At this stage of the game, I think I am gay. I often fantasize about a friend I have known for a while, I am not sure if he is gay, but sometimes I convince myself he is, other times I'm convinced he's not. I really like him and want more than to just fantasize about him. The problem is I am relatively popular in school and coming out would be a huge massive disruption in my life, and the problem is further complicated by this: the one thing I want in life is to be a successful politician (perhaps even president). I have wanted this for as long as I can remember. If I am openly gay, THERE IS NO WAY I will win any election, let alone a national one. What am I to do?
It seems that the prominent issue to focus on right now might be coming to terms with your own feelings about your sexuality. Once you process and become comfortable with the difficult decisions you’ll make while clarifying your sexual identity, you might then begin to narrow in on your feelings about your friend. As these issues are addressed — which may, understandably, take a while — your decisions about whether to pursue public office will probably be easier to make because you'll know where you stand and what you want others to know about you. Many past readers have posed similar questions, so taking some time to read these Q&As might aid your decision-making process around stepping onto the campaign trail — an interesting prospect that we can debate in the remainder of this answer. Although the titles of these past postings may not describe your exact situation, the responses all address aspects of your dilemma. Check these out:
- Am I gay? … The next generation
- How do I know if I’m gay?
- Should I tell my friend that I’m attracted to him?
- How can I tell my religious parents that I’m a lesbian without them disowning me?
For discussion's sake, let's say you decide to come out as gay today, in a few months, or even in several years. Why dismiss the possibility that you can be both gay and President, especially several years down the road? Sure, it's mighty difficult to imagine an openly gay President (or even an unmarried or female President) right now, but times have been a changin'. Just last Century, our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were hard-pressed to believe that there would ever be women Senators, Latino Supreme Court Justices, Jewish Cabinet members, or openly gay Congress members, mayors, and Prime Ministers, let alone an African American President! Not only have we seen global efforts to break down barriers to elected offices based on gender, race, and religion, but many of today's voters are also either dismissing the rhetoric that candidates' sexual orientations will interfere with their ability to get the job done, or they're choosing to see their honesty and minority status as honorable assets that will better reflect the ever-expanding diversity of the electorate they represent. In fact, one report states that openly gay political leaders serve in 48 of the US states.
The voters have symbolized their respect for openly LGBT politicians by putting the following openly gay candidates in office — and this is just a partial list:
- Here in New York, Joan Lobis (an out lesbian) serves as a Supreme Court Justice, Christine Quinn is an out lesbian and chair of the City Council, and State Senator Thomas Duane is open about both his homosexuality and his HIV+ status.
- In a traditionally conservative state, Utah, LGBT-identified Arlyn Bradshaw serves as Salt Lake County Councilmember.
- In Mississippi, Greg Davis serves as an openly gay Republican Mayor of the City of Southaven and in Texas, Annise Parker was elected as an openly lesbian Mayor of Houston.
- In Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin was elected as the nation’s first out lesbian Senator.
Since many budding politicians’ lives are so thoroughly investigated from the moment they announce their candidacies, it might be very tough for you to conceal your sexual orientation, if you choose to do so. In fact, being open about your sexual orientation might even be a strategic political move — perhaps being truthful about who you are would be an indication to voters that you mean business when you make speeches about the importance of telling it like it is. This doesn't mean that you would need to pass out buttons with your name and "for gay President" on them. However, it would allow you to live your life more freely, hang out with who you want, see the movies you want to see, support the causes you want to support — without putting a spin on everything to "prove" that you're as straight as they come.
In recent years, LGBT support has gained more popularity in federal government. Even non-LGBT identifying Congresswomen and men have written, cosigned, and otherwise supported 16 pro-LGBT bills since 2011. Legislators are focused on reducing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and are even pushing for LGBT-inclusive sex education programs in public schools.
Your self-identified popularity in school will likely help you with whatever your goals are there, from running for Student Council to coming out. If you do decide to go with the latter, it would be important to have supporters around you: the friends who like you, your family, a teacher, and/or others who you can count on. If you’re a Columbia student, reach out to the Gay Health Advocacy Project on the Morningside campus. You can also contact Counseling and Psychological Services to set up an appointment if you want some additional support. To help melt away all the stress you’re probably feeling, check out Stressbusters, where you can get free backrubs and learn relaxation techniques.
If voters were to evaluate you based only on your thoughtful, clear question submission, and your passion about someday being a politician — even President — they would be foolish not to support you on Election Day, and every day.Alice!