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Going Out On A Limb: Isaiah Washington vs. T.R. Knight

By | 2018-01-16T08:55:59-05:00 February 1st, 2007|Opinions|

By Billy Masters

In the heat of an argument on the set of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Isaiah Washington allegedly told Patrick Dempsey, “I’m not your little faggot like T.R. [Knight]” – a statement that was overheard by T.R. and other cast members. By Knight’s own admission, he never had any prior problems with Isaiah. In fact, he was never treated badly by Isaiah, who knew of T.R.’s sexuality.
Frankly, I think this whole situation is a bunch of nonsense, and people are too damn sensitive. Does Isaiah have a problem with gay people, or did he actually use the word not knowing how offensive some people find it? The answer shouldn’t have any bearing on anyone – other than Isaiah, of course. If T.R. was happy with his relationship with Isaiah, does it matter if Washington’s civility was real or fake?
If Isaiah had turned to T.R. and said, “Get away from me, you little faggot”, that would be different because he’d be using the word specifically to hurt Knight and express hostility. But that was not the case in this incident, and I really think everyone has to get over it.
It’s important to understand the dynamic among actors on a set. Performers who work together for any length of time have a relationship similar to that of a dysfunctional family. As someone who has acted under such conditions, I can assure you that many nasty things are said between colleagues when tensions run high. What makes these situations bearable is the knowledge that this is a closed environment. We blow up, but we get over it. But what if that isolation is breached by someone who leaks what was a private moment amongst colleagues to the press? It explodes all over again in the media and spins out of control.
Should this episode have ever gone public in the first place? Or was it something that the folks involved should have dealt with privately? Conservatives often say that things that happen in private trickle down to society and affect us all. This is used in arguments against such issues as abortion or gay marriage; for example, if the girl down the street has an abortion, it somehow affects me – which is funny, because I don’t even know any girl down the street! Liberals often counter that what people do individually doesn’t (or shouldn’t) affect anyone else.
I certainly don’t mean to imply that calling people names behind their backs isn’t wrong – although I’m obviously the wrong person to chastise anyone for that! There are, however, different degrees of wrong. You wanna tell Isaiah, “You shouldn’t use that word”? Go right ahead. But can you legislate tolerance or acceptance? Can you make everyone love you or approve of your life? I don’t think so.
The moment anything gay happens, GLAAD does what it does best – jump into the middle of it and start sending out press releases. I was at a GLAAD fundraiser recently, and a higher-up kept talking about “us” versus “them” – as if gay people are a group of lepers trying to leave the commune and enter society. I suppose one could chose to look at oneself as a victim, but why make that choice?
In this case, I’m sure the folks at GLAAD have the best of intentions. I kinda understood the press release admonishing Isaiah for using the word “faggot.” But then the group sent out a second release condemning CNN’s Glenn Beck for using the word “faggot” when discussing the Isaiah story, instead of the allegedly more politically correct term “the F word.” Who on Earth makes up these rules? Maybe I’ll be attacked because I used the word “faggot,” too. Except I won’t. Why? Because I’m gay, so I’m allowed to use it. A double standard? You betcha.
Isn’t it somewhat hypocritical to get bent out of shape about a term that many gay men use in referring to themselves? Many guys call themselves “gay,” “queer,” “fag,” “sissy,” “girl,” etc. By definition, I suppose T.R. is indeed a little “faggot” since Mr. Webster terms faggot as “a male homosexual.” But as a straight person, Washington can’t use that word – because if he does, then it’s a slur, right?
Here’s another thought – how often do gay men discriminate against others who aren’t “straight acting”? In case you don’t know what that means, let me translate it for you – “straight acting” means that the person in question doesn’t act like a “faggot.” How many homosexuals look down on a guy who acts too “gay” or a gal who is too “dykey”? Happens every day. But, again, we can do it because … well, because we’re gay.
Maybe someone was trying to do T.R. a favor by leaking this story to the press. After all, isn’t this the best thing that could have happened to his career? Last month, he was a relatively forgettable member of an ensemble show. Now even people who don’t watch the show know his name. He can say he doesn’t want this type of attention, but the press is talking about him. Strike that – they’re talking TO him. He’s a guest on talk shows that, up until a few weeks ago, he’d be lucky to get audience tickets to.
There’s no such thing as bad press for someone trying to build a career in the public eye. Look at Mel Gibson – everyone called for sanctions against him, and yet “Apocalypto” made millions at the box office. The controversy didn’t seem to hurt him. Look at Paris Hilton. She’d always been a Hilton, but once a video was leaked of her fucking Shannon Doherty’s husband, she gained something more – fame! Heck, even Monica Lewinsky, despite pleas for privacy, parlayed 15 minutes into a handbag business. And what about Vanessa Williams? Do you think she was happy to be the first defrocked Miss America? Those nudie photos were a huge source of embarrassment for her. But that attention gave her the opportunity to have a career most former Miss America’s don’t get. Where is Suzette Charles today? (FYI, she’s the chick who took over for Williams as Miss America).
Ultimately, Knight should consider this whole brouhaha a great big gift-wrapped package – and you know how we gay men love a big package. So, say thank you, T.R. Buy Isaiah something nice. And let’s all move on.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.