Gay vs. Stupid: The power of blog headlines

Gay vs. Stupid: The power of blog headlines
Daniel, AKA The Queer Guy.

Last week, a ChicagoNow post from "The Queer Guy Tells It Straight" was making the rounds. The headline was genius: If you can be born stupid, then I can be born gay! Amen to that. The idea that a man can be born attracted to women but another man has somehow "chosen" to be attracted to men is ludicrous.

(There are, of course, people who then make the argument that you may be born with the attraction to the same gender, but it is your choice on whether or not to act on that attraction, and that by doing so you are harming society -- that is absurd and insulting, and totally unreasonable. Any "harm" done by two men having sex can't possibly be at the top of our "Societal Harms to Look Out For" list. Let's handle schools, wars, violence, crime, hunger, water, natural disaster preparation, consumerism, a disengaged populace, and a hierarchical power structure, and when all that is under control, then we'll take a look at those scheming gays and their selfish desire to have sex with people they find attractive...)

But we're getting off track! The reason I bring this up is not to debate the nature of sexuality and humanity, but rather the nature of blogging. Because what really jumped out at me about The Queer Guy's post was this: It was not much more than a headline. The story was secondary. Everything he expressed in the story could be assumed from the headline. The post was basically the world's best tweet with 250 words tacked on. The author does not provide any new information regarding this age-old debate. He gives us the outlines of his story -- he was beaten up in school, among other traumas I'm sure -- without really taking us inside his experience. Other than "to smell like that," his post isn't particularly funny or entertaining. If you read only the headline and skipped the story, you wouldn't miss any vital material.

The headline is the reason so many people clicked, why the post has 3000 Likes, why I saw the post pop up on so many people's pages. The comments section is where this post really builds its value; in fact, you could argue that The Queer Guy's "post" is simply the first comment following a fantastic tweet, that it was that comment that got the ball rolling on a lively, relatively civil debate.

Jimmy Greenfield, the head of ChicagoNow, recently reminded us bloggers about the value of headlines. He cited an insightful, engaging blog post that was hampered by a bland headline, and how he nearly skipped the post simply because the headline did not do justice to the content within. Here, The Queer Guy shows us the opposite, and reveals a valuable lesson about the world of online journalism -- when it comes to getting readers, a great headline is more than half the battle.


Leave a comment
  • If this is a post about the power of blog headlines, then why label one of the posts that appear under the blog headline being discussed as "...absurd and insulting, and totally unreasonable." Why don't you refer the reader to the aforementioned blog, and let them read and think for themselves? You then make the feeble pejorative case that "...Any "harm" done by two men having sex can't possibly be at the top of our "Societal Harms to Look Out For" list" as though it constitutes a reasoned discussion. I thought the logosphere was for discussion - debate, and letting people decide where THEY stand in regards to any issue. Seems you have chimed in for the queer guy, under the misleading guise of discussing "blog headlines." How transparent of you.

  • Hi minuteman. First of all, thank you for reading, and for taking the time to comment, on our Eye on Chi blog and elsewhere around ChicagoNow.

    As for your comment, I actually wrote that extended parenthetical before reading the comments section on TQG's blog, and then decided to leave it as is. I wrote that section because I felt like I should put my own opinion on the record, simply for the record, and then move on to what I really wanted to discuss, which was the power of blog headlines.

    Though I can see why you would think otherwise, I was not attempting to single you out. You simply made an argument that I have heard often enough before that I felt it warranted a pre-emptive engagement.

    The blogosphere is absolutely for discussion, which is why I pointed out the comments section on TQG's blog and what was, until the end, a lively and civil discussion. I think QG's follow-up post "Being gay vs. being drunk..." ( is more aggressive than I think is necessary, but I understand where he is coming from, and I dig where you're coming from too.

    Your point is that you were born with alcoholism (admittedly, I did not know that was possible) just as he was born gay, and that just as you choose not to engage in your "natural" alcoholic behaviors because you see the harm they cause you and others, that TQG should take the same personal responsibility and not engage in "harmful" gay behaviors. Is that it?

    I think readers absolutely can go to TQG's blog and make up their own mind. I included the link so that they could see the headline vs. the story vs. the comments, and if they want to engage in the content of the post and not just the structure, they are free to do so. I did not include TQG's follow-up post because that then WAS all about the content, and that was not the focus of my post.

  • In reply to ReadJack:

    So, you are sticking with your pejorative that my point of view is "....absurd and insulting, and totally unreasonable." Sorry you didn't know that some alcoholics, and perhaps all, are "born alcoholic." Abstaining from behaviors that harm oneself and society, whatever the compulsive source, is the point of view expressed in my postings. I thought the point of your posting was to illustrate that a blog headline can get attention, and stir lively debate. I see from your latest post here that you are still hiding behind that smokescreen, when your real purpose is to denigrate my point of view.

  • In reply to minuteman1776:

    Okay, I'm home, and can now answer you.

    I will gladly debate with you the morality of homosexuality and the responsibility inherent in living in a society. However, I have no interest in engaging in a comment-for-comment argument in which we stand on opposite sides of the fence and throw spit balls. I never once mentioned you in my post, yet you took my comments as a personal affront. I was absolutely here to talk just about headlines, and only added my opinion because I thought it might be on my reader's mind. I did not mean to use the headline discussion as a "smokescreen" for my own beliefs, nor would I ever find it necessary. I have documented my feelings about homosexuality on several occasions, most recently last October:

    That story has a sharply different tone and approach than this one from April 2009: I have done quite a bit of thinking and listening and debating over gay issues and man's sexuality, and my tone toward the subject changes with time. You think homosexuality is harmful to society, I think attempts to legally curb such activity is harmful to society, and there we both are. I would love to listen more to your perspective and ask questions -- for instance, there is a big one on my mind, which is your equating of alcoholism (the state of extreme alcohol abuse) with homosexuality (the state of attraction to the same gender). "Alcoholism" is on the far end of the spectrum of an acceptable activity, while "homosexuality" includes all homosexual acts. If in your mind there is responsible alcohol consumption, is there responsible homosexual behavior? Is there a scale of homosexual behavior that ranges from acceptable to irresponsible, like there is with alcohol consumption?

    That is just part of the discussion I would sincerely enjoy having with you. But what I will not do is sling insults, or even incur them. You've called me "transparent" and "pejorative," and accused me of using the headline angle as a diversion for my true desire to "denigrate [your] point of view." Like I said, I have no interest in making accusations before asking a person for his perspective; I have no interest in using message boards to take digital, intellectual shots at people; I have no interest proving myself or disproving you.

    So, if you really want to discuss homosexuality, morality, society, and anything else, we can do this two ways. You can email me at, tell me your real name, and we can trade emails. I would enjoy it! Seriously :) Or you can take a step back, not assume the worst about me or anyone else, ask for my perspective and for clarifications on my opinions, and we can continue this conversation here. If you found my original post rude and insulting, you can tell me why and you can ask for an apology, which I will give you.

    Otherwise, thanks for reading!

    Thoughts? What do you want to do?

    All best,

  • In reply to ReadJack:

    I still think you are dodging responsibility for the inflammatory nature of your initial post. I am the only poster in the initial blog to take the position equating the responsibility to abstain from alcoholic behavior with the responsibility to abstain from homosexual behavior, and thus your denigration and dismissal (pre-emptive, to use your term) could not have been intended for anyone else. I think you should own up to your statements, or not make them. But that is a comment about your morality, and this discussion is, as you say, about the morality of homosexuality.
    I specifically think homosexual sexual behavior is harmful to the homosexual as well as to society. I am not expressing and / or implying that any attempts should be made to legally curb such behavior. I do not accept your definition of alcoholism as “the state of extreme alcohol abuse.” I will go with Wiki here: “Alcoholism is the addiction to or dependency upon drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages.” Further from Wiki, “Alcoholism is….. the drinker's inability to control such compulsive drinking, despite awareness of its harm to his or her health…” Homosexuality is defined, again by Wiki, as “Homosexuality is romantic and/or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender.” So, the former is uncontrolled compulsive behavior, and the latter is simply described as behavior. I would further here that homosexuals would report that they are compelled to be romantic and / or sexual with members of the same sex or gender, but that’s splitting hairs. Let’s concentrate on the word behavior, if you will grant that compulsive drinking is a behavior.
    Alcoholism is, as you say, on the far end of the spectrum of acceptable activity, or else unacceptable, for most members of society. I believe that homosexuality is also on the far end of acceptable activity, or unacceptable, for most members of society.
    Any recovering alcoholic knows that there is no responsible level of alcohol consumption for an alcoholic. An alcoholic in recovery surrenders to the fact that consuming alcohol, in any amount, is for them an act harmful to themselves and society, specifically because of the unpredictable results that follow when an alcoholic consumes any amount of alcohol. For instance, an acute stage alcoholic may be so debilitated by even a small amount of alcohol that they are unable to take responsibility for their actions, including what may occur when they get behind the wheel.
    Of course there is responsible alcohol consumption, it’s the province of “normal” drinkers. A “normal” drinker is a person who can drink alcohol and not have harmful results. A “normal” drinker doesn’t drive drunk, or contract cirrhosis of the liver, at least from the alcohol. I would say there is responsible homosexual behavior as well. Certainly, to follow the Wiki definition, romantic and even sexual attraction is or can be considered responsible. It’s when homosexual behavior is sexual that harm to oneself and society results. Previous posts have described the detrimental individual health effects of anal sex. HIV / AIDS has also been discussed as a harmful result of homosexual sexual behavior, and certainly HIV / AIDS has spread to greater society.

  • In reply to minuteman1776:

    I didn't say anything about alcoholism in my initial post.

  • In reply to ReadJack:

    You referenced my analogy and argument. I have been waiting for you to respond to the merits of my argument, and, after 4 days of silence on your part, I can only conclude that you have thrown in the towel and concede that I am correct in my analogy and argument. Nice try!

  • Thanks for the mention, I hope my future blog titles will have the same reaction! :-)

Leave a comment