Showing posts with label Gay Media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Media. Show all posts

January 4, 2017

Anti Gay, Homophobic Kim Burrell Disinvited from Ellen Show

Image: Kim Burrell performs on NBC's "Today" show at Rockefeller Plaza on Dec. 9 in New York.

Kim Burrell performs on NBC's "Today" show at Rockefeller Plaza on Dec. 9 in New York. Charles Sykes / Invision/AP

The Evangelist who is said "That perverted homosexual spirit is a spirit of delusion and confusion and has deceived many men and women, and it's caused a strain on the body of Christ," Burrell, a pastor at Love and Liberty Fellowship Church, in Houston, Texas, said in the sermon, which surfaced on YouTube Friday. "You as a man, you open your mouth and take a man's penis in your face, you are perverted ... You are a woman and will shake your face in another woman's breast, you are perverted." 
Burrell had been scheduled to sing a duet on “Ellen" with rapper and record producer Pharrell Williams, with whom she recorded a song for the soundtrack of "Hidden Figures" — the new movie about a black woman's role in the early days of the U.S. space program.

I find it funny that  she was invited to the Ellen show which indicates to me those producers who book celebrities to be talking heads in the shows only care about the theme of the shows and the rating that would bring. There have been exceptions to that when they bring someone who is made great accomplishments or in the way to. Again exceptions. When they booked this woman they figured black, good income, important to many, talk your ear off and people always say amen, bingo!
That she will sing on a sound track? You judge that one.

No one thought, particularly in a show in which the host herself is openly gay that they were bringing (and she had agree to come) a major anti gay homophobe who thinks not being anti gay is to not condemn them to hell. Call them dirt but don’t say hell and you can hold your head high among them. She at lest recognizes is not her call but calls them the meanest, dirtiest things anywhere which will make people assume, those that believe in some type of hell that they are going there if not nobody is (closer to the truth) and I better not get too close or the winds of hell might as well engulf them too.

I for myself would have let her come in and tell me in my face all those dirty things and have the “lets go into the video tape” in case she lied. I will also ask for proof for anything disquieting bad Im being called.

I would let her see me and then judge me like she does., I might even tell her where she gets it wrong in the ‘penis in the mouth’ I think she was talking about straight men with no experience.

I do understand that Ellen is not there to do great things but to have a show even if th President is given her a medal, which was very nice of him. 

Burrell maintained in a second Facebook Live broadcast that she was not targeting gay and lesbian individuals. 

"Have i ever discriminated against them? Have I ever outright told them 'I don't love you and you going to hell?' Why would I?" she asked. "Who gives me the right to say that I'm telling someone that they're going to hell? I don’t get that call?"

She doesn’t get that call, she did get some other calls, as well as Ellen which together kept social media particularly tweeter hot and buzzing. Hope someone gets enlightened. I however felt better from the Flu.

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November 13, 2016

Rachel Maddow Gets Emotional Over HIV and Anti Gay Pence

Rachel Maddow has been many times moved by the recent election, but the MSNBC host got particularly emotional Friday night while talking about vice president-elect Mike Pence and his anti-gay policies.

After going over the long, difficult process that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage, Maddow pointed out that in 2013, Pence signed legislation as governor of Indiana to make it a felony to “lie” on an application for a marriage license, which only had space for one man and one woman.

“So, ultimately, marriage equality becomes the law of the land everywhere thanks to the Supreme Court, but in Indiana, under Mike Pence, gay couples faced 18 months in prison and $10,000 for applying to get married,” she says, getting choked up. “Just applying to married put you in jail under Mike Pence.”

Later, the host described Pence being selected as Donald Trump’s running mate.
“When the Republican party picked as their nominee this year Donald Trump, a man who has honestly kind of a confusing, incoherent position on a lot of culture war issues, including gay rights, you would think it would’ve been really huge news. You’d think it would’ve been an acute point of focus in this campaign when the Republican presidential nominee — who has this strange, sort of hard to follow, internally contradictory set of policies on these issues — he picked as his running mate the most vociferously and consistently anti-gay statewide elected official in the country.”

She continued to detail some of his other policies: “Mike Pence said you should not only take away money from HIV and AIDS programs, he said AIDS funding should be taken away from serving people with HIV and AIDS because instead it should be diverted into government-funded programs designed to cure people from being gay, to try to fix gay people. That’s what the government should spend its money on — not this AIDS stuff.”
Maddow added, “Mike Pence is really, really out there.”


October 17, 2016

Fox’s Shepard Smith Comes Out Gay


Fox News anchor Shepard Smith came out as gay in an interview Monday.

In Smith’s sit down with the Huffington Post, the anchor denied that his former boss Roger Ailes ever prevented him from coming out publicly.

“That’s not true. He was as nice as he could be to me. I loved him like a father,” Smith said.

Smith indicated that Ailes did not express contempt for homosexuality when he was around him, saying Fox News was a “warm” work environment under Ailes’ reign.

“No, never. He treated me with respect, just respect,” Smith said. “He gave me every opportunity in the world and he never asked anything of me but that we get it right, try to get it right every day. It was a very warm and loving and comfortable place.”

Nevertheless, Smith said trust was lost with Ailes after reports of sexual harassment came to light.
“I trusted him with my career and with ― I trusted him and trusts were betrayed. People outside this company can’t know [how painful that betrayal was]. This place has its enemies, but inside, it was very personal, and very scarring and horrifying.”
Smith, never afraid to veer from the network’s orthodoxy, was one of the few Fox News anchors who reported on Ailes’ improprieties, leading the coverage when the rest of the network was neglecting the shameful story.

In his interview Monday, Smith suggested a pathway to a new era of Fox News:

“We have to make sure there aren’t young victims wandering around here who need us. We have to get appropriate counselors in here. We have to make sure legally everybody’s protected and have to make a commitment to be the most transparent, open and welcoming organization of our kind in the world, and I’m determined to be a part of the team that makes it happen.”

