Almost everyone knows Ellen DeGeneres—she is just the very famous TV personality who publicized her admission that she is a “homosexual,” even chronicling her daily life (in a very comical and amusing way) in a television show in the early 90’s. Even until now, she is still a famous person as she is now a much-acclaimed TV host with her own show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and is married—to a girl. Ellen’s story can be a proof of how far society and the press have openly accepted the homosexuals.
Homosexual people can be pertained to both gay people (who are usually involved in a male-male relationship) and lesbians (who are in a female-female relationship). However, being “gay” can also be applicable to both male-male and female-female relationships and is now accepted more by the general public compared to the period before the 50’s. The visibility of the gay people is now so flamboyant that a person is left to wonder: “Was there a time when they were persecuted?
” The answer to that question is a resounding “yes. ” There was indeed a time when the gays and lesbians were thought of as a minority group in the most degrading way possible. It is surprising and amazing how they were once regarded as criminals and “mentally ill and immoral” (Gross xiv). Today however, they are now so accepted that shows, series, and movies are being produced and have become popular one after another.
Their story of how they fought for visibility, recognition, and liberation from being closeted is worthy of a re-telling and a movie that can be surely made into a Hollywood hit. This paper will recount the important events and personalities which has made homosexual empowerment possible and the tremendous role that the media played in the whole thing. The Power of the Press Mass media is undeniably a very powerful force that has a great and influential impact in the daily lives of the people.
Weather reports, economic and political news, fashion forecasts, music videos, commercials, and infomercials—the media holds a great variety and a vast amount of information which is being fed and devoured by the general public, and whether they like it or not, these information are affecting them on a personal and naturally, on a major scale, too. What is media exactly and what is its purpose?
There are a great number of these speculations, but it actually depends on how it is being used and by who: “The purposes of communication have always remained the same: artists wish to entertain and stimulate; entrepreneurs aim to make money; governments and interest groups hope to inform or persuade; advertisers help to sell goods and ideas” (Cannon). Because of the media, communication to the greater and general public is faster and easier. Even if it is undeniable that the mass media has brought negative effects, there are still positive things which everyone should be and is grateful for.
As what Buckingham has written in his report, the negative and positive effects are undeniably linked together, as what is expected from everything in the society today: The negative effects of media may be impossible to separate from their positive effects. Potential positive effects relate to learning and education, as well as processes such as social interaction, identity formation and cultural experience. Apparently ‘inappropriate’ content may also provide valuable opportunities for learning. In seeking to prevent negative effects, it is important to ensure that we do not also undermine or preclude the potential for positive effects.
(3) There are a lot of things which people and the society should credit to media. Aside from the usual studies and researches that prove the effects and influences that it does to people (as that to Buckingham’s) that are both positive and negative, and the information (overload) that is happening on an almost daily basis, the media can also be credited to the fact that a lot of important historical events have happened because of them—they either made it such a big issue that it is impossible for people not to mobilize and address the conflicts or issues.
Media (or the people from the press) have more than often put their lives on the line in order to inform the public about the truth that is happening around them. The press can perhaps be perplexing because they are just so powerful that they can mobilize the people when they tell the truth (or sometimes, their version of it) whether people want to hear it or not. Sometimes, they are even more so powerful that they can not tell the truth and keep the public in the dark. Almost many events that have happened globally are reported by the press, and sometimes, these events are even caused by the media.
In addition, all these things that have happened in the past can still affect the present and the future. Harvey Milk and Matthew Sheppard for example are just two individuals whose advocacy and death was made known to the public television that it made thousands of people act against the discrimination to lesbian, gay and transgender people (Lacayo, Barovick, Cloud and Duffy). Their stories which have been so abuzz with controversies were so popular in the past, and yet, years later, people still look back to these two brave individuals and how their death has affected many.
Hollywood, for instance, has even made a movie based on Harvey Milk and his advocacy for the equal protection for the gay and lesbian community. In simple terms, media has immortalized important historical events, and life-changing and influential people by talking about them that even in later years, people are still influenced by them. In short, media has played such a very important role in the people’s lives, and the best way to exemplify this conclusion is through a recount of the evolution and expansion of the gay rights which has been well chronicled by the press.
The journey that the gay, lesbian, and transgender people have endured and lived through is such an agonizing story of death, sacrifices, and eventually, of freedom and respect. Homosexuality There has been a great confusion of the definition of who are the gay, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgender. Vast studies and characterization can be used as a reference to define these people. Over the years, the description of gay, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgender has also evolved along with their liberation and the development of their basic human rights. Homosexuality is not new and not a disease—according to today’s judgment, that is.
However, decades ago, it was a different case altogether. In the past, gay people were defined by having relationships with people of the same sex—if one made out or has a “special friend” that is the same gender that he or she does, and then he or she is defined as a gay person. However, different groups suggest otherwise. Long ago, being a gay person meant that one is a “criminal, mentally ill, and immoral” (Gross xiv). There are different cases though as according to TIME Magazine, being a homosexual person has grounds based on “The Institute of Sex Research, founded by Alfred C.
