Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Gays for Ole Miss

By John D. Sutter, CNN
updated 7:31 PM EDT, Fri October 4, 2013
John Sutter says gay Americans should root for Ole Miss this weekend, despite slurs football players reportedly yelled at actors.
John Sutter says gay Americans should root for Ole Miss this weekend, despite slurs football players reportedly yelled at actors.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ole Miss football players reportedly heckle a performance of "The Laramie Project"
  • John Sutter: It would be nice if we could laugh at such stupidity; but we can't yet
  • The solution is to give the football players a chance to change, Sutter says
  • Sutter: One way to do that is by supporting Ole Miss and its team

Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion and head of CNN's Change the List project. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. E-mail him at ctl@cnn.com.

(CNN) -- When will homophobia in the United States start seeming so ridiculous it's laughable?

Not in 2013, it seems.

Certainly not this week.

On Thursday, the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, grinned as he compared, in a television interview, same-sex marriage to a brother marrying his sister.

John D. Sutter
John D. Sutter

"I apologize to anybody who feels offended by that," he said later.

Feels offended? Please. That's offensive.

Worse, football players and other students from Ole Miss reportedly heckled a Tuesday night performance of "The Laramie Project," a play about a gay college student, Matthew Shepard, who was tortured and murdered in 1998. They yelled anti-gay slurs, including the three-letter f-bomb, the play's director told the university newspaper.

"This behavior by some students reflects poorly on all of us, and it reinforces our commitment to teaching inclusivity and civility to young people who still have much to learn," two university officials said in a prepared statement.

Homophobes and the football teams that harbor them understand they should apologize.

Maybe that should be seen as an improvement.

But it doesn't seem genuine to me.

These apologies are designed to placate the gay community, not embrace it.

The comments themselves are reduced to the realm of political gaffes instead of being seen for what they are, which is hate speech that contributes to gay kids committing suicide and to parents rejecting kids who come out to them as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

So, how to respond?

One route has been taken by writers like Edward Aschoff at ESPN and Greg Couch at FOX Sports. They've called for Ole Miss to find and suspend the football players who yelled the slurs.

Another way to react -- the one I'd prefer -- would be to laugh these inane remarks off because they're so isolated and aren't indicative of attitudes in modern America.

But that's clearly not the case yet. I spent two weeks in Mississippi earlier this year talking to LGBT people, both closeted and open. The state is hostile to them. Celebrate same-sex marriage in California all you want, but in Mississippi, and in many other states, gay people not only can't get married, but they also can be fired by their employers, evicted by landlords and denied the right to adopt children simply because of their sexual orientation.

Related: The county where no one's gay

These comments aren't random or isolated.

They come from a place of deep-seated ignorance about homosexuality and gay people that leads both to hateful slurs and backward legal arguments.

Silencing those voices won't do the trick.

They need to be won over.

The university is taking a smart step by requiring all students who attended the play on Tuesday night to participate in a "dialogue session" about the hate speech.

But I'll also propose a symbolic response: Root for Ole Miss.

If you're going to their game versus Auburn at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, or to other games this season, wear something to indicate your support for the LGBT rights movement. If you're staying home, tweet a photo or put it on Instagram with the hashtag #gaysforolemiss. Or, if that feels weirdly new-media-for-the-sake-of-it, just tell a friend that you hope Ole Miss wins the game.

(Dear Auburn fans: I don't hate you. Please don't e-mail me.)

One problem I encountered in Mississippi is that LGBT people are largely invisible. They can be out and open about who they are, but their friends and neighbors are comfortable ignoring them, pretending they don't exist, or pretending that's not who they are.

The antidote: Be seen. And give people a chance to change. Show the football players that Gay America is on their side -- that we want to see them succeed.

And if you can't do it for them, do it for Garrison Gibbons, who told the Daily Mississippian about what it was like to be the only openly gay member of the heckled cast.

"... [T]o be ridiculed like that was something that really made me realize that some people at Ole Miss and in Mississippi still can't accept me for who I am."

If you're in Mississippi, prove him wrong.

If not, show him you've got his back.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of John D. Sutter.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:50 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT