Obama gay?! Sorry, but the real story isn’t whether he’s gay; it’s that he wisely and maturely chose the hard work that heterosexuality can be.
The big salacious headline today is that Barack Obama flirted with being gay when he was in college. That’s no surprise to me. I’ve been aware of years about the rumors regarding Obama’s sexuality. They didn’t surprise me, because my well-honed gaydar pinged when I looked at him and history.
As I saw it, Obama’s inclination was to be gay, but his ambition in the 1980s told him that a standard heterosexual life was the path to power. Ambition trumped sexual orientation and Obama settled for marriage and children.
It turns out that Obama was actually more thoughtful and insightful about the matter than I would have realized. To hear him tell it, rather than turning away from homosexuality so that he could have a political career, he turned away from it because he recognized that it was the easy way out of life and chose to push himself instead to do the hard work of having a fully heterosexual relationship.
We know this because David Garrow, a reputable Progressive biographer, is coming out with a new Obama biography next month. In that biography, he talks about Obama’s own writings about his sexuality (emphasis mine):
“Three years later, Obama wrote somewhat elusively to his first intimate girlfriend that he had thought about and considered gayness, but ultimately had decided that a same-sex relationship would be less challenging and demanding than developing one with the opposite sex,” Garrow wrote. “But there is no doubting that Goldyn gave eighteen-year-old Barry a vastly more positive and uplifting image of gay identity and self-confidence than he had known in Honolulu.”
Obama was and is correct about the ease of homosexuality — at least the ease that existed in the pre-AIDS era, when Obama and I were in high school and college.
Because I grew up in San Francisco during the 1970s, I was quite familiar with gay culture and harbored no prejudices against it. That changed when I returned to the City in the 1980s after finishing my education.
I was in the mood to date then and found frustrating the number of professional men around me who were gay. I would complain to my friends that gays were taking all the good men. They would counter that being gay was not a choice and these were men who would never have been interested in me. I thought differently and, of all people, Obama confirms that my thinking on the subject was right.
The way I saw it, there were many men in San Francisco’s gay community who were absolutely, completely, and irredeemably homosexual. Nothing would induce them to have a relationship with a woman.
However, I also recognized that there were significant numbers of men who were simply sexually open: that is, they were not so intransigently heterosexual that they wouldn’t contemplate homosexual sex. I guess one would call them bisexual or “bi-curious.”
Those who experimented with their sexuality quickly discovered that being gay is easier than being straight, especially if sex is your primary goal. Relationships with women are a ton of work. You have to court them, cultivate, wine them and dine them, listen to them, engage in foreplay with them, talk about your feelings after sex, call them the next day, worry about pregnancy and parenthood, and on and on.
Only if you do all of those things can you be reasonably assured of a steady sex life, at least for three weeks out of every month. The alternatives are to pay prostitutes or go regularly to clubs and pick up drunk women, with no promise that the sex will be good.
Gay sex, though, that’s easy. Go to the bathhouse as often as you like, inhale poppers, and have as many anonymous, orgasm-intense sexual contacts with strangers as you can handle. No conversation, no dinner, no feelings, no foreplay, no pregnancy.
And if you do find a more permanent partner, it’s still easy. Monogamy was never on the menu for most gay men. Instead, a partner meant a nice two-income home in a hip neighborhood, a well-managed household, and the same unlimited anonymous sex you had when you didn’t have a partner. Again, easy for a young man who craved lots of orgasms but might be maturing enough to want a more stable home life. In other words, Obama was absolutely right “that a same-sex relationship would be less challenging and demanding than developing one with the opposite sex.”
AIDS changed things, of course. The bath houses closed down and, instead of seeing gorgeous, buffed, tanned young men sauntering down Castro street, the streets were filled with lesion-covered skeletal figures on walkers. Not sexy.
Add to this the fact that men mature as they grow older. Although these men, whether true gays or lifestyle gays, didn’t come around to wanting wives, many did settle into stable life styles that included a desire for progeny. Even then, though, having a male partner was easier than dealing with a woman. And as an added bonus, you can always leave the toilet seat up without getting into a fight.
Ironically enough, today’s young men, including the avowedly heterosexual ones, are still looking for relationships that are easy — and girlfriends are not easy. Indeed, I suspect girlfriends are less easy now than ever before because Third Wave Feminism has trained women to see men as domineering rapists and, therefore, the enemy. Young men not only need to deal with courting, conversation, and foreplay as a prelude to sex, they also have to fend of extreme hostility.
Instead of falling into the arms of other men, as a cohort did in the 1970s and early 1980s, many in this generation of young men deal with the challenge that heterosexuality presents by finding comfort in the arms of their Game Boy or Sony Playstation. Why go out on an expensive date when you can get endless endorphin hits playing Call of Duty or FIFA?
Moreover, to ensure that you keep some respectable measure of male sexual identity, while you’re playing you can still text a pretty girl. Between a girl on your smart phone and an endless series of endorphin hits on your video play station, you’ve got it made in the shade.
So, kudos to Obama for resisting the easy way, something that he apparently believed would be sexually fulfilling, or at least sexually interesting, to him. I dislike the man and everything he stands for, but he made the right decision by stepping up to the complexities of a heterosexual relationship and creating a strong nuclear family. That is, after all, the basis of a civilized society and the healthy opposite of the stifling, immature, reckless hedonism that too often characterizes the homosexual lifestyle.
Photo Credit: “castro loving and the colors of summer : men hugging and muni street car on market, san francisco (2014),” by torbakhopper. Creative Commons license; some rights reserved.