Wednesday, November 3, 2010
We’re straight shooters at The Ind. That’s what got us into trouble.
The Independent’s cover story two weeks ago about the late, larger-than-life bon vivant Wally Romero was done with good intentions that for many in our community were undone by poor editorial judgment.
Many here at the paper knew Romero or at least moved through the same social circles, and his story is poignant and compelling — heartbreaking even — in part because of the circumstances surrounding his death: the fire in a house with no electricity; the rosary in his hand; the downward spiral of drug abuse and arrests.
Romero’s was a tragic end that charted a quest for identity. Morbidly obese for much of his life, he had lost more than 200 pounds through gastric bypass surgery. And as a gay man raised in a Catholic family who didn’t “come out” until his early 40s, he was by most accounts still finding his place in our “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture.
And that’s where we tripped. Badly.
During the editing process leading up to publication, when I encountered the term “homosexual lifestyle” in the story’s introduction, I had a vaguely unsettled feeling about the expression. No red flag, just a sense far back in my mind that it wasn’t quite right.
Use of the term wasn’t meant as a slight, but some readers took offense.
Within days of the issue’s publication, I received an email from Stephen Handwerk, a Lafayette resident who is co-chair of the political action committee for the Stonewall Democrats, the counterpart to the Log Cabin Republicans and, one would assume, a much more robust population since their political party isn’t ideologically opposed to equal rights for the LGBT community. (That’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, for our quaintly square readers.)
Handwerk took The Independent to task, pointing out that the term “homosexual” is clinical and, more important, code for “sinner” and “deviant” among the religious right. This code-speak earned the American Family Association embarrassment a couple of years ago when one of its affiliated websites, programmed to automatically aggregate culture-war news reports on such topics as gay marriage and to replace the word “gay” with “homosexual,” ran the headline “Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials.” The story was about American sprinter Tyson Gay, who was also referred to in the article as “Tyson Homosexual.” I’m sure he got a kick out of that. It was a window into the propaganda techniques employed by the religious right and a reminder that the intolerant are at least marginally tech-savvy.
But Stephen took particular umbrage to a quote in the story: “A lot of people in the gay community, who have this amazing drive and charisma, their lives at some point implode because they are addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex — because of the shame they feel about being gay.”
The quote was one of a handful tied to the section of the story about Romero coming out as a gay man. It was from a friend of Romero’s who is also gay, which wasn’t noted in the story.
“Suggesting that LGBT individuals are, for the most part, dysfunctional and ashamed of themselves, which causes them to be self destructive — that is dangerous and clearly not true,” Handwerk wrote in an email.
In light of the source of the quote, this is perhaps an internal debate best left within the LGBT community. The quote does sound like a generalization, but I’ve come to learn that the person who said it had a number of talented gay friends and acquaintances who, like Romero, abused drugs and alcohol — often with disastrous consequences. He was speaking of them.
The decent thing to do at this point is to simply apologize to our LGBT readers, and to all readers for perpetuating persistent stereotypes and misnomers.
We blew it.
Our gaffes in the execution of the story are evidence of a curtain that remains between straights and gays. It’s gauzier and more translucent than it was a generation ago. But it’s still a curtain. And I’ll admit, my gaydar is Cold War era; it’s clunky and makes a sound akin to sand in the gears. It identifies only flamboyantly effeminate men and women in suits, and even then I’m sure it’s frequently wrong since it was calibrated by popular culture and my middle-class upbringing. I have no doubt I encounter many gay people on a daily basis and just don’t realize it and, frankly, that’s as it should be. Their sexual orientation is theirs. Not mine. When we all get to the point when gay doesn’t matter, when one isn’t defined by it and certainly not defiled by it, won’t we all be better off?
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
Security breach at White House; Bejing won't back down from protesters; pressure on third-graders and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 30, 2014.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Lafayette Regional seeking new leadership after longtime director Greg Roberts’ June resignation.
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
T&T show behind the scenes
Four bedroom in Breaux Bridge or four bedroom in Opelousas
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.
The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.
The state labor department figures released Friday show the initial claims decreased to 2,068 from the previous week's total of 2,071. For the comparable week a year earlier, there were 2,494 claims.
Museum of Fear opens its 2014 season with more scares than ever before.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The endorsements keep coming for District 9 LPSB candidate Jeremy Hidalgo, who picked up his fifth vow of support Thursday, this time from the Chamber’s political action committee.
Three bedroom traditional Broussard house or two bedroom Lafayette townhome
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter will be out knocking on doors this weekend with anti-abortion activists encouraging people to vote against his colleague, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The ACLU of Louisiana has sued Abbeville's mayor and police chief over a policy barring police from any social media use showing the city in a bad light.
Prospective Republican presidential candidates are expected to promote "religious liberty" at home and abroad at a gathering of religious conservatives Friday, with anti-Obama speeches from the likes of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.