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I've never heard this elephant in the room

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 03, 2008 12:24 PM | comments

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[EDITOR'S NOTE:] This guest post comes to us from Steph Mineart. Steph is a website designer, lesbian, long-time blogger, and occasional writer on political issues. Commonplacebook.com is her online home, and she resides in Indianapolis, Indiana with her lovely girlfriend, adorable dog and mischievous cats.

Steph MineartI've been saying I'm going to write about the March 11th special election, and I haven't forgotten that. I actually have had a REALLY long post written about it since Friday, but I've revised it 10 times and can't quite get out what I really want to say... so I'm starting over.

Hopefully you've all figured out by now that Julia Carson's District 7 seat as a U.S. Representative is being filled by a special election on March 11th. Whomever wins will still need to campaign again to be chosen in this May's primary race and to be re-elected in November if they are the candidate.

The two contenders for the seat are Democrat André Carson and Republican Jon Elrod. Elrod is currently my rep in the statehouse, having upset Ed Mahern for 97th District in 2006.

So, where do I stand? As I mentioned in a comment on a previous post, I'll be voting for André Carson, although he's not my favorite candidate, and I'll be supporting another democratic candidate in the May primary.

I really don't believe Carson has enough political experience to be a U.S. Representative yet. His only other elected office has been a few short months on Indianapolis' City-County Council. He has no experience in higher Indiana offices, no experience at the Indiana Statehouse, all of which should be prerequisites for an office at the federal level.

There are several people much more qualified for this office than Carson, some of whom actively sought it, like David Orentlicher, who is our representative for the 86th District in the Indiana Congress.

Why Carson over Elrod?

I'll get to that, but let me start off with some Elrod's good points:

Elrod does talk a good game on gay issues. Many gay people in Indianapolis are campaigning for Elrod because he's stands out as a lone Republican voting against SJR-7 and against other homophobic legislation in the Indiana Statehouse, and I can see that's a great thing. There are several gay households in our neighborhood that have Elrod signs in their yards.

However, these same folks are studiously ignoring that Elrod hired a notoriously anti-gay company to build his website - a company that has actively lobbied for SJR-7 and for other legislation really destructive to the gay community. I don't think that's a deal-killer as far as voting in my eyes, but it does suggest that Elrod doesn't have a complete awareness of gay issues, or who he might accidentally be in bed with politically in the Republican party.

Elrod also really gets himself out there. I held a long conversation with him in my front yard when he was running in 2006 for District 97, and numerous other people in our district also reported talking to him. He's definitely a "get out and meet the people" guy. I've talked to him twice since that initial meeting, too.

So what's wrong with Elrod?

I'm not voting for Elrod because I strongly believe that he's gay.

Yep, you heard that right.

I really, really think that Jon Elrod is gay, and I'm voting against him for that specific reason. I have no real, verifiable concrete evidence that Jon Elrod is gay. None whatsoever. I have no smoking gun, no secret lover, no rumor or innnuendo from within the gay community. I have nothing but instinct.

That man sets off my gaydar at 5 miles away. I'm not kidding.

I've been out and active in the gay community for over 20 years. My gaydar is a finely tuned, high performance machine at this point. When it occasionally misfires - and I admit it does - it always because people fly under the gaydar; never because I've had a false positive. I never suspect someone is gay when they aren't; I always suspect they're straight when they're gay. I suppose it's possible that Jon Elrod is straight and I'm mistaken. But I really don't think so. Not at all.

There's also not much evidence to contradict my belief; he's good-looking, single, definitely metro-sexual, and I've never seen a girlfriend/beard, although there might be one.

So... IF Elrod is gay, shouldn't I be voting for rather than against him?

In theory, yes.

Vote for a gay man? In a heartbeat - I'd be thrilled to.

Vote for a gay Republican? - that's conceivable. If I thought he was the right guy, I just might. I don't cross the aisle often in my voting, but it's definitely not off the table, depending on the person.

But vote for a closeted gay Republican? Absolutely fucking not. I'd rather cut off my own arm and beat myself in the head with it.

In the year 2008, there's absolutely no reason why anyone running for public office should be in the closet, even in Indiana. Especially in Indiana. There's so much at stake for gay people in Indiana that it would be an utter betrayal of trust to be a closeted elected official, and I really, really believe Elrod is.

What I don't get is why I've never heard this elephant in the room (if you'll pardon the pun) discussed in the gay community.

I CANNOT be the only person who thinks Elrod is gay. So if all these other gay people are supporting him, are they doing so also suspecting that he's gay, and wanting to have him in office because of that, despite the closeted status?

