In his new memoir, Me,Ricky Martin recalls the last-minute efforts of friends and colleagues to dissuade him from coming out last March. Why can't he carry on as he's always done, they want to know? What is the big deal? It's a moving moment, in which Martin has to draw on his resolve and remind himself why the status quo is untenable. 'What part of 'I can't take it anymore' don't you understand?' he replies. More important, Martin had taken notice of the number of LGBT youth killing themselves, so when his friends recommend he wait until after Easter to avoid offending Christians, you can forgive him for choking on his vida loca. After all, anyone who can't see the relationship between the Church and gay teen suicides is being either willfully blind or unforgivably charitable. The fact that our politicians pander to this prejudice is part of the problem. It's very nice to have President Obama record his own video for Dan Savage's 'It Gets Better' campaign, but there were times during the recent election cycle when I wanted to take a page from the Ricky Martin playbook, shake our Rick Warren'loving president, and say, 'What part of 'It's not getting better' don't you understand?' Because, really, the only thing more depressing than witnessing Republicans scrambling to outdo each other in the gay-bashing triathlon of marriage, military, and -- a real throwback, this one -- the freedom to teach has been the sight of Democrats not scrambling to correct them. It's a sad, stubborn fact that those who profess to act on behalf of the 'American people' -- a wretched, glib phrase that should be retired -- don't seem to realize that the American people also includes us. Or, as this year's Newsmaker of the Year, Rachel Maddow, puts it, Democrats 'are afraid to run against people for being antigay, in the same way they're afraid to run against people for being anti-abortion.' Which, in its bluntest terms, means we're only politically useful when we're being denigrated.
Which brings us to Carl 'for the people except the homosexual ones' Paladino, the gubernatorial Republican candidate for New York, who took denigration to an exciting new level when he told a group of Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn that children shouldn't be 'brainwashed' into thinking that homosexuality was a 'successful option' before realizing that one of those brainwashers was a nephew involved in his own campaign. He promptly withdrew his remarks, unwittingly providing one of the best answers to the Ricky Martin conundrum: Being out changes those around you -- or at least wipes that shit-eating grin off their faces. It also remains the single most compelling justification for the Out 100, our annual celebration of gay men, lesbians, and bisexual and transgender people for whom homosexuality and success are not mutually exclusive. I, for one, would love to see Paladino address this group. It includes the head of the world's best-known movie studio ( Rich Ross), the first gay female bishop (Mary Glasspool), the number-crunching whiz kid who forecast the results of the 2008 election with eerie precision (Nate Silver), the first out gay man to host a daytime show (Nate Berkus), and several politicians whose political talents show Paladino for the dilettante he is (David Cicilline;Pedro Segara;Christine Quinn). And yes, OK, also an ex'flight attendant (Steven Slater) who executed this year's most creative resignation. It takes a village, after all.
One notable omission is Dan Savage, whose 'It Gets Better' campaign took root just as we were closing the issue. That's a shame since the deluge of video testimonials, from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to Tuscaloosa, represents the most empowering grassroots movement of the year and constitutes proof that organized gay politics is not the only way -- or even the most effective -- to bring about change. Anyone who has seen the video featuring Fort Worth city councilman Joel Burns will not quickly forget the quiet power he brings to the dignity and legitimacy of being gay. It may be hard to believe that such a simple thing should still need saying in 2010, but really, it does get better -- just a little more slowly than some of us were hoping.