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Gay Rights: A Look at Two Young Americans


I missed this profile on William Sleaster (above), the Concord High School student who challenged John McCain on gay rights last week (some of which can be seen in the clip below). Sleaster made headlines when he followed up his questioning by telling McCain, "I came here looking to see a leader. I don’t."

Sleaster told the Concord Monitor: "It may have been disrespectful, but he discriminates against me and my people. If he walked in there to Tide Pride (the school's LGBT support group) Monday morning and started dropping sexual slurs, we wouldn't shake his hand and say, 'Thanks for coming.' That's why I didn't shake his hand and say, 'Thanks for coming.' I regret nothing...Going into it, I was looking to be impressed. I was looking for him to be the leader type," Sleaster said. "But he didn't show that at all. He seemed very weak. He didn't have any good ideas at all."

Sleaster says that some of his views crystallized after coming out to his classmates last February as bisexual: "It was a good thing to do, to come out like that. Then I knew the whole don't ask thing, the policy, was very flawed. Pretending your sexuality is something it's not is very difficult to do. Even liking both sexes, you can't just pretend you like one. It's very hard to do."

He even understands why he was scolded for his strong words to McCain: "I believe (what the teacher did) was proper. They wanted us to shake the candidate's hand. They wanted to make sure I didn't make Concord High look bad. I understand why they might have been worried."

The need for young people like Sleaster is made ever-apparent by the rising Fundie youth in Louisiana.

DentonContrast Sleaster's perspective with that of Louisiana State University student wingnut Michael Denton (right), whose school paper yesterday published an opinion piece a hate piece he wrote called "America needs to stand against homosexuality" which basically spews the talking points of the worst of the right-wing Evangelical bigots:

Writes Denton: "America needs to grow in self-confidence on this debate. The homosexual argument is illogical; sexuality is obviously meant for reproduction. Any sexual activity that is opposed to life is intrinsically disordered. Yet we continue to refuse to stand up for ourselves, allowing courts, school boards and speech codes to dictate political correctness to us. There are few greater debates in America today. The gay marriage issue threatens marriage and the family, which are the very foundations of society. Unless America decides to stand for something in this case, we'll continue to fall."

Denton is very concerned about the "homosexual movement": "They know they can't win in elections. Despite all of their efforts to convert us, an August 2007 CNN poll still shows 57 percent of Americans opposing gay marriage. So they ignore the democratic process and rush to friendlier courts. To top it all off, they're using sex education programs to jam their views down the throats of school children. They're not looking for debate; they're looking for victory at any cost."

As much as we think youth is on our side in the gay rights debate (and I still believe it is, as a general trend), bigoted slugs like Denton will still rise from the spawn of the worst kind of Bible Belt bigots. I'm just grateful folks like Sleaster will be around to take 'em down.

The teen who challenged John McCain [concord monitor]
America needs to stand against homosexuality [the daily reveille]
(thanks, Zeke and Peter)

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  1. Denton, the poor kid, is the product of a brain-washed culture that discriminates against all minorities. I'd love to know his perspectives on Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc. It is HIGHLY unlikely he is only bigoted against gay people.

    Posted by: dec-20008 | Sep 13, 2007 9:42:16 AM

  2. What is so fundamentally flawed about Denton's editorial is his inability to seperate fact from opinion. He says "sexuality is obviously meant for reproduction. Any sexual activity that is opposed to life is intrinsically disordered." Words like "obviously" and "intrinsically" allow him to state his opinion without having to rely on any sort of proof - scientific studies, psychological research, etc. Unfortunately, in Louisiana, though, his audience probably does think his opinions are obviously true. I think William Sleaster is great - I think its amazing how kids in high school today can, in some places, be so relaxed and comfortable with their sexuality - whether they are gay or bisexual. They are my hope for the future.

    Posted by: Kevin | Sep 13, 2007 9:43:28 AM

  3. Oh, I see. I understand. We're gonna hear about Denton off and on over the next couple of years. The final time will be about a tryst in a bathroom stall, indubitably.

