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Elena Kagan: Between a rock and a gay place

04/16/2010 JR Russell

Linking here from the AFA? Please read this:

The AFA think I agree with them about Elena Kagan. I don’t.

Harvard law school dean Elena Kagan
Image via Wikipedia

Should gay public figures with their eyes on big nominations right now risk coming out? I think so.

The election of US President Barack Obama showed us that the American people have new priorities and expectations. When America elected the charming constitutional scholar, they said that being mixed race is no longer something that can prevent you holding the most esteemed office in the country. Did this indicate that America is post-race? I don’t think so. Being mixed race may not have prevented him becoming president but that’s not to say it didn’t present an obstacle.

Bloggers and journalists alike have breathlessly declared that America may also be post-gay. The most blatantly idiotic assertion I have heard in a long time has been brought on by the success of a handful of non-straight individuals. Nevermind the struggle they faced to get where they are (Ellen, I’m looking at you), or the fact that they are massively overqualified for the jobs they hold (Rachel Maddow, D. Phil?) — their success is now to be attributed to the American people being “post-gay”.

Well the apparently “post-gay” America is a place where the president has had to slap the hands of hospitals and tell them to grow a soul and allow the same-sex partners of patients visitation rights after a Florida hospital made a woman die alone while her partner and adopted children tried in vain to gain access to her. And that’s just the story we heard. I know of others, no less heart breaking.

In “post-gay” America,  marriage equality exists in a few jurisdictions and is specifically outlawed by constitutional amendments in many others. President Obama has been busy with his defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, and while he has promised to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — one of the most anachronistic and ridiculous laws from an international standpoint — he and his administration appear in no great hurry to do so.

In “post-gay” America, gay public figures may remain unmarried even where they have the right to be married. Getting married immediately puts your sexual orientation on the public record and until America is truly “post-gay”, well, a lot of people have very good reasons to not want that.

So no, America is not post-gay — nor is it post-race. However, it is getting there, on both fronts. While these attitudes change, strategies and responses have to change along with them.

What we can learn from the election of President Obama is that sometimes having an obvious “disadvantage” can be an asset. Of course, as a mixed-race individual, he had no choice of being open about that. However, it meant he could address concerns related to that openly and directly. It also meant that his opponents were easily called out when they used racial stereotypes in order to demonise him.

Right now, rumours about Elena Kagan are hitting a fever pitch. Unfortunately, she cannot openly address the concerns people will have about confirming a gay person to the Supreme Court. She cannot name the homophobia of those that will oppose her confirmation. She will be battling whispers with shadows and there is no way to win that fight.

If she is not a lesbian, she needs to come out and say it, and put to rest the rumours and concerns. If she is gay, I believe she needs to say that too, and quickly. While being gay is not a shameful thing, being chased out of the closet can certainly make a person appear weak and lacking in integrity.

President Obama is going to want to nominate someone who he thinks represents his own mythology well. A successful, respected constitutional scholar with a slightly left-of centre approach — opposing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell while being on record saying that there is no constitutional right to marriage equality — would be a consistent Obama administration nominee (and a total disappointment to true liberals). However, until Elena Kagan rids herself of the shadows, she won’t fit the Obama image, and that could be her biggest downfall.

Could coming out backfire? Of course it could. But being closeted could too, without the benefits of being out. It’s not a great choice, but I think the answer is different than it would have been ten — or even five — years ago.

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34 Responses to Elena Kagan: Between a rock and a gay place

  1. Pingback: Update: Why is the Left Trying to Hide Kagan’s Lesbianism?

  2. Kelly Fryer

    May 14, 2010 at 10:48 am

    You’re right, JR. Honesty and transparency is the way forward for anybody in leadership. Unfortunately leaders today have to expect personal attacks and cheap shots. It’s unfair. It’s maddening. But it’s the reality. We think Elena Kagan’s story is a good opportunity for leaders to ask “what do we do when we’re in the line of fire? how should we respond?” http://www.arenewalenterprise.com/2010/05/advice-for-leaders-in-the-line-of-fire.html

    Thanks for a great post.

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  7. Some Straight White Dude

    May 10, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    I’m probably using poor judgement by jumping in here but I’ve got a few things to say. 

    The question about the “one drop rule” – I’ve had that pointed out to me by 2 Black women on two occasion when I used the term mixed race and both times they were very angry at me for using it. The funny thing is both times it was about a child that was not even school aged. They’d yet to accomplish anything nearly as impressive as being elected president. Both were bright, amazing children, and I guess my calling them mixed race could be seen as me trying to “claim” them for the white race but that wasn’t my motivation either time and I don’t think that it’s the motivation of the author either. 

    The reason that I personally use the term is because my best friend (from before either of us could walk), and his family, were mixed race and that is what they always said.

    Hell I know a Black guy who still calls himself “mulatto” which most people (regardless of race) consider a very derogatory term but he’s proud of his family history and that’s what he was taught that he is and he doesn’t make a big deal about words (though many, many people do). To him it’s just a word and I’ve hear him say many times that actions mean much more to him than words.

