Alex Blaze

Homophobia still exists

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 16, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Barack Obama, Elena Kagan, Marc Ambinder, supreme court

Marc Ambinder has an interesting post up on the speculation that Elena Kagan is gay (she's not), but not interesting in the way he intended it to be. Mainly, it typifies the way mainstream political journalists understand gays and gay rights issues. He a) pretends that there's equal validity in both gay and anti-gay political positions, b) pretends like the sexual orientation of politicians is off limits if he's talking about a gay candidate but then shows that it's a free-for-all if they're straight, and c) calls everyone shrill and angry and irrational and calls the whole thing off, since he, as a straight man, is just tired of all this fighting!

People think Kagan is gay, and the White House is saying she isn't. I'm guessing most people who say she's gay just don't know that she isn't - it's not like her picture was plastered all over when people started mentioning her as a Supreme Court possibility. But she's also single, middle aged, pro-gay, and butch, so some people jump to conclusions. It doesn't help when a respected media source like CBS says that she's gay - most people assume that she's out when that happens.

In other words, not a big deal. Clarify and move on.

But not enough for Ambinder, who questions the motives of gay people in thinking that she might be gay:

Why gay rights activists? Because Kagan is a public figure and her appointment would represent an enormous advancement for their cause.

Nope, it's not that CBS said she was gay and lots of journalists have implied it and so most of us just assume that she's out, and it can't be that it'd be affirming for us to see someone like us in a position of power, as well as a sign that we're welcome in American politics. No, it's because she'd "advance the cause." Because no straight judge has ever "advanced the cause."

That's the equivalent of:

And social conservatives? Because she'd fit neatly with their narrow paradigm about gender non-conformity and with their overall suspicion that Obama aims to radically re-engineer society.

Us wanting to participate in the political process is the same as paranoid reactionaries who think Obama's going to take away their penises!

(Not to mention that I just haven't heard too many gay people say Kagan is gay - as evidence for his assertion that both sides are the same in that regard Ambinder cites a British gay news site and Queerty.... not the rough equivalents of the National Review and CBS News.)

The false equivalencies continue:

Gay groups want to appropriate and use these public figures to advance a cause, and conservatives, many of them, consider homosexuality and gender non-conformity to be fundamental character flaws.

Appropriate? Sorry, it's not like we're going around just labeling people gay in order to say, "Look, gay people can be president, just like Obama, Bush, and the prettier Roosevelt! Now let us radically re-engineer society." Yeah, there's some "You think everyone is gay" in the community, but it isn't the same thing as saying that the Muslim/Socialist/Kenyan usurper is putting sinful, hell-bound bitches in positions of power in order to persecute me.

Then he says that it's hard for journalists (like him) to report on sexual orientation:

It's tough for the media to cover, because reporters have trouble writing openly and honestly about a very contested subject, and because they don't want to appear to be outing anyone.

Except the Washington Post did, and he did a couple paragraphs up:

People who know Kagan very well say she is not gay

And if they did say she was gay, would he have published that? Would the issue be so beguiling if she were actually in the closet? Would it receive any attention?

It is an important part of the discussion, because Ambinder says all over that it's not important, that being gay and being straight are the same, etc., when clearly the media don't think so.

Homophobia exists. This isn't an issue where people can just throw their hands up and say that both sides are equal - one side is homophobic and the other isn't. Consider this odd wording:

She is an active and open supporter of gay rights. This might mean that she'd trigger a filibuster in the Senate because Republicans like Jeff Sessions consider vocal support for gay causes to be extreme.

No, she'd trigger a filibuster if she were gay because Jeff Sessions is a homophobe. That's not an opinion - the guy's a homophobe and that may be a good or a bad thing. But if he'd filibuster someone because they support DADT repeal, then, yeah, he's homophobic.

But that won't stop Ambinder from trying to throw up his hands and be the happy center:

Once it does come out, though, distinctions immediately dissolve into the basic cultural liberal-conservative arguments, which many Americans seem to have grown tired of. It's hard to have a rational discussion in an atmosphere dominated by shrill and self-interested voices.

Now we're "shrill and self-interested" to have the right not to be fired from our jobs just for being who we are. Sorry we're so greedy! We'll step aside and quit our jobs en masse so that decent, non-extreme, non-controversial straight people can take them. I can't believe we kept on saying that we were full human beings well into a time period where "Americans seem to have grown tired" of our antics.

