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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, April 19, 2024

I Can’t Think Straight: “Sex Education,” Sivan, secular society

The relationship between queerness and religion is a complicated one, but two recent works examine it in a new light.


Troye Sivan is pictured.

There’s an unsaid notion that seems to exist both inside and outside the queer community: queer people cannot be people of faith. But as of late, I’ve seen two pieces of mainstream media challenge this assertion.

First, in the latest season of “Sex Education” (2019–23), queer character Eric Effiong struggles with an existential crisis over whether or not he should be baptized and accept that he cannot be open about his sexuality in his church, or if he should reveal his true identity to the church community and hope they can accept him for who he is.

During a pivotal scene in the series finale, Eric tells the church he is gay as he’s about to be baptized. However, the way in which he does so is critical to analyze. Eric says, “My name is Eric Effiong. And I’m a Christian. And a proud gay man.”

Often, modern media that explores the relationship between faith and queerness settles on there being no way for the two to coexist. Media struggles to toe the line between allowing its queer characters to maintain their queer identities while also maintaining their faith, forcing its characters to choose between one or the other.

Effiong’s statement defies this standard. Eric puts his Christian identity first, but he acknowledges that there is another part of him that is just as important. In fact, for Eric, one cannot exist without the other. In a later scene, Eric is visited by an apparition of God who describes how she “made [Eric] this bright so that others would see in the darkness.” “Sex Education” is the first piece of mainstream media I’ve seen posit that queer identities can be utilized to effectively spread faith.

Second, the music video for Troye Sivan’s “One of Your Girls” (2023) is an instant classic with a subtle religious message. I hate to sound like a broken record and talk about Sivan again, but his latest music video took the internet by storm. It features Sivan in drag alongside Ross Lynch and explores Sivan’s complicated relationship with sex and straight men.

Sivan makes a massive change to his appearance throughout the music video as he transitions from a coy version of himself in a zip-up to flawless full drag. But there’s something that doesn’t change. Throughout the entire music video, Sivan wears a gold Star of David necklace that is reflective of his Jewish heritage.

Often in queer culture, there is a pressure to change. To change your body, your style, the way you talk, the way you act. Society tells us that there are only so many boxes we can fit into, and we can’t fit into all of them at once. Effiong and Sivan defy this standard, and, in doing so, open up new space for the queer community to exist within religious societies.