I’ve thought more deeply about Britney Spears interviews than I have musings by Brandon Ambrosino about sexuality. Ambrosino is the person who in an essay for Time Ideas, cited the ever so popular fairytale-like version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and politics so he could to peddle the following sentiment: We gays ought to be just a wee bit more sympathetic to the people who equate us to bestiality enthusiasts and can’t wait until we burn in hell for all eternity.
I’m paraphrasing, but Ambrosino is a gay writer who defends homophobes, says being gay is a choice, and uses his insecurities about his sexuality to demean others in his community to the delight of people who hate gay people. Ultimately, though, his recent hire at Ezra Klein's new online venture, Vox.com, which has provoked a melee of criticism, is about white gay people getting their turn like everyone else: Welcome to the other side, white gays and friends.
As a gay black male writer, I'm already bored by the lily white depiction of gay life, so I am even less thrilled to realize that people would rather read the musings of a "I don't like this gay thing either, guys" gay than entertain the thoughts about sexuality and culture from the actual people of color sitting on the big gay rainbow.
And so I understood the frustration expressed over his hire. It didn’t help matters when Klein didn’t appear to be all that familiar with Ambrosino’s work, and the career-boosting instances of “controversy” it often spurred. Even so, I couldn’t help but dually feel amused by so much of what I read over the situation.
Mark Joseph Stern notes over at Slate: “Ambrosino writes in only one mode, an irritating combination of smug sophistry and homophobia apologism, and his sole aim seems to be to inform conservatives that their worst fears about gay people are absolutely correct.”
And elsewhere in the same piece: “Ambrosino’s worldview, so far as he has one, is primarily comprised of crass opportunism and toxic narcissism. His writing is a quagmire of tedious ideas and sloppy prose; his angry jabs at the LGBTQ community reek of a writer legitimizing his insecurities by presenting them to an audience that should know better.”
What makes me laugh, though, is that all of the language used to describe Ambrosino’s work and how damaging it is could easily be used to describe all of the black conservatives who have dismissed history and the dignity of their people in order to have a media career among folks that, more often than not, very likely hate them.
Brandon Ambrosino is Don Lemon, Herman Cain, Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Alan Keys, etc. And there have been plenty of women over the years who have been willing to throw other women under the bus for a come up, too. Like their reluctance to brand racist and sexist things as racist or sexist, Ambrosino avoids the term “homophobia” at all costs. And as Media Matters’ Luke Brinker points out, Ambrosino’s passivity towards bigots and gay contrarianism has won him conservative media figures like Glenn Beck and right-wing media outlets such as Breitbart News and TownHall.com.
And yet, because I am just as black as I am gay, I find it odd that when Don Lemon came out, many of these same mainstream outlets celebrated him, though no one in those spaces challenged his generalizations about black people being more homophobic than anyone else or the attitudes black women have about gay people. I addressed how poisonous those remarks were, but I was one of a very few of a particular hue.
Every minority group experiences this -- a person willing to demonize their community at the chuckling of the majority. Ambrosino is nothing more than the latest incarnation of a longstanding tradition. Isn’t it funny how that now finally manages to get a rise out of some of us? And while I hate to play spoiler, even if Brandon Ambrosino’s keyboard were to spontaneously combust in protest, there will only be more like him. I agree with Rich Juzwiak when he describes Ambrosino as a “performer” and a “clown.”
Indeed, that he is, and there are plenty others waiting in the wings to create the same sort of spectacle in search of similar success. To those complaining about his hiring, I get it, but know that his hire is the first of many. That is how it works. Go on and get used to it like the rest of us. You’ll deal, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll notice how often it happens for other groups.