HeatherN challenges the notion that President Obama can be considered The First Gay President, as Newsweek has titled him.
Same-sex marriage has been in the news a lot lately. North Carolina voted to ban it, along with civil partnerships, and a day later Obama held an interview where he voiced his personal support for same-sex marriage. Although I am frustrated at the limits of the support Obama gave, I also understand that it is a pretty big symbolic victory, particularly considering the fact that we’re right in the middle of election season. I also understand those people who are heaping praise on Obama and are unwilling to criticize his statement as perhaps not going far enough. I get it.
What I do not get is the new Newsweek cover and the article by Andrew Sullivan declaring that Obama is the “first gay President.” Obama is the first black President, except that actually apparently Clinton was first given that title. And that, right there, illustrates the problem with tossing around such titles. It implies that no actual gay man (or in Clinton’s case, no actual black man) will be able to become President within our lifetimes. It implies that the flack Obama is getting for supporting same-sex marriage is somehow equitable to the crap a gay man would have to put up with while trying to run for President. Similarly, when Clinton was called the “first black President,” it implied that his situation was somehow similar to the situation a black man (such as Obama) would be in when he tried to run for President.
I understand these labels are meant as praise, but really they just seem to be attempts at grabbing media attention. And I suppose that by writing this I’m just giving them what they want.
What do you think about Newsweek’s cover? Is there an element of irony to calling Clinton ‘The First Black President’ and Obama ‘The First Gay President’? Does this sort of thing help or harm social progress?
See Newsweek’s alternative options for this week on their Tumblr page, including an image of the White House flying a rainbow flag.