And it’s not just Tammy and Melissa. A couple of months ago when Sara Gilbert announced her break-up with longtime partner Ali Adler, and was then seen arm-in-arm with Linda Perry, who just happened to have broken up with Clementine Ford right around the time Gilbert split with Adler, well, the internet machine went crazy again. E! Online reported on the couple shuffle, and so did People magazine. The internet’s favorite feminist website, Jezebel.com, even compiled interviews to create a timeline of who cheated on whom: “Now, I’m no mathematician and no one really knows what agreements go on behind closed doors, but it looks like Linda and Sara started hooking up four months before she broke up with Alison. Verdict: shady.”
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And the Perry verdict from lesbians in the comments on Jezebel and E!: “Homewrecker.”
SOME GAY PEOPLE ARE JERKS!
Why the change? Why are we not hearing any “Stay together for LGBT rights!” cries? Why are lesbians so happy to throw their Sapphic sisters to the Perez Hilton-shaped wolves of the world wide web in 2012?
I’m inclined to point to the trend of trolling and say “bloodlust,” but I think the explanation is a lot more complicated than that.
For one thing, the momentum of the LGBT rights movement is flowing in the exact opposite direction than it was in 2009 when Rosie and Kelly broke up. Prop. 8 has been ruled unconstitutional. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been overturned. Even though he hasn’t come out in full support of same-sex marriage, President Obama and his administration have stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act and have become vocal supporters of equality. A 2011 Gallup poll showed that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage for the first time in history. And more and more states are pushing through legislation to make same-sex marriage a reality.
Plus Dr. Robert Spitzer — whose 2001 study suggesting “highly motivated” homosexuals could turn themselves straight has been cited in court cases across the country for the past decade, including the Prop. 8 trials — recently renounced his position as “fatally flawed” and apologized to the gay community. In doing so, Spitzer basically ripped away the last vestiages of the validity of reparative therapy. “They’re here, they’re queer, get used to it,” is his scientific opinion.
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In addition to all that happy news, we have more high-profile lesbian couples in the media than ever before. There’s Jane Lynch and Lara Emby; Wanda and Alex Sykes; Rachel Maddow and Susan Mikula; and, of course, Ellen and Portia DeGeneres, both of whom have become much more outspoken about their relationship and marriage equality in the last four years.
And because the environment for gay people has changed so much since 2009, because we have so many victories to celebrate and so many high-profile couples to cherish, I think lesbians have started to relax and allow the rest of the world in on our little secret: Life is as messy for gay people as it is for straight people. Also: Some gay people are jerks. And it doesn’t hurt the LGBT community to admit either of those things. In fact, the Etheridge/Michaels divorce has opened an important dialogue about gay spousal support and child custody. It may be an ugly conversation, but it’s a necessary one.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout Finch tells her brother Jem: “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” At the end of the day, isn’t that the real message of the LGBT community? “We want the same rights as you because we’re the same kind of folks as you.” We’re folks who want the right to get married and folks who want the right to get divorced. And, for the good of the community, we acknowledge that for gay celebrity kinds of folks, equality in 2012 looks a lot like the flash of a Paparazzi camera.