Men have penises, women have penumbras. No it’s not some female sexual dysfunction, like book-larnin’, nor the new street lingo for vagina.
But unless a woman is attached to a man, well, what can you say? Spittle-lipped Chris Matthews, trying to complement Nancy Pelosi on the passage of Health Care, said she learned everything from her father and brother. When Secretary of State Clinton is described, the Bill is understood. Still. The unmarried, childless Condi Rice was off-limits in some kind of weird three-way with W and Laura. Maybe that was the gay marriage Laura now says she always supported. Justice Sottomayor was married once, briefly. Phew. Elena Kagan kinda maybe dated Eliot Spitzer, but she didn’t inhale. A woman without a man is baffling, a bicycle-less fish, or a lesbian. And btw, lesbians can’t get married. To each other anyway.
With the election of President Obama, it became the task of white, not black people, to talk about race; with Elena Kagan, it is now the task of everybody but her to talk about sexual orientation. Pres. Obama and nominee Kagan have got bigger fish to fry and some of them are from the Gulf so time’s a-wasting. For better or for worse, it’s talk-amongst-yourselves time.
First a couple of conversation pointers: like the old June pride chant, “gay” is good. “Lesbian”? Not so much. We were just getting to the point where people could say the word without spitting up, when young gay women dropped ‘lesbian’ as too labelly, in favor of the label ‘queer’ or ‘whatever, grandma’. I for one am happy to hear ‘lesbian’ again and have enjoyed press secretary Robert Gibbs’ southern tongue-tied, blush-tinged version of the Seinfeld “not that that’s a bad thing” episode, when debunking his own office’s lesbian-as-charged press line.
Another clarifier for your dinner table conversations: Lesbians come out. Gay men are found out. Generally after an unseemly incident with a page, a rent-boy, DUI, tickle session, spiritual massage, etc. Gay uber pundit, Andrew Sullivan has demanded the Senate Judiciary ask Ms. Kagan her sexual orientation at her hearings. Do we lesbians have to do everything around here? Not that I wouldn’t enjoy watching Senate Judiciary member, Rep. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma who once warned of ‘lesbian debauchery’ among OK kindergarten teachers, mixing it up a bit with the nominee, but basically it’s none of my beeswax.
I might endorse the sexual orientation declaration demanded by Sullivan (and I can’t remember if he was the closeted editor of The New Republic when David Souter was nominated) but only if it were universal, retroactive, under oath, and included an eHarmony tag line. “Hi, I’m Lindsay Graham, heterosexual and I love me some John McCain.” “Hi, I’m Mark Sanford, relentlessly heterosexual and I like long walks on the Argentinian Trail.” “Hi, I’m Mark Souder, inabstinent heterosexual, and I’m in my fourth hour of a Ciallis erection right now! Is Dr. Dean in the House?”
Lawyers aren’t supposed to ask questions to which they don’t already know the answer. Although we lesbians like to think the best of women and as much as we would love to have her, sadly Ms. Kagan might not be a lesbian, despite all the classic lesbianic tropes – short hair, brainiac, softball. The chilling effect of the question is obvious this summer in t-ball fields all over Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Overachieving parents now insist on signed photo release forms for their promising young daughters each time they are at bat. Damn that Title IX.
Ms. Kagan will no doubt be over-prepared and have an answer if asked if she’s a lesbian. Even though or perhaps especially because, I am a professional lesbian, I have not been invited to the coaching sessions. Nonetheless, I humbly suggest some possible answers: I am just an umpire calling balls and strikes. I respect judicial precedent. I don’t think BP is an actual person.
The best answer is this question: “Why do you still find lesbians so threatening?”