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Don’t believe the pro-gay hype

We’ve mostly bullied our critics into silence but that doesn’t mean homophobia is gone



Gay News, Washington Blade, Sports Illustrated, Jason Collins
Jason Collins, Washington Wizards, NBA, gay news, Washington Blade, Sports Illustrated

Traded to Washington D.C. from Boston in February, with last week’s Sports Illustrated piece, the Wizards’ center Jason Collins becomes the first active openly gay player in history in the four most-followed American professional sports leagues. (Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

When the NBA’s Jason Collins came out last month in a Sports Illustrated column, he found cheery public support from nearly all quarters. Everyone from Bill Clinton to Steve Nash tripped over themselves to congratulate Collins on becoming the first openly gay active (male) player in one of the big four American team sports.

But the happy, politically correct mainstream reaction to the momentous news barely concealed what was happening just beneath the surface of George Stephanopoulos’ and Oprah’s giddy coverage. Anyone who tuned into talk radio — or Twitter — that day heard a very different take on Collins’ brave announcement.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace Tweeted, “All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH.”

Mark Jackson, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, said: “As a Christian man I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong, that being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family…And certainly praying for them at this time.” Sportscaster Chris Broussard denounced Collins as a sinner.

CBS’ Mike Francesa said, “It means less than nothing to me that there is a gay player now out if the NBA. SI going to reveal this this week in — I don’t know why — I guess a dramatic attempt to sell a magazine, I guess. I have the story here and I’m not compelled to run and talk about it or read it. I really don’t care. I can’t be any more honest. I don’t care.”

This was the most typical sports talk radio take on the news. While most callers wanted only to talk about Collins and the specter of gays sharing the shower and locker room with straight jocks, the talk radio hosts wanted to change the subject. Monitoring sports radio in the Baltimore and D.C. markets that day, I was amused as the hosts desperately tried to change the subject away from the biggest sports story of the week, no doubt fearing for their jobs if they publicly agreed with their callers’ homophobic fears. We’ve arrived at a strange new place in the movement for LGBT equality where homophobia lives on but those who express it out loud are bullied into apologizing, their very careers dependent upon pretending they really like us.

No one typifies this strange new world better than Kobe Bryant, who chimed in with a supportive Tweet, “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others.” Just two years ago, Bryant was fined $100,000 by the NBA for calling a referee a “faggot” during a game. His team, the Los Angeles Lakers, promptly announced a partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to combat bullying. GLAAD said at the time it would advocate for “zero tolerance policies for anti-gay slurs at home games.” It’s not clear what that means but it sounds like a dubious mission for a national LGBT advocacy group.

Pretending that homophobia died because a dozen states enacted marriage equality ignores the facts and the reality of a nation still deeply divided over LGBT issues. Remember that there are no laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 29 states (and in 34 states based on gender identity); we account for only about 4-5 percent of the population but 20 percent of hate crimes target LGBT people; 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT; 63 percent of all new HIV infections are among men who have sex with men, up 22 percent since 2008; sodomy laws remain on the books in 17 states, including Maryland and Massachusetts; the FDA still bans gay men from donating blood; immigration law ignores our relationships; DOMA and Prop 8 remain on the books; an estimated 28 percent of black trans people are unemployed. And on and on.

The support for marriage equality and the public embrace of gay celebrities masks the reality of a nation in which too many LGBT people continue to suffer because of old-fashioned bigotry and prejudice. Don’t believe the pro-gay hype.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

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  1. Sharon Lettman-Hicks

    May 15, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    So well said, Kevin. So well said.

  2. Brooks Austin

    May 16, 2013 at 7:14 am

    This article seems contradictory. On the one hand, it claims Jason Collins has received all sorts of positive support but since he also got some backlash from people, suddenly this means all the positive support he got was all fake? Which one is it? Did he get positive support or not? I also must have missed it when anyone ever said there was no more homophobia in American society. This whole article seems like some big strawman and an excuse to bash GLAAD because I guess bashing other gays you don't agree with is somehow going to stop homophobia.