Several years ago, Gawker heavily pursued rumors that Smith was romantically involved with a male 26-year-old Fox staffer, and that the right-wing news network might be silencing the relationship to conceal the fact that one of its famous personalities was homosexual.

Why did it take so long?

According to Gawker:

 Why did it take Shepard Smith so long to come out? The affable Fox News anchor has a longtime boyfriend, ranks among Fox’s most senior talent, and lives in New York City. It could be, of course, that he’s just a very private person, or—as the Times argued in October—that public attitudes have changed and nobody cares if a famous figure is gay.

Shepard Smith’s Office Romance: A 26-Year-Old Fox Staffer
Shepard Smith, the endlessly endearing (and easily angered) Fox News anchor, has likened the…
Or it could be that, when Smith tried to come out last year, Fox silenced and punished him.

In the summer of 2013, according to multiple sources with knowledge of their exchange, Shepard Smith approached Fox News president Roger Ailes about publicly coming out. The newly attached anchor was eager, at the time, to finally acknowledge his sexuality. “It’s time,” he told Ailes and other colleagues. “It’s time.”

Instead, Ailes informed Smith that the network’s famously conservative audience would not tolerate a gay news anchor. Ailes’ answer was definitive: Smith could not say he’s gay.

“This came up during contract negotiations,” a Fox insider told Gawker. “Shep wanted to and was ready to come out, and Roger just said no.”

Smith, one of Ailes’s first and most loyal disciples, acquiesced to his boss’s demand, and dropped the matter. But the discussion worried enough Fox executives to prompt Smith’s removal, in September 2013, from the channel’s coveted prime-time lineup. According to a Fox insider with direct knowledge of negotiations, Smith’s desire to come out was a large factor in the dramatic move.

“They tried to play it up as a big promotion,” the insider said. “But everyone knew that Shep was getting demoted. And the coming out thing was a significant part of that.”

It’s difficult to square all of this with Smith’s characterization of Ailes as an uncommonly honest businessman, a second father who would never hurt him. “Roger has always had my back and never lied to me and never told me what to say,” Smith said in 2009.

Yet Smith’s demotion wasn’t actually Ailes’s idea to begin with. Nor was Ailes very surprised when Smith finally approached him. “Roger has known Shep has been gay for a long time,” a current Fox staffer said. So why was Ailes suddenly afraid of everyone else knowing, too?

A few weeks before approaching Ailes about coming out, Smith surprised Fox staffers by bringing his boyfriend, a 26-year-old Fox producer named Gio Graziano, to a company picnic at Ailes’s compound in Garrison, New York. Held annually on Independence Day weekend, the picnic is a small gathering—only executives, on-air talent, and their frontline producers are invited—so Smith likely felt comfortable bringing along his steady partner.

Despite the intimate venue, the new couple put several Fox executives on high alert. According to multiple sources with knowledge of the picnic, the most dramatic reaction came from Bill Shine, the channel’s Executive Vice President of Programming. Shine “flipped out,” one source said, after* Smith introduced Graziano to attendees. (Within and outside of Fox, Shine, who is 50 and grew up on Long Island, carries a reputation for insensitivity toward gay people. “He’s a major, major homophobe,” a Fox insider said.)

Back in New York City, Shine called a meeting among high-level executives to discuss a plan of action regarding Smith. “His fear was that Shep’s audience would implode,” said an individual familiar with the meeting, during which Shine forcefully argued against Smith coming out. His argument was simple: Our audience is not ready for a gay anchor.

Shine’s plea wasn’t particularly well-received. (“Everyone’s jaws just dropped,” a Fox insider said.) But the potential impact on Fox’s ratings was enough to scare Ailes into believing his lieutenant’s apocalyptic scenario. Fox’s unparalleled numbers are, after all, what give Ailes almost complete autonomy over his channel’s content, and immense power within Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

With Ailes’ approval, Shine quickly choreographed Smith’s move from Fox’s 7 p.m. block, where he anchored The Fox Report, to the 3 p.m. block, where he currently runs Shepard Smith Reporting. Anticipating Smith’s desire to come out, Shine also coached Ailes on what to say when Smith finally approached him.

Ailes, meanwhile, ordered the channel’s media-relations shop to control any leaks or coverage of Smith’s romantic life. To this day, a Fox insider told Gawker, “the P.R. department tries to prevent anyone from talking about Shep’s sexuality.”

(Of course, that hasn’t always worked. When Gawker noted in March that Smith wasn’t attending a gay journalists gala sponsored by Fox News, the P.R. shop scrambled to place Smith on the guest list. “Gawker’s reporting obviously caused them to do that,” said a source familiar with the shop’s decision, which turned out to be less bold than it seemed: Smith showed up with three Fox minders to insulate the anchor from any reporters.)

Shine’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering troubled many at Fox. “It’s totally backwards thinking,” an insider at the channel said. And it flew against the gay-friendly image Ailes had worked so hard to construct among New York’s media elite. The image was always cynical—if Ailes sponsors the N.L.G.J.A., or blurbs Rachel Maddow, both will naturally think twice before criticizing his channel. But it depended on the basic assumption that Ailes didn’t mistreat actual gay people in his immediate vicinity. (He merely employs hosts who bemoan the Girl Scouts’ “homosexual overtones.”)

Smith seems to have brought Ailes, and Fox News, to an impassable contradiction: Either embrace the anchor’s wish to come out (and risk the audience’s revolt or desertion) or completely reject it (and risk Fox’s acceptance among a community for whom coming out is an immutable right). Up until now, very few have known that Ailes even had to make such a choice.

Smith, Ailes, Shine, and Fox News all declined repeated requests for comment.

* Correction: Shine tells TVNewser that he did not attend the picnic. The sentence has been corrected to reflect that Shine negatively reacted after learning that Smith brought his boyfriend to the Independence Day picnic.

