Stephanie Mencimer asks, in an article at Mother Jones, and attempts to answer, the question: “Why do so many people think Elena Kagan is gay?”
It’s her hair, right? Or perhaps her stout physique? It’s hard to pin it down exactly, but there is something about Obama’s latest Supreme Court pick that has made the “alleged lesbian” label stick, despite unambiguous statements from the administration that Elena Kagan is most definitely straight.
Monday, after the news leaked about Kagan’s nomination, religious conservative groups took to the Internets with multiple calls for Kagan to out herself. Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a court-martialed military chaplain who now runs an anti-gay website, circulated a press release citing anonymous student reviews on Epinions as proof that Kagan is gay. Peter LaBarbera at Americans for Truth About Homosexuality blasted out a press release calling on Kagan to answer the question: “Are (or were) you a practicing homosexual?” […]
But it wasn’t just homophobic right-wingers calling on Kagan to address her sexual orientation directly. Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan spent a good part of the day suggesting that the administration is defending the closet by not answering questions about Kagan’s sexuality, and then defending his suggestion that Kagan come out. …
The weird thing about all of this was astutely pointed out by one of Sullivan’s commenters, who noted that the ever cautious, drama-free Obama would be uncharacteristically stupid to lie about something so easily discoverable as whom Kagan has slept with. … Besides, if Obama really wanted to make a statement and nominate a gay or lesbian Supreme Court justice, wouldn’t he have done so openly?
Nonetheless, even sane, smart people like Sullivan seem to believe pretty strongly that Kagan—and by extension, Obama—is hiding something. Buried in the many debates over whether it’s even appropriate to consider someone’s sexual orientation as part of the confirmation process is the unspoken acknowledgement that Kagan must, after all, be gay. Which is sad, because for all the pundit chatter about how a woman landing a Supreme Court gig demonstrates the great strides women have made in the workplace, the Kagan-is-a-lesbian meme suggests that there is still hostility directed at powerful women who dare tread in a man’s world. …
There’s not much else to explain the persistence of the rumors about Kagan. … There is absolutely no public evidence that she has ever had a same-sex relationship. No jilted lovers have told all to the Enquirer. The total sum of the evidence lies in the postings of four anonymous students (or alleged students) on Epinions. Overall, the case for her gayness seems to rest on a pretty thin argument that goes something like this:
- She kicked military recruiters off the Harvard Law campus because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
- She looks like a lesbian.
- She’s single and childless, has been known to smoke cigars and play poker.
- She looks like a lesbian.
- Jeffrey Toobin won’t say whether she brought a date to his wedding.
That’s it. You could make a better case that Kagan is simply a celibate workaholic, given the paucity of information that’s leaked out about her personal life thus far.
One has to ask, given all this evidence that people seem to want to believe Kagan is gay, whether it would make any difference at all if Kagan herself publicly announced that she is not. Even if it were anyone’s right to ask the question or demand an answer, I suspect that most of the people who are so obsessed with the question think they already know the answer. Isn’t that the entire point?