The New Normal – Student Review

The pilot to The New Normal starts with the augmented chord of an Apple Computer’s error tone. Compared to many television shows portraying the LGBT community, so far this sitcom has relatively few errors. (Well, okay, there may some errors in the family matriarch’s statement “I am extremely tolerant to all peoples: when they opened that Chipotel [sic.] here I was the first of my friends to go, and that is Spanish food.”) Perhaps the most complex character in the pilot episode, she is a strong and powerful woman who has been dealt challenging life experiences. She is also–as her great-granddaughter puts it– a bigot.

I’m not sure whether the target audience of this sitcom is LGBTQ and allied youth. I personally cannot yet relate to any of the characters. Certainly not the upscale gay couple (sweet as they are) with their spoiled pooch having a baby, or their first pick for a surrogate mother who tries to blackmail them, or the single mother with the precocious daughter. Moreover, not all of the jokes worked for me.

A significant problem is that all of the characters—gay and straight—have relatively stereotypical personalities. We have the wealthy gay couple with the effeminate and the masculine partner the precocious quirky child born into the dysfunctional family (a la Lisa Simpson et al), the struggling small-town single-mother, and the politically-backward elder.

That said, this show looks to be one of the better recent portrayals of a gay family in a major network sitcom. It could become stronger with development of the existing characters, and hopefully exploration of class and gender struggles that could grow organically from the pilot. As the first prime-time sitcom on a major network in which the gay couple are the main characters, rather than taking a supporting role, if The New Normal shapes postive public views of same-sex parents that probably would not be a bad thing.

The pilot had an estimated 6.9 million viewers, which is considered decent since many saw the episode online in advance. NBC’s Utah affiliate elected not to carry the program citing the possibility of overly crude content. One Million Moms [not surprisingly] is boycotting the show.

So far, the reaction to the pilot on Facebook has been mixed. Leaving aside the homophobic posts, some viewers found it “witty” and “charming” while others expressed concerns about lack of racial diversity in the cast as well as cliché characters. Indeed, there is nothing particularly original or deviant about the storyline so far. Then again, this is not The New Deviant; it is The New Normal.

-Ben Safran, Haverford College ’13

Opinion: Looking up at the Stars

Tomorrow, Zach Wahls, a young icon for LGBT equality, will address the Democratic National Convention. It’s a great moment for the LGBT rights movement to have the child of a same-gender parent home to address a national political convention.

However, I pause at the channels that promoted his rise to stardom.

Since I began organizing in this movement, I’ve seen a cult of personality form around young LGBT heroes. Like clockwork, once a year, adult leaders seem to let catapult one youth into national stardom. I am humbled that some of these youth are friends of mine, but I want to dig deeper at the way the LGBT movement works to embrace individual leaders. I believe that in the best contexts, celebrities can provide inspiration, but at its lowest, display shallowness. Too often today, we are presented with individual icons talking about themselves – rarely with leaders representing movements of people.

In 2010, we welcomed Katie Miller to the stage. She boldly resigned from the military at West Point just before DADT was repealed. She became a fixture on national news programs speaking out as a young person against discrimination in the armed forces. Since then, she has articulated a message of inclusion she shares at events across the county.

In 2011, we celebrated Daniel Hernandez. While he asserts that he was not an LGBT activist, he happened to be gay and a student intern with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at the time she and others were attacked. His quick support of the congresswoman proved to be a great help to her survival – and Daniel has since been hailed as a hero across the United States and accepted numerous honors.

This year we come to Zach Wahls, who rose to fame with his passionate testimony defending marriage equality on the Iowa House floor. He has written a book about growing up in a same-gender parent household and spoken at many large forums. Moreover, Wahls has embraced activism in opposition to the boy scouts’ ban on gay members.

Generally, these young icons come from privileged backgrounds, or come to fame because they are close to channels of political power. We can only ponder if they would all be regulars on CNN if Katie had not come from a prominent military background, if Zach was not as charismatic, or even, if Daniel worked for a conservative congresswoman. Would even their stories be heard? We can be excited and sure they have bright futures ahead in politics and leadership.

Looking at the stars of the LGBT community, what is a young, transgender youth of color supposed to look up and see? We can only hope one day for a reflection.

The pattern of LGBT youth heroes seems to send the message that primarily white and privileged youth are the ones who deserve to be promoted to the national stage, literally. I write this intentionally as a white, gay student, in solidarity with all the stories buried and forgotten.

