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President Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan to be the next associate justice of the United States Supreme Court has set off a round of speculation about Kagan's sexual orientation.  Kagan, who is 50 and unmarried, now finds herself beset by questions about whether she's a lesbian.  

One response to this speculation that has been common here on DK has been to say that questions about Kagan's sexual orientation are a violation of her "privacy" or that Kagan's "sexuality" and her "private life" are no one else's business.  As a gay man, I have a somewhat different take on this issue.  If you'll follow me below the fold, I will try to explain why I find this so-called "privacy" argument misdirected.  

Briefly stated, a person's sexual orientation and a person's sexuality are two entirely different things.  Keeping the former a secret is not about privacy as we ordinarily think of that term.  Instead, it is about the thing we LGBTs know as "the closet."  It is about isolating, shaming, and humiliating LGBTs into silence about who they really are.  So if you're not afraid of the dark, have a look below as we explore the shadowy world of the closet.

I.  The Closet and Its Role in LGBT Oppression

Most of us older LGBTs are familiar with the closet.  Many of us have spent a significant portion of our lives there.  Almost everyone has heard the phrase "in the closet" used in reference to a gay person.  But we don't often stop to think about what exactly the closet is.  When I speak of the closet, I am referring to a type of psychological prison that the majority (straight) culture has constructed for LGBTs.  What keeps LGBTs inside this prison is, first and foremost, the social stigma created by homophobia and transphobia.  LGBTs who venture outside the closet know they can be subjected to disapproval, discrimination, insults, and even deadly violence.  

Unlike a physical prison, however, the closet requires the cooperation of its inmates to be effective.  The closet is a place where the prisoners lock themselves in voluntarily.  They do this because they have been taught, from a very early age, to be ashamed of who they are.  In childhood, we LGBTs are indoctrinated with the idea of our own supposed inferiority.  We are told that our true nature is deviant, disgusting, and abnormal.  As children, we internalize these messages and become supremely ashamed of ourselves.  Rather than be honest about who we are and risk the social opprobrium that would follow, we retreat into the desperate and mendacious secrecy of the closet, attempting to conceal our true nature from everyone around us, and often, even from ourselves.  

The voluntary nature of confinement in the closet is the closet's most  ingenious feature, but it is also its Achilles heel.  When an LGBT person "comes out," he or she effectively refuses further participation in the closet's system of voluntary oppression.  "Out" LGBTs renounce their shame and openly embrace their true selves as good and normal.  

The closet has always played a very important role in the oppression of LGBTs.  By shaming LGBTs into silence, it isolates us from one another.  This isolation is fundamentally disempowering.  One cannot take concerted action when one thinks one is all alone.  In addition, by keeping openly gay people out of public view, the closet deprives other LGBTs of role models. It also keeps society at large from seeing LGBTs in high-profile positions, and it thus perpetuates the notion that LGBTs are not worthy or capable of making useful contributions to society.

Fortunately, the closet is becoming less powerful as more and more of its inmates abandon it.  Nevertheless, it retains its power when it comes to the highest levels of our government.  There are no open LGBTs in the Cabinet, in the Senate, or on the Supreme Court.  And this is where Kagan comes in.

II.  Mistaking Privacy:  Sexual Orientation vs. Sexual Activity

If Kagan is a lesbian, knowing the simple fact of her sexual orientation would in no way compromise her privacy, at least not in any traditional understanding of the term.  I can illustrate this in two ways.  First, I've informed readers of this diary that I'm gay.  Everyone reading it now knows my sexual orientation.  But you know absolutely nothing about my private life.  You don't know what I do in the bedroom, who I do it with, or indeed, whether I have a romantic or sexual life at all.  In short, knowing my sexual orientation doesn't let you into my private life in any way.  All it tells you is that if I were to fall in love or have sex, my partner would be male, not female.  That's it.

Second, those making this "privacy" argument overlook the fact that straight people neither need nor demand privacy with respect to their sexual orientation.  To the contrary, straight people in Elena Kagan's position openly advertise and celebrate their sexual orientation.  They bring their husbands, wives, and children to the press conferences held when they are nominated, and their spouses regularly attend their confirmation hearings.  At no time does anyone ask about the nominee's sexual orientation, because that orientation is an open book.  It does not need "privacy," because being straight entitles one to the privileges that come with being part of the majority culture.

