What can a white, heterosexual, cisgender male do? Listen.

This past week has been loud.

Our entrance into the Gilded Phage erupted in protests, violence, and hate speech, while Twitter fights, Facebook rants, and, most vital, thoughtful blog posts remain at pre-Election levels. Voices are still reaching the cheap seats as dire warnings of an encroaching wave of racism and bigotry are met with caustic dismissals demanding people “Wait and see” and “Stop whining.” It’s a wall of sound that would make Phil Spector tumescent.

This election proved one thing: there are a lot of white, heterosexual, cisgender males in this country, and despite assertions that they are the new oppressed minority, they remain both the most powerful and vocal force in American politics. As a member of that demographic, I have never felt so dismayed to be so visible.

For the last year, ever since I completed 10 Cities, I’ve been largely silent. Up until last week, this website had gone dark and I had minimized my Facebook presence (I’ve remained somewhat active on Twitter; my apologies). I’ve been practicing a skill that doesn’t come naturally to me: Listening.

Listening to voices that aren’t white, heterosexual, cisgender, and/or male is critical for the continued growth of our society and for our growth as individuals. We only need look at last Tuesday to know what’s at stake when we don’t.

One of the ways I’ve been reminding myself to be a better listener is intentionally seeking out voices that wouldn’t naturally enter my sphere of interests. As a white, heterosexual, cisgender male, I’m striving to engage with the points of view of those who aren’t. I’ve not intentionally avoided or ignored those voices in the past, but by nature of our societal structure, I’ve done it all the same.

So far, this endeavor has had the greatest impact in my consumption of art, particularly music and literature. I’ve read assault narratives and about rape culture (Alice Sebold and Kate Harding), read fiction from people of color (Colson Whitehead and Zadie Smith; Zadie pisses me off because her first novel is just so damn good) as well as non-American authors (Arturo Perez-Reverte). I’ve read many other authors (including plenty of white males) this last year, but I hope to find even more diverse voices next year. 

Additionally, and to a much greater extent, I’ve been listening to a more varied slate of musical artists. My musical taste has always been eclectic, but my go-tos have generally been white, straight dudes. It seems like a trivial thing because it’s an easy thing; I love music and I love finding new artists. And yet, as easy as it is to do, it still had to be a conscious choice. Ultimately, that minimum effort to expand my palate has been deeply enriching.

To that end, I’m concluding this post with a by-no-means-exhaustive list of artists who are not white, or not male, or not straight, or not cisgender. The list could expand indefinitely, but these just happen to be some that I’ve come to really appreciate over the last year and who, importantly, offer a broader perspective.

And, finally, to my fellow white, heterosexual, cisgender males: There’s no prize for listening, no pat on the back; there’s just the pleasant reality that so many voices deserve our attention and we are invariably enriched by the simple experience of hearing a new perspective.

I hope you enjoy the music and that you’ll keep listening.

Gallant – Episode

Against Me! – Black Me Out

Tegan and Sara – Boyfriend

Lydia Loveless – Midwestern Guys

Solange – Don’t Touch My Hair

Coming Out to Mom and Dad

cross-legged queer
you make the margins pretty
black dotted eyes
the sound of your oxygenated voice
all for stars
we know you
but your brother is love
and we love him most of all
call us home
we don’t fly
you are signs
we don’t read
no, this is all of the world
all for you
that we leave without words
sad to say
you will never be
right with us
but that is life
and you know
all cannot be right all the time
we won’t protect you
only know you
What more can be asked?

Billy Graham 2

Jason Collins, Christian Free Speech and The Gay Frontier

Jason Collins Is Gay SI Cover

Jason Collins

Well, it finally happened. An active professional athlete has ‘come out of the closet.’ What else needs to be said that hasn’t already been covered? I can’t help but feel that this is a ‘Big’ story because it’s supposed to be a ‘Big’ story. It will continue to feed the news circuit for a couple more weeks, but most of the focus of the story seems to be about the reactions (or expected reactions) to the announcement, not the actual coming out.

So the President and other big names praised Collins ‘bravery,’ and then some Christians and conservative commentators wheeled out the same old hash about ‘sin’ and ‘keep it to yourself.’

For the most part, I would say the response has been largely supportive, because how could it not be? They’ll be some old school homophobes in the league who will be weird about it and someone will unleash a slur and get fined a few hundred thousand dollars, but most of these NBA players have publicists and image consultants who will keep them on the right side of this topic, regardless of their actual feelings and beliefs. No one is going to quit because they refuse to play with a gay player. This won’t be a Jackie Robinson moment.