The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s grappled tremendously with this issue. Leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Roy Wilkins would regularly draw thousands of people to hear them speak. Mostly they were male and successful community leaders.

Ella Baker, a proponent of forming the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the major student-run arm of the civil rights movement, believed that a community should lead together, instead of being the followers of a few charming individuals.

In a biography of Ella, former SNCC participant Joanne Grant writes that she “believed strongly in the importance of organizing people to formulate their own questions, to define their own problems, and to find their own solutions…she held firmly to the concept of group-centered leadership rather than a leadership-centered group.”

I am concerned that spending so much time honoring celebrities over humbling ourselves to local advocacy can further LGBT community stratification. At least, it would be nice for us to push the larger LGBT movement to give the spotlight more to ordinary folks we can believe in too.

In the end, civil rights movements have seen their greatest successes when normal, everyday people banded together to realize their power. It wasn’t by carrying anyone else’s autograph – but by becoming our own heroes.

Zach Wahls clearly deserves this speaking engagement. And I will definitely watch and cheer him on. But in my mind, I’ll be waiting for the day a national political convention invites a queer youth to the stage to tell her story of fighting for the lives of others – and not just commentating on it with a few calculated talking points from an agent.

How long should I hold my breath?

This opinion post was written by Jason Landau Goodman, a student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and can be reached at

OPINION: Youth must be catalysts for change

Every November, we witness an all too familiar scene. Politicians become prone to gaffes courtesy of the 24-hour news cycle, middle-aged constituents concerned about tax increases and job security get fired-up with yard signs and canvassing efforts, and youth become…


On my way to the gym on Temple University’s campus last week, I stumbled into a wall of on-the-spot voter registration officials, each one boasting a clipboard and a smile that — to the ordinary passerby — screamed “I’m here to interrupt your day” more than “I’m here to help you participate in an honorable public service.” Curious, I humored the apparent poacher who stopped me, a dark-skinned young woman of about 21 who had an endearing smile and a valiant political energy, and allowed her to persuade me to fill out the necessary registration paperwork on the spot.

Granted, I knew I had already registered even as I was dotting my Is and crossing my Ts, but I wanted to see the process “in action,” and that I did. Signing my name and wishing her well, I walked a few feet past her and stood to watch her colleagues fail in their attempts to flag down college students, who rushed by as if their life depended on where they were going. Even more strikingly, I observed as low-income, North Philadelphia constituents who could easily decide the outcome of the election in the fall turned their nose in ignorance to the registration forms waved in front of them.

Why is it so taboo, such an extraordinary hassle, to be politically involved?

A total of 59% of eligible voters between 18-24 are currently registered to vote. Granted, considering only about a third of the United States’ population votes, this is not a terrible number of registrants; however, being registered and actually voting are two very different things.

Consider this: Out of all the folks with a Bachelor’s degree in the 18-24 bracket, only 51% of those people actually take advantage of their voting power. By comparison, 82% of those 65 and older with a degree voted in 2008.

What, then, is the difference between a 22-year-old college graduate, and a 65-year-old college graduate? One might imagine a fresh-eyed 22-year-old being more empowered as a voter with their life ahead of them than a 65-year-old who has, more than likely, already decided their social and financial future.

Moreover, despite the assumed higher level of political involvement in the Northeast, roughly 3% more youth showed up to the polls in the Midwest in 2008, with minority youth from the Northeast being in the bottom half of the voting totem poll.

Mind you, LGBTQ voting trends among youth are not part of that “minority” category, something that sticks out like a sore thumb on a data sheet in this day and age.

I understand that youth may feel as if they “don’t matter” or that their opinion is invalidated by a lack of life experience, but these are insecurities that must be left behind in large numbers if our country is to be properly reflective of its population. In the case of LGBTQ rights, youth must wake-up and realize that representatives will only open their eyes and begin to care when their chances of re-election begin to look bleak because they can’t win the LGBTQ voting bloc. This is a sad but true reality not just for LGBTQ individuals, but all groups of voters looking to boost their whispered voice with a megaphone.

But that doesn’t mean becoming a defeatist, that means working that much harder to put pressure on representatives and grant your voice the clout it deserves.

Youth hold a unique power in today’s democracy that is largely unprecedented: We are fierce, individual media sources capable of influencing more people than most in the 65 and older bracket can imagine. Though your Facebook or Twitter network may feel like an intimate resource for sharing what you had for breakfast, it actually represents your own mass media opportunity to make your voice heard and participate in the political process in a way that can complement your vote.

