By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com July 12 2013 5:00 AM ET
No politician, no matter how unabashedly antigay, has ever faced a television ad that calls out their rhetoric as extreme.
Meanwhile, we've been called perverts, told our marriages will lead to men marrying farm animals, told we should stay closeted or risk getting fired from our jobs — all by people with jobs in Congress.
These candidates for office don't face criticism for the crazy things they say. Maybe that's because voters don't think it so crazy.
After all, political strategists say everything these days is focus-group tested and polled on.
I'd like the believe the world has "evolved" enough on LGBT equality that the mainstream voter won't tolerate anyone calling their gay friend a "pervert" or a pedophile. So The Advocate created a mock political attack ad this week to help us all really answer the question — has the world changed?
Many LGBT Americans don't think it has. A lot of our readers, even now, thought the ad was too gay to be effective. Some told us it would backfire and win votes for the homophobes.
The mock ad, which can be viewed below, went after E.W. Jackson, an actual candidate in Virginia for lieutenant governor, who has called us "perverts" and compared same-sex marriage to bestiality, among a torrent of other offensive things.
For starters, commenters told us the voice of the narrator was too lisping. If you really want to sway voters, the voice should be from a clearly straight person. I suppose that might be the harsh reality — that straight people empathize best with other straight people.
A lot of you predicted the mock ad would fail because it includes a gay couple kissing. Tone down the PDA, you warned. "Not sure if mainstream Virginia is ready for same-gender couple kissing yet," one commenter said, and he wasn't alone. An on-screen kiss beamed into Virginia homes "might be seen as too in-your-face," they argue. "We need to be seen as human beings, not just our sexuality."
I can't blame you for the suggestion, since I'm guessing a focus group would come to a similar conclusion. If any Super PAC or candidate does break ground by running a TV ad that calls out homophobia, odds are it won't include a kiss. Politics is about risk. And it's much safer to keep us a ruler-width apart.
But I guess I don't care what's risky and what isn't. I'll leave it to political professionals to compromise. Honestly, so should you.
Because the rest of us live in the real world. And in the real world, it would sure be nice to feel comfortable kissing the man or woman you love. It would sure be nice never to worry whether your voice or clothes are too gay to get a job in the straight business world.
I'm admittedly and proudly idealistic. In my view, politics would be better off if we didn't have to closet ourselves to win.
Some of you were idealistic in other ways. Like a lot of Americans, you are tired of "attack ads." Our politics is already so negative, why contribute to that atmosphere, you asked?
Political pros like Joe Householder of Purple Strategies, a bipartisan communications firm, hear that complaint often. "You’re always going to hear people express fatigue about negative advertising," he said in an interview. "But it would not be used if it were not effective."
I worry that some of us are taking wariness of negative ads even further than the average American. In the same vein of criticism that the mock ad was too gay, there is trepidation about fighting back. "Angry gays piss off most people in the middle," said one commenter.
We have been on the receiving end of attacks for so long that fighting back is now associated with the other side's tactics. "We don't have to stoop to low levels," a commenter said. "We can be better," and we "don't have to meet crazies in their own field."
I work in the information business. I can't possibly agree with the notion that spreading the word about what homophobes say doesn't make a difference, that it doesn't help reduce homophobia in the long run. What I believe will happen (and has been happening) is that Americans are recoiling from the likes of E.W. Jackson and Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum and the others.
Times have changed. Americans by and large are not asking us to hide anymore. But we can't expect them to stand up for us if we won't first stand up for ourselves.
LUCAS GRINDLEY is editorial director for Here Media. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband and two foster children. Daniel Reynolds contributed reporting to this piece.