April 18, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Dustin Lance Black disinvited from giving commencement address
Dustin Lance Black, gay news, Washington Blade

Dustin Lance Black (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A California college has disinvited Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black from giving its commencement address because of pictures that show him having sex with his then-boyfriend nearly a decade ago.

Anthony Fellow, president of the Pasadena City College Board of Directors, told the Pasadena City College Courier the 2006 photos that were posted online three years later may tarnish the institution’s reputation. He specifically referred to a “porno professor” who admitted to sleeping with students and other “sex scandals we’ve had on campus” over the last year during the interview with the student newspaper.

“It just didn’t seem like the right time for Mr. Black to be the speaker,” said Fellow. “We’ll be on the radio and on television. We just don’t want to give PCC a bad name.”

Black, a Pasadena City College alum, criticized the college’s decision in an open letter.

“I had hoped to share the story of how I turned my community college education at PCC into a fruitful career,” he wrote. “I had hoped to share the message that each and every one of you is capable of the same. But now I must ask you to do something for me: speak out.”

“As PCC Administrators attempt to shame me, they are casting a shadow over all LGBT students at PCC,” added Black. “They are sending the message that LGBT students are to be held to a different standard, that there is something inherently shameful about who we are and how we love, and that no matter what we accomplish in our lives, we will never be worthy of PCC’s praise.”

Black in 2009 won an Academy Award for “Milk.” He is also a founding board member of the American Federation for Equal Rights that successfully challenged California’s Proposition 8.

A federal judge in 2010 issued an injunction against those whom Black accused of stealing the pictures from his ex-boyfriend’s computer after they broke up and gave them to gossip websites.

“In the eyes of anyone who has seen the devastating effects this trespass has had on me personally, creatively and professionally over these many years, in the eyes of my mother and friends who have held me as I’ve cried, and under the blind scrutiny of the law of this land, I am the victim of this ‘scandal,’ not the perpetrator,” wrote Black in his open letter.

Black is reportedly dating British Olympic diver Tom Daley who acknowledged late last year he is in a relationship with another man.

A Letter to PCC Students
Posted by Dustin Lance Black on April 18, 2014
Dear PCC Students,

In 1992 my parents lost their jobs in the months leading up to my leaving for college. We could no longer afford the University I was accepted at, so I turned to the Community College system and Pasadena City College. I enrolled in honors courses, worked two jobs to pay rent and still found time to tutor both math and ESL at PCC. My mother taught me there is nothing more meaningful than serving your fellow man. It was a proud day when she watched me walk at PCC’s graduation with an AA Degree, an honors tassel and a Dean’s scholarship.

November of last year, I received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Community College League of CA. In the presentation, my film work, Academy Award, WGA and Spirit Awards were all mentioned, but the accomplishment I was most proud of was my half-decade of work with AFER to strike down Prop 8 at the Supreme Court last summer and bring equality back to California.

After my acceptance speech I was approached by PCC Administrators and asked to speak at my old campus. A few months later, I received an invitation asking that I be PCC’s 2014 Commencement speaker. I confirmed the invitation, booked the international flights to get back to Southern California, canceled work and turned down paid invitations. This invitation was that meaningful to me.

This morning, I woke up to the headline that I have been disinvited to speak at my Alma Mater. The reasoning: that I was involved in a “scandal” in 2009 regarding extremely personal photographs that were put up on internet gossip sites of me and my ex-boyfriend.

For too long now I’ve sat silent on this issue. That ends here and now and with this sentence: I did nothing wrong and I refuse to be shamed for this any longer.

In 2009 a group of people surreptitiously lifted images from my ex’s computer and shopped them around to gossip sites in a money making scheme. These were old images from a far simpler time in my life, a time before digital camera phones and internet scandals. They were photos of me with a man I cared for, a man who shared my Mormon background and who was also struggling with who he was versus where he came from. And yes, we were doing what gay men do when they love and trust each other, we were having sex. I have never lied about my sexuality. If you invade my privacy, this is what you will find. I have sex. It brings me joy, fosters intimacy and helps love grow. I hope anyone reading this can say the same for themselves and for their parents.

In 2010 I took the perpetrators of this theft to Federal court and Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled unequivocally that the defendants had indeed broken the law. The details of this case are readily available for anyone to read — including PCC’s leadership and Board of Trustees.

