The need for a powerful narrative, regardless of the truth behind it, is something we have seen grow more influential on the left. Narratives drive politics, but narrative has become a defining feature of how progressives view themselves and approach the concept of “truth.”
Within the LGBT world, this is even more pronounced. The desire to be viewed as a courageous victim has overtaken aspirations of equality and normalcy. LGBT media particularly appears to be dedicated to this singular narrative above all else.
On October 12, various media outlets reported that Morgan McMichaels, a drag queen on the TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” allegedly broke his hand punching a Nazi after being threatened as a gay man. McMichaels shared an Instagram photo of himself and his cast, and wrote, “I was approached by a man at the store who informed me that he was a Nazi and he wanted to cut my f—-t throat after he took a swing I obliged him and finished the fight…. this f—-t will not be victimized.”
Why Didn’t Reporters Dig Deeper?
Over the next few days, every major LGBT website reported the story. But none of the reports went beyond the initial Instagram post and follow-up, in which McMichaels shows off a newly bedazzled cast while continuing to praise himself for overcoming adversity.
While a few noted that he has not commented further, and no police report has yet been filed, very little due diligence has been done. No witnesses were reported and no footage from onlookers or the store have been mentioned. Beyond the description of “Nazi,” the alleged instigator of the exchange was not described in detail, nor were any details presented of the verbal altercation itself, the extent of the fight, or how it ended.
The single source for this story comes from an individual’s sole claim, and LGBT media seems uninterested in looking into it any further. McMichaels is simply praised for fighting hate, no questions asked.
While more details could emerge to shed light on the incident, it would seem odd to the casual observer that a random gay man in Los Angeles would be confronted by a random Nazi who self-identified as such then proceeded to attack him, unprovoked, in public. On its face, the situation is suspicious, but to continue the narrative to include a public melee so dramatic it caused a broken hand without a single witness or detail is absurd.
Obviously, McMichaels must have visited a hospital to get a cast, but presumably the hospital staff would have asked how his injury was caused. If he had indicated that he had just been assaulted in a public hate crime, the police would have been involved.
The story simply does not make sense. Yet with a combined 200,000-plus likes on Instagram, it is quickly becoming solidified in the overarching narrative of anti-LGBT hate crimes. As Mic editor Evan Ross Katz, pointed out in a celebratory tweet, “Morgan McMichaels wearing an ‘I PUNCH NAZIS’ shirt during a gig, then punching an actual nazi who tried attacking her and THEN having her cast stoned is today’s mood.” If the story is indeed fabricated, it would make sense, and McMichaels might have a motive.
Anecdotal Stories Must Be Verified
In a similar story from October 15, Out.com reported, “Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon has become a powerful role model for young LGBTQ people. But even he faces homophobia.” Rippon stated, “I was walking in New York City and was holding my boyfriend’s hand,” he said.
“Some guy came up to us and said, ‘I hate f*****s’, then ran away. I just said, ‘That’s so sad that somebody would still want to do that.’” He went on to lament that during the Olympics he feared looking at any tweet with an American flag emoji as “…It was always something nasty, and it was always something homophobic.”
Again, without the slightest bit of interest in evaluating the claims presented, LGBT media simply asserted the account was true and representative of what LGBT people routinely face. While New York City is a highly diverse place, it is also one of the most liberal and gay-friendly cities in the country. Surely two men holding hands in public is not an unusual sight there, yet a random homophobe chose to shout that at them? While this certainly could have happened, LGBT media seems uninterested in critically looking at the narrative itself or asking additional questions.
While anecdotal stories are useful and do not require the same level of evidence as an accusation, they must still be reasonably evaluated. Did Rippon receive unkind tweets? Of course he did, he was a highly controversial figure during a major news cycle.
But the assertion that average Americans celebrating their country made him “fearful” acts only to confirm prejudice. The weight of his voice as an LGBT icon means his words have more influence and therefore hold more responsibility. Claiming to be a victim of a hate crime on pure narrative alone creates fear and hatred in the LGBT world when it is possible the event never happened at all.
Linked within the McMichaels story was a similar alleged hate crime that occurred in April 2018 when two drag queens were touring in England. The report claimed a random drunk girl began using anti-gay slurs towards the two men, who began to respond with equal viciousness, as recorded on a nearby phone. While no anti-LGBT slurs are heard, one of the drag queens shouted at the girl, “We’re touring the world being gay while you’re living in Newcastle with your crusty a– eyelashes.”
The article, which claimed the female perpetrator was engaging in “hate,” quoted her as screaming, “You’re a walking STD.” Despite what is clearly a mutual altercation between two equally vicious parties, the article laments, “Still, it’s 2018 and gay people can get slurs shouted at them in public. No matter how great anyone’s response is, it’s scary that it happened at all.”
Does Truth Matter Anymore?
All of this reminds me of a 2013 article in The Advocate, an LGBT magazine, titled “Have We Got Matthew Shepard All Wrong?” by Aaron Hicklin, who was reviewing a controversial book by gay author Stephen Jimenez, titled “The Book of Matt.” The book was a breakthrough in Shepard narrative, revealing through extensive interviews and research that Shepard was likely the victim of a drug-related crime with men he had previously engaged in sex with, rather than the brutal anti-gay hate crime immortalized in his name.
Hicklin says, “All that soul-searching may have felt necessary, especially in light of the legislation the case inspired, but was it helpful in getting at the truth? Or did our need to make a symbol of Shepard blind us to a messy, complex story that is darker and more troubling than the established narrative?” He goes on, “There are valuable reasons for telling certain stories in a certain way at pivotal times, but that doesn’t mean we have to hold on to them once they’ve outlived their usefulness.”
He finishes by providing insight from Dale Carpenter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, which should be a startling and disturbing realization for those of us passionate about equality under the law: “the notorious case of Lawrence v. Texas, in which the arrest of two men for having sex in their own bedroom became a vehicle for affirming the right of gay couples to have consensual sex in private. Except that the two men were not having sex, and were not even a couple. Yet this non-story, carefully edited and taken all the way to the Supreme Court, changed America.”
We cannot trust the media to portray events as they occur but rather as they are useful in a larger social story. While this reflects much of the concern the right has regarding the media as a whole, within the LGBT world it also profoundly affects individuals and their sense of safety and equality. Each story, hastily reported with minimal (if any) fact-checking fuels panic, fear, paranoia, and most importantly, hatred towards people who are otherwise accepting and tolerant.
When every LGBT source repeats the same story without critical evaluation, it creates the perception that these situations happen regularly. Each strengthens the next through repetition, until they all resemble what feels like the truth, if not only evidenced by their sheer number and frequency. Without a critical media, these stories become fictional tales, useful for political gain.
With enough passion and outrage, these fictional stories become the truth of a generation, even if they were never true at all. What is striking is the degree to which LGBT media does not seem to care.