    Race and sexuality are both very sensitive subjects, especially to those who’ve had one or both used against them. They are also very personal and we each bring our own experiences and reality to the subjects. 

    Now, I am an American, and a white 30 something straight male at that. Now I’ll be honest – I’ve used the term “mixed race” when it comes to Obama. Does that make me racist? I don’t think so but if you do that’s a shame because I voted for him, I respect him greatly, I like (most) of what he’s done, and I didn’t do any of it because of his race. I did it because I agree with him more than the other people that were running AND because when he speaks I sometimes get goose-bumps. Oh yeah, and because I thought he’d do a great job.

    Does that mean that I didn’t think about the fact that I was taking part in history by casting a vote for a Black (or as I’ve called him, a mixed race) man? No – I clearly thought about that and I thought it’d be very cool to see him elected because I knew that it would set some people off and well … screw those people.

    I also thought it would be cool to see Hilary win because she’d be the first women pres but I didn’t like a lot of the things she said and potentially would have done (which is why I campaigned for Obama before the primaries in PA, OH, and WV) so I didn’t vote for her “just to see a woman win”. If she’d have gotten the nomination I’d have voted for her because … well … look at the other option. Honestly – McCain/Psycho was not an option. 

    As for thinking Obama’s success is somehow tied to his having a white mother I really hope nobody actually thinks this. The world is clearly challenging for people of (here I go again) mixed race and there are still people on both sides of the divide who don’t like to see white and black people together.

    In the end though I’ve got to go back to what my friend says – actions are more important than words.

    • mark

      May 11, 2010 at 12:35 am

      All we have to do is wait and see if she is invited to speak at the University of Iowa.

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  9. Amy

    April 22, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    “Should gay public figures with their eyes on big nominations right now risk coming out? I think so.” (LezGetReal) http://bit.ly/a34qXO

    • Ajan

      June 14, 2011 at 7:09 am

      Dear All
      Regarding the Gay Girl in Damascus blog, please stop the knee jerk reactions, this could be a planned ploy to discredit the social networks.

      Especially in the middle east, the social networks single handedly helped to bring about changes that were not dreamed off.

      What better way to plan a hoax and admit it as a hoax, to make it appear non reliable, untrustworthy and non credible source of information and facts. The very platforms through which powerless citizens criticize and express freely from becoming a joke STOP the sanctimonious and hypocritical moaning.

      Thank you

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  11. Not Surprised

    April 18, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Canuck Jacq:

    Welcome to the fray. “Clearly, blacks are not welcome.” LOL we in the US use race as a weapon. If you don’t agree with me, I can easily label you “racist’ “. See?

    • Boliver Skagnasty

      May 10, 2010 at 12:21 am

      I have found that most negros are at least a tad racist. Most racist, any color, have a chip on their shoulder, thinking the world owes them something they haven’t yet attained on their own. And racist are always the first to use the “race card” to try and get the advantage in a situation. Homosexuality is an entirely different matter. In Leviticus 18:22 the Lord God said “Thou shalt NOT lie with mankind , as with womankind, it is an abomination.” In Leviticus the Lord also spoke against beastality. predjudice, and told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Lord also gave us Ten Commandments, which do you choose to disobey???

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  14. Ricardo

    April 17, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    A lot of whites have a problem admitting that they consider him successful because he’s part white…considering that this site always talks about one’s right to self-define, I find the “mixed race” refererence (in lieu of the obvious term “Black”) curious as well.

    The author of the blog post may be a lesbian but at the end of the day white privilege is ALWAYS invoked when necessary.

    As a result, I will no longer post here. Clearly “Blacks” are not welcome.

    • Bridgette P. LaVictoire

      April 17, 2010 at 9:41 pm

      You know, the author happens to not be from this country- that is the United States. So, maybe, you might want to consider that fact.

      It is also a fact that President Obama is of mixed heritage- AS AM I. That fact does not diminish him or anything he has done; however, I would like to make it abundantly clear that a touch of tolerance for the wording of a person who is not from the US might not be a bad thing.

    • CanuckJacq

      April 18, 2010 at 4:54 am

      First — both the above comments are actually from the same person – or at least two people using the very same computer.

      As Brig said, I’m not American and I have never lived there. Your race politics are foreign to me. If you’re that interested, you can explain to me why I would refer to the president as Black when he has one black parent and one white parent.

      I’m aware of the “one-drop rule” from segregation, but didn’t know it was widely accepted today.

  15. Black Gay Girl

    April 17, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    “Mixed race”
    Guess what, Barack Obama is Black. And would be Black to you if he were anything but president.
    The fact that you can’t admit the president is–what he calls himself constantly-Black, speaks more to your prejudices than anything else.
    Anyone wonder why the Black and Gay movements are not at all analogous, need look no further than this left wing race side show cloaked in “progressivism”
    You’re a disgusting joke.

    • tsiya

      May 11, 2010 at 6:22 am

      I understand how you feel about the mixed race statement..so don’t EVER ask someone “How much indian are you?” That would mak you a TOTAL hypocrite…and yet I hear that many times from the very people who make this argument.

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