Several months ago I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed when I saw a venomous post about Alec Baldwin. Apparently he'd used an anti-gay slur, and it wasn't the first time. I did a little research on what happened, and I learned that the actor appeared to have yelled "motherfucking faggot" at a paparazzo who had been trailing him outside his New York City home. Baldwin had just won a case against a female stalker who had made his life hell for two years by claiming she'd had an affair with him, which I imagine must have put an enormous strain on his marriage, especially since his wife was pregnant. What woman wouldn't love to carry the baby of a possibly cheating husband? I felt sorry for Baldwin.
Flash back to a decade ago, when I was the faggot popping up in Baldwin's face with a camera (although since I was in a wig, makeup and women's attire, I suppose a better term for me would be "draggot"). It was at a chaotic red-carpet event in L.A., with a zillion flashbulbs popping. He turned around, and there I was, a big drag queen, inches from his face. I asked him if I could snap a photo of the best-looking guy that night.
"Sure!" he said, posing.
"Could you please move?" I continued. "He's right behind you."
Alec giggled at my little joke.
Drag queens have a highly developed gaydar, since some of us have the nerve to cruise straight men. We have to interpret body language, clothing, pheromones or whatever to determine if that particular heterosexual guy is going to screw our brains out or beat our brains out. But even as I, a stranger, attempted to jokingly insult him, Alec came across as extremely warm and personable and not homophobic in the slightest. I remember thinking, "Here's an A-list Hollywood leading man with all the looks and talent yet none of the attitude that you'd expect to go with it."
So, based on that brief but telling personal encounter, I was mystified by the vitriol of all the "Baldwin's a homophobe" posts, which rapidly multiplied. To protest his hate speech, gays were throwing all kinds of hate speech right back at him, asserting that his career was finished, that he'd sucked in his last few roles, and that he wasn't even hot anymore. Was the fact that he's nice-looking and was perceived as having insulted gays what triggered the immense backlash? Let's not forget that gay men are exactly like straight men in that they lose interest in someone once they see that person as less screwable because they've aged.
I have zero reason to be a fan of Alec Baldwin. I can't name a movie or play he's been in, and I've only seen snippets of 30 Rock, which seems fun. But no assessment of his career answers the question at the center of this controversy: Is he a homophobe? So I spoke to my faggot friend Dan Mathews from PETA, who's worked with Alec for 20 years, and Dan claims that Alec is a total sweetheart. Should we really be decimating the man's entire career over a few angry words that flew out of his mouth during an angry exchange at the end of a draining trial? Dan points out, "We often revert to high-school-era insults when we're deeply upset."
As far as I'm concerned, a member of the paparazzi acted inappropriately and got an inappropriate response from the actor he was harassing -- who had just won a case against a stalker he'd been dealing with for two years, for chrissakes! Baldwin even claims that the shutterbug almost hit his infant's head with the camera's lens. Now, I know that stars welcome photographers into their lives when they become public figures, but I also know that people are human, and even the kindest people on Earth have a breaking point. You tell me that you've never gotten on a train with a load of luggage or shopping bags or a hangover, desperate for a seat, when someone takes the very last perch available. Unless you're a saint, you might easily note the most visible characteristic of that person and spout off about "that old biddy," "that black bitch," "that thoughtless snob," "that stupid kid" or "that fat whore." (Don't ask me how I know about the last one.)
But does an occasional slip-up make you a bigot? Should you lose your job for a few heated words? Alec has denied that he used the word "faggot" and at one time claimed to have used the word "maggot." Who cares? Is the guy actively crusading against gay rights? No! He's a progressive liberal -- the only type of straight person who supports equal rights for gays across the board. And we can't cut an ally any slack? Nope, he's suddenly a demon from hell bent on destroying gay lib.
Hey, gays! Wouldn't it make a little more sense to focus on the people who are truly out to get us? There are obvious targets, like Chick-fil-A and Vladimir Putin, and there are many others out there who are, unlike Alec Baldwin, out to destroy any advances gays have made in recent years. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is currently considering whether to veto or sign into law a bill that would permit Arizona businesses to refuse service to any customer, namely gay ones, if serving that customer would violate their "sincerely held" religious beliefs. Similar bills have tanked in Idaho and Kansas, and there's another one being debated in Utah. What would impact more people: an insult flung at a photographer who may have deserved it, or legalized discrimination in multiple states?
How do you think the right-wing organizations get the money to lobby against gay rights in the first place? Every day, with our purchasing choices, from food and drink to toiletries to clothing to electronics, we pay the companies that donate to those anti-gay groups. I'm always unsettled when I'm booked to perform at a gay bar and they put me up at the local Marriott, as the chain is run by a Mormon, Bill Marriott, who likely tithes 10 percent of his massive income to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which in turn gave millions of dollars to support Prop 8, which crushed gay-marriage hopes in California. If you're gay, you're often unwittingly paying for the ammunition that is used against you and your rights. Yet getting Baldwin off the air is gay America's most pressing goal?
