Is She or Isn’t She? The Requested Outing of Elena Kagan

For those in the public eye, speculation about one’s sexual orientation is commonplace. When red flags (not the fun kind) like being an unmarried woman or a “confirmed bachelor” go up about someone newly thrust into the spotlight, speculation can reach a fever pitch. Such is the case with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. However, what raised the flag was not her marital status or her position on “don’t ask, don’t tell”. It appears the main reason the lesbian rumor started was due to comments by 4 anonymous alleged Harvard Law School students posted on Epinions.com. What really sold it in many people’s minds was the Obama camp’s oddly desperate-sounding denials of the rumors when they first started. And when some digging brought to light juicy tidbits like pictures of Kagan playing softball and her apparent sparse dating record in college, that just fueled the fire.

Of course it’s ridiculous to suggest a woman is a lesbian because she played a softball game at which those with cameras were present, or because she dated few men in college. But the right wing opponents of her nomination will take anything they can get. In response Democrats have dispatched, of all people, Eliot Spitzer to defend Kagan’s honor. The two were friends at Princeton and Spitzer swears she dated other men (not him) during her time there. And her law school roommate is also sure that Kagan is straight. The way these rumors are being handled calls into question why being gay is such a dealbreaker for a Supreme Court nominee. Are the hamhanded denials really necessary? If she were gay, would that be the end of her brief career as a potential Justice?

Besides the unnecessary effort being expended to prove she’s not gay, what also irks me is the suggestion being made by some openly gay journalists that if Kagan was gay, she has a responsibility to be out about it. If the question is asked, they say, she should have to answer. And if she were gay, it apparently would be a boon to liberals because it would mean she definitely had progressive stances on key issues. This irks me as well. Ever heard of the Log Cabin Republicans? I think it’s somewhat offensive to suggest that being gay automatically makes you progressive. How many closeted gay Congressmen have consistently been anti-gay rights in their political actions? Gay folks don’t have a corner on the liberal market. Their views vary as much as straight folks’ do.

I don’t think public figures have a duty to declare their queerness. Yes, it would be awesome if Kagan were gay, out, and progressive. However, she’s not obligated to inform us of the details of her private life. What really needs to be critiqued is the Obama administration’s response to the suggestion that she might be gay. In making it a Big Deal, they’re inferring that there’s something politically dangerous about being gay. Kagan herself has been mum about the issue. Which is her right, but letting everyone else assure the public that you’re not gay seems a bit off. If the case is “She’s Not Gay, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That!” saying it once should be enough. I just think the way this is being handled by the left borders on offensive. I expect as much from the Fox News set, but I’d like to think so-called progressives could stand to be a little less hyper about the rumors.

Unfortunately, the only way I see this ending is if Kagan herself states which team she’s playing for. Is there a People cover in her future?

4 Responses to Is She or Isn’t She? The Requested Outing of Elena Kagan

  1. DeeLeigh May 17, 2010 at 5:13 am #

    Two annoying things about the whole media frenzy: first, who cares if she's gay or not? The university that my parents worked at had a gay man as the president back in the eighties. It's not as if gay people have never been in positions of power.

    Second: the fact that she may care more about her career than her personal life, the fact that she's midsized and not a lover of frilly pink clothes, and the fact that she doesn't have long hair, the fact that she used to play softball… these things don't have anything to do with sexual orientation. As a straight woman who doesn't like ultra-feminine clothing, who enjoys building things with power tools, and whose profession is so traditionally male that many people think that "women aren't wired to do that kind of work," I get sort of annoyed with the idea that if a woman doesn't have disney princesses as role models, she must be gay. Sometimes I really hate the whole gender binary and wish it would go away.

    Thank you.

    • Tasha Fierce May 19, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

      I hate the gender binary pretty much all the time! But yeah, I seriously don't get why it's such a big deal for us to know what she does in her personal life.

  2. Ellie Di May 17, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    In my world, it doesn't matter and no one should get to talk about your sexual orientation. But I realize that's pretty much a fantasyland at this point. I wish you were right in that the rumours would stop if she states her preference, but it's pretty clear from past situations that a confirmation of any sort will only result in more problems. If she says she's straight, people will say she's a liar. If she says she's gay, people will yell that she shouldn't be considered for the appointment (or worse, be removed from her job). If she admits anything in between, she'll get both. It's so awful that people will let someone's sexual preferences get in the way of the value of that person themselves.

    • Tasha Fierce May 19, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

      It seems like the issue might be dying down, but that could just be wishful thinking.