What were they thinking? Actually, I hope they weren’t…

They didn’t do it on purpose.

My wife tells me that anything I say about The Chart at Missouri Southern State University will be taken the wrong way. And she is right. But this can’t wait.

The Chart published last week an editorial section that has incensed the LGBTQ community. I will get to the content in a bit. First I want to say a few things.

I found the entire Public Forum section offensive, embarrassing, poorly done and lacking in knowledge or perspective of the topics it sought to discuss.

I also am thoroughly convinced that all of that was without intent of the paper’s top editors. I have known Chart Editor-in-Chief Jordan Larimore since he was 18 years old. He is a sensitive, loving, hard-working young man who has faced family crises and come out stronger on the other side. Larimore would never intentionally hurt someone. I am convinced of that.

And a newspaper’s soul and gatekeeper is its editor.

So let’s talk about what has some folks I love in an uproar with some other folks I love.  Let’s start with what was published.  The Chart published a column with the headline “It’s finally time for me to come out.” It was, I am sure, intended to be a light take on how we all have to admit things about ourselves. But the problem here is that it came out (no pun intended) right before National Coming Out Day.

Oops.

The issue here is that the timing seemed to indicate or at least strike LGBTQ people as a lampoon of a very traumatic and very personal process for some. The columnist was not coming out as gay, but as a “hipster.” To those who deal with outings — chosen and otherwise — this was like comparing Rosa Parks to someone delayed in the WalMart express lane. It trivialized a major and sometimes devastating event on the eve of a day recognizing that personal torment or triumph.

I don’t think the columnist knew about National Coming Out Day. And I hope they learned a lesson. You HAVE to be aware of everything. Your words have impact. I read and I watch and I know things because I have to. I can’t just go home, feed the dog and write poetry and call it a day. Because what I write and what I teach has a real effect. That is being a journalist.

The second hit on this parade was a line from another columnist. Let’s just roll the tape:

“I have no issue with homosexuals, but if you are a man who talks with a lisp, has a limp wrist and collects tea cozies but wonder why others call you a fairy, you may need to look at yourself again.”

Son, clearly you do. This one is more “in your face” than the last, but less offensive to the LGBTQ community. Why?

Because they are used to this shit.  They are used to that stereotyping of them as swishers and bull dykes. They can deal with that or ignore it. It is strength borne of others’ ignorance.

But then they turn to another column in The Chart.

It is about bullying. And this is the salt in the wound. This paper — our paper — pontificates on bullying and in accompanying columns proceeds to bully, demean and hurt an entire class of people who are finally under the University’s equal opportunity policy.

This Public Forum section was “Fag Lion” 2.0.

But it hurt more. Because it was from students and not the administration, not the faculty and not the Board of Governors. It was a bamboo stick right to the quick.

It seemed like an entirely hateful editorial section was intended for maximum pain and targeted at the campus LGBTQ community. But was it?

I don’t think it was intentional. I just think it was the perfect storm of immaturity, lack of awareness and bad columnists.

I know some of those in that newsroom. They don’t ever say, “Let’s go get them.” But they sure need to go get to know them.

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