And that’s mainly because this is a long overdue event. When Jackie Robinson broke the race barrier in baseball, it was momentous because it was a huge step forward for our society. He started playing on a professional team in 1947, well before the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. In comparison, Jason Collins coming out in this moment in the Gay Rights movement would be the equivalent of Robinson joining professional baseball in 1978. That’s not to say it isn’t still a big deal, but the fact that no other players have come out speaks more to the regressive, hyper-masculine atmosphere of sports culture than to society in general.

So, good, Collins is out. Hopefully that means others who have feared living openly will now be free to do so, professional athlete or not.

Open Rebellion

Christian Free Speech

In all the hullabaloo about Collin’s announcement, there was a kind of waiting game for the first bigot to come out and denounce him. Not that we needed to wait, I’m sure it took all of 3 seconds for an internet commentator to type F-A-G-G-O-T under an article.

The real watershed moment, though, was Chris Broussard on ESPN. Let me pause to say that I don’t think Broussard is, in fact, a bigot. I actually have no idea. While I think the “love the sinner, hate the sin,” rhetoric is a load of crap, I do believe it is possible for Christians to have beliefs and preach them, but not really hold them true in their heart. Heck, it’s not only possible, it happens all the time. If Christians can be hypocrites in a bad way, perhaps they can be hypocrites in a good way. So maybe Broussard is just espousing the party line and he truly doesn’t have any ill or bigoted feelings towards homosexuals.

Then again, most of what he said in the interview was utter bullocks. He says people should “tolerate” his beliefs like he “tolerates” homosexuals. Except, how exactly is he tolerating homosexuality by calling it a ‘sin’ and saying that a homosexual can’t be a Christian? Is he tolerant because he isn’t stoning them to death? That’s a pretty low standard for tolerance. Plus, how is saying someone is a sinning, non-Christian (who, let’s be honest, is going to hell) more tolerant than someone else calling you a bigot? ‘Sinner,’ ‘Bigot,’ they’re both just labels for ‘others.’

The outcry that naturally comes up anytime something like this makes the news is over the supposed squelching of Christian Free Speech. Some people have said ESPN should fire Broussard (I don’t agree, but that’s ESPN’s choice to make), and with those outcries comes Christians saying, “Gay people can say whatever they want and no one complains, but if I speak my beliefs I’m persecuted.”


This cartoon pretty much perfectly illustrates the sentiment, while also exposing why it’s so wrongheaded. In reality, all the media ever seemed to want to talk about was Tebow’s Christianity. I don’t recall a single story about him that didn’t make mention of his faith (granted, I don’t really follow the NFL, or any professional sports for that matter). If there were people telling him to keep it to himself, it was fans of the game who didn’t care about his beliefs. The Media was all too happy to keep bringing up the subject because it got page hits.

Also, is a professional athlete being a Christian really a news story? By a pretty large majority, most Americans are Christian. It’s safe to bet that in any profession, in any field, there are going to be Christians. The normal reaction to finding out Tim Tebow is a Christian by anybody in this country should be *shrugs*. The fact that I, a man who doesn’t watch any football, knows that Tebow is an outspoken Christian speaks to just how much the media talked about it.

On the other hand, there has never been even one openly gay athlete on any professional team in America. That’s why Collins’ coming out is newsworthy, and why people are talking about it. If he had announced he was heterosexual, than this cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune might have had a point.

Christians too often mistake having unpopular beliefs with being persecuted. If you say homosexuality is a sin and a bunch of people shout you down, that’s not called censorship, that’s just being on the wrong side of history. There are countless opinions in the world that are wrong, despicable and/or based on ignorance, and when those opinions get put out in the public sphere the responsibility of society is to stomp those opinions out. We’ve attempted as much with sexism and racism. Just because you choose to interpret the Bible as condemning homosexuality, that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to take you seriously.

Star Trek The Final Frontier

The Gay Frontier

So what’s next for those in the homosexual agenda homosexual men and women in the public sphere? There is a gay athlete, gay politicians, gay pop stars, gay actors and legal same sex marriage in more and more states. Years of fighting for equal rights has led to this moment in history, not perfect but better than it’s ever been.

If history is our guide, we know for every two steps forward, there will be a step backwards. I don’t think any women with any sense of history would want to live in pre-feminist days, but that’s not to say that gender equality has been completely achieved now. The same can be said of racial equality. The work is not completed, and maybe it never will be. But we keep working towards it, because it’s fair, and it’s right, and it’s the best of all possible worlds. Equality isn’t about creating a utopia, it’s about recognizing our natural state.

