In December 2011 Troy, Mich. mayor Janice Daniels was held accountable for a homophobic statement she made on Facebook. She said, "I think I am going to throw away my I love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there."
Janice Daniels has started a website inviting people to send money to her to fight a petition drive that has been set up to recall her as the mayor of Troy.
She finally apologized; however, her apology was nothing of the sort. She stated that she was sorry for using an "unfortunate" word such as "queer," but that she still believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. Her stance on gay marriage was neither invited nor in question. Her gay-bashing comment was what she needed to focus on. She was wrong.
Her assault on the gay community caught my attention for a number of reasons. First, I am a homophobia watchdog; second, it made national news; third, I live in Michigan; and fourth, my sister lives in Troy with her four children. Troy is a place where I spend a lot of my time as a result of being a very active uncle caring for and about my niece and nephews. The births of my nephews and niece brought me into a world of children that I never imagined, and it changed my life forever. I love them as my own children, and I have grown to love Troy, Mich., as well.
I became an uncle 15 years ago, and I attended many of my first nephew's school events and have continued to do so for each new nephew and niece. I always worried about the discovery that I am gay causing discomfort for teachers. I usually do not worry about such things, having been out since 1979; however, I was anxious about how teachers and parents might react to me being around their children. I am from the generation that grew up when gays were equated with pedophiles, and I still live with the worry that another parent will be concerned that I, as a gay man, would want to "recruit" his or her child.
Coming out is a lifelong process, and here I was in the closet once again -- or so I thought.
As out and outspoken as I am, I never came out in any settings that involved my nephews and niece. It didn't feel necessary, and it turned out that my nephews and niece outed me themselves! I discovered that as my second nephew entered kindergarten, he had informed his teachers that I was his gay uncle. My third nephew found it novel to tell all the class and teachers that I was gay and that I kissed a boy, my husband Mike. And my niece also has enjoyed telling her teachers and classmates that I am gay.
The parents and teachers in Troy have been nothing but kind and accepting to me. I stopped hiding the fact that I was married to a man and began openly talking about my husband Mike. When I enter the classrooms of my niece and nephews, the teachers and classmates know me as the favorite uncle JoJo (I am referred to as "Uncle JoJo" because my oldest nephew stuttered when he first started to speak and called me that, and it has stuck ever since).
In the video below, lesbian moms address Janice Daniels at a city council meeting about the derogatory comment that the mayor posted on Facebook. This family's message to the mayor: "Love is the only answer."
Follow Joe Kort, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drjoekort