Q on the Tube: Titillation 101

There may be no equality for lesbians and gay men in America: Witness the Obama administration’s utterly unnecessary support for the Defense of Marriage Act in a legal brief filed last week, after he wooed lesbian and gay voters by pledging to overturn what he called “an abhorrent statute” while campaigning, not to mention his shape-shifting on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

But while lesbians and gays have largely been excluded from the civil-rights pantheon by the Obama administration, the tube has found a spot for LGBT people: titillation TV.

It’s not all Tila Tequila and her reality show “House of Love” — although that’s certainly the nadir of the titillation trend.

There are the serious news pieces. Sort of.

No coverage of DOMA or “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” No mention of escalating hate crimes against lesbians and gay men. No mention even of the latest state — New Hampshire — to legalize same-sex marriage.

But there’s Adam Lambert. And Chastity/Chaz Bono.

Discussion of their sexuality is apparently supposed to pass for coverage of LGBT issues.

On the June 12 episode of “20/20,” Adam Lambert, the glam-rock runnerup from “American Idol,” reprised his “Rolling Stone” interview by coming out again.

After Lambert lost to Christian boy-band extra Kris Allen, pop-music critic Ken Tucker lamented the loss of one of the best “AI” contestants since Kelly Clarkson won the first show.

But even Lambert, who told “20/20” he’d “always” been out, noted that had he declared himself on the show, the sensationalism would have overwhelmed the competition. As it was, Lambert believes Internet photos of him that surfaced before the final competition hurt his chances.

Because being gay is still scandalous and thus titillating. But being gay is not as scandalous as changing genders.

Chastity Bono, the daughter of Cher and Sonny Bono, announced last week she is transitioning to being male. S/he wants to be known as Chaz from now on. Chastity/Chaz also asked — through a press agent — for privacy, although the tabloid shows were rife with rumors that C/C was selling her/his story to fund her/his upcoming sex-reassignment surgery and that s/he might be having the surgery filmed for TV.

How much more titillation can an LGBT celebrity provide for one week? Who cares about DOMA when Chastity is becoming Chaz and Lambert and his mother are on “20/20”?

“20/20” juxtaposed Lambert with an interview of right-wing radio shock-jock Glenn Beck. Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to pair Lambert’s interview with discussion of that day’s DOMA shocker?

On the June 15 episode of “The View,” Chastity/Chaz Bono’s announcement was the topic of discussion in the hot-topics section. The five women — all mothers — agreed they would support their child no matter his or her decision.

The titillation these news stories provide for the tabloid shows, as well as more serious news magazines like “20/20,” proves there’s a disconnect between what most Americans say to a pollster and what they actually think about LGBT people.

When the administration of the first biracial president of the U.S. chooses the anniversary of “Loving v. Virginia” — the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed interracial marriage, thus making his own parents’ marriage possible — to equate same-sex marriage with incest, that story should pre-empt an interview with Adam Lambert or a dish-fest on Chastity/Chaz Bono changing genders.

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.