The gay community has recently been on the receiving end of a number of critical comments. The barrage hasn't come from from anti-gay advocates or religious groups but from more unlikely sources.

On June 3, comedian Tracy Morgan performed at Ryman Auditorium, where his comedy act quickly turned into a homophobic rant.

Chris Sanders, chair of the Nashville chapter of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), expressed concern about Morgan's rant.

“The gay community has enough issues with our own state legislature," he said. "We don't need anyone coming into Nashville and adding fuel to the fire.”

After the incident, Morgan came back to Nashville to give a special apology. Brandon Thomas, a student activist at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and Opinions editor of the MTSU campus paper Sidelines, believes Morgan's apology was a stunt.

“I didn't think an apology was needed,” he said. “Someone cried foul so he came back and apologized for what he said. It was a stunt so his image could be OK.”

 Sanders said the community should accept the apology: “Morgan coming back to Tennessee was an unusual step; noteworthy that he did that. I'm glad to see a complete turnaround with Tracy Morgan.” 

Another recent media incident involved a Southwest Airline pilot. The pilot, as yet unnamed by Southwest Airlines, accidentally left his cockpit mic on. He was overheard by air-traffic control making comments about his fellow coworkers, referring to them as "gays, grannies and grandes."

“To me it means that there's still work to be done in our society. It's sad to keep hearing these stories,” Thomas said. “I think it's one of those things where you get pissed off and wonder 'What can I do?' It shouldn't be in the news. There shouldn't be gay bashing in the 21st century.”

The GLBT community has been criticized for their reaction to the recent string of incidents.

“Some people have used the word censorship to try to come back at the GLBT community to say we are censoring speech," Sanders said. "Censorship is something that the government does. What is going on is dialogue, a real discussion; the government is not involved at all. When violence is joked about directed at our community, we have to take action. Violence against GLBT kids is never acceptable.”

“It's perpetuated by our culture, by our politics, by our society,” Thomas added. “I think gay bashing is a problem for everyone, not just for gay people. It affects everybody.”

Sanders believes that positive things can come from the negative situation: “This is a real problem for our country and our state. Dealing with these incidents helped bring us to the public's attention in a new way. Discussion of the 'Don't Say Gay' bill got a lot of attention but dealing with (these incidents) allowed us to highlight that in a concrete way for even more people.”

“It's different now than it was ten to fifteen years ago,” Thomas added. “We have a voice now. But there's still a lot of work to be done.”


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