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July 25th, 2008

You're Down With O-P-P!

Yeah, you know me. The OPP in this case standing for Outing Public People.

Michelangelo Signorile has made a career outing people. He seems to relish the aftermath of his work. I’m not a fan.

We live in a society where the liberal media will append sexuality to a celebrity’s name for the rest of their lives. The conservative media does it too, but with them one can see the sneer of judgment in the work. It happens when you read about Ellen, T. R., and now Jodie. It doesn’t happen when you read about Joy, S. Epatha or Meryl. Nowhere in media do you find, “Meryl Streep, heterosexual actress, talks about her new movie…” but every mention of Ellen includes her sexuality, and now her current and former partners.

Anne Heche is in her own special category. She merits a whole paragraph of sexuality baggage.

So when the community calls for one of its own to come out, as Anderson Cooper has, can you blame him for not? I can’t. To do so would changes everything about his work. Every media report about him will have ‘openly gay journalist’ attached to his name like your dentist has DDS attached to his or hers. But unlike the info after your dentist’s name, the modifier ‘gay’ has nothing to do with Cooper’s journalism. Unless his work focused solely on LGBT issues and he made himself and his life part of his reportage, his sexuality has no business being appended to his name unless it’s appended to every journalist’s name. Can you imagine Walter Cronkite, octogenarian heterosexual, putting up with being introduced that way? Hell no!

The argument is like the plot of one of my favorite movies, The Contender. A woman up for confirmation as Vice President is being asked about her sexual past. If you wouldn’t ask a man about his, it isn’t right to ask a woman about hers. It isn’t right and it isn’t relevant. Not in the movie, not for us.

The flip side to this is that our community needs LGBT celebrities to be visible in ways that show us in a positive light. For the narrow- and non-existent-minded, we are all perverts out to molest their children. That needs to be countered with visible evidence that we are just people, like everyone else. My partner and I have a mortgage, pets, disagreements and weeds. That sounds like every other heterosexual household in my neighborhood and the neighborhoods where I grew up.

This is the dilemma of GLAAD. The media watchdog does an amazing job and here’s their self-description:

“In step with today's always-changing media landscape, GLAAD continues to provide journalists and media professionals with timely, inclusive and authoritative resources, expanding the representation of our community one story at a time through an effective, forceful mix of advocacy, education and visibility.”

A negative side effect of this work is the media always listing our sexualities after our names but just ours and not always favorably.

That’s visibility but not equality.

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GLAAD offers free, downloadable information to help you in your community. To join GLAAD or to obtain the downloads, please visit their website www.glaad.org .

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