Take a lesson from CNN’s Roland Martin and watch what you tweet

Webb-DavidIt’s about time for the highfliers of the world to start giving things a little more thought before they open their mouths and let everyone know about the ugliness festering in their minds — it could jeopardize their livelihood. The latest big voice to stick his tongue in the fire is CNN contributor Roland Martin, a one-time Dallasite who unfortunately tweeted what was on his mind while watching soccer star David Beckham’s Super Bowl underwear commercial. Martin tweeted that if a “dude” at a Super Bowl party gets “hyped” about the underwear ad someone should “smack the ish out of him.”

The inference in that statement is pretty clear. If a guy reveals he likes guys by showing appreciation for the nearly naked, muscular Beckham featured in the ad, then someone should punish him — with violence.

It’s unclear why Martin’s mind would react in such a fashion to the commercial, but it should come as no surprise to the commentator or any other high-profile person that perceived anti-gay remarks will result in an immediate, unpleasant reaction from GLAAD. And that’s exactly what has happened in the case of Martin, whom the media monitoring organization has accused of habitual verbal gay-bashing.

Earlier the same day, Martin, a Houston native who has worked at radio stations and newspapers in North Texas, reportedly posted on his Facebook page that someone featured at the game in a “head-to-toe pink suit” needed a “visit from teamwhipdatass.”  Everything considered, it clearly was not one of Martin’s better days image-wise.

For his part, Martin immediately began trying to explain away his statements as harmless and not at all what the people from GLAAD perceived it to be upon hearing they wanted CNN to fire him. He claimed it was intended as a “crack” against soccer fans and not intended to be homophobic at all.

After that failed to convince anyone that he didn’t really say what everyone knows full well he did say, Martin decided the following day to apologize, saying he could “certainly understand how someone could come to a different conclusion than the one” he meant.

And that apparently turned out to be the case with CNN, which announced Martin’s suspension on Wednesday, Feb. 8 saying “Roland Martin’s tweets were regrettable and offensive” and, “Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being.”

In his defense, although it failed to spare him, Martin noted that he had spoken out on national television in the past against bullying by urging parents and schools to take an “active role in ending this epidemic that afflicts kids nationwide, gay or not.” GLAAD accepted Martin’s apology as a “start,” but it suggested that the commentator should take the extra step of meeting with the organization’s leaders and using his big voice in the future to speak out against homophobic violence as reparation for his offensive and potentially harmful remarks.

That wasn’t a bad idea at all because violence can be incited in impressionable people — especially the young — who view powerful people’s hateful words as justification for violence. Hate crime researchers have long warned that politicians, clergy people and celebrities carry a great responsibility in terms of how their rhetoric might influence others.

In Martin’s case it seems odd that someone who is an African-American TV news personality and familiar with the issues of discrimination and bias-related violence would wind up being chided for perceived anti-gay rhetoric, but that is reflective of the insidiousness of bias. Nasty thoughts sometimes lurk in nice people’s minds, surfacing only during extraordinary moments.

Often, the expression of those thoughts probably is as big of a surprise to the deliverer as it is to the audience, and the result can be harrowing. That in itself is a good reason for everyone to realize that bias against law-abiding groups is harmful to society, no matter whether it is race, religion, sex, age or whatever, and a constant vigilance to fight against it in one’s own head should be undertaken if it resides there.

That’s likely a bigger problem for people who harbor anti-gay bias because of the LGBT community’s relative youth in terms of a legitimate society of people. Anti-gay bias was considered not only acceptable, but preferable for too long for some people to change their thoughts on the subject swiftly.

In regard to gay rights, some people changed their minds long before the laws changed, but for other people the process has been delayed long after the repeal of the sodomy law and the passage of other affirmative measures. Those people continue to struggle to balance their thoughts with their speech. Usually, people accustomed to speaking in public can keep their inappropriate thoughts in check when they are talking or writing, but social media forums such as Twitter and Facebook are presenting new hazards in communication. The immediacy of the communication and its worldwide reach can create big headaches for people, as Martin has learned.

Every purposeless, derogatory statement issued about another person or group has the potential of reaching and offending someone.

