Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The LGBT Community Gets Two New Heroes: Michael Sam and Ellen Page

This month saw a groundbreaking announcement and one of the most beautiful coming out speeches in the history of gay men and women leaping from closets. Both were met with the expected kudos and cheering from the LGBT community and its allies (yay) and the typical bible thumping/hell fire threats and hate speech from the bigots (fuck y'all). These are normal, expected reactions to Michael Sam and Ellen Page coming out. But we've got some new middle ground folks that reacted in a few similar, but strange and insulting ways.

Firstly, let me tell you how freaking epic and important it is that Michael Sam came out. A little background on the situation. There are zero openly gay players in the NFL right now. That isn't to say there are zero gay players in the NFL, and anyone who claims this is living in a fantasy land; there aren't any OUT gay players. Statistically speaking, there are probably 1-5 gay players on every team, meaning between 32-160 gay players are probably closeted in the NFL at any given moment. That concern everyone keeps raising about "will they feel comfortable showering with a gay man?" Hate to break it to those showerphobes, but THEY ALREADY HAVE. Michael Sam isn't in the NFL yet, but he's pretty much a lock to be next season. He won the best defensive player of the SEC, a college football conference known for their defense. This means, come September, the NFL will have its first openly gay player, and that is pretty damn great!

This should only upset people if she steals your personal underwear

Ellen Page, an A-list celebrity and top candidate for most adorable person to ever exist, came out in one of the most beautiful coming out speeches ever shared. If you haven't heard it, you should immediately click here and do so. Don't worry. We'll wait. Cry if you have to--I sure did. Amazing, wasn't it? Ellen Page is up there with the most high profile people to ever come out. And yes, right now, that is an important distinction. More on that later.

In a lot of internet threads, articles, comment sections, etc. about these two events, I saw three insanely common new responses to someone coming out. We all expect the enlightened allies to cheer this stuff on and the hateful bigots to condemn it, but when did apathy and frustration become such commonplace reactions? On George Takei's Facebook post about Ellen Page probably half the reactions were of the "who cares?" or "It doesn't matter and I'm sick of hearing about it" types. For a little background info, George is gay and out and amazing--he's also a giant fucking internet celebrity, movie star, and a highly praised guest voice actor on Futurama so he attracts a pretty diverse following, which kind of seemed to surprise even him when many of the responses included people like...

The "I don't care" posters -- basically, they're liars. It wasn't as if George Takei individually asked all his millions of followers to personally look at an article he posted and give their opinion. If he had, then a bunch of "I don't cares" would make sense. But for someone to read an article that nobody asked them to read and post a response that nobody asked for...let's just say, someone going out of their way to post that they don't care would be ironic if it were true, but it's disingenuous because they actually do care. (There are things I actually don't care about. Do you know what they are? Nope, because I don't care about them enough to bother listing them. See how that works when the apathy is real?) For the most part, these people are just as bigoted as the ones decrying homosexuality as a sin, they simply lack the conviction. They want to deride and belittle the LGBT community by telling us how little the things we do matter to the delusional self-important people, but they want to do so in a way that doesn't leave them open for criticism. Too bad for them. I'm calling the "I don't care" response to these important events both bigoted and cowardly and in possession of an inflated sense of their opinion's value to the world.

The "I'm sick of hearing about this stuff" people -- Boo-fucking-hoo. Go back to the white heterosexual media coverage that dominates more than 90% of every movie, television show, radio station, and any other media source. This is such a whiny, narcissistic stance to have about the plight of a group that makes up more than 10% of the human population. Really? Because something doesn't directly impact or interest you, it shouldn't exist, or should only exist until you're tired of hearing about it? My answer to that is simple and universal: fuck off. I'm sick of privileged people telling me that the fight for equality shouldn't infringe on the monopoly of attention and focus given to the white heterosexual narrative. 90+% of all media isn't good enough for these whiny, self-important pricks. No, they need 100% to keep feeling special.