I sure hope the hell not, because the very idea makes me sick to my stomach, it's so disgusting. The self-loathing involved in doing something like that would be overwhelming to me, and one of the most pitiful things for a gay person to do that I can imagine.

I really don't believe that Jon Elrod is a true friend to the gay community of Indianapolis, and I don't believe he's the best person for the job of U.S. Representative for District 7.


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David Wene | March 3, 2008 6:05 PM

Steph,

These kinds of posts make me feel a little uncomfortable. It seems very similar to some African-Americans saying Obama is not “black enough”? Or Clinton is not feminine enough or too masculine to be President? Or Elizabeth Dole is not a feminist so how can she represent women?

This partly makes me uncomfortable because the person who is the object of these comments cannot do anything to prove or disprove those comments.

This partly makes me uncomfortable because the person making the comments is using their stereotype (even when based on experience) of a class/group to then determine if the other person has enough of the stereotype to either be part of the class/group or not. To me using stereotypes this way is not honest or fair to individuals.

Two things stand out to me:

1. I know that some people at an early age did not act according to their gender expectations and at an early age were forced to deal with sexual orientation and gender identity issues. I know that some other people had their hormones kick in during adolescence and were forced to deal with sexual orientation and gender identity issues in their adolescence. I know in my life, I did not begin to put 2 and 2 together until I was in my 30s (I am not sure what that says about me) but I know many others who have had the same experience. This makes me less willing to put a label on a young person or assume that they must be hiding or lying because they do not claim to match my gaydar.

2. I am in my 50’s and I am finding that my gaydar works best with males in my age range. Because younger males are much more aware of their appearance, fashion and even their sensitivity that either homosexuality is on the rise or my gaydar is less accurate with the younger generation—and I am sure the later is true (or I might be becoming a dirty old man).

Finally, as someone working to bring change to the Republican Party, it does make me angry when I find out about people in the closet who are working for and helping Republican Legislators oppress our people. I have little respect for them.

I also know many people who are in the closet, for a variety of reasons in a variety of professions, but they have no problem supporting LGBT rights. Although I think these people are still captive to fear, I do believe I need to give them the time they need to overcome that fear.

In Jon’s case, the more I have been around him, the less I think he is gay. But I really do not think it is important what you or I speculate about his orientation. Since he is actively supporting LGBT rights, that is what is important and that is why I am supporting him.

Dave Wene

There were 2 Democratic Congressmen that I am aware of that were in the closet, doing the right things legislatively and their orientation did not seem to be an issue. (They only came out when they were caught having affairs with pages.)


David,

Your first paragraph has be baffled. I see no resemblance in my post to any of those things you described. I just can't see what you're getting at.

Jon can easily answer this question -- we just have to ask him the question. Jon, are you gay? It's a fairly straight-forward question and requires only a one word answer. As far as I know he's never been asked it, nor has he made any statement about his sexual orientation one way or another, which, given that he's stated opinions on gay issues, is a pretty big knowledge gap for him to leave open, and one that I definitely fault him for leaving open. I'd be happy to close it by asking him - in fact I'll email his campaign and do so.

But frankly, I don't have to ask it. I'm free to make a voting decision based on the gap being left open.

Your experiences in coming out and being open about sexual orientation (and mine, for that matter) are from a different generation than the young people of today, and the suggestion you seem to be making - that Jon might not realize his sexual orientation if he is gay - is too incredulous for me to accept as a possibility.

I'm not sure what you might mean by your point #2. I can't speak to your gaydar, but I can speak to mine. I did, actually.

As far as Jon's sexual orientation goes - I obviously think it's relevant to speculate about, and to outright ask about. I also think it's relevant to make a voting decision on, which I'm clearly doing.

I'm much less inclined to be tolerant of people remaining closeted than you are. I know for certain that simple fear is the not only motivator for many people doing so.

We've created a culture where we nurture people who are coming out, but also allow many people to take advantage of that shelter to take advantage of the gay community- to be in the community while keeping the stigmas openly gay people face at arms length. As a community, we need to start making distinctions between helping closeted teenagers and providing cover for closeted adults.

To me it's a question of honesty - are you telling the truth about your sexual orientation, or not? If you don't really know the answer to that yourself, it's one thing. But once you start dating people of the same sex, it's time to come out with the answer.

If an individual is capable enough to run for the office of a U.S. Representative and make legislative decisions on behalf of LGBT people, then that person should be very capable of coping with issues of sexual orientation, including their own. If they aren't, then they definitely shouldn't be running for that office.

You say:

"There were 2 Democratic Congressmen that I am aware of that were in the closet, doing the right things legislatively and their orientation did not seem to be an issue."

