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Ethan Barnett: President of Pride St. Louis Criticized for Relationship with Teen

Categories: LGBT
ethanbarnett.jpg
pridestl.org
Ethan Barnett
The leader of Pride St. Louis, the region's most visible LGBT organization known for its annual June parade and festival in Tower Grove Park, is causing a stir in the gay community for his romantic relationship with a high-school student.

Ethan Barnett, 30, was elected president of Pride St. Louis last August and tells Daily RFT that he informed Pride's board about his relationship with the 18-year-old at a meeting in February.

"I brought it up because I had heard rumblings. The board was given a chance to discuss the matter. There was no vote, but the consensus was they were okay with it," says Barnett, who calls it "disappointing" that his relationship is distracting from his work organizing next month's PrideFest. "This year's festival promises to be the biggest ever. To me that's more newsworthy."

But while the board may have accepted Barnett's relationship, not all members were in agreement. Colin Lovett, a board member since August 2010, resigned from Pride within 48 hours of hearing Barnett describe his relationship. Lovett says Barnett's romance with Caleb Bender, a senior at Metro Academic and Classical High School in St. Louis, was the contributing factor to his resignation.

"Ethan has done wonders for Pride," says Lovett, who also serves as president of the board of the LGBT Center of St. Louis. "He has great organizational skills and business acumen, but being president of Pride is a very public role in the LGBT community. It's a perception issue. And you don't want to be perceived that we're targeting youth."

Barnett's relationship with Bender has prompted several concerned calls to the LGBT Center, confirms executive director Leon Braxton Jr., who has personally met with Barnett to discuss the issue. 

"I met with him leader-to-leader," says Braxton. "My position is that his relationship is not in the best interest of the community. Even if you're not doing something illegal, there is still an image that our leaders should uphold."

Fresh in the mind of Braxton and many in the LGBT community is the 2002 arrest of Pride St. Louis' then-president, Rolf Rathmann, for having sex with a 14-year-old boy. Rathmann was later sentenced to 10 years in prison. Two other area men also served prison sentences for having sex with the boy who represented himself as being older.

The age of consent in Missouri is seventeen.

"It's not fair for people to judge us because the action of someone 10 years ago," Bender tells Daily RFT. "Especially when it's a relationship between two people of age that the State of Missouri has declared as legal."

"I'm certainly aware of the Rolf situation," adds Barnett. "That's why I was uncomfortable with this from the beginning and only wanted to get to know Caleb as a friend."

That all changed on February 25 of this year, when, Barnett says, he asked Bender to be his boyfriend. The two met through mutual friends last year. Bender, who'll graduate high school this week and plans to attend Mizzou in the fall, says he was the initial pursuer.

"He rejected me several times because of my age," says Bender. "He was afraid people would prematurely judge us."

Since then the two have done little to keep the relationship under wraps. Barnett recently accompanied Bender to his high-school prom.

"I made sure he had approval of the principal," explains Barnett, a restaurant server who says he logs 40 hours a week volunteering for Pride St. Louis. "The biggest reason I went is that I knew how much it would mean to him. A lot of us in the LGBT community couldn't attend our own proms."

Until Daily RFT called yesterday, photos from the dance (and other playful photos and discussions between the two) were viewable on both Barnett and Bender's Facebook page, which are open to the public. Those posts have since been deleted. But here's a screenshot of one:

prom fp 2.jpg

Colin Murphy, executive editor of the LGBT monthly Vital Voice, says it's the Facebook banter that has really riled the community.

"I think the question most people are asking of Ethan is, 'What are you doing parading this in front of everyone?' It doesn't seem very professional."

"Personally, I support everyone's right to a legal and consensual relationship, but for the head of any organization to be dating a high-school student would be troubling," says Murphy. "And for the head of an LGBT organization to be doing it only reinforces negative stereotypes."

Bender says his father, whom he calls a conservative, Southern Baptist, didn't approve of the relationship at first, but has come around. Bender's mother passed away last year.

