This Friday on Fox's reality show Trading Spouses, in the second of a two-parter that began last Friday, lesbian couple Pepper and Judy Lane face down homophobic Julie Chase and her bizarrely outmoded opinions about gay people. In last week's episode, Julie refused to use the restroom in a gay restaurant, likened being gay to a birth defect and made offensive comments about the disabled — and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Who knows what bile Julie will spew on tonight's concluding episode?
If this all sounds a bit too familiar for you, it may be because you remember when ABC's Wife Swap switched out a conservative Christian mom for a lesbian one — also during a sweeps period. But Julie makes Wife Swap's Kris Gillespie, who called lesbians “depraved,” seem like an angel in comparison.
Judy and Pepper Lane, the San Diego couple on Trading Spouses, have reacted to Julie's hatred with admirable calm and have been a beacon of strong, positive gay representation, sidestepping the blatantly offensive Julie and her generally dysfunctional family. Committed, nurturing and thoroughly family-oriented, Judy and Pepper have won a small victory for all LGBT parents this week: respect. We talked with them yesterday about the support they have received from straight and gay people alike in the wake of last week's episode, and whether Julie really was that cruel.
AfterEllen.com: First of all, what attracted you to the show, and how did you go about getting on it?
Judy Lane: We belong to a group called San Diego Family Matters, which is made up of gay and lesbian parents in San Diego, and periodically they have events and workshops and all sorts of things. We got an email from our executive director [of San Diego Family Matters] saying that Trading Spouses was looking for same-sex couples to participate. I got it in my email, and I shot it over to Pepper to say, “Hey, look at this.” She wrote back, thinking she was writing to me saying, “Let's go for it,” but what she had done was send it back to the executive director and to Fox Studios.
AE: Did you have any hesitation about going on network TV and being so visible?
Pepper Lane: With the process for getting picked, we started in June and didn't film until October, so there was a lot of hurry and wait. And we kept thinking, “It's not going to happen,” but as it became more real, we began to get nervous. Our biggest concern was the children — not because of the gay issue, but because we were concerned that they [the producers or those on the show] might hurt their feelings or somehow make the children look bad, and that was our huge concern. Also, it had to be a positive, fun experience for them. The four of us talked periodically, asking, “Are we sure we all want to do this?” And no matter when or how close we were, if anybody wanted to back out, then that was OK, and there'd be no hard feelings.
AE: Have you been pleased with the way the show presents you so far?
PL: I'm very happy. My biggest worry was … I spent the week with Julie, I knew what she was like, and I knew what happened in front of me, but they do these off-site interviews with each of us, and … I was a little worried she might have said something demeaning to the kids, and that was a big concern. But the way they showed our family was great. … I think people think it's a little one-sided towards us being nice, but I know for a fact that they actually edited out some of the worst things [Julie] said. It is what it is. We didn't go out there to be like “the gay family of reality TV,” we just went out to have fun on a TV show, just like any other family.
JL: The best thing about this is all the positive feedback we've gotten — I'm overwhelmed. Our phone rings day and night; our email is bombarded; we have fan letters, people coming to our house from all walks of life. The Mormon families of our neighborhood in particular came over to our house and said, “We just think you're a beautiful family, and we're proud to have you as neighbors.” Our heads are spinning!
PL: It's amazing. I'll go to the grocery store, and someone will come up to me and say, “I would've kicked her 'blank'!” They say such nice things, almost as if they're feeling they have to apologize for the way we were treated, feeling as if they wanted to say, “Not all straight people are like that.” It's been very overwhelming and very humbling.