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Reader forum – Letter to the Editor

Teen angels

I graduated from high school two years ago, finishing early due to the horrible experience it was. I just got your latest issue dealing with gay students and how they took charge of their situations [“The New Gay Youth Revolution,” April 10]. Mine went something like this:

I was a student at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Conn. I was not out. That did not stop the harassment, however, every day for 3 1/2 years. I was a member of all the choirs and performed in all the school plays. People assumed I was gay. Names, threats, writings on my locker, even food thrown at me in the cafeteria never stopped. Nothing was ever done, even if it took place in front of authority figures. A student refused to work with me on a class project because I was a “faggot,” as he so eloquently put it in front of the class and teacher. Nothing was done.

I was reading your article and inspired by the students who did do something. I didn’t know what to do then, but I’m more than interested in getting involved now so that this kind of intolerance stops immediately. It’s been going on for too long, and it’s long overdue.

Vincent DiGeronimo, Poughkeepsie, N Y.

I had tears running down my face reading George Loomis’s story. I’d read the news accounts of the lawsuit on the Net, but those didn’t have the personal feeling this interview did. I could only think of my days in a tiny high school in Northern California in the late ’40s. I wasn’t regarded as gay;, I guess I was butch enough. I dated a girl but was obsessed with her cousin and my best buddy. But I hadn’t a clue about what “gay” was or what it was about–so much shit going on inside. I hope Loomis’s heroism in standing up to the harassment in Visalia will empower and comfort those gay teens who are still living in terror. Loomis, and those gays and lesbians like him, are truly heroes, and I congratulate The Advocate for bringing them some of the recognition they so well deserve.

Richard Kinz, Atascadero, Calif.

The youths you interviewed have earned accolades for taking on the harassment-in-school issue. One legal success stow that did not get mentioned was Jamie Nabozny’s out-of-court settlement with the Ashland, Wis., school district for more than $900,000 for failure of school officials to act when notified of his persistent harassment by schoolmates. A costly warning to schools who fail to stop these activities!

Art Higinbotham, Minneapolis, Minn.

Folk–art?

How pleasant to read an article that doesn’t bash Queer as Folk and that does notice the disclaimer [Notes From a Blond, April 10]. No one complained that The Golden Girls never showed young black males; of course not–it was about old white females. And it is good of Bruce Vilanch to notice that the U.K. version, while different, is not necessarily better than the U.S. version. In some aspects, yes. But I rather enjoy Gale Harold’s Brian, and I enjoy the storylines of the supporting characters, partly because the writers tend to wind them up within a couple of episodes before they get too tedious.

In the meantime, it’s easy to enjoy Queer as Folk for its attractive people (attractive in spite of as well as because of their foibles), its great use of music, and the love and affection the characters show each other. That is what keeps me watching.

Justine King, Brewster, N. Y.

The problem with Queer as Folk is not that gay people don’t behave like this, it’s that people don’t behave like this.

Andrew Ogus, San Francisco, Calif.

When I first heard about the American remake of Queer as Folk, I had my doubts that it could come anywhere close to the brilliance of the original U.K. series and, indeed, early episodes had some embarrassingly bad scenes. But after a rocky start, I can honestly say that this show is equal to the original in many ways. It is more crass and drenched with more sex, but the core is there: The characters have a ring of truth about them. I recognize each of these characters as someone I have known at some point in my life. The series never compromises its reality, waters down its characters, or veers into preaching. Sure, these are archetypical soap-opera-like characters. But the point is that we’ve never seen gay people portrayed this way, warts and all. It is a breakthrough.

The show is damned entertaining. Personally, I’m ready to be entertained and not preached to anymore. I’ve yawned my way through so many boring Good Intentions productions that I’m loving every minute of Queer as Folk. We’ve spent too many years looking at every gay character on TV as having to somehow represent us all, and this show finally lets us move beyond that.

Alan L. Light, Iowa City, Iowa

In analyzing Queer as Folk, Vilanch states, “As with most every Americanized version of a foreign idea, much has been lost in the translation. A lot of it is in the casting.” Exactly. In a country unique for its ethnic diversity, the producers had an opportunity to reflect that reality when they cast their version. Instead, not only did they choose all white actors for the leads and supporting cast, if you look closely, you’ll find that even the crowd scenes are virtually devoid of color. Apparently, even as props, Asians, blacks, Latinos are a no-no. These choices might have worked back in the ’30s and ’40s but are inexcusable as we enter a new century.

Dan Becks, Seattle, Wash.

Hiding in Hollywood

I seldom find much common ground with the thoughts parlayed by your liberal columnists. However, hurray for Norah Vincent in her column “Hollywood, j’accuse!” [Last Word, April 10]. Her aggressive tone with those hiding in Hollywood is one example of when I can accept eating our own. I also seldom agree with outing someone for the good of the whole community. There are always challenges that confront each of us, and we deal with them in our own way. However, many of us throughout America know that living an open life within a framework of self-confidence and integrity threatens no one.

Mike Thielke, Chestertown, Md.

Who is Vincent to say what is what when it comes to coming out. Every coming-out story is a personal experience that differs for everyone. It took me 10 years to come out fully, and to my own astonishment, the last person on my list was myself!. Some of us take a great deal of time accepting ourselves, and that has little or nothing to do with shirking our obligations to the ones following behind but rather with paying attention to the obligations we have to ourselves.

Sure, it is not easy to sit back and work through the day-to-day stuff that is my life as an openly gay man while someone else with more money and power has it handed to him/her behind closed doors. But when I see those people I am reminded how grateful I am that I no longer have to play those games with myself.

I take offense at her assumption that she has the forum to speak for those of us who know differently. Her frustration is more likely to slam the closet door tighter and make every nongay person who reads these pages think we are all freaks who cannot get our shit together when it comes to self-acceptance. Let Hollywood have its closet, and let’s support those who are out and who are coming out, however slowly.

Doug Bungay-MacIsaac, Houston, Tex.

Down and dirty

An obvious response to your “Backlash to the Backlash” story [At Issue, March 27] is to point out that the exclusionary policy of the Boy Scouts is actually harassment of gay people in the form of defamation of character. Unable to cite any use of the word homosexual n the Scout oath or in any Scouting manual, Scout leaders argue that “known homosexuals” must be excluded nonetheless because Scouting literature says that a scout shall be “morally straight” and “clean.” This is not an argument that Scout leaders have a right to exclude people whose presence makes them uncomfortable. It is not an argument that leaders of a private organization may set membership requirements according to their own personal tastes. It is a statement that gays are unfit to associate with because they are dirt–according to the plain, ordinary meanings of the words being used. What Scout leaders are saying about gays is more insulting than it would be for gays to call Scout leaders stupid yahoos who don’t know how to act like American citizens. Having a legal right to an exclusionary policy does not justify promoting it with an argument that dehumanizes those excluded.

Robert S. Woodward, Lakewood, Ohio

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