"I think everybody's got to relax over this gay stuff," said Bill O'Reilly. His reference to the sexually explicit disco hit "Relax" was probably unintentional, since he was talking about Bill Richardson's gaffe about homosexuality at a Presidential forum.
Learn to 'relax' about 'gay stuff'? I had the opposite problem. As a straight man who grew up in the homophobic sixties (and who was inappropriately fondled by a male teacher in junior high) I had to be willing to un-relax and learn how serious and important the struggle for gay rights is in our society.
As for Gov. Richardson's comment, here's why it was such a serious mistake. If homosexuality is "choice," that helps the Christian Right to continue demanding that people "stop being gay." The fact is that gay people are being discriminated against for who they are, which makes their struggle a civil rights issue. The "choice" argument reduces that struggle into a debate over lifestyle, thereby trivializing their cause - which is really everybody's cause.
(Gay people out there may think I'm belaboring the obvious, but believe me - a lot of straight people don't understand this 'stuff.')
Not only is there scientific evidence that being gay isn't a choice, but scientists have demonstrated that homosexuality occurs naturally in many animal species. That means that fundamentalists should consider it "God-given," although it's unlikely they will anytime soon.
As for my own incident, it created a residue of resentment that lasted for years. I needed to educate myself about the truth: My teacher didn't mistreat me because he was gay, but because he was a pedophile. (He lost his job and was eventually arrested for approaching young boys in a public park.) Pedophilia is a disease, and it isn't associated with sexual orientation.
I learned, and I changed. But Bill O'Reilly isn't willing to learn. He would rather keep exploiting anti-gay prejudice to drive his ratings and his political agenda. And he's anything but relaxed about it. He keeps saying the typical shrill and absurd right-wing things about gay marriage - that if it's legalized "you'll be able to marry a goat," or "18 people," or "a duck."
Think about it: What O'Reilly and the others are really saying is that a gay person who's in love and wants to marry is no better than a goat or a duck. What a vile thing to say about another human being.
Exploitative sex is a choice. Sexual harassment is a choice. Homosexuality isn't a choice. It's a way of being. I find it ironic that a man who apparently isn't able to honor his own marriage vows is working so hard to prevent other Americans from taking theirs - and then abiding by them.
Mocking the dreams of gay Americans everywhere is cruel and cheap. When the dark impulse to do it again comes into his heart, my advice to Bill O'Reilly is to follow the advice of those 70's era disco t-shirts:
"Frankie Say 'Relax.'"