Because of that, it might be a good idea for everyone to take a lesson from Martin’s disastrous faux pas and watch carefully what they post on social media. Once it is out there, it’s spreading furiously and it’s not so easy to explain away.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

J.C. Penney tells One Million Moms to suck it

Ellen DeGeneres

Earlier this week One Million Moms, an affiliate of anti-gay hate group the American Family Association, sent out an email calling on Plano-baed J.C. Penney to fire Ellen DeGeneres — who’d just been named a company spokesperson — because she’s “an open homosexual.”

“Degeneres is not a true representation of the type of families that shop at their store,” One Million Moms wrote. “The majority of JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there.”

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which responded with a “Stand Up for Ellen” petition that has generated more than 24,000 signatures, reports today that J.C. Penney has rejected One Million Moms’ demands and “stands behind its partnership with Ellen DeGeneres.” GLAAD’s full press release is below.

—  John Wright

Langbehn receives citizens medal at White House

Janice Langbehn, left with President Barack Obama

Janice Langbehn was among 13 recipients of a citizens medal awarded by President Barack Obama on Oct. 20. She was chosen from among thousands of nominations. As a result of her experience of being denied access to her dying partner, the president issued an executive order requiring hospitals to allow gays and lesbians to name a partner as family for visitation and to make medical decisions.

From an email sent to Dallas Voice by the White House:

Janice Langbehn, Lacey, WA
While on vacation with her family in February 2007, Janice Langbehn’s partner, Lisa Pond, suddenly fell ill and was rushed to the hospital. Langbehn was refused access to her partner, who had experienced a brain aneurysm and later died alone. With the help of Lambda Legal and GLAAD, she filed a federal lawsuit and worked to get her story out to the nation. Janice’s story received attention from President Obama, who personally apologized to her for the way she and her family was treated. He went on to revise hospital visitation rights for gay and lesbian couples, which went into effect this past January for any hospitals receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funds. Langbehn receives the Citizens Medal for her efforts to ensure all Americans are treated equally.

—  David Taffet

Local briefs • 10.14.11

RCD hosts ‘The 5 Factor’

Resource Center Dallas, in partnership with Dallas Modern Luxury, presents the third annual “The 5 Factor” event on Thursday, Oct. 20, at eM the venue by Marc, 1500 Dragon St. in Dallas.

“The 5 Factor” event recognizes five of Dallas’ finest in areas such as cuisine, fashion, media and literature.

This year’s “5 Factor” honorees are journalist and award-winning author Jenny Block; Emmy Award-winning journalist Ron Corning, who recently joined WFAA Channel 8 as the host of News 8 Daybreak; Dallas restaurant owner Monica Greene of Monica’s Aca Y Alla in Deep Ellum and BEE in Oak Cliff, who recently began providing commentary on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars for WFAA; award-winning fashion designer Prashi Shah who created her own label, Prashe, and recently opened a showroom in Dallas’ Design District; and Bronwen Weber, executive chef and general manager of Frosted Art Bakery and Studio in Dallas who is perhaps best known to many for her appearances on television’s Food Network Challenge programs.

The evening will be hosted by Angela Betasso, with state Rep. Eric L. Johnson and his wife as co-chairs and last year’s honorees serving as the honorary host committee.

General admission is $50 per person, available online at The5Factor.org. Proceeds benefit the programs and services of Resource Center Dallas.

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GLAAD holds ‘Get Amped’ 5K

The local chapter of GLAAD presents Get Amped, a 5K run/walk on the Katy Trail on Thursday, Oct. 20, in conjunction with similar chapter events around the country.
Check-in begins at 5:30 p.m. at the American Airlines Center.

The starting gun goes off at 7 p.m. The celebration takes place at the finish line, also at the arena, at 9 p.m.

An after-party takes place at 9:30 p.m. at the Round-Up Saloon.

Each runner has a goal of raising $250. The money raised will benefit the national organization.

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VNA holds Service of Remembrance

The Visiting Nurse Association will host a Service of Remembrance on Sunday, Nov. 6, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Preston Hollow United Methodist Church, 6315 Walnut Hill Lane in Dallas.

