Jeff Schroeder

Gay Character in Kids Book Causes Kerfuffle

Gay Character in Kids Book Causes Kerfuffle

Just when we see a positive gay character in a kids book, the heavens explode and all the adult content warning labels come out. From what I gather, Better Nate than Ever isn’t a gay book, but there’s minor sub-plot that deals with coming of age and the character is starting to realize he’s attracted to boys and he’s not certain why. (I think any gay man alive can relate to that feeling.)

And then librarians started pulling the book. After that, in a blog post, an amateur book reviewer who is a Christ Follower gave the book a good review, but also put a warning on the book stating that it contains homosexuality in a positive manner…as if that’s grounds alone for a warning label.

This what the blogger said:

  • Throughout the story, Nate slowly realizes that he might be interested in men. You might want to have a conversation with your child about what your family believes about sexuality and specifically about homosexuality.
  • This isn’t all that unfamiliar to me. I know there are web sites that classify anything with LGBT content with warnings about adult content…yes, even if the book doesn’t contain sex scenes and it’s completely g-rated material. Author Alex Beecroft wrote a post about this topic not too long ago in a way that I found interesting and well executed. Just the fact that there’s a gay character in a book makes it adults only, as if kids aren’t gay. Trust me, Mrs. Kids Book reviewer, I knew I was gay when I was three years old and my parents didn’t have to explain it or tell me about it. I got it then, and I get it now. It wasn’t sexual either. Most openly gay adults would agree with me.

    In an odd way, this all reminds me of what happened on Big Brother, the TV series, a few years ago when Jeff Schroeder decided that Dumbledore in Harry Potter couldn’t be gay because it wasn’t appropriate for kids to read. And Schroeder was very passionate about it. I posted about that here. I had to remove Schroeder’s photo for copyright reasons (my own decision), which is why there’s a blank in the post.

    To say this news took Jeff by surprise would be an understatement. Noting at first that Dumbledore “doesn’t have any gay tendencies,” Jeff grew increasingly agitated and irate. “He’s in school with little kids!” he shouted. “You don’t want to make that guy gay!” Asked to expound, Jeff explained, “It isn’t right to have it in a little kid’s book, and have the head master locked away in this magical land, be gay.

    In any event, now the author of Better Nate Than Ever is dealing with this, too. And I thought it would be interesting to let my readers know how some of these people in the mainstream view gays, or anything with a hint of gay content…they view it with adult warning labels.

    But there is a bright note. From Tim Federle’s post:

    Happily, there are many more educators, booksellers, young readers and parents who have been supportive of this book and books like it, books that tell stories that star diverse characters who aren’t just relegated to the sidelines as the sassy sidekick or the tomboy cousin. And some of Better Nate Than Ever’s most noted reviewers celebrated its “inclusive” storyline or didn’t even mention the gay thing at all, which I kind of loved. If anything’s to be picked apart, let it be my exuberant usage of exclamation points and parentheses, not my character’s maybe-he-is-or-maybe-he-isn’t sexuality.

    Forbes Promotes Gay Shame; Mean Girls Racism Big Brother; American Idol Racism Lawsuit

    Forbes Promotes Gay Shame

    I often talk about how shame plays such a huge part in the lives of gay people. And even though we’ve come so far in the past few years that same brand of shame still continues with publishers like Forbes. And the kind of shame I’m talking about now isn’t something that always registers as quickly as it should…I would bet most of the people who read what happened this week with Forbes and the President of Ireland didn’t even pick up on it.

    According to this article in Huff Po, Forbes published an article about the President of Ireland and they said he was gay in the article. They were wrong. The President of Ireland isn’t gay. But instead of just posting a simple retraction, Forbes posted a fucking *apology* to readers, not the President. They will allegedly contact the President of Ireland in private and apologize to him for calling him gay. Obviously, they feel the need to go out of their way because he’s not gay.

     The article, posted Tuesday by Ireland-based blogger David Monagan, called Higgins an “acknowledged homosexual.”

    Higgins, a poet and intellectual who supports gay rights, was elected as Ireland’s ceremonial head of state in 2011. One candidate he defeated, Sen. David Norris, is Ireland’s foremost campaigner for gay rights and famously open about his homosexuality.

