Did Asian Stereotypes Offend Or Win On Ru-Paul’s Drag Race?

RECAP: If you haven't been watching, these girls had to start by styling Christmas couture after a snowy photo shoot on a trampoline. Then they had to make a futuristic look to shoot a fake trailer for Drag Queens in Outer Space. Then most recently they had to get leotarded in a drag-tastic workout video and make a runway dress that showed off their best assets. Venus D-Lite, Phoenix, and Mimi Imfurst got the boots each week.

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—  David Taffet

One thing Dallas did right last week … or two if you count the gay block Super Bowl block party

Cowboys Stadium

It’s not easy to find things Dallas did right in preparing for the Super Bowl.

An ESPN commentator said he didn’t think it was possible to find a worse host city than Jacksonville, but they did.

And the Australian press wrote scathing commentary about Dallas asking, “How’s a married man on a ‘business trip’ to the Super Bowl supposed to flaunt his trophy girlfriend — be she rented or otherwise — when she’s being forced to wear so many clothes?”

Today we learn that Jerry Jones sold 3,500 tickets for nonexistent seats, not the 1,200 as reported earlier. The NFL said they’re offering these fans tickets to next year’s game, although not the airfare to get there or cost of extra hotel nights.

Stupid things were planned like a series of outdoor concerts in February, including one that pandered to the lowest stereotypes and was marketed unsuccessfully to the LGBT community. Seriously. Has anyone ever gone to an outdoor concert in Dallas in February?

—  David Taffet

‘Today Show’ features really dumb author

Meredith Viera

So maybe I’m not the best one to offer relationship advice, but in this case, I think I can help.

On the Today Show Thursday morning, Kiri Blakeley promoted her new book, Can’t Think Straight. Here’s NBC’s promo for the segment:

Kiri Blakeley, whose memoir “Can’t Think Straight” describes the shock she experienced when she learned her fiance of 10 years was secretly pursuing relationships with men, tells Meredith Vieira that she “couldn’t get as angry” as she would have if he’d been having an affair with a woman.

Let’s start with “fiance of 10 years.” Really? After 10 years, she thought they were getting married soon?

In the video, she said her fiance didn’t fit any of the stereotypes of what a gay man should be, so she didn’t know. Really? In this day and age you think gay men only fit stereotypes?

But what clues might she have picked up on? They weren’t having much sex anymore. They weren’t seeing each other as much anymore (because he’s spending time with his boyfriend). They weren’t having much sex anymore. And the biggest clue? They weren’t having much sex anymore.

—  David Taffet

A Super Bowl-sized closet

Esera Tuaolo, far left, Roy Simmons, second from left, and Dave Kopay, far right, are the only three retired NFL players ever to come out as gay. Brian Sims, second from right, is the only active NCAA player ever to come out. (Kevin Thomas/Dallas Voice)

Gay ex-players on how and when someone in NFL will finally come out

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

With a combined 106 players on the rosters of the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s all but certain that a few participants in Super Bowl XLV will be gay or bisexual.

Needless to say, though, when the two teams take the field at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Sunday, Feb. 6, we won’t know who those players are.

In the 91-year history of the National Football League, not a single active player has come out.

And only three former players have come out after retiring from the NFL — Dave Kopay in 1975, Roy Simmons in 1992, and Esera Tuaolo in 2002.

“What I find kind of disappointing is that sports seems to be the last bastion,” said Howard Bragman, the famous gay publicist who specializes in helping athletes and celebrities come out. “We even have seemingly won the military.

“I think the fans’ attitudes are changing,” said Bragman, whose clients have included Tuaolo and John Amaechi, the former professional basketball player who came out in 2007. “I think it’s all going to change, but we’re not there. We’ve scratched the surface of progress. We have an awful long way to go.”

Bragman said he believes one reason why no NFL player has come out is that it would put the person in physical danger on the field.

“I pity the guy who’s the first NFL player to come out,” Bragman said. “I think there are some vindictive people in the league.”