I don't know about anyone else, but that's definitely an issue for me. I see closeted elected officials are destructive-- whether they're Democrats or Republicans, whether they're doing the right thing legislatively or not.

Steph,

You write the following:

"I really don't believe Carson has enough political experience to be a U.S. Representative yet. His only other elected office has been a few short months on Indianapolis' City-County Council. He has no experience in higher Indiana offices, no experience at the Indiana Statehouse, all of which should be prerequisites for an office at the federal level."

I was an early proponent of voting for Jon Elrod not because I liked his policies, but because if Carson goes to Congress we kind of lose the biggest argument against him. Once he goes to Congress, he's surely "experienced" enough to be in Congress.

I know a lot of my Democratic friends are either a) sitting out the Special, b) voting for Jon Elrod, or c) voting for Sean Shepard. I haven't yet decided whether I will choose option A or C, but B is out of the question at this point.

Jeff Newman | March 4, 2008 11:06 PM

Steph, you wrote: "nor has he made any statement about his sexual orientation one way or another."

But Bil Browning wrote: "For what it's worth, Elrod has told me he's not gay."

Whose credibility takes the hit: yours or Bil's?

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | March 5, 2008 7:43 AM

Steph, I've started to comment at least three times now, and twice not hit the "Submit" botton because I'm still ambivalent over your stated reason as to why you can't vote for John Elrod: that you perceive him to be gay and feel that since he has not acknowledged it that poses some kind of unacceptable risk to the GLBT community should he be elected to the office he seeks. One the one hand, I believe that you have a perfect right, as does anyone, to make voting decisions based upon whatever criteria you choose, regardless of the merits of the criteria. On the other hand, I am uneasy because of the effect that its being published on this site and picked up elsewhere as fostering and spreading a rumor concerning his sexuality. You don't quite seem to accuse him of hypocrisy.....otherwise it doesn't seem to me that you would not have described his use of a homophobic website builder as not being a voting "deal-killer" in your eyes. You simply seem to suggest that when, according to what you admit is your own subjective (though you believe generally accurate) perception of him, he fails to publicly agree with that perception, this sets up an undesirable tension between his public and private life which are more likely than not to be bad for his would-be GLBT constituents.

I would simply have to say that I don't draw the line where you do. (Since I live just outside of the 7th Congressional District, the specific matter of the merits of John Elrod, Andre Carson, or anyone else running there is academic anyway.) Given the broad range of sexual fluidity that I keep reading about from other contributors to this site, I can conjure up all kinds of scenarios where, for example, a person perceived as being a "2" on the Kinsey scale by approximately 30% of the GLBT population but a "4" by the other 70% is reluctat to wade into these murky waters and refrains from publicly saying: "Well, to be completely candid with you as voters, I have had 55 sexual encounters since puberty......10 of them with my own gender, 43 with the opposite...and 2 where it was so dark or I was so drunk I really couldn't tell the difference. I now consider myself heterosexual, but once in a while I have a momentary fleeting fantasy otherwise."

I don't think we want to start letting elections for public office turn on this kind of thing.

Chris Douglas | March 5, 2008 1:41 PM

Steph, in my opinion this post is strategically unhelpful to the gay community on two levels.

First, the threat (not from you, but in general) is that any time a Republican candidate backs the gay community, he or she faces allegations of being gay. (I don't happen to think Elrod is, and that your gaydar is off... but that's beside the point.) Over the years virtually every Republican who has in some way been helpful becomes a target of a whisper campaign, a campaign that in some cases is clearly intentionally designed to deceive. What that means is that anyone who doesn't have a dog in the fight has a powerful political incentive to refrain from taking a stand on our behalf.

As the most ridiculous example, when Daniels was running, an activist (Marla, actually) called me to tell me she had just had a series of allegations about him land in her lap. I told her it was the most absurd thing I had ever heard (which it was) and had no basis in fact. Even the so-called "facts" were absurd. Marla, to her credit, also found mysterious the fact that the allegations had arrived in her lap almost as if someone said: "We should try and spread rumor through someone who will run with it.... let's dump one in Marla's lap".

Second, it does our basic cause no service to have the religious right conclude that every one who tries to stand up for us is somehow hiding their own issues, rather than doing so on principle. It creates an unnecessary difficulty for our cause, and combined with the disincentive to that these allegations create for people who aren't gay to try to support us, in my opinion sets our interests back rather than advances them.

Mind you, I personally have no problem with outing, especially hypocrites. I think you've just misfired on this particular post, both on the basic fact and on whether or not its helpful to the community to claim it under the circumstances.