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By Sean Kosofsky
As I began writing this column, news was pouring in about the “not guilty” verdict in the Michael Jackson criminal trial. I was glued to my computer and television watching one talking head after another throw out sound bytes of wisdom, anecdotal accounts of their friendship with Michael and talk of whether he still has a future in pop entertainment.
I have to admit I was filled with joy when I read that Jackson was acquitted. His trial was a modern day witch-hunt filled with innuendo, attempted shock and awe and guilt by association.
I think homosexuality was on trial here, and America’s fears about adult queer men being around adolescent and pre-pubescent boys. Admit it! People think he’s gay or they think he’s a freak, which should concern GLBTs, because we all face the same fate whether Michael bats for our team or not. Looking weird, dressing weird, and just being weird is not crime, but if you do it in the company of young men you must be a pedophile. The sex-phobic society we live in makes honest discussion of sex, sexuality and especially youth sexuality very difficult without some kind of panic.
The sexism involved in homophobia is rich. If our young boys are molested or raped they are not even boys anymore, right? Their boyhood has been stolen from them. Yet we treat cases of pedophilia or criminal sexual conduct differently depending on the age and sex of the participants.
If you are gay and you want to volunteer or work with young people, your intentions must be sinister, damning you from day one. If you are gay and you use a public rest area, you must be there for public sex. The trial of Michael Jackson was a three-ring circus and thank God it was not too overly televised like other trials that monopolize our regularly scheduled junk on TV. I am relieved by his acquittal because now everyone gets to talk about false allegations, predatory homophobes, opportunists and why artists of Jackson’s caliber are often misunderstood by their peers and their communities.
I am mixed in this joy because I am troubled by Jackson’s aloof and puzzled impression of what was happening to him. His disdain and detachment from the trial and his own disrespect for courtroom etiquette is just the beginning. He clearly has more issues than Time magazine and is not doing a convincing job showing that his intentions with these young boys are altruistic or innocent. Jackson is a role model and leader in many ways but he needs to speak publicly about the difference between caring for young people and being a predator. People will listen.
As a gay activist I see the swarming media and the public discontent with the accusations as ignoring a big elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about Jackson’s sexual orientation or accuse him of being gay because they don’t want to be accused of homophobia. But the venom that people have for him, even his fans, has been drenched with homophobia.
As a fan of Michael Jackson and a gay activist I see a man collapsing under his own ego and fame because of unproven allegations that he did something wrong. There is no talk of prevention or creating healthy relationships between men and boys in our society, just people screaming for blood or screaming for his autograph.
Jackson is one of the few mainstream artists with a real message in his music about justice, peace, helping the poor and needy children. Those eager to crucify him need to revisit his reputation and sort through the gifts he gave us through his music, dancing and visual talents. With compassion we may see what really happened and open our hearts to a man whose main crime is not fitting in. Assimilationists take note.