Thereâ€™s a story running around the GLBT cyber community about a school board member from Arkansas who said some pretty incredible things about gays on his Facebook page. In fact, the quotes from Clint McCance were so outrageous that I immediately thought the story could not be true.
I looked around for a mainstream press source, simply because the mainstream press uses professional editors who come in handy for fact checking and other mundane tasks that lie beneath the dignity of many of us reporters. But I could not find any reference to this bizarre news item, which fed my suspicions. I mean, anyone can hack into a Facebook page, right?
And what sane public figure, even a rightwing Christian with no love for our community, would respond to last weekâ€™s â€śwear purpleâ€ť day of solidarity with something like this:
â€śSeriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE.â€ť
Does that sound like a fully functional adult to you?
McCance went on to add: â€śâ€¦being a fag doesnâ€™t give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself. I dont care how people decide to live their lives. They dont bother me if they keep it to thereselves.
It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die. If you arent against it, you might as well be for it.â€ť
Does that sound like someone who holds elected office? Even in Arkansas? Iâ€™m assuming that you are elected to the school board over in the Hog State. Hell, does that even sound like a sane human being?
Finally, when someone asked something about McCanceâ€™s family, he wrote back: â€śI would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs. See it infects everyone.â€ť
I didnâ€™t want to become one of many bloggers or gay press writers forced to apologize when it came to light that McCance doesnâ€™t have a Facebook account or McCance is gay himself and was conducting an experiment in tolerating bigotry or whatever the eventual explanation might be.
But then again, the Advocate and the Dallas Voice both printed the story (and they have editors!). The Human Rights Campaign sent out a release about it (and I assume someone checked the veracity of the incident). And there are now over 10,000 people on a Facebook page called â€śFire Clint McCance.â€ť
More damningly, McCance has blocked his Facebook page, and the Advocateâ€™s calls to the school authorities in the Midland district have not been returned. No one is rising to Clintâ€™s defense or speaking out, and McCanceâ€™s own silence speaks volumes. If an innocent man were misquoted in such a spectacular manner, I think heâ€™s have something to say about it within the first 48 hours.
Indeed, the Midland school district has blanked out the list of board members on its website, and McCance told the Arkansas Times, a political newspaper, that the incident was â€śblown out of proportionâ€ť and he was meeting with a lawyer.
In other words, he wrote it.
Just how do you take an unambiguous call for death to gay people and â€śblow it out of proportion?â€ť I mean, if he said that gay kids should all be â€śpunched in the stomach,â€ť and then if we wrote that he said they should be â€śkilled,â€ť then I suppose we could be accused of exaggerating his statement. But there it is in black and white. He would celebrate if every gay kid committed suicide, and further, he â€śenjoys the factâ€ť that gays have died of AIDS.
Even if we wanted to blow that out of proportion, we couldnâ€™t find a way to do so.
Then thereâ€™s the odd little detail at the end of his first post: â€śREALLY PEOPLE.â€ť What people is he chiding? And who were the six readers who, according to the Advocate, â€śliked this?â€ť
This story has not yet hit the mainstream media, but it should. Itâ€™s not just another example of fringe bigotry. Itâ€™s one of those incidents that encapsulates and symbolizes an entire phenomenon, just as the murder of Matthew Shepard focused the nationâ€™s attention on hate violence.Iâ€™m guessing that the story broke too late to make it into Wednesdayâ€™s press runs, and from my own reaction, Iâ€™d also guess that many editors read the posts and thought, â€śno way.â€ť Iâ€™m also guessing that before I finish this column, a Google news search for â€śClint McCanceâ€ť will have more than 15 links.
Itâ€™s Getting Better Now
As for the larger issue of teen suicide, I want to withdraw a hopeless comment I made the other week about how nothing but time and laborious work to change society will ameliorate the tragic problem.
Dan Savageâ€™s YouTube channel â€śIt Gets Betterâ€ť is not just a nice idea, it will save lives. Savage, his husband, and the thousands of people who have posted videos to the site, will definitely make a difference. Those videos include moving words of comfort from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But they also includes the anguished testimonies of gay men and women from around the country, pouring out their hearts to the teens of today who remind them of the teens they used to be.
I wasnâ€™t bullied in high school or torn over sexual orientation because I went to a small high school full of nice people at a time when most of us didnâ€™t even think about whether or not we were gay until college or later.
But still, for some reason I assumed that I empathized with bullied or questioning gay youth and could understand what they were going through just because Iâ€™m gay myself. Not so. After watching a dozen or more of the videos, I realized I had no idea what kind of hell other people endured and hence what kind of nightmares are being played out in schools across this country every day. I was in tears several times.
At first, when I heard about Savageâ€™s project, I thought it was, well, a nice idea. I also remember thinking that the title â€śIt Gets Betterâ€ť was not punchy enough. I mean, kids donâ€™t want to hear that â€śit gets betterâ€ť in some distant future, right? They want to hear that they have immediate help, a hotline, a legislative proposal, legal groups etc..
