Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Milk, has called his alma mater's decision to remove him from a short list of commencement speakers an "injury," and asked students there to speak out against LGBT discrimination.
Administrators at Pasadena City College approached Black earlier this year about speaking at the spring commencement — he was one of eight potential speakers, according to the Pasadena City College Courier — and he agreed to make himself available. On Thursday, however, board president Anthony Fellow rescinded the invitation, citing a series of photos leaked to the public in 2009 that depicted Black and his then-boyfriend engaging in unprotected sex.
In an open letter published by OUT, Black shot back that his personal life should have no bearing on his fitness as a speaker. "If you invade my privacy," he wrote, "this is what you will find. I have sex. It brings me joy, fosters intimacy, and helps love grow. I hope anyone reading this can say the same for themselves and for their parents."
Black also asked students to stand up to the message that they "are to be held to a different standard, that there is something inherently shameful about who we are and how we love, and that no matter what we accomplish in our lives, we will never be worthy of PCC’s praise."
Fellow told the Courier that the decision didn't have only to do with Black, but with a recent string of incidents at the school. "With the porno professor and the sex scandals we’ve had on campus this last year, it just didn’t seem like the right time for Mr. Black to be the speaker," he said. “We’ll be on the radio and on television. We just don’t want to give PCC a bad name.”
The Courier also notes that while Black did receive what appeared to be a formal invitation to speak, administrators claim that he was sent a "premature" offer.
Mix-up or not, Black's feelings on the matter are clear: "I did nothing wrong and I refuse to be shamed for this any longer." Amen.