Thursday, March 4, 2010

Three Heaping Spoonfuls of Homophobia

Homophobia moment number one deals with Black History Month in the Los Angeles Unified School District. At Wadsworth Elementary the students put on a parade carrying banners depicting prominent African Americans: Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., you get my drift. Along with these fine folk were also images of OJ Simpson, Dennis Rodman and RuPaul, which has caused quite a media kerfluffle, and in my opinion an unnecessary kerfluffle. Some parents were offended, then the school board got involved, and finally the NAACP got wind of it and the entire incident has been so blown out of proportion that it lead to the suspension and possible future firing of three teachers.

Even our not-so-faultless mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, chimed in, "These teachers undermine the school's well-intentioned celebration, and they did so at the expense of elementary school students. Their actions were not only cynical, but did a terrible disservice to the students, their families and all of the teachers who work hard on a daily basis to build trust and a productive learning environment."

Undermine? Cynical? This is a blatant case of guilty before proven innocent. The teachers in question are being lynched by the media without being given the chance to state their case. If I were teaching a class and little Jaquan wanted to have RuPaul or Dennis Rodman (or Lil' Kim or Kobe Bryant or Michael Jackson or Omarosa) on his banner, why would I take his role model away from him? It would be my job to encourage independent thought not conformity.

To be honest, I get why the folks might be PO'ed about OJ, although ironically Simpson does appear on the list of approved Black History Month figures. (Someone might want to update that list.) But why are Rodman and RuPaul placed in the same category as a convicted armed robber/kidnapper/possible wife murderer? Sure, Dennis was the bad boy of basketball court as Tiger is now the bad boy of the links. But he's never committed a felony. Should we wipe out his accomplishments because of a few questionable choices?

But let me set OJ and Dennis aside for one moment. Why is it so horrendous that RuPaul was honored with a banner? Because she's a goddess with a penis? The way I look at it...Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, why not RuPaul? Talk about breaking barriers. I get that folks may be uncomfortable with a man in a bustier, however there are many gay boys who need someone to look up to. And what better role model could there be? It took balls of titanium to live the life she's lived.

Perhaps LAUSD's and NAACP's biggest gripe isn't that Dennis Rodman and RuPaul feel comfortable applying eye liner and wearing dresses, it's that they both look damn good doing it.


I'll tell you a story. When I lived in New York, I worked on this film called To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (one of the bulkiest titles in cinema history.) And we were doing these crazy seventeen hour days at Webster Hall in the East Village. Everyone's nerves were fried. On the third day, we were just about to finish the last shot and some of the electricity goes out. There we were, about 200 people, many of them in full drag, at three-thirty in the morning with murder in our eyes. Well, RuPaul was also working on the film and she asks if we would like to hear part of her act. We, of course, cheered like howler monkeys. And she performed a hysterical thirty minute set until the power was restored. Because of RuPaul, not only did we finish our night's work in great spirits, but we all lived to tell about it.

She is referred to as a diva, and I'm not about to take that away from her, but she's also a lady. And shame on Los Angeles Unified School District for not only not accepting RuPaul as a heroine for Black History Month, but shame on them for not getting on their knees and bowing to the queen.

***

Homophobia moment number two deals with California state senator, Roy Ashburn. Now my beef with him isn't that he got a DUI last week. Or that he was arrested after leaving a gay bar in Downtown Sacramento. Or that there was an unidentified, non-government man with him in the government car. Or that last year when questioned if he was gay, he answered, "Why would that be anyone's business?" Or even that six days before he was booked, Ashburn attended the crowning of Miss Gay Latina Sacramento.

No.

I take issue with none of those. (Although, he should watch the DUI thing, just ask Dennis Rodman.) What I find atrocious is Senator Ashburn's voting record. He has unilaterally voted against every gay issue since he took office, from an anti-discrimination bill to out-of-state same sex marriage legislation.

Christopher Cabaldon, West Sacramento's openly gay mayor, who has spotted Asburn out and about at many a gay nightclub, posted on Facebook, "It wouldn't bother me so bad to see Roy Ashburn at Badlands with a boy if he didn't have such a bad voting record on gay rights."

Now, I suppose the argument could be made that California's 18th District, from where Ashburn hales, is a conservative bastion and he would be jobless if he voted for Harvey Milk Day.

