Sam Adams, the Mayor of Portland, OR, admitted this week that he engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with an 18 year old. Now he faces editorials and rallies calling for his resignation, and a few of each in his support.
While I believe that this is an absurd basis for an elected official to step down, it's been weighing heavily on my mind and only now have I realized why. In the same days that America is celebrating Obama's presidency as a fulfillment of the promise that any qualified candidate can occupy the highest office of the land, another official is being asked to step down based on a private and legal sexual relationship, which some find inherently objectionable.
If this is a case of "justifiable" discrimination based on sexual behavior that makes others uncomfortable, it has me wondering what in my sex life might make others uncomfortable, and what "justifiable" punishments I might face for it.
I grew up hearing about America's promise. Adults in my life would often comment on my insight and conflict resolution abilities with the suggestion that I should be president one day. When I was a youth commissioner on a county commission, another commissioner even offered to be my campaign manager when I first ran for office. With such encouragement, it was certainly something on my mind as an option.
America has it's first black president, and people are talking about how long it might be before a woman, or someone who's LGB, or even a trans person is president, yet I realized long ago that I will never see someone like myself in that office. As a trans woman of color who's openly poly, kinky, and involved in the sex industry, the highest office available to me is probably the water and electric board, and I can expect to face employment discrimination when people are aware of that. Sexuality is one area that is far too taboo.
So watching this scandal unfold, I take it personally. Most of his critics can't even name what they're upset about. Responding out of their own prejudicial disgust, they grasp at anything that might justify their emotional response.
Some claim that they might have began their relationship before Breedlove turned 18, but Adams brought a date to Breedlove's 18th birthday party - which would have been fairly rude if they had been involved. Some respond to the phrase "intern" and assume that Adams held an official position over Breedlove that he abused. Yet only a minor effort reveals that Breedlove was an intern for state legislator Kim Thatcher and was never employed by the city of Portland.
Those that are acting out of concern for Breedlove's safety don't seem to care about his own opinion. It's been three and a half years since their relationship ended including time Breedlove spent living out of the state. In his own public statement he says that "Sam Adams has always been a positive influence and friend to me." Without any reason to disbelieve him, continuing this violation of his privacy and can only be seen as a detriment to Breedlove's life and not a benefit.
Still others claim that there was nothing wrong about the relationship, but cite lying about his sex life as a breach of confidence with the public. Yet these critics seem to give a free pass to all the politicians who lie about policy matters, about legal matters, or even while under oath. Apparently this zero-tolerance policy about misleading the American people only applies to salacious details about personal sexual matters. This seems backwards to me. How many of us, if confronted publicly about embarrassing details of our sexuality, would similarly deny them.
Had he been honest, though, he likely would have gotten the exact same response he's getting now. The only difference is that his critics would have to come up with another rationalization for their discomfort. Because that's what it all comes down to - discomfort with someone else's sexuality.
When people are uncomfortable around someone's sexuality, it doesn't matter how honest or ethical they are around it. I've long given up hope of pursuing public office myself, but I would still really like to see representatives who represent me, who represent sex-positivity. Seeing the uproar around Sam Adams' personal sex life is a reminder of how far from that we are. I'm watching this issue carefully because if a politician cannot defend their own right to consensual sex with another adult that might make people uncomfortable, how will they ever be able to defend mine.