LGBT leaders say sex allegation coverage ‘an advance’

LGBT leaders say sex allegation coverage ‘an advance’

NEW YORK — Among the dozens of prominent Americans entangled in sexual-misconduct cases this year are a modest number of men whose accusers are male. For some LGBT civic leaders, dismay over these cases is mixed with relief and even a trace of pride at how they were addressed.

The relief reflects a general sense that media coverage of these cases — notably those involving actor Kevin Spacey, Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine and former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray — has been mostly fair and responsible, focused on the alleged misconduct rather than on sexual orientation.

The coverage “does represent an advance,” said Darrel Cummings, chief of staff of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

“There was a time when the news would have started off with sexual orientation, with ‘This is what we always thought about gay people,’” he said. “But now we don’t see the old-school bias. They cover us as if we’re human beings.”

Traces of pride have been evident in Seattle, where Murray had long established himself as an icon of Washington state’s LGBT-rights movement. Before becoming mayor, he was the legislature’s foremost advocate of legalizing same-sex marriage.

But when allegations multiplied — eventually from five men, including Murray’s own foster son — that Murray has sexually abused them when they were teens, local LGBT leaders were at the forefront of the move to demand his resignation even as some straight political leaders were ambivalent.

Seattle’s LGBTQ Commission, in an open letter to Murray, rejected his suggestion that the complaints against him were being fueled by anti-gay political machinations.

“It was a challenging conversation to have in our community, but we were completely unanimous,” said Julia Riccardi, a co-chair of the commission. “Murray’s conduct was just unacceptable.”

Murray resigned in mid-September.

In late October, the Kevin Spacey case leaped into the headlines. Actor Anthony Rapp said Spacey made sexual advances on him during a party in 1986, when he was 14 and Spacey was 26. Since then, more than 20 other men have accused Spacey of sexual misconduct or assault.

Many gay activists were furious that Spacey, in asserting he didn’t remember an encounter with Rapp, took the opportunity to come out as a gay man — a step he’d previously avoided despite long-running speculation about his sexual orientation.

“Coming-out stories should not be used to deflect from allegations of sexual assault,” tweeted Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the LGBT media watchdog GLAAD. “This isn’t a coming-out story about Spacey, but a story of survivorship by Anthony Rapp & those who speak out about unwanted sexual advances.”

Ellis, in a recent phone interview, said the media responded with generally responsible coverage of the case.

“While we’re going through this national moment on sexual assault, it’s really important that gay men are held accountable the same way straight men are — and I feel that is happening,” she said.

The James Levine case, which surfaced in early December, has been distinctive in that the renowned conductor — currently suspended by the Metropolitan Opera — has never engaged in public discussion of his sexual orientation. He has denied claims by three accusers that he sexually abused them when they were teens.

Just before the Levine case broke, the Massachusetts Legislature was rocked by a Boston Globe story reporting that several men were accusing Bryon Hefner, the husband of Senate President Stan Rosenberg, of sexually harassing or assaulting them. Rosenberg, while denying any prior knowledge of the allegations, has stepped aside from his leadership post while the Senate Ethics Committee investigates whether he or any of his staff violated Senate rules.

When the Rosenberg/Hefner story first broke, veteran LGBT-rights lobbyist Arline Isaacson was apprehensive, and spent hours at the Statehouse seeking to defuse any uptick of anti-gay sentiment. Overall, she’s been reassured.

“If this were 20 years ago, I’d be a nervous wreck about the ramifications on public policy affecting the LGBT community,” said Isaacson, a co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. “But for the most part, I’m not worried now,” she said. “We’ve won so many major battles — it will be hard to repeal them.”

Nonetheless, she said some gay men who work at the Statehouse are nervous about the newly launched ethics investigation, and are deleting accounts that they had on Grindr, a popular gay dating app.

In discussing the male-on-male misconduct cases, several LGBT professionals and civic leaders noted that gay male sexual culture can differ from straight sexual culture.

