FIRST PERSON

Build ‘Em Up, To Tear ‘Em Down: Holding Our LGBT Role Models To A Higher Standard

sam_vito_kiss[Editor’s note: A recent Queerty article that reported on a past relationship that Vito Cammisano, the current boyfriend of Michael Sam, had with an adult film star raised a variety of reactions among our readers. Some felt that the out football player should be immune from the queer media’s microscope, while others felt that this peek into his lover’s past was no different from the straight media’s investigation into the personal life of a hetero celeb. It wasn’t Queerty’s intention to shame anyone for having dated a porn star. There were even a few, such as the author of this essay, who were also perturbed by what they believed was a misleading headline.]

By now we’ve all seen the tear-jerking video of Michael Sam’s hard work and dedication paying off, his dreams becoming a reality and history being made in the world of sports as he stood hand in hand with his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano and heard the news that the St. Louis Rams’ made him the 249th overall choice in the 2014 draft. Sam became the very first openly gay person to be drafted to the NFL and in doing so, paved the way for future LGBT athletes for generations to come.

Now I’m not a pessimistic person by nature, but I’ve seen the way these things usually play out in the media. Someone does something truly remarkable, we praise them for a little while; it makes headlines, sells papers and gets hits on the websites. Inevitably, the love affair with said person gets a little boring, runs its course and the story dies down. That’s when the media jackals come in and start ripping the person we just idolized apart, limb from limb. They dig up and dish out all sorts of juicy tidbits about the person, whether rooted in fact or fiction. They sell more papers; get more hits on the websites. The story is reborn and the cycle of news continues.

michael-sam-and-boyfriend-feat-415x260A few days ago, not one week after Michael Sam was drafted, I was scrolling through Queerty, as I normally do and was shocked by a “news” headline that read, “Michael Sam’s Boyfriend Vito Cammisano Has A Surprising Gay Porn Past.”

Holy Moses! Really? So Mr. Cammisano used to do gay porn? Not exactly. So, Mr. Cammisano used to write, direct or produce gay porn? Not exactly. How does Mr. Cammisano have, “a surprising gay porn past” you ask? The answer is: he doesn’t. When you click on the misleading title, you come to realize that Mr. Cammisano used to allegedly date someone who did porn. Um…excuse me?

Listen, we all watch porn and if you say you don’t, you’re a liar and I’m sending Jesus Christ over to search your browsing history. That said, dating someone in an industry that we all “benefit” from is not a big deal, and certainly should not be used to slight someone or detract from an amazing achievement.

Personally, I live in Chelsea and hand to God, you can’t swing a bag of lube in this neighborhood without hitting someone in the porn industry. In fact, some of the people I’ve hit with that bag say it’s a “badge of honor” to date someone in porn.

michael-sam-and-vito-cammisanoNow, whether or not there are badges given out for helping old ladies across the street, fire safety or double fisting is not important. What is important is that this article, and all too often, the media’s behavior, used unfounded and salacious stories to prey on a momentous moment in LGBT courage. If the intent was to just “report” on the dating history of a semi-public figure, why not write about the time he allegedly dated a librarian? I, for one, would love to read, “Michael Sam’s Boyfriend Vito Cammisano Has A Surprising Dewey Decimal System Past.”

However, the intent of the article was not to lift this young gay couple up and thank them for opening doors and minds. It seemed to be just to spread a rumor about Mr. Cammisano by creating a “surprising” headline, and then to imply a societal stigma and underbelly to it that could be spun into juicy gossip. The piece then goes on to insinuate some rather kinky things about Mr. Cammisano’s sex life, one of them being a link to a cropped picture of someone’s back marred with red scratches and a caption alluding to Mr. Cammisano’s night of passion during IML weekend. Now, if we’re throwing out possibilities of who that headless picture might be of, I’d say it’s allegedly a picture of my Grandma Tilly’s best friend’s neighbor Ingrid’s bastard nephew Ted, after he fell into a briar patch (…or of me coming out of the Fire Island Meat Rack).

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John Carroll, Photo credit: Kevin McDermott

Michael Sam worked his entire life to get to this prestigious point in his career as well as for the strength of character to put it all on the line by coming out in what is very well known to be a homophobic environment. The two men also made history by having their kiss filmed on ESPN of all channels, shown in every football fan’s living room, and at sports bars across the globe. We disrespect his journey and the journey of the LGBT movement by pushing this victory aside so quickly. We didn’t even get a week to smell the roses before the media started kicking up shit in the fertilizer.

Where is the loyalty and responsibility that LGBT journalists have to people paving the way for the betterment of our community? It’s not about ignoring important news stories, it’s about knowing what an important news story is. It’s not about protecting LGBT people in the public eye that are a mess, it’s about respecting those who are carrying the torch for equal rights and supporting them in the process.

We have come so far in the fight for LGBT rights; it would be a shame to implode now. It doesn’t suit our cause to remain the catty queen on the playground or the drunk, verbal loose cannon at the end of the bar. I know. I’ve been her. We need to continue to build a safe environment so that people in the public eye can come out of the closet without fear that the jackals of the World Wide Web will attack them or their loved ones. We all have a responsibility to keep the momentum going for equality, especially those in the media.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to call my therapist, pop a Xanax and wait to read the many porn-themed things that will be written about me. Post away, my friends, post away.

 

John Carroll is a Broadway performer, writer and activist. For more information on him, go to TheJohnCarroll.com.