A Taste of Honey
By Rich Juzwiak
With her over-the-top gesticulating and background in the hilariously stilted world of child pageantry, Thompson was a shoo-in for gay icon status even before she made her grand pronouncement. (She had previously hinted at gay acceptance, waxing affectionate about her uncle in a Toddlers & Tiaras episode and telling her sister that the pet male pig she cross-dressed was allowed to be gay, because “you can’t tell that pig what to do.”)
Part of what made Thompson’s gay acceptance so viral was that it confounded the stereotypes about her self-proclaimed “redneck” family, who live in McIntyre, Ga. (about 45 minutes away from Macon). As much as gay men can teach Thompson, this seven-year-old can teach us a thing or two about acceptance manifesting in what we think of as the least likely of places. Shannon speaks passionately about the sense of equality she instills in her daughters—Lee opened the door, and she keeps it propped.
“I’ve raised my kids to love who they are—gay, straight, crooked, whatever—and not to judge other people ’cause that’s just who they are,” she says.
For his part, Lee, “Uncle Poodle,” is just as much of a stereotype killer. He recently told the GA Voice, “I’m gay, but I’m as redneck as I can get.”
Thompson refers to gay men as “poodles” (a term she picked up from a pageant coach) and seems to regard them as nonstop machines of fabulousness. Her fetishizing of them may read as pandering, but if she is this open at age seven, how nuanced might her understanding of gay culture become in years to follow?
Thompson’s blunt fixation on gay men is admirable and, in a way, more progressive than someone who claims to accept everyone without accounting for sexuality at all. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is a show about embracing individuality; Thompson, an unlikely beauty queen, has only been rewarded for doing so (her Toddlers & Tiaras spin-off illuminates living rooms across the country brighter than any pageant crown could). She is a model of the way that self-love radiates outward. In acknowledging difference and openly accepting it, she’s encouraging other people to do the same. This kid has pride to spare.