    Posted by: OhIsee | Sep 13, 2007 9:45:56 AM

  4. Denton's opinion piece kinda reminds me of the science project that my parents did and I turned in. I think the real authors are probably Mr and Mrs Denton.

    Posted by: Dan B | Sep 13, 2007 9:48:09 AM

  5. I am a young gay man who came out at school and I now work with other young LGBT people giving support and a safe space to hang out.

    People like Sleaster make me proud of being gay and give me so much hope.

    I wanted to write a response to Denton's piece... but it would just make me angry and take away from the "WOO HOO!" I'm giving Sleaster.

    The youth of today are going to be the ones to rid the world of hate.

    Sean xx

    Posted by: Sean Green | Sep 13, 2007 9:48:36 AM

  6. i'm sure this denton, little troll from hell, listen to ja rules !!!!

    Funny to see how a geek like him and a giant twat like ja rules can have so much in common when it 's about hating gays so much !!!

    they make me wanna puke ...

    Posted by: taz389 | Sep 13, 2007 9:53:18 AM

  7. Who is Denton fooling?

    The little girl is just putting up a front to keep the parental units from figuring him out.

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Sep 13, 2007 9:59:16 AM

  8. I'm sure i'm going to get bashed so here goes. While I disagree with Mr. Denton's oped, I believe that calling a "slug" is inappropriate. Some of us grew up and continue to live in the "bible belt of bigots". He was probably raised to think this way. We should have compassion that someday his view will change. I myself grew up in this same environment and it took me many years to come to terms with who I am. It is very hard to come to grips with something you have been taught from birth to realize it is wrong. I don't hate Mr. Denton. I don't think he is a slug. He is just the product of parents, family, and/or community that has trained him in this manner of thinking.

    Posted by: Matt | Sep 13, 2007 10:02:17 AM

  9. An argument that I wish someone would make re: marriage being only to facilitate reproduction (though I don't personally feel this way) is the question of infertile couples or post-menopausal couples. Should their marriages no longer be valid? Is their love not full since they are unable to have children? This Denton kid's article makes me so angry because it advocates such a tunnel vision about the world.

    Posted by: Jeff | Sep 13, 2007 10:03:47 AM

  10. Matt -- thanks for your comments. While Denton's oped really makes me angry, I kinda agree with you. It's easy for me to forget sometimes that, until well into college, I was a closeted, conservative republican from the midwest. ugh. Admitting that now, even anonymously on a board like this, makes me queasy and a little ashamed that I couldn't have been more like William Sleaster.

    The scary part is that if I were not gay, I would probably have continued down that path. Being gay forced me to challenge my own views, internally, and ultimately made me a better person (i.e., a liberal :-).

    Let's hope Mr. Denton has something in his life that will do the same for him.

    Posted by: darb | Sep 13, 2007 10:22:32 AM

  11. The irony of your comment, Sean Green stings:
    "The youth of today are going to be the ones to rid the world of hate."

    With turds like that Denton nerd out there trying to perpetuate hate against (adult) homosexual men and women, I'm less confident than you are. I didn't make it through a tough adolescence to become a relatively happy, authentic adult only to put up with uninformed rhetoric from some stupid, backwater kid.

    I want to mush Denton's glasses into his face and I hope someone beats his ass down.

    Posted by: CF | Sep 13, 2007 10:30:16 AM

  12. Mr. Denton proposes to suppress what he sees as a problem, he does not provide for a real solution to his issues and therefore continues to live deprived of reality. I just hope school officials at LSU offer him the proper help so that he doesn't become a Cho Seung-Hui.

