A reader writes:
I appreciate what you're saying about sexuality being a pertinent question, but here's something to consider. I'm a woman in a committed relationship with another woman. If someone were to ask me if I'm gay or straight, I'd say I'm straight. I suppose technically I should label myself bisexual, but until I fell in love with this woman, I'd never even been attracted to another woman before. And I don't think I'm alone in this experience. Maybe Kagan is in my category.
Believe you me, this is tough to explain to even the most understanding audience. So she says she's straight and this woman pops up; that makes her a liar. So she says she's gay or bisexual and is untrue to her own experience of herself; that puts her in her own kind of closet. We've finally gotten more-or-less to the point where gay or straight is a non-issue, but what if yes or no doesn't really answer the question? That's what I see when I see the knots people are in over her sexuality.
You're writing powerfully from your experience of growing up understanding you're gay and making that known. But for me, my same-sex relationship was a "small, final detail" that I came to in my 30s. Does it color my experience? You bet. Is the question worth asking? You bet. But the answer may not be as clear-cut as "are you or aren't you?"
I do think my own experience of sexual orientation is limited in so far as it is about male sexual orientation, which seems to be much more binary and rigid than female sexual orientation. But I think being in a committed long-term relationship with someone of the same sex does not suggest heterosexuality.
One of my oldest lesbian friends would always answer: "I reject labels." That is a salient answer. It's just not the one Kagan decided to give. Or Obama apparently wanted to hear.