PASADENA, Calif. — Pasadena City College has rescinded an invitation to Oscar-winning screenwriter, actor and LGBT rights activist Dustin Lance Black to speak at its commencement ceremony because they fear sexually explicit photos of Black that surfaced on the internet in 2009 would tarnish the school’s reputation.
Black, who graduated from PCC in 1994, said on his blog Friday that he was disappointed and angered by the college’s decision, having already accepted the invitation to speak more than a month ago.
The invitation, sent by Student Trustee Simon Fraser on behalf of Heba Griffiths, interim associate dean of student life, stated: “…We would like to formally invite Mr. Black to conduct the commencement address to the students as we celebrate our theme of ‘Proud Past, Global Future.’”
But school officials say that invitation was a miscommunication, that Black was only among a list of potential candidates to make himself available as a speaker, and that once the Board of Trustees were made aware of nude photos found on the internet of him with a man having unprotected sex, he was dismissed as a candidate because the board thought his actions might inflame the college’s own sex scandals, according to the Pasadena City College Courier.
In a statement Friday, Black wrote that he had “confirmed the invitation, booked the international flights to get back to Southern California, canceled work and turned down paid invitations.”
“This invitation was that meaningful to me,” Black wrote. “This morning, I woke up to the headline that I have been uninvited to speak at my Alma Mater. The reasoning: that I was involved in a ‘scandal’ in 2009 regarding extremely personal photographs that were put up on internet gossip sites of me and my ex-boyfriend.”
The images date back to 2006 and were posted online in 2009 after they were lifted from Black’s ex-boyfriend’s computer “and shopped around to gossip sites in a money making scheme,” he said.
Black says the decision by college administrators is discriminatory.
“With this cruel act, PCC’s Administration is punishing the victim. And I ask you this: If I was a heterosexual man or woman with this same painful injury in my past, would PCC’s Administration still be rescinding such an honor?
“As PCC Administrators attempt to shame me, they are casting a shadow over all LGBT students at PCC,” Black said. “They are sending the message that LGBT students 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.”
PCC officials responded Friday that it is busy “assembling facts on the chain of events” that led to Black’s invitation and cancellation, and would provide a statement on Monday, April 21.