Those who argue Kagan has some sort of right to privacy in her sexual orientation (as distinguished from her private sexual conduct) are unwittingly confirming the idea that being a lesbian is something so shameful that Kagan is right to hide in the closet.  The closet, of course, is where much of straight America wants LGBTs to be.  Homophobia and transphobia do not admit of the notion that an LGBT person can be qualified for high office.  So LGBTs who aspire to positions of great responsibility must keep their orientation "private" lest it bring down the whole homophobic/transphobic fiction that LGBTs are unworthy.  If Elena Kagan were an out lesbian and were confirmed, it would show that being LGBT is no reason not to entrust her with one of the most important offices in the nation.

Interestingly, those arguing that Kagan has a right to keep her sexual orientation private are making an argument that Kagan herself is not.  Kagan is not asking that her sexual orientation be kept private.  To the contrary, she has friends, former roommates, and other people out there telling everyone how straight she is.  Thus, Kagan herself doesn't demand "privacy" for her sexual orientation, so long as that orientation is straight.  But why is her straight sexual orientation not considered a private matter, while her (possible) lesbian orientation is?  The reason, as I have explained above, is because of the closet.

(By the way, just in case you're wondering, I don't advocate outing Kagan if she is a lesbian.  As much as I would disagree with choosing to remain in the closet, I view coming out as a personal process that each LGBT approaches in his or her own way.)
 

III.  Why I Hope Kagan's Not a Lesbian  

The argument I am making here is relevant if, and only if, Kagan is truly a lesbian and is choosing to hide that fact.  In such a case, she is harming all of us in the LGBT community by perpetuating the shame that is the closet.  And defending her right to remain in the closet only reinforces the homophobic myth that being LGBT disqualifies one for high office.  I think we ought to be well past the point of rushing to the defense of the closet.  It's one of the most harmful constructs there is.  

That's why I sincerely hope Kagan's friends are telling the truth about her.  I very much hope she's straight.  It may seem odd that I, a gay man, would hope that we're not getting a lesbian on the Supreme Court, even if we get one covertly.  But if Kagan's a closeted lesbian, then it would strongly suggest that she has not yet rid herself of the internalized homophobia that keeps her in hiding.  I could never be sure how that might affect her decision making in cases involving LGBT rights.

In conclusion, if Kagan is a lesbian (and I have no idea whether she is), and she is choosing to hide her orientation, then this is not about privacy.  It is about the closet.  Those are two entirely different things that should not be confused.  Privacy is the right of a person to decide, of her own volition and free from outside pressure, what she wants to make public.  The closet is a means of oppression and social coercion designed to humiliate, shame, and isolate LGBTs.  I'm all for the former, but I'll never stop fighting the latter.

Originally posted to Positively Charged Opinion on Tue May 18, 2010 at 02:22 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Very well stated. (14+ / 0-)

    If you're interested in helping, learning or wish to donate please, please go to Young Dementia dot org.

    by BFSkinner on Tue May 18, 2010 at 02:28:09 PM PDT

  •  I absolutely, completely, whole-heartedly (11+ / 0-)

    disagree with you. Here's why.

    First, you say this:

    Those who argue Kagan has some sort of right to privacy in her sexual orientation (as distinguished from her private sexual conduct) are unwittingly confirming the idea that being a lesbian is something so shameful that Kagan is right to hide in the closet. The closet, of course, is where much of straight America wants LGBTs to be.  Homophobia and transphobia do not admit of the notion that an LGBT person can be qualified for high office.  So LGBTs who aspire to positions of great responsibility must keep their orientation "private" lest it bring down the whole homophobic/transphobic fiction that LGBTs are unworthy.  If Elena Kagan were an out lesbian and were confirmed, it would show that being LGBT is no reason not to entrust her with one of the most important offices in the nation.

    And then you say this:

    (By the way, just in case you're wondering, I don't advocate outing Kagan if she is a lesbian.  As much as I would disagree with choosing to remain in the closet, I view coming out as a personal process that each LGBT approaches in his or her own way.)

    While I certainly don't think that "the closet" should be necessary, or even exist, I absolutely do not wish to infringe upon Ms. Kagan's right to come to terms with her sexuality in her own way and in her own time.

    If she's not ready yet, then she's not ready yet. And maybe her friends, who claimed she was straight, were tellin' the truth. Who knows?

    Just one more reason why I wish Obama would have picked Pamela Karlan. She's out and proud, baby.

    if someone dangles keys in front of my face I am fascinated by them. Thats what this website should be. -- rexymeteorite

    by Colorado is the Shiznit on Tue May 18, 2010 at 02:32:42 PM PDT

  •  I like this. (11+ / 0-)

    You make some great points.  Nice work.

