For Crying 'Out' Loud

Closet politics inform the popular campaign against Hillary Clinton.

"WHY DOES HILLARY DENY HER SEXUAL PREFERENCE???" is one of the more eye-catching subject headers on AOL's message board discussing Hillary Rodham Clinton's autobiography, Living History. Though Hillary's sexuality isn't the focus of most posts (the majority of which simply damn her as the devil incarnate or, bizarrely, "America's answer to Eva Perone [sic]"), it is a recurring theme: "HILLARY THE HOMOSEXUAL???," "Is Hillary a bull dike [sic]?," "Just another closet gay person," "LESBIAN HILLARY DIDDLED BILL ONLY ONCE ANYWAY," ad nauseam.

Presumably, these online folks have been massively disappointed that their favorite anti-heroine fails to out herself in Living History ("I thought this book was supposed to be a 'TELL-ALL.' She didn't come out of the closet," grouses one). But that's hardly hindered rampant speculation usually presented as unassailable fact. "I can remember when the Secret Service would accompany her to her liaisons with various women around D.C.," one poster states authoritatively. Another, citing "Hollywood sources," assures us that "Hillary's lesbianism is an open secret in Tinseltown," where her "white-trash all-women parties are legendary," and her conquests include that "perky blonde from Night Court, Markie Post."

The craftily named (actually virulently homophobic) points to a Globe story about a rumored list of Hillary's lovers said to include "a beauty in her early 30s who often travels with Hillary," "a popular TV and movie star," "the daughter of a top government official," and "a stunning model who got a career boost after sleeping with Hillary." The list hasn't surfaced, alas, but others have readily waded into the breach, suggesting Janet Reno, Donna Shalala, and Rosie O'Donnell as potential gal pals ("I THINK SHE IS IN LOVE WITH ROSIE BUT ROSIE IS BIGGER AND HILLARY WILL HAVE TO PLAY THE WOMEN [sic]. ROSIE WOULD TOSS HERE [sic] AROUND AND HILLARY WOULD LOVE IT").

Such gay baiting is nothing new. It has swirled around Hillary since 1992 and nearly became a campaign issue during her senatorial run in 2000, when the Christian Action Network put together a commercial that (naturally) pointed to a cover-up. Its narration: "It is rumored that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian. . . . It was rumored that Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Sometimes rumors are true." (Most stations rejected the ad, though it did air on two stations in Watertown, N.Y.) The reasons some people are seemingly willing to accept such nonsensicalif entertainingrubbish as "She is a lesbian and very likely had a threesome with Bill and Monica" are fascinating to contemplate. But even more interesting are the matter-of-fact declarations of who must be "tainted" as well: anyone who works for her ("Look at the entourage of Secret Service dykes which accompany her everywhere she goes"); has interviewed her ("Put [Barbara Walters and Hillary] in a barrel and roll it down a hill you will always have a ugly, bisexual, idiot on top [sic]"); or simply supports her (the post "Hillary is the greatest first lady to ever grace the White House" got the response "obviously you're a dyke").

Those of conservative ilk want it both ways: Keep that homosexuality in the closet, until we want to use it against you. Granted, such a viewpoint is no longer seen as representing a mainstream perspectivegone are the days when The New York Times routinely referred to gays as "perverts." We shake our heads at the 1950s gay witch-hunts, not only because they ruined lives, but also because two of the prime instigators, Sen. Joe McCarthy (who may have been gay) and Roy Cohn (who actually was), persecuted others while masking their own "sin."

When McCarthy himself was gay baited, he hastily married. Few might go to that extreme today, but the persistent gay baiting of Hillary reveals the single-minded determination of those hardy souls diligently working to keep the weapon of the gay smear alive. This is the underlying truth of the prattle on the message boards: Despite all our strides toward enlightenment, the notion that being gay is something to be denigrated for still exists.

Such tactics demand a harsher response than Hillary's generic answer when questioned by The Advocate on gay baiting: "It's abhorrent, and it is an unfortunate relic of a sad chapter in human history." On the contraryit's a relic that's alive, if not entirely well. It's a "living history" still being written. Oh, for an outspoken reply from Hillary like, "Since when is being called a lesbian an insult? And if I was a lesbian, I wouldn't hide it; I'd be out, loud, and proud, sister!"

Failing that, I'd settle for an invite to one of her legendary white-trash all-women parties, so I'll have my own chance to chat up Markie.

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