Gays In the News! (Film at Eleven)

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There was a time when an LGBT person had to get arrested in order to make the news. Homosexuality, when it was mentioned at all, was the source of scandal; the grave sin that ruined a person for life.

Greg Kabel

Before 1895, Oscar Wilde was a family man who wrote brilliant novels, poems and plays. After 1895, he was a washed-up sex pervert. Closer to home, homosexuality was a topic of discussion only if a “gay rights” ordinance was up for a vote. When the voters of Dade County were asked to approve or reject one such law in 1977, many were surprised that there were actually gay people in Dade County, much less that they had rights that needed to be protected.

During the 1980s, gay men made the news as people living with AIDS or as targets of political bigots like the late North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms. More recently, LGBT people made the news as victims of hate crimes, like Matthew Shepard.

Things are different now. TV news anchors and commentators who were once visibly uncomfortable whenever they uttered the “G word” now freely discuss sexual orientation or gender identity issues at the top of the news hour. One did not discuss the recently-concluded Winter Olympics in Sochi without bringing up Russia’s antigay laws. Sports lovers around the world took notice when President Obama sent figure skater Brian Boitano to Sochi to deliver a message and Boitano obligingly came out for the occasion. Though Obama’s message was duly noted, Boitano’s sexual orientation surprised no one. Meanwhile, those who expected American team sports would remain “queer free” were startled out of their complacency by the emergence of openly-gay players Robbie Rogers in soccer, Jason Collins in basketball and Michael Sam in football.

The issue of same-sex marriage allowed most media outlets (outside of Fox News) an opportunity to discuss LGB people with approval. (The media still have problems dealing with transgender people. Just ask Katie Couric or Piers Morgan.) It is increasingly difficult to attack “perverts” when the two women or the two men who live next door are so nice and wholesome.

Edith Windsor, the lesbian widow who won a lawsuit challenging the federal Defense Of Marriage Act, was a contender for Time magazine’s 2013 Person of the Year. Legislative votes or judicial rulings in favor of “gay marriage” headline many a 6 or 11 p.m. news program, right after the obligatory murders, of course. Time itself has progressed from the days when its coverage of LGBT people was infrequent and disapproving. Time covers have run the gamut from discharged Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich (1975) to TV comic Ellen Degeneres (1997) to Edith Windsor, looking for the entire world like someone’s grandmother. If you still oppose marriage equality after reading Windsor’s Time magazine profile, there is something wrong with you.

For the last few years, Arizona was infamous around the world for its hatred of immigrants, legal and otherwise. More recently, Arizona’s bigoted center of gravity has changed, from hating brown folk to hating queer folk. Arizona’s ironically-named “religious freedom” act has been the topic of many a news program; drawing attention away from the Polar Vortex and the latest violence in Egypt, Syria, Ukraine or Venezuela. Half the world waited with baited breath for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, no friend of our community, to make up her mind about signing or vetoing that bill. Finally, Brewer vetoed the measure, not because she likes LGBT people (she doesn’t) but because every business from the NFL on down threatened to stay away from Arizona. Upsetting queers is one thing. Losing the Super Bowl is quite another.

All in all, there is enough LGBT news content in our print, broadcast, cable or online media to make our own LGBT media almost unnecessary. Of course there will always be a need for an independent, LGBT media; not only for folk like me who profit from it but our community, which depends on it for information and entertainment. Still, it is good to know that the world has taken notice of us; not as sources of scandal but as people like everyone else, with our own needs, rights, interests and aspirations.


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