Monday, February 6, 2012

GLSEN Goes to the Super Bowl

You’ve probably seen the ThinkB4YouSpeak ads put out by GLSEN (rock-dwellers: the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) to discourage the use of phrases like “that’s so gay” in popular culture. These ads point out how senseless and potentially hurtful it is to use “gay” as a synonym for “dumb.” Some ads do this by putting the person who says “that’s so gay” in a gay person’s shoes (thank you, Hilary Duff) while some simply speak out against it (thank you, NBA). It’s true that a lot of queer people do this themselves in an effort to “take back the word,” but the practice can definitely contribute to feelings of isolation and worthlessness to queer youth, especially uncertain and potentially closeted youth who don’t have a network of queer friends reminding them it’s okay to be gay.

Thanks to airtime generously donated by Grazie Media (you can add your signature to GLSEN’s thank-you note here), GLSEN was able to air new PSA’s including the ones above AT THE ACTUAL SUPER BOWL. According to GLSEN’s webpage about this project, some 800,000 spectators in both the stadium and the surrounding parking lots saw these on the stadium’s big screen. Anti-gay groups—including everyone’s favorite, Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church—protested the airing of the ads and even went to the Super Bowl to form a picket line, which apparently didn’t get too much attention from the sports fans. If you don’t care because you want to fight homophobia, care because much homophobia is rooted in gender stereotypes (a boy teased for “acting gay” is usually really being teased for “acting” feminine), which hurts our community too. If THAT doesn’t interest you, care because the most-shared and most-commented-on status GLSEN posted about the Super Bowl is actually about a transgender woman who joined the counter protest.

The status, which you can see in full on GLSEN’s Facebook page, shows a photo of the woman holding a sign that reads “I’m transgendered. I’m prettier than all of the WBC and God still loves me” and hails her as an ally. The post adds that “a couple of football fans came up to the trans woman and prayed with her in support of the counter protest directly in front of the anti-gay picket.” Right now, there are 73 comments about how beautiful and strong this woman is. The community has chosen to focus on this individual’s strength over anything else. I don’t know if GLSEN is moderating comments, but I couldn’t find a shred of transphobia in any of them. There can be a lot of in-fighting in the queer community, but I like this example of the fact that we can really come together in the face of hatred.

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