Once ESPN made its statement, GLAAD's only duty, in my opinion, was to publicly question the severity of ESPN's decision, but it didn't. Instead, GLAAD not only showed that it can shoot a minnow in a Dixie cup, but in doing so also shined a light on the sharks it allows to freely circle its community.
On the day GLAAD commended ESPN, there were (and there are at this very moment) people actively trying to “restore” gay men and lesbians to heterosexuality. Leaders of religious organizations speak proudly, unambiguously and consistently about these and other efforts to cleanse the world of homosexual “sin” on every network and cable news program. But GLAAD chose to focus on the much less offensive words of a jock on ESPN.
Somebody needs a shot of perspective. Or, as Chief Brody said to Quint in Jaws, perhaps we “need a bigger boat.” But until we get one, let's be reasonable.
Kinchen used a phrase that is admittedly loaded, but that is also as tired as, “That's so five minutes ago!” An expression originally rooted in homophobia has worked its way so deep into pop culture that gay people use it like an exclamation point as often as teenagers use it as a synonym for “stupid.”
So we can't blame Brian Kinchen for trying to be terminally hip – or for thinking that the phrase is now universally accepted due to the gay community's own endorsement of it. And most of all we shouldn't blame him for telling the truth. His description was gay. Gay. Gay. Ga-a-a-a-ay! It was so melodiously queer that Barry Manilow is probably jealous.
GLAAD overreacted and took political correctness to a foolish extreme when it allowed Kinchen to be punished for what was obviously an innocuous blip in his verbal edit function. And that can't be good for the gay movement. At worst, it suggests that GLAAD might be guilty of abusing or, at least, mishandling the power it has as our No. 1 watchdog. At best, it reveals a double standard within the organization.
Nearly three years ago, humorist and political pundit Bill Maher wasn't chastised by GLAAD after saying, “ I know this might seem a little gay, but could you talk into his microphone?” to a guest whose audio cut out unexpectedly on Real Time with Bill Maher, but today a nobody like Kinchen can't say “That's kinda gay.” Why? Because Kinchen was closer to a locker room when he said it? Because he can't tell a joke well?
We've obviously allowed ourselves to get a little too worked up over a most common human flaw – thoughtlessness. And ironically, we exhibit our frustration under a banner of human rights.
It's one thing to demand fair treatment and equality. But it's self-defeating to let a guy like Brian Kinchen trip us up and to believe that in a society where pop culture crosses all social and political boundaries, straight people are going to think twice before saying, “That's kinda gay.”
It's crucial that GLAAD, and all of us, continue to react to statements we deem offensive for all the right reasons – the sake of our community, our youth, the wider common good, etc. And it's imperative that we continue to demand punishment for the maliciously insolent and come down much, much harder on the bigots hiding behind their faith in God. But we can't continue to sacrifice our common sense when forming our judgments. If we do, we might sabotage what we've worked so hard and for so long to attain.
If we want more people to treat us with respect, to look at our lives as evidence of our normality and sameness, and not to rush to false conclusions, we need to set a better example. It seems to me that it would be deliciously decent of us to not jump to conclusions about people who haven't before given us any reason to believe they're anti-gay. After all, we haven't come this far alone.
In the current age of spun news, talking points, humilia-tainment and the non-apology apology, why not look at the human foibles of Brian Kinchen in a positive light? Instead of seeing his words as harmful, why not view them as proof of conformity and react in a way that shows we can be lighthearted?
That wouldn't just be “kinda gay”; it would be really gay.