Waymon Hudson

Massachusetts State Senator Comes Out on Independence Day

Filed By Waymon Hudson | July 08, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Alliance Defense Fund, coming out of the closet, Massachusetts, Stan Rosenberg

Massachusetts State Senator Stan Rosenberg, small_SRosenberg.jpga Democrat, came out to his constituents in a recent Independence Day op-ed in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, identifying himself as:

a foster child who grew up as a ward of the state, as a gay man, as a Jew.

Rosenberg is the Senate President Pro Tem and has served as Assistant Majority Leader and as the first western Massachusetts legislator to chair the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

Rosenburg has been an advocate for marriage equality but says he rarely addresses his sexual orientation publicly, saying "I don't practice identity politics. I practice policy politics." In the op-ed, he says:

I firmly believe that we will never fulfill our potential as a just society until we embrace the principle of equality for all and adhere to it as fundamental immutable policy.

The anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund has already tagged Rosenburg as a "homosexual politician" on their website. Be prepared for the anti-LGBT nuttiness to begin.

Rosenberg joins at least six other openly gay members of the Legislature.

Whatever Rosenburg's reasoning for coming out so publicly, I welcome it. The more out people we have in leadership positions, the better.

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In a word, so what? Mass. is a state that has full rights for gays and lesbians but none for transpeople. Let's see this guy actually live his lofty words and come out as a staunch public advocate of rights for Mass. transpeople. Now that would impress me, at least a little.

Barring that, all this does is further underscore the unfairness transpeople in that state still face every day because of the abject cowardice of the Mass. legislature.

or you could view it as identifying someone to target to help move trans rights forward in MA. Automatically blasting someone is hardly a productive reaction, no matter how angry someone is.

I blast Mass. legislators for the same reason I blast federal ones: because they so richly deserve it. Mass. has had full rights for gays and lesbians since '04 (I think?) and none at all for transpeople. After all that time and all that willful inaction, I think it's more than fair to attack first and ask questions later.

I'm not saying we shouldn't hold Mass politicians accountable for the despicable lack of trans protections in the state (you know we agree on this, Becky). I just don't have any information on whether Rosenberg is one of the people dragging his feet or if he is on the our side when it comes to trans issues. Either way- coming out publicly makes him a prime target to push to pass these rights.

I don't know either, but neither have I heard him speak out in favor of trans rights. Anyone who knows otherwise please post, but I certainly haven't heard anything and I do pay attention.

It's just that when I someone like this come out to such fanfare in a state that offers him and his family full protections as his state Party legislators continue to completely ignore the very real plight of their state's transgender citizens, I can't help but find it hypocritical and pathetic.

Perhaps if protecting the rights of all Mass. citizens, including the those without lots of money and political influence, garnered the same kind of positive attention this guy's coming out apparently has, transpeople in Mass. would have basic civil rights.

Like I said, we don't disagree, Becky.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 9, 2009 2:31 AM

Rebecca, I think it is a world wide unfairness. Yesterday I had a house guest who finally gave up on working. She transitioned at 17 in the Netherlands, she was simply born more female than male actually, (breast development at 15) her sex was legally changed when she was still a minor. Because she has a prominent name in her region of her home country employers would find out that she was originally born "a boy" and would fire her. She held 32 jobs in 17 years after college, It is outrageous that any person anywhere should be so disheartened. When her husband died tragically she took a real life change.

Tau went on to study in Dharmsala with the Dali Lama for six years and has authored two books. She also operates a charity to support Tibetian families who flee China. www.pantau.org

China has put her on a terrorist list for this.

I think a better way to look at it is that now you have an ally you know about in the legislature. Was he in office when trans rights failed? Would he be willing to carry water for trans rights?

When you automatically come out negative, you'll put him on the defensive which loses you support. Instead, give public kudos while keeping a wary eye... :)

And being pleasant and positive has gotten us where, Bil? In my opinion that's the big myth, that being polite and civil will get us the rights we need and deserve. That method rarely works and in fact often fails spectacularly, as has been proven conclusively over and over from Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, and Maryland to California and Arizona.

Gays and Lesbians have been protected against discrimination under state law for the better part of a decade now in Mass. Transpeople still have no rights there. How does it make sense to keep trying the same failed methods when it's already been proven that they just don't work?

Notice that we finally got action at the federal level when GLBT donors started refusing to donate, when people finally started taking action and saying "If you won't do right by us, we're not going to do right by you.".

This guy wants to come out? Great. But don't expect me to applaud until I see him publicly challenge his own Party's bigotries even when they don't impact those who Mass. Dems deem "the good Queers".

There are some things that I love about living in Mass.


I have to say I'm kind of over congratulating gay people coming out publicly. In general, people have been coming out publicly for a very long time, and there are openly gay people in pretty much every endeavor and profession. In particular, being an established Democratic politician in MA., home of Elaine Noble, Gerry Studds, Barney Frank, and many others, doesn't seem especially courageous to take this step in 2009.

