Ambrosino matriculated in 2003 at religious-right mothership Liberty University, where he reportedly was also a graduate seminary student in 2013. In the past year, Ambrosino has branched out from being a professional tap-dancer to penning poorly-written pieces critical of gays, gay rights, and gay rights activists.
To give you a sense of Brandon Ambrosino’s approach on gay issues, he’s a fan of his alma mater’s founder Jerry Falwell, who once claimed “God hates homosexuality” and later blamed gays and feminists for 9/11. Ambrosino has defended Falwell’s record on gay rights, claiming that the Moral Majority founder was simply misunderstood.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) March 12, 2014
The real Brandon Ambrosino
One of Brandon Ambrosino’s recent articles has him claiming to have “chosen” his sexual orientation. Ambrosino, rehashing a topic that’s long-since been talked to death, apparently thinks gay people (and one assumes straights as well) choose in advance which gender they’re going to find sexually appealing that day. (The gay-hating religious right agrees with him.)
Ambrosino also believes that being transgender is a “choice.” In fact, he calls being trans a “sexual choice,” which even the most casual observer of transgender issues knows it most certainly is not.
Ambrosino also believes that being gay is about “sexual behavior.”
One of the reasons I think our activism is so insistent on sexual rigidity is because, in our push to make gay rights the new black rights, we’ve conflated the two issues. The result is that we’ve decided that skin color is the same thing as sexual behavior. I don’t think this is true. When we conflate race and sexuality, we overlook how fluid we are learning our sexualities truly are. To say it rather crassly: I’ve convinced a few men to try out my sexuality, but I’ve never managed to get them to try on my skin color. In other words, one’s sexuality isn’t as biologically determined as race.
We’re comparing race to sexual behavior? Jerry Falwell couldn’t have said it better himself. As I’ve written before, if you want to get technical – another word for “accurate” – being gay is about sexual attraction, not sexual behavior. A gay priest, who has devoted his life to celibacy, is still gay. Though, ironically, in another piece Ambrosino claims that even if anti-gay GOP Cong. Aaron Schock were to be found in a shower having sex with another man, that wouldn’t make Schock or his shower-buddy gay. So being gay is about sexual behavior, until it doesn’t fit Brandon Ambrosino’s gay-rights-advocate-bashing narrative of the day.
Ambrosino also thinks gay activists are mean. He thinks we should be more like Martin Luther King, who “found a way to condemn evil without condemning the evildoer.” Except of course that Ambrosino’s fact-free assertion about MLK inconveniently flew in the face of, you know, actual history. Here’s MLK condemning evildoers:
“It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”
And in another poorly-thought-out piece, Ambrosino suggested that it’s not “anti-gay” to find gay marriage immoral:
As a gay man, I found myself disappointed with this definition—that anyone with any sort of moral reservations about gay marriage is by definition anti-gay. If Raushenbush is right, then that means my parents are anti-gay, many of my religious friends (of all faiths) are anti-gay, the Pope is anti-gay, and—yes, we’ll go here—first-century, Jewish theologian Jesus is anti-gay.
Putting aside for a moment the fact that Jesus never said a word about gay people, let alone gay marriage (much of Ambrosino’s work suffers from the absence of editors), that sing-songy simple style, and the bizarrely unquestioned assumptions (that no one thinks the Pope is anti-gay?), are Ambrosino’s hallmark. He writes and thinks like a first-year college student – that is to say, not very well.
And I don’t say this to be snarky. I say it because it belies a much larger problem with the media of late. It’s a problem I call journalistic homophobia.
When a congressman hires a young secretary who can’t type, isn’t particularly good at his job, and pays him a lot of money for a position that usually takes a heck of a lot of experience to get, reasonable people ask “why.” The same goes when big-name publications hire a 27-ish year old with little publishing experience, and who isn’t particularly adept at writing or thinking. There has to be another reason he got the job. Call it the Jeff Gannon rule: If he’s obviously not qualified, he got hired for another reason.
Ambrosino is riding a recent wave of journalistic gay-bashing that’s become especially trendy as gays get closer to achieving full and equal status in American society and law. It’s a trick formerly used by Fox News and the religious right, but now popular with Time, the Atlantic, the New Republic, and Vox. It’s the “no hetero, no foul” rule of intolerance. So long as the bigot is gay, it’s okay.
It’s the same tactic Republicans have used for years. They embrace the most politically extreme African-Americans, Latinos, and to a lesser extent women and gays, in order to claim the mantle of “diversity,” while doing all they can to undermine it. Brandon Ambrosino is the Allen West of homosexuality. He’s your go-to guy, if your goal has nothing to do with finding a legitimate minority voice on the issues of the day.
Vox is “hiring journalists who really know the topics they cover”
I get that we all needs eyeballs. It’s been a difficult media market since the economy crashed, and online advertising has never fully come back for many of us. Add to that ever-increasing competition from social media, and we all feel pressure to get readers. If we don’t get readers, we don’t get ad revenue, and we don’t survive. But there’s a limit to how far we should sell our souls in order to guarantee our survival.
Ezra Klein recently promised the world that Vox would be “hiring journalists who really know the topics they cover.” Well, this guy ain’t it.
While I think Brandon Ambrosino is sloppy, unimaginative, a bad writer, and a not-very-complicated thinker, my biggest concern is that he comes across, to me, as having an agenda that borders on animus. IMHO, he’s got issues with being gay, knows how to push people’s buttons, and seems to revel in it – with little regard for the damage he does in the process.
By hiring Ambrosino, and lifting his rising star even further, Vox is doing exactly what we routinely criticize the mainstream media for: Leaping before they look, elevating mediocrity, and doing real harm to truth in the process. In the same way the media loved to put gays on TV against “ex-gays,” now they’re putting gay rights advocates on versus Brandon Ambrosino – a gay vs. “gay” catfight, what could be more fun than that? (Actually, the video I link to answers that question – what’s “more fun” is Ambrosino defending a homophobic Catholic bigot against Ireland’s most revered gay rights leader.)
Brandon Ambrosino strikes me as a Hipster Homophobe. And I expected better from Vox, a media entity that promised it would be different.