Update 1: Smith and Ailes provided TVNewser with the following statement:

This story is 100% false and a complete fabrication. As colleagues and close friends at Fox News for 18 years, our relationship has always been rooted in a mutual respect, deep admiration, loyalty, trust, and full support both professionally and personally.
Update 2: In a statement to Politico, Fox clarified the timeline of Smith’s negotiations over his contract and revised role. Smith renewed his contract on June 7, which Fox noted in a July 2 press release about Megyn Kelly. Over two months later, in mid-September, Fox announced Smith’s departure from the channel’s prime-time block. At the time, Smith told Business Insider that he and Roger Ailes began tentative discussions about a new role for Smith in late April.

November 12, 2015

Another First Between Obama and the Gay Community: Front of Out Magazine


President Barack Obama is the first sitting president to cover an LGBT publication, a historic moment for both OUT magazine and the nation. The President was named "Ally of the Year" in the magazine's annual OUT100 issue due to his positive stance on marriage equality and his support for the LGBT community.

Not only is the President on the cover of the popular gay and lesbian magazine, the issue also features a candid interview with him about the people who influenced his positive relationship with the community, including his daughters. Obama states that Sasha and Malia, now 17 and 14, have shown him that there has been a big shift in how people address homosexuality across generations.

 "To Malia and Sasha and their friends, discrimination in any form against anyone doesn't make sense," the President tells OUT. "It doesn't dawn on them that friends who are gay or friends' parents who are same-sex couple should be treated any differently. That's powerful."

President Obama also talks about how his mother inspired his support for LGBT rights. He states that Dunham, who passed away in 1995, taught him that "every person was of equal worth," something that prompted him to focus on the rights of the gay and lesbian community during his administration.

Obama hasn't always been on board with same-sex marriage. According to CNN, the President has flip-flopped about it since he was a state Senate candidate in 1996. During his 2008 presidential campaign and up until 2012, he voiced his opposition to marriage equality, despite his support for it back in 1996.

It wasn't until 2012 that Obama fully supported the right of same-sex couples to get married in the United States. In an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, he stated that he initially "hesitated on gay marriage" because he thought civil unions would be good enough, but was "proud and happy" when the Supreme Court's decision came down.

"I was honored to stand in the Rose Garden and reiterate for every American that we are strongest, that we are most free when all of us are treated equally," Obama told Roberts. "I was proud to say that love is love."

April 26, 2015

Unflappable, Smart, Gay and CNN Anchorman Don Lemon

So maybe he's not Walter Cronkite. Maybe he's done some famously awkward interviews, gotten his facts wrong, and made CNN the butt of more than a few jokes. But that won't stop Don Lemon. Because here's the thing: He can fill hours of nothing with a crisp, news-like something. No matter what he says, no matter how badly he screws up, he never blinks. That’s his gift: He just keeps on going 