But welcome to the party.

There is still a risk in coming out publicly, especially in politics. I think increased visibility is always a good thing and should be celebrated. While it may not be a big deal in Mass, when others in other states see it, it can be very effective.

It seems you can't really win in our community- if you don't come out or shout from the mountaintops that you're gay, you're a closet case living a lie and if you do, you're looking for congratulations and a pat on the back.

The phrase "eating our own" springs to mind...

I'm glad he came out, and I'm not criticizing that he did it. I just don't think we should throw him a parade.

Since when is a short blog post about news in our community "throwing someone a parade"? A high level politician coming out is newsworthy in our community, no matter what state it is in.

Again- the more visibility, the better.

Well, throwing a parade is a figure of speech. However, now that we're discussing this, it does bring a few questions to mind.

Why is this national news? I could see why it is news in MA. since he's a prominent member of their legislature, and he faces the voters there. But no one outside of MA. know who he is, and it isn't especially unusual to have openly gay officials in state and local government. I can't imagine that we would consider this a scandal, so that eliminates that reason for newsworthiness.

You mention in the article that there are at least six other openly gay members of the MA. legislature, which I didn't know. Were there national articles about them when they came out and/or were elected? If not, was it not (nationally) newsworthy when they came out? Then why is this different?

Now that I do know that there are already at least six other openly gay legislators in MA., that tends to make his coming out decision even less courageous and unusual. Both of those would diminish newsworthiness, not enhance it.

Perhaps it's a sign of how far this community has come that this news is ho-hum, and we should adjust our thinking about what constitutes news.

It is news because our culture is steeped in oppressive homophobia. Everyone may not have a closet to come out of themselves but most straight people assume all people are heterosexual. Therefore "A PARADE".

While agree that it could be sign as a sign of progress that you see this as ho hum, it does have an impact. While there may be other out high level officials in Mass and in other states, my home state of Florida has NONE- not one statewide LGBT person.

I think it's newsworthy because it's not a ho hum situation for a lot of people around the country. He's a long-time, high level legislator that came out unexpectedly in a very public (and I think, eloquent) way.

As for the other legislators and if they had coverage, I couldn't tell you. But I do know that making sure people know that we are in every level of government and in every part of society is an important thing. This is just one example of that.

I think we aren't far off on what we think, Rory. I was just a little surprised by the almost negative tone of your first comment (which could just have been a misreading- since sarcasm doesn't translate on blog comments sometimes, as I know from experience).

So I say good for Mass and good for Rosenberg. From other blogs, his constituents are pretty happy about it as well.

"I think we aren't far off on what we think, Rory. I was just a little surprised by the almost negative tone of your first comment... "

You're probably right. I'll freely admit that I'm more than somewhat jaded about publicly coming out. It's a function of having survived a brutual witchhunt in 1973, an outing in 1979, and a re-coming out (as trans) in 1998. I'm just really done with it. And it's probably not fair for me to expect someone who is newly dealing with issues of identity to have the same perspective or sense of history as me.

But having said that, I don't think Sen. Rosenberg is a spring chicken with a new sexual awakening. I think it's more akin to a politician who finally felt it was safe enough to cmme out publicly. And if that is the case, I'm just not that impressed.

But I take your point that it's always good for prominent person to come out.

I take your point about having went through a very difficult coming out and having that color your reaction.

Let's say we just hug it out now. :)

Folks, don't harsh on my senator...I don't think we ought to judge how easy or hard it is for anyone to come out, unless we know them personally. He's from a generation where this wasn't as common, and even in liberal Massachusetts, there were quite a few people who voted in favor of the (defeated) ballot measure that would have put gay marriage to a vote. Rosenberg has been a good supporter of GLBT issues.

But has Rosenberg spoken out publicly in support of transgender rights? Inquiring minds want to know...and if he hasn't, we want to know why.

An update from the local rag.

And Rebecca, Stan is a co-sponsor of the MA Transgender Nondiscrimination bill that's currently pending, for what it's worth.

Well, that's certainly a good start, and worthy of commendation, but I ask again: Has he spoken publicly in favor of the bill?

I ask that because I think it does make a difference. It's one thing to sign on to a piece of legislation as a co-sponsor, but quite another to speak out in favor of it to one's colleagues and constituents.

It's a fair question because despite all the known support of the Mass. legislature and the general public for this bill it still hasn't passed into law.

I can't help but want to know how a state legislature that's liberal enough to grant gays the right to marry can also be conservative enough to deny transgender people basic civil rights. It's perhaps also a fair question to soon ask in New Hampshire as well, but since this has been the case in Mass. for about five years now, it's probably the best example of ongoing anti-transgender discrimination under state laws that fully protect gays and lesbians.

Rick Sours | July 10, 2009 3:21 PM

The more the rest of society see the diversity of
the LGBT community, the better it is for all of

The greater our visibility the more we are
viewed as part of society and not different or
apart from the rest of society.