"In my age group there aren't that many men to date," says Bender, who came out this year with the support of Barnett and credits his boyfriend with helping him cope with his mother's passing.

Last month sex columnist Dan Savage addressed a similar topic when a father wrote in for advice on dealing with his 18-year-old son who'd come out and informed his father he was seeing a 31-year-old man.

Savage's advice to the dad:
"Tell him that you realize gay guys his age sometimes date older men because there aren't a lot of boys his own age to choose from. (If you didn't already know that, now you do.) And tell your son that this gay dude you know -- that would be me -- told you that something's usually wrong when a 31-year-old is dating a teenager. Something's usually wrong with the 31-year-old."
But nothing is wrong with him or the relationship, responds Barnett.

"I've never told Caleb he has to do anything," he says. "I've just tried to be supportive and treat him like an adult."

Adds Barnett: "Unfortunately, the LGBT community can be prone to gossip and drama in a way that can harm ourselves more than help ourselves. In this case, there seems to be some negative interests fanning the flames, which is what makes it difficult."

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308 comments
Nhawke124
Nhawke124

"Really", your comments are really getting on my frickin' nerves!  Step into reality.  Totally forget about the gay side of things.  If a 30-year-old mayor -a public figure representative of a town or city- was dating an 18-year-old girl, there would be the same negative public perception.  It's not about some "gay sacrifice".  It's about societal norms!  Of course, what people profess to practice and endorse as societal norms in public and what they practice in private are very often two very different things.  Nonetheless, stop implying this negative reflection is only because it's a gay relationship.  It's because a 30-year-old is involved in a relationship with an 18-year-old.  Gay or straight, the backlash would be the same for a public figure.  The fact that it's a public leader of the St. Louis gay community only has the potential for a magnified backlash.

Nhawke124
Nhawke124

I am agreeing that it's not giving in to "mob rule".  It's all about having a sense of the political and social climate in the area!  It's all about not being able to "see the forest through the trees".  There's a bigger picture here.  It's not fair us, yet, and this controversy puts the LGBT in a negative spotlight.  I agree it shouldn't be that way, but it is at this point.  People in public positions are held to a higher standard and it's a simple as that.  That standard, as dictated by the current social climate is a 30-year-old shouldn't date an 18-year-old.  I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the climate, but that's the way it is right now.

Nhawke124
Nhawke124

Yes, he does have to contend with a decision, but it's not the one you describe.  He can volunteer in a way that is not so high-profile.  The Pride Board is cliquish and Ethan was formerly the director of athletics or something for Pridefest.  Director of Athletics?  Uhhhh...what does that entail?  It was just another position created for a friend.  Anyhow it was just his turn in the rotation of the clique to be in charge. That being said, to "Really?", you have to realize that it's a matter of public perception.  No, he should NOT have to contend with such a decision.  The reality, however, is that the situation generates a negative public perception and reinforces the false stereotype that the gay community is out to recruit youth.  It shouldn't be that way, but it is.  If he wanted to serve the organization, he can easily serve it just as effectively in a position that is not so public as to reflect negatively on the organization as a whole.  It's sad that it is this way, but it is reality!

Nhawke124
Nhawke124

They USED to have public voting because they had a committee that attended meetings.  This committee was made up of members of the LGBT community.  It didn't take much to become a committee member -attend a number of meetings- but at least there was outside input.  Now everything is closed.  There is no committee.  The committee used to vote on the board.  How the board is elected now I have no idea.  As I said above, it's all behind closed doors now.  It's definitely a constant rotation of a cliquish group.   Do not misunderstand my post.  The Pride Saint Louis organization does wonderful things for the community.  The board and the directors of the various activities are a select group.  What troubles me is that so many decisions are not open to scrutiny.  Actually, forget the scrutiny.  Just explain to me how the Pride Saint Louis board is elected these days! p.s. To the poster above that said get rid of the board, that's not going to happen.  A board is a necessary (and I believe required) part of such an organization.  Why they went to this "closed-door" cliquish format, however, is entirely unknown.  Why they would get rid of the committee at large is beyond my understanding.  The argument can be made that not many committee members showed up consistently.  That being said, however, at least there was always the OPTION of scrutiny by interested parties.

