Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Gays for Ole Miss

By John D. Sutter, CNN
October 4, 2013 -- Updated 2331 GMT (0731 HKT)
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
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT