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Anger and laughter.

In the first two days of December, this was the news: Michigan erased all domestic-partner benefits for state employees. An Alabama legislator proposed banning from state libraries all books with positive gay characters--books he said ought to be buried in a big hole. CBS and NBC spiked a church's gay-inclusive TV ad because, NBC said, President Bush's stand against same-sex marriage made gay couples too controversial. A Missouri high school sent home a handful of students for wearing mild gay-friendly T-shirts.

But wait--there's more. HIV infection rates among gay men were reported to be skyrocketing, while the abstinence sex-education programs that the White House favors were found to be spreading lies about how many gay youths have HIV. A lesbian minister in Pennsylvania was defrocked for having been honest about her committed relationship. Oh, and the Human Rights Campaign--our best-traded champion in D.C. and on the nation's airwaves--was weathering a crisis after the abrupt departure of its leader.

Phew! That's just 48 hours. As for the past 12 months ... well, even our annual time line [see page 14] can only begin to hint at what's been going on. Yes, some really cool things did happen, but a whole lot of it isn't pretty. For every state that instituted equal marriage rights--that would be exactly one---a dozen wrote antigay discrimination into their constitutions. For all the openly gay U.S. representatives reelected on November 2--that would be just three out of 435---at least half a dozen brand-new rabidly antigay U.S. senators claimed victory (out of 34 races).

No wonder a lot of GLBT Americans are in shock right about now. What's the average homo to do in the face of such a cascade of hate? I'd like to suggest two simultaneous strategies: anger and laughter.

For some of us, the anger part may be easier. When the California supreme court declared 4,000 same-sex marriages null and void in August, my husband and I (one of the 4,000 couples) got mad. We headed to gay-protest ground zero in West Hollywood, where we helped rally our fellow angry Angelenos. Then we spoke in calm, reasoned tones to the local news about equality and justice.

If you haven't been to a public protest in the past year, make a note to get off the couch in 2005. You don't need to scream and break things. You just need to be willing to sit down (say, in the middle of Main Street) and be counted. Not only does it remind the world that we're not going to accept second-class citizenship gracefully; it's therapeutic. It channels frustration into action and helps you to get on with your life.

But taking it to the streets is only a partial answer. While I've known people who have thrived on endless anger, most of us need a little more balance in our emotional lives.

That's where Ellen comes in.

The same week at the beginning of December in which all that terrible news rained down, Ellen DeGeneres was joking around with Colin Farrell on her daytime talk show [see page 44]. She mixed it up with Snoop Dogg, a magician, some ice-skaters, and Angelina Jolie. She likely won over hundreds of redstaters in her studio audiences and millions more in their living rooms back home. She never said she was gay, and she didn't have to. Everyone knows, and it's fine.

Will some of those same folks vote for antigay ballot measures and tsk at news coverage of GLBT street protesters? Sure they will. But then they'll tune in to The Ellen DeGeneres Show again, find themselves laughing, and maybe, just maybe, wonder what all the fuss is about.

Too rosy a picture for you? I know it's hard to buy into gentle persuasion when 35 years of gay rights advances seem to be rolling back. But for my own sanity, I need to believe that our homey celebrity ambassadors are just as vital as our angry elder statesmen and that laughter can thaw some of the souls frozen by the lies of the pseudo-Christian right.

So on the worst of the bad news days, go ahead and call your friends and see if it's time to break out the picket signs. But when you get back from the protest, or when you're done writing that angry letter to your senator or the local paper, spend an hour with Ellen. Maybe it doesn't always matter whether she can make a "moral values" voter laugh at her kissing Colin Farrell. But if she makes you laugh, you'll be more ready to face another day, another year, another decade of struggle. And that's important too.
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Title Annotation:letter from the editor in chief
Author:Steele, Bruce C.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 18, 2005
Previous Article:Lifting us up.
Next Article:Big gay year: 2004 produced more powerful gay images and dramatic developments than ever before. Here's a look back at what will likely be remembered...

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