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[whitespace] 'Boys Don't Cry'

Consider Yourself

Eradicating a culture of hate bit-by-bit

By Genevieve Roja

NO ONE has ever scrawled "faggot" on the trunk of my car. But it happened recently to my gay friend, who ignored the word and the swirls of arrows pointing to his rainbow sticker inside the rear windshield. He looked at the word and shrugged, as another friend and I tried erasing its ugliness with our hands.

I was reminded again of the struggle at the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) media awards Saturday night in San Francisco. Joan Garry, the executive director of the media watchdog group, had perhaps the strongest voice that night among several presenters and winners, including CBS' Survivor, and a Salon.com piece on gay military officers. "Progress can erode as quickly as it can be gained," she told the audience of patrons who paid between $200 and $1,000 for a seat inside the Westin St. Francis ballroom. Before Garry embarked on her speech, a video highlighted some of her efforts this year, including halting Dr. Laura's irascible campaign against gays, addressing the hateful lyrics of Eminem and his infamous pairing with Sir Elton John on Grammy night. As much as GLAAD's work this year was about educating the kids who bought Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP--in which he spat lines like, "...You faggots can vanish to volcanic ash" and "Pants or dress--hate fags? The answer's 'yes'"--it was also about parents, said Garry. "People threw censorship at us; we threw back responsibility."

In a room full of people cloaked in Gucci and Armani, Garry made the audience squirm by reminding everyone about how good they had it. We were the lucky ones, she said. Tonight is for those who weren't so lucky, the ones persecuted for being gay, the ones who died for the cause. How insulated we could be, and how easy it was to forget such hardships in a sumptuous arena of crystal chandeliers, Cosmopolitans and candlelight.

Though a recent Gallup poll shows that 52 percent of Americans believe that homosexuality is an acceptable alternative lifestyle , a majority of Americans remain opposed to extending marriage benefits to gay and lesbian partners. Gay and lesbian teens who run away from home have been taunted and physically abused by their classmates. Most of them abuse alcohol and drugs. Many still contemplate and commit suicide.

Like most straight people, I remain free from the meaner parts of humanity. No one has ever called me a racial slur--although an ex-boyfriend a few years ago had the gall to tell me that some of his friends thought I was ugly because I had dark skin and I was Filipino. Too bad, I thought, that they couldn't see the real me. Until my friend's car was tagged with "faggot," I had forgotten that our society is still infiltrated by those with pernicious agendas. I thought that in recent years hate crimes against gays were declining, and that acceptance--not violence and prejudice--was on the rise. I was mistaken. The torture and killing of Shepard once again reminded everyone that the demons have not been expelled. With the release of the film Boys Don't Cry, we were introduced to the tragedy of Brandon Teena/Teena Brandon, who was ruthlessly gunned down by two people he had befriended.

To me, the message of GLAAD and national Pride Month is remembrance--after all, it is a commemoration of the Stonewall uprising in June 1969, in which gays resisted police harassment at the namesake gay bar, which is now widely recognized as the birthplace of the gay rights movement. As a volunteer at the GLAAD media awards it was difficult not to be starstruck, brief as it was. Survivor creator Mark Burnett was there to accept an award for choosing not to hide Richard Hatch's sexual orientation. Hatch was also present Saturday night, as was Laura Innes, Dr. Kerry Weaver on ER and Thea Gill and Scott Lowell from Showtime's Queer as Folk. Even Judd Winick and Pam Ling--two MTV Real World San Francisco cast mates who began dating following the show's wrap and are marrying in two months--were there, ever friendly and humble.

Upon hearing that this article was being written, Winick, who won for Best Comic Book Pedro and Me--about the goings-on of he and Pedro Zamora, a fellow cast mate who died in 1994 of AIDS-related complications-- offered me this sage advice: "Make it personal."

Over the weekend, I realized that the fight against bigotry is far from over. When I see "faggot" written on my friend's car, I see through his shrugs to his heartache. When Eminem says he'll knife a faggot or brags that he gets "more pussy than them dyke bitches," I'll refuse to buy his CDs. When I hear the voice of Dr. Laura, who calls gays "deviant," I will change the channel.

And for the month of June, let the words of GLAAD's Garry provide a model for consciousness and action throughout the year.

"Consider the role you want to have. Consider the responsibility you have." It's really very simple.

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From the June 14-20, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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