I plead youth to stop seeking excuses to not be involved, and start seeking reasons to deepen your own involvement and widen the involvement of your peers. Voting is not an opportunity, it is an obligation, and not just for your parents and grandparents.

Despite the gloomy prospects for voter turnout among youth this fall, with a middle-of-the-road president in terms of popularity and a vanilla Republican candidate who can’t help but remind me of Herman Munster, I still remain optimistic that youth will in fact surprise the masses and come out in large numbers in November.

The power of today’s youth is something no politician should discount, and it is their unique responsibility to make that message ring loud and clear when Election Day approaches on November 6.

This post was written by Brandon Baker, student at Temple University and director of communications for the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition.

WHAT PRIDE MEANS TO ME: Feeling the love on and off the dancefloor

The Keystone Student Voice celebrates June 2012 as LGBTQ Pride Month by hosting a compilation of personal essays written by students/youth across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on what “pride” means to them.

Philly Pride came and left without me giving much thought to it. As a recent graduate of college, I was broke and had a family to spend time with and dinner to prepare. But, while cooking with my girlfriend and listening to Ingrid Michaelson on Pandora, I remembered what my pride was: my healthy, beautiful family; my education; having a roof over my head in a great area of the city; coming home to someone who loves me and challenges me intellectually; my identity.

My sexuality is fully woven into every thread of the fabric of my life. Do I need to pay 10 dollars to be with large crowds of sweaty people still navigating their fabrics, or fully content in their identities, surrounded by the sounds of Beyonce and Brittney? Although I do enjoy a Thursday night on Sisters’ dance floor, this year Philly Pride just wasn’t where my heart was. A year ago, I was waving a flag or wearing a rainbow belt to every kind of gay shindig I could get to. I have matured and evolved in the past year and have begun to simply live my life. I am obviously active in the LGBTQ communities because of my work and my studies and passion for equity and justice. But now my pride is usually subconscious. My every day is powered by pride, passion, and love. When obstacles arise, I take them on. Can it be scary? Absolutely, but that’s life. It’s a roller-coaster of challenges — especially for a queer woman.

I have had the privilege of a supportive community of family, friends and mentors and hope to never have to walk the paths of individuals I’ve read about. I’m currently nose-deep in Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg and Jess’ story of love, loss, and the world of butches; and the pain these people suffered is insurmountable to that which we rarely endure here in the City of Brotherly Love, Sisterly Affection, and Genderless Independence.

I like to think of Outfests and Pride celebrations as moments to celebrate together as communities but also as a time of remembrance of the lives lost and silenced because of their pride. I am proud of my community of queer, straight, trans, fluidly ambiguous friends and family. I will never let a festival overshadow that. I am me. You are you. I live my life proudly everyday.

This post was written by Natasha Wirth, PSEC’s director of development and student at Arcadia University in Philadelphia.

WHAT PRIDE MEANS TO ME: Look How Far We’ve Come

The Keystone Student Voice celebrates June 2012 as LGBTQ Pride Month by hosting a compilation of personal essays written by students/youth across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on what “pride” means to them.


Stepping off of my train into the city, lugging my bags down the street and clumsily dropping one on my toe as I stumbled over myself, I stopped in my tracks for a brief moment to catch my breath before finally looking upward to see something pleasantly unexpected. Towering above my head was a scrolling text advertisement displayed from a skyscraper that advertised June as “Philadelphia LGBT Pride Month” – with the lettering decked-out in all things rainbow, of course. On a personal level, the in-your-face neon colors seemed a bit much for my taste, but beyond that existed a heartwarming realization that progress has in fact been made.

Having just come from a visit to my hometown, a loud and proud member of the “conservative T,” I was instantly reminded of the stark contrasts to be made in a state that is as diverse as it is culturally schizophrenic. To the far east and far west, we have bustling urban centers that – for the most part – are welcoming to LGBTQ life and frown upon acts of discrimination and intolerance. Philadelphia boasts anti-discrimination laws that are few and far in between in the commonwealth, and Pittsburgh touts its own set of municipal laws that come to the aid of LGBTQ individuals, albeit like a knight in dull, somewhat rustic armor bought for a bargain at a thrift store. Not perfect protection, but there nonetheless, and leading the pack as inspiring examples for the less progressive areas to be encountered in the rest of the state.

