Why I’m Glad Obama Is Not Gay

Obama Pride

by Julie Hall at ProgressiveKid

Thank god almighty we are free at last from white-president gridlock. In America now you can be black (technically biracial) and become president. This spanking new reality is genuine progress. It is progress for civil rights, for black Americans, for white Americans, for all Americans, and for world citizens everywhere. It is a gigantic symbol that race is losing currency as a reason for bigotry, and that is something to smile about.

But although bigotry took a hard kick to the gut on November 4, 2008, it caught its breath quickly and assuredly in America that day when voters banned gay marriage in California, Florida, and Arizona and banned adoptions and foster parenting by unmarried couples in Arkansas. So, while I’m glad Obama happens to be black, I’m grateful he is not gay because he would not be our President (-elect) if he were.

Chances are he would not have become a senator either, since he would have faced double jeopardy being black and queer. If he had become a politician at all he would have had to choose between success and personal honesty. Being extraordinarily ambitious, he might have opted for success at the expense of his integrity, keeping a fundamental dimension of his identity, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences hidden from everyone around him. In this case, his relationships would have suffered because of his need to compartmentalize his private and professional life. To keep a low profile, he probably would not have had children or strong family ties of any kind.

If Obama were gay, he might have avoided politics altogether. Besides the practical challenges of being a gay politician, as a gay person a lifetime of experience probably would have eroded his self-confidence and ambition, making it unlikely that he would have aimed for the Senate or White House. He would have searched largely in vain for images of himself in the culture around him—whether politics, films, magazines, television, or even books. Within his own family he would have been uniquely alone as a gay son and brother, lacking the commonality of race or religion, making him an exile of sorts among the people closest to him. There is no way to know how his family and friends would have treated him growing up if he had been gay, but it is a safe bet that he would have endured at least some judgment, confusion, and detachment, if not worse responses such as disgust, contempt, coercion, abuse, and/or abandonment.

Even if Obama’s family and childhood social network had been exceptionally welcoming of his difference as a gay person, he would have nonetheless experienced a continuous barrage of messages from the world at large that he is unworthy of legal protection against discrimination from employers and landlords, that his relationships are unfit to be accorded basic civil rights, and that he is undeserving of full-scale parental rights. On a personal level, he almost certainly would have been subjected to an assortment of insults over the years, such as hectoring or even physical attack from strangers, rejection by friends’ parents, derisive and belittling gay jokes, people who purport gay friendliness while asserting that they themselves are “totally straight,” and a pervading struggle against being vanished by those around him who either wouldn’t see him or wouldn’t want to see him for who he is.

I am so glad Barack Obama is my smart, visionary, and black president (-elect). And unfortunately I have to be glad that he is straight, because he would not be our 44th president if he weren’t. But one of these days—I hope before I die—there will be a president who also happens to be gay in addition to being smart and visionary. Until then, I will wear my “lesbian for president” button, inspired by a straight black guy who rocked my world.

Julie Hall is the author of A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids: Understanding Climate Change and What You Can Do About It and cofounder of the green online store ProgressiveKid.

Image by Justinfeed, Creative Commons license, 2008.

©2008 ProgressiveKid

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