    It’s important to pay attention to the way this is worded. Forbes called him an “acknowledged homosexual.” That phrase itself is an insult, like “practicing homosexual.” But they didn’t call him a car thief, a murderer, a bank robber, or a rapist. They didn’t call him anything that should have warranted an apology. They said he was gay. All they had to do was retract what they’d done and move forward. No apology needed, because gay isn’t something negative and it isn’t a crime.  

    But the fact that they felt the need to issue an apology, as if there is something inherently wrong with being gay in a general sense, shows how Forbes and other media outlets are constantly promoting gay shame and most of the general public doesn’t even know it, including gay people who are still struggling with issues and not out of the closet. I know that’s the kind of article I wouldn’t have even noticed ten years ago. But now that I’m more aware of how the LGBT community is portrayed in the media, it’s like that proverbial slap in the face. And I think it’s time to start slapping back.

    Mean Girls on Big Brother

    One of the reasons why I’ve been watching the reality TV show Big Brother since it first aired about eleven or twelve years ago is because it’s interesting to watch how real people interact, and react, in a stressful situation where they are kept hidden from the world and they are competing to win a half a million dollars. Since I started watching BB, I’ve seen everything from people stabbing each other in the back to falling in love. It’s part of the game, it can be highly entertaining and amusing, and the gender politics is fascinating.

    But I have never, not in all the years I’ve been watching, seen anything like what’s been happening this season. There is a group of mean girls that rivals anything that’s ever been produced in a film or a book. It’s worse than what I’ve seen in publishing with mean girl book review sites. And these women on BB aren’t just mean girls, they are racist and filled with hate. In most cases they don’t even know it. Here’s just a tip of what’s been happening with these mean girls. If you do a simple search for “Big Brother 15 Mean Girls” you will come up with tons of other articles and forums with people who agree with me. In fact, America got a chance to vote someone off this week, and they chose the meanest, racist girl in the house. Unfortunately, she figured a way out and she’s still there.

    The plastics are up for eviction. And by plastics I hope you have watched the movie Mean Girls. Aaryn is Regina Goerge, Kaitlin as Gretchen Weiners and GinaMarie as the dumb Karen. Will the Queen Bee get stunned by getting voted out? Perhaps, this week has been fetch.

    The most interesting thing this season about the mean girls and the racist remarks is that they’ve made hideous slurs against Asian Americans, and the host of Big Brother, Julie Chen, is Asian American. You have to wonder, first, how dumb can these mean girls be? So far, Chen has addressed the issue on her own TV show, but she’s been playing it cool every Thursday night during the live eviction show she hosts. And frankly, while I admire Chen for being professional and taking the high road, it’s getting a little frustrating. Even last night, Chen had a guest on the show who was a previous contestant, Jeff Schroeder. I’ve posted about Jeff Schroeder’s anti-gay remarks in previous seasons. And yet there he was last night, sitting opposite Julie Chen, laughing and joking around about some of the meanest, racist people I think I’ve ever seen on TV, and not a word was mentioned. His anti-gay remarks were never addressed aloud, and since then CBS has continued to promote him.

    We’re living in interesting times now. And racism is a huge topic this summer, especially in the African American community thanks to Paula Deen’s racist remarks and thanks to the Zimmerman verdict. And for CBS to ignore what’s been happening on Big Brother with regard to the racism, and to welcome Jeff Schroeder on the show as a guest, is about as insulting to all minorities as what Forbes recently did to the LGBT community. I wonder if the mean girls will be invited back a few years from now if BB is still on TV.

    I know Big Brother is only a game. I get that. I know people are expected to do and say things in order to win that they normally wouldn’t do or say in real life. But how far does it go? And how long will it continue before CBS mentions it openly instead of just skirting around the issue. This past week there was an interesting discussion between Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg on The View. Walter’s was promoting her 20/20 special about the new royal baby, and Goldberg said she wasn’t interested in the royal baby. Walters smiled and continued to promote the 20/20 special. The next day I checked the ratings for the 20/20 special and they weren’t very good, so maybe Goldberg had a point? And if TV networks and producers think they can get away with the same thing they did twenty years ago, they’re in for a surprise. Most of us don’t care about the royal baby enough to watch a one hour special. But we do care about racism. And if nothing is mentioned about the racism on Big Brother at all this season, I have a feeling a lot of people like me won’t be watching Big Brother next summer.

