Anti-Gay Epithets @FakeAPStylebook

The official Twitter account of the AP Stylebook, @APStylebook, has nearly 50,000 followers. So it’s a little bit funny that a satirical Twitter account, @FakeAPStylebook, has more than 135,000 followers.

I ran across a June 16 tweet by Fake AP Stylebook at the LGBT blog Joe My God that I found particularly amusing:

Never use anti-gay epithets such as “faggot,” “fudge-packer,” or “conservative Christian activist.”

My first thought was: “That’s effin hilarious! If only the NLGJA stylebook supplement could get away with that.” My second and third thoughts were: “Wait, did I just fall for ‘fudge-packer’? And is ‘conservative Christian activist’ really that funny?”

I get that “fudge-packer” is an automatic giggle inducer, but it seems to me that the giggle-inducing power of that phrase comes mostly from the straight perspective.

I also get why “conservative Christian activist” is funny (the laundry list of conservative Christian activists that wind up being gay, the “they doth protest too much” thing), but I always cringe when anyone—even a conservative Christian activist—is stereotyped.

The joke is funny, but I just wish it wasn’t.

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TODAY: Prop 8 Trial Closing Arguments

Today’s the day.  The courtroom is apparently packed with multiple over-flow rooms.  Lots of activists–but sadly, few objective reporters-live tweeting the event. Rumor has it that Maureen Dowd is there.

To follow the event, check out Bilerico’s live twitter feed and challenge-bankrollers American Foundation for Equal Right’s live transcripts. Also check-out Andy Towle’s twitter feed which includes tweets from both sides.

Is Blankenhorn Anti-Gay? Jonathan Rauch Goes After Frank Rich

With closing arguments about to begin in the Prop 8 trial, an interesting letter to the editor tomorrow in the New York Times defending the defendants’ star witness, David Blankenhorn, from criticism by Frank Rich. His supporter: gay journalist and same-sex marriage supporter Jonathan Rauch who recently left the National Journal and is now at the Brookings Institute.

Frank Rich, for the third time since February, unfairly criticizes David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values and a witness in the trial over Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. The implication of these columns has been that Mr. Blankenhorn is antigay.

But Mr. Blankenhorn, with whom I’ve debated gay marriage for years, is the sort of decent, moderate opponent we could use more of. He favors civil unions for same-sex couples. He supports gay adoption. And he has publicly and repeatedly stood up for “the equal dignity of homosexual love.”

Those are not the words of an antigay bigot — and believe me, I’ve heard my share.

Mr. Blankenhorn’s desire to help gay couples while stopping short of marriage may be the wrong answer, as I believe. But it reflects the thinking of millions of centrist and unbigoted Americans who will ultimately determine the fate of gay rights and gay marriage. Treating those moderates as if they were haters only drives them away.

Jonathan Rauch
Washington, June 15, 2010

At issue is Rich’s recent column where he described Blankenhorn as:

Their stated reason for opposing a television record was fear that their witnesses might be harassed. But in the end the Prop 8 defenders mustered only two witnesses, just one of them a controversial culture warrior. That “expert” was David Blankenhorn, president of the so-called Institute for American Values. Blankenhorn holds no degree in such seemingly relevant fields as psychology, psychiatry or sociology. But his pretrial research did include reading a specious treatise by George Rekers, the antigay evangelist now notorious for his recent 10-day European trip with a young male companion procured from Rentboy.com. And Blankenhorn’s testimony relies on the same sweeping generalization as Rekers — that children raised by two biological parents are so advantaged that all alternatives should be shunned.

What was the unqualified Blankenhorn doing at the Prop 8 trial? Like Rekers, who had a lucrative history of testifying for pay in legal cases attacking gay civil rights, he also profits from his propaganda. Public documents, including tax returns, reveal that Blankenhorn’s institute, financed by such right-wing stalwarts as the Bradley and Scaife foundations, paid him $247,500 in base salary in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, and another $70,000 to his wife. Not a bad payday for a self-professed arbiter of American marital values who under oath described his sole peer-reviewed academic paper (from the University of Warwick) as “a study of two cabinetmakers’ unions in 19th-century Britain.” That the Prop 8 proponents employed him as their star witness suggests that no actual experts could be found (or rented) to match his disparagement of gay parents.

The battle between Rich and Blankenhorn in the NYT is not new. Rich connected Blankenhorn to George Rekers, of Rentboy fame, and Blankenhorn denied relying on Reker’s work. He then had to amend his defense in another letter acknowledging he had read Rekers’ work, but forgotten about it. At his blog, he said the NYT cut his letter which gave more context to his explanation.

So what to make of it all.  First, Rich is an opinion columnist and has a right to express his opinions. He can call someone a bigot if he wants, no matter how well supported that position may be.  He shouldn’t, however, be misrepresenting Blankenhorn’s position to fit a specific narrative.  Rich’s allegations in relation to Rekers are correct–to a point–but lacking in context, at least according to Rauch.