But, I find that faulty. If he likes the gay bars and the gay boys and the drag shows, and why shouldn't he, then it strikes me as common decency to legislate for the equal rights of those he's diddling in the back room.

I do not respect de rigueur politics. Nor do I accept his "I just voted how my constituents wanted" excuse.

Hey, Roy, grow a pair of RuPaul balls. You don't need to strut around in Jimmy Choos, but stand up for who you are and maybe you'll gain some respect. And I'm not talking about my respect or your constituency's respect. Look in the mirror, buddy. You need to respect yourself.

***

Homophobia moment number three deals with an irate Facebook message I received from Maxie's birth mother, Phylis. Not directed at me, mind you, but in response to her sister's intolerance. She visited Sissy (I think in Louisiana) and was bombarded with how Maxie isn't "growin up right," the inference of course being that gay parents shouldn't raise kids. And instead of "choke the bitch" Phylis decided to cut her visit short.

Phylis ended her message with the following: PS. i really would kick any one ass for u guys.

Phylis, I'm sorry you had to go through that. I know some of the decisions you've made have not been easy and they required a lot of soul searching. For someone to systematically stomp on your choices really sucks. I'm not always sure why, but closed minded individuals work diligently to maintain their narrow views. It's not always easy, but it's our job to do what we can to protect ourselves and not let them get to us.

And, by the way, right back at you. Tell me where your sister lives. I'll send Michael to kick her ass."

***

I know there are a lot of angry people out there who don't want to hear this but we are here. And we are Democrats, and we are Republicans, and we work right beside you, and live next door to you, and we take out the trash, and we get our teeth cleaned and our tires rotated, and we pick out preschools, and we clip coupons because we're hurting financially, and we plan to watch the Oscars even though we think we already know who'll win, and we play sports competitively, and play instruments harmoniously, and we have talk shows, and pastry shops, and garages, and fitness centers, and we raise families, and we get married in Washington DC, and we give birth, and we mourn those who pass, and we deeply love those who are with us. We are here...

...And we are not going anywhere.

22 comments:

Steve Heller said...

Great post. I love you, Hutch!

DRBJOY said...

I agree! Love you guys!

oldrnwhyzer1 said...

Great story... having been in a relationship with a drag queen myself for 13 years, while living in Boston ('85-'00), and having had kids of my own, back in my early "confused straight" married years, I can relate. One thing... the openly gay mayor is of our city, here in WEST, not East, Sacramento... thanks!

Hannah & Otto said...

I agree, I love you guys (and gals) and I'd kick ANYONE'S ASS who wants to get in my face about it. By the way, I'm Michelle's pal, Saydi.

Mommy With a Penis said...

Mr. Heller, DRBJOY and Saydi, love you all right back. OLD, Thanks for the info about West Sac. I will amend my blog. Hutch

surprised mom said...

Conformity. People love it. It makes them feel safe.
Intolerance. It's easy so people practice it daily.
It's too bad this post is needed and badly.
And I'm glad you're not going anywhere . . .

CSY said...

Brava, Hutch! I was raised to love everyone, no matter what color, creed, religion, etc...my mother had a friend who was very feminie in his manners. As a child of 6-9 I didn't understand the ugly words that were hurled at him from people on the street, but I will never forget his face when I walked up to him, put his crying face on my tiny shoulder and said to him, "Auntie Chirs, I love you. What those people are saying is rude, and mean and they don't know you like I do." I didn't understand then why he cried so much harder...I realize it now (MANY years later), I showed him the tolerence of a child...if our children can love each other, why can't we? Sorry to take over your blog with my comment...

Jesse :-) said...

Bravo! Okay, I can understand about OJ--not totally agree with it, mind, but I can understand. OJ Simpson--pre-legal battles--was a well respected and beloved sports figure. But, okay. Dennis Rodman...yeah, I can understand that too. He may have been a wizard on the court, but his antics were not exactly what I'd want a child of mine to emulate either.

But, come on...RuPaul??? I adore that wo/man, in or out of the dress. S/he is articulate, witty, urbane, and has never once done anything that would or could be considered a scandal. To get one's knickers in a twist over RuPaul is just inane.

Besides, who picked these folks. The kids? Maybe the PTB needs to stop and talk to the kids about their choices and find out why. Kids usually have a damn good reason. Ask 'em sometime.

kat79 said...

