Robin Roberts Comes Out

Robin_RobertsRobin Roberts, the co-host of Good Morning America on ABC, thanked her longtime girlfriend Amber Laign in a Facebook post on Sunday, December 29:

At this moment I am at peace and filled with joy and gratitude.

I am grateful to God, my doctors and nurses for my restored good health.

I am grateful for my sister, Sally-Ann, for being my donor and giving me the gift of life.

I am grateful for my entire family, my long time girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together.

And with that, Roberts came out. In addition to her professional merits, Roberts has been in the spotlight for her very public battles with breast cancer and myelodysplastic syndrome.

By most accounts, Roberts was out to family and friends for years, just not out publicly. Reactions in general seem mostly muted, except from reliably anti-gay commenters.

And speaking of gay, it seems that “gay” instead of “lesbian” was the headline word of choice:

‘GMA’ anchor Robin Roberts publicly acknowledges she’s gay (CNN)

Robin Roberts Comes Out as Gay (E!)

Robin Roberts: No Secret She Was Gay (TMZ)

Sure, the “Yep, I’m Gay” 1997 Time magazine cover of Ellen DeGeneres used the word “gay” instead of “lesbian” but that was then, as they say. Was the use of “gay” this time around just for headline brevity or as a catch-all phrase?

Why Robin Roberts Coming Out as Gay Isn’t News — But Is Still Significant” by Brent Lang at The Wrap also uses “gay” in the headline, but gives some thoughtful analysis:

Robin Roberts coming out as a lesbian this weekend is not really news, but it’s still significant …

Coming out may be quotidian among celebrities, but discrimination against the LGBT community is alive, rampant and legally sanctioned. As Jack Mirkinson of The Huffington Post notes, the public relations fiasco surrounding A&E’s handling of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s anti-gay remarks, shows this form of bigotry is not only tolerated by broad swaths of the population. It’s embraced …

By coming out they are helping people like Phil Robertson recognize that they are on the wrong side of history — and that’s worth a few headlines.

What the Media Learned from Chelsea Manning

ChelseaManning_tv-400

Freelance writer and NLGJA member Christopher Carbone has penned a nice summary in The Advocate about media coverage of Chelsea Manning:

“I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female.” With those eight words delivered in a statement read by Savannah Guthrie on the Today Show on August 22, the former Army private and convicted WikiLeaks whistleblower once known as Bradley became the most well-known transgender person in the world, the subject of news industry angst as media grappled with how to refer to Manning and which pronouns to use.

And NLGJA got a shout out:

At the outset, several news organizations, including Reuters and The New York Times, initially referred to Manning by masculine pronouns. Within hours of the announcement, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association issued a statement urging the media to use feminine pronouns and to respect Manning’s wish to be known as Chelsea. The next day, the Times announced that it was following the NLGJA’s guidance on the issue.

Let’s hope more mainstream outlets adopt this guidance.

Gawker and Shepard Smith

In a recent article, NYT media and culture columnist David Carr asks: “What if Gawker tried to out an anchor at Fox News and no one cared?”

gawkerA Gawker article claimed that Fox News anchor Shepard Smith supposedly yelled at a waitress at a bar in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea back in March.

Oh, and his date was a man:

Aha. Cue the innuendo, the salacious follow-ups and the specter of mainstream media outlets picking up the item with a pair of tweezers. Except after the post was published, there was nothing but crickets, other than a piece in Slate wondering aloud why Gawker had bothered. Otherwise, there was no significant pickup, and no broad expression of outrage.

We know why: The culture has moved on. People see other people who happen to be gay at their workplaces, in their schools and on their televisions. Somewhere along the way, what was once a scarlet letter became just another consonant in the personal résumé. And now that gay marriage is a fact of life, a person’s sexual orientation is not only not news, it’s not very interesting.

The majority of the country supports same-sex marriage, and among people 18 to 29 years old, a demographic that makes up the bulk of Gawker’s audience, polls show that 70 percent believe that gay marriage should be legal.

The frisson of the Gawker tidbit was supposed to derive from the contextual equation — Fox News + gay = hypocrisy — but the channel has hardly been of one voice on the issue and there is no indication that it has any special obsession with sexual orientation, like, say, Gawker.

Carr then circles in on Nick Denton:

Gawker, which is run by Nick Denton, who is openly gay, seems to have a bit of a thing for homosexuality. Until Anderson Cooper of CNN decided to publicly announce that he is gay, the site pounded on him over and over, more or less demanding that he acknowledge it.

Eventually Mr. Cooper wrote an open letter saying he is gay, and there was a short burst of coverage, but nothing changed in terms of how he was seen, which suggests most people have moved on …

By doing a takedown on Mr. Smith, Gawker, which trades on its bracingly modern approach to news, comes off as moralistic and invasive, while Fox News seems oddly open-minded and pragmatic in comparison.

