Inside out

Coming out kinda sucks.

Unless you’re a celebrity you inevitably have to come out over and over. I did it again last week in a piece for the Desert Sun’s LGBT magazine, Desert Outlook, on reparative therapy. I didn’t particularly want to write the column.

I’m a journalist. That means the stories aren’t about me, even when sometimes they are. I agree with Anderson Cooper’s journalistic sensibilities. The less people know about me the more likely I will be judged for my work, not for who I am. Of course, I am the sum of my experiences, even if I don’t fit neatly into anyone’s preconceived ideas.

At the time I wrote the story and my column, Gov. Jerry Brown hadn’t yet signed the nation’s first reparative therapy ban into law. He would make it a nail-bitter event waiting until the last possible day he could sign or veto the bill. Already the conservative group Liberty Counsel that uses litigation to press its religious agenda is challenging the law in court.

There are no reliable statistics on the number of gays who attempt to change their sexual orientation through reparative therapy. The largely discredited therapy has been criticized by all the major associations. Called “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, the pseudo-psychological method relies on the antiquated premise that homosexuality is a deviant, lifestyle choice.

Gay activists are hailing its passage as an important weapon in the culture war. I’m not so convinced. The battle over hearts and minds isn’t going to be won with legislation. It’s going to take men and women of courage everywhere, sharing with conviction their life openly and honestly.

Here’s a link to the magazines and my story: http://www.mydesert.com/desertoutlook/October2012.htm.

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Misquoted!

Reporters are supposed to misquote people, not get misquoted. Welcome to Indian Wells.

Indian Wells ekes money. From their lattice flowered bus stops and manicured luxury golf homes, residents boast the highest per capita income in the Coachella Valley and pride themselves on old fashion manners, propriety and decorum. Irony being what it is, those are the very things that have been sorely missing in the council meetings I’ve covered the past year. Their taped meetings are can’t-miss, unscripted reality TV at its best.

So, last Thursday, council members finally voted after months of haggling to voluntarily lower their monthly stipend from $2,300 to $1,750. The move comes weeks before voters will have their say about reducing the pay even further, to $1,000 a month. No one that I recall has spoken favorably of the council doing this. It’s widely viewed as an effort to circumvent the voter initiative. But I still had to scramble on deadline to find someone.

Here’s what Gail McQuary said in my Sept. 20 story:

“Lowering council’s pay, McQuary said, means the job will only attract those who are retired or wealthy.

‘If you want the best people on the council you have to pay for the best,’ McQuary said. ‘You pay them what you think they’re worth. If you think your council people are only worth $1,000 a month then your council people aren’t worth very much.’

‘I think it shows that we have no respect for them.’”

Of course she said more than I could ever print, which is always easier than someone who gives one-word answers. In the course of our discussion, McQuary lamented the amount and asks if I would ever work for $1,000 a month. Naturally I have, but I don’t relish minimum wage much. I see what she’s getting at, though. She’s equating council members’ public service to a fulltime job, which goes to the heart of the issue: Are council members full time employees? I don’t want to debate her. I just want a quote. I say no, which is of course true because I don’t want to ever have to work for $1,000 a month again, if I don’t have to.

Fast forward two weeks.

Gail steps up to the microphone and talks about being quoted in the newspaper and how she got calls from a silent majority who agree with her. All very nice. And then to press her point, that council members are underpaid, she added, “When I asked Nicole if she would work for $1,000 a month, she didn’t hesitate to say no.”

Good grief!

All I could think was, Jesus! These meetings run on TV. Next thing you know, I’ll be endorsing candidates.

Don’t get any ideas, Gail.

This is why I do it

EDITOR’S NOTE: So, I’m messing with my blog today and I see my “About Me” category is empty and I think, Shit. And I bang out a couple of graphs, press “publish” and notice I’ve already written an introduction of sorts. Oh well…

I’m a journalist. I ask questions.

I wasn’t the kid who always dreamed of being a journalist. I sort of stumbled into journalism because of a really cool professor who thought I had talent. But I’ve stayed in journalism because of Lupe, a West Texas widow who sought a 21-gun salute for her war-decorated husband. After the initial story, a reenactment group contacted me and I put them in touch with Lupe. A week later with gunsmoke still hanging in the air, I walked across the cemetery with my reporter pad and asked Lupe the dumbest question, “What does this 21-gun salute mean to you?”

A big crockadile tear spilled from her eye and her lip quivered as she choked out, “Thank you.” And then Lupe embraced me and cried.

I learned two very important things that day. First, there really are no dumb questions because it’s not about the question. It’s about the answer. And the second thing I learned was that my stories can make a difference. That was 2001, and I have never looked back.

I’ve won plenty of awards and accolades for my work over the years. But the greatest thrill for me is still listening to people’s stories and seeing my byline in print.