Gays were upset about the 2014 Winter Olympics being hosted in Russia, which had recently passed new legislation against gays. In a tepid move, President Obama decided to merely skip out on the games instead of taking a truly strong stand against Russia. And you may have heard about the repressive new law in Uganda that mandates life imprisonment for gays and emboldens murderous mobs of anti-gay vigilantes. An American conservative group called The Family partnered with Ugandan leaders to help craft this bill. And on Feb. 6 Obama dignified these hate mongers by speaking at The Family's annual National Prayer Breakfast, as every president has done every year for decades, breaking bread with the enemies who are orchestrating severe human-rights violations in other countries (possibly as trial runs before a stateside push for similar laws?). These are our real enemies, reaching all he way up to the White House, yet you're focusing on Alec Baldwin cursing a photographer? What a waste of your time if advancing gay rights, not celebrity gossip, is truly your goal.
While I can understand my friends' snarky comments on Facebook, our news media should be held to a higher standard. Yet the media were dying to catch a falling star, and this alleged anti-gay slur was to be the nail in Alec's coffin. Anderson Cooper slammed Baldwin for showing "his true colors yet again." Anderson, your true colors were revealed when you refused to come out of the closet until your hair was white, and now you're an activist? CNN's ratings were in the toilet; may I suggest that that's why Anderson grabbed at celebrity gossip and paraded it as news? Meanwhile, gay blogger Andrew Sullivan called Baldwin a "raging, violent bigot." Violent? Who did Baldwin physically attack? As if I'm really going to believe a neoconservative gay blogger like Sullivan, who privately solicited anonymous bareback sex on the Internet while publicly denouncing it, proclaiming to have the gay community's best interests at heart!
Let's not forget that prior to the paparazzo incident, TMZ hammered Alec Baldwin when he retaliated against journalist George Stark for chiding Baldwin's wife for allegedly tweeting during James Gandolfini's funeral. For that Baldwin called Stark a "toxic little queen" and threatened to fuck him up. So Baldwin has anger issues. Maybe he deserves to be angry if people are harping on the timing his wife's tweets as a sign of disrespect for Alec's dead friend. But that doesn't make Alec a bigot -- and if "toxic little queen" and "cocksucking faggot" are all that Baldwin says under pressure, I'd say definitely give him a pass. I hear worse from drag queens performing at gay bars.
Maybe our tabloidized news would prefer to focus on making Baldwin the bad guy so that they can ignore the huge corporations that donate to anti-gay groups and thus keep those corporations' advertising dollars.
Here's the saddest part of all: Alec's New York Magazine essay, titled "Good-bye, Public Life," begins with him contacting a gay-rights group in Hawaii. Here's the question Baldwin asked when he got someone on the phone: "Who would you say, by your estimation, is the most homophobic member of the entertainment industry currently in the media?"
And here's the answer he got: "Um... Alec Baldwin?"
Alec then met with the group to learn more about hate speech and its effects. It sounds like he's sorry for the perception of the slurs -- regardless of whether he actually made them or not, or whether they were even that harsh. Here's an enlightened straight guy who openly supports gay rights. But a few choice words and our junk news sent him into free fall, which he still seems to be trying to understand.
I don't know or care about Shia LaBeouf or that part of Baldwin's rant. I also admit that I did not enjoy the one episode of Alec's MSNBC talk show that I caught, an episode that featured Debra Winger, since that network is already infotainment enough and doesn't need a Piers-Morgan-like celebrity-soft-pedal hour. But even slightly unhinged and in his free-fall pattern, Alec perceptively hit the nail on the head when he said, "I think Rachel Maddow is quite good at what she does. I also think she's a phony who doesn't have the same passion for the truth off-camera that she seems to have on the air."
Actually, she is only concerned with one truth on the air. Now, I've been a big fan of Rachel since she was a radio jock on Air America -- she's brilliant -- but no one with a brain can deny that she has totally turned her show into The Chris Christie Hour at the exclusion of every other story for weeks. I understand that her reporting on the bridge-lane closure may have uncovered evidence that has led to a GOP presidential hopeful being discredited, but there are other important news stories happening. And while Chris Christie's unraveling is a fascinating mess, Obama and the Democrats are making plenty of messes themselves, which a truly progressive network ought to be exposing. Did you hear the one about Obama trying to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress without debate? Or how about the fact that it would kill jobs and reduce wages for generations and force U.S. workers to compete with Vietnamese workers making 29 cents an hour? No? Well, if you regularly watch MSNBC, I'll bet you can name every mayor and state senator in New Jersey. I stopped watching in disgust after one MSNBC segment asked, "Which Christie employee should get the axe next?" Who cares? Let's focus on stopping the "Democratic" president from outsourcing tons of our jobs overseas. If you think the closing of a few lanes accessing a bridge in New Jersey for less than a week this summer impacts the nation so heavily that it deserves a solid month of nonstop coverage, then MSNBC is the "news" network for you.
I guess Maddow's Chris Christie coverage gets ratings. Maybe that's why Anderson Cooper took Baldwin to task; the actor's MSNBC show was beating Cooper's numbers in the same time slot. Maybe conservative news outlets jumped all over this in order to smear a progressive and the progressive agenda at the same time. And maybe that stirred gays into such a frenzy that suddenly Baldwin was our number-one enemy.
But how are gays going to know how to fight their true enemies if they can't even identify them? So this member of the gay community would like to offer a sincere apology to Alec Baldwin. Hell, he's shone so much light on the charlatans who masquerade as journalists, including some high-profile gay ones, that I'd suggest giving him a GLAAD award! Watch your temper, Alec, but thank you for consistently supporting our rights among the many enlightened causes you've lent your name to.