I don't usually post clips from my appearances on cable news shows. I'm modest like that. But I'm going to make an exception. When I gave the above interview to CNN last week—via Skype from the home of my good friends Jake and Justin, as I was too sick to sit up for more than five minutes at a time, much less drag my ass to a TV studio—I thought it might be evidence that we had reached an important tipping point in the fight for LGBT civil equality. I was on CNN for nearly six minutes. Alone. There was no one there from the religious right to provide "balance."
And it made me think... well, it made me think, "I'm old."
I'm old enough to remember when "objectivity" required that a racist troglodyte be included in any discussion about the civil rights of African Americans. I can remember—I can remember barely (I'm not that old)—when racist bigots were regularly invited on television and asked to write op-eds. They argued in favor of segregation and against interracial marriage and were treated like reasonable people who represented one side of an important political debate. ("African Americans: Are they human?") Amazing but true: Within my living memory, a person could go on TV and argue against the basic civil equality of African Americans, or take a stand against interracial marriage (always out of "concern" for the poor "mixed-race children" of "selfish" interracial couples), and be invited back the next week to serve up more of the same. People made careers out of trafficking in what we now recognize as baldly racist hate speech.
But then a day came when the racist troglodytes weren't welcome on television anymore. Our culture reached a tipping point. We decided, as a society, that discrimination based on race was wrong, full stop. There were still racists out there, of course, and there still are. But they were no longer treated like respectable people with a legitimate points of view. They were bigots, they were cut off, they were cast out.
For a few days after Tyler Clementi's suicide, it looked like we might be reaching that same tipping point on LGBT civil rights—the same tipping point we reached on race and the equality of the sexes: bigots would no longer be welcome to pollute our airwaves, our op-ed pages, our culture, and our society with their hatred. Just as we had recognized the harm that racism was doing to our society and said "enough" (which didn't end racism), and just as we had recognized the harm that sexism was doing to our society and said "enough" (which didn't end sexism), maybe we were finally ready to recognize the harm that homophobia is doing to our society and were prepared to say "enough" (not that it would end homophobia).
In my flu-induced delirium I thought we were there. I was wrong.