So I say to Don Lemon, I say, let's do it, Don Lemon, let's have dessert. We've been here awhile, eating lunch, and we're having a good time, so likable is Don Lemon, so open is he to my questions, so warm is his smile. And maybe he can be coaxed into it. We are at the restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art, and the portions are modern-art-sized, and he just had his photo shoot yesterday—he'd suspended all manner of salt and other bloateries in the days leading up to it and would love to cut loose a little. But he still needs persuading, since it is a known thing that dessert is one of the principal sacrifices of people who regularly appear on TV. But he relents, because Don Lemon is not the kind of guy who will make you eat dessert alone. The negotiation: He'll do it, but it'll have to be light. I look up and down the menu and suggest that the sorbet looks promising, given his totally understandable criteria.
He leans in, big warm smile, not wanting to correct me, but needing to: "Sorbette," he says, like a news anchor. "It's pronounced sorbette."
"Sorbette," I repeat, shaky. I smile, not quite understanding the joke.
"Sorbette," he says with the confidence of a man who informs hundreds of thousands of Americans each night about what is happening across this land as well as many others. "It's pronounced sorbette." Sorbette! Could he be right? I've been saying it like a French word for years, like a complete asshole. Have I, a native English speaker, a graduate of a four-year college, a frequent eater of frozen desserts, been mispronouncing it all this time?
Or we can leave room for the possibility that he is just plain wrong. This is Don Lemon, after all, the news anchor whose name has become associated with what might politely be called missteps,like asking an Islamic scholar if he supports the terrorist group ISIS, or declaring on the scene at Ferguson that there's the smell of marijuana in the air, "obviously." This is the guy who asked if a black hole could be responsible for the disappearance of Flight MH370; who asked one of Bill Cosby's alleged rape victims why she didn't stop the attack by, as he put it, "the using of the teeth."
Yes, we have to allow for the possibility that Don Lemon might be wrong.
And yet, and yet: When Don Lemon says this to me, I am sure that he is sure of it. And who can we turn to if not our news anchors?
But now here comes the waiter, and he asks if we've decided, and Don Lemon asks for the sorbette, and the waiter looks at Lemon like, Are you joking? I give the waiter the silent, wide-eyed micro head shake—No, he's serious, proceed with caution—but the waiter has guts that I don't, and so he says, "It's sor-bay, sir."
Because of course it's sor-bay. I am shaken from my stupor and remember that yes, for sure, absolutely, it is sor-bay. I am right. The man sitting across from me, smiling and confident—he is not right. And so I am relieved, but also nervous about what will happen next.
But Lemon is not embarrassed. "Oh," he says, and then nods, because you learn something new every day, and he doesn't look at me to say how embarrassed he is, he doesn't look with a gulp at the tape recorder, he doesn't attempt a joke to clean it all up. He just says, "That's what I'll have, then." And we move on. That he can say it, recover from it, and move on without needing to know what I think of it—this is sort of everything you need to know about Don Lemon: Don Lemon is human, and Don Lemon is not perfect, and Don Lemon is so much more fine with his humanity and his imperfection than anyone I've ever met.
True fact: After this photo shoot, Lemon asked GQ's photographer if he did nudes. 
Don Lemon has a fitness tracker that he wears on his wrist, and he uses it for sleep monitoring. He's a lifelong insomniac, and his work schedule—hosting CNN Tonight at 10 P.M.—doesn't make things easier. Also he's dating someone now, a lawyer who understands his schedule, and it's going well—they spent Valentine's Day at a concert by the gay country singer Steve Grand—and there aren't enough hours in the day, are there? He shows me the tracker's attendant iPhone app, and his sleep patterns are impressive in a bad way: three hours sixteen minutes here, four hours there, two hours just a couple of nights ago. And that's total sleep, not what the device calls "restful" sleep. In the weeks of data he shows me, the total never goes above six hours.
You wouldn't know it. Throughout our interview, Lemon, 49, is smiley and gregarious and energetic, alert but mostly expressionless, which probably comes from years of having to listen to people say crazy things on-air. He's an exceptional listener, my meandering questions returned in the complete sentences of a newsman who knows the power of a sound bite. He is focused when we talk, never strays for a minute; once, when I pivot away from a topic, he suggests that I might have ADD. This affable bluntness might help explain why he is so ascendant at CNN. His ratings are pretty close to Anderson Cooper's numbers at 8 P.M., and they have already eclipsed those of Piers Morgan, who was on at 9 P.M. until, mercifully, he wasn't.
As far as I can tell, the great Don Lemon gaffe-spotting fest that has become such an Internet phenomenon and journalistic pastime began on July 27, 2013, and it began not with a gaffe but with an unexpected rant about racial mores. He was anchoring the weekend desk, and he played a clip of that bastion of modernity and multicultural wisdom, Bill O'Reilly, explaining everything that's wrong in the black community. This was shortly after the George Zimmerman trial, and rather than lash out at O'Reilly, Lemon claimed that he hadn't gone far enough. He then addressed "black people" with his own list of solutions: (5) Pull up your pants. (4) Stop using the N-word. (3) Stop littering. ("I've lived in several predominantly white neighborhoods in my life. I rarely, if ever, witness people littering.") (2) Finish school. ("Stop telling kids they're acting white because they go to school or they speak proper English.") (1) "Just because you can have a baby, it doesn't mean you should."
You can bury that kind of lecture on a weekend afternoon, but a shitstorm will still ensue. Critics pounced on Lemon, accusing him of blaming blacks for institutional racism. Lemon was surprised; he was just giving his point of view as a black man. "I'm speaking to the people from where I came from," he explains to me. "I didn't think I was saying anything bad. Just: Always respect yourself. Go to school. I mean—" and here he laughs a little—"I think they're used to me just having a one-way conversation, just reading the prompter and going, 'Okay, what do you think? What do you think?' Maybe they were just sort of surprised that I actually have a point of view."
Soon his platform grew. In March 2014, Malaysian Flight MH370 disappeared. He got the call that network president Jeff Zucker wanted to use the 10 P.M. slot for a nightly one-hour special to discuss new theories about where the hell that plane went, and he wanted Don Lemon to host it. (Good cocktail-party trivia: Nightline began the same way—a nightly update on the 1979 Iran hostage crisis that became a TV-news institution.)
Here was his chance. Each night, he hosted a panel of aviation experts and theorists and gave updates on searches, but soon the searches were over, and so the updates gave way to just talking, and the hour became the sort of hour at which CNN specializes: long conversations that took the place of actual news, of which there was usually none. From a pure ratings perspective, it was a smart bet. Lemon immediately began crushing poor Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC (still does) and even regularly held his own against Sean Hannity (ditto).
But it came with costs. CNN had installed its CNN-iest talent to anchor an hour of television that came to embody all the things that people loathe about CNN—the empty news-like product: questions, but no answers. Who knew anything new by the end of those hours? CNN's Malaysian-flight coverage became a punch line of flood-the-zone cable-news excess, and Don Lemon was the face of it.
Don Lemon knew he was gay for as long as he could remember. He knew it when he was watching Tom Jones on TV with his grandmother in his hometown of Baton Rouge when he was 5 or 6, and he knew it when he would watch Robbie on My Three Sons or the guys on Emergency! But he also knew that it was information he should keep to himself, because that's what you did in Louisiana in the 1970s.