But more to the point, I found that, standing on the street in the gayest clothes to be found at H&M and sporting a fabulous new haircut, I actually was proud. Proud to feel at home in a city that is placed like an aimless dart in the surroundings of a largely homophobic region when viewed from the grander northeastern perspective, and proud to see that – Philadelphia, at least – does not treat its Pride event as something “hush, hush” or unwelcome in the community. This, for me, was an overwhelming new feeling.

Pride events have come quite a long way in the last few decades – what I remember as a child being broadcast by the nightly news as “protests” or “marches,” now thrive as meetings of great minds and bodies in the LGBTQ community, serving as a means of celebration rather than a shake of the fist to “the man.” But perhaps that is the biggest difference between what Pride means to someone like me, and what it may mean to a less embracing individual watching from a distance and baselessly analyzing the LGBTQ community like a group of ants clustered under a microscope on a hot, sunny day.

Contemporarily, we view our Pride events as a way of rejoicing and enjoying our progress, expressing our own culture in a very public way and living our lives as entirely free and uninhibited individuals for a single day, with the hope of using this same attitude as a foundation for our lives in the future. We drink, we don our drag get-ups, and dance until our legs go numb and we collapse. Essentially, it’s St. Patrick’s Day for gay people.

Yet our skeptics insist that we protest, disrupt and obnoxiously flaunt our “alternative lifestyles.”

It seems, however, that this is quite the opposite. Pride events no longer are organized as advertisements for equal rights, or at least not directly so. We celebrate with the intention of others taking notice and joining in on the festivities, but we do not aim to convert, brainwash children, nor push forward a far-left agenda that right-wingers continue to suggest we stand for. We merely celebrate as a reminder to the world that we are in fact perfectly equal human beings with nothing to be ashamed of.

We commemorate our Pride events this year with the same passion we draw from as LGBTQ individuals during the other 364 days of the year, channeling all of the feelings of positive energy from these days, injecting them with steroids and unleashing them for a day of extravagant festivities and pure joy. I will undoubtedly see a slew of “haters” and no-fun killjoys holding signs with derogatory labels and senseless words of judgment when Philadelphia’s June 10 Pride Day rolls around, but I will simultaneously remember that for every bigot with a yard sign in the world, there are hundreds, thousands – millions, perhaps, more people with loving hearts that stand up for LGBTQ pride and the wholesome values it really represents.

This reflection was written by Brandon Baker, director of communications for PSEC and student at Temple University. Brandon can be reached at

FROM THE FIELD: A breakdown of a new Gettysburg College survey

Students know that it is difficult to gain support for and awareness of their LGBTQIA students on campus – especially in Central Pennsylvania – but it proves even more of a challenge to bring out the “T.”

When students at Gettysburg College conducted a survey regarding sexuality awareness, they were expecting transgendered awareness to be at a low. The survey itself was administered by four freshmen enrolled in an introductory Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies course taught by Professor Nathalie Lebon to 129 random Gettysburg College students from over 15 clubs, organizations and sports teams. When they found that 86% of participants identified as heterosexual, that a majority was unaware of the differences between transgendered, transsexual and transvestite, and that 57% of participants clearly defined penetration as being definitive of sexual intercourse, they felt that their expectations for low trans awareness had become a real possibility.

Yet they were soon proven to be happily incorrect.

A majority of participants from the survey agreed there is a difference between sex and gender, that if they see a person “cross dressing” it does not mean that they are gay and that they are probably interacting with LBGTQ individuals on a daily basis.

Most importantly, 66.3% of survey participants were aware of the debate that had been taking place on the campus regarding acceptance of ROTC credits.

As has occurred on many campuses throughout the country, the acceptance of ROTC credits was again scrutinized after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The question was: Since gays and lesbians are now allowed to serve openly in the military, should we accept credits we refused to accept prior, or continue a ban because of the remaining discrimination of transgendered individuals. Gettysburg College finally voted to allow ROTC credits to be accepted so long as students enrolled in ROTC show active participation in the school’s GSA, Allies, become Safe-Zone Trained, and continue learning about transgendered issues.

There still is a long way to go to fully represent trans inclusion; however, things are changing slowly but surely for the community, and we all have to remember going forward that the “LGB” must never exclude the “T.”

This post was written by Danielle Hernandez, treasurer of the Gettysburg Allies Club.