Kinsey, [which] defines a homosexual as anyone who has had more than six sexual experiences with a member of the same gender. ” However, as of now, as human rights are being demanded by people of all groups, being a gay person is not so considered as a crime anymore—in many parts of the globe, that is. Homosexuality has become very apparent in the society nowadays that if a person is to declare him- or herself as gay (like Ellen DeGeneres for example), it is not such a big and horrifying issue, but it is still an issue. How far has the “outing” (Gross ix) of homosexual people gone through in the past until the current time?
If a person would look at the facts, it would not be surprising and only right to be amazed. Homosexual Advocacy, its Evolution and their Human Rights Homosexuality can be traced even as far as to the ancient Romans whose emperors were rumored to be bisexuals, and the surprising thing is—the society back then was not as against it compared to the American society back in the 50’s or 60’s. Moreover, farther from the ancient Romans are the biblical passages and accounts of homosexuals being punished in the Promised Land of Israel with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
God was furious with the sexual criminal acts that the Sodomites were doing that He decided to destroy the city completely. Unfortunately, this story is what is usually used by Christians or anti-homosexual groups in trying to voice out their opinion and displeasure with the gay people. However, the call for the gay rights did not exactly happen overnight or in a snap. This was a very slow and painstaking process that actually originated with the call of the African-Americans to equality with the white Americans.
Racial discrimination has been a long standing issue experienced globally but was most experienced in the United States of America since people from all parts of the globe were actually migrating to the US as they were lured by its promise of greener pastures. Eventually, the discrimination against the minority groups—African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians who constituted the population of the majority, were advocated by a number of famous people, and most notable of them is in the person of Martin Luther King Jr.
He was assassinated for fighting in what he believed in—that equality should reign among age, gender, and most especially that of race. The advocacy and dispute of the blacks vs. the whites eventually paved the way for the fight for recognition of the homosexuals (Gerstmann 3; TIME). However, even if the homosexual (and bisexual) community were inspired by the advocacy of the African-Americans, they still had a far way to go with regard to their decision to be out in the open and eventually fight for their liberation.
There were many factors which comprised the fight of the homosexual community, and unfortunately, it involved a lot of death and sacrifices that were publicized by the media. According to Larry Gross in his book, Up from Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America, the first ever advocacy for gay recognition and empowerment happened in the person of Lisa Ben who gave out copies of a magazine that “signaled the first stirrings of the modern gay rights move¬ment in the United States” (xiii).
What she did was both courageous and dangerous, for in those years, being a homosexual person meant persecution because it was considered a crime. As what a gay person was found saying in the BBC video about the Stonewall Riot, “the word homosexual cannot even be uttered. ” Years later after Lisa Ben’s small magazine and advocacy, gay movements were mobilized little by little but were not very successful as they were often beaten up by the police for being “fags” or “drag queens. ” The early 1960s can be also said that it had the same turn of events as that of the 50s.
It was only during the late 1960’s that people finally acted and pursued their one goal—equality—freedom, respect, basic rights will follow after and come with it (Bendersky; Gross). The most famous Stonewall riot that happened in the month of June 1969 in Greenwhich Village, New York City was a historic landmark for their fight for equality: “The turning point came in the summer of 1969 in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, when 400 gays flooded the streets for several nights to protest police raids on the Stonewall Inn, a homosexual bar on Christopher Street” (TIME).
With the riots, movements, and publication of weeklies (like of Grant Ford’s Gay Life), the community of the gay, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender was soon heard and felt by the people not only in the United States of America; people around the globe also became aware of their fight: The struggle is being fought on many levels. Politically, the movement’s victories are now barely balancing its defeats. Thirty-nine cities, towns and counties, including Detroit, Washington, D.
C. , and Minneapolis, have enacted ordinances forbidding discrimination against homosexuals in jobs and housing, but only five of those communities have been added to the list in the past two years. (TIME) When the famous Harvey Milk was elected in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, another milestone in their advocacy was again met. Harvey was out in the open as a gay person, and he was elected in a high position in the society.
Milk made such a great impact because not only was he a politician—he was a politician who is gay and who is demanding for an anti-discrimination gay act to be passed. Moreover, when the advocacy of the Church was made clear that they were against gay rights and that teachers who are gay should not be deemed fit to teach in public schools, Milk fought hard against that judgment. Eleven months later, Milk was killed, and the act was passed.
In addition, the Civil Service Commission ruled in 1975 that being a homosexual person should not be the grounds for a person to be unemployed. When Milk died, it was not only the gay community who was enraged by this event but also people from all over. Even the straight ones were now on the same side, and the fight was biggest and strongest as ever with the equality for the homosexual people (Bendersky). People have now become more open to the concept of homosexuality and has come to grips with the reality that people should be accepted for how they are.
How unbelievable it may seem when years ago, the gay and lesbian people were being beaten up by the police and or being horrifyingly mistreated by the straight community that they are even publicly put on trial and/or persecuted; and yet, decades later, the world has opened up to them. As what appeared in the TIME Magazine issue which has been cited for seemingly countless times in this paper, companies and corporations on a national level have publicly voiced out that “they do not discriminate in hiring or promoting people because they are homosexual.
