Hi All. I hope you had a happy Pride. I had a good weekend. I spent Friday at a dance and burlesque party (Grown & Sexy Pride)
organized by my favorite queer party planners, Shannon Blowtorch,
Nadine DuBois, and Sweetpea. The party was at First Avenue instead of
Hell’s Kitchen, which gave people plenty of room to move around. I have
to say I missed Hell’s Kitchen a little bit. I’m not sure why I like
being packed into a bar like a sardine but I (mostly) enjoy it. All of
my Minnesotan counterparts were much more comfortable at First Avenue,
where they didn’t have to touch and they had a better view of the
burlesque. (It was nice to have a better view of the burlesque) If you
click on the Grown & Sexy link you can see a few photos of the action.
Sunday I saw the parade. No matter how many years go by, I still love
going to the parade. I remember when I was a gay teenager and didn’t
know a single gay adult. Other than Ellen, who explicitly came out, I
thought pretty much everyone was straight. Even people like Elton John
were straight as far as I knew (seriously). Back then it was pretty
mind-blowing to see so many gay people in one place. Even though I have
plenty of GBLTQ people in my life these days it still feels really
life-affirming to see all the people who come out to celebrate.
After looking at a slideshow of Pride Parades Around the World
on the Daily Beast and wishing it included more places in the world, I
thought I’d put up a few pictures from the Minneapolis Pride Parade. It
felt like a good turn out year for the parade. Minnesotans United for
All Families was out in force telling people to Vote No, and things felt
a little more political in general this year. I think people are
energized to kick this amendment’s ass.
It was pretty awesome to see the huge turn out of volunteers from Minnesotans United.
Sisters of Perpetual indulgence catch a ride in a Pedi-Cab
These Zebra Bikes represent at all kinds of events around the Twin Cities and I’m always happy to see them.
but not least, a guy walking by himself wearing boots and some
underwear. One complaint about Minnesota Pride is that it is almost
obsessed with being family friendly, so Man-In-Underwear, cheers to you
for being almost naked! I hope you didn’t get a sunburn.
last april, i wrote a post about outsports,
a great website that provides a forum for the sports community (fans,
coaches, and players alike) to come out and/or deal with issues of
homophobia in sports. last week, former nfl player and closeted
cornerback wade davis came out to outsports in a touching article. davis is now the assistant director of job readiness at the hetrick-martin institute, a non-profit that advocates and provides services for lgbtq youth.
davis also gave an interview to outsports’ sister website, sbnation. he talks to amy k. nelson about
his work with hetrick-martin institute and his campaign efforts for
barack obama. but, to me, the most interesting part of the interview
came when amy asked him if he thinks that the leverage of talent is
necessary when deciding to come out as a professional athlete:
wade davis: i believe that it’s okay to be gay and play sports or be a
rapper or an actor. i just think we’re moving in that direction. i
can’t say it’s in the next five or ten years, but i definitely think
it’s on the horizon.
amy k. nelson: does it have to be the quarterback [who comes out]? can it be the reserved player at first?
wade davis: i’ll be flat-out honest with you. it probably shouldn’t
if he wants to keep his job. if he wants to keep his job, if he’s the
53rd man on the roster, if he’s a free agent who’s fighting for a job,
maybe he shouldn’t. i would hope that he would, i would hope that he
feels that he can, but if you want me to be flat-foot honest with you,
it probably shouldn’t be, just because i don’t want to tell someone to
give up their lifelong dream of playing in the nfl to … you know what,
yes, it should be. you know, screw it. it should be. i don’t want to be
in the business of telling anyone they can’t live their life
authentically. i don’t want to do that anymore. it’s just not what i’m
about anymore. so I want anyone, whether you’re the first man or the
25th man or the last man or even someone on the practice squad, to come
out and say, “you know what? i’m gay, i’m still a great athlete, and i’m
an even better human being.”
i think this is a fantastic moment, because you can see (literally, if you watch the video)
how, as davis gives his initial answer, the wheels are turning in his
mind as he realizes, “goddamn it. the status quo is bullshit, and i
can no longer reinforce this bullshit by saying that a man should
sacrifice his right to live authentically and love who he wants for the
dream of playing professional football.”
it’s insane that we live in a world where you have stronger job
security in professional sports by discriminating against others and
trying to prove that you’re not gay than by being a great athlete who
openly loves other men. wade davis, i applaud your courage and thank you
for taking a step forward in making sports an arena of tolerance and
respect instead of homophobia and bullying for the athletes of tomorrow.
I am a queer woman who recently contributed to your campaign to
protect Minnesotans’ freedom to marry. However, I am quite disappointed
with your latest email.
“Nothing says family like marriage” was quite a distressing message.
While marriage is an important right, it is also an exclusive and
fraught institution. To say that it is the only legitimizing force in
relationships invalidates strong relationships and commitments and those
who are passionately non-partnered. Additionally, it silences the
importance of alternate families that many LGBTQ people (and especially
youth) form as a means of creating a safe support network. Family means
so many things beyond marriage, and communities within the larger LGBTQ
identity spectrum are a part of that (particularly drag performers).
I ask that you consider apologizing to your email list, which must
represent a very diverse group of people with many different approaches
to and experiences with both marriage and family. A triggering and
silencing message is one that I hope was not intended, but whose impact
must be acknowledged.
I stand with you in solidarity in your fight for marriage equality,
but not at the expense of marginalizing those within our community.
Alexander recently got some flak from his Twitter followers for
comments he made on Craig Ferguson’s show, specifically making comments
about how Cricket is “a bit gay”.
Here’s video of Alexander on the Ferguson show. If you want to just
see the part about Cricket start the video at 9:00. If you hang on with
the video until 12:21 Ferguson and Alexander have a Lady Gaga moment
together but chances are you’ll be pissed about the cricket part and
will want to push on to read about Alexander apologizing.
