LZ Granderson lecture discusses bullies, LGBT rights, life lessons

Colten Bartholomew, Sports Editor

A T-shirt of Snoopy on a button-up shirt with the word “Nerd” written next to him on LZ Granderson’s tall, built frame explained it all.

 

Granderson is different; deal with it.

 

The 41-year-old ESPN senior writer and CNN columnist spoke to University of Wisconsin-Platteville students Sunday in Velzy Commons as part of the United We Stand Lecture Series.

 

His presentation began with a clip from the 1988 film “Torch Song Trilogy,” in which the main character questions why he must hide his homosexuality and edit his life for the convenience of others.

 

Granderson connected this scene to his experiences with his fiancé as they planned their wedding.

 

“We thought about getting married in a church, but we didn’t want to offend people or have them think we were making God mad,” Granderson said. “It came to the point where we said we might as well get married in a closet with a priest and like two or three people to not offend anyone.”

 

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists’ Association Journalist of the Year said the idea that LGBT people need to plan their lives in accordance to not offend people is a double standard.

 

“How many straight people look back to their wedding as a day to hide? If you’re offended by gay people, a gay person just describing what they did on Friday with their partner or husband or wife is going to offend you,” Granderson said.

 

Throughout the presentation, Granderson read three pieces that he has written for his various positions, including his 2010 CNN article “Myth of the ‘gay lifestyle’ justifies bias,” which details his points of contention with the mainstream idea that his life is so different because he is gay.

 

“It’s sad. We’re such a great nation, still full of great hope and promise, and yet we keep being tripped up by ignorance, which leads to fear and then eventually hate,” Granderson quoted from the piece.

 

Granderson discussed the topic of bullying with two of his articles, one of which considered the recent national discussion of bullying in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room and the other detailing his experience with bullying and encouraging victims that life gets better.

 

“Bullying is in your mind,” Granderson said. “The idea that someone is too big to be bullied or isn’t a man if they get bullied is crazy. Bullies have power over the people they bully.”

 

Granderson continued to explain his issue with the idea that people need to “man up.”

 

“Manning-up is said so often, but it’s never truly defined. True strength is staying yourself under stress, but when we hear ‘man up,’ we snap back into line. How can we feel for someone if we’re not allowed to feel with them?” Granderson said.

 

Along with these subjects, Granderson shared details of his upbringing and his path to where he is today.

 

Granderson dealt with coming out, an abusive stepfather, an attempted suicide and time in a gang as a drug dealer before he was afforded a chance at college.

 

“A counselor from Western Michigan actually came to my house and saw my great scores on standardized tests and my low class grades,” Granderson said. “She asked me, ‘If I take a chance on you, are you going to let me down?’and I said, ‘No, ma’am.’”

 

Granderson was admitted to Western Michigan University on a probationary basis, posting a 4.0 GPA, and continued to excel academically on his way to graduating.

 

Now, along with his duties at ESPN and CNN, Granderson teaches the first sports journalism class offered at The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, a unit of Northwestern University.

 

“I try to give everything I have to those students. There’s that saying that if you can’t pay it back, you pay it forward, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve been blessed with tremendous opportunities, so I try to help (the students) get to where they want to be,” Granderson said.

 

Granderson said the beauty of college is that it is a place to be challenged and to expand your thinking, and his ideas resonated with students.

 

“LZ lives a diverse life; he has different influences and has dealt with so much. It’s amazing to see how he’s not slowed down by those challenges,” Brian Rivers, a senior civil engineering major who attended the lecture, said.

 

“I was highly impressed; this was some really powerful stuff,” Annelise Roti, a junior majoring in engineering physics, said. “I very much connected with what he was saying because LZ and I belong to the same community.”

 

Granderson used to title his lecture, “Dare You to Move,” after the song and for the message the phrase brings.

 

“There’s two worlds: there’s how it is and how it could be, so the challenge we have is to find joy and spread it to get the world to how it could be,” he said.

 

When he concluded the lecture, Granderson danced to V.I.C.’s “Wobble Baby” with students on the stage.

 

He is different; deal with it.