So everyone is confused. Ideally, we wouldn't ask the question because it matters to no one. Less ideally, though it matters to gay rights groups and social conservatives, we'd not ask the question because it shouldn't matter. But are we at the point, right now, where being gay doesn't matter?

No, we're not at that point, because of homophobia. And it's not just "social conservatives" who are homophobic, it's latent, cool, casual homophobia among many people who say, repeatedly, that they don't care about anyone's sexuality that makes this an issue. I'd even say it matters to gay people, and should matter to gay people, because of lingering internalized homophobia many of us face.

Until that reality is dealt with - and it won't be so long as people try to find a middle ground between homophobia and acceptance of gays - public figures' sexualities are going to be issues to everyone paying attention.

The fact that we're even talking about Kagan's sexuality, a rumor that was started because she's single, has short hair, and has a good career, should prove that point.


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Regan DuCasse | April 16, 2010 2:55 PM

"The serious social problems of the day cannot be solved by the consciousness that created them." Albert Einstein.


Gay people didn't create anti gay sentiment and homophobia. Women didn't create misogyny, nor is racism the responsibility of blacks or others who are not of the favored group. Race is a social construct, not a biological one.
This is true also of all other strong political systems of bigotry exacted against other people BECAUSE of their biological legitimacy to challenge SUPREMACY and it's LACK of biological legitimacy.

We can easily point to the source of most anti gay bigotry, that being God and the Bible. Instruments, for millennium, of much human and civil rights deprivation and abuse.

With a legacy like this, one would think that the legacies too, of justice and equality SHOULD prevail.

Justice and equality have the desired and betterment of society to show for it. Bigotry and discrimination against gays and lesbians (or any other minority or women), does not.

It begs the question then, why would a decent society, proud of it's record of liberty and so on, be so fearful of letting equality speak for itself, when gay people are not allowed to?

Regardless of one's religion, this standard and mission statement of our nation, benefits people of faith too.
Their faith doesn't benefit from discrimination against gay people and never did in the way that is most meaningful.
Specifically as said, because they are anesthetized towards curiosity and expanding their own knowledge.
It's also human nature, perhaps of the more intelligent and compassionate of our species to wonder who ARE gay people and shouldn't we be hearing it from gay people, rather than those hostile to them?

I always ask the anti gay, if you wanted to know about being Jewish and Jewish people, why would you turn to non Jews and anti Semitics to find out?

Same principle applies to gay people. Why turn to a non gay, anti gay source for all your information about gay lives and what it means to BE a gay person?

Besides, as a straight person who wants to also be left alone to have my gay loved ones be themselves, I'm SICK to the teeth of all the anti gay INTERFERENCE with open and honest integration between us gay and straight folks.

Indeed, the usual suspect don't even try to compare or appreciate being heterosexual.
They WOULD find so little disparity where it matters, they SHOULD question if discrimination has EVER been justified.

Homosexuality has been with, among and a part of all humanity since humanity itself began. It IS beyond strange, to question people who are not and never have been STRANGERS, except to those who willfully want them to be.

It's time to question the people who want such perpetual strangers in our lives. Let THEM explain themselves...the things they usually try to rationalize require discrimination, would also have to for hetero people.
Pathologies and paraphilias are not exclusive to gay people.
Mores the point, this is where the double standard is most evident.

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | April 16, 2010 3:24 PM

I don't know whether Elena Kagan is gay or not, and, with respect, neither do you.

What I do know is that saying she's "pro gay" is ignorant of her most recent history.

Unless you're aware of facts not in evidence, that reputation being similarly prematurely ejaculated by many gays and nongays nationwide is based on the fact that when she was Dean of Harvard Law School she barred military recruiters because of Don't Ask Don't Tell. She even joined a lawsuit against the Solomon Act which authorized withholding federal funds from any university or public school that barred recruiters or ROTC programs. They lost but her sainthood as a gay rights advocate seemed secure based on those actions and statements to students and faculty such as:

“[Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a] WRONG [THAT] TEARS AT THE FABRIC OF OUR OWN COMMUNITY," and it's a "DISCRIMINATORY employment policy," and "I BELIEVE THAT POLICY IS PROFOUNDLY WRONG—both unwise and unjust—and I LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY when all our students, regardless of sexual orientation, will be able to serve and defend this country in the armed services.”