As a child, he was molested by a teenage boy who lived nearby. He didn't tell anyone until much later; in fact, he came out publicly as a survivor of sexual abuse spontaneously and casually live on CNN, while he was doing a segment on another sexual-abuse case. That afternoon his bosses called to see if he was okay. "Of course I am," he answered.
He didn't have many close friends in high school. The black kids didn't think he was great at being black, and the white kids didn't want to bring a black kid into their sphere. Still, he was elected senior-class president: accepted by none but liked by all.
Lemon knew he'd leave the South eventually, and he had always wanted to be a news anchor. His journalism teacher at Louisiana State told him he was aiming too high, that he'd never make it on-air, which Lemon interpreted as being put in the "black box"—his term for the limitations others place on people of color. It didn't stop him, though. He got hired at Fox and shuttled between affiliates in St. Louis and Chicago for a few years, then jumped to NBC stations in Philadelphia and Chicago. He picked up an Emmy for a report on the real estate market and an Edward R. Murrow award for coverage of the D.C. Sniper in 2002. (Yes, Don Lemon has an Edward R. Murrow award.) In 2006, he jumped to CNN.
He claims not to have a political affiliation—he voted for Barack Obama in the past two elections, but in college he was a Republican and he voted for Reagan once, before Reagan's treatment of the AIDS crisis disenchanted him. But that doesn't make him a Democrat. "People expect me to be liberal because I'm gay," he says. "And I'm not liberal." But over lunch, when I describe his values as conservative, he objects to that, too. "You keep saying I have conservative values. I don't. I think I have values that are important and realistic. And they're not necessarily spoon-fed by someone. I thought out what my values should be." He brings up the example of family: He was raised by a single mother, and he loves her, but he thinks a family should have two parents. “Even now my mom would say, 'I wish I had had some help.' "
Lemon has spent a lifetime so far out of sync with people's expectations of him that he seems unconcerned with them, sometimes even oblivious to them: of how a black man should act, how a gay man should act, how a survivor of sex abuse should act. All this—high school, the black box—made him into the man he is today. Someone who has learned that there are no guidebooks for a man as ambitious as he is, and who has no fucks left to give about what anyone thinks of him.
"Let me put it this way," says Jeff Zucker. "There's certainly a lot of interest in Don Lemon, and that's a good thing for Don and for CNN. You know, Don is a little bit of a lightning rod. Frankly, we needed a little bit of lightning."
Lemon's executive producer, Jonathan Wald, told me that "none of the alleged dings at Don's performance have hurt his credibility or his appeal." Lemon's gift, Wald says, is "having a conversation, and that's really the guts of this show." It's the mantra of all of CNN: Keep going, keep talking. People don't walk out on conversations.
"When you're a network-news anchor, you have a twenty-two-minute news hole, and you read not even five minutes of copy, if you read that much," Lemon tells me. "When you're a cable-news host, you're on for hours and hours and hours live. Right? Sometimes there's nothing in that box, no words."
I went and watched those clips again, and it turns out none of them are quite as dumb as advertised. The black-hole question wasn't actually Lemon's question; it was submitted by a viewer over Twitter, and he passed it along to an expert, calling it "preposterous." In Ferguson, when he said "obviously," he was just (he tells me) employing one of many of the filler words an anchor uses when he has to fill in dead air. His ISIS question was intended as a point of clarification: "His answer was so nebulous," Lemon says of the Muslim human-rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar, who, yes, if you watch the clip, is not completely clear. Given the context, Lemon's follow-up—"Do you support ISIS?"—was only moderately daffy: Iftikhar was trying to give a nuanced answer, and there's no room for nuance on CNN. CNN is a place for sound bites. When I ask Lemon about his interview with the alleged Cosby victim and why he asked about the "usage of the teeth," he gives me a long answer about how the incident started a conversation about sex abuse. But it didn't do that, I tell him—it started a conversation about people who say the wrong thing to victims of sexual abuse. And shouldn't he have known better? After all, he was a victim, too. He smiles and shrugs and eats his food. Later, after dessert, I ask him again, and finally I get the real answer: Lemon tells me that when he was a child and was being forced to perform oral sex on his abuser, he told that fucker that the next time, he'd bite his dick off, and that's when Don Lemon stopped getting molested.
There's a thing we do now in the digital age where once we turn on someone, we find fault in everything they do, and in Don Lemon's case it seems to come from a less noble place than his not insignificant imperfections. Sure, he's said some dopey things, but lots of cable-news anchors say lots of dopey things. Why him? There's also something going on, something almost impossible to wade into and untangle, about a black gay man breaking with the rules of both groups, and so it becomes okay to make fun of Don Lemon in a way that it is not currently okay to make fun of any other black or gay public figure in America right now.
And so here is maybe where I should confess to some sympathy. If you saw the transcripts of my interviews, you'd wonder if English was my first language. Many of us who tell stories to the world have the luxury not just of an editor but also of a fact-checker and a copy editor. And how about everyone else? Very few of us have our conversations laid bare every single night. Hardly any of us are being recorded for stupid-thing-we-said Vine posterity. Most of us get to sound more or less how we want to sound; most of us get to backpedal. Not so on live TV.
And remember, this is cable, not network news. Lemon's directive in many cases is to get up there and talk. On ratings-hungry CNN, there is virtually nothing you can say that is worse than silence.
One night, as I was writing this story, my Twitter feed came alive with two Don Lemon-related threads: first, that he had said, live on-air, "Two hundred and sixty-two people are being held by ISIS, many of them men, women, and children," and second, that he was interviewing a llama.
I turned on my taped version of the broadcast, and it was immediately clear that Lemon had just misspoken: He had already said the phrase "ISIS now holds more than 260 Christian hostages—men, women, children, and the elderly" during that hour—it was only the second time that he absently substituted the phrase "many of them." And for the record, he didn't interview the llama; he interviewed the llama's handler, because earlier that day the world had been captivated by an animal escape ("llama drama," in CNN parlance) in Arizona.
A memorable recent moment: Llemon scores an excllusive with a llama.
But look at the pictures of Lemon next to that llama. They're irresistible, both of them staring at the camera, both of them expressionless. They are begging for a hashtag. This is 2015, and we live in an age of tweets and GIFs designed to make jokes out of people, and Don Lemon seems custom-built for perpetuating what we've decided is his essential Don Lemonness. As he stood next to that llama, I detected something like regret or humiliation behind his eyes, but he'll never let us see more than a flicker, if that. No, Don Lemon isn't Murrow or Cronkite. He may not be the steady, infallible news anchor America needs right now. But he sure feels like the anchor we deserve.
We turn on who we turn on, I guess, and we delight in other people's mistakes, all the more so when there doesn't appear to be much contrition or self-awareness about their impact. And anyway, no one is perfect. Not him, not me with my flawless dessert pronunciation. That afternoon at the restaurant, Lemon checked out a couple of cute waiters, making aren't-you-delicious noises as they walked by, loudly enough for me to hear, still not giving a shit. Then he put his sorbet spoon down on his plate and smiled and said, “That was good," and that was that.

