Earlier this month we found out that Dustin Lance Black, the 39-year-old Oscar-winning writer of Milk, was dating a 19-year-old diver from Plymouth, England. Literally overnight, it became one of the latest buzzed-about gossip items relating to a same-sex couple in the public eye.
Black first rose to mainstream recognition in 2009, after his inspiring acceptance speech for the Harvey Milk biopic at the Academy Awards. Some said the speech became a poignant, yet much needed message for hope in the time of Proposition 8 and a wave of gay teen suicides.
“I think Harvey Milk would want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value. No matter what anyone tells you, God does love you,” he said.
It took just two minutes onstage for Black to become a new face of the gay-rights movement. The recent uproar over Black dating his latest lover, Tom Daley, revolves around the couple’s 20-year age gap. Gay comic Louis Virtel tweeted it best when he said that Black should use the “twinkie defense” to justify his love.
Black himself has retained a youthful, spritelike look. He does not look a day over starring in a CW drama. But that hasn’t stopped some in the LGBT community from criticizing his taste in men.
Mocking intergenerational relationships is easy. Sugar daddies, cougars, boy toys and trophy wives: even straight gossip-mongers have a field day with it.
However, when women such as Madonna or Demi Moore score hot dates with men barely old enough to get into The Café (a 21-and-over gay nightclub in The City), they seem to be able to revel in a “you go, girl” attitude. I have yet to read about anyone high-fiving Black for his new catch.
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that Black is somewhat controversial. Shortly after his Oscar win, a sex tape was leaked reportedly featuring Black engaging in “bare-backing.” That is anal intercourse without the use of a condom for all you hip grandmas out there. Black’s campaign as a safe-sex advocate was purportedly smeared with hypocrisy once the tape surfaced.
The screenwriter sat inches away from me at Dolores Park during San Francisco Pride last summer, and my friend, educated and not one to read Perez Hilton, pointed to him. “It’s that guy with the sex tape!” Oh, yeah, him — the Oscar winner.
It’s unfair that Black, once the poster child for gay rights, is now being used as evidence for the opposite. “We can’t trust the gay male subculture not to use foster care and adoption as a means of finding fresh boy meat,” wrote one anti-gay blogger.
Even among our own community, why can’t we accept the choices of consenting adults — not using a condom with your monogamous partner, making a sex tape, dating someone much older — without disregarding their character?
Then we wonder why LGBT role models are hard to find. Perhaps our net is just not wide enough.
Oscar Raymundo is the head of marketing at a leading LGBT media company. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.