From the first e-mail query that came in from my publisher, I knew that last week's KNUS radio interview in Denver was not going to be about my new question and answer book for teens, What If Someone I Know Is Gay? It was going to be an old-fashioned talk-radio brawl, something that's become increasingly rare for me in recent years.
The show's conservative host, Trevor Carey, wrote: "I think it's only fair to allow Mr. Marcus to know I am setting up a debate format with another author who feels the opposite. His name is Dr. David Berman. He is a Pastor, Speaker and Author. He is not a hateful man, and I feel he would be fair and respectful of Mr. Marcus' views."
Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I love debating the right-wingers. And not the reasonable ones. I much prefer the unreconstructed nut jobs who think the only choice for people like us is to embrace wholesome heterosexuality through repentance and prayer--and who also believe that by letting gay people marry, society will find itself on the slippery slope toward man-on-pet sex.
So in my heart of hearts I was hoping that Dr. Berman would not be fair and respectful. After nearly twenty years in the business of writing about and defending the gay agenda, being fair and respectful doesn't interest me, except possibly as one weapon in my arsenal of verbal WMDs.
Dr. Berman didn't disappoint. Within minutes he was warning of the dangers America faced if we granted "special rights" based on sexual orientation. If we passed laws to protect homosexuals, he cautioned, we'd have to grant legal protections for "all kinds of sexual orientations," including people who wanted to have sex with animals. With that, we were off and running and kept running until the first commercial break. And despite my faux plea to the show's host after the break that we move on to another topic, he came right back to bestiality.
One thing I've come to expect with these kinds of radio shows is that you can always count on the show's host and the phone-in callers to come to the defense of someone like Dr. Berman (or they one-up him with threats of physical violence or express their concern for me along the lines of, "I'll pray for your soul"). But that didn't happen.
While the show's host was eager to fan the flames of our roiling debate, he didn't actually defend Dr. Berman's most outrageous claims and the two callers who made it on the air were surprisingly reasonable despite their professed conservative religious beliefs. One of them even chided Dr. Berman, suggesting it was time to come up with a better argument against gay rights laws and gay marriage than bestiality.
From the KNUS interview and the fact that my opportunities to engage in these extreme on-air debates has dwindled in recent years, I sense that something has changed. During last week's show, both callers made clear that they personally knew gay people and that the gay people they knew were no different from anyone else. And while the callers didn't support gay marriage and don't think schools should teach kids about homosexuals, they were very far from the flaming bigots of yore.
For decades now gay rights leaders have said that our visibility is key if we're going to win full and equal rights. I think that's true now more than ever. You can't demonize us if you know us. And as we all know, when people get to know us they learn that we're far more interested in marrying each other than having sex with our pets.