Although an out player’s teammates might rally around him, especially if he’s popular and has been around a while, he would run the risk of cheap shots from opposing teams, Bragman said.

“In the NFL you could shoot somebody and you’re probably not going to be hated as much as if you came out,” he said. “I think it’s really one of the last places that we have to fight homophobia and we have to fight a lot of myths and a lot of stereotypes, when these Neanderthals say things like, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t want to shower with one.’ It’s like, have we ever heard a story of a gay man attacking a straight man in the shower? I don’t think so. It’ just crazy.”

Still, Bragman and others say they see signs of progress.

Anti-gay comments from NFL players, once seemingly condoned, now draw discipline from NFL teams, and sometimes condemnation from others in the league.

A few straight NFL players, such as linebacker Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns (formerly of the New Orleans Saints), have spoken out publicly in support of LGBT equality.

But even so, Bragman said he believes the first NFL player to come out will do so involuntarily.

“I don’t think the first person who comes out in the NFL is going to come out pretty,” Bragman said. “I think the first person who comes out in the NFL is going to be outed, because we live in such a transparent world, and there’s going to be a picture that comes out or something like that that happens, as opposed to someone goes, ‘Hey, I’m gay.’”

Bragman noted there are no out players in pro baskeball, hockey or baseball, either, but he said he expects that to change soon.

“Within five years we’ll have two or three out men’s players in one of the major sports,” he predicted.

Others, meanwhile, believe the first openly gay NFL player will be someone who came out in high school or college.

Brian Sims, who came out while he was a team captain for the Division II football team at Bloomberg (Pa.) University in 2000, remains the only known active NCAA player to have done so.

“The first [NFL] player who comes out is going to be a Jackie Robinson,” Sims said, referring to the first black major league baseball player. “I think they’re going to be famous. I think they’re going to be a millionaire. But it will probably be somebody in college that was out and is just too good to ignore, which means probably one of the
skill positions.

“He’ll be too good not to draft, and a team like Miami, a team like New York … Somebody like that will pick him up proudly and say: ‘Yeah, you know what? We’ve got a built-in fan base just for this player alone.’” Sims said. “And it will be overwhelming how supportive people in the league will be.”

Sims, a defensive tackle who was universally accepted by his teammates when he came out, is now a Philadelphia-based attorney who specializes in LGBT civil rights.

Sims frequently speaks on the issue of homophobia in sports to athletes and students on college campuses.

He said he’s encouraged by the fact that there are out athletes in some sports on every campus he’s visited. And while none of them are football players, he says he knows gay football players at both the collegiate and pro levels.

“Some of them are living very closeted lives, very afraid of the repercussions,” Sims said. “Some of them are able to live relatively out lives in big cities …
“There are [NFL] players I know who are out, who have partners, and they’re able to be out with friends and with family. … They don’t sneak off once a month with their partner.”

But Sims, who believes a gay NFL player would represent a huge milestone for LGBT equality, said he doesn’t expect the players he knows to come out publicly anytime soon.

“I wish they would,” he said. “I’m one of the people that if you’re a closeted gay football player in this county, I’m one of the people that you shoot a message to. You would be amazed if you saw the amount of, ‘Hey, do you mind if I share something with you?’ kind of e-mails that I get.”

Tuaolo, 42, who played with five different NFL teams in nine years, said he knows firsthand why gay players in the NFL don’t come out.

It’s “the fear of working your ass off all your life to get where you’re at, and then just to know you could lose it all,” said Tuaolo, a defensive lineman who played in the Super Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons in 1999.

“I was afraid to type in the word ‘gay’ in college in a computer, because I thought it would come back to me,” Tuaolo said. “It’s the fear that you live in, it’s the anxiety that you live in, it’s the hurt that you live in when you’re in the closet. I didn’t know of all these organizations that are so supportive in the gay community. You kind of live on this island.

“When I was in the closet, all I saw was the people who didn’t support us,” Tuaolo added. “All I heard was the people who didn’t support us.”

Tuaolo, who now lives in Minneapolis, said he’s been amazed by the support he’s received since coming out.