Perhaps one day there will be a gay president. But until that momentous barrier is broken, we can take baby steps into new frontiers.

Fake Women Don’t Have Curves

I’m not sure when I first heard the phrase, “Real women have curves,” but I do know that it’s always struck me as odd.

I understand it, of course. Both as a physiological point of true femininity and a feminist statement about body image, I get why the message is out there. Our culture definitely puts a heavy emphasis on the appearance of women and little girls are raised up often being pressured to pursue a difficult (if not flat-out impossible) standard of beauty.

The common refrain is that “these days” we expect women to be stick figures with barely any curves, whereas in the past (ah, the nostalgia) we used to think women with a little meat on them were beautiful. Remember Marilyn Monroe?

American Masters: Marilyn Monroe

That icon of beauty would be considered a heffer by today’s standards, or at least that’s the common wisdom.

But this “fact” ignores a couple of things. One, while Monroe for a few years was THE torchbearer for Hollywood beauty, she wasn’t the only one. And two, she really wasn’t that big. People talk about her like she was Roseanne Barr. Hardly. She had some thickness to her, but she was still rather svelte, even by “today’s standards” (whatever those are).

You know who else was a Hollywood superstar in the same years that Marilyn was going around being all Ms. Fatty McFatcheeks? Audrey Hepburn.

Audrey Hepburn

Marilyn might have been the bigger star for her looks alone, but no one was going around calling Aubrey Hepburn an ug-o.

Here is my admission: While I think Marilyn was a gorgeous woman, I personally feel Audrey was one of the most beautiful women to ever grace a negative. The wonderful thing about this world is that both beautiful women can exist and they don’t undermine the other.


Let’s fast forward to our modern day, where the only women we’re forced to be attracted to are anorexic sticks. At least, that’s what I keep hearing. The fashion industry only uses models with bodies like teenage boys who puke up every meal while their ribs stick out from behind their -A cup breasts.

But wait, men are berated for being obsessed with bimbos with big, fake boobs. So, what is it? Are men into big-titted whores or translucent Skeletors?

Is it possible that men aren’t actually one size fits all and some of us like women with curves and some of us like skinny women and even more of us like both, depending on a multitude of factors? No, that can’t be it, men aren’t that complex.


The problem I’ve always had with the phrase “real women have curves” is that it’s insanely sexist, both to men and women. First, it implies that women need a counterattack against all the mindless cavemen who only drool over runway models (pro tip: It’s mostly gay men picking those models, not straight dudes). The truth is, males, the multifaceted gender that can’t be summed up in sitcom tropes, actually like women of all sizes.

Jennifer Lawrence, Aubrey Plaza, Christina Hendricks

The above women probably draw about equal shares of salacious attention from male internet commentators, though, admittedly, I haven’t done the research. Jennifer Lawrence, Aubrey Plaza and Christina Hendricks couldn’t be any more different in body types (other than, of course, all being white), yet they all play into male sexual fantasies.*

Men don’t need to be told that women can have curves, we are all very aware of it.

But the truly sexist aspect of the “real women” phrase is aimed at women. What an odd notion this is: a woman is only ‘real’ if she has curves. So all those naturally thin women who have small breasts and/or straight hips are clearly not “real women.” What a gross and utterly hateful way to supposedly assert feminist strength.

It always bothers me when, in an attempt to battle one societal ill, a group swings in the complete opposite direction and creates an equally vile counterattack. The worst part is that this disenfranchisement of ‘skinny women’ (and I’m not talking about thin, Victoria’s Secret Supermodels, I’m talking about true skinny women) has spread to men. Those ‘Gender Study’-taking, enlightened males who would never insult a heavyset woman feel no compunction when mocking a naturally skinny woman as being a ‘skeleton’ or ‘gross.’

Is this really better? Is this actually helping?

I get it. When a person is made to feel bad about themselves, the first reaction is to lash out against someone else. But this natural instinct has solidified into a movement where skinny women, women who can no more naturally change their bodies than ‘fat’ women can, have suddenly become open target for our societal mockery.

Progress? I think not.

If you want to celebrate the women with curves, celebrate the women without them, too.

As for me, big or small breasts, hips or not, I am forever a leg man.

*A conversation like this almost necessarily must reduce any female examples to their purely physical appeal. All of these women are very talented in their art, but for the purpose of the conversation at hand I’m merely focusing on the physical.