In the Spotlight

News & Features
Gay TV
by Marisa Helms
December 23, 1999
Click for audio RealAudio 3.0

A new cable-access show airing in Saint Cloud takes a closer look at homosexuality. The show's creator and host says the program is designed to educate people and, hopefully, lead to a greater acceptance of a wider range of lifestyles in Minnesota.

For More Information
See Kinpride's Web site.
MICHAEL SMITH is taping the third episode of his new cable-access talk show in Saint Cloud.
Smith: Hi everyone and welcome to Kinpride, an interactive show about homosexuality.
A few weeks ago, Smith brought Kinpride to the airwaves of central Minnesota. He wants the show and its Web site to become an educational resource and virtual meeting place for Central Minnesota's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender - or GLBT - community.

On this night, Smith is interviewing two guests from the local chapter of P-FLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. P-FLAG's Warren Bradbury says a show like Kinpride might help people in Stearns County move away from a "don't ask, don't tell" way of thinking.
Bradbury: That's really been the standard throughout small communities, especially throughout Minnesota. Folks have understood that their neighbor may be gay or lesbian, and said, "We're not going to ask, we're not going to tell," but more and more gay and lesbians are saying, "We'd like to be more comfortable with who we are, and we'd like you to be more comfortable with who we are too."
Host Michael Smith, who is gay, has lived in Saint Cloud with his partner for eight years and recognizes this "don't ask, don't tell" mentality as another shade of homophobia.
Smith: There's a lot of homophobia out there. And if someone would have watched the show, they might have tuned into it and get a perception of what is this? Are they trying to recruit me or promote homosexuality?
Though Smith has a pioneering spirit, and wants to be a positive voice he's also careful to reassure people that Kinpride is not, as he says, a recruiting tool.
Smith: I, quite honestly, don't understand homophobia, because I'm gay. But on the other hand, I grew up gay, but I acted the straight life. And my friends, even if they thought I was gay, were never afraid of it. But there's people in small towns that don't have that perception, that would think that a gay person if you come out to them, you're coming on to them. So using that type of thing, I'm doing the show, I'm educating, I'm not recruiting.
Fearing: In many ways it depresses me that we have to so often couch our work in some ways with terms like, "We're not here to recruit." It's ridiculous.
Scott Fearing is statewide community organizer for Out Front Minnesota, a gay advocacy organization. He travels around the state to help gay individuals and support groups organize toward equal rights and greater acceptance.

Fearing says he's heard anecdotes about gay men and lesbians faced with housing and job discrimination in Saint Cloud. He says the problem of homophobia - not just in central Minnesota, but throughout the state - is based on ignorance and a lack of understanding. Fearing praises Michael Smith for airing Kinpride and is optimistic about the show's potential to build some bridges.
Fearing: Research has shown and it's been proven time and time again, the best way to move someone beyond their issues of hatred and their fear is for them to meet and talk to and get to know a real live, gay, lesbian, transgender person; to understand the humanity behind it.
Saint Cloud is the heart of what's considered to be the most Catholic region of Minnesota. The Saint Cloud Diocese plays a prominent role in the lives of thousands of Central Minnesota Catholics through community programs and services.

Christine Codden is Director of the Diocese's Family Life Bureau which helps parishioners with issues dealing with family, marriage, and sexuality. Codden says Catholic doctrine calls everyone to chastity except a man and woman who are married to each other. So, though homosexuals are accepted by the Catholic Church as living, thinking, human beings, the church teaches if you happen to be born gay, you must remain chaste your entire life.

The Family Life Bureau counsels gay parishioners on how to grapple with their sexuality which, as Catholics, will always be at odds with their faith. While the Diocese's Christine Codden agrees education about homosexuality is needed in the Saint Cloud area, she wouldn't yet recommend Kinpride to parishioners. Having seen just a few of the programs, Codden is still figuring out what the show is all about.
Codden: I don't think they've aligned themselves of where they're coming from. What are they promoting? Is it the lifestyle, a gay-lesbian lifestyle? Or is it support and a helping with homophobia that we can get that behind us? I'm all for those kinds of things. But if it's for advocating a gay lifestyle, I would be concerned with that. So I haven't seen a lot of that yet, and I don't know where it's going.
Another of Codden's concerns is the show's time slot: 4 pm Tuesday afternoons, just as kids are coming home from school. But Kinpride's Michael Smith disagrees his show would be harmful to young people in any way.
Smith: I think it would be a good thing for a kid to watch it. Again, it's not a promotional tool, or recruiting tool, it's just there. I remember, quite honestly, going to a couple of counseling things when I was 16, and I saw a receptionist there who knew a friend of mine, and I left. I struggled. If there's somebody out there who may question it, this might be a great show for him, to understand, "Hey, I'm not a freak."
Though no anti-gay incidents have been reported to the Saint Cloud Office of Human Rights this year, there is a general consensus that gay and lesbian residents of the city find they're not fully accepted.

Kinpride may turn out to be the kind of introduction to gay life many central Minnesotans need to understand a lifestyle different from their own. Kinpride comes to the airwaves at an interesting time. In just a couple of months, Saint Cloud State University will host a national conference for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people called Making Waves Into the New Millennium.