National Coming Out Day was yesterday. This was the day when it is supposed to be easier to take the step to acknowledge one's sexuality . that is, if your sexuality is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.
But what about all that confronts the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) community today?
Entertainment Weekly, in its Oct. 6 issue, ran a "Gay Hollywood 2000: A Special Report" cover story. It was well-written and researched, and well-balanced in its presentation of issues and concerns, as well as the problems and backlash and lack thereof.
But in the following issue, a review by Lisa Schwarzbaum of Joel Schumacher's film, "Tigerland," carries some amazing barbs. Referring to Schumacher as "the former hairdresser with a taste for visual opulence," Schwarzbaum goes on to describe "the voluptuary director who never met a handsome, smooth-chested actor who couldn't benefit from velvety backlighting" and writes ". physical exertion among men in close quarters - albeit men with notably well-sculpted bare buttocks. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)"
C'mon. I'd expect such stereotyping and snide comments from anywhere else but a magazine that just covered the inroads made by the GLBT community.
One spends more than a minute wondering how Gay Hollywood hasn't reached one of the main publications that covers it. And the atmosphere of what appears to be questionable judgment chills one.
The News & Observer this past Sunday carried its "Q" section with the story "Have Gays Arrived?" and posed the question of whether attitudes have changed.
It was a good article, both instructive and informative about what is happening nationwide regarding the GLBT community. The article covered the progress that has been made in such areas as the extension of medical benefits to domestic partners (notably gay and straight) and even the recent Vermont action to grant same-sex partners some of the legal protections granted by marriage.
It also covered the "costs" of such loosening of society's chokeholds by discussing hate crimes (that very kindest of terms) from the murder of Matthew Shepard to the most recent killing in Roanoke, Va.
On an even more local level, there is the campus of UNC and all that happens here. It is better than most places for coming out. There is greater safety, comfort and trust here than in your average square mile of North Carolina (or much of the rest of the country).
That's great and it should be a source of great comfort to all of us.
However, there are always some imperfections in this silver lining of the cloud, and one of them is going on right now .
UNC is currently throwing its substantial weight (and even more substantial resources of time, money and personnel) into the annual State Employees Combined Campaign (SECC). Team leaders and departmental representatives have been trained. The banners are flung, the flags are waving and everyone is beating the drum for the employees of the University to step forward and give.
Normally, I'd be writing the first check. But not this year. I am chilled by a serious oversight.
To my knowledge a big educational piece is missing. I refer to what happens when an employee makes an undesignated gift to the SECC. What happens is "the Local Advisory Committee, comprised of state employees, allocates the funds to one or more of the approved SECC charitable organizations."
Those charitable organizations include the Triangle United Way, a federation that continues to support the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts of America is an organization that continues to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation: Gay adults cannot serve in leadership roles in Boy Scouts. So the University's employees who do not designate their gifts may support an agency that actively practices discrimination. And the University, by failing to educate its employees of this fact, gives its covert approval to such discrimination.
Again, it is the Boy Scouts' right to believe what they wish and to practice and act on it.
But it is horribly wrong that:
1) The Triangle United Way continues to support them utilizing a "two-tier system encouraging its organizations to follow a `best practice' policy,"
2) That the SECC continues to allow the Triangle United Way as a recipient agency despite its statement that "charitable organizations that apply to the SECC must annually meet rigorous standards for certification including, but not limited to, fund-raising methods, financial auditing, non-discrimination and compliance with federal and state tax laws," and
3) That the UNC-Chapel Hill, which adheres to a policy of nondiscrimination regarding sexual orientation, has given its tacit approval to such turning the other cheek and does, in effect, turn its own cheek. Way chilling.
I could stand up here and say you should do this and/or you should do that. I won't; I've never felt it was my place to tell someone how to live his/her life.
I will stand up and take action by not giving through the SECC this year, choosing instead to give directly to the agencies of my choice. I don't believe that it will make that big a difference to anyone other than me, but it will make a huge difference to my conscience.
I suggest that if you believe everyone deserves basic, equitable human rights, then you'll send the message that your conscience tells you to send.
Maybe yesterday you came out as a proud member of the GLBT community - or even a proud ally of that community by doing the right thing. Call Entertainment Weekly's bluff on its part in promoting the stereotypes of gay men and write The News & Observer and tell them its not just enough to "tolerate" the GLBT community but that support, admiration, appreciation and nurturance are far more admirable goals for society.
And let the University, SECC, Triangle United Way and the Boy Scouts know that a wink and a nod is no way to talk the talk and walk the walk.
But never give up or turn the other cheek. Keep working. Step up and speak up, and I hope you had a Happy National Coming Out Day.
Jonathan Curtis is the assistant
director for student activities and
organizations at the Carolina Union. Reach him at email@example.com.