He also said he believes coming out in the NFL would be much easier now than just 10 short years ago.

“The reason being, everybody knows a gay person,” said Tuaolo, a frequent speaker at both colleges and Fortune 500 companies. “Ninety-nine percent of people raise their hands when I ask, ‘Do you know a gay person?’

“If a gay athlete comes out while he’s still playing now, I think a lot of his teammates will have to answer to their families, because all of them know a gay person,” he said.
Tuaolo, who hid his partner from teammates while in the NFL, is the father of adopted twins — a boy and a girl — who are now 10.

“It’s great to take my son to the [Minnesota Vikings] game and everybody knows,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling to get that support from people.”

But in a sign that homophobia is still pervasive in sports, Tuaolo acknowledged that he’s dating a semi-pro baseball player who isn’t out to his team.

“We’re out to our friends and our family, but not out to his teammates,” he said. “I know how it is and stuff. When he’s comfortable and he’s ready to tell his teammates, perfect.”

Kopay, 68, now retired from a post-NFL career in sales, said he’s convinced there are gay players on every NFL team.

But Kopay, who played in the NFL from 1964-72, came out in 1975 and wrote a best-selling biography in 1977, isn’t overly disappointed that no active NFL player has come out in the 36 years since he did so.

“How many hundreds of years did it take the black folks to get the civil rights law passed?” Kopay said. “Look at the progress we’ve made.”

A one-time Army Reservist, Kopay said he “cried like a baby” when “don’t ask don’t tell” was repealed late last year.

Also last year, Kopay attended the Super Bowl as a guest of Indianopolis Colts assistant coach Howard Mudd, his former teammate.

Kopay said he got a warm welcome from players and coaches during the trip, but it was also bittersweet knowing that anti-gay bias likely prevented him from following the same path as Mudd.

“Certainly I would have loved to have been a coach,” Kopay said. “It was painful for me, because it reminded me of my lack of doing what I always really wanted to do, but never got a chance to do.”

Kopay now lives in Seattle near his alma mater, the University of Washington, where he’s been named one of the 100 most influential graduates in the school’s first 100 years — largely because of his impact on gay rights (although he was also an All-American running back).

Kopay doesn’t travel or speak publicly as often as he used to, and he recalled one occasion last fall when he was invited to Arizona State University. Kopay said the ongoing gay youth suicide crisis weighed so heavily on his mind that he had to cancel the trip.

“It was so painful to think about, how there’s still been so little progress,” Kopay said. “I just got feeling so blue and angry that I couldn’t get my words out when I started reading and practicing delivering my speech. It brought me back to a place — it brought the anger in me.”

For Kopay, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that if LGBT youth had a professional athlete to look up to, they’d be less likely to give up hope. But he also said he’s comforted by the thousands of e-mails he’s received from people he’s inspired in other professions.

“It’s almost like I gave them permission to be who they were,” Kopay said. “It’s daunting to think about that, but it happened, and I’m really pleased that it happened. It’s incredible. That’s what gives me a sense of purpose in life, and a sense of happiness.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

‘Born this Way’ photo essay blog is charming as hell — and has nothing to do with Lady Gaga

Thanks to Brad over at Gilley’s for tipping me off to this (albeit inadvertently through Facebook). He linked to this new photo essay/blog titled Born This Way. In it are images submitted by people who, in hindsight, can see the gay coming in their childhood photos. By the looks of it, the first post was published on Sunday, and already there’s a pretty impressive collection.

Born This Way is Paul V.’s project (and yes, Gaga’s next album title). Paul V. is a DJ based in Los Angeles, but I’m really hoping he sticks to this project. There’s such a heart to the pictures that makes it so super charming and even funny — but in a good way because you’ll likely relate to it.

