gay boys are left to some really suspect guidance. Where do gay boys learn about sex and sexuality? How are we taught to be lovers? Makes me wonder how our collective "love culture" has been impacted by this, and what it might look like if 12 year old boys are not just allowed to be gay in theory, but have adults who walk them through all that it entails, including the realities of sex.

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