The "Why does it even matter?" camp -- This group is basically broken into two sides. Half of them don't understand that other people don't have the same rights and protections as them, so they don't see why coming out is even important. They're so narrow-minded that they think their own experiences and what they think is important is so universally accepted that if they don't understand why something matters then obviously it shouldn't matter to anyone. They're ignorant, thunderously ignorant at that. And, from what I've encountered, they're not all that interested in learning that their opinions don't shape the reality of every other human being on the planet--they want to be glib and they're basically just lazier versions of the "I'm sick of hearing about this stuff" people.

The other half of this group are more accurately "This SHOULDN'T matter" and that's as asinine as people who claim they don't see race. War shouldn't be an answer, puppies shouldn't be euthanized, mentally ill people shouldn't be forced to live on the streets, the impoverished elderly shouldn't have to eat cat food to survive, and gay people shouldn't be persecuted. But guess what, should doesn't have a lot to do with what actually happens. How completely worthless is a person who identifies that something shouldn't be happening, but all they do is say that it shouldn't be? Marriage equality exists in less than half the states, a majority of states offer no workplace discrimination protections for LGBT people, hate crimes are still a daily occurrence, and that's the best THIS country can offer. Don't get me started on what happens to the LGBT communities in Russia, Iran, and Uganda. It doesn't matter one bit if a person thinks something shouldn't be an issue if it directly contradicts reality. It shouldn't matter, but it damn well does.

Gather around, all you "Why does it matter?", "It shouldn't matter", "I'm sick of hearing about this", and "I don't care" folks, because I'm going to explain to why it is important. And anyone who doesn't feel like explaining this shit to them, go ahead and link to this post and add your own reasons in the comment section. For LGBT youth, hope isn't easy to come by and a pride in sense of self is even harder. A young, gay man who wants to play football doesn't have role models who know what he's going through, doesn't have heroes like himself to emulate, and is essentially told if he wants to pursue his dream, he has to hide who he is. That is why Michael Sam is important and why what he did matters. If a person can't see that it is because they lack basic human empathy for anyone who isn't exactly like them. Michael Sam broke a barrier that existed for decades so others like him wouldn't have to encounter the same level of resistance--that is as heroic now as it was when Jackie Robinson did it. Ellen Page made a marvelous case for why coming out is important so I can only assume most of the people commenting didn't actually listen to the speech and just scrolled down to the section where they got to put in their own, ignorant opinion. She was dead on--gay women, especially women who don't look like society says lesbians should look, get some of the most condescending, insulting treatment as if heterosexuality is a prize that pretty girls can win, and aren't they ungrateful or stupid if they don't want that prize. That attitude is sick, wrong, and it ties together the worst parts of bigotry and sexism. Young lesbians...yanno what? it doesn't even just apply to young lesbians since Ellen Page coming out inspired me and I'm in my twenties...need to hear that their sexuality isn't tied to their appearance. Actually, forget about it just being a good lesson for lesbians of all ages, it's a good message for women of any orientation and age. I'll repeat it: your sexuality is not dictated by your appearance and it damn sure isn't dictated by what people think you should be based on your appearance.

As for the brain dead morons who said "I didn't have to come out as straight / Tim Tebow got persecuted for being an evangelical and nobody applauded him"...the level of stupid and entitled required to post that shit, especially if its attached to your actual name and Facebook/Twitter account, is beyond help, at least from me. Someone with a crowbar and a bucket of grease might come along to manually remove their heads from their asses, but it's just not worth it to me to bother.

Does any of this directly impact straight, white, males? Nope, but it doesn't have to for it to be important. Let me repeat that for the people who are still confused--just because it doesn't cater to the majority, doesn't mean it is valueless and the LGBT community getting a few heroes and role models doesn't diminish the fact that you have all the role models and heroes you could possibly want in every field and at every level. Another group getting the same treatment you already have doesn't mean your treatment got worse. More importantly, you're not in charge of what is and isn't important to the world. I hate to be the one to break it the heteros, but you don't get to tell LGBT people what is valuable. We get to decide for ourselves who we love and we get to decide that Michael Sam and Ellen Page are fucking heroes to be proud of.

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