Visibility Matters: Talk of the Nation

 
 

Another recurring topic of discussion was Ellen DeGeneres, and what Larry referred to as her "bargain" with the American public that she’ll downplay her sexuality in exchange for popularity.

I don’t think that’s quite accurate anymore, given how much Ellen has spoken out about and publicly supported gay marriage over the last year. But I also think we need shows like The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Rachel Maddow Show and Iron Chef — where the sexual orientation of the LGBT person or character is just a minor facet of the show — as much as we need more in-your-face shows like The L Word.

Every movement needs to work both within the system and outside it to succeed.

Michelle Obama dances with Ellen DeGeneres

The comments made by a caller named Randy from Hoover, Alabama, illustrate this point:

I am a heterosexual man, I’m married with two kids, I’ve been somewhat of a homophobe, mainly because I just didn’t know too much about it, or how to appreciate people despite their differences…my set of beliefs have taught me to appreciate people, but not necessarily everything they do, so I’m not here to bash or anything like that, it’s actually a positive comment I have.

Basically, I believe in a straight philosophy, and what I’ve seen, though, with Ellen DeGeneres is that I myself can relate to just being a human being, it has nothing to do with homosexuality, but seeing her on TV, dancing to music and enjoying people, talking to people, and looking at myself and going "Well, I do the same thing." You know, I’m not on TV but I turn on music and I dance and have a good time. I love talking to people, I love being in front of people. It gave me a chance to relate to a different type of person. It took the difference away…I can’t say I really appreciate when the focus of somebody’s national appeal or show is their sexual preference, you know, it doesn’t really make any sense to me, but … I like the fact that she’s down to earth…

I do have homosexual friends who — we don’t agree on the same things, but we’re still able to respect each other on a human level. And Ellen DeGeneres is kinda like that example for me.

It’s too bad Randy thinks being gay is a choice — which isn’t supported by science, most gay people, and a lot of straight people — but I found his honesty about his own homophobia, and his sincere willingness to try and relate to gay people even though he doesn’t understand/agree with their "choice," to be both refreshing and heartening.

Sometimes it feels like the only voices that get heard are the ones from the rabidly anti-gay preachers, because they have the megaphones and the agendas.

But I suspect — hope? — there are more Randys than Jerry Falwells out there, and more national discussions like this one might help bring them out of the closet, so to speak.

Listen to the interview at NPR.com
or download it as a podcast

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