    American Idol Racism Lawsuit

    Whether you agree with this or not, I thought that since racism is a huge topic of discussion right now I should post about it.

    “American Idol” is being sued by 10 black former contestants, claiming they were kicked off the show in their respective seasons because of their race, TMZ was the first to report.

    I used to watch American Idol faithfully, but then I noticed subtle forms of racism, especially with gay contestants and gay remarks. Simon Cowell used to find it amusing to refer to Ryan Seacrest with snide comments filled with gay innuendo, as if there was something comical…or shameful…about being gay. Cowell thought that was okay to do, and no one ever questioned him. Cowell is a straight man and like most straight men he has the power and the upper hand at all times. Seacrest who is also a straight man laughed it off and ignored the comments. That kind of gay pejorative was the reason we stopped watching. It just wasn’t funny to us, and that spoiled the entire show.

    But this issue with American Idol is more complicated than other racial issues I’ve seen. There have been African American contestants who have won American Idol. And there was even a gay contestant who won. So it should be interesting to see how it plays out in court. Frankly, I hope they all at least win a settlement this time, just for the anti-gay comments Cowell used to make to Seacrest. Am I being too politically correct? Probably. But it has to start somewhere.

    Big Brother 15 Racism Free Pass

    Big Brother 15 Racism Free Pass

    For the past thirteen years, every summer Tony and I have followed the saga of the Big Brother house guests on CBS. In the earlier days, pre-DVR, we would even bring blank video tapes on vacation with us to Provincetown so we could go back to our hotel room and watch what happened later at night. And BB is actually the only reality show of this nature we have continued to watch over the years. We grew tired of Survivor and American Idol a while ago. And after Donald Trump came out so viciously against gays we gave up on The Apprentice, too.

    One of the main reasons I’ve always watched BB is because I find the interactions between the house guests fascinating. The basic premise of the show is to put a group of people together from all walks of life and make them compete in physical and mental competitions for a grand prize of five hundred thousand dollars. Each week, a house guest is voted off the show by his or her peers. It’s amazing to see what people will do for money, and how low they will stoop sometimes, but it’s also amazing to see how they form relationships with each other and how they often support each other. The house guests are not allowed to have any contact with the outside world the entire time they are sequestered in the BB house. In 2001, because the show was aired during the summer, none of the remaining house guests that season even knew about the terrorism attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was very emotional.

    There are always a few things you can expect at the beginning of any BB season opener. And this summer was no different. The host of the show, Julie Chen, always looks amazing, and as the house guests are introduced we see a cross-section of new contestants who represent various segments of the US population. As a side note, it would be nice to see a little diversification sometimes so that all segments of the LGBT community are represented, including house guests that are either transgender or bi-sexual.

    In any event, this particular season has turned into a firestorm of racism that’s even shocked me. It includes everything from misogyny to slurs against Asian Americans. And BB is no stranger to hate, as you can see from this former post I wrote in 2011 when a past contestant, Jeff Schroeder, made hate comments against gays.

    He made a comment this season about kids books and gay characters in kids books that was probably the dumbest thing I’ve heard on television in years. In this case, he was talking about a character in Harry Potter, Dumbledore.

    As far as I know, unless I missed it, Schroeder has yet to apologize for anything he said on the show that was anti-gay. In fact, he’s still faking it and smiling and doing interviews with the new BB 15 cast. He is a straight white male. This is a link to Jeff Schroeder’s anti-gay comments on youtube from 2011. If you do a simple search with his name and “anti-gay” you’ll find many other examples I’m not going to link to here. What’s up with that, CBS?