  3. Willie Millard

    May 17, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Remember when Magic Johnson revealed that he had HIV 22 years ago. The media was very supportive and the country as a whole evolved on the issue of HIV/AIDS. Jason Collins is experiencing the same outpouring of support. However I do agree that it is too sugar coated.

    What I want to know is what Jason Collins did to help the gay community in DC while he was here? Was he a closeted man frequenting the Glory Hole or Crew Club? Everyone comes out at their own pace but I feel there is more to the story.

  4. Michael Bedwell

    May 20, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Just because Mr. Obama keeps saying the Gay Word doesn't mean homophobia is dead in the federal government. In fact, he's still coddling anti LGBT bigot federal contractors and all thos bigots in the Pentagon who are still blocking gay service member equality post repeal. [And, no, it's NOT just because of DOMA.]

  5. Douglas Taylor

    May 20, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    I had this conversation with a couple of people who posted on a Detroit Sports site. They said "Who cares? Why is he making a big deal about his sexuality?" To which I respond: We aren't to a point where this isn't a big deal yet. And it seems that people are content with sweeping it under the rug as something that doesn't effect his life, and none of our business. The fact of the matter is, we need role models for kids to feel comfortable being out in a locker room, for kids contemplating suicide, etc. If it doesn't matter why did it take until 2013, from the time American sports has started, for an athlete to openly talk about being a gay man? It's a society closed off to gay people. Phil Jackson, not two months ago, said he "had never met a gay basketball player." So don't pretend that it isn't a big deal just because you think the story makes you uncomfortable. It is important to Jason Collins as well. He doesn't have to risk being "outed" by anyone now. He gets to live an honest lifestyle and that is as important as him being a role model for kids (especially gay kids in sports) as anything. I was chased away from being a sportswriter partly because I am pansexual. We still have racism today, I don't think homophobia will ever be dead. And there will be those that defend as their Constitutional right and we are "shoving it in our faces" when someone is honest about who they are. But I am glad we are at a point where it is no longer kosher to talk about gay men as "faggots" and "fruits," openly hating and even threatening violence against anyone who is homosexual. That is a step forward. But we still have a long way to go, and until we get there, things like this will continue to be a big deal.

  6. Rick Rosendall

    May 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Sharon, I respectfully disagree. Kevin’s piece seems to me gratuitously patronizing and unfair. When I celebrated Jason Collins’s coming out, my brain had not fallen out of my head. I did not think paradise had arrived. I did not think all the haters were won over. We are entitled to celebrate our breakthroughs without having people determined to rain on every damn parade. Of course we have a long way to go. But Martina was right that Jason’s act will save lives. To be sure, there are plenty of other lives that need saving. Last Thursday I joined about 20 others in testifying for a birth certificate bill before the DC Council to help trans people on the crucial matter of identification. On Saturday I staffed a table at Capital Trans Pride and met many brave people who are fighting for change and mentoring and giving a hand up to young trans people. My happiness on April 29 is just as valid as Kevin’s anger, or everything we have worked for is garbage. We DO NOT have to do this to each other. Nobody I heard from thought homophobia had ended. That is an insulting bit of hyperbole. We not only have a right to celebrate small advances, we need to celebrate them and give one another encouragement.

  7. Ally Raymond

    May 20, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Most laws on the books protecting gays on the job, etc… do not negate the FACT of existing hatred and phobias against the LGBT communities. They are just getting smarter on how to bring us down, while being politically correct so there is no legal action taken. Trust those close to you, others have no business knowing.

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Should we be scared of Omicron?

A reminder to stay vigilant against latest mutation



It’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend when I sit down to write this column. The craziness in the world continues but other than the scare of the new COVID mutation, which has been named Omicron, there isn’t one headline to grab attention. Instead, there are many, including some manufactured by the news media to gain viewers or sell papers. Some like the car rampaging through the Christmas parade is frightening but incidents like this seem to be happening all too often.  

The stock market went down 1,000 points on Friday because market players freaked out about the new COVID mutation coming out of South Africa. However that didn’t seem to stop people from spending their money on Black Friday. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was again on the attack this time against fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accusing her of being a Muslim terrorist. She apologized, or pretended to, but again the Republican leadership wouldn’t condemn her statements. These things seemed to be grist for the news media with no one else unfortunately really voicing concern. 