But having watched the channel, I realized that the simple message â€śit gets betterâ€ť is profoundly effective. And to hear these three words repeated over and over, from Obama, from Joe Blow, from Tim Gunn, or from Ft. Worth councilmember Joel Burns - who broke down in tears before his colleagues as he pled with young gay men to wait and see what life has to offer - was amazing. Many of the testimonials came from grown men who had thought of suicide, or tried it themselves, and who begged the troubled kids of cyberspace to give the world a chance.We will never know how many lives this channel will save. But it will save lives. Does a suffering suicidal teen have the emotional wherewithal to call the Trevor Projectâ€™s 800 line? Some do. But others donâ€™t know the number or have already given up. For these kids, alone in their rooms with their computers and their pain, the impact of It Gets Better can be like having ten thousand shoulders to cry on, ten thousand people who understand and know what youâ€™re going through and ten thousand people who are offering a way out. Wait.
Show Us The Money
So letâ€™s see here. A federal court has ordered that Mississippi school district to pay legal fees for Constance McMillanâ€™s prom lawsuit. You remember Constance, right? Her lawyers at the ACLU will receive $81,000. Even better, the mean district will have to write a fat check.In Florida, the attorney general has declined to appeal the recent state appellate court ruling that killed the ban on gay adoptive parents. Governor Crist and the Department of Children and Families have already dropped the suit but there was still a small chance that Bill McCollum would keep it alive. Now, the deadline has passed and the worst adoption policy in the country is officially, finally, really really dead.And the Manchester Union Leader wonâ€™t print wedding announcements for gay and lesbian couples, even though marriage is legal in New Hampshire! Whatâ€™s up with that?
My Omaha Steak shipment just arrived, along with a small pack of cards with â€śconversation starters.â€ť Weâ€™ve had enough gay news for one day, so letâ€™s play!
â€śYour choice: Get a million dollars or get perfect health for the next 20 years.â€ť
Well, thatâ€™s an easy one for anyone born in the 1950s, now isnâ€™t it? I suppose itâ€™s fairly easy for those of you born in the 1980s as well. What Iâ€™d really like is fairly good health and half a million.
â€śWhat modern convenience could you not live without and why?â€ť Hmmm. The icemaker would be tough to lose. Back in the day there was always someone in the household who would put the nearly empty ice tray back in the freezer, to be discovered at cocktail hour just in time for a tepid gin and tonic.
â€śWould you rather be an expert at picking stocks or at writing best selling novels?â€ť Thatâ€™s an easy one. The novels. Just buy some mutual funds or hire a portfolio manager! I wouldnâ€™t write that many books, however. More like one every three years, with a year off for doing nothing and another for tax deductible â€śresearchâ€ť in exotic locales.
â€śIf you could visit any time in history and the future, what years would you choose?â€ť Maybe the liberation of Paris during World War II. And I guess Iâ€™d go forward 500 years or so. More than that seems scary. But why go less? Just go to 2510 and download a few history books.
â€śWhatâ€™s the best costume youâ€™ve ever worn?â€ť I donâ€™t know about the best, but the worst was the rented bear outfit that I wore to a big Halloween party at a castle a couple of decades ago. It had no pockets. I had to remove the head and the paws in order to smoke and drink. I had to take the whole thing off to use the ladies room. I was sweltering. And I looked ridiculous walking around in a fat brown furry jumpsuit holding my cigarettes and wallet in addition to the bear head and paws. What was I thinking?
Making matters worse, near the end of the evening I was bantering at a table with several people and I accidentally took a sip out of drink that had been used as an ashtray and had to spit it out on the floor. â€śWhat job would you love to do besides your present one?â€ť Aside from best selling novelist, I think Iâ€™d take Supreme Court Justice. Or maybe â€śOmaha Steaks conversation starter writer.â€ť
Out of Space!
Ooops. Columnâ€™s nearly over and I forgot to mention Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell. Thatâ€™s because I wrote so much on the subject in the last month or two and also because you already know that the Ninth Circuit reinstated the policy for a week or so in order to hear arguments about whether the gay ban will be maintained during the appellate process.
By the way, there are now 22 links to the Clint McCance story, including one mainstream story from the Arkansas Gazette online. The Gazette talked to a man who had no comment and said he had to talk to his attorney, but then hung up without confirming whether or not he was indeed Clint McCance. The paper also tried to reach the district superintendent, but was told he was out of the office.
And here we go, the AP just issued a dispatch saying McCance will have a statement later on today, Wednesday, and adding that the Arkansas Department of Education was â€śdismayedâ€ť by the posting. Let the explosion of national outrage begin.
One last thing I totally forgot about! Thanks to newshound Rex Wockner, who sent out some links under the subject line â€śIowa Gay Emergency,â€ť and reminded me that I was going to mention the campaign to remove three of the seven Iowa justices who legalized same-sex marriage in the Caucus State last year.
In Iowa, judges come up for confirmation by public vote every few years, and three of the seven are up next week for what usually amounts to a rubber stamp. This year, there is a strong push to oust the three in order to punish them for their fantastic gay marriage decision. The justices themselves are not raising money or campaigning, but I just sent a few bucks to the state gay rights group oneiowa.org as a gesture of solidarity. I had to type â€śdonateâ€ť into the search engine in order to find the contribution screen. Do it if you can.