The event is open to the public and will feature special music, readings and the opportunity to light a memorial candle.

Attendees of all faiths are welcome to attend the service.

For more information call Sue Rafferty, bereavement coordinator with the Visiting Nurse Association, at 214-689-2922

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Study finds only 19 gay characters on network TV this year, down from 23 last year

Fox has the most gay characters, thanks to shows like Glee.

FRAZIER MOORE | Associated Press

NEW YORK — The number of gay and bisexual characters on scripted broadcast network TV has dipped slightly this season to 19 out of nearly 650 roles, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

The 16th annual “Where We Are on TV” report released Wednesday by GLAAD found that 2.9 percent of actors appearing regularly on prime-time network drama and comedy series in the 2011-12 season will portray gay, lesbian or bisexual characters.

That’s down from 3 percent in the 2009-10 season and 3.9 percent last season, when there were 23 out of a total of nearly 600 roles.

Only five of the 19 gay and lesbian characters this season are nonwhite, GLAAD found.

Using information provided by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW, the group reviewed 91 scripted series announced to air this season.

Among broadcast series with gay and bisexual characters, GLAAD cited CBS’ The Good Wife, the CW’s Ringer and NBC’s The Playboy Club. Comedies include ABC’s Modern Family and Fox’s Glee.

Fox leads the networks in gay representation, with eight regular characters out of a total of 117.

The number of gay and bisexual characters on cable networks has also fallen slightly, from 35 last season to 29 in the upcoming season.

As it did last year, HBO has the greatest number of gay and bisexual characters, with 11 regular and recurring characters. Showtime is close behind with 10.

The HBO drama True Blood remains among the most inclusive series on television, featuring six characters, tied with the Showtime series Shameless, the group found.

Some of TV’s most popular shows “weave story lines about gay and lesbian characters into the fabric of the show,” said GLAAD acting President Mike Thompson. “Americans expect to see the diversity of our country represented in their favorite programs, and that includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”

—  John Wright

Batwoman begins

DC Comics’ lesbian superhero gets her own imprint, a pantheon of new supervillains … and maybe a girlfriend.

GIRL ON GIRL | DC revamps its comic world with an all-new updating of its lesbian Batwoman character.

Following a hugely successful, starring storyline in DC Comics’ Detective Comics title, the openly lesbian Batwoman begins her own titular, monthly series starting Sept. 14.

Part of DC Comics’ reboot and re-launch of its entire line of titles – with 52 all-new No. 1 issues, including Stormwatch featuring superpowered gay couple Apollo & The Midnighter – Batwoman follows the adventures of Kate Kane, a flame-haired, former U.S. Military Academy cadet discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

First introduced in 2006’s 52 miniseries as the ex-lover of lesbian policewoman Renee Montoya (a character from the excellent, GLAAD-nominated Gotham Central series), Batwoman went on to star in DC’s Detective Comics between 2009-2010 – written by Greg Rucka and superbly illustrated by J.H. Williams III  — which saw her go up against a Lewis Carroll-quoting, Tim Burton-worthy Goth nemesis, Alice, while revealing Kane’s origin story. This critically acclaimed arc was later collected in the Batwoman: Elegy trade-press graphic novel.

November 2010 saw a prelude to Batwoman’s solo series with a “Zero Issue,” co-written by new series team J.H. Williams  — also returning as an artist — and H. Haden Blackman, blending illustration styles within an inventive, sophisticated narrative approach.

Here, Williams discusses the new and past series, how the DC line’s reboot affects Batwoman (the series was originally slated to kick off in 2010 but was held up to be part of the event), and whether a girlfriend is in Kate’s future.

