GLBT community lacks strong role model

Columnist Brandon Baker recognizes the apparent lack of a role model for GLBT members to look up to. Ricky Martin, Clay Aiken, Rosie O’Donnell: What do these celebrities have in common? They’re as gay as

Brandon BakerColumnist Brandon Baker recognizes the apparent lack of a role model for GLBT members to look up to.

Ricky Martin, Clay Aiken, Rosie O’Donnell: What do these celebrities have in common?

They’re as gay as a handbag full of rainbows, that’s what.

I grew up in a not-so-distant time in a not-so-cultured town that embraced the gay stereotype and what it supposedly meant to be gay. And by “embraced,” I mean poked fun at, mocked and bullied with more gay jokes than Joan Rivers’ locker of one-liners could possibly manage to hold. Thankfully, I didn’t face the brunt of these–admittedly funny on occasion–jokes, but I did know people who did.

But when I consider what role models actually existed for gay youth only 10 years ago, the list is surprisingly small. In fact, the only gay icon I could have named a decade ago was Marcellas from “Big Brother.” They were few and far in between, and when they did pop onto the public scene, they were more likely to be lauded than praised, dismissed than warmly welcomed.

Since then, the world has opened its big bear hug arms to a slew of out celebrities, but it seems we still face the same types of problems we did even 10 years ago.

Using the examples mentioned above, Ricky Martin came out of the closet only after years of rumors, speculation and public embarrassment. Naturally, Ricky, when you’re parading about the beach in scantily-clad swimwear with a stud muffin all over you, someone’s going to be raising an eyebrow.

Clay Aiken had a similar experience, skipping out on what could have been a landmark moment in pop culture history had he been honest about his sexuality while the spotlights centered in on him during the second season of “American Idol.”

And poor Rosie O’Donnell lost her credibility card following her too dramatic, too long, too annoying public feud with real estate mogul and general jerk Donald Trump.

Where, oh where could the gay role models be?

I like to pretend the pre-Ellen DeGeneres era just doesn’t exist for a variety of different reasons. But even as beloved DeGeneres now graces our television screens during the daytime, which gay role model fills our primetime slots with positivity?

It’s certainly not to be found in shows like “Desperate Housewives,” where even though the show’s writers have made commendable attempts to be all-inclusive, they’ve ultimately fallen flat on their face with their unusual portrayal of gay characters. For example, supporting character Andrew came out of the closet only after having sabotaged the entirety of Wysteria Lane, driven his mother to the point of alcoholism and built a role for himself as one of the show’s antagonists. And the gay couple that moved onto the block a few years later? The couple serves as a step in the right direction, but plays too much on the annoyingly persistent idea in society that gay couples must play “roles.” That is, that there must be a male in a relationship as well as a female, even if they are a same-sex couple.

As I get older and breathe in more fumes of pop-culture madness, I only want to to slap my hand on my forehead. If a gay celebrity isn’t out and about stereotypically promoting the latest fashion lines, thrusting his/her pelvis or spewing faux-pas, they’re being portrayed as or even portraying character roles that are villainous and well-suited for someone to hate. Newsflash: The gay community has enough hate as it is, we don’t need to add to it.

I look forward to the day where I can return to my small town home and make a pop culture reference to my fellow hillbillies about gay culture they can embrace in the right way. No androgynous gay villains, no pansies like Kurt from “Glee” (Yeah, I said it), and no drunken celebutantes like Tila Tequila dominating reality television. One day, perhaps, the world will have a real gay role model, one who isn’t Kathy Griffin.

Brandon Baker can be reached at



  1. As a straight person (not that it matters) and an advocate for GLBT rights, I don’t know if I am not comprehending this article or just what is going on.

    Whatever happened to the premise that someone should not be forced to admit they are gay until they are totally prepared for it. It is not the easiest thing in the world to do for many well known reasons.

    The GLBT community embraced one of the aforementioned “slammed” personalities and he gave a wonderful speach well worth listening to. This same person is a UNICEF ambassador and has travelled to many places that others would not dream of going because of their safety. Now that he has come out, I fear that he may not be able to carry on with his good work because of the stigma attached in many countries.

    Just be a role model yourself and don’t expect others to do it for you.

