Some of my Detroit neighbors have told me that, when traveling, they're embarrassed to tell people that they're from Detroit, instead preferring the vaguer description "from Michigan." Lately, however, I'm feeling the opposite: I'm proud to be from Detroit, a struggling but determined city with a rich history and a promising future, but ashamed to be from Michigan, a state that too often makes the news because of dumb things its Republicans say and do.
The latest is Rep. Dave Agema of the Republican National Committee. During the U.S. Supreme Court DOMA hearings last week, Agema posted an article on his Facebook page asserting that homosexuals have "between 20 and 106 partners per year" (leading me to wonder what vitamins my fellow gays are taking, and where I can get some); that "50% of suicides can be attributed to homosexuals," and "[h]omosexuals account for half the murders in large cities."
Not long ago, Agema could have posted such claims with impunity, perhaps even garnering a chorus of amens. Instead, many of his fellow Republicans rushed to distance themselves from him, with some even calling for him to step down.
But Agema dug in his heels, ranting about the "negative health affects [sic] of this lifestyle" and insisting that the article contained "facts derived from several studies. The trouble is many don't like facts."
Indeed. Including some elected officials, apparently.
It is yet unclear how this incident will affect Agema's career. One hopeful sign is that Janice Daniels, the Republican mayor of Troy, Mich., a Detroit suburb, was recalled last year for similar stupidity: Facebook comments about "queers" marrying in New York, followed by further insistence that the "homosexual lifestyle is dangerous."
But let's not miss the grain of truth in both Agema's and Daniels' position: Gay life is indeed risky. The main source of that risk? People like Agema and Daniels.
By spreading lies about the "homosexual lifestyle," and by teaching kids, and especially vulnerable LGBT youth, that there's something sick, wrong or unnatural about being gay, folks like Agema and Daniels put us at risk. They make it more difficult for us to come out of the closet, sustain long-term relationships and live out our lives in healthy and happy ways. Most perversely, they increase the suicide risk that they then turn around and use to justify their anti-gay rants.
I address the general problem with the "risky lifestyle" argument in the following video, one of a series of 11 new videos on arguments in the gay-rights debate.