This weekend, Ellen DeGeneres and her wife, Portia De Rossi, attended a Dallas Cowboys game with George and Laura Bush. People saw the two of them together and took to social media to express their concerns. Because many responses were what Ellen called “angry,” she felt moved to answer this question: “Why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?”
In this video she says it’s because she is friends with a lot of people who don’t hold the same beliefs she has. She went on to remind people that it’s okay that we are all different and that she stands behind her message that we should be kind to everyone.
In her statement, she also she joked that while everyone was focused on who she was sitting next to, no one noticed that she was holding the new iPhone 11.
Ellen doesn’t seem to notice the platform of privilege she is standing on when says these things.
I am queer. I am nonbinary. I am a parent. I have a transgender child. I am in the trenches every day to educate and advocate for myself, my child, my family and all members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Yes, I believe kindness is a virtue we should all lead with. However, I am really exhausted by the expectation that the queer community and all marginalized voices are expected to be kind, nice, and patient while others actively work to take away my rights and humanity. I am not shown the same kindness, or even safety, by those who don’t agree with my “lifestyle,” and yet I’m expected to lead with kindness?
Ellen can make her own choices about friendships, but I struggle with the number of people sharing this “feel good” story as if it is about hope and learning to love each other even when we disagree. My human rights as a queer person are not something I am willing to “agree to disagree” with about with someone.
Members of the queer community are being killed, discriminated against, ignored, and bullied. The Supreme Court is hearing three cases today that will determine my rights as an employee. My existence, my daughter’s existence, is being questioned. My livelihood is being threatened by judges who were voted into their position to do so by conservative republicans who don’t value the lives of LGBTQIA+ folks the same way they do straight, cisgender folks.
Ellen missed the mark here. It’s not up to the queer community to celebrate friendships with people who don’t view us as equals. In fact, it makes bigots feel even better about their trans and homophobia. They use examples like these to showcase how they are not wrong for their “opinion.”
I can be respectful and kind to people from all levels of ignorance, religious beliefs, and misguided biases. But friendship is not a word I use loosely. That relationship needs to stand on reciprocal support and unconditional love.
Ellen’s message is not one of love. It’s the default reaction when we don’t want to make others uncomfortable. She had the opportunity to advocate for those of us not sitting in football stadiums with a new iPhone and taking videos of celebrities. I wish her message instead would have been this: “Hey, this guy made some mistakes. Here is what I am teaching him about our beautiful community. Here is how he will be an ally.”
And where is George W. Bush’s statement about his friendship with Ellen? Because a true friend will advocate for the people they love, not in spite of their beliefs but because their beliefs change to align with actual kindness and humanity. If George W. Bush has reversed his stance here, we would love to hear about it, but I’m not holding my breath.
Disagreeing about LGBTQIA+ rights is not the same as disagreeing about parenting styles or if we should be eating meat or not. This is about seeing someone as a human being who deserves equal and equitable treatment no matter their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
And if we can’t agree on that, we can’t be friends because that’s not how friendship works.