Michael Crawford

Ellen DeGeneres: We Must Change the Message

Filed By Michael Crawford | March 01, 2008 11:21 AM | comments

Filed in: Media, The Movement
Tags: coming out of the closet, Ellen DeGeneres, gay rights, Lawrence King

I posted Ellen DeGeneres commentary on Lawrence King, the openly gay 15 year old who was murdered by a 14 year old classmate, under the You Gotta See This section in the middle column. But, I want to make sure that you see it because Ellen hit the nail on the head when she says "We have to change the message."

By making this statement, Ellen is definitely helping to "change the message" and she is doing so in a far more eloquent way than anything I have seen coming from GLBT advocacy groups. I say that not to denigrate the incredible folks who work tirelessly to advance our civil rights. There are some brilliant people pushing the message of GLBT equality like David Smith at HRC, Steve Ralls who has just made the jump from SLDN to PFLAG and the amazing Cathy Renna. But, nothing changes the message and persuades non-gay people of our humanity and the moral rightness of our movement for equality more than GLBT people living their lives openly and honestly.

We owe it to ourselves and each other to come and to do so in a way that is empowering and safe. That's the way we began to change the message that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is something unworthy of respect and dignity.

Coming out resources:

Resource Guide to Coming Out
Resource Guide to Coming Out for African-Americans
Guía de Recursos Para Salir Del Clóset
Coming Out as Transgender
A Straight Guide to GLBT Americans
Resources for Straight Allies


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You had me at hello - but lost me at David Smith. He can buid an entire vaction home out of pink brinks.

diddlygrl | March 1, 2008 1:12 PM

As a transwoman, I have to live my life openly and honestly. Unlike many, the transexual community has little choice in the matter. Unless they have the money and time to make the old you 'disappear' and go stealth, it is very hard for male to female trans people to hide.

Even then, there is always the possibility of discovery, no matter how well you may pass. The paper trail of your prior self can be discovered, or someone who knew you back when may come into your life at an inoppertune moment.

This is one of the reasons we have been at the forefront of advocacy for LGBT rights. It is not a matter of being able to stay in the closet if you want to be true to yourself.

The message does have to change about the LGBT community, and we have to be proactive in pointing out the hate and prejudice we face from some groups in this country. As long as the negative message is spewed out by the pulpit and stump speech, as long as people are not taken to task on their slander and misinformation, we will always face the very real possibility that someone will take the negative messages to heart, and act on their fear and prejudice.

I fully agree with Kathy. There are many great examples of helping to change the message, Ellen, Steve Ralls, and Cathy Renna certainly among them, but the message of GLBT "equality" David Smith and others like him are promoting is exactly the message we should be changing FROM, not to.

We're better than the kind of elitist and exclusive "GLBT" politics Smith and HRC promote, the kind of message that says that the rights of gender-variant Americans like Lawrence King aren't as important or as urgent as those Americans who look and act just like straight people. David Smith's brand of politics is not the kind that will help protect the next Lawrence King, but the kind that will help ensure that he and his life continue to be seen as less valuable and less worthy of protection than those of other Americans.

Personally, I think we all deserve far better than that.

Ellen is fabulous. I only hope she decides to speak out more after this. I'm sure she feels burned by her previous show's failure when she came out.

Regardless, she's exactly right. We need to change the message - as a country. It can no longer be acceptable to inflict violence on someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity. These differences can no longer be used to dehumanize us.

I look forward to the day that message rings loud and clear.

Michael Bedwell | March 1, 2008 3:26 PM

Poor Rebecca One Note....

And the saddest thing is that the note was written on a fantasy.

Oh, I forgot—David Smith had Vince Foster killed.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | March 1, 2008 4:03 PM

I do believe this is the first time I've been put on a list with Ellen! :-)

I agree with Michael Crawford completely: Having Ellen speak out about this case - and so eloquently - is important. Ellen has the power to reach a huge segment of the American public, via her show, and to get people thinking about the consequences of prejudice against LGBT people. I'm so glad to hear her talking about this. The case has not received nearly enough attention, in my view.

And, of course, I'm always at the ready to give a shout-out to Cathy Renna, who deserves the "brilliant" tag much more than I do . . .

I don't know - the dissonant contrapuntal to a one note symphony seems a sadder, rather lower aspiration to these eyes.

Ellen, Steve and Cathy Renna. Not a bad list to be on, actually. :) (And I could care less about whether or not Mr. Smith is included - it's not really the point.)

I'm looking forward to seeing Dustin Kight here in Indianapolis when he leads an OUTSpoken session to help people learn how to talk about their families for the most impact. If you're in the area, sign up for the free session.

Diddlygrl: I am on the same page as you. It is we who don't pass quite so well who have to be fully involved to help all of us.

I am one of those optimists with some hope left that if we show up at political headquarters with
a desire to work for a candidate, those efforts will be recognized. When we support someone, that person will be more inclined to support us when the time comes.

You are making another point here, and I'd like to put it another way: Refuse to be marginalized. No, it's not easy, but when people see that we are leading productive, useful lives and contributing to society, they are less likely to dismiss us as weird or nutso.
Each of us not only have the ability to educate, we almost have a responsibility to educate those who don't understand us. If we only preach to the choir, while avoiding those who will never get it, there is a large segment of the population who simply don't understand, but are willing to learn. It's this group that we can and should reach out to. It will mean getting out of our comfort zones sometimes, but we can do it. And, we don't have to get on the Jerry Springer show to do it.