19-year-old Cross Coburn was elected to the City Council in Groves, Texas earlier this year. Shortly after taking office, an anonymous troll sent photos stolen from his Grindr account to several local media outlets and government officials along with a note that read:
Is this in any way proper behavior of a councilman to represent himself online or a ‘dating’ app? I felt the city council should be made aware of the situation.
“That is my personal life and no one should know about it,” a shaken Coburn, who was out only to his close friends and family before the story broke, said shortly after the story broke.
Well, now that some time has passed and the initial shock has worn off, he’s ready to talk more about the incident, which he now believes was a homophobic smear campaign.
“I’ve come up with the conclusion that this is about my sexuality,” Coburn tells Out Smart Magazine in a new interview. “That is the only reason that somebody would want to do this to me, because I am gay and they don’t want me on City Council.”
Many people from the LGBTQ community agree. Ruben Gonzalez, vice president of leadership initiatives for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, thinks there’s a double standard at play.
“If Cross was a single straight man, his photos wouldn’t have been sent to City Hall, and there would have never been a controversy,” he says. “He had the right, like any other young person, to build his social network and friend group through online applications.”
Coburn says some of his colleagues in City government have tried using the incident to hurt him politically, including the mayor.
Despite the fact that Coburn did nothing illegal and is, in fact, a victim of revenge porn, mayor Brad Bailey described the leaked photos as “unbecoming of an elected official” and reminded constituents that a recall election for Coburn could take place after he has served six months in his position.
But Coburn refuses to let the bastards get him down.
“This is not going to put an end to my career,” he says. “Despite all of this, I love being on City Council. I love my city, and I want to continue being a part of the process that builds it up and helps it flourish.”
He has since enlisted the help of attorney Jill Pierce to handle the matter. Pierce claims whoever sent the photos violated Texas Penal Code Chapter 21.16, which makes the unlawful distribution of intimate visual materials a Class A misdemeanor.
“I have reached out to Grindr to figure out who did this,” Pierce says. “However, anybody can create profiles online. It might not be possible to find out who it was.”
h/t: Out Smart Magazine