Can We Talk About…? The Gay-Baiting Story Line in “The Real Housewives of Potomac”

It's time to unpack Sausagegate.

Can We Talk About…? is a weekly series making New York City DJs uncomfortable.

First and foremost, what a stellar season it has been across the Real Housewives franchises. You’ve got the ladies of New York firing on all cylinders and feeling their absolute Jovaniest; Camille Grammer is out in Beverly Hills shouldering the weight of that entire cast now that Lisa Vanderpump is out of the picture; Atlanta remains the gold standard with its truly Shakespearean levels of shade. Just remarkable television in all aspects. Chef’s kiss.

But out of nowhere comes The Real Housewives of Potomac, which has emerged as the true star thanks to one word: Sausagegate.

What a rollercoaster of emotions! Where to even begin? These Housewives are new to me, as I’m very selective with my franchises. I can only juggle so many at a time, my max being three: New York and Atlanta, with a rotating spot for Beverly Hills or Jersey. (Orange County needs to be put out of its, and our collective, misery. Meanwhile, I’ve heard good things about Dallas, but that’s a little too “the South will rise again” for me.)

Potomac, however, is an oddity. It takes place in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., with women of color. Until RHOP premiered three years ago, I’d never even heard of Potomac.

Well, I was lost, now am found. The aforementioned Sausagegate, like anything involving the requisite “-gate” suffix, is a scandal involving one of the Househusbands, one Michael Darby.

Michael has been accused of saying, during an epic drunken night, that he would totes suck the “sausage” of another Househusband. Now, in what is the hallmark of amazing television, despite the cast being filmed and mic’d nearly all the time, no concrete footage exists of this incident—it’s all hearsay, recalled, individually, by two other Housewives.

But that’s not where this ends. Not by a long shot. Michael was also accused of groping a RHOP cameraman, who then tried to sue him for it. Though the case was dismissed, the ladies of Potomac have tasted blood and they are out to feed on the corpse of Michael Darby’s credibility.

Making matters worse, the producers of RHOP pulled out the Hail Mary of all Bravolebrity TV: the rarely used “unseen production footage,” which allegedly depicts Michael’s advances on the cameraman. Nevertheless, he and his wife Ashley still deny any wrongdoing.

Now, let’s be real: Across all the Real Housewives franchises, there’s an underlying current of homophobia. It’s weird, really, considering that large swathes of the audience for this masterful slice of entertainment are gay men, that this entire concept is the brainchild of a gay man, and that these women have glam squads comprised entirely of gay men. Yet, their wealth and privilege immunize the Housewives to… what’s that thing again? Oh, right, self-awareness.

That’s why when they accuse each other of same-sex attraction or when they drunkenly kiss one another, there’s an uncomfortable jocularity about it. Like there’s something inherently wrong with being a lesbian, or being bisexual (which many of them don’t seem to believe exists, by the way), or being “butch.”

And when they accuse each other’s husbands of homosexuality—which happens more often than you’d think—it’s always to reduce that husband in the eyes of his wife by questioning his masculinity. This season of Potomac had some of that, but the women were always careful to qualify all their statements. There’s nothing wrong with being gay, they’d say, they were all just “worried” about poor old Ashley Darby. So worried they circled around her like a school of sharks with a decent wig budget.

Ostensibly, the women just want Michael, who’s been accused of a gay affair in the past, to be honest with himself and his wife—his sexuality is not the issue so much as his lying about it. I guess that’s a minor step in the right direction for an oeuvre hardly known for its sensitive handling of LGBTQ issues. Then again, badgering a man to come out of the closet—whether or not he is in one—is still in poor taste.

But as one legendary Housewife once croaked with a little help from Auto-tune: Money can’t buy you class.

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat