Editor's Letter: The Power of Transparency

By Matthew Breen

Originally published on Advocate.com April 05 2013 2:01 PM ET

Transparency is a theme that seems to have cropped up in this issue, though unplanned. Our fifth annual 40 Under 40 list looks at amazing young people in art, sports, activism, and public policy, and we celebrate not only their successes in a variety of fields, but also that they’re open about being LGBT in doing so. Kicking off that list are Tegan and Sara, the dynamic duo now on tour with a great new album. They’ve been unapologetically out their entire careers, though they admitted that when they were first signed to a record deal some 13 years ago — when they were teens — they weren’t certain how out to be. Some smart words from a mentor shaped their understanding of being themselves in the public sphere, and it’s had enormous positive impact on the band and their fans. If only more artists, especially those so influential on young LGBTs, had such good advice early on.

Also in this issue is the most comprehensive look at the funding of the National Organization for Marriage that I’ve seen in any publication. It’s very thoroughly reported by E.J. Graff, and it tracks the money that is at the heart of anti-equality campaigns. NOM is the very antithesis of transparency. Consequently the courts must determine if the group broke the law and had anonymous NOM donors fund state anti-equality ballot measures.

In addition to the legal question at the core of NOM’s situation, there is a talking point designed to make bigotry palatable to NOM’s funders, the idea that the group and its supporters are victims. Is it LGBTs who are actively bullied, denied rights, and who in the past have been jailed, beaten, and killed? Or is it, as NOM’s Brian Brown asserts, donors to the anti-equality cause who must donate anonymously in fear for their lives? He says his anonymous donors, if their names were made public, would be exposed to “a campaign of intimidation, hatred, and attacking…for exercising their First Amendment rights to speak up and stand for what they believe in, to donate to what they believe in.” He tells Graff, “I don’t think you understand that creating an environment in which it’s OK to demean human beings because of their views is wrong.… What we are asking for is the same respect. And at this point we are not getting it.”

Respect. Like the respect that LGBTs get from NOM’s Ruth Institute, which trains “emerging leaders” in how to talk about marriage and LGBT issues? Where Bible passages calling for the killing of gays are distributed, where homosexuality is described as degrading, unhealthy, dangerous? Let’s not pretend there’s any sort of respect for us there, or the barest equivalency between what LGBTs have endured at their hands and what they’ve endured.

They call it bullying when we publicly stand up to NOM’s supporters — and likewise other right-wing fundamentalists and homophobes. But that’s simply bullshit. The idea that their bigotry deserves our respect is an argument repeated in insipid online videos, from some pulpits, and in rallies against our rights. But rejecting intolerance isn’t intolerant, and none of us must make room for others’ hatred just to appear tolerant ourselves. Castigating bigots, raising money to do battle at ballot boxes, and preparing to fight in courtrooms is not bullying. Tolerating hatred makes us complicit in it.

I’m wishing NOM as much success in the future as it had in the last election (read: none). You’ll understand if I don’t apologize when fighting for my rights.

NOTE TO READERS: The Macy’s events listed in our current issue are being re-scheduled for a later date. The event planned in San Francisco at Macy's Union Square for April 25 will proceed. And, we will let you all know when you can attend the rest of the amazing Men’s Designer Series.