April 8, 2015

Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia and True Equality

He became famous, indeed notorious, by originating the concept of “outing” celebrities. Now, Michelangelo Signorile says the fight for gay equality is far from over. 

I’m not the first person to joke with the journalist and broadcaster Michelangelo Signorile that he must have some secret deal with Mike Pence. The governor of Indiana had to amend that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would have enabled businesses to discriminate against gay clients and which—post amendment—emphatically does not.
This, and a corresponding brouhaha in Arkansas, have blown up just as Signorile’s new book, It’s Not Over, is published, arguing that the fight for gay rights doesn’t end in the sunny uplands of marriage equality.
Gee, thanks, Mr. Pence, for that publicity gift.
Signorile, who presents SiriusXM Progress’s Michelangelo Signorile Show, eloquently argues that the legislative brushfires in Indiana and Arkansas prove that LGBTs should not let the marriage equality victories lull anyone into a false sense of campaigning passivity.
Prejudice remains a constant to fight, whether in statutes (as in the new spate of “religious freedom” laws), or on the streets, or in our schools, Signorile argues. The book’s subheading lays out his challenging manifesto clearly: “Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, & Winning True Equality.” 
The 54-year-old Signorile is most famous, or notorious, for inventing and popularizing the concept of ‘outing’ in the early 1990s. He is handsome—with cropped salt-and-pepper hair and goatee—and laughs that people think he will always be up for a fight, given his pugnacious writing and broadcasting. He’s also editor-at-large of the Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” section.
Over a diner supper of omelets and home fries, he’s quieter-spoken than his public image might suggest, whether talking about activism, apathy, or his own life, such as when he contemplated suicide as a teenager.
“I felt so many of the positive things happening in the equality movement were not matching facts on the ground—how people were experiencing homophobia, transphobia, and bigotry in our country,” he says of being inspired to write It’s Not Over. “A book came out saying ‘victory’ had been reached, but at the same time as marriage equality wins there was a surge of gay-bashing reports, including here in New York, one of the most pro-gay cities in the world.”
Signorile himself had a glancing experience of this, when he and husband David Gerstner shared a kiss on the lips as they passed each other—one on the way to the gym, the other just returning from the same—near their Chelsea home.
“Here in Chelsea, a man called us disgusting,” Signorile says, laughing at the apparent absurdity of homophobia in one of New York’s gay-friendliest neighborhoods. “We called him a homophobe. We leapt back at him. He ran out of the neighborhood.” Don’t mess with Signorile.
All the headline victories, Signorile says, obscure “that a large portion of the country is conservative, 25 percent of people are evangelical Christian. Children who are LGBT are growing up in those families, and they may be experiencing this prejudice even more than they did in the past because of the increase of general LGBT visibility.”
There is, says Signorile, “not just a blindness to homophobia out there because of all the victories, but in many ways the victories are causing the backlash. “These wins for LGBT rights are a double-edge sword. “They’re highlighting who we are, and threatening the bigots more.”
Marriage equality activists saw “an easy, clear win, something for everybody to feel good about after years of terrible bigotry and bias,” he says. “We tell ourselves we’re winning. We start to put the other stuff out of our mind. The next stage is we become so worried about pushing too hard because we think we’ve won so much, and we’ll alienate people if we don’t stay moderate in our approach.”
Signorile says the backlash, the accusations of gay militancy (from gays as well as their traditional opponents), was present in the reaction to the resignation of Brendan Eich as chairman of Mozilla last year, after it was revealed he had donated money to a pro-Proposition 8 campaign.
While the kinds of conservatives you’d expect claimed Eich had been hounded from his job by gay-rights radicals, the gay conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan echoed them
This wasn’t true: Mozilla simply didn’t want to be associated with homophobia, just like the many big businesses who objected to Governor Pence’s plan in Indiana. The free market so beloved by conservatives is now working against them. Still, some in the LGBT community acted almost apologetically.
“The gay-on-gay backlash was that we should be magnanimous,” says Signorile. “We were not being gracious winners. That’s just a trap set by the right wing. Rush Limbaugh set up feminists as ‘feminazis’ in a similar way. We haven’t won everything, and the last thing we need to be is gracious. We need to be pushing, and pushing hard.”
The right wing is now playing the victim of gay-rights advances, says Signorile. It understands that while most Americans do not want discrimination and desire fairness, “they don’t want change too fast,” he says. “Like, ‘Marriage is OK. That’s between you two. But don’t come into my store and tell me how to do something.’ It’ll be at our peril if we don’t understand those traits.”
Boycotts work, Signorile says, “when you have a cause that has a lot of intensity. Within a capitalist democracy, they are the most powerful way for people to register their opinion. The brilliant thing is conservatives cannot condemn them on a philosophical level. They think of the free market as religion.” He adds, “Of course when we [gays] boycott, we are accused of ‘destroying’ people.”
Signorile warns that boycotts aren’t a panacea. “They fail when there isn’t that intensity. If they’re not successful you look weak,” he says. Signorile also cautions activists against aligning themselves too closely with big business. “It makes homophobia about money. In the short term, that is powerful, but it is not changing minds if your state might lose money if you support discrimination,” he says. “Suddenly gay rights are economic. I don’t know how effective that is, but I think of the LGBT kids growing up in red states learning there is a hatred out there that is so potent it’s making people boycott. By boycotting, are we changing the minds of those kids’ parents, or emboldening parents to be angry with the blue states and big companies?”
Perceptions of equality come down to how you frame the question, says Signorile: “Seventy percent of people don’t believe LGBTs should be discriminated against. But, if a poll asks, ‘Should a baker be forced to make a gay wedding cake?,’ 57 percent believe they shouldn’t.”
Signorile wants people to realize conservatives have only gotten more savvy with each LGBT victory. “The right wing is refining its methods with LGBT rights, just as they have with race and women,” he says. “They want to manage the message.”
For Signorile, gay activists should “accept you will lose some friends. You may not be liked by some people. It takes a long time to change people’s minds. It takes confrontation to get their attention.”