Paul V. was inspired, if you will, by the recent teen suicides as well as the political movement and rhetoric around Prop 8 and DADT. Initially he thought his idea would be great as a book, but after sitting on it for a while, he told me he just wanted to get it out there. And it’s caught on — like wildfire. “I’m a little inundated but it’s great,” he said. “The first photo (above) was from a MySpace friend. I just thought if any pic ever proved that we feel what we feel and it comes through, this was it. I was heartbroken by the suicides and if  young people find this blog and realize there have been gay kids forever, they see they aren’t alone.”

—  Rich Lopez

Prop 8 oral arguments are today, but if you’re not a lawyer it ‘might be like watching paint dry’

Ken Upton
Ken Upton

With DADT repeal all but dead, we turn our attention to California, where oral arguments are set today in the federal challenge to Proposition 8.

We’ve got a full preview and viewer’s guide over on the main page, and the two-hour proceedings will be broadcast live on the CSPAN website beginning at noon Dallas time.

But we also inquired of Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal in Dallas, as to what he’ll be looking for this afternoon. Here’s what Upton said:

I’ll be particularly interested in the panel’s questions surrounding standing (the constitutional principle that says only people actually affected or injured by the dispute have a right to litigate it, not people who merely have an opinion about it in a general sense). Courts can be willing to turn to this doctrine when appropriate to dispose of cases they aren’t ready to decide on the merits.

As for the second session, I’m interested in how the panel reacts to the evidence at trial and what weight they choose to give it. The marriage cases that were lost (e.g., NY, WA, IN, AZ) all resulted from a court willing to allow the government to speculate about the justifications for excluding same-sex couples from marriage. The victories happened when courts required the government to give real justifications that are grounded in fact, not theories made up after the fact based on rank speculation or outdated stereotypes. That will be the key here. How will the panel treat the evidence (which was overwhelmingly supportive of striking down Prop 8)?

It will be fun to watch (for lawyers, at least — might be like watching paint dry for many non-lawyers).

—  John Wright

Gay NASCAR blogger says sport’s fans are more accepting of gays than gays are of NASCAR fans

Michael Myers, founder of Queers4Gears.com

As we found out when a certain lunch appointment canceled because “two of his employees are going to the races,” NASCAR returns to the Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. While we’re pretty sure these particular employees are straight, the lunch cancellation got Instant Tea to thinking, are there any gay NASCAR fans out there?

Well of course there are — and not just the closeted ones — but we never would’ve imagined that there’s an entire gay NASCAR-devoted website, especially one that doesn’t feature photos of drivers with their shirts off.

Queers4Gears.com, founded by Michael Myers in 2009, has been featured on ESPN.com and was named one of the top 50 NASCAR blogs in the country by SportsManagementDegrees.net. ESPN reported on Queers4Gears after Myers asked a driver a question during a press conference (watch the driver’s reaction in the clip below).

Queers4Gears.com boasts more than a thousand followers on Twitter, and the site currently features a preview of this weekend’s action at TMS. Elsewhere on the site, there are LGBT discounts for an upcoming race in Phoenix, merchandise for sale, and a list of charities including a Nevada AIDS organization. Here’s a snippet from the About section of Queers4Gears:

Q4G founder, Michael Myers, said that he started Q4G as an online home for Gay NASCAR fans. “But more importantly, I want to bring new fans to the sport.” Myers went on to say that NASCAR fans have been more accepting of him being gay than gay people have been accepting of his being a NASCAR fan.

“There are as many misconceptions and stereotypes about NASCAR fans as there are about gay people. I hope in some small way Queers4Gears can help to change that. This has been an incredible first year and I hope to build on the site’s success for years to come.”

—  John Wright

Broadcast TV getting gayer, GLAAD says

Every fall season, GLAAD issues a report about LGBT characters on the main networks’ scripted series, and whether that indicates an improvement from years past.  This year’s report notes a “significant increase” in gay characters, according to the study — the most, in fact, ever.

ABC leads the pack with 11 of 152 lead or supporting characters (7.2 percent), helped by shows like Modern Family and Brothers & Sisters. Fox has  5 of 100 (5 percent), including Kurt from Glee, pictured, animated character like Smithers on The Simpsons. NBC marked a decline from last year (only three of 143) and CBS was again in last place with one of 125 (Emmy winner Archie Panjabi from The Good Wife).