It seems she stopped looking forward to that day when she started looking forward to being on the Supreme Court.

Last spring, in her new golden job as ObamaRahm's Solicitor General, Kagan told the Supreme Court that a lower court "PROPERLY UPHELD" Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in ruling against the lawsuit by DADT victim Jim Pietrangelo [who was arrested at the White House last month with Dan Choi].

Kagan's 12-page brief insisted that the bar on gays serving openly is "RATIONALLY related to the government’s LEGITIMATE interest in military DISCIPLINE and COHESION.”

In other words, Kagan was saying that out gays HURT military discipline and cohesion....the SAME argument used repeatedly by John McShame and Elaine Donnelly and DADT architect Sam Nunn and the Marine Commandant who's afraid straight Marines would rather die than share barracks with a gay Marine and Gen. Write Congress & Tell Them Not to Repeal DADT Mixon and Gen. Gays Are Immoral Pace and the old dinosaur who blamed GENOCIDE in Bosnia on nelly Dutch gay troops.

That Kagan might be gay would such ignominy worse, of course, but this is reprehensible regardless of where she falls on the Kinsey Scale.

And, no, I don't give a flying fuck about ObamaRahm's assertions that they and all of their He Men and Lollipop Kids have no choice but to defend immoral laws. There is ALWAYS a choice, even when making it might result in a former heroine for gay equality being passed up for a chance to sit on the Supreme Court.

If we don't believe that, then we can never again condemn the Larry Craigs of the world or mock its Ricky Martins for choosing their careers over their conscience.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | April 16, 2010 4:23 PM

Confessing readily that I did not read all of your post sufficently closely to be certain, and hence susceptable to the response that you already said as much, I'll still add: It's a sad commentary in and of itself that the White House finds it necessary to deny that Kagan is gay. In doing so the Obama administration reinforces the idea that her sexual orientation has any degree of relevance whatsoever.

Good point. If they had to deny it, then it's of some importance to them.

Which means that she's being seriously considered.

Look for a lot of this kind of thing untill a person is nominated.Dont count on any serious candidate getting off with out some kind of "dirt" being tossed at them. The Socialst Conservatives are out for blood this time.

Caty
Politics is a contact sport wit no rules.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, [then they just sort of get sick of you and wish you'd just go away already and stop talking about it], then you win."

"We're confused" is crypto-speak for "I'm a homophobe except I can't square that with my liberal politics, so I'd rather be confused." It's the same confusion that affects the "sexually confused" and the "gender confused" that the right wing speaks about to cover their homophobia and transphobia.

When I was younger, in my 30s, and foolish enough to lie badly on poorly chosen occasions because I was afraid that people would think badly of me for telling the truth, I used to defend myself by saying I was confused. It usually worked pretty well. Of course, I figured out as the years went by that it didn't damn well matter whether I lied or not, as people knew the truth, even if they didn't let on, so I just didn't bother any more.

Maybe when Armbuster grows up he'll learn the same lesson. We can see through your little fairy story, Mr. Armbuster.

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | April 17, 2010 2:29 PM

VITAL OTHER REASONS LIBERALS/PROGRESSIVES/CIVIL LIBERTARIANS SHOULD FIGHT APPOINTMENT OF MAYBE LESBIAN ELENA KAGAN TO THE SUPREME COURT:

“The Huffington Post’s” Sam Stein wrote yesterday that the White House this week "reached out to progressive allies" and asked them "to dismiss" articles written by Salon commentator Glenn Greenwald, a gay, former civil rights attorney, and winner of the Izzy Award named after famed independent journalist I. F. Stone, arguing against the selection of Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. What has them so upset? Greenwald:

“Whatever else one might want to say about Cass Sunstein -- or, for that matter, Elena Kagan -- it is simply false to claim that they would fit within the so-called ‘liberal’ wing of the Court on matters of executive power and civil liberties. The replacement of John Paul Stevens could have a very radical impact on the Supreme Court, and it's certainly not too early to begin combating pernicious myths about the leading candidates. . . .

