|Carl Paladino campaigning in New Paltz, NY after|
his ill-chosen homophobic words. Photo credit.
Following the suicide of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers, the straight world has discovered institutionalized homophobia and is "shocked, shocked!" that gay youth are not only routinely bullied in school, but that teachers, principles and coaches stand around and watch while it happens. They are even more shocked that to be the recipient of repeated homophobic bullying is so isolating and devastating to a young person's self esteem that death seems like a good option.
Before you decide to hang from the highest tree those Rutgers students who posted to the Internet a video of Clementi kissing a boy (the event that precipitated his suicide leap from the George Washington Bridge) or make your own "It Gets Better" video, consider this. What if Clementi was relentlessly bullied and ostracized in grade school, middle school and high school, and every adult who should have helped him instead told him that things would "get better" in college? He may have been enduring some hell-hole of an adolescence with this hope, and instead college turned out to be exactly the same. That could really push you over the edge, couldn't it?
It's the accumulated weight of homophobia -- or sexism, or racism, or the massive weight of all three -- that gets you in the end, not any one incident. So one of the questions that we have to answer for kids subjected to homophobic bullying: When? When is it going to get better? And how? In that vein, one of my commenters, of the heterosexualist persuasion, sent me a copy of a letter she sent to her kid's school principal asking him what he is doing about homophobic bullying. Until straight people start organizing and taking the initiative like this, you know what? It isn't going to get better.
This is not to say that Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project, collected on a YouTube channel, isn't great. It is, and those of you who haven't browsed around it yet should do so (you can skip the queer child of celebrities, who may have had one of the most gruesome tabloid coming out stories ever, saying over and over for three minutes, "It's going to get better....really. It will. Get better. I mean it. It does. Get better. Really.") Here's a link to a particularly moving message from Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire; and my all time favorite for parents, by Ann Pellegrini at NYU, which should be burned to a CD-ROM and sent home from the hospital with every baby.
Now, the question is, even though it has gotten better for some of us, why isn't it better, all these years later?
Let's turn to our other gay news then, New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who launched an anti-gay rant last Sunday in front of a gaggle of Orthodox Jewish leaders in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t,” he said (watch the whole video here.) One question New Yorkers might ask themselves prior to entering the voting booth is if they should have a governor who can't pronounce the word "pervert" correctly. We at Tenured Radical are not sure why Mr. Paladino omitted a line in the original text --“There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual” -- but we think it might have been because the word "dysfunctional" had too many syllables.
Paladino's campaign manager says that the candidate is not homophobic, he's just Catholic. As the Gray Lady reported:
Mr. Paladino declined a request to be interviewed after his appearance. His campaign manager, Michael R. Caputo, denied assertions that Mr. Paladino was antigay, and noted that he employed a gay man on his campaign staff.
“Carl Paladino is simply expressing the views that he holds in his heart as a Catholic,” Mr. Caputo said in a telephone interview. “Carl Paladino is not homophobic, and neither is the Catholic Church.”
“The majority of New Yorkers agree with him,” Mr. Caputo added. He said the campaign had done its own polling.
During his appearance at the synagogue, with reporters in attendance, Mr. Paladino said: “Don’t misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way. That would be a dastardly lie.”
No matter how much pride we gay people have amassed over the years, in how many parades, when we are publicly called dysfunctional perverts we know that someone has put a big target on our backs. Paladino has apologized, has said his words were "poorly chosen," and that what he meant to say was that if elected, he would "fight for all gay New Yorkers' rights." Which is funny, because if you watch the whole video, by no stretch of the imagination is he saying that. He would have had to choose entirely different words, and a different topic.
Fool. Because, of course, this is exactly the kind of thing that hurts homosexual people, and if you don't know that you don't deserve to be governor of anybody. Carl Paladino doesn't have to be running around with his very own baseball bat to make the world more dangerous, and "less better," for queer folks.
For the first installment of Straight People Listen! click on this link.