    One should no more deplore homosexuality than left-handedness. ~Towards a Quaker View of Sex, 1964 (Proud left-handed queer here!)

    by AUBoy2007 on Tue May 18, 2010 at 02:32:43 PM PDT

  •  Perfectly cogent points (12+ / 0-)

    And I'm 100% in agreement about this:

    But if Kagan's a closeted lesbian, then it would strongly suggest that she has not yet rid herself of the internalized homophobia that keeps her in hiding.  I could never be sure how that might affect her decision making in cases involving LGBT rights.

    Some of the very worst offenders of human rights against gay people are themselves closeted.

    Those that are most threatened by us are those that are most unsure of themselves.

    by Steven Payne on Tue May 18, 2010 at 02:33:29 PM PDT

    •  Outing people who have not chosen to out (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vcmvo2, Shirl In Idaho

      themselves is condemned when straight people do it. Why is it acceptable when LGBT+ people do it to others? Haven't we had enough women sacrificed to 'greater good' this year?

      •  I'm not suggesting we out anybody (9+ / 0-)

        I'm not sure how you are reading that I'm condemning straight people from outing public figures from my post. I'm steeping myself in the hypothetical just like the diarist. If she were to be a closeted lesbian, how would this impact her decisions from the bench? It doesn't instill a lot of confidence for me.

        Those that are most threatened by us are those that are most unsure of themselves.

        by Steven Payne on Tue May 18, 2010 at 02:42:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  If you'll reread the diary (10+ / 0-)

        you'll see that I don't advocate outing her.  

        And for the record, I completely disagree with the notion that if Elena Kagan were a lesbian and open about it, she'd somehow be "sacrificed."  There's nothing wrong with being a lesbian.  It's not shameful.  The only thing that would be "sacrificed" is the myth perpetuated by the closet.

        Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

        by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 02:49:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's a decision for her to make, not anyone (0+ / 0-)

          else for her, just as reproductive rights decisions are for the woman involved.

          •  Sigh (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            musing85, decca

            As I've said repeatedly in these comments, and as I said in the diary itself, I don't advocate outing Kagan if she is a lesbian.  I'm not sure how many more times I can say it before you folks will actually get the message.

            I find it regrettable in the extreme that so many people are trying to distract from the focus of the diary, which concerns issues of homophobia/transphobia and the closet, and turn this into some kind of referendum on the propriety of outing.

            But I guess it's easier to talk about that than to try to get your mind around what the closet is and how it affects the LGBT community.

            Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

            by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 09:50:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  No, it isn't (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FogCityJohn

            (And neither are reproductive decisions, for that matter.) Unless she's celibate and has never had a partner in her life. Because if she has had a partner, and continues to stay in the closet about that fact, then that partner (and every other partner she's ever had) is perforce forced (back) into the closet as well. If she can't/won't be open about being a lesbian (if, in fact, she is--a point on which I have no opinion or any real interest in, one way or the other), then she is refusing to let anyone she's ever been in a relationship with (or even had a fling with) make her own decision about coming out.

            It would be Ms. Kagan's primary decision, but she would be doing a disservice to all of the people in her past (if there are any)--and, to my mind, committing an ethical fault--if she acted solo. Just as she would be if she decided to terminate a pregnancy without even attempting to consult the (putative) father. Again, her primary decision, but there are other players involved who have, at the very least, the right to be consulted about it beforehand.

  •  Very good diary (8+ / 0-)

    However, there are more than simply sexual orientation issues involved. As any professional can attest to, especially women and yes, especially a short person, any private information can and will be used against you. This is not just any career but one with intense competition, constant adversaries, and the need for both influence and a sense of authority in groups large and small.

    I for one always guarded my privacy strictly or it would have been a distraction. Once I got to a senior position, and since I was out in my personal and private life which included many other LGBT in my profession and company, I came out to my senior leader to be respectful and avoid any surprises. However, an attractive single woman on the way up needs to think very carefully about outing herself, casual dating of any sexual identity, chumminess at work, or affairs. These are not merely academic or political issues but cost in salary and added responsibility.

    For God's sake, you would be astonished how may executives think that a woman in pants or showing cleavage shows poor judgment or worse, is "open season" (i.e., loses respect). I once witnessed an executive lose cred for casually saying she'd been divorced three time and indeed I witnessed her suffering political harm for it.

    There are more concerns than the real and your well articulated issues about being closeted. But I guess I have to pragmatically disagree. We all know that we are more than our sexual orientation and likewise, there's more to coming out than just LGBT issues.      

