Keeping Secrets: What Sentinels and Gay Men Have in Common

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Title: Keeping Secrets: What Sentinels and Gay Men Have in Common
Creator: Annabelle Leigh
Date(s): late 1990s?
Medium: online
Fandom: The Sentinel
External Links: Keeping Secrets: What Sentinels and Gay Men Have in Common, Archived version
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Keeping Secrets: What Sentinels and Gay Men Have in Common is a Sentinel essay by Annabelle Leigh.


While I doubt that the metaphor was intentional on the part of the creators, I do think there are many parallels that can be drawn between Jim's struggle to accept his senses and what many gay men in our society go through.

When we first see Jim, he is seeking help for his *problem.* He frames it as an anomaly, a recent occurrence. He doesn't understand what's happening to him, why he's having the feelings and reactions he is. He doesn't like it, and he wants someone to make it stop. Other people (Simon, Carolyn, the doctors) also view what's happening to him as a pathology. He feels scared, angry, hopeless, confused, depressed.

But then someone understands, someone who becomes important in his life, in a role that in some ways is reminiscent of a therapist or counselor. This person assures him that what he's feeling is a natural part of who he is, a genetic predisposition, something that cannot and should not be fought. This does and does not make him feel better. He's glad not to be crazy or sick, but he doesn't want to be a freak either. He doesn't want to be stuck with these feelings that are so far outside the norm. He sees it as a curse and would prefer to be rid of it. His fondest wish is to be like everyone else.

Gradually, he begins to accept and act on his feelings, more and more often, finding that it does feel good now that he has more of a handle on it, now that he has a frame of reference. On the other hand, he still feels a kind of shame about being different. Very few people know about him, only a select circle who are sure to understand, and he's careful to keep it this way. He is what he is, but he keeps this information carefully closeted.
In the end, there is a polite fiction that everyone accepts. Although there has been plenty of doubt raised in people's minds, they accept that the story of his unusual feelings was all just a lie, in large part because this is more comfortable for them than having to deal with his difference. He tries to go back to things the way they were, leading his double life, but he will never be free of the whispers and the wondering. To me, this could just as easily be the story of a man's grudging acceptance of his homosexuality as it is the tale of Sentinel senses. In fact, it very much reminds me of what a friend of mine went through. Perhaps, this is yet another reason why TS attracts so many of us slashers to it.