The saddest story of the queer media these days is the belief that getting one of everything on staff will make for the best darned community coverage ever. You know, one trans person, one black, one native, one latina... Each one living and working in her own little ghetto. If you're Asian and want to write about tennis, we don't want you. (Unless you want to profile Asian players, in which case we have space for you on page 38.)
Yes, I'm exaggerating, but it is the logical end result of what I heard over and over at September's National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association
conference from the gay media people. When I asked Windy City Times
editor Tracy Baim if she thought that looking for a trans writer in order to get trans community coverage might cause a potential reporter to feel trapped into covering stuff she did NOT want to obsess over, Baim replied that she'd never really thought of it that way. (Poor Tracy, I don't mean to put her on the spot!)
If I wrote only about white lesbian Canadian issues, I'd go mad. Not to mention be pretty damned ignorant.
Do you recall a time when we all believed that learning about each other was interesting and, in fact, a requirement for getting along in the world? Liberalism was replaced by the "radical" idea that whites were not allowed to create fictional black characters because empathy, imagination and interest were considered to be racially bound. The idea that minorities deserve to be given the chance to present their realities has been replaced with the belief that they MUST represent their communities. As for me, I got important white things to write about.
is an editor at the sports ESPN The Magazine
and is also a black gay man -- apparently the only of both in his newsroom. He gets pretty darned tired, he said at a panel discussion (again at the NLGJA conference) of being the go-to guy for every single black or queer story. He didn't take the extra step and publicly chastise the lazy cowards around him, but I will: this is just a way for people to deflect responsibility. If I can ask the black guy, then I don't have to think. He'll tell me whether I'm being politically correct! If I can ask the lesbian, I don't have to accept accountability for my actions. Cuz she said it was okay! And I can lapse back into my nap.
I'm not saying that I as a lesbian, or LZ as a black man or as a gay man, are abdicating our interest in our own communities. Of course being part of a certain group gives you some advantages (not to mention the disadvantages of having more enemies in that grouping). Certainly I expect that LZ's identity made it more comfortable for WNBA
MVP Sheryl Swoopes to come out in the current issue of the magazine.
She's a forward with the Houston Comets and a three-time Olympic medal winner (and black, by the way). This is hot stuff in the sports world.
"My reason for coming out isn't to be some sort of hero," Swoopes said. "I'm just at a point in my life where I'm tired of having to pretend to be somebody I'm not. I'm tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about. About the person I love."
More from the press release: "Swoopes, 34, is the most recognizable athlete, male or female, to come out in a team sport. Former WNBA player Michele Van Gorp, who played for the Minnesota Lynx, publicly acknowledged she is a lesbian in July 2004 [in the GLBT magazine Lavender].
Before Van Gorp, former Liberty player Sue Wicks
had been the only member of a female professional team to publicly come out while still playing. Previously, Swoopes has said she plans to continue her career.
"Former NFL defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo
and MLB outfielder Billy Bean
made headlines when they revealed they were gay, but both were retired when they made their announcements and neither had a career that comes close to Swoopes." Ex Out mag
editor Brendan Lemon claimed to be humping a gay baseball player, but no one was ever able to figure out if that was, well, true.
I expect that many progressive sports fans were desperate for some good news -- any good news -- after the recent revelation that baseball is fast becoming a whites-only sport.
And just to show how important she really is, Swoopes is the first female athlete to have had a shoe named after her (Nike's Air Swoopes).
More from ESPN: "The news could be particularly perplexing for the WNBA, which has struggled to both recognize the homosexual element connected to its league and grow its fan base. Ironically, in its infancy, the WNBA marketed a pregnant, married Swoopes to put a heterosexual face on its promotional campaign. Now the league, which will play its 10th season next summer, has to decide what to do now that one of its best and most recognizable players has announced she's gay."
Sez Swoopes: "The talk about the WNBA being full of lesbians is not true. There are as many straight women in the league as there are gay. What really irritates me is when people talk about football, baseball and the NBA, you don't hear all of this talk about the gay guys playing. But when you talk about the WNBA, then it becomes an issue. Sexuality and gender don't change anyone's performance on the court." (Yes, there it is, the ridiculous quote that everybody who comes out feels the need to include. All it does is make bigots think that there is a difference....)
But this is what I found most refreshing (and it's from the 365gay.com story):
"Do I think I was born this way? No," Swoopes said. "And that's probably confusing to some, because I know a lot of people believe that you are." Swoopes, who was married and has an 8-year-old son, said her 1999 divorce "wasn't because I'm gay."
That is even more courageous than merely coming out. I have heard from more and more gay activists the incessant demand that homos be accepted because we were born that way. It's an argument that will eventually bite off our noses. As if choice was dirty.