  •  Question (0+ / 0-)

    If she were bi, would it make any difference?

    "I had surgery,and I can't lift luggage. That's why I hired him."

    by otto on Tue May 18, 2010 at 02:51:12 PM PDT

  •  They said the same about (7+ / 0-)

    Janet Reno.

    I do remember that well.

    As it turns out she was.

    And after many awkward denials.
    I do not think that Reno ever worked against us (glbt).

    Mayor Steve Pougnet-D for Ca-45

    by palm springs progressive on Tue May 18, 2010 at 02:59:28 PM PDT

  •  There is a generational difference in the LGBT (15+ / 0-)

    community that seems to cause some upset over what the notion of privacy is. Of course people have a right to that, but the manner we treat being open about our sexual orientation as LGBT people is important.

    For example, many (although certainly not all) elder LGBT people tend to refer to their significant other as their "partner". As a 23 year old Gay man, to me, a partner is a clinical term denotative of our separateness as a community from Heterosexual people. You can be a partner at a lawfirm too. Most younger people like myself now refer to our significant other as Boyfriend or Girlfriend. In some cases even Husband or Wife because they live together and would get married if we had the legal right to.

    This diary is beautifully written and gets to the heart of another important generational difference within the LGBT community. It's the notion that being LGBT is meant to be kept to ourselves therefore is 'personal business' not meant to be discussed in public because it violates our "privacy". To a certain extent it is true because we can and must have a right to privacy.

    However, at what point does making it seem like merely stating your existence as an LGBT person out loud is so taboo that we perpetuate our own oppression? Younger people like myself largely view this differently because most of us are getting to the point where we don't think of our existence as Gays as a "private matter" as so many of the elders in our community do. It's the natural progression of our equality and dignity as citizens of the world and the U.S. to no longer be told saying you are Gay aloud is a 'private manner'.

    People have the right to come out when, to who, and how they wish to because that is their right. However, the community can't continue to treat being open about simply our existence as a privacy manner because it feeds into homophobic bigotry that there is something shameful about being LGBT when there is not.

    •  Beautifully put (7+ / 0-)

      You should have written this diary.

      BTW, I fully agree with you that we have a generational divide on this issue.  I'm more than twice your age, but I agree that treating our mere existence and identity as some kind of "private matter" perpetuates our own oppression.

      Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

      by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:04:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I love your comment (3+ / 0-)

      although I'm laughing a little at this part of it:

      For example, many (although certainly not all) elder LGBT people tend to refer to their significant other as their "partner".

      For two reasons:

      1. I refer to my late partner as a "partner" (and I'm not old damn it! 48 is young! :) )
      1. the discussion about what to call our significant others has been going on for as long as I've been around and probably longer than that. I think it's mostly a language issue - there are no good words. "Boyfriend" sounds like we're in high school. "Husband" is inaccurate. "Significant Other" just sounds stupid. So I, reluctantly, adopted "partner".

      Nudist Minorcan ancestors good with slingshots, invented mayo - family dynamic now clear

      by hpchicago on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:53:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  hmmm. I and many other straight people now say (0+ / 0-)

      partner rather than girlfriend boyfriend or husband and wife. We do this because we don't think it matters one whit what our gender is as far as a loving relationship goes and it shouldn't to anyone else.

      bf/gf and husband/wife have a lot of sexist implications as well which are lost when you use the word partner.  It is automatic to introduce my partner as my partner with no qualifier.  Obviously if you are about to get married, most say fiance/e in most cases and when married, others use the word spouse.

      I agree theoretically a "closet" is definitely a negative but half the people who use it or suggest people are in the closet are gay themselves rather than straight, so the myth is also perpetuated by the gay community.  If I were gay, i would feel as uncomfortable as I do when feminists suggest that my choice of words is sexist, or an occupation.  In a way it puts me down as a woman with all the same rights to my own viewpoint as such that they have.  

      So as much as i see the point the diarist is trying to make, it also is suggesting to those in the closet that they are acting against a community they inherently belong to, which is a value judgement on the individual

      Barack Obama: "Dr. King said, "We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope." Jan17, 2010

      by vc2 on Tue May 18, 2010 at 04:14:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Clarification (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        musing85, vc2

        I'm not sure about this, but you seem to have the impression that I think using the term "closet" is somehow homophobic.  I don't attach a negative connotation to the term, but I can tell you that the closet itself is a very negative experience.

        Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

        by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 04:52:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, i did not think u meant it like that (0+ / 0-)

          was just putting forward a view a couple of gay friends have mentioned when some feminist issues of what is "right" for women to do or say are under discussion. Such as the extreme feminists who think that stay at home moms betray the feminist movement or those who f3eel that a woman who uses the word bitch is somehow objectifying women when most women consider it nothing but a mean woman like a bastard is a mean man- the original meaning for myself and others has no relevance to the current one.

          Barack Obama: "Dr. King said, "We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope." Jan17, 2010

          by vc2 on Tue May 18, 2010 at 05:26:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Has David Souter come out yet? (8+ / 0-)

    was his singleness an issue? There were/are rumors. Just curious.was him being appointed by a republican enough of a shield to dispel these same questions?

    What do we want??? Equal rights! When do we want them??? Now!

    by tnichlsn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:01:53 PM PDT

  •  Her resume does not scream bravery (9+ / 0-)

    She may be brilliant, but her success has come by playing by the rules, not by breaking them.  Glenn Greenwald stated that quite well on This Week.

    Her Harvard DADT stance was merely an extension of existing policy and IMHO a calculated position based on the fact that her ambitions lay in academia not Washington.

    I'm in no position to pass judgement on being closeted, but I sympathize with your argument.

  •  As a gay man myself (8+ / 0-)

    I've got to say this is the best thing I've seen written on this subject. I have been very uncomfortable with the whole idea of Elena Kagan being closeted, yet not able to quite put my finger on the difference between a right to privacy and the absolute need not to have a closeted individual in this type of power position. You've laid it out perfectly. Thank you.

    Nudist Minorcan ancestors good with slingshots, invented mayo - family dynamic now clear

    by hpchicago on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:20:56 PM PDT

  •  in a legal sense (5+ / 0-)

    Ms. Kagan, nor anyone else, is not supposed to be asked if one is married.  Cover letters certainly do not give away gender and therefore not sexual orientation either.  The other issue, not really addressed in this diary, has to do with transgender problems, especially from a health insurance stance.  Thus, the Federal Gov't via the Labor Dept is still employing DADT but more in a legal sense.  I think that it is a good thing, for reasons that Predictor and a few others have given.    

    I understand the rationale by the diarist, but I really think it is not my business as an employer.  As a friend, I would hope anyone would to share an important aspect of a relationship if that person chooses.

    I think what it is more important is that our society accept our sexual orientation once one chooses to share it.  Marriage equality, or better yet, a 21st century ERA would encourage many to marry and to share what the spouse does when in the workplace.  But the stigma is the problem, along with many religious practices, and mainly NARROW mindedness etc, which are reasons (among many) why many stay in the closet.  

    As regards to the diarist's hope Ms.Kagan is straight, that is just his (or her) opinion.  I don't care one way or the other as I am more interested if she can think like a judge or be willing to share legal philosophy on issues rather than if she is straight or LGBT.  But OTH, if our POTUS is serious about empathy on the bench, let's hope that her sexual orientation doesn't get in the way, but shows empathy to a certain extent that reflects the views of many in the meme of progress.

  •  I went round and round with one poster (10+ / 0-)

    who was simultaneously insisting it didn't matter what her orientation was, who also was very insistent she was straight!

    Completely oblivious to the cognitive dissonance it requires to be invested in arguing both of those points simultaneously.

    I've mostly demonstrated MY indifference to Elena Kagan's orientation by

    1. Not offering an opinion (since I don't know)
    1. Not spending much time discussing it (since, as I said, I don't care very much)

    It seems to me that's the most consistent expression of "not caring." Not actually engaging in the conversation. Engaging in other conversations instead.

    But there are interesting philosophical and ideological aspects to how we discuss these issues. And you've covered them well.

    Indeed, it does reveal a lot of heterosexist blindness. Many people as you say, equate orientation with activity. But a woman making a passing reference to her husband in an office conversation is not accused of having a graphic conversation about her sex life in an inappropriate venue. It is taken for granted such declarations of heterosexuality are appropriate and not at all controversial.

    But there remains a double standard for teh gay.

    Trickle Down Equality isn't working

    by Scott Wooledge on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:34:31 PM PDT

    •  Sleeping under bridges (9+ / 0-)

      This argument that both straights and LGBTs are, or should be, allowed to keep their sexual orientation private reminds me a bit of Anatole France's aphorism about how the law in its majesty forbids both the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges.  Of course, only the poor will ever need to sleep under a bridge, and only an LGBT person will ever need to conceal his or her sexual orientation.

      Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

      by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:40:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hilarious. (6+ / 0-)

        Filing that away.

        Trickle Down Equality isn't working

        by Scott Wooledge on Tue May 18, 2010 at 03:48:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Since you brought up this analogy (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AndyS In Colorado, Predictor

        Which I don't agree with, but for the sake of argument, do you think poor people want others to know they are poor?

        So, are you suggesting that all of us should check a box on a federal form that says what our sexual orientation is?  I'm confused about that point from your comments in this thread.

        My view: I disagree that anyone should be forced to share sexual orientation for a job.  Elena Kagan is applying for a job, therefore, I stand by my premise.  

        Accepting their orientation is more socially important.  

        •  So . . . (5+ / 0-)

          we accept the person's orientation by agreeing that it's something so shameful that it should be hidden, something that no straight person ever has to do?

          And as I think I've made clear, and made explicit in the diary, I do not favor outing Kagan assuming she's a lesbian.  If she's in the closet, then it's a bad thing, but I wouldn't force her out even if I could.

          What I object to is this false equivalence about keeping one's sexual orientation "private."  Sexual orientation is only a "private" matter when the orientation is something other than straight.  That isn't privacy; it's the closet.

          Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

          by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 04:38:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't think I said that (0+ / 0-)

            I think I asked, if we should be forced to say what our orientation is for a job.  That's different from social acceptance.

            •  Um, well, no (4+ / 0-)

              since that would invite discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is a characteristic irrelevant to employment.  I haven't advocated that anyone be required to disclose his or her sexual orientation as part of the job application process.

              What I am saying is that if Kagan is a lesbian and is concealing her orientation, it is completely misleading to describe this as a "privacy" issue, because it's not.  You'll notice that straight people don't seem to need "privacy" when it comes to their orientation.  "Privacy" only becomes an issue with sexual orientations that are not straight, and the reason is because of the closet.

              Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

              by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 04:50:05 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Let's back up (0+ / 0-)

              I think I would be uncomfortable in having to answer about my sexual orientation based on my competence or a skill set for a job.  When I interview for jobs and when my MR did, never did I bring him up (except when I got an offer), and I encouraged him NOT to bring me up, even if asked.

              This is why I am against DADT because we need military personnel of all kinds of expertise regardless of sexual orientation.  

              The problem is the social acceptance, which I join hands with the LGBT community, but also legal protections via a 21st century ERA, which remove some of those barriers.  If that happened, we could negotiate things for our partners, our families, etc.

              •  No one is talking about (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                musing85, tnichlsn, decca

                making anybody reveal his or her sexual orientation on a job application.  I am simply pointing out that for straight people, it's a non-issue because straights are the majority culture.  How many times a day do you think people wearing wedding rings walk into offices across the nation for job interviews?  I doubt seriously any of them think they need to remove their rings as a precaution.  In short, being straight grants you privileges that LGBTs don't have.  When you're straight, your sexual orientation doesn't need to be private, because there is never an adverse consequence attached to the knowledge that a person is straight.

                Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

                by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 05:27:31 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Well, ERA 21st century is one solver (0+ / 0-)

                  But I doubt Pres Obama is in the mood to set the scene.

                  And I'm still not buying your total argument-- in order to bring this to the fight for ERA 2.   And, my MR was not asked about me in the last few jobs he interviewed for.  I encouraged him to remove his rings, he would not.  The why is not hard to guess--his affection for me.

                  •  I think you're OT (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    musing85

                    I'm not entirely sure where you're going with this.  Apparently you disagree with the points I've made in my diary.  That's fine, since that's your right.

                    If by this point you don't see that the sexual orientation of straight people and LGBTs is treated very differently, then I don't think there's much more I can do.

                    Have a good night.

                    Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

                    by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 05:39:59 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  OK--but... (0+ / 0-)

                      As an older person who saw the Equal Rights Amendment that went down--and it's your right as a blogger to do so based on your comments that you don't know-- I am a friend of the WGBT presents group. I know what it was like to meet folks coming out the closet.

                      I'm guessing you are quite a bit younger than Predictor or I am.  I think any movement needs to be more about everyone, not just women, and I wish you a good night as well.

        •  I wrote mine in on my Census form (3+ / 0-)

          when I sent it in this year. It would be progress to get my sexual orientation noticed by the federal government. I can go to the Census Bureau's web page and get statistics about pretty much every demographic slice of the American people--except those of us who happen to be GLBT. We don't show up anywhere in those data. A hundred years from now when I'm moldering into dust, it would be nice to know that some future scholar would be able to know which group I belonged to.