What is noteworthy about this situation is not that someone famous made a
joke that was homophobic but how they dealt with that situation. I feel
like what typically happens after someone famous does something
homophobic or racist or classist or sexist (etc. etc.) is either denial,
or the lamest possible apology (Romney).
What Alexander did instead was figure out why he wasn’t offended by
the joke he made but why other people might be, and then examined
whether their offense was legitimate. He talked to his gay friends and
came to the understanding that the joke he made, regardless of how
innocently intentioned, did harm and contributed to homophobia in
society and after coming to that understanding he eloquently apologized
for his actions. He essentially unpacked his invisible knapsack on the very public forum of twitter.
I am going to post his apology
below so you can appreciate how awesome it is. If everyone who got
called out for making gay jokes responded the way Alexander did, we’d be
making progress towards acceptance a-lot faster.
A message of amends.
Last week, I made an appearance on the Craig Ferguson show – a
wonderfully unstructured, truly spontaneous conversation show. No matter
what anecdotes I think will be discussed, I have yet to find that Craig
and I ever touch those subjects. Rather we head off onto one unplanned,
loony topic after another. It’s great fun trying to keep up with him
and I enjoy Craig immensely.
During the last appearance, we somehow wandered onto the topic of
offbeat sports and he suddenly mentioned something about soccer and
cricket. Now, I am not a stand-up comic. Stand up comics have volumes of
time-tested material for every and all occasions. I, unfortunately, do
not. However, I’ve done a far amount of public speaking and emceeing
over the years so I do have a scattered bit, here and there.
Years ago, I was hosting comics in a touring show in Australia
and one of the bits I did was talking about their sports versus American
sports. I joked about how their rugby football made our football pale
by comparison because it is a brutal, no holds barred sport played
virtually without any pads, helmets or protection. And then I followed
that with a bit about how, by comparison, their other big sport of
cricket seemed so delicate and I used the phrase, “ a bit gay”. Well, it
was all a laugh in Australia where it was seen as a joke about how
little I understood cricket, which in fact is a very, very athletic
sport. The routine was received well but, seeing as their isn’t much
talk of cricket here in America, it hasn’t come up in years.
Until last week. When Craig mentioned cricket I thought, “oh,
goody – I have a comic bit about cricket I can do. Won’t that be
entertaining?”. And so I did a chunk of this old routine and again
referred to cricket as kind of “gay” – talking about the all white
uniforms that never seem to get soiled; the break they take for tea time
with a formal tea cart rolled onto the field, etc. I also did an
exaggerated demonstration of the rather unusual way they pitch the
cricket ball which is very dance-like with a rather unusual and
exaggerated arm gesture. Again, the routine seemed to play very well and
I thought it had been a good appearance.
Shortly after that however, a few of my Twitter followers made me
aware that they were both gay and offended by the joke. And truthfully,
I could not understand why. I do know that humor always points to the
peccadillos or absurdities or glaring generalities of some kind of group
or another – short, fat, bald, blonde, ethnic, smart, dumb, rich, poor,
etc. It is hard to tell any kind of joke that couldn’t be seen as
offensive to someone. But I truly did not understand why a gay person
would be particularly offended by this routine.
However, troubled by the reaction of some, I asked a few of my
gay friends about it. And at first, even they couldn’t quite find the
offense in the bit. But as we explored it, we began to realize what was
implied under the humor. I was basing my use of the word “gay” on the
silly generalization that real men don’t do gentile, refined things and
that my portrayal of the cricket pitch was pointedly effeminate ,
thereby suggesting that effeminate and gay were synonymous.
But what we really got down to is quite serious. It is not that
we can’t laugh at and with each other. It is not a question of
oversensitivity. The problem is that today, as I write this, young men
and women whose behaviors, choices or attitudes are not deemed “man
enough” or “normal” are being subjected to all kinds of abuse from
verbal to physical to societal. They are being demeaned and threatened
because they don’t fit the group’s idea of what a “real man” or a “real
woman” are supposed to look like, act like and feel like.
For these people, my building a joke upon the premise I did added
to the pejorative stereotype that they are forced to deal with
everyday. It is at the very heart of this whole ugly world of bullying
that has been getting rightful and overdue attention in the media. And
with my well-intentioned comedy bit, I played right into those hurtful
assumptions and diminishments.
And the worst part is – I should know better. My daily life is
filled with gay men and women, both socially and professionally. I am
profoundly aware of the challenges these friends of mine face and I have
openly advocated on their behalf. Plus, in my own small way, I have
lived some of their experience. Growing up in the ‘70’s in a town that
revered it’s school sports and athletes, I was quite the outsider
listening to my musical theater albums, studying voice and dance and
spending all my free time on the stage. Many of the same taunts and
jeers and attitudes leveled at young gay men and women were thrown at me
and on occasion I too was met with violence or the threat of
So one might think that all these years later I might be able to
intuit that my little cricket routine could make some person who has
already been made to feel alien and outcast feel even worse or add to
the conditions that create their alienation. But in this instance, I did
not make the connection. I didn’t get it.
So, I would like to say – I now get it. And to the extent that
these jokes made anyone feel even more isolated or misunderstood or just
plain hurt – please know that was not my intention, at all or ever. I
hope we will someday live in a society where we are so accepting of each
other that we can all laugh at jokes like these and know that there is
no malice or diminishment intended.
But we are not there yet.
So, I can only apologize and I do. In comedy, timing is
everything. And when a group of people are still fighting so hard for
understanding, acceptance, dignity and essential rights – the time for
some kinds of laughs has not yet come. I hope my realization brings some