Kudos to Bruce; Shame on Mitch

First published at Between the Lines News on December 17, 2009

Today I heard two bits of news that reminded me of how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.

First, Bruce Springsteen has come out in favor of marriage equality in New Jersey. Yes, THAT Bruce Springsteen, or as many of us know him, “the Boss.”

I grew up in New York and New Jersey, and I remember in seventh grade a debate between two male classmates about who was cooler: Bruce Springsteen or Rick Springfield. I voted for Springfield, because I thought he was cute. (To this day I couldn’t name one of Springfield’s songs without Googling, which turned up “Jessie’s Girl.”)

Incidentally, I also thought the two classmates having the debate were cute—not that I ever would have admitted it at the time. My awareness of my sexuality, such as it was, was entirely pre-articulate. Still, my attractions were real, and quite obvious to me, despite my unwillingness to name them.

Back then, mainstream rock stars generally didn’t come out in favor of gay rights or marriage equality, much less come out of the closet. Elton John was still officially bisexual; a year later he married a woman. Sure, there was Freddie Mercury and the Village People, but they were never mentioned in my middle-class Italian-American home. Springsteen was, though.

Now, as New Jersey legislators consider marriage equality, Springsteen has this post at the top of his website:

“Like many of you who live in New Jersey, I’ve been following the progress of the marriage-equality legislation currently being considered in Trenton. I’ve long believed in and have always spoken out for the rights of same sex couples and fully agree with Governor Corzine when he writes that, ‘The marriage-equality issue should be recognized for what it truly is—a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law.’ I couldn’t agree more with that statement and urge those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now.”

Somewhere, some seventh-grade boy with a pre-articulate crush on a male classmate is reading those words and feeling a little bit more comfortable with himself.

Maybe he doesn’t listen to Springsteen’s music, but his parents (or grandparents) surely do. And the words make a difference.

Thank you, Bruce. I am totally retracting my vote for that other guy, whathisname.

Speaking of voting and rockstars, how ‘bout that Adam Lambert?

An attention seeker? Sure. But also undeniably talented. Which makes the following story doubly offensive.

Lambert, the American Idol runner-up, was targeted in a recent column by Mitch Albom. Albom is the author of Tuesdays with Morrie and other inspirational confections; he’s also a fellow Detroiter and a syndicated columnist.

In his latest piece he bemoans the culture of fame that gave us the Octomom, the Balloon-Boy family, and other media whores. No argument there. But then he writes,

“And we can’t begin to list all the pseudo, wannabe and semi-celebrities who shamelessly threw themselves into the limelight, from the Gosselins to the endless stream of Michael Jackson mourners to the gyrating, guy-kissing Adam Lambert, who seems to grow in stature with each show that cancels him.”

The “guy-kissing” Adam Lambert? As if a man’s kissing a guy puts him in the same category as the Gosselins?

Unlike the others on that list, Lambert is famous in no small part because he’s talented. If you want to criticize him for theatrical excess, fine. If you want to question his taste and judgment, go ahead. But to slam him explicitly for “guy-kissing” is homophobic, plain and simple.

Of course, it’s not Lambert’s feelings I’m concerned about here. He’s doing remarkably well for a so-called “pseudo, wannabe…semi-celebrit[y].”

But somewhere, some seventh-grade boy with a pre-articulate crush on a male classmate is reading Albom’s column and thinking that there’s something shameful about “guy-kissing.” Shameful enough that it merits being mentioned alongside the Balloon-Boy family.

Shame on you, Mitch. You should know as well as anyone that words matter.