Rachel Maddow Is Not An 'Angry Young Man' — And Neither Am I

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It seems like a million years ago that I was an introverted, closeted lesbian, forced to spend every day in a suffocating classroom, in a rural farm community. Looking at me now, you would probably never know that I came from a primarily white, protestant, homophobic town in Southeast Michigan. Now, I confidently wear a James Dean-esque haircut and boxer briefs, but, just six years ago, I was struggling to come out in a high school where it was commonplace for prominent gay figures to be slandered. 

There’s an exact moment that I will never forget. Sitting in my senior practical law class, I meekly attempted to justify to my peers the idea of gay marriage. My teacher, an incredible, liberal man, who seemed just as out of place in that school as I did, sided with me, but a young man sitting three rows behind me blurted out, "Gays. Disgusting. Why should they be able to get married?" I lowered my eyes and mumbled about celebrities, like Ellen, paving the way for equality in this country. His response: "That dyke."

That moment marked a downward spiral in my youth. This was the first time I had taken a stand on marriage equality in front of my classmates, and the reaction was negative, to say the least. I struggled for the remainder of my senior year, defending myself against violent threats and verbal abuse.

When I read an article this week on Advocate.com about Tricia Macke, a news anchor on the local Fox station in Cincinnati, referring to Rachel Maddow as "such an angry young man" on her Facebook page, I was outraged. When a fan asked her (in the comments) to apologize, she passive-aggressively said, "… I'm sorry. I should have said antagonistic." 

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Of course, as a lesbian who could physically pass as a 16-year-old boy, I’ve become accustomed to such attacks. In the various forums where I've posted my writings, I’ve been referred to as an "angry dyke" and even a "man-hating lesbian." I’m 23 and have been out for almost six years; I don't cry over every negative comment regarding my sexual orientation anymore, but I do think back to high school and remember a time when such statements would completely unhinge my entire self-perception and esteem. 

According to BullyingStatistics.org, LGBT teens are "two to three times as likely to commit teen suicide than other youths." While I never attempted or truly considered suicide as a teen, the idea of struggling through my entire life as I had been in high school seemed like a daunting notion. How would I ever accomplish anything, I thought, with the "burden" of being gay, which seemed to cause so many people to instantly loathe me?

The problem with comments like Macke's is that, not only do they force LGBT youth into hiding, but they perpetuate the bullying mentality. When a prominent local figure condones and participates in the defamation of the gay community, it tells our youth that it’s acceptable to ostracize their peers based on their sexual orientations. Minors (especially high school students) are severely influenced by celebrities, both local and national. Such behavior from an older figure sets a precedent of discrimination for younger fans.

Rachel Maddow is known for her distinct voice and far left-wing politics. Like Ellen, she’s a pop-culture inspiration to the LGBT community. To target one of our icons with derogatory statements essentially allows young people to believe that a gay individual who has an opinion is simply unacceptable. Continue reading...

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Dan Savage began the "It Gets Better Project" to tell America’s LGBT youth that, though coming out of the closet is an ominous task, their quality of life will improve significantly over time. The problem, however, is that part of the reason the homosexual lifestyle does become more tolerable with age is that we become accustomed to hearing statements like Macke's. We become hardened to the negativity because it’s part of our daily lives. No, I no longer face the threats of getting physically harassed, nor do I have to walk around being tormented to my face, as I did high school, but I still have to endure hearing about my idols being slandered solely based on their sexual orientations, as well as being called an "angry man-hater" just because I find it inappropriate for random men to ask me about my sex life — and I have the nerve to say so.

What Macke failed to realize is that, by taking a jab at Maddow, she opened the door to bullies and told young lesbians that if they express strong opinions, they'll be knocked down. I'm a testament to the fact that it does "get better," even as certain public figures remain an obstacle for LGBT youth to overcome.