Open interaction is the key to change

Editor's Note

Almost every Thursday a group of co-workers and I steal away from the office for about an hour or so. We head over to one of our local diners and feast on their scrumptious chicken pot pies. We’ll sit and chat while we eat, taking time to catch up on the last week.

The diner is also a distribution point for one of the Queen City’s many independent/alternative weekly papers, The Charlotte Weekly. I always pick up a copy and take it back to the office. Eventually, The Weekly makes it into my laptop bag and I carry it home for further reading.

Upon our last venture out to the diner, I picked up a copy of the paper’s Aug. 1-7 edition. There was an excellent article on Charlotte’s public transportation system and a profile of a local family blessed with an “extreme home makeover.”

The Weekly also had a profile of a newly formed theater company. Organized by 19-year-old Greensboro College student and Charlotte resident Benjamin Brian McCarthy, the Yellow Bird Theatre Company will stage summer productions focusing exclusively on LGBT issues. Their 2008 production, “Play on Words,” tells the story of two high school boys who fall in love and their struggles with alcoholism, drug addiction and mental and physical abuse. In fact, you might have read about the theatre and their production in Q-Notes’ July 26 issue.

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I thought the article was well done and congratulate writer Sean O’Connell for taking the time to reach out and provide more exposure for what I believe is a very worthy cause.

I did have a concern with the article, though, and called O’Connell to discuss his use of the phrase, “a young boy who falls for another man.” I briefly explained to him why I thought his coupled use of “young boy” and “man” were inappropriate and possibly harmful to the LGBT community.

For decades and even to this day, anti-LGBT organizations continue to malign gay men by labeling them perverts, pedophiles and child molesters. Among the many insidious writings of members and so-called “doctors” of the religious right, you can often find the words “homosexual” and “male child molester” used interchangeably.

While it would be nice to think these horrible prejudices belonged only to pre-1973 medicine — when homosexuality was legally considered a mental disorder — we cannot forget that LGBT people, and gay men in particular, continue to be bear the brunt of the many malicious lies and slurs comparing them to sexual offenders.

I was grateful for O’Connell’s willingness to be so open to my concerns and to hear that he meant nothing by his use of the phrase. Like many writers, the possible implication of the coupling of the words wasn’t a result O’Connell had considered.

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The daily intricacies of living as a gender-variant person or one who identifies as a sexual minority aren’t necessarily experiences with which many heterosexual people are familiar. Of course, that includes news writers.

Since the beginning of my activism career, my media relations philosophy has always been one of interaction with those who take the time to report on the issues that matter to my life. Mistakes, rarely made out of prejudice, are the result of well-intended folks who just don’t know.

Not knowing and not being aware are okay — and that’s why open interaction and dialogue with those in the media, like my conversation with O’Connell, are so very important. We should all take the time to reach out to those who might not be familiar with our lives and our community. Change and positive progression will quickly follow as more of us speak openly and frankly about what it means to be gay in the Carolinas and America.

On a completely unrelated note, I must inform you of a fabulous trip I’ll be taking in the next couple of weeks. When Q-Notes’ Aug. 23 issue rolls out to our newsstands, I’ll be in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. You’ll be able to read of my journey and experiences and watch video from my trip to our nation’s capital at my staff blog, insidesource.q-notes.com.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.