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Why the Sexual Orientation of Daniel Hernandez Matters

Fairly quickly after the horrific shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, news spread across the LGBT blogs, that the intern who was crucial in saving her life was gay. I chose not to write about it, mostly, if I’m honest, because I couldn’t think of any way to write responsibly and add to the discourse that was already out there. Simply repeating what others were saying didn’t seem to me to be useful. And, frankly I’m still reeling so overwhelmed by the very fact that the massacre happened, that I’m speechless. I began a post, titled, “Has the next civil war begun?” But that is another story. Right now I want to talk about why Hernandez’s sexual orientation matters, because I haven’t seen anyone articulate that.

Maybe, it seems common sense, especially to LGBT readers, but is it really? I think often “we” want to hear about how “our own” are heroes, and we each take a bit of pride in it. But the real importance goes much further than that. All of the sites who wrote about Daniel being gay and a hero deserve big accolades for making this so visible. But, what about the mainstream press? Not a word of his sexuality (that I can find).

But there is chatter out there on Twitter and Facebook, as well as comments in the blogoshere, suggesting that mentioning Hernandez’s sexual orientation is unimportant and mentioning it is wrong.

This ought to have everyone up in arms, and here’s why. The anti-gay groups do everything they can to paint gay, lesbians, bisexual, and trans women and men as the villains, and evil. Even legitimate news sources like CNN treat these anti-gay groups as if they are reasonable authorities when it comes to LGBT issues. Consider the coverage following the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), where gays were called sexual predators. So these negative images get entered into the public dialogue, even when they are false and pure fantasy. But positive images seem to be overlooked or called “unimportant.” We need to make sexual orientation known, not because it had anything to do with the fact that Daniel acted heroic, but rather because, we must add positive images to the public dialogue about LGBT’s to counter the garbage, the lies and the misinformation.

Mentioning it in relation to the massacre is problematic however. Because, in some regard, his sexual orientation is irrelevant. He saved Representative Gifford’s life, not because he is gay, but because he is a great person, who stayed calm and did all the right things for all the right reasons. His sexual orientation becomes important when the generic image of “gay” put out there for the average news consumer, is negative, and when folks are allowed to think they don’t know of any gay people, or know of any gay people who don’t fit the negative stereotypical hate stuff. But if the positive folks aren’t identified and celebrated at the time, then when will this become known? It is like making sure that these facts get entered into history, while history is being written.