I've been following Idol this year, even through its really dreary mid-season funk. But it has been really encouraging to see the viewers actually select the best trio for the pre-finale vote. I'm a huge Crystal Bowersox fan (and an even bigger fan of her boyfriend). She's my vote. Casey James is sooo charming, but the poor guy cannot sing outside a very limited, if very commercial, range. Lee Dewyze has been a fave for a long time - great voice, droopy eyes, crooked smile, what's not to like?

But last night also showed how the issue of sexual orientation can be easily folded into the general conversation. Ellen Degeneres, herself an icon of the "virtually normal" set, was able to point out that many girls and women would love Casey - and then she simply tucked in "and a few boys." Accurate, inclusive, integrative. And then straight girl Crystal sings a song, "Maybe I'm Amazed", that requires her to sing as a man. She doesn't alter the lyrics. She sings "Maybe I'm a man ..." with the same conviction and sincerity she has shown throughout the contest. Yes, Ellen picked the song.

A small moment in the transfomation of America into a more inclusive humane place. But on television, not in Washington, where homophobia and homophobia-phobia conspire to keep us all back.

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