Is this just another example of a blog post that “could only be written by a straight person“?
I suspect Salon’s Glenn Greenwald would say yes:
Indeed, the very notion that it is “outrageous” or “despicable” to inquire into a public figure’s sexual orientation — adjectives I heard repeatedly applied to those raising questions about Kagan — is completely inconsistent with the belief that sexual orientation is value-neutral. If being straight and gay are precise moral equivalents, then what possible harm can come from asking someone, especially one who seeks high political office: ”are you gay?”
What possible harm? Er, being gay can still make you the target of a hate crime and get you kicked out of the military, for example — right? If the question is so innocuous, why do others in high political office — see Senator Lindsey Graham, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I might add — evade the question? Am I alone in seeing the hypocrisy of demanding an answer from Kagan but not from the Senators in charge of questioning and confirming her?
For the record, I believe sexual orientation should be a value-neutral attribute. I understand the Harvey Milk position: coming out to friends, neighbors, colleagues can be the most powerful antidote to homophobia. But what about all the others who don’t share my views? Am I wrong to worry? Is it wrong to be irked when The Gay Question hijacks the Kagan debate and diverts attention from the far more pressing question: Does Kagan have principles, and what the hell does she stand for, anyway? Am I guilty of condescension if I want to “protect” others from being forced to divulge sensitive personal information that can be used against them?
When an openly gay intellectual like Greenwald questions my position, I pay attention, and sincerely rethink my views — as a straight person, perhaps I’m missing something? Who is right?
Answer: I think both Greenwald and I may be guilty of a bit of projection, of turning these questions about Kagan into questions about ourselves, as Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick argues:
So, “Is Kagan an Ivy League elitist” may actually mean “Am I an Ivy League elitist?” “Is Kagan a soulless careerist?” may be read as “Am I a soulless careerist?” and “Hey! Why isn’t Kagan married?” starts to sound an awful lot like “Hey! Why am I not married?”….
If we’re going to talk about Kagan, let’s stick to her record, her writings, and her speeches. And if you want to talk about your love life, looks, academic anxieties, ambition, dreams of marriage, or dating history, I’m also all ears. But maybe let’s just leave her out of it?
Have to say, I get Lithwick’s point. But I still totally respect and admire you, Glenn (you don’t remember me from NYU Law, do you?).