When President Obama chose Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter, that had very little effect on the ideological balance of the Court, because Sotomayor was highly likely to vote the way Souter did in most cases. By stark contrast, replacing Stevens with Kagan (or, far less likely, with Sunstein) would shift the Court substantially to the Right on a litany of key issues (at least as much as the shift accomplished by George Bush's selection of the right-wing ideologue Sam Alito to replace the more moderate Sandra Day O'Connor).”

Greenwald is no lazy thrower of ad hominems. He researches his opinions with both passion and the expert eye of someone trained in constitutional law, documenting them with both biography and direct quotes by Kagan and others. If there is a colloquial, overarching theme it is that Kagan is the textbook example justifying judging someone by those who admire them.

“National Review's Ed Whelan, a former official in the Bush/Cheney OLC and a far-right legal ideologue, lavishly praises Kagan's record on ‘national-security and executive power’ issues.”

Greenwald quotes several “New York Times” articles on Kagan, including this one:

“When Elena Kagan went before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February as President Obama’s nominee for solicitor general, Republicans were almost as effusive as the Democrats in their praise for her.
There was no daylight between Ms. Kagan, who was the dean of Harvard Law School, and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, as he led her through a six-minute colloquy about the president’s broad authority to detain enemy combatants. . . . Indeed, there was so much adulation in the air from Republicans that one Democrat, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, joked at the hearing that she understood how Ms. Kagan ‘managed to get a standing ovation’ from the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.”

Characterizing the Federalist Society as merely “a conservative legal group” is like saying the KKK simply did a lot of good for the white sheet industry. Two names: Bork and Scalia.

Graham, for those unaware, is one of the most powerful, Cracker-voiced flame throwers for the Far Right and a tireless warmonger who has voted twice to amend the US Constitution to ban marriage equality, strongly opposes domestic partner benefits, voted against legalizing gay adoptions, strongly favors teacher-led prayer in public schools, has a 0% rating by the ACLU, HRC, & SANE; a 100% rating by the Christian Coalition & the National ‘Right to Life’ Committee, & an “A” rating by the NRA. He asked Kagan:

“If our intelligence agencies should capture someone in the Philippines that is suspected of financing Al Qaeda worldwide, would you consider that person part of the battlefield? Do you agree with that?”

ELENA KAGAN: “I do.”

In other words, Kagan believes suspected terrorists/“enemy combatants” can be held indefinitely without charges and trial. [NB: OAG Eric Holder believes the same.] Kagan has “also agreed that an American citizen could be prosecuted for drafting a legal brief or writing a newspaper article in coordination with a banned group.” – "LA Times."

In February, representing the Obama Administration before the Supreme Court in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, she said, "What Congress decided [in the Patriot Act] was when you help Hezbollah build homes, you are also helping Hezbollah build bombs. That's the entire theory behind the statute." – NY Times.

“[The HLP] say they want to provide support for the legal, nonviolent activities of a Kurdish political party and a Tamil group, both of which have been designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department. One plaintiff, Ralph D. Fertig, a retired lawyer, has said he wanted to help the Kurdish group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, find peaceful ways to protect the rights of Kurds in Turkey and to bring their claims to the attention of international bodies.” Ibid.

Ironically, it was the very Justice whom she may replace who asked her, “if there was an authentic risk that Mr. Fertig would be prosecuted were he to make a presentation on behalf of the Kurdish group at the United Nations. He seemed to expect a negative answer. But Ms. Kagan would say only that the matter would involve a ‘prosecutorial judgment’.” Ibid.

My first personal opposition to Kagan, detailed in my comment above, was based solely on her betrayal of her own past legal protests against DADT. Greenwald’s research proves there are even greater, even chilling reasons to oppose her, and I urge every Bilerico reader concerned about who Obama may nominate for the lifetime seat on the Supreme Court to read more at

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/04/09/stevens

Today, Greenwald added a lengthy, detailed deconstruction [read: shredding to bits] of the three articles defending Kagan that have appeared since the White House “reached out” at:

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/index.html

It closes with:

“I'm still waiting for someone, anywhere, to point to something about Elena Kagan that demonstrates commitment to anything other than her career ambitions and institutional loyalties. It's very understandable why a President would want someone like her on the Court during his time in office, but that's a far cry from making a case as to why progressives should consider her an acceptable choice to remain on the Court for what likely will be decades.”