It was my senior year of high school and our basketball team was playing our rivals. As the team's captain, I knew I had to carry the team on my shoulders if we had a chance to win. Despite my 25 points and 15 rebounds, we still lost to a team with superior talent.
Following our defeat, our angry coach barreled into the locker room and slammed the chalkboard. He then launched into a tirade where he bellowed, "Everyone on this team played like faggots... except for Wayne." Although I was not out of the closet yet, I thought, "Coach, if we would have played like fags, we would have won the game."
I tell this story to point out that sexual orientation and gender identity are about who a person is deep inside -- not a result of the clothes they wear or the activities they participate in. I grew up playing basketball, football, and baseball. The entire time I was playing -- and at times excelling -- I knew I was gay.
Unfortunately, anti-gay activists are exploiting a new controversy to portray gay and transgender people as confused heterosexuals who are different because their parents let them play with the wrong toys as children or dressed them in "non-gender-conforming" attire. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this hasn't stopped the right wing from trying to further stereotypes and misconceptions in an effort to foster discrimination against LGBT people.
The controversy in question occurred when the clothing store J. Crew published an ad this week that featured the company's president, Jenna Lyons, painting the toenails of her son Beckett. The text read: "Saturday with Jenna -- Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon."
Needless to say, the wingnuts went ballistic and attacked J. Crew for allegedly distorting gender roles -- which presumably will turn kids gay or transgender. Erin Brown of the right-wing Media Research Center called the ad "blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children."
Not only is Ms. Brown pandering to outmoded stereotypes about gender roles, gender identity, and sexual orientation, but her implication is that only heteronormative children deserve to be celebrated. This is ridiculous -- all children deserve to be celebrated, whatever color they choose to paint their toenails.
Additionally, FOX commentator Dr. Keith Albow chimed in with this "brilliant" nugget of advice:
"Yeah, well, it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid -- and maybe a little for others who'll be affected by your 'innocent' pleasure."
Dr. Jack Drescher, a respected New York City psychiatrist, disputed claims that toenail painting will influence a child's sexuality. He says that sexual orientation does not stem from superficial outside influences like toenail polish.
"I can say with 100 percent certainty that a mother painting her children's toe nails pink does not cause transgenderism or homosexuality or anything else that people who are social conservatives would worry about," Dr. Drescher told ABC News.
Clearly, anti-gay forces are gearing up to exploit this situation and sexualize this innocent ad for political gain. In their zeal to recreate their mythical version of 1950's America, they will no doubt savage J. Crew and flood the company with e-mails demanding that they dump the ad.
Let's not let the voices of religious extremism and cultural rigidity be the only ones heard by J. Crew. Please sign Truth Wins Out's petition today thanking J. Crew for the company's willingness to publish this fine ad. Let this company know that their real customer base is not close-minded bigots, but forward-thinking progressives who don't agree with self-righteous scolds like Dr. Keith Albow.
In my view, J. Crew published a terrific ad that showed real family values -- not the contrived kind put forth by social conservatives. While extremists are taking the opportunity to dress down this company, show your support by dressing up in J. Crew clothes. It is time to fight back and stand up to irrational homophobic attacks and "conservative correctness."