On the oak-lined streets of the West Village in New York City—the home of Stonewall, the birthplace of the American gay-rights movement—or among the gym bunnies in Chelsea, gay people are allowed to feel safe. In case the same-sex couples with pastel cardigans walking their dogs aren’t enough, the chipped rainbow decals on the storefronts are there to remind you: You own this space. Going home to Tennessee or Michigan might be another thing, but here you can forget that somewhere out there are people who don’t know you and want to hurt you.
As the first active member of one of the major sports leagues to come out as gay, NBA player Jason Collins’s announcement yesterday has generated praise from gay-rights supporters. Predictably, it has also prompted dire warnings about gays in the locker room from homophobes like the Family Research Council’s Brian Fischer:
I will guarantee you ... if the ownership of whatever team is thinking about bringing him back, or thinking about trading for him, and they go to the players on that team and they say 'How do you feel about an out active homosexual being in the same locker room, sharing the same shower facilities with you?' they'll say no way. I don't want that. I do not want some guy, a teammate, eyeballing me in the shower.
It was in the locker room and on the field where Wade Davis felt most at peace with himself, which doesn’t sound unusual until he tells you that he was then a closeted gay man. “Sports was, for me, the safest place,” says Davis, an NFL and NFL Europe player from 2000 to 2004. Davis used football as a sanctuary from the rigid social hierarchy of middle and high school. Away from the game, away from his teammates, he struggled to focus on anything other than his inner turmoil and whether it was evident to his fellow classmates. To conceal his sexuality, he wore baggy pants and talked “with a twang.” “Anything to make people feel as if I was like everyone else,” says Davis, who finally revealed he was gay in January 2012.
The recent attack on the conservative Family Research Council (FRC) by a man who volunteered at an LGBT center in Washington, D.C. has prompted renewed calls for civility in public discourse. A raft of conservative bloggers and the FRC itself have called on groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled the FRC as a "hate group," to tone down their rhetoric. Perhaps the most prominent voice trying to get the right and left to get along is the Washington Post's Dana Milbank:
Yesterday, I wrote about Floyd Corkins, the man who shot a security guard at the Family Research Council. (By the way, many people have called him a gay activist. I haven’t yet seen any reporting that identified him as gay; so far we only know that he was a volunteer at a D.C. LGBT community center. Straight people do volunteer for LGBT groups these days.) More recent reporting says that he was carrying Chik-Fil-A bags, apparently in an attempt to make a point about opposing LGBT rights. I was deeply disturbed that anyone would do such a thing, as if in my name. As my post’s title suggested, fighting hate with violence is absurd and appalling.
Yesterday, a gunman entered the Washington, D.C. offices of the Family Research Council, a religious group that advocates far-right positions on social issues, and shot a security guard in the arm. Floyd Lee Corkins II, the shooter, reportedly yelled that it wasn't personal; it was about FRC’s policies. (You can see the shooter in this local news report.) The security guard is now in the hospital, in stable condition—thank God—and the FBI has Corkins.
On Tuesday, after a two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) "emphatically reaffirmed" its current ban on "open or avowed homosexuals"—a restriction that applies not only to Scout leaders, but to Scouts as well.
One of the most important functions of a dissenting opinion is to throw red meat to op-ed writers. Justice Antonin Scalia is a master of the form. Witness his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, warning that, if same-sex sodomy laws are voided, government may soon force the unwilling to accept gays and lesbians “as boarders in their home.” Justice John Paul Stevens also perfected the zinger; he capped his dissent in Citizens United by saying, “While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”
You all have got to be tired by now of me celebrating good news for LGBT rights, bouncing around in my Tigger-y fashion, showing yet another way that we're winning. But I can't help it. As we've discussed, I grew up in the Pleistocene era, when you still had to look over your shoulder leaving a gay bar. Now I'm married to another woman, at least in the eyes of Massachusetts. It's crazy to live through so much social change in just a few decades. (A friend of mine says: "E.J., you sound like one of those older black folks who talk about how miraculous it is to no longer live under Jim Crow." Well, it's true! Being me is no longer a felony!)
In the week since North Carolina voters adopted a constitutional amendment banning recognition of any "domestic legal union" other than heterosexual marriage, a consensus has formed among journalists about African-American complicity. According to this narrative, black voters let their Protestant traditionalism trump any sense of fairness toward lesbians and gay men—and became the critical voting bloc that gave Amendment 1 its landslide victory.
Like thousands of you, I was absolutely gobsmacked by my editor Gabriel Arana's piece, "My So-Called Ex-Gay Life." If it hadn't run into here first, I would have linked to it. Of course, there was the heartbreaking and finally uplifting personal story that took us through the social history of antigay "therapy." But what astonished me was the courage he had to actually report out the story, calling and talking to the key players who made "reparative therapy" intellectually respectable enough that caring parents like the Arana's would search it out and sign up their son, truly believing that they were doing the right thing.
In October 2010, a banner headline ran on the front page of the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone: “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak.” Subheadings warned of these people’s dark designs: “We Shall Recruit 1,000,000 Kids by 2012,” and “Parents Now Face Heartbreaks as Homos Raid Schools.” One of the two men pictured on the front page was David Kato, an outspoken leader of Uganda’s small human-rights movement. Inside the newspaper, his name and home address, along with those of other LGBT Ugandans, were printed. The article called for the “homos” to be hanged.
Richard Kim at The Nation has the smartest take on the conviction that I’ve seen, combing carefully through the evidence and thinking about the conclusions. Please do pop over and read it (and then come back here, of course!). Some excerpts:
“A divide that existed between the political fortunes of black and white Americans has just been erased, and I guess it’s been erased for all time.” That was the assessment of Julian Bond, the legendary civil-rights leader and former NAACP chair, after Barack Obama won the presidency. It was echoed by prominent African American figures of all generations, who were hopeful that Obama’s victory would usher in a new age of successful black politicians. “In the twenty-first century,” wrote journalist Gwen Ifill in The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, “the breakthrough generation of black politicians is aiming to capture much bigger territory. Obama’s relentless and disciplined giant-slaying campaign is by no means the only story.”
Last Thursday evening, President Obama raised a tidy $1.4 million for his re-election campaign at a private Washington fundraiser hosted by a lesbian couple from Chicago. The event inspired an unusually tart headline at ABC News: “Obama, No Same-Sex Marriage Supporter, Solicits Cash at Home of Lesbian Couple.” But the apparent contradiction came as little surprise to the LGBT community, which has seen the president tap the “gay-TM” freely and frequently while he continues to oppose marriage equality. The fundraising efforts have been stepped up in 2012, with Obama touting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court as reason enough for LGBT donors to keep giving.