Keith Stryker
Keith Stryker

There is nothing wrong with the love between a man and a boy. I was a youth minister and for many years I mentored young gays who were thrown out on the streets by their parents. The opportunity to help them also opened up a hole new opportunity to share in a love that only an older man can give such a young boy. Caleb's mother died and his father does not accept his sexuality. SO Ethan Barnett rescues him. he did not convert him or molest him. Where else is a high school boy to turn other than an older gay man who can love him the way he deserves ?

Jason Storm
Jason Storm

What a slut,  his friend Caleb should know Barnett is daily posting sex ads on craigslist , adam4adam and ginder.. I look around too, but Barnett contacted me several times for hookups,  thought I was 16.   I can send you the emails, and his naked pics, but I think RFT wouldn't appreciate the nudity or the sexual talk posted on their site.

Marvin
Marvin

Dan Savage said it best - "something's usually wrong when a 31-year-old is dating a teenager. Something's usually wrong with the 31-year-old"

Keith A Stryker
Keith A Stryker

There is nothing wrong between the love of a grown man and a young high school boy.The current debates are now underway for American Psychiatric Association to DECRIMINALIZE PEDOPHILIA :

1) Pedophilia is innate and immutable.

2) Pederasty is richly attested in many different cultures throughout history.

3) The claim that adult-child sexual relationships cause harm is greatly overstated and often completely inaccurate.

4) Consensual adult-child sex can actually be beneficial to the child.

5) Pederasty should not be classified as a mental disorder, since it does not cause distress to the pederast to have these desires and since the pederast can function as a normal, contributing member of society.

6) Many of the illustrious homosexuals of the past were actually pedophiles.

7) People are against intergenerational intimacy because of antiquated social standards and puritanical sexual phobias.

8) This is all about love and equality and liberation. 

Keith Stryker
Keith Stryker

Why are people complaining about this. There is nothing wrong with the love between a grown man and a young boy. Perhaps the older dude can teach the young boy something. As a member of the gay community there is nothing wrong with having sexual relations with a teenager. Pedophilia has been practiced for thousands of years and the same people who sought to decriminalize homosexuality are now looking to decriminalize sex between an adult and teenagers. Love between a 30 year old and even a 14 year old is a beautiful thing. Some parents throw away their children and older men are the ones who take care of the children you neglect. The current debates are now underway with the American Psychiatric Association : 1) Pedophilia is innate and immutable.

2) Pederasty is richly attested in many different cultures throughout history.

3) The claim that adult-child sexual relationships cause harm is greatly overstated and often completely inaccurate.

4) Consensual adult-child sex can actually be beneficial to the child.

5) Pederasty should not be classified as a mental disorder, since it does not cause distress to the pederast to have these desires and since the pederast can function as a normal, contributing member of society.

6) Many of the illustrious homosexuals of the past were actually pedophiles.

7) People are against intergenerational intimacy because of antiquated social standards and puritanical sexual phobias.

8) This is all about love and equality and liberation.  

yahoo-FIEN4GKGJBEEMBFEZI42VCQW6Y
yahoo-FIEN4GKGJBEEMBFEZI42VCQW6Y

Why are people complaining about this. There is nothing wrong with the love between a grown man and a young boy. Perhaps the older dude can teach the young boy something. As a member of the gay community there is nothing wrong with having sexual relations with a teenager. Pedophilia has been practiced for thousands of years and the same people who sought to decriminalize homosexuality are now looking to decriminalize sex between an adult and teenagers. Love between a 30 year old and even a 14 year old is a beautiful thing. Some parents throw away their children and older men are the ones who take care of the children you neglect. The current debates are now underway with the American Psychiatric Association : 1) Pedophilia is innate and immutable.

2) Pederasty is richly attested in many different cultures throughout history.

3) The claim that adult-child sexual relationships cause harm is greatly overstated and often completely inaccurate.