“I know a lot of gay men who had experiences with older men when they were teens and do not look at them as being bad — they look at them as finding their way,” said Clinton Anderson, director of the American Psychological Association’s Office of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.

However, Anderson stressed that some such relationships might seem coercive or harmful when viewed in retrospect.

“People who are vulnerable are going to get hurt,” he said.

Brian Pacheco, a gay New Yorker, works with many sexually abused LGBT youth in his job as public relations director for Safe Horizon, a non-profit social-service agency.

Amid the disclosures about Ed Murray, Pacheco wrote in The Advocate, an LGBT news outlet, “We have to accept that sometimes our heroes can also be abusers.”

Elaborating in a recent phone interview, Pacheco said, “Sexual abuse exists in all communities, including the LGBT community. When it does occur we need to stand with the survivors.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta had 1,571 active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta’s central zone now has 1,101 active COVID-19 cases

Provincial death toll has risen by nine

Dustin Mitchell (Coats) is wanted by police in relation to a homicide this past Wednesday. (Photo contributed by Red Deer RCMP)
Red Deer RCMP looking for man in relation to homicide

An arrest warrant has been issued for a Red Deer man in… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Collin Orthner, manager at McBain Camera in downtown Red Deer, stands behind the store’s counter on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
A few Red Deer businesses happy with Black Friday results

While this year’s Black Friday wasn’t as successful as it was in… Continue reading

Le Chateau Inc. is the latest Canadian firm to start producing personal protective equipment for health care workers, in a July 3, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Hundreds of millions of dollars for frontline workers yet to be released, says Alberta Federation of Labour

Information recently released by the Alberta Federation of Labour suggests more than… Continue reading

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks during a news conference Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 in Ottawa. Poilievre says building up the Canadian economy post-pandemic can't be achieved without a massive overhaul of the tax system and regulatory regime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservatives attack Trudeau’s ‘reset’ but they have ideas for their own

‘We don’t need subsidized corporate welfare schemes that rely on endless bailouts from the taxpayer’

In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Moderna chairman says Canada near head of line for 20 million vaccine doses

Trudeau created a firestorm when he said Canadians will have to wait a bit to get vaccinated

There were 47 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta Tuesday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Spread of COVID-19 in Brampton, Ont., linked to systemic factors, experts say

‘We’re tired. We’re numb. We’re overworked. We’re frustrated, because it’s not our rules’

The courthouse in Iqaluit is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. Three Nunavut judges, including the chief justice, are at odds over whether prison conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic should be considered when sentencing offenders in the territory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Emma Tranter
Nunavut judges disagree on how to sentence offenders during pandemic

IQALUIT — Three Nunavut judges, including the territory’s chief justice, are at… Continue reading

A corrections officer opens the door to a cell in the segregation unit at the federal Fraser Valley Institution for Women during a media tour, in Abbotsford, B.C., Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Independent reviews of the hundreds of inmates placed in segregation over the past year found only a handful were inappropriate, new government data indicate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Few federal inmates moved from solitary after external reviews, new data show

‘There can be rare cases where the removal may not be immediate’

A couple embrace during a ceremony to mark the end of a makeshift memorial for victims of the Toronto van attack, at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. in Toronto on Sunday, June 3, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
‘I’ve been spared a lot,’ van attack survivor says as she watches trial alone

Court has set up a private room for victims and families of those killed in the Toronto van attack

Banff National Park. (The Canadian Press)
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

EDMONTON — A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths on railway tracks… Continue reading

Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. Canadian dairy farmers are demanding compensation from the government because of losses to their industry they say have been caused by a series of international trade deals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lisa Rathke
Feds unveil more funding for dairy, poultry and egg farmers hurt by free trade deals

OTTAWA — Canadian egg and poultry farmers who’ve lost domestic market share… Continue reading

Most Read