Something happened to me the other day on Facebook which has never happened before. I put up what I thought was an innocuous post about 82 year old Jim Nabors marrying his partner of 38 years in the Great State of Washington. Mr. Nabors and his now-husband Stan Cadwallader live in Honolulu, but hopped across the pond to Seattle to make it, as Mr. Nabors put it, “legal” since they could. How sweet, I thought. Indeed, I began the status update with the word “Awww!”
One of my Facebook friends, however, felt the need to comment on my post, “Ewwwwwwwwww!” I wrote back, “Why ewwwwww?” I knew why, or at least the general why, but I wanted her to clarify her remarks; I was also giving her a chance to backtrack. She didn’t. She picked the religious route, citing how God doesn’t like homosexuality, how its a sin, blah, blah, blah, blah. Eww indeed. Clearly she had not been reading my posts on Facebook or the gar spot. It’s not like I’ve been in the closet or anything.
Never has anyone put up something so blatantly homophobic on any of my posts. And I responded by deleting her remarks and unfriending her. In hindsight, I sort of wished I had engaged her and challenged her to examine the hurtfulness of her views and how they affect actual people. But honestly, at the time I was like, my existence is not up for debate. Two snaps and Be Seeing You.
However, someone else did get challenged for his remarks this week and I’m sure 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver wished he hadn’t gone there. But before we get into his remarks, let’s talk about the context in which they happened. He was being interviewed by comedian Artie Lange for his radio show. Yahoo! Sports describes Mr. Lange as a “shock jock.” And when I listened to a clip of the interview, it sounded very much like Lange was goading Culliver. Reading between the lines, the question sounded like, ‘So, you’re from San Francisco — any gay players on the 49ers?’ Wink, wink.
To me, this is just as much of a problem as what Culliver said. It’s the play-the-gay-card-for-laughs routine that frankly has become tired. San Francisco = gay. Yuck! Yuck! Pathetic.
We can’t make wink-wink fun of black folks anymore (ask Michael Richards), but gays (and women) are still fair game. Well, actually, they aren’t. The world has moved on. And frankly, I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Lange thought he could easily produce a quick chuckle by goading a rant out of Mr. Culliver because he’s a black male athlete, based on the stereotype that all professional athletes, particularly African American ones, are homophobic. Maybe Lange thought that and maybe he didn’t, but regardless, it was stupid. So shame on Artie Lange for baiting Chris Culliver in the first place.
But that still doesn’t give Mr. Culliver a pass. He’s young (24) and only in his second year with an NFL team and he’s probably giddy about his first Super Bowl. But still. Once baited, he went on and on in a way that could easily give one pause. (“Can’t be with that sweet stuff.” Really?) Why he went so off, who knows? But seeing as he represents a team that comes from (wink-wink) San Francisco, and seeing that his team produced a video for Dan Savage’s anti-gay bullying series “It Gets Better” (though apparently, team members are now denying participating in the video and Dan Savage has taken the 49ers’ video down), he should have known better. He should have known better because as a public figure, representing a team, he should have known not to go certain places. He should have known that words have as much impact as gridiron tackles and that sometimes the pain they inflict can be just as damaging. He should have known that he just shoved some admiring kid, maybe some admiring black kid, back into the closet and slammed the door in his face. I’ve had the closet door slammed in my face by homophobic books and articles when I was a black kid, and it’s no fun.
I actually think Mr. Culliver did get an education out of all of this. In his apology, he used the word “ugly” to describe his outburst. That’s not a word one normally hears when a public figure apologizes for saying something stupid and hateful. So I hope he is, in fact, on the right path, one that leads away from hate.
The world has changed. When the President of the United States in his inaugural address included Stonewall as part of the history of the country, when he talked about the need to include “our gay brothers and sisters” in all aspects of American life, we know that things have indeed changed for the better. There is still much to be done, clearly. But I’m smiling. Blatant homophobia can no longer count on shielding its menace within a shadow of indifference. Society has started to routinely turn a bright spotlight on hate so that it’s ugliness can be seen in crystal detail.
That’s real sweet.
© 2013, gar. All rights reserved.