Boebert’s comments were taken as old hat. They are disgusting, offensive, and dangerous, but as long as her constituents reelect her we will have to live with them. She is joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),  Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Paul Gosar  (R-Wyo.) who represent the worst in Congress and the worst of the American people. Yet again until their constituents throw them out we have to live with their stupidity and the absurdity of their being where they are. 

The new COVID mutation out of South Africa is potentially a game changer. But it will be important for scientists to look at this carefully to determine how quickly it spreads and whether or not the current vaccines will offer any protection against it. Countries around the world, including the United States, have quickly instituted travel bans for South Africans and those in countries surrounding it. The World Health Organization at this time has suggested this should not be done as it will have limited impact on its spreading and could have severe and detrimental economic impact on countries whose people are being banned. One thing we must learn from this is how important it is to ensure everyone all over the world has access to vaccines as we know the more people who are inoculated the harder it is for the virus to mutate. It is not time to panic yet and by Sunday there was some reporting this new mutation may not be any more difficult to deal with than the current ones and not lead to any more severe illness. The takeaway from all this is we need to keep vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots, and make sure we vaccinate our children. Continue to wear masks indoors and wash our hands. 

Now the other interesting stories last weekend were about what will happen in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. Remember the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill as a reconciliation measure, which means it can pass the Senate with a simple majority. That would mean every Democratic senator and the vice president. The focus is on two senators: Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.). In reality we need to look at a number of others who will fight to either take out or put something into the bill the House passed. It is clear it will not pass in the current form and then it has to go back to the House again. 

Another issue that will be taken up is the debt ceiling. It may be a little easier than thought because as recently reported, “After taking a hard line and refusing to negotiate with Democrats during the last standoff over the debt limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is quietly looking for a way to get the issue resolved without another high-profile battle.” Then there is the budget and since none is passed Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution since the one they passed in September expires on Dec. 3. 

So for the next few weeks there will be a focus on the Senate to see what they do and how obstructionist Republicans want to be. Seems while things change, they somehow remain the same.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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It doesn’t take a miracle

Hanukkah a time for LGBTQ Jews to celebrate full identity



(Public domain photo)

For Jews around the world, Sunday night marked the beginning of Hanukkah. The story of Hanukkah celebrates the liberation of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, a small and poorly armed group of Jews who took on, and defeated, one of the world’s most powerful armies. 

Upon entering Jerusalem, the Maccabees saw that there was only enough oil to light the Temple’s eternal flame for one night. But the oil lasted eight nights — enough time for new oil to be prepared. The eternal flame remained lit, and light triumphed over darkness.

The story of Hanukkah was a miracle. While we celebrate and commemorate that miracle, we should also remember that it doesn’t take a miracle for one person to make a difference. 

The entire world is shaking beneath our feet. The climate is in crisis and our planet is in danger. A viral contagion has claimed the lives of millions, and there’s no clear end in sight. Creeping authoritarianism threatens the entire world, including here at home.

Sometimes it seems like it will take a miracle to solve even one of these problems. The reason these problems seem so overwhelming is because they are — no one person can fix it themselves.

Here in the LGBTQ community, we have made enormous strides, and we ought to be proud of them. But there is so much more work to be done.

Not everyone in our community is treated equally, and not everyone has the same access to opportunity. Black, brown and trans LGBTQ people face systemic and structural disadvantages and discrimination and are at increased risk of violence and suicide. It must stop.

These are big problems too, and the LGBTQ people as a collective can help make the changes we need so that light triumphs over darkness. But it doesn’t take a miracle for individuals to light the spark.

Our movement is being held back by the creeping and dangerous narrative that insists that we choose between our identities instead of embracing all of them. 

The presentation of this false choice has fallen especially hard on LGBTQ Jews, many of whom feel a genuine connection to and support for Israel. They feel marginalized when asked to sideline their identity by being told that the world’s only Jewish state shouldn’t even have a place on the map. And they feel attacked when asked about the Israeli government’s policies during a conflict, as if they have some obligation to condemn them and take a stand simply because of their faith.

