Gay people are everywhere these days. We show up in almost every new television show and many movies and have become a visible and major social and political issue. Whether a member of the New Right or the Far Left, everyone has something to say about gay people. The problem is simply that most of it is not worth saying, reading, hearing or printing. Too much myth continues to dominate the airwaves and fill the press.
Certainly there are new and positive images of gay people being presented to the American public. While films such as "Making Love" are good examples of this new image, even "Making Love" portrays gays as hollow, empty characters. Where is the day-to-day, real-life, gut-level experience we all know is part of our existence?
What gay people want to see in the press is a picture of ourselves as we truly are. The problem is that much of who and what we are is not any different from the rest of the population, so who wants to print it? It is easy to sell the sensationalist distortions of bizarre behavior. About a year ago CBS aired a TV special on gay politics that has become the best example of the worst kind of distorted journalism about gay and lesbian reality.
The truth about gay people is either unexciting or threatening to some people's sense of reality. What is true? This is true:
Gay people have longlasting, stable relationships and occupy responsible positions in business, government, the military, industry and religion. We live everywhere. Scarcely a family can be found in America that does not include a gay person. In large cities like Washington there is an abundance of gay doctors, lawyers and other professional people. Their visible number increases rapidly every year.
The press somehow never seems to acknowledge the normal, common, "just like everybody else" life of gay people. There is a prosperity of spirit among gay people that causes us to demonstrate openly how average and normal our lives are. We marry in our churches, go to temple on Friday nights, celebrate the high holy days and love to have quiet evenings at home with our spouses.
The press also portrays gay people as white men in bars or political organizations. In truth, the homosexual population also includes black gays and many gay women active at all levels of our social structure. The sheer number of this participation is overwhelming for some and does not exist for still others.
There is a great myth among non-gay blacks that homosexuality is a white phenomenon. This is so far from true that it is tragic.
Telling the truth about gay life, reinforcing positive images about gay people, is essential and vital to the health and wholeness of literally hundreds and thousands of young men and women growing up in our community.
The bottom line is freedom, the ability to be who you are. There are desperate people all around us waiting to find the open door to freedom. It is literally a question of being released from bondage.
Every time the media and the press hold up another negative and unhealthy image of gay people it is as if a dagger is thrust into the hearts of many people leading hidden lives. Those of us who are "out f the closet" are wounded as well, for we can feel the hurt of those we do not know but whose pain we understand.
The local news and style sections of our papers are filled with portraits of accomplished business and professional persons, gracious and charming accounts of the lifestyles of the prominent and the obsure. When will gay people turn to these pages and find themselves?
What gay people want to see in a "straight" press is just the same stuff the rest of the world seeks--accurate information that helps each person understand and define the nature of the world he or she lives in.
Journalism has a prophetic function to speak the truth that liberates human life, creates justice, embodies mercy and compassion and beams light into dark corners of human existence to bring clarity and perception. Is this too noble a quest, too ideal a commission?