4) Consensual adult-child sex can actually be beneficial to the child.

5) Pederasty should not be classified as a mental disorder, since it does not cause distress to the pederast to have these desires and since the pederast can function as a normal, contributing member of society.

6) Many of the illustrious homosexuals of the past were actually pedophiles.

7) People are against intergenerational intimacy because of antiquated social standards and puritanical sexual phobias.

8) This is all about love and equality and liberation.  

yahoo-FIEN4GKGJBEEMBFEZI42VCQW6Y
yahoo-FIEN4GKGJBEEMBFEZI42VCQW6Y

Why are people complaining about this. There is nothing wrong with the love between a grown man and a young boy. Perhaps the older dude can teach the young boy something. As a member of the gay community there is nothing wrong with having sexual relations with a teenager. Pedophilia has been practiced for thousands of years and the same people who sought to decriminalize homosexuality are now looking to decriminalize sex between an adult and teenagers. Love between a 30 year old and even a 14 year old is a beautiful thing. Some parents throw away their children and older men are the ones who take care of the children you neglect. The current debates are now underway with the American Psychiatric Association : 1) Pedophilia is innate and immutable.

2) Pederasty is richly attested in many different cultures throughout history.

3) The claim that adult-child sexual relationships cause harm is greatly overstated and often completely inaccurate.

4) Consensual adult-child sex can actually be beneficial to the child.

5) Pederasty should not be classified as a mental disorder, since it does not cause distress to the pederast to have these desires and since the pederast can function as a normal, contributing member of society.

6) Many of the illustrious homosexuals of the past were actually pedophiles.

7) People are against intergenerational intimacy because of antiquated social standards and puritanical sexual phobias.

8) This is all about love and equality and liberation.

George
George

Ethan Barnett is a raging alcoholic. You can tell by his face or "gin blossoms" that redden his face. Hardly the type of person you want influencing our youth or heading an organization.

George
George

Why is the leader of an gay Pride organization posting on facebook his inappropriate lust for a high school student ? Why do so many gay men behave like predators ? Ethan Barnett preyed on a high school student. He found a vulnerable high school student who recently lost his mother and sought an opportunity to corrupt another innocent youth.

Calebs_Spinchter
Calebs_Spinchter

This just in:

There is word on the street that Ethan has just pulled out

of Caleb's ass. But not before Caleb told Ethan to pack his shit and get out.

Go
Go

Finally got word back from the St. Louis City School Board that in fact neither Caleb or Ethan was given permission by the principal of the school for Ethan to attend the Prom. In fact the Principal stated that had he been asked that he would have advised against it.

O2BINTX
O2BINTX

As I read through the comments for thisarticle I was deeply sadden by the name-calling, innuendo, misinformation and downrightmean spirited comments.  Based on what Iread, I believe the key point to the article is one of perception.  Yes, Ethan and Caleb are consenting adults ina relationship.  However, Ethan shouldhave realized that his public position as President of Pride St. Louis holdshim to a higher standard and that his personal life might be subject to scrutiny.  This is not a new concept.  Nearly every individual who places himself orherself in a position of power or public service is put under amicroscope.  Is this fair?  Probably not, but, it IS a reality. 

Jason Storm
Jason Storm

Definitely a BIG problem,  no wonder sponsors are pulling out, surprised he isn't arrested, he started when the child was a minor. He has a history of  preying on young boys at Attitudes, this isn't the first of such.  He is a predator pedophile.  I can't believe the pride board supports this!  Parents should be more careful with their children. Not only that, I can't believe the Vital Voice staff is in relationships with minors also - no wonder they are resigning.  This is a disgrace to our community!  I think Barnett needs to step down before being voted out.  I also think the Vital Voice people should resign, and  re-look at their ethics!  Such a sad thing, this years pridefest  could of been something big.

Dan
Dan

Fine. I will post it again. I think it is highly irresponsible for the RFT to compare this relationship with a ten year statutory rape. Anyone make an argument for why that fact is included in this article?

