June 15, 2010

Where Have All the Role Models Gone??

Growing up, I knew zero gay people. I met my first gay person when I was a junior in high school (the same year I came out, coincidence???---ha no). My guidance counselor was an out gay male and I was extremely fortunate to have a strong and supportive, out, gay male mentor in my adolescence. Through his guidance, I was never scared walking through the halls, hearing the taunts and the threats. I knew that if he could do the same, that I could as well. He introduced me to the book Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son by Kevin Jennings, an amazing LGBT activist, leader, educator and alumnus of my high school who showed me that despite my location, I can achieve anything I want to and that my sexuality is not a deterrent to my future.

Luckily, in the years since I was a teenager struggling with my sexuality there has been a plethora of celebrities who have come out. Celebrities are a great venue for LGBT youth to see mentors who are just like them, when many grow up without any positive LGBT role models. Nowadays, young gay men can look to these people as examples of people who have stood up for what they believe in and were never afraid to be who they were. Oh wait, none of them actually do this.

Where was the public outcry from T. R. Knight when he was verbally harassed for his sexual orientation by a coworker on Grey's Anatomy. Sure, he made a couple statements, but they were all done in a passive way that never showed that he was sticking up for himself. He was presented with an opportunity to show young gay men that it is not acceptable for someone to call you a faggot and that you can stand up for yourself. Instead, he gave the message that silence and acceptance is the better route to go.

Neil Patrick Harris has been with his current boyfriend for nearly 6 years. However, when Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot, where was he? With his star power and presumed care of the issue, he could have done a lot for the campaign (here I am assuming two things that aren't necessarily true, but I was nevertheless disappointed with his passivity on the issue: one, that being a celebrity, he is also a resident of California as many are and two, that being in a relationship, he sees marriage as an important issue to fight for). Instead, he opted to show gay youth that it is not important to fight for your rights if the increased visibility might impact your career.

Don't even gay me started with Lance Bass who came out just in time for book about being a gay boy bander was released (eerily similar to recently out country music star Chely Wright who came out the day before her book and CD were released).

Lastly, we come to Elton John. Elton has done more for gay rights than probably any other celebrity before him. He proved that you could be gay and still be successful. His song "That's What Friends Are For" with Dionne Warwick and Friends helped to raise over $3 million for the American Foundation for AIDS Research. He truly exemplified a gay mentor, until last week. He performed at Rush Limbaugh's wedding for a reported $1 million. My question to y'all is how much does your soul cost? Cause I can tell you sure as hell that my asking price would be a lot higher!!!

Luckily for me (and all of us really), we are no longer in a place where we know zero gay people. And better yet, we have plenty of role models. I would personally like to thank my role model, Christopher Purcell, for proving to me that gay men can stand up for what they believe in and live their life free from fear and doubt. If I had known people like him when I was younger, my childhood would have been a far less scary and dark place.


  1. Jack, thank you soo much for writing about role models. I can't even begin to describe how much I needed to see other queer people in my life before I came out to know that it was okay. And truth be told, when I think of the queer role models in my life, you and other people are our own age definitely come to mind. =)

  2. Your memory of the events are different than mine. I remember quite a public outcry for the T. R. Knight issue; I remember numerous celebrities campaigning against proposition 8. I would also suggest that looking to musicians and entertainers, who, like most business-people, often separate their personal lives from their employment, is not where young people should be drawing their role models from period. What of our courageous astronauts, engineers, and novelists? What of our politicians? These are people that parents should encourage their children to emulate, and they are often the people who lead our culture forward, including on the gay-rights front.

  3. For NPH, there was at the very least "Prop 8: The Musical" that he was in and which came along during the runup to the vote.


  5. No, but seriously.

    Jack, don't forget you're a great role model for Duke. I remember Ari's fond comments about looking up to you and lots of folks absolutely agreeing. I know what political power these celebrities can wield, but personally, I care much more about those closer to home.

    So thanks to everyone that stands up for my community. <3

  6. 1) Jack:
    Your role model was far from a celebrity. Many of my friends found role models in close friends or locals. A few found them in celebrities, but it was more of a reassuring fact that the LGBTQIAA-[BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ1234567890] community isn't as small as they think.

    2) To the anon:
    While there are gay politicians, the fact remains that those politicians were outed against their will through stupid actions. (More than less likely, of course there are the Mayor Kleinscmidt's of the world but still). Even Sen. Frank was outed in a huge sex scandle. If these politicians show kids anything, it's that being an LGBT-identified individual is not okay if you hold public office.

    3)Megan I adore you.
    4) Summer, you too, I will steal your cat.

  7. I'm a little drunk right now (reading the blog), but Jack, you are really an amazing person. I really look up to you too, and every time you talk...even when it's sassy as hell...it makes me smile. I wish I had half as much courage sometimes as you. This post is kind of about that, isn't it?

  8. all of my role models are at the LGBT center. everyone there is so morally upright and sincere. i <3 the blog! omg--i dunno WHAT i would do w/out the center!

  9. Jack, this is excellent. Thank you for bringing this issue to light. And calling them out!

  10. Jack...a million gay celebrities that were out could never be there as my role models as much as you and Chris Purcell have been!