    Posted by: Rafael | Sep 13, 2007 10:34:03 AM

  13. Thanks for bringing the good and the ugly to our attention, as always. Good work, Andy. I've sent a note to the LSU student paper's editor:

    There is a maxim that states, “good ethics begins with good facts.” The maxim is applicable to the ethics of publishing (even) opinion pieces in student newspapers. Even without addressing your columnist Michel Denton's personal ethics, or whether his column (and yours) properly should be described as “hate speech,” the facts upon which Mr. Denton’s arguments are based are so wrong, that the ethics of publishing his opinion are in question. It’ll be an easier course for you and your editorial board to default to a free speech, its-his-opinion-don’t-blame-the-paper defense; but that’s not the higher road out of the mess you’re now in. Why don’t you assign a few reporters – maybe even Michel Denton, included – to research and report on the science of sexual orientation? I’m not sure that Mr. Denton will want to be redeemed by the facts, but your paper can and should be.

    Posted by: gacbos | Sep 13, 2007 10:43:01 AM

  14. Yeah Andy, the kids are young but stories like these, sadly, are a dime a dozen.

    Just recently we had another Tale of Two Gays in the headlines.

    First, the story of an out proud gay man who won the presidency of the Young Democrats of America. His name is David Hardt:

    This will probably be future William Sleaster can look forward to.

    And then there's the sniveling, closeted sexual predator president of the Young Republicans (one of THE most anti-gay organizations in America) and his story:

    I bet Glenn Murphy Jr. looked like, sounded like and acted a lot like Mr. Denton when he was in college.

    The irony shouldn't be lost on anyone that IN THE SAME YEAR both the Young Democrats and the Young Republicans elected gay men to presidents of their respective organizations. The Young Republicans HOWLED with homophobic glee at the news that the Young Democrats elected a fag to lead their organization.

    Well WHO'S howling now?

    Posted by: Zeke | Sep 13, 2007 10:47:35 AM

  15. Denton = classic closet case. I know - I went to a major southern univ. with guys like him and they were also major self-hating closet cases.

    Someone should do a significant psychological/sociological study of the College Republican male of the last 25 years (after Reagan got going). I bet the findings would be eye-opening.

    And yes, I was in the closet in college (late 80s) and I was a College Republican for a time (although not in any way like these types).

    Posted by: ATLSteve | Sep 13, 2007 10:53:14 AM

  16. Ten years from now Mr. Denton's minivan---with stickers for kis kids' soccer teams--- will be seen parked outside his local (porn) video rental store, and it's likely that he'll come outside with dirty pantknees. I've seen his type before.

    Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Sep 13, 2007 11:01:35 AM

  17. Please, like we are going to all learn something about sexuality from some college student. It takes a lot of arrogance for someone with his age and experience to preach to "Americans" about sexuality. I bet he's a freshman (probably a virgin too).

    Posted by: Meeg | Sep 13, 2007 11:12:03 AM

  18. I think Jeff brings up the biggest issue I have with Denton's viewpoint. If sexuality is merely for reproduction, should we condemn sexual acts committed for the sake of pleasure? So infertile couples and couples who use birth control and couples who are beyond the age of reproduction should be condemned for having sex for pleasure? If sex were merely for reproduction, there would be no evolutionary purpose in receiving pleasure from it. Only those who wish to reproduce would do it and would do it solely for the sake of reproduction. So why do we receive pleasure from it?

    Also - even if homosexuality is an abnormality in nature and the only purpose to sex is reproduction, does that mean homosexuals should be treated any differently than any other human being possessing some trait that is unnatural. Like left handedness or a mental or physical handicap? Infertility would be as much an abnormality in nature by his standards as homosexuality. Yet we do not deprive those who are infertile of the right to marry and have sex or freedom from job discrimination.

    All this coming of course from a kid who probably has never had sex and therefore should not be taken seriously when it comes to making a case for the purpose of sex at all. I think its good that people like him exist simply because the majority of Americans have sex for reasons beyond reproduction so would be able to see the flaw in his thinking and dismiss his case. Those who agree, well you're never going to change their minds about homosexuality to being with, so why bother?