      •  Well, there's the other one about how you still (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        musing85, tnichlsn, benny05, FogCityJohn

        have the right to marry, as long as you would just marry a woman, right?

        "When in doubt, be ruthless" - Ferengi saying (-6.62, -6.26)

        by AndyS In Colorado on Tue May 18, 2010 at 04:15:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The whole issue of Kagan's sexuality (7+ / 0-)

    and the reactions to it are brought up by the homophobic right for two reasons and those reasons are to keep questions of sexual orientation a matter of opinion and to stereotype anyone of a non-straight sexual orientation as having opinions that are characteristic or suspect merely because the person is not straight.

    And this is all wrapped up in a pretty package of keeping LGBT people marginalized.

    For example, the homophobic right would have you believe that knowing I am gay leads to knowing all sorts of things about me.  This is why I liked the diary, because you know nothing about me except the sex of the person to whom I might be sexually attracted if you know I'm gay.

    You know nothing about what I might think on nuclear power, because I'm gay.

    You know nothing about what I might think on the death penalty, because I'm gay.

    You don't even know how vigorously I might want to support gay rights, simply and solely because I'm gay.

    And this is what, oddly, both the homophobic right and the progressive left want to do which is to attach questions of Elena Kagan's sexual orientation  and use those questions as tea leaves for how she might vote on the issues of sexual orientation or gender on the Court.  However, this tells us nothing about those things.

    And, frankly, though, on the left much is made about Elena Kagan's supposed gay positivity, I don't see it.  I don't see her as necessarily a friend of the LGBT community on any of the larger questions of how she might rule on matters to come before the court having to do with LGBT persons, and knowing her sexual orientation would still tell me nothing about those things.  Her actual record on the matter is decidedly mixed, and if somehow she were a lesbian it would change my opinion on that subject not one whit.

    "When in doubt, be ruthless" - Ferengi saying (-6.62, -6.26)

    by AndyS In Colorado on Tue May 18, 2010 at 04:12:44 PM PDT

  •  Not buying it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Govinda

    Privacy is privacy and Lawrence v. Texas said that WHATEVER goes on behind closed doors is private, that is, not the state's business.  Kagan is basically interviewing for a state job and the question(s) are not to be raised at all.  She can tell us herself if she so wishes to inform the world as to her gayness or straightness or (horrors, modern horrors) asexuality. She should not be compelled by the state or any one else to breach her privacy.  That is the nature of privacy-what one keeps rightfully to oneself. For a closing opinion I don't believe that bit of knowledge is so very relevant to her being awarded the job anyway.

    •  You missed the point. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      musing85, decca, AndyS In Colorado

      And how does knowing Elena Kagan is a lesbian (if she is) tell us what she does behind closed doors?

      Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

      by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 04:43:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think my point is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Govinda

        that behind closed doors is behind closed doors be such doors to bedrooms, closets or houses. Neither what she is nor what she does is the state's or necessarily any one else's business.  We have this fundamental right to be left alone in essential areas of our lives.  You think this can lead to a form of oppression. Maybe for some people but the opposite is an unimaginable nightmare as per "1984."

        •  Still not getting it. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          musing85, decca, Catte Nappe

          So I'll repeat.  A person's orientation tells you nothing about what the person does behind closed doors.  You now know I'm gay, but you know absolutely nothing about my private life.  You presumably also know Chief Justice Roberts is straight, but I assume you don't know anything about his private life.  You may also be interested to discover that most of the current members of the Supreme Court list their spouses and children in their official biographies.  Isn't it funny how their sexual orientation doesn't seem to require any kind of privacy protection?

          I'm not suggesting that Kagan shouldn't be left alone to do as she likes in her romantic or affectional life.  She has every right to do so, just as we all do.  But her sexual orientation is not the same as her sexual activity, and by confusing the two, you are doing something very harmful to LGBTs.  You are perpetuating the notion that we may be reduced to nothing other than our sex lives.

          Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

          by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 05:22:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not entitled to know (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Govinda

            about either a person's orientation or activities. To have a thing private is to have a thing confidential. To know something about a person's private life is a breach of confidentiality. Official Biographies list details that people covered have conceded willingly to the public realm. I understand that this is a whale of a lot easier for straight people disclosing acceptable details and that closeted people might be doing some disservice by making the road to acceptance longer. Tough for any one that wants to make that journey shorter.  It is only the potential discloser's choice.
             
