These two men seem like sweet guys who are at a place in their lives where they are solid with each other and ready to be good dads to some very lucky kid. So how could this couple be the source of controversy and strife...not from anti gay groups(believe me they lost their minds about this as well)...but from other gay people?...really?
The trouble came from the scope of the story CNN intends to tell. To be gay in America is a multifaceted experience. The lives of two upper middle class men in New York is a far cry from that of a older Chinese man or a trans woman in middle America. And thats the point that seems to have people coming unhinged. Not all gay people are white..or male...or able to afford the expense of surrogacy. For a story that purports to give the American gay experience it was a rather tightly confined view of that experience.
Listening to the rumblings of the blogosphere you hear alot from gay men and women of color and from trans folk..that they feel very underrepresented within the community. Most gay Characters on T.V. and movies tend toward white males and the heads of most of our big gay lobbying organizations are again...white... and male...but thats not the only criticism leveled at this documentary...
Bill Browning of Bilerico Project wrote a very critical piece on "Gay in America" in advance of its airing that spawned a lot of controversy and caused a few of his fellow Bilerico contributors to respond back. Heres the part of his piece that got my knickers in a twist:
If the audience is the LGBT community itself, then the piece soundly fails since it highlights a tale so preposterously stereotypical that it doesn't resonate with the majority of American queers. It's gay parenting pablum masquerading behind an assimilationist ideal.Assimilationism is a word that will get my hackles up everytime. The idea being, that gay men and women who want to have a family are trying to imitate or be absorbed into a culture they should reject in order to be considered good gays. What the Heck?! Gay people come from all walks of life and we grow up with dreams for a our lives just like everyone else. How is it wrong for them to make those dreams come true? How is that a denial of their essential gayness? Assimilationism is complete crap if you ask me. Its just people living their lives the way they see fit.
yet another commenter on Pam's House Blend made this statement:
I saw this. I must confess after the Kyra Phillips/Richard Cohen debacle I was riled up and did not have high expectations of CNN's coverage. And really nothing pinged my radar as objectionable about the coverage from an LGBT angle.
I'll grant, you're entirely right, it appears the subjects are setting out to imitate a heterosexual normative lifestyle.
But I'm disinclined to critique things based on what they are not, or should have been. Tony & Gary, being long-time activists, likely invited or even actively sought out the opportunity to tell their story. And their story is their story. And they can't be blamed for being white, or even, imo, criticized, if indeed they want to build a gay Brady Bunch.
Come on buddy, I don't think even heterosexuals live a "heterosexual normative lifestyle" anymore. Normal is a term relative to the person defining it. My normal will not be your normal.
Now a genetic profile would reveal that I'm a mutt...purebread mutt...I have just about everything in my family tree as apparently my ancestors didn't know how to reign in their libido's...that said.I am a white male married to another white male, with two adopted children. In the criticisms leveled at Gary and Tony I felt judged myself. My life is not heteronormative nor assimilationist...none of us can help being born the color or gender that we are....its what we do with those factors that counts. unfortunatly it seems that we more often use these parts of ourselves as tools to make others feel unworthy.
GLBT people come from all walks of life. for a people who are constantly accused of recruiting we don't get a choice of who is gay and who isn't. Gay people come into the community from all races, all faiths, all economic streams, all attitudes and prejudices. We are made up of the full spectrum of humanity. Our adopted symbol as a community is the rainbow flag. As a symbol it speaks more truth than we do. I have met gay Chinese men that will NEVER come out because the shame they would recieve from thier family is so great...yet there are as many gay men in the chinese community as there are in any other. How do you show your face to America when you can't even show it to your family. Yet this is dynamic is changing too, one generation at a time...where once some communities would not even acknowledge that gay people existed within their community(yes, someone actually claimed there were no gay asians...as if!)...now the voices of those coming out have shown us that the landscape of the gay community is as varied as the human race.
Their are a million stories to be told about what it means to be gay in America...Gary and Tony's is only one and the first of what CNN intends to present as a series. Perhaps this episode may not be the most enlightening to us...but to a suburbanite mom in Indiana struggling with the knowledge that her son may be gay...that story may give her a different future to think on for her son who she suspects is gay, instead of the "your gonna get HIV and die" line that most of us get. It will change someones mind even if we don't see ourselves accuratly mirrored in it...its only one story and hopefully will not be the last.
In closing I believe that it's not CNN's responsibility to teach America what it means to be us...its ours. If we don't let people know who we are than who do we have to blame when people believe the worst about us. All the average American hears from are anti-gay groups who paint us as villains playing fast and loose with the lives of children. Don't let them tell our steer the debate...Its great to be on a platform as large as the one CNN can provide but in the end we need to tell our own stories and educate America...and gay youth about who we are. What is it like to be black and gay? Latino and gay? Trans in Arizona?...you name it. We need to show a little compassion for the full range of what it means to be gay and human...even for us mutts.