SteveBlanchardHeadshotEarlier this year I made a trip to my home town just south of St. Louis. I hadn’t been there in nearly four years, but a medical procedure with some potentially serious after-effects involving my mother prompted the two-and-a-half hour plane ride north.

Fortunately, everything worked out well with mom, but her short hospital stay meant I had a little bit of time to myself at the house in which I was raised and where she and my dad still live. The day after the surgery I left the hospital before my father, who wanted to spend a little more time with his wife of 42 years. So I was home alone and passed the time by browsing through the pile of mail on the kitchen table.

I wasn’t being nosy, but I saw that my parents still subscribe to the American Family Association Journal – the monthly publication created by the far-right, anti-gay group in Colorado that is offended by anything rainbow-related. Of course, I had to take a quick look through its pages.

When I lived at home, I would browse its contents every time my parents had tossed it to see which television shows had the organization worked into a frenzy. My parents and the church to which we belonged hailed the publication as a guide to morality in a de-moralized society headed down the irreversible path to the end times.

But I used the information differently – especially regarding entertainment.

The Journal has a section in which it lists television shows that are “offensive.” The key code on the side lists reasons for the negative ratings, ranging from violence, too much sex and, of course, positive portrayals of homosexuality.

Growing up, that guide was exactly what I needed to ensure I didn’t miss the good stuff premiering on network television.

In hindsight that’s funny. But the Journal really did help me find programs that showed me the feelings I had toward other boys wasn’t so strange that no one had experienced those feelings before.  It also directed me to movies that also depicted the “homosexual lifestyle” in a way that was “offensive to good Christians.” In a way, the AFA Journal helped me discover the classic films Too Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar and The Birdcage.

Now that I’m older, the entertainment section didn’t interest me so much. The broader cultural stories did – especially the March cover story on the Boy Scouts of America and the threat against it by homosexual extremists. A sidebar notes that the Pentagon could extend benefits to same-sex partners, meaning that the “forced intimacy” of gay soldiers is now invading the five-sided symbol of our armed forces!

I also saw an old issue that “helps” Christians love homosexuals without loving their sins – something I know my mother really did struggle with when I first told her I was gay.

And, to add insult to injury, every reference to marriage equality is written as gay “marriage,” which is the equivalent of using air quotes when referring to something that’s not exactly legitimate.

The experience of simply flipping through the magazine was frustrating, and with each headline I read and every article I perused, my blood pressure would rapidly rise another notch. More than once, audible groans escaped my throat, breaking the silence in the house that otherwise was only broken by the sound of flipping the pages.

The closed-mindedness of the organization drips off every page of the Journal, and knowing this nutty group is getting funding from members of my own family was depressing!

I didn’t say anything to my parents about the subscription. Maybe I should have, but having an emotional discussion that focuses on religious intolerance probably isn’t recommended for someone just a day out of surgery. And tackling the subject with my dad, who was already stressed to the max, just didn’t make sense.

The experience made me re-evaluate the role I play in the LGBT community and made me proud to be involved with a publication that truly shows what it means to be LGBT. I can only hope that more people see anti-gay discrimination in publications as exactly that, rather than as some holy manual to a misguided moral truth.

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