            The closet might have been hellish for you and most others similarly situated.  For others, being outed might be more hellish. Again, their choice. Some might be quite comfortable in the closet.  Some people of various and mixed orientations and activities, straight and gay, might not even want to consider for themselves who they are and what they are doing and much less have the the state or the public undertake that consideration. One way not to perpetuate the notion that one is merely and only a sexual being is to, by choice, not address the issue as to either orientation or activity or anything else. Basically, what I propose is Don't Ask, Don't Tell If You Don't Want To and Be Prepared for the Consequences If You Do Ask or Do Tell.  Consequence to Asker is to possibly be ignored and consequence to (voluntary) Teller is to be treated differently by some people for whom orientaions and activities matter. Voluntary telling though.  

            Sure, this is all easier for straight people, they are the dominant culture.  Sure, some of this is unfair and if people were more enlightened or if some of the un-favored culture members fought a little harder for their rights, perhaps none of this would matter so much. For individuals though, the privacy and the choice are of paramount importance.

            •  Comfortable in the closet? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              musing85

              Okay, we'll have to leave it there.  Anyone who thinks that it's possible to be comfortable in the closet is unable to understand the basic premise of this discussion.

              Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

              by FogCityJohn on Tue May 18, 2010 at 08:57:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  There is some (cold) comfort in the closet (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                FogCityJohn

                at first, anyway. It's one reason why a lot of people stay there. But eventually, for most of us, it stops being all that comfortable. Because when you get right down to it, the closet is a fundamentally uncomfortable, disconcerting, confining, stressful, hateful, not-good place to be.

                •  Hmmmmm (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  musing85

                  I don't know about that.  My experience of the closet was always one of paralyzing fear and anxiety.  And it seems to me that, since the closet is based on internalized homophobia, shame, and self-hatred, when one is in it one is almost by definition uncomfortable.

                  In any event, I don't have the energy to try to take apart everything that is wrong with deaniacyet's last comment.  Proposing another kind of DADT as the "solution" to this problem?  Saying that gay people can avoid being viewed purely as sexual beings by never disclosing their orientation?  Truly, the mind boggles.

                  Maladie d'Amour, Où l'on meurt d'Aimer, Seul et sans Amour, Sid'abandonné

                  by FogCityJohn on Wed May 19, 2010 at 09:03:47 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm a bit younger (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    FogCityJohn

                    My closet (when I was in it) was perhaps a little bigger than yours. I only remember it feeling restrictive when it got to the point where I was having trouble remembering which lies I'd told to which people (or which facts I'd omitted on which occasions), and even more so when I was finally ready to bust out of it--and had to keep waiting to do so because of other family or social crises that got in the way.

                    But even if the closet starts out mildly comfortable, there surely comes a point in the life of every honest gay boy or lesbian gal where it becomes a strai(gh)tjacket. And that's reason enough to do away with it forever. If we can.

            •  Then how do you function in the world? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FogCityJohn

              Because if I'm not entitled to know anyone's sexual orientation except those who have explicitly come out to me or been intimate with me, then I have way too much information about nearly all the people in my life--professional, social, familial, collegiate, whatever. Because they drop hints on a daily basis, fer cryin' out loud!

      •  Well, because you know teh ghey (3+ / 0-)

        is all about teh sex.

        I'm torn as to whether or not I'd like to live in the world I appear to inhabit in most heterosexuals' imaginations. On the one hand, I'd probably be having way more sex than I do now. On the other, I'm not sure I'd like not having time for anything but bonking.

  •  really good; thanks much!* (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tnichlsn, FogCityJohn

    Let's let the pols do the selling out, you and I keep fighting for what's right.

    by Matthew Detroit on Tue May 18, 2010 at 04:58:21 PM PDT

  •  Very thought provoking (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tnichlsn, decca, FogCityJohn

    Tipped and rec'd

    Very pertinent in the DADT issue too, isn't it. Don't "tell" about your orientation if you are gay, but there is no prohibition on talking of the spouse or significant other if you are hetero. If it's truly private, and nobody's biz, then nobody should be open about any relationships, or displaying pictures of movie/music stars, or otherwise noting who they find attractive.

    Legalism: strict conformity to the letter of the law rather than its spirit

    by Catte Nappe on Tue May 18, 2010 at 05:39:23 PM PDT

  •  A distressingly telling example of heterosexual (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tnichlsn, decca, AndyS In Colorado

    privilege is the number of (presumed) heterosexuals reading this who simply can't seem to grasp the myriad ways in which they openly declare their sexual orientation each and every day.

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