On a larger level, Blankenhorn is often described as anti-gay because he opposes same-sex marriage. Rauch would argue that’s a simplistic assessment that fails to capture his position. On the stand, Blankenhorn was not a ‘central casting” anti-gay bigot but instead a witness who appeared to have trouble explaining his nuanced position on why same-sex marriage was bad for marriage and kids, but who acknowledged support for gay rights and for the stigma and discrimination created by not allowing same-sex marriage.

What Rauch points out is that there are opponents of same-sex marriage who aren’t bigots or anti-gay.  Some may argue they are as rare as the black swan, but they do exist and journalists, columnists, and citizen journalists owe their readers and viewers a favor to not just dismiss everyone as an anti-gay bigot out of hand.

UPDATE: Also coming to Blankenhorn’s defense–at Blankenhorn’s blog a blog st Blakenhorn’s Institute for American Values- is Professor Dale Carpenter, a well-known law professor and scholar who has written extensively in favor of  same-sex marriage at Volokh Conspiracy.

On the subject of same-sex marriage, I believe David is a man at war with himself. He has spoken publicly, in a forum of anti-SSM conservatives, of the equal dignity of homosexual love. Note the words dignity and love. This is not the language of liberal toleration of some hateful thing, like Nazis marching in Skokie; or of some filthy thing, like disgusting sex acts; or of some offensive thing, like burning a U.S. flag. They are not words of a grudging tolerance. They are words of affirmation, approval, and acceptance. When he says he believes we would be a more American America if we let gay couples marry, I think he is saying that he would be a better American if he could support it: truer to the country’s traditions of pluralism, liberty, and equality. Truer to his own American values.

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LGBT Leaders Speak Out on Media Coverage

An interesting post by Karl Frisch at progressive media watchdog Media Matters highlighting what various LGBT groups are saying about media coverage during Pride Month.  I think the most interesting comment came from Sharon J. Lettman, executive director of National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC):

In recent years, Black press outlets have made tremendous strides in covering lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) stories. For instance, the June Issue of Essence magazine includes a Father’s Day tribute to a Black gay couple with two adopted children. Their story is told with respect and dignity for the contributions they make to their community. In the same issue there’s a second article in which a lesbian couple talks about the values they are instilling in their children. Just a few short years ago this type of coverage did not exist.

Most of the progress that we see is at the national level. We still have some work to do in convincing regional Black press outlets that it is their journalistic responsibility to cover Black LGBT issues in ways that are both fair and inclusive by empowering them to know that their readership is much broader than their perceived conservative Christian base. Their readership also includes concerned Black LGBT people and allies who are becoming increasingly vocal about the need for positive portrayals in media about LGBT people of color.

Some of the comments underscored the tension between activists and journalists. Activists are rarely happy with the press coverage they get, in part because the journalist isn’t staying “on message” with their reporting. Of course, a journalist who is “on message” with the desire of activists probably isn’t doing a good job as a journalist.

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Topless “Transgendered Men” in Rehoboth

“Transgendered men go topless in Rehoboth” is the headline of a recent article by The News Journal in Delaware. “Action called upsetting, not illegal” was the subhead.

Full stop right there—not only does the headline use “transgendered” instead of “transgender” (I realize some people still use “transgendered” but I believe that “transgender” is the preferred word) but more importantly, as the article confirms, the use of the phrase “transgendered men” is completely inaccurate in this case.

Here’s an excerpt:

Rehoboth Beach and the local Internet have been buzzing for days after a few transgendered men caused a stir on the beach over the holiday weekend by removing their tops and revealing their enhanced breasts.

Police there were called to the beach after lifeguards requested that the sunbathers replace their tops.

“Passers-by came up to the lifeguard and said they were alarmed and unhappy with the females showing their breasts,” Police Chief Keith Banks said. “The lifeguard responded and saw that they were males.”

Banks said police were called because the men originally refused to put their tops back on, but had consented before police arrived. Officers made sure the situation was under control, and no citations were issued.

These individuals clearly were transgender women, not transgender men. Then there’s the comment by the police chief that the individuals “were males.” Setting aside his ignorance on the subject, shouldn’t the article have pointed out that he was incorrect? Then again, the editors from the beginning didn’t understand the difference.

The article goes on to discuss the peculiar situation of whether going topless was illegal for these individuals. The consensus seems to be that it was not illegal because the transgender women, despite having breast implants, still had male genitalia.

Steve Elkins, executive director of the LGBT nonprofit CAMP Rehoboth, added these thoughts to the mix:

Elkins said he also thinks that it is horrific that some people who voiced outrage through radio talk shows and the Internet only have a problem because they were transgendered.

“Whoever called and [initially] complained about a woman having her top off,” he said. “The people now trying to make something about the fact that they were also men, they are trying to have it both ways. You can’t have it both ways.”

Setting aside the apparent misunderstanding by Elkins “that they were also men,” his point about a double standard is well taken, not only socially but also journalistically. An article about a group of topless women usually doesn’t make it into the news, unless they happen to be transgender.

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