In the eyes of anyone who has seen the devastating effects this trespass has had on me personally, creatively and professionally over these many years, in the eyes of my mother and friends who have held me as I’ve cried, and under the blind scrutiny of the law of this land, I am the victim of this “scandal,” not the perpetrator.

With this cruel act, PCC’s Administration is punishing the victim. And I ask you this: If I was a heterosexual man or woman with this same painful injury in my past, would PCC’s Administration still be rescinding such an honor?

Over these past five years, I have spoken at over 40 major universities including Harvard’s Kennedy School, Penn, UCLA, USC and recently spoke at UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television graduation. I’ve been the featured speaker at NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Conference), NACA (National Association for Student Activities), HRC’s National Gala, spoken to over 200,000 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol at the March on Washington, walked up the steps of the Supreme Court to help win a fight for my people and been honored for my work for equality on the floor of the California House of Representatives. Never once, at any of these events has this issue ever come up. Not once. Not in the press. Not with the students. Not ever.

In fact, PCC is now only the second institution to ever blame me for what happened in 2009. The first was Hope College in Michigan whose Dean pro-actively made a statement openly admitting he did not want a pro-LGBT message on his campus. It seems to me that same animus is at play here now.

I congratulate all of the 2014 graduates. I had hoped to share the story of how I turned my Community College education at PCC into a fruitful career. I had hoped to share the message that each and every one of you is capable of the same. But now I must ask you to do something for me: speak out.

As PCC Administrators attempt to shame me, they are casting a shadow over all LGBT students at PCC. They are sending the message that LGBT students are to be held to a different standard, that there is something inherently shameful about who we are and how we love, and that no matter what we accomplish in our lives, we will never be worthy of PCC’s praise.

While I deal with the legal and financial ramifications of this injury, I urge you not to let PCC’s Administrators get away with sending such a harmful message. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the struggle for equality it is that when you are stung by injustice, you must find your pride and raise your voice. If you are outraged like I am, you must show it. You must speak truth to fear and prejudice and shed light where there is ignorance. Now is that time at PCC.

DUSTIN LANCE BLACK
PCC ’94 UCLA ‘96

PCC CONTACT INFORMATION:
PCC PRESIDENT — Mark Rocha, mwrocha@pasadena.edu
NOTE: In a subsequent letter from Robert Bell, rhbell@pasadena.edu, who I am told lead the fight to rescind the invitation, no mention was made of the invitation or confirmation, but it is clear that he and others on the Board of Trustees were aware that this offer was extended and accepted. Their discussion of this issue (at time code 02:08:20) can be viewed here.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • Anthony Fellow, president of the Pasadena City College Board of Directors, in an interview with the LA Times (Apr 21), claims that he is, “certainly not homophobic, but have been a champion of gay and women’s rights most of my life.”
     
    Yadda yadda. Spare us all that, please, Tony.
     
    LGBTs in CA and across the nation should call *BULL-PUCKY!* on PCC’s bigoted Board. Their well crafted, very public PR assault on Black’s character and his sexual orientation was no accident.
     
    Fellow and PCC Board likely intentionally perpetrated that homophobic attack upon Black — and by implication any LGBT students at PCC who might wish to follow in Black’s footsteps.
     
    PCC’s Board knows Black’s ongoing celebrity comes mostly from his effective and outspoken LGBT civil rights activism, rather than his Academy Award for writing *Milk*, SEVEN years ago. And PCC’s Board probably knows that Black’s most passionate following comes from the hopeful, struggling LGBT students he inspires with his own life’s lessons.
     
    Maybe that is too powerful for Pasadena to handle. There is a national audience to protect and show-biz considerations. Can’t let LGBT heroes get too uppity.
     
    “It just didn’t seem like the right time for Mr. Black to be the speaker,” said Fellow. “We’ll be on the radio and on television. We just don’t want to give PCC a bad name.”
     
    Hey, we get it. Let Dustin Lance speak and there goes the neighborhood. Next thing you know there will be former-Mormon gay boys demanding to gyrate with one another in Speedos at the Rose Parade.
     
    Even in 2014, in one of America’s ‘LGBT-friendliest’ of states, homophobic bigots feel free to use the private sex lives of LGBTs and LGBT heroes to publicly demonize and threaten them. Still, LGBTs remain proud of Black’s courage and his activism. And I’ll bet a whole bunch of us look forward to all those Dustin Lance Black stories yet to be written.

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