By TJ Acena, PQ Monthly
I am going to use Alec Baldwin as an example of a larger problem.
Here’s what happened: Alec Baldwin called a photographer a ‘cocksucking fag’, he denied it even though he was caught on tape, he claimed that he didn’t know that ‘cocksucker’ was a derogatory term (because he someone just arrived in America), and trotted out his gay hairdresser to vouch for him that he wasn’t a homophobe. So when Anderson Cooper called him out on it and Baldwin responded with some serious bullshit:
“Anderson Cooper has a job to do. And that job is to try to reinforce his credibility in the gay community after the fact that you couldn’t get him out of the closet for 10 years with a canister of tear gas. Now he’s the sheriff. Now he’s running around writing everybody a ticket!”
Sick burn Baldwin. The thing is, this is a pretty classic example of someone who charged publically with bigotry. First they deny it, which is usually straight up lying or something like “I was misquoted.” Second, they go on the defense by claiming some kind of ignorance or trotting out a gay hairdresser (tokenism). Lastly, they discredit the accuser by bringing up some not quite related charge (i.e. Anderson Cooper was closeted and he is doing it for attention). Deny, Defend, and Discredit. If you are lucky you get an apology (and Baldwin did apologize), if you are less lucky you get the “sorry I offended you” apology which is not really an apology at all because it shifts blame off of the perpetrator to the accuser without admitting to doing something offensive (also do not do this with people you date, they hate it).
Anderson Coopers personal history does not make him calling Baldwin out any less valid. If Pat Robertson had called Baldwin out it would not have mattered because what he said was homophobic. And while it’s not the most homophobic act ever committed in human history, it is still homophobic. People are still racist without burning crosses on people’s yards; you don’t get a pass for doing the least offensive thing possible.
So pay attention to how people react to being called out on their bigotry and don’t let them weasel out of it. When a minority group calls someone out on being (insert horrible thing here) the best thing they can do is apologize, ask for understanding (if you don’t understand why what you did was wrong), and try harder next time. Unless you are in some Kafkaesque situation these rules generally apply.
As a note to queers, these same rules apply to you if someone calls you out on being transphobic, racist, misogynist, or for body shaming.
TJ Acena is a freelance writer and essayist living in Portland, OR. You can reach him through PQ Monthly at info@PQMonthly.com.