The issues I would have with Dennis is the numerous dui's and arrest for battery. I dont want my kids emulating that.
I love Rupaul however and as someone who grew up in a very conservative family it was like worshipping the devil. I wish I had a fraction of the confidence and bravery she does.

Sensei said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mochajavalatte said...

*APPLAUSE*
WELL.SAID.

Doctor Err said...

i just love your blog! i've been reading since summer (though i have no damn idea how i found you ....). you're socially conscious and funny as hell... my kind of people. a lot of what you write resonates with me as i partnered up with someone much like you and i'm much like your husband.
just want you to know... some of us teachers... we're trying. i teach 8th grade history and have that 'history set the record too straight poster' along with 'every girl/every boy'
gay pejoratives land you right in detention and get you the mama lecture (if you're a turd about the lecture... everything lame is your name for a week). i promote young adult literature with queer themes (I also house it and the kids know where to find it). i give university talks about city kids with a lovely queer scholar who does her thing..which is similar to mine, but not quite. we watch the audience part like the red sea... scholars who fight for the urban kids... unwilling to do so for the queer community of youth. an audience clearly getting more than it bargained for... :)
i don't know how many of my jr high kids i make feel safe... but i lost one of my gay young men to suicide a couple of years ago and am not sure when i've been so broken hearted.
i tell you this to let you know, despite my level of education, glowing reviews etc.... i still worry about pushing too hard (and getting in trouble-loosing my job). you're right. it is bad in many places. it is worse in schools.
keep writing, keep fighting the good fight. keep your chin up. you have allies who recognize your struggle and are trying make things easier for those babies of yours. i am quite frankly... happy you're here.

Margie said...

Well said Hutch . . from a straight but not narrow minded woman who loves your blog and reads it faithfully.

quinn said...

Beautifully done, Hutch.

Sabreena said...

Intolerance is disgusting. As a teacher I saw plenty of screwed up kids from so called traditional families (if traditional means crack smoking neglectful parents). I think people should just butt out of gay lives. Most gay parents are better parents and raise well adjusted happy kids because they have tolerance and understanding. And if straight folk are allowed to screw up marriages (60% divorce rate) gays should be able to join the party. As for that school district thing, that was crazy. The approved list was never mentioned.

I swear I am so sick of the intolerance toward people who aren't harming anyone. Why not expend that energy trying to achieve longer sentences for pedophiles or demanding balanced budgets in governemnt?

Loni said...

Beautiful... just beautiful my darling.

XOXO
Loni

lizzyross said...

I wonder if they'd have a problem with Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Sammy Davis, Jr., or any other barrier breaking African American entertainers?

Now watch them try to ban Dame Edna from the White Peoples School Parade.

Gen said...

When you get that address, let me know and I will send Darren down to meet Mike to complete the ass kicking!!!

Love you all bunches

Gen

trasha said...

Pah! I hate Blogger. All these weeks you have been back and I missed it.

More power to your elbow in promoting tolerance. Why would anyone not want children to hear more about the glory that is RuPaul?

Jennifer Thorne said...

Props to both of you, Hutch and Michael. And props as well to Doctor Err.

I work in a middle school library, and with my small discretionary budget... I'm finding ways to throw some appropriate GLBTQ positive titles into the mix. It's a difficult age for kids.

Progress can be slow and painful. Moreso for folks on the bleeding edge. *hugs*

natalee said...

I am sorry for posting so late but I have to tell you.. AMEN what a wonderful post.... you are definitely my gotto read blog!!! This post made me think of my uncle and how many judge him for being a drag queen and in his words,,a bit "Much". He is in my house and in the eyes of my family our heart and soul. My uncle is true diva /dragqueen.. AND to be honest all my life I never thought anything of it... I didnt know people thought uncle Les's size 13 hot pink stilettos were any diffrent from my dads nikes..LOL.. any way... to be honest my youngest (the two oldest are mens mens..snails..puppydog tails..etc) son walks around with blankets on his head.. my heels on..and lip syncs and even though hes only 2 1/2 my husband and I have decided..we will be his biggest fan whether he wears cleats or italian leather slingbacks..Lol... hugs

Lynne Marie Wanamaker said...

I just discovered your blog and I love this post. Thanks for being you.