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Anything less than equality is not reasonable

by Linda Ketner

I’m investing in a new progressive television show called “The Connection.” It will air in South Carolina (and parts of North Carolina) beginning in September. The producer, Alice Gray Gregory, is an attractive straight businesswoman and the host, Pat Joeb, is a former minister who is a straight white male.

Gregory and Joeb are gay supportive for the same reason many Caucasians were and are involved in African American civil rights; and, for the same reason they’re supportive of a woman’s right to choose, separation of church and state, ending the war, sustainability and talks with Iran. They don’t have to “be it” to feel and understand “The Connection.”

Gregory and Joeb met with a local television station about buying airtime for their show recently. The station isn’t network — but one of those strange channels that broadcasts local spelling bees and middle school volley ball matches.

After discussing the concept for the show with the station’s General Manager (Charlie) and his sales associate (Chaz) for two hours, Gregory and Joeb were told the following day that the station didn’t want to air their “gay show.”

Their gay show?! Gregory and Joeb were justifiably perplexed!

In their two hour meeting, just one sentence had been uttered with the word “gay” in it: “And, since South Carolina is facing an amendment this year, we will of course want to talk about it in relation to gay and lesbian rights.” That’s it. That’s all. A five second sentence in a 7,200 second meeting.

With one small drop of gay content, six-tenths of one percent, “The Connection” had become a gay show.

Quite remarkable.

Gregory talked with Chaz about the situation and explained to me that he wasn’t prejudiced toward us — really. In an email she wrote:

“Chaz said the thing that scared the General Manager was the idea that we were going to be a ‘Gay Show.’ He is all in favor of equality, but that’s not their mission.
“Chaz is the top ad sales guy, was an international ballet dancer and is also attending the Charleston School of Law. He said, ‘There’s not another straight person who is more gay positive than I am. My son’s godfather is gay and I have a ton of gay friends, but if you put the gay issue on your pilot or on the first five shows, you are going to alienate a lot of the very people you’re trying to reach and they’ll never turn it back on. You have to reel viewers and advertisers in, hook them on the show, and then introduce that gay issue once you have an audience that really identifies with you and trusts you.’”
As a native southerner, I’m so steeped in the culture that at one point in my life, the above would have sounded reasonable to me.

It is not reasonable.

It still sounds reasonable to way too many of us. Gregory had discussed Chaz’s opinion with a half-dozen gay people who agreed with him. That’s why we aren’t yet equal.
It is not reasonable.

Let me illustrate what I mean in an unorthodox way. In Chaz’s email, replace the word “gay” with the word “black.” It helps even the least sensitive people understand why it is not reasonable.

“Chaz said the thing that scared the General Manager when we first talked to him was the idea that we were going to be a ‘black Show.’ He is all in favor of equality, but that’s not their mission.

“Chaz is the top ad sales guy, was an international ballet dancer (so he was around lots of blacks) and is also attending the Charleston School of Law (chock-o-block with liberal black supporters). He said, “There’s not another white person who is more black positive than I am. My son’s godfather is black and I have a ton of black friends, but if you put the black issue on your pilot or on the first five shows, you are going to alienate a lot of the very people you’re trying to reach and they’ll never turn it back on. You have to reel viewers and advertisers in, hook them on the show, and then introduce that black issue once you have an audience that really identifies with you and trusts you.”

I’m not buying it in either context, Chaz. You have to live with integrity to be treated with respect. You have to live free to be free.

Even if we have to upset somebody — scare the horses or rock the boat — it’s time.
Anything less, is not reasonable.

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