They Still Don't Get It, Ctd

Drum admits that "I made up a list of questions about sexual activity and compared them to the question of whether someone is gay. That was a screwup."

But a revealing one. His larger point:

Andrew says he's interested in people's "public identity." And this gets to the core of my disagreement with him. Maybe I'm just mired in a different era, but I believe pretty passionately that people should be allowed a wide latitude to display themselves to the public however they want. There are limits, of course, because lots of aspects of our identities are inherently public Barack Obama is black, Hillary Clinton is a woman but this doesn't inescapably mean that we should also be required, as a prerequisite to public service, to make even the less visible parts of our identity visible whether we want to or not. Some of these less visible aspects, it's true, might well affect the way a Supreme Court justice views the law. But that's just logic chopping. Every aspect of identity potentially affects the way a Supreme Court justice views the law. It's the nature of the job. But that doesn't automatically mean that we the public have the right to know every last trace of their personal identities.

My issue here again is the phrase "every last trace". In a gay person's life, his or her orientation, and how he or she has handled it, is necessarily front and center - not some final, small detail.

Many well-meaning and pro-gay straight people do not get this because it is understandably so alien to them. But try a thought-experiment for a second, if you are straight.

Imagine living under the assumption that you are gay for your entire childhood and adolescence; imagine feeling compelled to date someone of the same sex at some point; imagine cultivating an all-encompassing skill at hiding key details of your life, spouse or social circles. Hide that photo on your desk at work; introduce your wife or husband to your work colleagues as a "friend"; remove from your chatter any personal pronouns; never mention children; never tell work colleagues of any social event that might imply straightness. Just try it for a couple of days. Now imagine it for a lifetime.

You think this is dealing with some "last trace" of identity?

In some ways, I'd argue that the closet makes one's orientation more central to your identity than among openly gay people. One reason I came out of the closet young was that I really didn't feel I had the time to expend so much energy every day constructing and maintaining a lie - and I felt increasingly morally compromised by it. Sustaining the closet for a lifetime must necessarily change you deeply. It reaches into the core integrity of a person, and his courage and self-worth. Closet-cases can enable crime (look at the Catholic church); they can over-compensate by trying to win universal favor at all times; they can subliminally try to prove their straight credentials by opposing gay equality; they can get enmeshed in conflicts of interest which cannot be exposed without exposing their actual reality.

This is why the question matters. And why, much as we might like to, we cannot simply wish it away.

The only way past this is through it.