Mary Cheney is gay! First of all, I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to find that there are gay people within the Republican party. And in the inner most sanctum of the White House, smack dab within the Vice President’s own family. Can you imagine the VPs embarrassment, his anger, at having his family’s dirty little secret exposed for the whole world to see. You know what I’d do if someone had the gall to accuse one of my kids of being gay? I’d hit back, that’s what I’d do. You don’t just hurl vituperations and accusations at the most powerful man in the country and not expect to reap the whirlwind.
That kind of language is not suitable for public discourse, and if Kerry cannot rise above slinging inappropriate 3-letter accusations at people, then clearly he does not deserve to be President.
Let me see if I have a handle on this. The President proposes what blatantly amounts to an anti-gay social agenda, proposing an amendment that would permanently bar any homosexual from experiencing the most basic of rights (the right to fall in love with and marry that person and be acknowledged forever as a couple), which will never pass, a fact the President himself knows, but the Cheney family is pissed because John Kerry acknowledged the simple fact of his daughter’s sexual orientation.
During the run ups to the Democratic primaries, candidate Dick Gephardt took any and every opportunity to speak about his love and admiration for his lesbian daughter. He did so, like everything else in his campaign, to the point of monotoned repetition, methodically drubbing that fact into our heads. And although Gephardt’s personal style can be as bland as white rice, he spoke of his daughter in the most human terms. So imagine for a second that Gephardt had won. Imagine he was the one running against Bush, and that Bush had acknowledged, in a public and nationally televised debate, the life and identity of Gephardt’s daughter. I’m speculating here, but I don’t think Gephardt or his family would have been offended. The Democrat might have even wept openly, walking over to thank and hug the President for speaking the simple truth of his child’s life.
I’m not going to pretend I understand what Mary Cheney must be thinking. So much is expected from her; from her family to gay rights activists. She must lose sleep at night, and although I don’t know any of this for a fact, I feel terrible for the position she now finds herself in.
There is nothing about the Vice President and his wife’s reaction that doesn’t speak of political desperation, and it makes me sick. Think of how easy we have it as heterosexuals. We can fall in love with and marry whomever we choose. That fact can be celebrated by our family and friends, and officially stamped by our government. We can sit around and talk about our partner, give updates on our kids, show photos to our workmates and friends. In short, most things we do wave the tall banner of our sexual orientation in the most obvious way possible. Las Vegas is more subtle.
It’s hypocritical double-speak. John Kerry did nothing more than acknowledge something that everyone on the planet already knew was true. Dick Cheney has a daughter. And she is gay. He did not out her. He did not expose her for being something we all thought she was not. He did not use it to gain political leverage. Sometimes we get angry at the things that turn a mirror on our own weaknesses, at our own failings and lack of will or accomplishment. The Cheney family rage must have as much to do with the fact that the Republican base is adamantly anti-gay (and because of that, bigoted in the most dishonest way you can be) as it perhaps has to do with the fact that they have done little to publicly support the life that their daughter leads.
Gay is not a four letter word. He didn’t stand up and call Cheney’s black daughter a n_____. You’d think he did, from the reaction this received, but if it exposes anything, it is the way that many of us think about this issue.
You are not open minded just because you say publicly that everyone has the right to happiness, to be who they are and to support however they want to live their lives. This is a thinly veiled way of saying, “I don’t like or approve of what you do, but if I come out and say that, people will know I’m a bigot.” You are open minded when you can speak freely and openly about the facts that sit nakedly on your front porch. You are open minded when you don’t just say that you think everyone has the right to be who they are, you then follow that by fighting for them when their most basic rights are openly and hatefully denied to them. That is being open minded. I can disagree with however anyone chooses to live their lives. But I can never, under any circumstances, allow another to remove that right from them. When it comes to homosexuals in America, this was a preemptive strike to begin with. They have the right to marry under the ideology this country was built on, it has just been denied them.
Where are we when we are offended not at the person who wants to strip away more rights, but at the one who says, "look, there, see, that's who she is?" We are, I think, exactly nowhere.
The Democrats are not much better at this than the Republicans. No politician is until he stands up and says, “As difficult as it is for me to overcome my own generational biases, I support gay marriage because it is, plain and simply, the right thing to do.” But the key difference, to me at least, is that John Kerry didn’t speak through one side of his mouth about how everyone should be equal, and then with the other side essentially ask homosexuals to go into the corner and not speak up or draw attention to themselves in any way. "Don't move and you won't be harmed. We came for your pride and dignity. Be smart, and you might live through this. Don't try to be a hero."
Why do they have to be so, what’s the word I’m looking for, so fucking gay all the time? For the same reason I have to be so straight all the time. I just am that way. Deal with it.
We are a long way from the right place on this issue. But at least Kerry did the simple, honest, and right thing to do. In speaking about Mary Cheney in plain language, in the terms of who she is, he offered her a shred of the dignity that is continuously withheld. We should be able to talk about these things. Dick Cheney has a daughter. And she is gay. Openly, and of her own free will, because that is who she is.
Until we all own up that we are, at times, small minded and wrong, even when we don’t mean to be, I’ll sit here, in this little space, embarrassed and disappointed, but optimistic that we are finally moving in the right direction.
The truth begins by not hiding it in the back of the room, but by acknowledging it, speaking it out loud, even when we are awkward about it. Even when it makes us uncomfortable. And the person I feel the most sorry for in all of this is the one who isn’t saying anything. In part, probably, because she loves her father. And in part, probably, because there is just so much to say. Where does one begin?