    This particular season of BB, number 15, isn’t even completely underway and so far there have been racist and anti-gay comments that have erupted into one of the biggest online firestorms I’ve seen in a long time.  Aaryn Gries has been fired from her modeling job for racist comments about Asian Americans, Gina Marie Zimmerman has also been fired from her job for making similar comments, and Spencer Clawson’s job is now on the line because of his anti-gay comments and his fondness of the way Hitler made public speeches. You can read about all of them here, with more links. None of the house guests even know about this right now because they have no contact with the outside world in the BB house.

    Spencer was one of a handful of contestants who were caught on the “Big Brother” 24-hour live feed making a series of comments. Spencer used gay slurs, and praised Hitler’s speaking abilities, according to Reality Blurred.

    A simple search will lead you to all kinds of articles and posts about BB 15 racism, and there are examples. What I find interesting is how CBS has decided to handle this. Every Thursday evening there is a live show and one of the house guests is voted off. After the recent racism comments, I was particularly curious to see how Julie Chen would handle last night’s live show. She basically handled the issue as a professional and didn’t approach the topic head on. But she did get in a few comments the offending house guests clearly didn’t pick up on, especially Aaryn Gries.

    CBS didn’t air all the hate comments yet, and from what I’ve read they weren’t sure they would air any of them at first.  But it seems they’ve changed their minds.

    “CBS and ‘Big Brother’ showed it because it is now driving a story. It is now affecting how the other players want to see her gone,” she said of Aaryn. “You can’t just put it in there and say, ‘Judge her, everybody!’ It has to have to do with the game and the rules of the game … She will have to face consequences.”

    So it’s okay to put Paula Deen out there and judge her, but it’s not okay to put Aaryn Gries out and judge her in the same way. As far as I know, Paula Deen’s comments were made in confidence, and Deen claims they were not malicious and she’s apologized in public. Aaryn Gries may have thought she was making her comments in confidence, but she also knows she’s on a live feed twenty-four hours a day and everything she says and does is being recorded. And last night on BB when one of the house guests went to Aaryn Gries and gave her a chance to redeem herself on national TV for making her racist comments, she basically made a face, brushed it off, and said she didn’t care. Aaryn Gries is a straight white female. I saw this myself, and so did millions of other people. I cringed for everyone she insulted, I cringed for the house guest who tried to bring the topic up, and I cringed for Aaryn Gries. It’s not often you get to see that brand of hate (and dismissal of hate) so openly on live television.

    In an open letter to BB’s production team, former house guest, Ragan Fox, is calling for BB to disclose all the hate speech that’s been happening this season on BB, and to bring it all out in the open.

    I just read Andrea Reiher’s Zap2It article in which she documents racism, misogyny, and homophobia that’s already emerged in the Big Brother 15 house. Feed watchers have watched Spencer call women “c#nts” and spit the word “fag” in Andy’s face. Similarly, Aaryn Gries (pictured above) complained that Andy would most likely get next week’s MVP because “people love the queers.” Aaryn’s also demanded Candice, an African American woman, say “asked, not axed” and suggested Helen, the season’s sole Asian American houseguest, should “go make some rice.” GinaMarie also wondered if they could make Helen’s eyes straight. And this is only WEEK 1! Imagine what will happen when they forget about the cameras.

    Keep in mind that I have been watching the show all season, and I didn’t even know half of the things mentioned in Fox’s paragraph above. So far, as a viewer, I’ve only seen Aaryn Gries’s Asian American slurs. And that’s because this is all CBS has decided to air in public so far.

    In this one sentence, Fox sums up exactly how I feel. And I think millions of other Americans feel. Let’s stop giving them a free pass.

    Big Brother, I LOVE you, but, if you really want to provide a groundbreaking twist, SHOW CBS VIEWERS HOW SOME STRAIGHT, WHITE PEOPLE talk about gays, Asian Americans, and African Americans.

    You can read the entire letter in full, here.

    I love you, too, Big Brother, and I understand how important it is to remain objective when it comes to dealing with content of any kind. As a writer I often find myself strugging with the same issues with certain characters and situations. But this is too important to ignore. The fact remains that we have race issues in this country and maybe it’s time to get it all out in the open once and for all, especially since it’s become such a highly charged issue with the Paula Deen controversy and the George Zimmerman trial. With all this going on right now, you have the chance to help change the world.