Of course, by writing about the Gawker coverage, I’m implicated even as I cluck my tongue, obsessing over someone obsessing over someone else’s sexuality; it feels icky and very meta at the same time. I made quite a few phone calls mulling it over and talking with people, trying to understand if I was pointing at a problem or just becoming part of it.

Michelangelo Signorile chimed in at HuffPost Gay Voices:

And this is where Carr’s statement that “being gay carries no higher burden” is so infuriating: He just doesn’t see that, in fact, by not reporting that a male public figure is out in public with a “boyfriend” when an incident occurred, when you would normally report that he was with a “girlfriend” if he were straight, you’re actually giving gays special treatment rather than treating gays equally. You’re also enforcing the closet and keeping gays invisible.

I’m sure Carr considers himself gay-supportive, but his view is paternalistic and, to borrow a phrase he hurls at Gawker, “old school.” He doesn’t seem to get the idea that we’re not going to get any further on LGBT visibility and equality if we keep coddling people of privilege and treating the reporting of public figures’ sexual orientation as if it were a revelation of terrible information that could psychologically damage them forever. And he doesn’t see that that’s not a consideration when reporting relevant details about other issues that public figures would rather not see reported.

Joseph Beam

joseph_beamBorn: 1954
Died: 1988

“The bottom line is this: We are black men who are proudly gay. What we offer is our lives, our loves, our visions … We are coming home with our heads held up high.”
-Joseph Beam

Joseph Beam is an official honoree today for LGBT History Month 2013, which this year has several HIV-positive honorees.

Joseph Beam was a gay activist and author who worked to foster the acceptance of LGBTs in the African-American community.

Beam became a leader in the black gay community in the early 1980s, writing news articles, essays, poetry and short stories for publications such as The Advocate, Body Politic, Gay Community News and the New York Native, relating the gay experience with the U.S. civil rights movement. In 1984, the Lesbian and Gay Press Association awarded Beam for his outstanding achievement as a minority journalist.

In 1986, he edited and published In the Life, an anthology of work written by largely unknown black gay writers, in response to his frustration over the absence of African American voices in LGBT literature. The anthology is widely regarded as the first of its kind.

Beam was also the founding editor of the national magazine Black/Out, served on the board of directors of the National Coalition of Black Lesbian and Gays, and was a contributing editor for the magazine Blacklight. He also worked as a consultant for the Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the American Friends Service Committee.

In 1988, Joseph Beam died of AIDS-related complications just three days shy of his 34th birthday. In 1991, Beam’s mother and friend published a second anthology of black gay men’s literature, titled Brother to Brother, which Beam was working on at the time of his death.

Go to lgbthistorymonth.com for more information about Beam and the other honorees.

The Wait for an Active Gay NFL Player

Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has backtracked from his claim that up to four gay NFL players were considering coming out on the same day.

That has allowed for some interesting Monday morning quarterbacking (sorry, had to say it!). Yahoo! sports writer Jason Cole has written an excellent article on this topic.

“Media must be delicate in handling of active NFL gay player coming out publicly” is the title of his article:

footballFormer Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who along with Ayanbadejo supports marriage equality and gay causes, got a phone call from one news outlet. The reporter wanted to know Fujita’s opinion about what Ayanbadejo was saying. The conversation quickly turned to the reporter’s real objective.

Do you know who those four players could be?

“I figured out what they were really wanting pretty quickly,” Fujita said with equal amounts of sarcasm and disappointment.

This is where the chase gets dangerous. Even though Ayanbadejo later backed off his claim, it was only after reporters who work with Bob Costas, CNN, ESPN and numerous other outlets had chased the tidbit. [Cyd] Zeigler [of Outsports.com] eventually weighed in on the subject, casting doubt that there were ever four NFL players planning to come out and throwing a wet blanket on CBSSports.com writer Mike Freeman’s assertion that an NFL player is “close” to coming out.

“Just wait for the headline that someone has come out; anything else is just a guess,” said Zeigler, who admitted Friday that he’s only reasonably sure of two gay NFL players.

Worse, Zeigler said, there is almost a witch-hunt element to what is going on. It’s not necessarily intentional, but it’s there nonetheless.

“I just hope that it doesn’t get to the point that somebody feels pressured to come out because they feel that this news organization is about to out them,” said Zeigler, who is 39 and came out when he was 23. “You don’t want people to feel pressured into this.”

It’s anyone’s guess when the media will finally have to deal with this for real, but I do wonder what role, if any, LGBT journalists and LGBT media will play.