Savage Love

Hey, Faggot: I was one of those people who came out in high school. I grew up in a small town and began my journey out of the closet during my senior year. I would never have done it if it weren't for people like Ellen DeGeneres. Famous people like DeGeneres and Greg Louganis make things so much easier and acceptable for the rest of us. People like Ellen and Greg take a lot of the sting out of the journey, whenever and however they choose to come out.

In a perfect world, little 16-year-old Ellen and Greg should have acknowledged their sexuality with the support of their friends and family. As they became more well-known, who they were sleeping with should have been no more relevant than the color of their hair. This is not a perfect world, however. Coming out at any age should be celebrated, not attacked [April 30].

DM

Hey, DM: Being a responsible member of the media, I realize I'm supposed to hustle on down to the next item on the feeding frenzy buffet -- The Lost World, Hong Kong, Eddie Murphy's tranny pals -- as even Ellen's fans are sick of the Ellen/Ellen thing. But we old-fashioned sex-advice columnists, dependent on the U.S. Postal Service, have a longer lag time than folks working in higher-tech media. So, forgive me, but this is going to be another Ellen column. (For those of you who just can't read one more thing about her, I've scattered a few jokes with nothing to do with Ellen around the column as an incentive.)

If I attacked anything in the Ellen/Crooked Dick column, it was the credulous, mush-brained overreaction on the part of so many of my normally cynical and delightfully vicious gay and lesbian pals. I wasn't peeved at Ellen for coming out, I approve of Ellen coming out -- I approve of anybody coming out -- I was only disappointed that Ellen had stayed in so long.

For the record: Out celebs do a tremendous amount of good for queers everywhere. Ellen probably did more good for more queers than any celeb since Alexander the Great. So, God bless Ellen DeGeneres. And wasn't she fab on Oprah? And, hey, cute fucking girlfriend, Ellen. (Though I give that relationship no more than six months -- remember what I've written about just-out queers rushing into commitments? Ellen met Anne at the Oscars, and four weeks later they've exchanged rings, and are making wedding plans. I don't take that kind of behavior seriously from straight people. Six months, tops. (Hey: Why didn't Hitler drink tequila? Because it made him mean.)

But something annoyed me about the whole bidness -- something wasn't ringing true -- and my vague annoyance colored my comments, making me seem grouchier about Ellen than I actually was. While I cited DeGeneres' boneheaded comments in Time as the cause of my sour feelings, I was grasping. I wasn't able to put my finger on just what was ringing false until I watched DeGeneres' second interview with Diane Sawyer on Primetime Live, broadcast just after the coming-out episode (which I did watch, and thought was excellent).

Here it is: On Ellen, the character Ellen Morgan realizes she's gay, and immediately comes out to her friends and family. On Primetime Live, those of us who were paying attention -- not just feeling warm inside -- learned that Ellen DeGeneres came out to her family 20 years ago. DeGeneres didn't "just realize" she was gay, and come charging out of the closet; she'd made a conscious decision to remain closeted -- professionally, at least -- for years. Yet in every interview, DeGeneres' coming out was confused with Morgan's coming out -- getting the real Ellen a bit off the hook. (A black guy, a woman, a priest, a fag, a Rabbi, and an Irish guy all walk into a bar together. So the bartender goes, "What is this, a joke?")

Now, I don't think DeGeneres should be burned at the stake by an angry mob of not-fit-to-lick-the-film-stock-her-girlfriend-battles-volcanoes-on sex-advice columnists. But her real-life coming-out process was infinitely more complex and ambiguous than her character's fictional one. Questions that ought to have been asked weren't, because Diane and Oprah were interviewing Ellen instead of Ellen. Questions like: Why were you closeted professionally until now? Was dating inside the closet tough? You've known you're gay for years -- why did you wait until now to come out? You dedicated your show to all those trigger-happy suicidal gay teens out there. Were you unconcerned about gay teens until a few months ago, or did you just not know? (Besides the fact that if you're rich enough and white enough you can apparently get away with it, what's the best part about raping and killing a 6-year-old beauty queen? Sorry, no punch line. Too sick. Ask around the place you work, I'm sure someone's heard it. I only included it for the setup.)

Hey, Faggot: I think your attack on Ellen went beyond airing your opinion -- it was extremely mean-spirited. You can write whatever you want, but you should remember those of us she means a lot to -- I felt like you were attacking a friend or family member. Ellen's not perfect, but she's tried to do her best every step of the way, and she's helped many people like me. She's also been thoughtful and respectful, even when dealing with people who have different opinions. From her example, we can learn about acceptance of others and grace.

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