    Posted by: Jake | Sep 13, 2007 11:17:36 AM

  19. RE calling him a "slug," Andy is entirely right in doing that. What would you call Sleaster, "naughty boy; very naughty boy"? We are still effectively under Society's boot, with countless numbers of us afraid to come out to our family and friends, even ourselves, because most of our movement has been afraid of being called impolite or rude or what the fuck ever as if we were perpetually living in some kind of prissy Sunday School class instead of the real world in which we are denied legal equality, verbally and physically brutalized, and clubbed, knifed, hung, shot, our bodies set on fire. McCain was speaking as a bigot yet the courageous kid who called him on his bigotry was condemned for being "rude." If he'd said that Blacks or Hispanics or Jews shouldn't be allowed to serve in the military would teacher have worried about anyone being rude to him. If he'd said he'd never heard the term "NAACP" the same way he went blank on "LGBT"?

    You don't stop bigots or their bullets, figurative and literal, with hearts and flowers or tea and sympathy. Read what Ms. Louisiana said again—slowly, outloud. He is demonizing millions of people; calling on people to see us as a "threat." That is hate speech; that is the kind of rhetoric that leads those who physically attack us to feel justified.

    Referring to him as a slug is not just hissy fit name calling but a call to others to understand the seriousness of his lies, of what he is proposing.

    Years ago the Smothers Brothers had a comedy song routine in which Tommy falls into a vat of chocolate and starts yelling, "Fire! FIRE! FIIRRRRE!!!" His brother asks, "Why did you yell 'Fire'?" Tommy replies, "Because no one would have come if I'd yelled 'CHOCCCOLATTTE!!'."

    Posted by: Leland Frances | Sep 13, 2007 11:22:19 AM

  20. If Mr. Denton feels that by prohibiting gays from marrying, the survival of the already overpopulated human race will be ensured, the he needs to look up the world "homosexual" in any 8th grade Life Science textbook. Prohibiting gays from marrying will not make them heterosexual. Homosexuals tend to avoid sex with those to whom they are not attracted. The institution of marriage is not solely available to tohse who can or plan to procreate and should not be denied to anyone who cannot do so by Nature or will not do so by choice. If that is his basis for preventing homosexuals from marrying, then anyone infertile or unwanting of children should also be prohibited from marrying or having sex at all. After hearing his thoughts, I would argue that the pool of those who are capable and wanting of procreation needs a better lifeguard. Clearly his parents' willingness to procreate has not served mankind well.

    Posted by: BDD | Sep 13, 2007 11:23:17 AM

  21. I'm going to echo Matt's comment and say that this Denton is a product of his social sphere. Calling such a person names won't ever change their viewpoint... anymore than them calling us names has changed ours. However, having truth and right on our side WILL eventually change the viewpoints of more and more people.

    Maybe someday even such an ignorant person as Mr. Denton.

    Posted by: Dean | Sep 13, 2007 11:25:10 AM

  22. Denton is young, to be sure, but he is not a kid. These comments above that dismiss his actions because he's "just a product of his environment" border on moronic. Compassion is one thing. But dismissing his actions as excusable is not only stupid, it's dangerous.

    Posted by: Gregg | Sep 13, 2007 11:26:16 AM

  23. Denton is right about one thing: sexual activities do exist for the sole purpose of recombining the genetic information from a male and female into an offspring to further the species.

    Unfortunately, what many people fail to realize is that the mechanisms that encourage organisms to mate(i.e. sexual drive, emotional attachment, etc) are still present in homosexuals even though our sexual orientation has been switched and the end result of sexual activity is moot in biological terms.

    They don't understand that we're simply living organisms whose mechanisms responsible for emotional bonding and sexual drive are intrinsically hardwired into our brains. And thus, homosexuality has nothing to do with morality.

    From a humane perspective, our most basic instincts for love and sex, common to all people, should be grounds for respect and acceptance.

    Ignorance; alas, impedes the gay rights movement

    Posted by: Miguel | Sep 13, 2007 11:28:06 AM

  24. When I look at young Mr. Denton, I keep visualizing what a young Senator Craig might have been like.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Sep 13, 2007 11:29:18 AM

  25. Hey Miguel - how did you come to deem procreation the SOLE purpose of sexual activity? Is that a study you did in your living room or something?

    Posted by: Gregg | Sep 13, 2007 11:33:11 AM

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