The study has its flaws. For instance, the report claims zero gay characters on Fox in 2007, yet one listed now includes Smithers, who has been on the show since 1989 but is considered “recurring” (the study doesn’t including recurring characters in the main figures). And it doesn’t account for, frankly, qualityBrothers & Sisters has never been good, but this season has swan-dived into especially odious melodrama with gay stereotypes.

A separate report counts basic cable series, where gay characters (often with more interesting and frank storylines than on broadcast) are more common and realistically portrayed. I mean, True Blood: Who doesn’t watch that for the hot bodies? The study also doesn’t include reality shows, which really dominate the TV landscape. With Dancing with the Stars judge Bruno Tonioli swishing up the most popular show on TV right now, as bisexual comedian Margaret Cho dances, you’d think that would warrant a mention, as would Jeff Lewis, Jackie Warner and half the contestants on Bravo’s competition series. That would paint a fairer picture. But it’s still nice to see progress.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Vampire strikes back

Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij could be the new face of gay — if it matters

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

FORGET TEAM EDWARD OR TEAM JACOB  |  Batmanglij, left, and the rest of Vampire Weekend bring their live show back to Dallas Wednesday to win over the city again after their spring show back in April.
FORGET TEAM EDWARD OR TEAM JACOB | Batmanglij, left, and the rest of Vampire Weekend bring their live show back to Dallas Wednesday to win over the city again after their spring show back in April.

VAMPIRE WEEKEND
With Beach House.
Palladium Ballroom,
1135 S. Lamar St. Oct. 6 at 8 p.m.
Ticketmaster.com.

……………………………………………….

Face it: Society is getting kind of used to the celebrity come-out story. Ricky Martin comes out and we applaud; Chely Wright becomes the first out country singer and now we know her name — ho-hum.

But when Rostam Batmanglij talks about being out as part of the big-buzzed indie group Vampire Weekend, nobody seems to notice.

Maybe it’s Batmanglij’s everyman look — he’s handsome but doesn’t smolder like Martin. He’s the understated hipster dude in the funky clothes. He just … is, minus the whole producer/multi-instrumentalist bit he performs for the band.

“I think sometimes there is so much pressure to conform to a straight identity,” he says. “But also, there’s pressure to conform to stereotypes of gay identity. I hope that’s less and less a pressure nowadays.”

Nothing about Vampire Weekend’s vibe is particularly threatening, but their music is innovative enough to stand out. The sound is happy with reggae-ish beats and endearing lyrics. Their scruffy image proffers likeable appeal for college- and high school-aged kids that includes a new generation of LGBT youth unrestricted by labels. Like Batmanglij, they are living a life that doesn’t find the need to thrive on completely gay environments as may have been the case 20 years ago.
“Just like there are different kinds of straight people, it’s the same for gays,” he says. “But now there are various gay role models.”

Batmanglij came out to the media last year, saying it was something he felt he should do. It didn’t have the shockwave impact of other musical coming outs, but it didn’t have to for Batmanglij. Really, he just finds it tough to figure if his coming out had any kind of impact on either the band or himself.

“It’s hard to perceive,” he says. “I certainly believe we had gay fans before I talked about it. I just don’t know if gay people would approach our band based on that fact.”

What does weigh heavy on Batmanglij is not his gay identity, but his Middle Eastern heritage. When asked about the Washington Post’s article where he discussed having issues with “whiteness,” Batmanglij dismisses the condensed version of his life in that article, but also shifts to a troubled tone when talking about his heritage.

“I have a complex relationship with being of Iranian descent and now more than ever,” he says. “There are a lot of things not talked about in America and so much is repressed and kept in the dark. Middle Easterners aren’t represented well. I think that I’ll continue to have an issue with it. There are ways to look at things without the cynicism.”

Thus it’s actually harder to be Middle Eastern than gay, right now?

“Certainly in America,” he laughs.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 1, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas