Straight and white are the default settings.

June 6, 2012 Gay and Lesbian, Writing Comments (2) 652

The Philadelphia Writers Group workshopped the first two chapters of my book this weekend. Without giving too much away: The narrator, a gay man, is a reporter sent to interview a famous and very attractive hero. He’s more than a little smitten, which the hero notices and uses to his advantage. What surprised me during the review is how many people called my attention to the fact that the narrator was coming across as attracted to the hero.

To be fair, nowhere in the chapters submitted is there anything that clearly states the narrator is gay. The story is told first-person, and his sexuality is revealed through his physical attraction to the hero, and to another character in the scene. It’s not hit-you-over-the-head, but I didn’t think it was terribly subtle, either. I was more than a little surprised that no one seemed to figure he was gay. Instead, they mostly assumed the physical attraction was either (a) a non-sexual admiration, or (b) accidentally coming across attraction.

In no way do I intend this as a slight on my fellow writers. A few of us had drinks after the workshop, and we talked about how straight readers just tend to assume all characters are straight, unless it’s clearly stated otherwise. Even when confronted with what is clearly a physical attraction to another character of the same sex, their reaction was to assume a mistake on my part, rather than interpret the character as gay or bisexual. They also remarked that they also assumed all the characters were white – which both harkens back to the ugly controversy that erupted in response to the Hunger Games film adaptation, and also brings up a science fiction trope that I’ve tried hard to avert in this book.

It’s just a bit fascinating that readers assume all characters are “like them,” even when they’re being fed frequent information that indicates otherwise. Sexuality is something I tend to play with a bit in my writing, and this book is no exception – there are very few characters who can fairly be described as anything but bisexual. After some thought, I’m happy overall with the response I got – if a reader finishes chapter two thinking “this character is coming across kinda gay,” that will only be cleared up in chapter three when he talks a bit about his life.

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Joel Ward is not his Twitter critics

May 8, 2012 Hockey, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 491

I had a very brief back-and-forth tonight with Greg Wyshynski from Puck Daddy, but as sometimes happens I had to come here to explain myself in a bit more detail. To clarify, my complaint is not with Greg himself or with Puck Daddy specifically. It’s with the hockey media in general, but since I know Greg is accessible on Twitter, I went to him to voice my concern.

As you may already have heard, Joel Ward’s game-winning goal for the Washington Capitals, eliminating the Boston Bruins in a dramatic seventh-game overtime, resulted in a slew of hideous racist reactions on Twitter. This might have made national news on its own, but particularly coming on the heels of the horrible racist reactions to The Hunger Games film and the heavily social-media-driven controversy surrounding the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, it was justifiable to afford it coverage. The rapid-response condemnations from both the Bruins and the Capitals were excellent, if a bit of a no-brainer. Ward himself had a very level-headed reaction to questions I’m sure he never wanted to have to answer. At Puck Daddy, Harrison Mooney, himself a person of color, penned an excellent response that went beyond the dismissive and oversimplified idea that “race shouldn’t matter,” and called out those who were ready to blame the whole thing on the Bruins fans, as if racism in hockey were endemic to a particular city or fan base.

None of this raised my hackles. Racism in hockey is an issue barely beneath the surface. The NHL has advanced a bit, I guess – there are now almost enough active NHL players of black or African descent as there are teams – but the issue is still present, and worth discussing. When the hero of a game seven overtime is assailed with racial epithets on a major social network, that’s noteworthy.

What concerns me is that those racist tweets now come up every time Joel Ward is mentioned. Tonight, it was Harrison Mooney who felt hate-tweets merited mention in his write-up of the Rangers’ overtime win, in which Ward took the four-minute double minor on which the Rangers scored their game-tying and game-winning goals. I’m not accusing Mooney, or any of the other reporters who made the same decision, of having an agenda — far from it — but I’m concerned about the unintended consequences when idiots on Twitter keep working their way into the story. Continue Reading

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Trayvon Martin and the myth of a post-racial America

March 29, 2012 In The News, Politics / Religion, Pop Culture Comments (6) 827

Setting aside the willful racism of the smear campaign against Trayvon Martin, the public response to his murder has exposed a lot about America’s issues with race, much of it disappointing.

Others have pointed out the ugly implications of the mass online outcry over “Kony 2012,”  juxtaposed with the lukewarm response to Trayvon’s murder. Trayvon was killed two weeks before the Kony video’s incredible viral surge, and the news story about his death first got widespread public attention about a month after the incident. I’m not convinced the parallel is warranted – the Kony video is a half-hour of masterful propaganda* designed to play on every point of the rhetorical triangle, while Trayvon’s killing came through the lens of “impartial” news reports. That said, it has been a learning experience to see many of my friends, people I would never label as ‘racists,’ many of whom seemed ready to buy tickets to Uganda and personally beat Joseph Kony to death, respond to the Trayvon story with reserve, often “waiting to see more facts” before they settle on an opinion.

Let me be clear: I believe in the right to due process, and George Zimmerman is, for all legal purposes, innocent until proven guilty. I would never expect a jury to be anything but impartial, or for an alleged perpetrator to face justice outside the courts. But everyone has an opinion, drawn from the facts available to us. Many of the peers I see complaining about “the court of public opinion” were the same people recently condemning the acquittals of Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox as evidence that the justice system is dead. It’s hard for me to understand how anyone following the Trayvon Martin case (or is that lack of case?) could possibly see anything except an innocent child murdered because of his race.

What’s happening, I think, is that people refuse to give up the dream of “post-racial America.” Despite evidence to the contrary, they refuse to believe that racism could be such a problem in America that ‘Walking While Black’ can be fatal.** Confronted with circumstances that say otherwise, they assume there must be some deeper explanation, some fact as yet unrelieved that will prove racism was not the sole motive behind the murder of a 17-year-old boy. It’s this refusal to accept reality, the refusal to admit that our nation might have a very serious problem with race – serious as a gunshot – that allows the water to be muddied by smear campaigns and deceptive reporting. Continue Reading

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Sometimes I get to feel like I work with super heroes.

March 2, 2012 ACLU, Gay and Lesbian, In The News, Personal, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 532

So a high school principal in Tennessee, Dorothy Bond, was using the PA system to preach about Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. She was holding assemblies to tell her students that gay people “weren’t on God’s path” and were “going to hell.” She promised 60-day suspensions for any students guilty of same-sex PDAs. She also told female students that if they got preganant their lives would be over, and that they would end up “jobless, homeless, and living off the government.”

So then the ACLU found out, and we sent the school district a letter. Three hours later, Dorothy Bond was unemployed.

Dan Savage says: “The ACLU means business, and they will fuck you up.”

What a way to end the week. I’ll be walking on air all the way home.

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Conscientious Objections

February 22, 2012 In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 484

Well, this is pretty on-the-nose. From Matt Bors:

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