— Lawrence Ferber

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Dallas Voice: What’s the biggest difference between this new Batwoman series and her initial Detective Comics run? J.H. Williams: The type of story we’re leading off with. Her last stint was boiled down to her origin and the basic superhero versus ultimate nemesis sort of thing. We wanted to expand on that because she needs a pantheon of villains, so we set out to do that in ways that are fun. We do it in the art a lot, mixing styles, and we brought that into the writing, too. The lead story deviates in that way  — even though it’s very much a continuation of what came before and what’s motivating her now, the foe she faces is a very different one [from last time]. The first arc is a very much supernatural horror story and what that’s like for a costumed or uniformed vigilante who doesn’t have superpowers per se. It’s pretty intriguing, but it’s just one piece of a bigger picture we are going to expand upon over the first three arcs.

What’s the name of this first arc’s villain? The Weeping Woman, and she’s based on Mexican folklore, which goes into a lot of cultural stuff. Everything developed for the new villains is based on urban legends. It’s key, making them have a logical point of origin, so we’re not just throwing random characters in, and hopefully have them be strong enough to hold their own outside the story we’re telling.

Can you elaborate on the story arcs that follow? The first one dovetails into a James Bond-ian espionage plot, then to an epic fantasy kind of plot. Even though those are very different from one another, we have figured out how to make them be a bigger whole and form one giant story. Instead of trying to pigeonhole the kind of series we’re doing to one thing, I want to pursue how far we can take things and how we can work in unison when all is said and done. When people go back and read “Elegy” and see what’s upcoming they’ll see the sense of diversity in the types of stories can be told.

What will Kate’s love life be like? We saw her hook up at a nightclub in the Zero Issue. She’s openly dating, but fun-dating. With the start of the new series we show that she wants to take a turn for something different, a normalcy, because her life as Batwoman is an extreme one. Superheroes today can never make their personal relationships work. But we’re going to build toward a solid relationship with somebody. She wants that person to come home to.

You’ve included many queer characters in your previous work including Promethea, written by the very pro-gay Alan Moore, and 1994’s Deathwish, which featured a transgendered protagonist. Did you base any element of Kate on a real woman or lesbian you have met or known? Not really. Her sense of realism comes from the fact we want to humanize this character as much as we can. The key to any character is no matter where they come from, sexual orientation, whatever, they need to be relatable as human beings.

What did you think of the mainstream media hubbub about Batwoman being a lesbian when the news first hit in 2006? The way DC announced the character way back when put people on their heels a little bit. There wasn’t any solid plan behind the character yet, so some took it as a publicity stunt  — and it wasn’t at all. As people started to see there was potential for this character as a deep-rooted one you can believe in, some of that hubbub went away. She’s a legitimate character people can find things to relate with. We’re not being exploitative with her being a lesbian. We’re treating it as with any other character regardless of what their sexual orientation is  — that’s a small part of who they are as a person. It’s not all about her being a lesbian and I think that’s made her a bit of a beacon for people to get behind the character instead of it being a publicity grab or something that doesn’t sit as a three-dimensional person.

What sort of feedback have you personally received from the lesbian community since Elegy? Any anecdotes to share? I remember one moment doing a signing in New York City. One of the girls standing in line when she came up to get her book signed said, ‘Thank you for drawing a real lesbian and not a stereotypical one.’ And then she said, ‘like me!’ and waved her hand across her forearm. That was fantastic. It gave me a sense that we’re definitely doing things the way they should be done.

The relaunch of DC Comics’ entire line in the wake of its ‘Flashpoint’ event sees a lot of characters reconceived, rebooted, and many stories and series go back to one. How will this affect Batwoman and her past? We have to acknowledge the new, post-’Flashpoint’ continuity, but we worked on this series for such a long time and so far headway into the story we didn’t have the luxury of going back and disregarding what came before  — and I didn’t want to. So although she exists in the new DC status quo, those previous events still happened, which is good. The Batwoman character is so new, anyway, it would be a real disservice to disregard her roots this early on.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

El Paso Times now giving anti-gay priest Michael Rodriguez editorial space in addition to ads

The other day the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a press release praising The El Paso Times for publishing several pro-LGBT opinion pieces. GLAAD said it had reached out to the publisher of The EPT after the newspaper allowed those four recent anti-gay advertisements written by the Rev. Michael Rodriguez and paid for by an unidentified Plano couple.