  2. As a gay man, GLBT advocate, and activist, I don’t think you should have even used the word “pansy” to describe an effeminate gay male, it’s backward and only makes it okay for straight people to say. I’m highly disappointed that this made it past the editor’s desk. This just goes to show that even the gay community has a long was to go, I may be a masculine gay male but I would never look down on another gay man for his personality. If you don’t supper Glee’s continued exploitation of the gay community for the sake of ratings then say that, but don’t put down another gay man.

  3. “Pansies”? Really? Cripes is it not bad enough that I get teased by hetero bigots? I really pisses me off when someone who is supposedly “on my side” takes such a cheap shot. Yes, I’m effeminate. What is it to you?

  4. Well, Clay has already been given an award by GLADD for his activism, so maybe not everybody in the GLBT community agrees with you. Both Clay and Ricky are smart, kind, good men who are doing a lot to change the world for the better — check out Clay’s foundation for inclusion of special needs children, and check out Ricky’s foundation for both child welfare and to stop child trafficking (a huge problem). Also, Clay, who has a degree as a special needs teacher, is a UNICEF goodwill ambassador for education, and has taken several trips to dangerous areas where children were at risk from natural disasters or war. Isn’t this is what being a role model is all about?

    But if you still won’t accept either of them just because they didn’t publicize their private lives (get that oxymoron?) soon enough for you, how about Adam Lambert? He’s another AI alum, and he was up front from the get-go. Or, if you just plain don’t approve of singers, how about, as Carole H suggests – you?

    Of course, if you’re gonna be a good role model for the GLBT community, you’re gonna have to stop making snide remarks about other folks, whatever their orientation. Role models try to lift people up, not put them down.

  5. This article is guilty of some gay-on-gay crime!

    I agree that putting down another gay man for being effeminate by calling him a “pansy” is absurd. For most of us, being openly gay is about being true to yourself, not about conforming to gender norms imposed by society writ large. There is nothing wrong with being an effeminate gay. If that’s who you are, if that’s what makes you feel right, then flaunt it, girl!

    It is especially egregious when our fellow gay men take a negative view of effeminacy. As has been pointed out here, that just makes it okay for straight people to put us down for it. It’s not a wonder that we don’t have enough positive role models when there are gay men who walk around tacitly supporting homophobia by making snide comments about people who are trying to be true to themselves.

    Mr. Baker, why, may I ask, do you argue that Desperate Housewives is too supportive of gender roles, only to turn around and spit on Kurt for not conforming to them? This strikes me as hypocritical – or at least confused. You may have wanted to think this article through a bit more. And “to laud” means “to praise highly.” A dictionary might also come in handy next time.

  6. I think Kurt is cute as hell. I also think that people who throw areound terms like pansies are suffering from internalized homophobia.

    Seek help.

  7. And they sure as heck don’t have one in you, either, Mr. Baker. I think you need to take a look in your own mirror before you insult other gay men and women.

  8. I think some of these people may have been advised to stay in the closet by their managers of pr people. When Clay finally came out when his child was born a lot of his fans were not happy. I was told by someone that actually knew Ricky Martin that he was gay, but it didn’t seem to hurt him any when he also came out when his twins were born. I don’t think anyone should be forced to do anything they aren’t ready for. Look at Ellen, it caused her a lot of problems. Many people don’t accept the gay lifestyle. I think they should be treated the same as anyone else. My husband on the other hand has a different view. The South, certainly doesn’t accept gays. The friends that I have that are gay, have to endure things straight people do not. Life is not pleasant for them as gays. It makes me sad.

  9. I agree with your criticism of Kurt from Glee. He essentially is just another exploitation of the gay stereotype. Calling him a pansy may have been a little too much and maybe a bit backward as others have said, but honestly I’ve thought the same thing. It’s endlessly frustrating to see gay men portrayed so effeminately all the time. I feel that Kurt’s character does more damage to the public perception of gay men than good. I’m sick of seeing people like him begin the token gay or half of the token gay couple on tv.
    Getting any gays, even extreme caricatures of a gay stereotype, on television was one step in the right direction. It’s time to move on, though. We definitely need more realistic, diverse portrayals of gays overall. Kurt just isn’t good enough anymore.

    The only gay role model I really have is David Sedaris, and he just picked up and left the country.

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