In these culturally and politically sensitive times, the scope of ‘gay’ feels narrow to Signorile. “There are these nice gay characters. Everyone likes them. They might have kids, but we don’t see them in bed together making out. We can be seen as caretakers of kids, but not really engaged, within relationships, with each other.”
To Signorile, HBO’s Looking failed (it was recently canceled, though will return for a rounding-out movie), because it was too insular. “Looking was just about this very small world, which only existed in relation to its own very specific group of gay people. [That] shut out straight viewers and gay viewers who didn’t feel they had anything in common with them.”
In contrast, the strength of ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder’s gay character, Connor (Jack Falahee) is that he is well-rounded, says Signorile. “It gets us away from the ‘positive gay character.’ He sort of wants to be in a relationship, but doesn’t and has a lot of sex. That was fun and stopped being fun. There’s something very real about that, and the fact we saw it on network TV—gay sex portrayed as though it was a good thing—is incredibly important.”
Gay activism works best by “scaring the daylights out of people and energizing them about what needs to happen,” says Signorile. “With Indiana, we need to say, ‘Be afraid, be very afraid.’ That is problematic, because it’s counter to the message of ‘We’ve won, we’re winning, it gets better.’”
However, Signorile is dubious of positivity’s effectiveness. “I’m not sure ultimately that message engages people. What has always engaged people is instilling fear. If there is a terrible gay murder, exploit it,” he says point-blank. “Also say to young people, ‘Look around at your world. Do you really see yourself in pop culture in the way that you are?’”
Signorile still believes in outing—when relevant to a story, he emphasizes—because he doesn’t believe there should be anything shameful associated with being gay. He wonders why one needs proof to talk about somebody’s sexuality, or even to speculate about it.
Case in point: Aaron Schock. Castigating those who talked about Schock’s alleged homosexuality, critics (including gay ones), merely reaffirmed there was something wrong with homosexuality itself, says Signorile.
“We should ask young people, ‘Do you really see so many people out of closet in terms of public figures, or instead do you see a wink-wink nudge-nudge approach. Don’t you want to make it so it doesn’t matter if anyone is gay, and can say it, and we can say it about them? What is the shame around it still?’”
Hollywood is its own odd creature: Gay producers, gay agents, and publicists are still conspiring to keep gay actors, their cash cows, in the closet. 
“Hollywood not only underestimates the public, it underestimates its ability to lead the public,” Signorile says. “At the end of the day they want to make a lot of money, and they’re as risk-averse as any kind of hedge fund investor.”
Signorile grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island as the oldest of four boys in an Italian-Catholic family. His father owned restaurants that were popular with blue-collar workers. He learned how to cook, and it was a great fallback job for summers and after college. However, he was the only one of the brothers not to join the family business.
“I never wanted to,” he says. “I always knew I wanted to be a writer from very young.” His fifth-grade storytelling compositions were 25 to 30 pages, rather than three pages like his classmates’. He “always” got an A grade. Many of his stories were about justice, and—predictably for a fan of disaster movies, as Signorile was—about people being saved in the nick of time. 
“I knew I was gay before I knew what ‘gay’ was. I had fantasies about leading a group of people,” he says. “I was made fun of because of it. My cousin was a girl, and we played together. I didn’t see any reason not to play with the same toys as her. I hated the world telling me I had to like or wear certain things.”
His parents were split on their son’s desires. “My father was not happy I was playing with dolls, but my mother…” Signorile says with a smile, “sneaked in the Cinderella puzzle I wanted.” 
Signorile was sexually active at 12 or 13, finding boys to have sex with, “sometimes my own age, sometimes older under the boardwalk of South Beach, Staten Island.”
But like so many gay adolescents, he was far from happy. “I cried myself to sleep. I hated myself. I had suicidal thoughts of jumping off the Staten Island Ferry. I did all that stuff,” he says. “I wanted to marry a woman to get rid of this.”
By the time he went away to college in Syracuse (where he had his first boyfriend), “that had changed,” he says. “I thought, ‘OK, this is it. I’m gay.’”
At 18, and in New York for the summer, he met men on the subways and went home with them. He thinks back now to this “height of most sexual period,” right before the knowledge of HIV and AIDS broke. He considers himself very lucky to have remained HIV negative. 
Signorile laughs, remembering the night he heard about AIDS for the first time: It was 1981, he was on the dance floor in a Syracuse gay club, and sniffing poppers (amyl nitrate) with a friend. As they were both high on poppers, his friend said above the music that he had read the (now-infamous) report in The New York Times reporting the existence of a new virus affecting gay men for the first time. 
“There’s this new disease and poppers causes it,” his friend said. 
“OK, hand me the poppers,” Signorile replied.
Before the gay activism bug bit, Signorile first worked as a publicist placing celebrity tidbits into the jaws of gossip columnists. 
“That was where the genesis of my whole analysis of the closet came from,” he says. “We would pair up gay stars in fake relationships—gay actors and lesbian actors—and give them to celebrity gossip columnists who themselves were closeted. We were all closeted people perpetuating the closet for other, closeted people.” 
Signorile left PR for journalism, writing pieces about nightlife. He began to realize “AIDS was digging down deeper,” he says. “AIDS benefits became something to cover, but there wouldn’t be any sick people coming. People began to disappear.”
One night, out with his fellow nightlife scribe Michael Musto, both men were approached by a “really hot” member of the HIV and AIDS direct action group, Act-Up. The organization campaigned for proper care and treatment for those with the disease at a time of huge homophobia and shameful governmental indifference. 
The Act-Up member told the men they should come to the group, which met at (the then-called) Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center. “We had both been talking. People were dying, and people in our industry weren’t doing anything,” Signorile recalls.
He was “electrified” when he attended Act-Up for the first time: “Everybody was brilliant. They were scientists and feminists and Wall Street stockbrokers.”
The members were organized and energized. “I found in one night a sense of caring and connection, and brotherhood and sisterhood, when I was working in a world that was cut-throat, bitchy, and nasty. For me, it was dramatic,” he says.
