I am stumped by the implicit acceptance of prejudice and bone-headedness in your recent piece, “The Mary Chaney Flap: a Gaffe vs. Ignorance.”
Since you cite the studies that show that there is no choice in sexual orientation (or at least not very much or very often), and Post readers are likely to concur with those studies, why is it a moral lapse on Kerry’s part to mention Mary Cheney in the same sentence as the word “lesbian?” She is a lesbian, and her sexual orientation is a matter of public record. Certainly she has felt the heat from that inescapable reality, and so have those who love her. But it is exactly the prejudice against her and other gay and lesbian Americans that we should take issue with; and we should never recoil from the issue as if it unsavory or unmentionable. Stating that someone is gay or lesbian, when they are openly gay or lesbian, should never be considered offensive. It is prejudice of the worst sort, nothing else, that makes it so. So, when you suggest that Kerry should “simply say he is sorry, because, really, he ought to be,” you are perpetuating the same cutural biases and stupidity that we should in fact be railing against. It is not immoral or evil to be a lesbian, and mentioning that someone is a lesbian shouldn’t raise eyebrows, any more than mentioning that someone is lefthanded or redheaded (two other traits that in the past were considered evil and immoral, by the way).
If your argument is, on the other hand, completely a matter of realpolitik — that Kerry misstepped in his dance with the media by making the comment — you are inarguably right, since the entire media establishment has risen to slap Kerry across the face for “outing” Mary Cheney, although he didn’t. The argument is that Kerry might have a convoluted gambit in mind — to swing conservative-minded voters away from the Republican ticket because of some repugnance to Mary Cheney’s sexual orientation — is a stretch. The comments should draw attention to the moral ambiguity of Cheney’s position on sexual orientation — which merits discussion, and is not some illegal low blow. The argument that he has caused pain to Mary Cheney or her family by using her as an example should be debunked; it is only our obdurate prejudice that causes this pain, because the facts are that she is a lesbian and her circumstances do stand as an example.
Conflating politics with morality can be a like a hall of mirrors: you can’t tell what is a reflection and what is real. You seem to be holding up a mirror to Kerry’s motives, but instead all we see reflected is the moral intransigence of America, our collective unwillingness to accept the facts about sexual orientation; and as a result, Kerry has been neatly scapegoated by the media and the political establishment, who have conveniently forgotten the facts of those same studies, and have decided to gossip rather than think. Or at least, they, and you, have lost your way in the fog of rhetoric and reaction.
- Stowe Boyd