It is not always easy to be who we are, but as we grow up and mature and develop coping mechanisms that enable us to survive and thrive in a complicated world, we have the responsibility to reach back and help others still struggling along the way. In so doing, we can also help ourselves. Above all, we cannot allow each generation to grow up in a world where they feel they are alone while we carry so much knowledge, history, and foundation that we can, and must, pass on to them.
Keith Boykin, For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Still Not Enough (2012)
Gays and lesbians have served as the butt of insensitive and offensive jokes for generations. To suggest smacking a “dude” simply because of his attraction to or appreciation for a male sports star is clearly homophobic, which is the second important issue raised by Martin’s tweet. Even if the violence he encouraged wasn’t to be taken seriously, the homophobia at its root seemed to be.
I’ve known Roland Martin since 1995, and when I spoke to him Wednesday night by telephone he insisted his controversial tweets were not meant to be homophobic and expressed his willingness to meet with officials from GLAAD. Martin said he was merely singling out Beckham because he plays soccer, a sport he says he has repeatedly ridiculed on Twitter in the past.
As you might expect from any medium that limits your posts to 140 characters, Twitter is not the best place for subtlety and nuance. Most Twitter followers don’t research your history of previous posts before they respond to your remarks. Thus, I did not find Martin’s soccer explanation plausible when I first read it online, but he seemed to hold onto it sincerely when we spoke on the phone.
I have no way of knowing what Martin was really thinking when he posted his tweet about Beckham and another one about a Super Bowl fan in a pink suit, but the effect of his remarks was real to many people. Even if we take Martin at his word that he posted completely innocent tweets, it’s easy to understand how the gay community could interpret them differently and be offended by them, especially given his own past statements.
It was Martin, after all, who seemed to defend comedian Tracy Morgan last year after the NBC 30 Rock star was criticized for a homophobic comedy routine performed in Tennessee. And it was Martin who defended Miss California, Carrie Prejean, after she expressed her disapproval of same sex marriage during the 2009 Miss USA pageant.
And as far back as 2006, Martin posted a comment on his web site suggesting that homosexuality was a choice that gays could simply resist. “My wife, an ordained Baptist minister for 20 years, has counseled many men and women to walk away from the gay lifestyle,” he wrote. In the same article, he compared gays and lesbians to “a woman who is an alcoholic, the child who continues to be disobedient to his parents [or] the young lady who is hell-bent on stealing.” Martin ended his piece with a final statement of purpose: “That isn’t being homophobic. It’s being a Christian. And no one should have to apologize for that.”
Martin is entitled to his opinion, and I don’t think he should be fired from his job simply because of what he believes. But given those beliefs, why wouldn’t gays and lesbians assume Martin’s tweet about smacking a male fan of a shirtless David Beckham was meant to be an insult to gay men?
Lots of people have asked me for information about getting published and basically there’s no single formula for doing it. These are the steps I would recommend:
Finish writing your manuscript or book proposal. If you’re writing your first work of fiction, agents and editors at publishing companies will expect you to submit the entire manuscript. If you’re writing nonfiction, you can usually get away with writing a book proposal of 50 or so pages, including a sample chapter. Michael Larsen’s book, How to Write A Book Proposal, is very helpful.
Have someone you trust edit your material with a critical eye. Don’t be afraid to get some constructive criticism from your reader(s).
Identify literary agents from reading acknowledgments of books that are like your own or from lists of agents printed in books about writing (e.g., The Writers Digest Books). Keep in mind, however, that some good agents are oversubscribed and are not accepting any new clients unless the work is extraordinary (which is rare).
Contact agents to find one to represent you. Some people choose not to use an agent, but I recommend that first-time authors find an agent unless they (a) plan to self-publish or publish with a very small press, or (b) already have inside connections and knowledge of the literary world that an agent would typically have.
Submit the work (through an agent or not) to as many publishers as possible.
Don’t forget about small publishers. The small press may not be able to pay you a big advance, but they can usually give you a lot more personal attention than you would get at a big NYC house. If you’re looking for a black LGBT publisher, consider Ishai Books in Tampa (Ricc Rollins), Redbone Press (Lisa C. Moore), or Grapevine Press (Qevin Oji) for example. For an LGBT publisher, consider Alyson Books in Los Angeles.
You may also want to consider self-publishing options. The great advantage to self-publishing is control and money. You have control over the timing, process, and editorial content of what you write and you reap all the net profits. The disadvantage is also control and money. Because you control the whole process, you have to make all the decisions (right or wrong) and live with them. You also have to spend your own money to get it published. But believe me, a good first time writer with marketing skills can usually make a lot more money by self-publishing than by going to a publishing house.
Don’t give up. It’s not easy to find a publisher, and even if you do there’s a lot of details to work through and work out. Many writers receive dozens of rejection letters before they ever receive an acceptance. The difference between a published writer and a wannabe writer is often not based on talent, but on tenacity.
My own books were published by Doubleday (One More River to Cross, 1996) and Avon (Respecting the Soul, 1999).
(This article originally appeared on my website in 2001.)
Keith Boykin (born August 28, 1965) is an American broadcaster, author and commentator. He was editor of The Daily Voice, a CNBC contributor and a co-host of the BET TV talk show My Two Cents.
A former White House aide to President Bill Clinton, Boykin was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended Countryside High School in Clearwater, Florida, before graduating from Dartmouth College.
After leaving Dartmouth in 1987, Boykin spent a year and a half working for Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign and then entered Harvard Law School, where he was a leader in the campus diversity movement and general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. He received his J.D. from Harvard in 1992 and then joined the Clinton/Gore Campaign in Little Rock, Arkansas. After Clinton’s election, Boykin became a Special Assistant to the President and Director of Specialty Media. Once the highest-ranking openly gay person in the Clinton White House, Boykin helped organize and participated in the nation’s first meeting between gay and lesbian leaders and a U.S. President.
Boykin left the White House to write his first book, One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America, published in 1996. He released his second book, Respecting the Soul, in 1999.
From 1999 to 2001, Boykin taught political science at American University in Washington, D.C.
So apparently I talk like I'm from DC or St. Louis
So apparently I talk like I’m from DC or St. Louis, which I am, so I guess I can’t complain, even though I think of myself as more of a New Yorker. But it’s kind of amazing that this little test can pick up on my dialect just from asking me a series of questions. Especially since I haven’t lived in St. Louis since 1980 and haven’t lived in DC in more than a decade. The test is very interesting. Check it out.