Dan
Dan

Without weighing in on my personal opinions of the underlying story, I feel it was highly irresponsible of RFT and Mr. Garrison to compare this situation to a ten year old arrest for statutory rape. If you can't understand why it is inappropriate to compare the two, I'm not sure what to say.

Cybertron3187
Cybertron3187

Frankly, I don't see the issue. For all those "holier than thou" soap boxers who are up in arms over this, take a step back and look at your "community". We Queer Men (all of us, even if we don't want to admit it) idolize youth to the extreme. Our porn runs rampant with the image, while we also run to the teen looking go-go dancer twinks because we believe that's beauty and that it should be rewarded. Also, St. Louis is famous for building you up to tear you down and that is what's at play here. Someone has a bone to pick, so this is a Flame War issue. And to resign over this is hysterical to me! The "controversy" over this is doing more damage than the age difference. This is why we haven't gotten as far as we could, we're too busy fighting amongst each other over petty shit to unite and fight as a force! GROW UP! The fact that he's 30 may be what's the biggest issue here, as if we magically become something untouchable at 30. What if he was 26 or 28, would it be an issue? I doubt it. Let people love who they love (consenting adults people, c'mon!). I support Ethan Barnett and Caleb Bender!!! As to the opposite side of this, if this was a hetero man and woman, he'd be getting slaps on the back. The opposite and we'd call the woman a cradle robbing whore. When it's us, we set 'bad examples'. Consistency folks, is that too much to ask for?

Blowfish
Blowfish

HE'S A SODOMITE! NOT A SAVIOUR!

Fuck_Communism
Fuck_Communism

Shit fuckers have and will always exist. However, it's time to stop talking about them and start rounding them up for the gulag. It's time to take out America's trash.

Mark W.
Mark W.

Why is this news? Two consenting adults. End of discussion.

This to me is nothing more than typical redneck Missourah, ignorant people that don't know how to keep their big noses out of other people's business.

Superfly
Superfly

LOLcolor the general public not all that surprised......

todaze
todaze

 He's a drag queen!!  Dieta is what Palin was to the 2008 election.  Dieta is the entertainment and that's about it. Leon had no place to make such comments!  People who love that genre of drag queens in the gay subculture are fine with it and believe Leon could never do no wrong.   Members of the gay community as a whole wonder why Leon was ever placed in such a position when there are more qualified people in the community!   People who appreciate drag queens think he's great. Proof: go to the Centers Facebook Page!!! Its just another place where Dieta gets publicity it has NOTHING to do with the rest of the community.  This was such a bad move! 

Say_No_To_Homo
Say_No_To_Homo

Look I'm not going to lie to you people. Homosexuality is not about love. NORMAL love between men is not a sexual relationship. It's based on respect. He wants ass sex and blow jobs from other men. That's all homosexuality is about. Now as far as sodomy goes he can get all he wants in prison where it's an everyday common practice. Let him go to prison and be sodomized by big black bucks that will trade him for cigarettes and he'll have the "lifestyle" that he's always craved.

George
George

Contacted a few of their corporate sponsors and they are reviewing all the numerous complaints. Lets pull the sponsors from St. Louis Pride. The President of St. Louis Pride should not be dating someone in high school... It is inappropriate and creepy and perpetuates the stereotype that gays are predators and pedophiles. Contact their sponsors and voice your complains !  Sponsors are : Bud Light, Lumiere Place (casino & Hotels), River City Casino, Vital Voice, Barefoot Wine, Wells Fargo, Absolut Vodka, Malibu Rum, Mastercard Worldwide, Monsanto Foods. 

Debunking_The_Bullshit
Debunking_The_Bullshit

Things that don't exist:

Loch Ness MonsterSanta ClausEaster BunnyThe holocaustGood jewsGood homosexuals

Ethan
Ethan

I remember once I was busting Caleb's tight ass with a monster hard on! I pulled my cock out of his ass and it was covered in Caleb's shit and juices. There was a piece of corn right on the end of my dick. That was hot!  I buried my cock in his mouth all the way up to my balls, As I pulled out his tight young lips slurped my dick clean. That got me so hot I came all over his face. He cleaned my until I was drained and then gave the cutest little giggle so I fucked him again and this time came in his ass. We rolled over and cuddled and he told me how much he loved it when I fucked him in his ass.

