Two big time apologies concerning gay issues came out this past week, almost back to back. Both were in response to stupid, homophobic or at least homophobic-tinged statements made by the speaker. And in both cases, they were genuine apologies, not those silly, half-assed “I’m sorry if you’re offended” type apologies.
First we had Howard Kurtz, Washington Post blogger, CNN host, and until recently Washington Bureau Chief for the Daily Beast. For whatever reason, Mr. Kurtz thought it necessary to point out that Jason Collins, in his beautiful coming out essay in Sports Illustrated, neglected to note that he was once engaged to a woman. He downplayed that bit of personal history, Mr. Kurtz insisted. Except, of course, Mr. Collins didn’t. Jason Linkins at HuffPost has a wonderful graphic which demonstrates, with Mr. Collins’ own words, why this assertion falls flat on its face. Indeed, I found the passage where Mr. Collins discussed his engagement, and his inner turmoil at having to maintain a heterosexual facade, to be one of the most moving parts of the essay.
Mr. Kurtz didn’t seek forgiveness at first. He changed his story to say Jason Collins may not have denied being engaged to a woman, but he “downplayed” his heterosexual experiences. He then went on to make similar comments in his other gig on Daily Download. I once again refer you to Mr. Linkins’ article and graphic linked above so that you can make your own assessment.
But then, the Daily Beast had had enough, and retracted the story for Mr. Kurtz. And then they fired him. Both sides are claiming that the parting was amicable, sort of like those celebrity marriages where they promise to remain “good friends.” Similarly, Daily Download pulled the video where he continued to make his baseless assertions about Mr. Collins. It was at this point that Mr. Kurtz finally came forward and came clean.
My logic about what happened between Jason Collins and his former fiancee and what was and wasn’t disclosed, in hindsight, well I was wrong to even raise that and showed a lack of sensitivity to the issue.
– from Huffington Post
He gets marks for admitting that he should not have raised the issue in the first place and that doing so showed a careless lack of sensitivity. But we have to look at the origins of this type of thinking. Here again we find the old trope that homosexuality is a phase or its something that one fiddles with once in a while, like orange colored ties or something. It’s just a passing fancy. Real people date people of the opposite sex. That’s what Mr. Kurtz’s clumsy remarks said.
Let me introduce you, Mr. Kurtz, to the world of the gay teenager. I’m not talking about teens who are gay. I’m talking about folks of any age who, after finally coming out, go through their “teen years.” Teen years are when we date, we play the field, we score, we lose, we learn about life and ourselves. Unfortunately, if you’re gay, you can miss out on the teen years as a teen if you spend them in the closet. I certainly did. As I stated in my last post, I came out 25 years ago. That would place my coming out age at 23. Oops. So I didn’t go on dates or play the field, or score or learn about life and myself as a teen. I only lost out.
This is what the closet can do for you. It squelches you. Or, as in Mr. Collins’ case, it forces you to make false choices.
I’d like to see Mr. Kurtz take his apology a step further and do a piece on the “gay teen” phenomena to educate his audience about why staying in the closet is so unhealthy and just plain wrong. (For extra credit, read Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room.) Then he’ll get top marks.
This other apology came after a bizarre outburst. While discussing his issues with the philosophy of noted 20th century economist John Maynard Keynes, Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson felt it necessary to gay bash him. Mr. Keynes, he asserted, held the economics views he had because he didn’t care about the future. And he didn’t care about the future because he was a childless gay dude. Gays can’t have children, therefore why would they care about the future?
Mr. Ferguson quickly issued an apology on his own blog.
But I should not have suggested – in an off-the-cuff response that was not part of my presentation – that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes’s wife Lydia miscarried.
Mr. Ferguson apparently has a right-leaning view of things and like most right-leaning folks, has a problem with the theories and opinions expounded by Keynes, often considered an icon of the left. And it’s perfectly fine, of course, to have such disagreements. By why go off on a tangent about the man’s sexuality? I give Mr. Ferguson marks for walking it back quickly. But why did he go there to begin with?
The usage here is sort of akin to Godwin’s law, where calling your opponent a Nazi is thrown up as a last, desperate attempt to win an argument. It never works and only makes the accuser look foolish. (Speaking of arguments, gays, and Nazis, or crypto-Nazis, check out this famous exchange between William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal.)
But the days of dismissing arguments by invoking The Gay are numbered. Similarly, the days of dismissing someone’s non-heterosexual sexuality as a phase are also numbered. Homophobes abound, to be sure, but the standard is quickly changing to where it’s not possible to espouse such thinking without consequences. Mr. Kurtz may or may not have lost his job over his missteps about Jason Collins, but in his apology he referenced his damaged reputation and his desire to quickly repair it. And Mr. Ferguson obviously saw how damaging it would be to his reputation to be called the department homophobe at Harvard, so he, too, quickly made amends.
Their quick realignments give me hope. Homophobia isn’t dead yet, by any means, but we’re heading in the right direction.
© 2013, gar. All rights reserved.