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Dustin Lance Black—nothing's changed.
Dustin Lance Black has reacted to the publication of private sexual images showing him and a former boyfriend having (bareback) sex:
"It is unfortunate that individuals and other outside parties are trying to profit from material which is clearly private. I have had the privilege to speak to people across the country, both gay and straight, on a number of critical issues including safe sex. More important than the embarrassment of this incident is the misleading message these images send. I apologize and cannot emphasize enough the importance of responsible sexual practices," he said in a statement to E! Online (not the Advocate, Out or Instinct).
Even before this statement, many in the gay blogosphere had already reacted—and not to reprimand Black, but to attack Perez Hilton for posting the uncensored shots.
I get the argument that Black is an important figure on gay issues (and is thought of as a great guy and role model), so if he is on our team, why should a gay blogger go out of his way to post something that would be embarrassing? I initially posted a link to Perez and still have one non-nude image up; I've since removed the link, which is admittedly not that meaningful since everyone knows where to go.
This same thing happened years ago with Thomas Roberts, whose nude pictures were leaked. In that case, I really had no angst over people posting his images—if you are going to take naked pictures of yourself and post them on a public site (even if it's a site that requires membership) and/or send them out to people as an enticement to come have sex with you, how can you be truly worried that they might find a wider audience? If you are a well-known person and/or a person with a job that carries prestige, the chances that the images will surface are exponentially greater.
In Black's case, I don't believe he put his image on the 'Net to begin with, nor do I think he is Pam Andersoning anyone—he obviously is not orchestrating their release to sex up his image. I don't believe he ever made them public on the Internet. Instead, it would seem a partner is selling him out. The villain is the person who leaked them, and presumably if the images were only known to him and to Black, Black could and should sue.
But in reading a well-intentioned and obviously passionate editorial like the one over at Instinct, I take issue with the arguments.
Editor Mike Wood states "please please please don't go look" and, "We must be very, very careful about applauding a person in our community because he takes on a beauty queen when that same person—Hilton—is just as willing to post compromising and damaging pictures of one of the gay community's actual up-and-coming leaders...if we didn't have those who are in our community looking out for us—and trying to boost us up while everyone else kicks us down—what do we have?"
What Wood (pictured) seems to be saying is that Dustin Lance Black and others are too good to be the subject of reporting—even where true—that could in any way compromise their integrity or their standing in the community, even if the reporting (or in this case posting of photographs) is accurate. The fact is that an agency is selling sexual images of a famous person. This is happening. Also, they're bareback, and Black has—by his own admission—spoken out on that issue.
I grant Wood this: Perez was under no obligation to post the images themselves, so is responsible for that and certainly can be criticized. But I feel that the giant, red "CENSORED" stamped on Instinct's editorial is unintentionally troubling. Is Black such a golden child that anything questionable (I don't think sex pictures are negative these days, but Instinct argues that some, particularly non-gay, people might) he does must be filtered?
"We're all ashamed of what Perez Hilton has done," the editorial says. But is it necessary to be ashamed of what he did just because you're ashamed of what Black did? Or rather, because you're scared that outsiders will attempt to make you be ashamed of what he did?
In a very real way, "We're all ashamed of what Perez Hilton has done!" is a statement that could apply to Perez in general. So many gay people loathe him—he is all the things that some gay people despise, including gossipy, fat (or used to be), flamboyant, crude, self-serving, attention-seeking. It's almost like he is a walking stereotype, and even if that is just how he is, his detractors would like to wish him out of existence as a way of making all those qualities disappear from themselves.
It's not the same thing, but it reminds me of when gay people don't like seeing flamboyance at the pride parades because they're worried how it will reflect on themselves.
I've argued in the past that I like Perez. I still do. I also note his shortcomings and the negatives that spring up from his success. But I do recoil from knee-jerk contempt for who he is and what he does. I read so many comments on other blogs snootily claiming, "I never go to Perez...and I'm better for it!" and all I can think is that it's like this weird high/low culture clash. Or maybe at times it's old/young culture. I'm sure plenty of oldsters like him and plenty of youngsters despise him, but I have to believe more young people out there would approach this as, "That's just Perez—it's his job!" whereas more older people would be alarmed and unimpressed. I'm 40, so I guess that makes me old to some and young to others...maybe that's why my instinct, as I said at the top, is to be not so black-and-white on this.
I'm just asking the questions because I personally don't think Black did anything wrong in the first place. Sure, the images are bareback, but he's not promoting them, he's not releasing them, so what he did is private. And everyone has sex, or should. I can't even say it was stupid to take pictures of himself having sex—many people do that, too, and these were taken eons before he could have imagined himself holding an Oscar, let alone holding the banner of the gay community.
I'm also asking these questions because I don't see the gay community as a club whose membership requires we never disagree, speak ill or fail to uplift one another even when we fail to uplift ourselves, or where certain members are more deserving of media protection than others.
Is it not possible to say: I (still) admire Dustin Lance Black and I (still) read Perez? If I had a chance to have dinner with one or the other, I'd pick Black first...but I'd rather make it three at 8. Like it or not, they are both incredibly important, influential gay people.
I would appreciate all your feedback; privacy is about as clear-cut as copyright these days.