The EPT publisher responded by inviting letters to the editor and opinion pieces, according to GLAAD, several of which the newspaper actually printed!!! Which is great and all, but if the EPT has truly had some sort of awakening on LGBT issues, we’re a little confused as to why the newspaper chose to run this story today about Rodriguez, saying he’s challenged three city leaders to a public forum.

Oh yeah? Really? Who gives a fuck? Can someone — perhaps someone at  GLAAD — explain why The EPT is now giving Rodriguez editorial space in addition to advertising?

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: GLAAD president resigns; deal may be near on marriage equality bill in New York

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

Jarrett Barrios

1. GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios has resigned in the wake of a controversy over a letter the organization sent to the FCC in support of Dallas-based AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. Or at least we think Barrios has resigned. GLAAD’s letter to the FCC led to backlash in the gay blogophere because the telecom merger isn’t an LGBT issue and because the organization receives donations from AT&T.

2. The New York State Senate could vote as early as today on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s marriage equality bill, but at least one more Republican vote is still neeeded to ensure the measure’s passage. Republican aides spent the weekend working on the language of the bill to strengthen religious protections, and they reportedly made some headway. Today is the last day of New York’s regular legislative session, but it’s likely the session will be extended for a few days. Again, this is a huge impending victory for LGBT equality, as New York is the nation’s third-most populous state and the bill would double the number of Americans living in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal. Watch video below of a New York couple who’ve been waiting 61 years to marry.

3. A growing number pastors in the United Methodist Church are marrying same-sex couples in defiance of the church’s ban on the practice, the AP reports. Pastors who violate the ban risk dismissal from the church, and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.

—  John Wright

Transgender? Transsexual? The power of words in self-determination

Nikki Araguz

Early this week, we had a What’s Brewing post here on Instant Tea that included information about what was at the time a pending ruling from state District Judge Randy Clapp in Wharton on a lawsuit challenging Nikki Araguz’s right to the pension of her husband, a Wharton firefighter who had been killed in the line of duty.

In that first post, we used the term “transgender” to refer to Araguz, which is the general umbrella term that we use here at the Voice. We based that on conversations with advocates in the trans community who told us that “transgender” is an umbrella term that includes all those who are gender variant, while “transsexual” specifically refers to those who have fully transitioned or are in the process of transitioning.

So I was surprised to see comments to that first blog about Nikki Araguz taking us to task for describing her as “transgender” instead of using the term “transsexual,” and pointing out that Araguz had, in her personal blog, asked that the media refer to her as transsexual instead of transgender.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: FW officials briefed on LGBT progress; GLAAD rips Houston’s Fox affiliate

Jon Nelson

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Fort Worth officials received a briefing Tuesday on progress the city has made in addressing the concerns of the LGBT community in the nearly two years since the Rainbow Lounge raid. According to the Star-Telegram, the city has implemented 19 of 20 recommendations made by an LGBT task force formed after the raid. The only recommendation left outstanding is that the city provide health insurance to cover the cost of sex reassignment surgery for transgender employees. Other ongoing concerns include some apparent resistance to diversity training among police and firefighters, as well as the question of whether the city should subsidize domestic partner benefits. But overall, everyone seems pleased with the progress. “I think there is no city, because I’ve looked, in the United States which has done more in less time on these issues than the city of Fort Worth,” said Jon Nelson, a member of the task force and a leader of Fairness Fort Worth.

2. A Texas House committee is expected to take up a bill this morning that would allow same-sex parents to put both their names on the birth certificate of an adopted child. HB 415, by Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would resolve an issue in Texas that’s been the subject of a high-profile lawsuit in Louisiana, where a federal appeals court recently ruled against a same-sex couple in a case that could go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the full House could give final approval today to an anti-bullying bill that’s become Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s legislative session. HB 1942, by Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, would then go to the Senate for consideration.

3. GLAAD is calling on Houston’s Fox affiliate (KRIV-26) to apologize for a segment that aired last week called, “Is TV too gay?” which criticized Glee‘s portrayal of gay teens. The segment aired the same night as a Glee‘s “Born This Way” episode and featured Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, which has been certified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Watch the full segment below. To sign GLAAD’s petition, go here.

 

—  John Wright