I'm Not Black & I'm Not Gay
There is probably no reason for me to have any sort of opinion on the whole Isaiah Washington thing. I've really tried to avoid having an opinion--other than "Look! Celebrity Gossip!"--because it's not something I'm necessarily qualified to talk about. I have no firsthand knowledge of the pain of being black or gay.
But, man, apparently we're ALL supposed to have an opinion, and that opinion had just better be the Right One. Imagine my surprise to open my Entertainment Weekly, only to have them devote their entire back page column to the "issue". Granted, since the first of the year that back page space has become EW's "blog-in-print", with different writers contributing blogworthy entries either funny or screedy. So I shouldn't be too surprised by the screedy from editor at large Mark Harris, who seems to think that Washington's use of the f-epithet is a watershed moment in the politics of Gay Hollywood. Excuse me if I disagree. I think that namecalling is childish, immature and rude. Which is exactly the type of behaviour one would expect from people who choose to pretend to be other people for a living.
Let's look at part of what Harris has to say, shall we?
I'm sorry that the first time this happened, Shonda Rhimes, whose commitment to on-air diversity is evident (even if the evidence stops short of including an actual gay staffer at Seattle Grace), thought it was okay to write this off as a private affair rather than immediately let the many offended fans of her show know how hateful she thought that epithet was.
No, there's not an openly gay doctor (yet) on the staff of Seattle Grace. But this indictment of the show's lack of gayversity is hardly a fair assesment. In the pilot episode Rhimes and her writers treat a presumption of George's gayness (the actor is gay, the character isn't) as a no-big-deal aside. Joe, the bartender at the Emerald City Bar is openly gay, and we've seen at least three episodes with him and his partner. He's not a main character, but he is as strong a secondary character as Meredith's parents, Denny Duquette and Callie Torres.
As far as Rhimes scolding Washington in public, I would have followed the same tack. Yes, name-calling is offensive. But it was a private moment behind the scenes on the show that leaked out. I imagine Rhimes' first thought was to try to keep the thing in-house as much as possible.
I'm sorry that T.R. Knight, the target of Washington's slur who came out following the incident, didn't have the instant, unqualified, and loudly public (because that matters) support of every one of his colleagues.
Again, I think Rhimes was trying to keep this in-house and deal with it discreetly. Who knows what transpired between cast members? Of course, now that this is the official Issue That Will Not Die, other cast members are rallying around Knight.
'm sorry that the overall non-reaction to Washington's behavior helped to reinforce a perception that some quarters of the African-American community tolerate homophobia, a stereotype that is only going to divide us more unless both groups fight it at every turn.
How stereotypical is it of Harris (an openly gay man) to broaden the responsibility for Washington's actions onto The Black Community at large? Honestly, Isaiah Washington is one man. He is NOT The Voice Of All Black Men Everywhere. Frankly, to me Harris' statement here is far more 'us-v-them' than anything coming out of the Rhimes-Washington camp. In fact, I'd wager that many white, straight readers have no idea about the grudge match between the Gays and the Blacks that prominent gays have been pushing for awhile now. Okay, prominent blacks, too, if you count Oprah. She keeps doing shows about The Down Low, albeit from a YOUR BLACK HUSBAND MAY BE GAY!!!! scare-quote stance.
I'm sorry that it took ABC half the TV season to remind itself of its corporate responsibility.
Wha?? You want the network of
**What is my problem? Why do I think all of CBS' stupid shows are on ABC? Good grief. Both networks appear to have a problem with branding. Anyway, I DO hold ABC responsible for the stupidity of cancelling Invasion, so there.
I'm sorry that not a single sponsor of Grey's Anatomy had the guts to speak up, even last week.
I imagine that, like me, these people just want the whole issue to be handled quietly and with decorum. Most corporations are culturally different from entertainment magazines. They exist to make cars and trucks and soaps and frozen dinners that they intend to sell to lots and lots of people. They aren't bound to get in high lather over actors (whom many people consider to be an odd breed anyway) acting like doofi. I really don't see anyone at Ford saying "That man called another man a NAME. We must stop advertising on one of the top-rated shows on TV because of this namecalling!"
I'm sorry that we in the gay community didn't make a lot more noise about this a lot sooner.
You ARE kidding me, right? Because although I'm not gay, I do have at least one foot in the gay community and I've heard nothing but sound and fury from TGC over this since day one. Except from my brother who seemed to think the whole thing was kinda funny.
I'm sorry that so many actors choose — and it is, whatever they tell themselves, a self-serving choice — to stay in the closet, since the more out actors there are, the less okay homophobia in entertainment becomes.
And here's where I just got so mad at Harris that I could spit nails. Blame the libertarian in me if you must, but I absolutely hate the pro-outing attitude that exists in a large part of the Gay Community. It's not that I want all gay people to stay in the closet, but the attitude of Harris and other high-level gays is galling. They are in New York and California. I've lived in Tennessee and Indiana. Being openly gay is still a career-killer for an awful lot of people. It's very easy to declare Coming Out a necessity when you are cosseted in the bosom of one of the few gay-friendly employment cultures in the country. For many gay people, Coming Out is a minefield that can rob them of their family, their church family and any chance of making Vice President at the bank where they work. And as much as outsiders view acting as a gay-friendly career it ISN'T. The aforementioned sponsors who pay to make TV shows and movies are not dirty hippies wearing Dead T-shirts and patchouli. They are staid businessmen who don't want to alienate the soap, car and frozen-dinner buyers out in the world. The few prominent gay actors had to wait to achieve prominence before they came out. The only gay tv show allowed to be on the air for more than a season--Will & Grace--was an offensive minstrel show with numerous straight actors in gay-face. It is not fair for Harris to insist that others risk their livelihoods and home lives in order to make a Grand Statement.
Yes, staying closeted is a "self-serving" choice. So what? Is Harris going to pay the bills of out actors who can no longer get work as some sort of thank-you? I didn't think so.
Anyone who calls a colleague a faggot and manages not to get fired should count himself lucky.
Really? Is that what we're about now? Firing people for their speech? Most corporations I know of insist on diversity training as a response to this type of action. Historically witch-hunts have never proven successful in the long term.
But really, I'm neither black nor gay. I'm just a woman who has been called a fat cow, four eyes, railroad tracks, bitch, cooze, whore, Aunt Jemima, dyke, faghag, kikelover, idiot, stupid, bible-thumper, jesus-freak, moron, titsy mcboobsalot and cunt. And I've lived with my head held high inspite of it all, moved on and never demanded that anyone be fired.