Is it okay to be quietly gay?


The White House barely had time to announce President Obama’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, before the spin controllers were scrambling to deal with rumors that -- gasp! the horror! -- she might be gay.

The Chron blamed “the lesbian rumor” on “conservatives." The Washington Post (and the White House) blamed CBS for letting a right-wing blogger report as a fact that Kagan likes girls, leading to this great moment in American politics:

"An administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters, said Kagan is not a lesbian."  

And of course, no Washington rumor should ever be believed until an official source who won’t be named officially denies it.

The real question here is: Who cares? It’s actually worth discussing.

Andrew Sullivan kind of mangles logic in a post called “So is she gay?” . He starts off saying “it should mean nothing either way,” but then argues that it does:

“To put it another way: Is Obama actually going to use a Supreme Court nominee to advance the cause of the closet (as well as kill any court imposition of marriage equality)? And can we have a clear, factual statement as to the truth? In a free society in the 21st Century, it is not illegitimate to ask. And it is cowardly not to tell.”

Harvey Milk, of course, always said that everyone should be out, and that the cause of queer rights depended on tearing open the closet door. But that was then, and this is now, and I wonder: Has the United States, and the queer community, reached a point where it’s okay for someone to say that his or her sexuality is none of anyone’s business?

Judge Vaughn Walker, who’s handling the Prop. 8 case, is gay -- but has never made a big deal of it one way or the other. I guess he’s sorta in the closet, but not really -- he just keeps his personal life to himself.

What if Kagan’s the same way? What if she’s got a lesbian partner but isn’t going to talk about it? What about if she’s straight and isn’t going to talk about it? How can the White House prove she’s not gay, anyway -- is her confirmation hearing going to feature a ten-minute televised session of her making out with a man? (And how would we know she wasn’t just acting, anyway?

Obviously, if she is gay, and she came out, having a lesbian on the Supreme Court would be a huge deal to the queer community, a major breakthrough in one of the highest offices in the land. And you can certainly argue that she shouldn’t be hiding anything, that the whole denial and ducking is an admission that homosexuality is something to be hidden in the first place. And that’s really sad.

In a perfect world, none of this would matter at all, and she could freely talk about her sexuality without any impact on her political career. But in a perfect world, could she also just say: Ain’t none of your business?

And are we anywhere close to that today?

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