To me, Amir Ohana isn’t really a gay man and no one can convince me otherwise. Even though I don’t discount the possibility that a male Likud lawmaker could indeed be attracted to men, there is nothing in his personal, professional or political conduct – except for his own pronouncements – that suggests this could be the case.
It’s not only his right-wing politics, which contradict the spirit of solidarity and sympathy for diversity that’s supposed to beat in the heart of someone who presumably must contend with his social otherness.
Let us accept, a priori, the fact that someone who is supposed to be the senior public voice of Israel’s LGBT community is not an ideological partner to the tradition of social struggles the community has championed. At the same time, let’s ignore the fact that his racist-messianic governing coalition partners are exactly the ones who decry the lifestyle he supposedly conducts (the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party already kicked out the straight Eli Ohana, who scored a goal against the Australian soccer team – will it cooperate with a gay Ohana?), and that there’s something of the Stockholm syndrome about his ideological partnership with MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Yakov Margi.
Instead, let’s focus on one cold, hard fact: Ohana repeatedly demonstrates obedience to the coalition and abstains from voting on bills whose purpose is to advance the status of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community – an issue whose very existence in a democratic state is an oxymoron.
If I understand correctly his interview in Yedioth Ahronoth on the occasion of Israel’s LGBT Rights Day last week, Ohana believes the unity of the right-wing coalition is more important than his own fundamental rights.
It’s not that his vote would have tipped the scales – the Knesset is sufficiently benighted to prevent such laws from passing even without him. But in the name of appearances, in order not to rile all those primitive types who believe civil rights are the real reason for violence against old people, he is careful to toe the party line and absent himself consistently.
From that angle, there’s no difference between him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When he is abroad, the premier cites the openness of Israeli society toward members of the LGBT community as proof that Israel is enlightened, in contrast to the Islamic fundamentalism of Iran and the Islamic State organization. But when push comes to shove, in actions and legislation, he does nothing.
If you ask me, someone in Likud recognized that in order to continue the “pinkwashing” and support the illusion of openness with regard to gender identity – which is a major source of income for the state – the slate needed a token gay. This apparatchik searched out the best-dressed guy in party headquarters in Tel Aviv and for the role of the first “out” Likudnik, cast the ex-Shin Bet security service officer Amir Ohana – who really does know how to dress. (Full disclosure: I coveted his shoes as I examined his determined gait during a visit to Haaretz.) From that moment on, Ohana has been called in as needed, to play a gay character who in my opinion lacks even a single gay trait.
The only thing this complex role demands of him is to publicly declare his sexual orientation – like the Israeli singer Adam in the late 1980s, only in reverse – without having any responsibility toward the LGBT community. Sorry, man, that’s not enough.
What’s strange is that someone is buying these goods, despite the plethora of token homosexuals already offered by television. Instead of Ohana, I would have long ago taken cues from “Ellen,” “Roseanne,” “My So-Called Life,” “Oz,” “Queer as Folk,” “The L Word,” “The Wire,” “The Sopranos,” “Skins,” “Shameless,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Transparent” – series that treated with grace, sensitivity and complexity the tension between life out of the closet and inside it.
If I had to say which gay television character Ohana most resembles – and his current role isn’t that far from a TV role – it would be Matt Fielding (played by Doug Savant) in “Melrose Place”: He’s a token gay man, low-key and unthreatening, who tones down his behavior in order to adapt to his environment. A fig leaf whose homosexuality is a screenwriting axiom that doesn’t derive from the story. And when the character finally gets his own narrative arc, it’s always clichéd, tired and uninteresting.
If I could, I’d send Elijah Krantz (played by Andrew Rannells) from “Girls” – the grooviest gay guy on television ever, probably, and my favorite character in the series – to do some poppers with him. Whatever the season, episode or scene, everything perks up when Elijah arrives.
In the fifth season, Elijah – who in his closeted phase was the boyfriend of the main protagonist, Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) – fell in love with Dill Harcourt (Corey Stoll from “House of Cards”), a playboy news anchor and gay icon. It was a touching romance, which began with classic hedonist joy, continued into coupledom, in the course of which Elijah realized he wasn’t happy with exclusivity, and ended in heartbreak.
Elijah, whose main contribution had previously been to reflect aspects of the main female characters’ personalities (for example, when he sleeps with Marnie (Allison Williams), it does not reveal latent heterosexuality in him but rather, points up her selfishness and insensitivity toward Hannah), developed over the years into one of the most fully-fleshed gay characters ever seen on the small screen. He also offers further proof that, more than anyone else, Dunham remains the voice of a generation.
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