This winter has proven significant for LGBT rights and visibility, with celebrities such as Tom Daley and Maria Bello publicly acknowledging their same-sex relationships and the prominent Supreme Court case dealing with Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. In Germany, a famous former soccer player, Thomas Hitzlsperger made headlines with his own coming out. And how can we forget the “Duck Dynasty” debacle that raised questions about free speech and the rights of entertainment corporations?
Recently, Juan Pablo Galavis of ABC’s “The Bachelor” made a few comments about a possible version of the show featuring homosexual contestants. He claimed that he did not “think it is a good example for kids to watch that on TV” and that gay people are “more pervert in a sense…and to me the show would be too strong.” In a written apology on his Facebook page, Galavis blamed his poor English for the gaffe. He explained, “What I meant to say was that gay people are more affectionate and intense and for a segment of the TV audience this would be too racy to accept. The show is very racy as it is and I don’t let my 5-year-old daughter watch it.”
I happen to be someone who identifies with the G in LGBT. When I first read Galavis’ opinion on a nonexistent television show, I was deeply offended. In my experience (although I am slightly biased), gay people aren’t particularly more affectionate or intense than any other sort of person. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I am less affectionate than many of my friends who identify as straight.
However, as I read his apology for a fourth time, I began to hear a tragic humor resonate in the words of a man who seems only capable of digging himself deeper into his own social grave. My anger did not dissipate into amusement completely, however, until I read the online comments that came with the story. Like the poetic hate-tweets aimed at Tom Daley and the cacophonous screams of support for Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty,” these commentators decry the polluting reach of the “liberal media” and the apparent success of the “gay agenda.” Apparently, people are still concerned about the gay agenda.
Fortunately, I have not experienced discrimination of any kind based on my sexual orientation during my time at NU, and I have high hopes that that will remain the case. I also trust that if my peers hear a statement that demeans or belittles a minority, a debate will ensue, and minds will be changed.
We have enrolled in NU and pay more than $59,000 a year to have our minds changed. But when we graduate, will our brains suddenly calcify? The only way to prevent our anger from consuming us is to retain a sense of humor.
For every step forward that a minority makes in achieving equality, there will always be a voice, small but loud, that makes some absurd claim about its “agenda.” As debates about equality rage at both the national and the state levels, it is our job to maintain a tickle in our hearts and a bounce in our diaphragms. The next time I hear a voice like Galavis’, I will take a moment to remember that finding the humor in ridiculous claims is not only more effective in combating them than discovering anger, but also more enriching and satisfying. If people can laugh about their own shortcomings or their own beliefs, they are in a position to take on the world and probably succeed. If we lose ourselves in a bog of hatred for the opposite party, change will come only excruciatingly slowly.
Let’s laugh at ourselves today and remember that although people can make hurtful claims, it is we who have the power to find the humor rather than be offended. That’s what’s on my gay agenda for today.