The mission of The Advocate over the last 56 years has been to champion the LGBTQ+ community. We are the oldest continuously published queer news source, and as such, we are in the unenviable position of reporting on all things detrimental, harmful, and sometimes fatal to members of our community.
It is gruesome for us to cover the violent deaths of trans women, of queer men, and anyone who falls victim to a hate crime. And when we must report on LGBTQ+ suicides, particularly the alarming number of queer youth who take their own lives, it hurts us personally and deeply.
So many members of our community are under attack right now. There are an infinite number of bills in state legislatures aimed at trans youth, young trans athletes, queer books, gay men, drag queen shows, and parents of queer kids. Some days it’s hard for us to keep up with all the hateful legislation that percolates and passes in states across the country.
Arguably, the nexus of this odiousness is Florida, with Gov. Ron DeSantis, who for all intents and purposes is the (current) number one enemy of our community. When he pushed the exclusionary “don’t say gay" bill through the state legislature and signed it into law, he created a domino effect around the country, as states raced to introduce and pass similar laws. There’s no use rehashing what that horrible bill is all about. Suffice to say that it puts queer parents, kids, and teachers at risk of being discriminated against, threatened, isolated, and even fired. There is no silver lining to this dark and ominous cloud.
The law originally included kids up to and including third grade. DeSantis this month announced that his goal was to extend the law to teens through high school. As if bullying, assaults, and suicides among these kids in Florida — and elsewhere — isn’t bad enough, what will happen once the law really starts to sinks in.
To be gay and to not see the homophobia, vitriol, and danger that DeSantis presents to our community would require a level of obtrusiveness beyond the pale. You would have to be in denial or at the very least callous to the hate the DeSantis emanates.
That is why we are in shock after learning that Outsports editor Cyd Zeigler, who we thought was a fellow advocate for our community, announced via Twitter that he was joining the Republican Party and backing Ron DeSantis. At first, we thought — actually, we hoped — someone hacked his account. Unfortunately, it wasn't hacked.
Zeigler is free to join any party he likes and support any candidate he wants; however, when you have the power of the pen and a voice in the fight for equality, you have an extra burden and responsibility to do what is right for those who you write about and cover. And especially to your readers, many of whom, as athletes, are afraid to come out because of DeSantis and bills like “don’t say gay."
Zeigler is under attack on Twitter now. It’s telling that the only prominent voice coming to his defense appears to be Trump lackey Richard Grenell, who is backing up his support for Zeigler by hyping a poll by Rasmussen, the unofficial pollster of Trump. Zeigler says on Twitter that he doesn’t like Trump, but he misses the point entirely.
Our cover story this month inThe Advocate is about the Republicans' dismal history with the LGBTQ+ community. Since 2006, the Republicans have only elected one out lawmaker to Congress, George Santos. The party decided 40 years ago that it’s better to use the LGBTQ+ community as a whipping post and a social wedge issue rather than ally.
Referring to the Trump indictment, Zeigler says on Twitter that he became a DeSantis Republican because “This completely insane butchering of Democracy and our justice system cannot stand. Progressives and Democrats seeking to use the government to attack political foes must be stopped. Period.”
That is rich, considering that Republicans use the LGBTQ+ community as political foes by endorsing exclusionary bills, tearing away our rights, and butchering our democracy, and this approach by the GOP has been worse than ever thanks to the tsunami of hate DeSantis has created.
Zeigler retweeted a post from DeSantis that says in part, “The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American.” But Zeigler makes no mention of DeSantis's weaponization of our community to advance his political agenda — and his career.
All this begs the question. If you’re an LGBTQ+ athlete who has the hopes and dreams of multitudes of adoring fans looking over your shoulder and who will inevitably become a part of a community once you come out, would you go to Zeigler first? Does Zeigler honestly have your best interests at heart? Does he truly represent what it means to be queer? Would you feel safe going to Zeigler? The fact that trans athletes are under constant scrutiny and attack is another sad irony of this story.
This op-ed is not meant to create an argument with Zeigler. He’ll have enough of those on his Twitter feed, and we suspect that many of his readers may silently protest his decision by turning away. If it means more to Zeigler that career criminal Donald Trump was indicted than the fact that the Republican Party abuses our community, his readers will likely draw their own conclusions.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate.
Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.