A year and a half ago I needed a topic. The article I was planning to write fell through at the last minute and an unlikely hero emerged and saved my column. That hero is Patti LuPone. She had just performed at the 2018 Grammy Awards, singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Evita, the role that launched her award-magnet of a career. Yes, she slayed the performance, but the real story was that in singing a tribute to Weber, she also buried the hatchet in their famously longstanding feud. She gave me an article about the importance of forgiveness and how letting go of old resentments makes room for new love in our lives. Like LuPone, I slayed it.
Imagine my disappointment a few days ago when I saw headlines slamming LuPone for an allegedly homophobic tweet about Sen. Lindsey Graham. The tweet came after Graham supported Donald Trump, who told four congresswomen of color to “go home.” Trump had also stood in silent approval as a crowd chanted “send her back” at a rally, referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar. LuPone, who has made no bones about her disapproval of the Trump administration, tweeted “Lindsey Graham you are a disgrace. On a personal note, why don’t you just bite the bullet and come out. You might just come to your senses.”
The backlash was immediate. There was talk of double standards (a conservative could never say that to a liberal), and questions about implicit homophobia. These are all valid points, but for me, the most interesting aspect was in reading the responses from members of the LGBTQ community.
Some said that it’s never okay to out someone else. Others supported LuPone, saying “Brava Miss Patti. Drag that queen.” Honestly, the most interesting responses/conversations/flame wars I read were between LGBTQ folk, all of whom had a different take on Patti’s problematic tweet.
To be honest, I don’t know much about Lindsey Graham. I was surprised to learn that allegedly (please don’t sue me) he has a code name on Capitol Hill and that his alleged (really – please don’t sue me) sexual orientation is an open secret. Comedian Chelsea Handler posted a similar tweet in October and faced a similar backlash. Graham’s response? “To the extent that it matters, I’m not gay.” Once I learned that, my opinion began to change.
This is a juicy situation and there’s a lot to break down. Yes, generally speaking, no one should ever be outed. That said, Lindsey Graham is a public figure, and all public figures are vulnerable to all kinds of criticisms. It comes with the job that they willingly accepted. For Graham, if he really is gay, this presents an ethical dilemma for the rest of us. Do we respect his personal privacy? Should we respect his privacy and autonomy when he uses his power to marginalize the LGBTQ community and work to limit the rights of the trans community?
I don’t have an answer, but I do have a thought. Let’s say that Graham is gay (to the extent that it matters). His actions have been purposefully harmful to his own community. To me, that indicates that his work in politics, which is a form of public service, is not to help the people, but to acquire personal power and gains. Isn’t that what we should be talking about?
I’m reminded of Roy Cohn (look him up) and how he was a man who had sex with men, but denied being gay. For Cohn, it was about clout. He could have power and respect, but only in the closet. Frankly, that’s still reality for some of us. For Graham, if he’s closeted to gain power that he then uses to harm his own community, should we regard him as a traitor and act accordingly? I don’t have the answer, but it’s a question worth asking.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.