Concerned Parent
Concerned Parent

A 30 year old should know better than to accept a request from an 18 year old to a K-12 function. Regardless of sex. It seems Mr. Barnett simply made a very bad decision. He should have politely declined. The relationship is legal, but this decision was wrong. I'm interested in hearing from the St. Louis school board on why this was allowed. I and others will be calling Principal Wilfred Doug Moore tomorrow seeking an explanation.

Jason Storm
Jason Storm

Just in case you do not believe me,  here is a copy of the email: the xxx pic link is here: http://tinypic.com/r/2rcsoy0/6Ethan Barnett ethan.a.barnett@gmail.com via craigslist.org  to pers-bvgmt-269. ** CRAIGSLIST ADVISORY --- AVOID SCAMS BY DEALING LOCALLY** Avoid: wiring money, cross-border deals, work-at-home** Beware: cashier checks, money orders, escrow, shipping** More Info: http://www.craigslist.org/about/scamsHey there nice pic. 6'2 180 8.0 cut athletic and masculine. Laid back and fun. Looking for some casual fun.------------------------------------------------------------------This message was remailed to you via: pers-bvgmt-2698196188@craigslist.org------------------------------------------------------------------Ethan, I am only 16 is that okay, I want you to teach me some things, and I want to get fucked so bad.------------------------------------------------------------------Hey there I love younger guys, I am discrete and laid back, so when can we meet? 

Jason Storm
Jason Storm

Sounds like Ethan, he controls everything, all the event listings, everything so to keep it to a simmer, he deletes things, except he has no control over media (except Vital Voice that absolutely supports him and his doings, of course their staff target youth also, that's why they have the LGBT center). Go figure Ethan lies about permission from the school.  Then they have a new event http://www.facebook.com/events...   and want to know the scary thing? Growing american youth is heavily involved in Pridefest giving Ethan more opportunities to molesting all those boys, like a kid in the candy shop. 

Payattention
Payattention

Nowhere in the article does it compare the two. The other incident was brought up to point out that with Pride having past and current people affiliated with it that are convicted felons, sex crime offenders etc, that it was prob in the best interest to take that extra step of discretion and common sense

Y_T
Y_T

 When you're fucking each other in the ass, do you fight over "petty shit"? Petty shit stains on the sheets? He got corn on your dick? His sphincter is bleeding again?

Y_T
Y_T

 I'd say "blow me" but you'd do it.

Fuck_Communism
Fuck_Communism

And then there's shitbags like you that don't know when to keep their big noses out of a queer's ass.

O2BINTX
O2BINTX

Just checked out the LGBT Center FB page.  Not one post by or about Dieta!  Leon posts as Leon... the ED of the Center. 

NotAgain?!
NotAgain?!

A personal fantasy of yours, no doubt.  TMI, dude.

Say_No_To_Homo
Say_No_To_Homo

 "perpetuates the stereotype that gays are predators and pedophiles"

It only perpetuates it because it's true.

WTF
WTF

Wow...talk about petty...

Dustin Lee
Dustin Lee

please explain to me how it can be legal AND wrong...?

todaze
todaze

 Like I said most of you tragic homos believe a drag queen can never do wrong!  This town is filled with tragic ass kissers.

NotAgain?!
NotAgain?!

Interesting... Crickets...Methinks I struck a nerve.

Vagabond
Vagabond

Puppy mills, bath salts, the Kardashians etc.

Stltimm
Stltimm

Did u even read the article much less this comment thread? The issue is the perception/reflection all of this has on his job as the face of Pride. I suggest scrolling up to AgeIsNotTheIssue post. It sums it up perfectly

WTF
WTF

Nice insult, Hannah Montana

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