One of the ways we can shine our light is to fight for an LGBTQ community that is truly inclusive.

This holiday season, pledge to celebrate all aspects of your identity and the rights of LGBTQ people to define their own identities and choose their own paths. If you feel the pressure to keep any part of your identity in the closet, stand up to it and refuse to choose. 

In the face of enormous challenges that require collective action, we must not give up on our power as individuals to do what’s right. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

The tradition of lighting the menorah each night represents ensuring the continuity of that eternal flame. One of the reasons the Hanukkah menorah is displayed prominently in the windows of homes and in public squares is because the light isn’t meant to be confined to the Jewish home. The light is for everyone — and a reminder that we can share it with the world every day to try to make it better.

As long as we keep fighting for justice, we don’t need to perform miracles. But we do need to do our part so that light triumphs over darkness.

It is up to each of us to map out what we can contribute to create a truly inclusive LGBTQ community. This holiday season, be the light. If you can, donate to a group that helps lift LGBTQ youth in crisis. Volunteer your time to fight for the rights and the lives of trans people. And be kind to one another.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or of no faith at all, take this opportunity to share your light with the world. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

Ethan Felson is the executive director of A Wider Bridge.

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Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

‘History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas’



National Book Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

I knew Helen Keller was a DeafBlind activist. But, until recently, I didn’t know that some of her books were torched.

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1933 Germany, the Nazis added “How I Became a Socialist,” by Keller to a list of “degenerate” books. Keller’s book, along with works by authors from H.G. Wells to Einstein were burned. 

The Nazi book burnings were horrific, you might think, but what does this have to do with the queer community now?

I speak of this because a nano-sec of the news tells us that book censorship, if not from literal fires, but from the removal from school libraries, is alive and well. Nationwide, in small towns and suburbs, school boards, reacting to pressure from parents and politicians, are removing books from school libraries. Many of these books are by queer authors and feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Until recently, I didn’t worry that much about books being banned. My ears have pricked up, every year, in September when Banned Books Week is observed. Growing up, my parents instilled in me their belief that reading was one of life’s great pleasures as well as a chance to learn about new ideas – especially, those we disagreed with. The freedom to read what we choose is vital to democracy, my folks taught me. 

“I don’t care if it’s ‘Mein Kampf,’” my Dad who was Jewish told me, “I’ll defend to my death against its being banned.”

“Teachers should be allowed to teach it,” he added, “so kids can learn what a monster Hitler was.”

In this country, there have always been people who wanted to ban books from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to gay poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

In the 1920s, in the Scopes trial, a Tennessee science teacher was fined $100 for teaching evolution. (The law against teaching evolution in Tennessee was later repealed.)

But, these folks, generally, seemed to be on “the fringe” of society. We didn’t expect that book banning would be endorsed by mainstream politicians.

Until lately.

Take just one example of the uptake in book-banning: In September, the Blade reported, Fairfax County, Virginia public school officials said at a school board meeting that two books had been removed from school libraries to “reassess their suitability for high school students.”

Both books – “Lawn Boy” a novel by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by non-binary author Maia Koabe feature queer characters and themes, along with graphic descriptions of sex.

Opponents of the books say the books contain descriptions of pedophilia. But, many book reviewers and LGBTQ students as well as the American Library Association dispute this false claim.

The American Library Association honored both books with its Alex Award, the Associated Press reported. The award recognizes the year’s “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

Given how things have changed for us queers in recent years – from marriage equality to Pete Buttigieg running for president – it’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash. As part of the blowback, books by queer authors with LGBTQ+ characters have become a flashpoint in the culture wars.

As a writer, it’s easy for me to joke that book banning is fabulous for writers. Nothing improves sales more than censorship.

Yet, there’s nothing funny about this for queer youth. My friend Penny has a queer son. “LGBTQ kids need to read about people like themselves,” she told me. “It’s horrible if queer kids can’t find these books. They could become depressed or even suicidal.”

If we allow books to be banned, our freedom to think and learn will be erased.

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote in a letter to students in Nazi Germany.

Anti-queer officials may remove LGBTQ books from school libraries. But, our thoughts will not be unshelved.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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