BY David Ehrenstein
August 29 2005 12:00 AM ET
Signorile wrote Queer in America back in 1993,
getting gay issues on the “mainstream” radar
screen was a full-time job. Now we’re all
fighting to keep up with LGBT stories erupting all over the
place, and the man who pioneered the practice of outing has
a queer talk show on a gay satellite radio channel.
Who’d have thought? In the introduction to his
new book, Hitting Hard—a collection of essays
appearing in September from Carroll &
Graf—Signorile cites the rightward twist of the
country, plus the forward thrust of gay activism, as
proof that the past 10 years are among the most important in
gay America’s history. He also dishes Tom
Cruise and Mary Cheney.
Parts of the mainstream are really terrific now [on
covering gay issues], but The New York
Times and The Washington Post still
seem lost when it comes to gay stories.
That’s because they can’t look at anything
regarding homosexuality in a complex way. It becomes
“icky” and “gross,” and they try
to simplify it in a way that ultimately winds up being
They were “deer in the headlights” about
Jeff Gannon. They were duped. They didn’t
know there was a phony reporter working in the White
House, much less that he was a gay
“escort.” What else are they missing?
Mary Cheney. Now she’s writing a book and
once again is trying to capitalize on everything
she’s done to sell out the gay and lesbian
community. First she was working for Coors, using herself as
a lesbian to try and stop a very successful boycott,
telling us, “Oh, these people aren’t as
bad as you think.” Then she was doing the same thing
with the Bush campaign, trying to make it appear that
he might be different on gay issues. All of this
rhetoric turned out to be absolutely false. Their
whole presidency was going down the tubes because of the war
in Iraq and all these other issues, so they just said,
“OK, we’re going to ratchet up the
hatemongers, divert attention to the Federal Marriage
Amendment, hide Mary Cheney, and we’ll get by
that way.” She was in on all of that. Don’t
forget, she was running her father’s campaign.
I know it’s ludicrous, but many gay people
sincerely believe that if George Bush is
“nice to Mary Cheney” by not burning her
at the stake, that counts for something.
“Her parents love her,” in spite of hating
other gays and lesbians—
I don’t think her parents love her. I
think her parents love power. They’ll sell out
their own daughter for it. And she loves power too. Mary
Cheney is using all of this to sell a book. It’s an
amazing strategy the Republicans have. They’ve
learned that if you lie and keep lying, nobody really
will point it out. And if they do, you destroy them, and
that’s the end of that.
It’s funny about the Tom Cruise piece in the book.
You were writing about how he manipulates the
press, but now with his arm-pumping over Katie
Holmes and attacking poor Brooke Shields, he’s
created the biggest celebrity disaster in years.
What the new brouhaha shows is that the
Hollywood machine is starting to break down.
Well, it just goes to show that there is such a thing as
bad publicity. The public didn’t buy.
They’re not just going to believe what
the media says anymore. In Washington and Hollywood
there’s a revolving door between the
“industry” and the media. [But]
there’s an enormous amount of organizing going on
out there—well beyond the big cities. I have a piece
in the book titled “Leave My Kid Alone,”
all about a young boy in Arkansas coming out of the
closet in high school, meeting up with other kids and
dealing with homophobic attacks, and having his
parents supporting him and connecting with other
parents. That’s a very different thing today.
It’s happening across the country, and not just
in the big cities. The hatred is bigger than ever, and
those people are organized, but the support is big too,
and a lot of kids are finding it.
What do you see on the horizon for LGBT issues?
Same-sex marriage came along right at the
midpoint of the Clinton years. Republicans learned how
to use it against Democrats. Democrats had no backbone
about it and still haven’t developed one. The other
issue that keeps popping up is HIV/AIDS. The drugs
have done remarkable things and kept many people
alive. They have also created a complacency for HIV
prevention. If this situation continues, we will have
drug-resistant strains of HIV spreading rapidly. We
can’t put our head in the sand about this.
seeing too is a larger red-blue state divide. The blue
states are becoming beacons of civil rights with
everything from abortion to stem-cell research.
Recently the governor of Texas was actually telling
gay people to leave the state. It’s going to create a
kind of ethnic cleansing in some places. I hear about
all of this because I’m on Sirius OutQ doing a
four-hour show five days a week.
What are you hearing from the audience on your radio show
that we’re not getting elsewhere in the media?
People will call up the show and tell their
personal stories: “Hey, I was a victim of this
kind of discrimination. I was fired from my job. I was
attacked on the street. I had unprotected sex when I was
young and stupid.” And then we have the good
stories. Throughout the last year and half, people
getting married in San Francisco and Oregon and New Paltz
were calling us up after their weddings when they were on
the road, and we were all celebrating right on the
air. That’s what makes this an extraordinary
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