Sunday, July 17, 2011

Good (Gay) News and Not-So-Good...

There's a terrific article in the August issue of Men's Journal magazine (which is a terrific magazine overall: I highly recommend a subscription) titled "Pro Sports' New Gay Agenda". While the magazine's content is available online, this particular article isn't, so I thought I'd share portions of it, because it's very encouraging. (To read the whole article, buy the mag. There are also articles about Jeff Bridges, , how the axis of the art world is shifting toward L.A., and 39 ways to eat a tomato.)

Basically, the article discusses how professional sports are increasingly aware of, and involved in, taking a stand against gay bashing and bullying. "In the past few months" writes Kevin Gray, "a small but steady stream of  straight athletes -- including the New York Rangers' Sean Avery and the Phoenix Suns' Grant Hill and Jared Dudley -- have (promoted) gay rights or tolerance at the prompting of activist groups. "We've known for a long time that if you're going to reach 13- to 16-year-old boys on this issue, our next generation, you need athletes," says Eliza Byard, executive director of Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education network (GLSEN) which is behind the Think B4 You Speak campaign to battle antigay language among teens. that doesn't mean she and other activists are always successful in enlisting players. "Some turn us down because it's not their issue...they don't want to make this their battle."

Ben Cohen!
"British rugby star Ben Cohen learned about the plight of gay youths in a very vivid way. Two years ago, his manager told him that a gay fan, taken by his skills as well as his rugged good looks, set up a Facebook fan page for Cohen that attracted thousands of followers -- many of them gay. 'It was flattering,' Cohen says. But it wasn't until these fans started using the page to share stories about being beaten up in school and mocked on the rugby field and in the locker room that Cohen felt a painful stab of recognition -- he hadn't always been politically correct in his own dealings -- and the realization that he needed to do something. 'A lot of people were telling me about the pain and anger they've felt for years,' he says. 'They feel isolated and alone. I felt I had a responsibility.

"Today he runs the Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation, an antibullying group. He spent two weeks this spring touring U.S. high schools talking to kids about how to identify gay-targeted bullying and stop it... Some of his proceeds go toward helping GLSEN with its education efforts." (I don't know about you, but personally I don't mind having Ben Cohen on my side. Or anywhere else, for that matter.)

In other news, further evidence of the intolerance of tolerant people and the harm they can inadvertently cause. According to columnist Kevin McCullough, "Activists, and to some degree their mouthpieces in the media, have conducted witch-hunts designed to hurt not just the ones who have different ideological viewpoints, but ... disrupt the charity that people who disagree with them advocate for... It is...hurtful to the innocent people in need of help, and it is an attack on free speech, association and the practice of religious freedoms.

"In Los Angeles, California the founder of TOMS shoes was so harassed by ... activists, they all but forced Blake Mycoskie, TOMS founder, into a near apology for appearing at an event in which Focus On The Family recorded an interview with the shoemaker. The purpose of which was to inspire listeners to help put needed shoes on the feet of African AIDS orphans. Secondarily, Focus hoped it might also inspire listeners to begin their own companies ordered around the economy of compassion, and budgeting for those in need. 

"Activists launched online petitions to attempt to pressure customers from shopping with TOMS shoes because of some imagined "alignment" with a supposed "hate group." Though the only institution to ever classify Focus On The Family as a hate group is a group that could easily qualify for the designation themselves - The Southern Poverty Law Center - at least by the standards they use to define "hate."

"The irony of the matter is that Jim Daly, Focus On The Family's president, has purposefully chosen to engage those who disagree with some of Focus' positions on public policy, and has even attempted to find common ground on things like reducing abortions, increasing adoption, and in the event of the TOMS shoe event -- give foot coverings to African AIDS orphans who might otherwise step on something that would cut their feet, develop infection, and damage their health, if not take their (lives)."

Make of it what you will. But, shoes for AIDS orphans... I'm just sayin'...

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