” The most ground breaking is the support and the next step of the media. As what is understandable, if the media is able to openly portray and even give a spot on stories or characters who are homosexuals in a non-villain role, then it means the general public is able to accept and watch such role being enacted out: “Television and movies are treating gay themes more openly and sympathetically. ABC’s hit series Soap, for example, has two homosexual characters, one a macho football player” (TIME).
Years later, although things have been better in terms of the gay people being not regarded as retards or criminals, they are still far from fully realizing their goal. If in the past they were fighting for freedom from discrimination or safety and survival from those people who made it a point to not only discriminate the gay people but to also hurt and in some cases, even kill them, the 90’s brought in a new fight—the homosexual people want to get married. According to Gerstmann, there is even no such thing as gay rights. There are only basic human rights which can be enjoyed by people no matter their gender, age, or race.
Marriage is a basic human right, and yet, people who are of the same sex are deprived of it (Gertsmann 3-4). Their community in the past seemed to be fighting for survival—for their endangered lives because of the discrimination happening. Now, the homosexual community is fighting for their basic human right—to be married to the person they love—even if it means that they belong to the same gender. When the then President Bill Clinton made a speech in 1996 that he supported the marriage and union of people who are of the same-sex, homosexual people were overjoyed, for it meant a huge leap for them.
However, when only a short time later, the Doma Bill was passed wherein a marriage can only happen between a man and a woman, the gay community was outraged at Clinton’s treachery and lies. Years later, Bendersky of the Huffington Post writes in November 2008 of the Proposition 8 in California that calls a marriage to be made only between a man and a woman. In some countries and states, being a homosexual person is still a crime and is subject for persecution—death penalty in public.
There are still some states in America which openly oppose same-sex marriages and outing of closeted homosexual people; they even forbid some basic rights—like entrance to schools. Clearly, there is still a discrimination going on even if it is not openly voiced out. Even if the entertainment industry has long been open to the portrayal of gay or lesbian people and has produced shows, series, and movies, even that of cartoons and commercials where the characters are blatantly gay or the plot revolves around them, there is still an underlying tension with regard to the subject of homosexuality.
Famous shows like Will and Grace or The Ellen DeGeneres Show may be famous on national television show and is already accepted by the general public, but it does not necessarily mean that they have already achieved their goal. In Aaron Belkin’s article for example, he writes that President Barrack Obama is going to fire his Arabic linguist because the linguist declared on national television that he was a homosexual person. There is a reason for that however. In the same article of Belkin, he further writes that there is a law that states that the “military MUST fire any service member who acknowledges themselves as being gay.
” Years later, the death of Milk and the appalling and well-publicized death of Matthew Sheppard seem to be a waste as the homosexual community has still not met their goal for their fight for equality (Lacayo et al. ). Conclusion In conclusion, from the “outing” of the homosexual people to the fight for their equality and to the expansion of their rights, they have come a long way. From the ancient Romans to the Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard, homosexuality has long been present, will always be present, and the press has played a big part in both its development and dramatic sensationalization.
Whether people like it or not, the events of the past will continue to haunt and affect the events of the present and of course, the future. One thing that everyone should remember is, the whole adventure that the gays and lesbians went through is one amazing roller coaster ride, and that despite the sickening downs they experienced, the exhilarating ups are definitely worth it—one is merely to look at the entertainment industry today and acknowledge where they are now. Works Cited Buckingham, David, Natasha Whiteman, Rebekah Willett, and Andrew Burn.
“The Impact of the Media on Children and Young People With A Particular Focus on Computer Games and the Internet. ” Byron Review, Centre for the Study of Children, Youth an Media, Institute of Education, University of London. 30 Apr. 2009. 7 May 2009. <http://www. dcsf. gov. uk/byronreview/pdfs/Buckingham%20Impact%20of%20Media%20Literature%20Review%20for%20the%20Byron%20Review. pdf>. Belkin, Aaron. “Obama To Fire His First Gay Arabic Linguist. ” The Huffington Post. 7 May 2009. 8 May 2009. <http://www. huffingtonpost. com/aaron-belkin/obama-to-fire-his-first-g_b_199070. html>.
Bendersky, Ari. “Where is Harvey Milk Today? ” The Huffington Post. 1 Dec. 2008. 8 May 2009. <http://www. huffingtonpost. com/ari-bendersky/where-is-harvey-milk-toda_b_146933. html>. Cannon, John. “Mass Media. ” The Oxford Companion to British History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Encyclopedia. com. 30 Apr. 2009 <http://www. encyclopedia. com>. Gerstmann, Evan. Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Gross, Larry P. Contested Closets: The Politics And Ethics Of Outing.
Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. —. Up from Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001. Lacayo, Richard, Harriet Barovick, John Cloud, and Washington Duffy. “The New Gay Struggle”. TIME Magazine. 26 Oct. 1998. 8 May 2009. <http://www. time. com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,989406,00. html? loomia_si=t0:a16:g2:r2:c0. 177585:b22455434&xid=Loomia>. Time Inc. “How Gay is Gay? ”. TIME Magazine. 23 Apr. 1979. 8 May 2009. <http://www. time. com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,920281-1,00. html>.