Signorile ran the media committee, whose work was demonstrated in some of Act-Up’s highest-profile zaps (PDF). He often wonders how he himself escaped infection. He admits the condom message didn’t filter through in the early years of the epidemic.
“I first got tested when I was in Act-Up,” Signorile recalls. “I went with my best friend, and he tested positive. We went in different directions after that. I went in the direction of activism, maybe partially because of him. He went in the direction of further partying, and would eventually die.”
Signorile emphasizes that activism didn’t mean he really understood the reality of the epidemic. “I was using AIDS activism as a denial to deal with his sickness, and I was using AIDS activism to deny the reality of AIDS. I was always too busy owning a protest.”
In 1989 he helped found the lesbian and gay news magazine OutWeek, where his “outing” lists of names, and pieces quickly gained a notorious, influential currency. “The Secret Life of Malcolm Forbes” was his most explosive, but he also outed David Geffen, and Liz Smith, the gossip columnist.
“I knew it would push buttons,” he says today. “W magazine put OutWeek on their ‘in’ list for our mix of cultural politics and vicious gossip, as they put it,” he says, laughing.
Did he like being feared? Was he as fierce as he sold himself?
“I think you are an aspect of your public image, but it is never the whole of you. I have a pretty even keel. People are always surprised when they meet me, and say how nice I am, but if you get me angry I am angry,” Signorile says. “I’m Italian. My father taught me how to defend myself as a kid. That’s how I fought bullies myself. I learned confrontation, I learned fighting back was a tool to use.”
Signorile admits now that he “always felt a little bad afterwards about hurting somebody” and that he was sensitive to the lives involved. “I always felt I had to be fair,” he says.
Signorile didn’t like “the hate” that came with the fame and notoriety. “There was lot of being called ‘fascist,’ ‘Nazi,’ ‘dictator,’ ‘Robespierre,’” he remembers. “It was even worse when it was from people I looked up to. Fran Lebowitz called me every name she could think of.” 
Did Signorile ever doubt himself?
“No. I always felt what I was doing was honest, and was justified,” he says. “There was a justice to it. People were dying, we were totally invisible, and the moguls—the people who could be doing something, the rich and powerful in Hollywood—were silent. Anger fueled me, and it fueled me because of justice.”
The “camaraderie and connection” Signorile had found at Act-Up also sustained him. “People connected with the angry, uncompromising, bitchy spirit of the column because it was something they were feeling, too. It was me playing out the Act-Up spirit of agit-prop in my own column.”
Signorile first spotted Gerstner in much-loved (and long-gone) Chelsea hangouts, Big Cup and Food Bar. A friend told him to move fast as someone had already sent his number Gerstner’s way.
Signorile pounced, and the two walked around Chelsea kissing and holding hands the rest of the night. They moved to New Zealand for a few years when Gerstner, a film lecturer, got a posting there.
The men married in 2013 at New York’s City Hall. “I’m the kind of gay who doesn’t think marriage is all that important for me, personally, even though it is important to the movement,” says Signorile. 
However, he was surprised by how personally important the day was. “It was bigger for our parents, and that made it bigger for us. They were both sets of witnesses, and that was that,” he says. “The significance for us was that this was somewhere where we had demonstrated outside of, and now we were on the inside getting married.”
“Whether it’s Hollywood, or Washington, or the public health establishment, the one thing we cannot talk about, or show, is our sex lives.”
For all the essential, life-saving work Signorile and his fellow activists achieved with Act-Up, “what we didn’t do was our goal: to stop the AIDS epidemic,” he says. “We saved people’s lives, they stopped dying, we got 10 other gay movements invigorated, but we didn’t end AIDS.”
Signorile notes that the author, playwright and activist Larry Kramer recently said the same: There is still no vaccine. “AIDS is out of sight, out of mind,” says Signorile. “People aren’t dying on the street, and the government would like to privatize the entire thing.”
Signorile’s worry with all the excitement over PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) treatments like Truvada, the impetus behind basic HIV prevention is lost.
Gay and bisexual men remain the groups most severely affected by HIV and AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the most recently released statistics. They comprise nearly 80 percent of new infections among men.
Are we in a new era of gay HIV ignorance?
“Absolutely,” says Signorile, “and that has led to the stigma of HIV-positive people, which fuels the idea of ‘Don’t talk about having it.’”
In fact, Signorile believes that America has regressed in this regard. “I think we have gone backwards in talking about HIV. And there are many HIV criminalization laws across the country now, too,” he says. 
For Signorile, the lack of an effective HIV prevention program aimed at men who have sex with men shows that the most fundamental hang-up in America toward homosexuality is around sex itself. 
 “It’s why the guys don’t have sex on Modern Family. We’ve ‘gotten married.’ But, whether it’s Hollywood, or Washington, or the public health establishment, the one thing we cannot talk about, or show, is our sex lives,” says Signorile. “That’s the biggest sign that ‘it’s not over.’ The thing that makes us different is how and who we have sex with. It grosses people out.”
Signorile points to the thesis of Kenji Yoshino’s Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. In Signorile’s words, Yoshino argues that “LGBTs are not being accepted if we are covering aspects of ourselves that are uncomfortable. If you’re covering things you don’t want them to see about you to help you fit in with them, it’s not real acceptance.”
That’s why, to Signorile, “Sex, probably, is the final frontier on some level.”
This was well shown by the fuss over Michael Sam’s kiss with his partner, Vito Cammisano, when Sam had just learned he had been picked in the last round of the draft for the St. Louis Rams.
His omelet and home fries polished off, I ask Signorile, per his book title, will “it,” the struggle for LGBT equality, ever be over?
“We will always have to be on guard, always fighting,” he says. “When I say we need to break from the ‘victory’ narrative, I should say we’ll be doing this for generations.”
Rather than disheartening, Signorile recommends gays find it invigorating. “It’s liberating to know that you’re going to be engaged, rather than saying, ‘Just get this done, and it’ll be finished.’” The struggle for gay equality, Michelangelo Signorile argues—perhaps most radically of all—is good for us.
Michelangelo Signorile is in discussion with the Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman at the Strand bookstore this Thursday, April 9, at 7 p.m.
Tim Teeman

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