May 18, 2010
Diverting Kagan QuestionsBy J.R. Dunn
So we're facing another Supreme Court confirmation, and perhaps as a sign of the times, a brand new category of question has arisen: What is the nominee's sexual preference?
My opinion, relying on a gaydar tuned to Aegis levels of sensitivity by two decades in New York City, is...no question about it. If Elena Kagan is not gay, the world simply does not work the way I have always understood. I am aware that her old friends have rallied to assure the public that she is straight. I am also aware that one of them is named Eliot Spitzer. I need say no more.
There is her record of activities involving the Harvard gay, lesbian, and whatever community, e.g. her direct involvement in the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus 25th anniversary weekend.
And finally, there's the oddity of the large number of gay spokesmen and organizations who openly defended the claim that she's straight, a reversal of customary roles that I have not previously encountered.
Even if we grant that she is in fact straight, that does nothing to close the argument, since we must then move on to the question of why, in that case, she has adopted almost every last public aspect of female homosexuality from mannish clothing to boyish haircut to softball. If Kagan is not a lesbian, then she is something quite a bit more extraordinary -- a straight woman who chooses to present herself in lesbian drag.
The one correct element in all these comments is the insistence that Kagan's sexuality is irrelevant. Quite right -- though not in the PC sense. It's irrelevant because lesbianism is not, and never really has been, a deal-killer in the public context.
Lesbians are simply not as much an affront to society as homosexual males. There's a story, possibly apocryphal, involving the first British effort at outlawing homosexuality in the 19th century. The bill was presented to Queen Victoria for her approval. Upon glancing through it, she sat up and glared at her ministers with her most ferocious "we are not amused" expression. It seemed she had come upon a passage concerning homosexual behavior in women. "No woman," Her Majesty insisted, "would ever do such a thing." And so every mention of lesbianism was carefully excised from the bill.
I've always considered that story to be a back-formation to explain why lesbianism wasn't outlawed at the same time as male homosexuality. Whatever the case, lesbians never suffered serious persecution in the U.K., unlike male homosexuals, who were constantly harried and often penalized -- not excluding such impressive figures as Oscar Wilde and Alan Turing. (Turing, whose contribution to breaking the Enigma code was one of the elements critical to the victory over Nazism, was literally hounded to death by the authorities after inadvertently revealing his homosexuality. Thus does the state reward those who serve it most fully.)
It's difficult to think of equivalent cases involving lesbians. Whatever the form of society, they typically establish secretive communities that the authorities tend to leave alone. This seems to be true even of the jihadis and related troglodytes, who throw endless and lethal tantrums over male homosexuality (quite hypocritically, too -- casual homosexuality is endemic in Islamic countries) while saying little about the girls.
Why this should be the case is not easy to understand. Florence King has suggested that lesbians possess a kind of mystique, not present in male homosexuality, that strongly affects both men and women. While this may well be true, it doesn't answer the question as much as push it over a space -- why do lesbians possess this quality and not gay males?
The answer to the original question very likely lies within the realm of sociobiology. If we consider lesbianism to be a sexualized variant of the mother-daughter relationship and male homosexuality a sexualized variant of the bonding that occurs within the hunting band, things start coming into focus. A sexualized relationship based on the mother-daughter model is unlikely to hurt anybody, and in some circumstances might even be beneficial. But romantic relationships within the hunting band, with the accompanying jealousy, conflicts, sulking, and bitterness, are something else altogether. If such distractions arose while the band was supposed to be out bagging protein, or even warfighting, the survival of the tribe itself could come under threat. (An interesting if not quite enthralling Japanese film, Gohatto [Taboo], dealt with precisely such a case. A very pretty and very disturbed teenage boy is recruited to a 19th-century samurai outfit and generates absolute chaos to the point that the commanders see no alternative to giving him the chop.) So while male homosexuality elicits serious hostility, the female variety often arouses only a shrug.
This is the reason why open homosexual participation in the military cannot be made to work no matter how much PC pressure is applied. A social trait with evolutionary roots will not be thwarted by court decisions, regulations, or demos. (As an aside, I've sometimes wondered why gay-military advocates don't bring up the example of the Theban Sacred Band, a homosexual unit created to put into practice Plato's thesis that an "army of lovers" would fight better than any other. Perhaps it's because Alexander's horsemen wiped them out to the last man. But it's probably simple ignorance.)
So lesbianism will not get in the way of the Kagan nomination. A gay male -- James McGreevey is as good an example as any -- would be another story. But in Kagan's case, the same elements will work in her favor, as they did with Camille Paglia. Several years passed after she hit it big with Sexual Personae before she was officially "out" (though my gaydar painted her well before that). During that time she became popular on the right side of the fence as an inveterate and outspoken (to say the least) enemy of PC, multiculturalism, and the horses they rode in on. But even after she came out, Paglia's right-of-center fan club lost very few members.
Which leaves us with the question as to why the Kagan uproar was so carefully managed by the legacy media, with particular assistance from gay individuals and organizations. Last week's hysteria concerning the WSJ softball photo is a prime example. Kagan's sturdy batting stance, boyish outfit, the fact that softball has long been an emblem of the manly girls -- all this would have been overlooked if the protests from gay organizations such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation hadn't been so furious. This is clearly an effort at inoculation. But inoculation against what? Not lesbianism -- as we have seen, it's not a handicap, and the current PC climate militates against it being brought up in any case.
I suspect that the topic was raised -- and in as shrill a tone as possible -- to distract attention from Kagan's other deficiencies: a total lack of experience and, perhaps more than anything else, her legal philosophy, which appears, after a quick glance on my part, to be utterly incoherent. Someone who holds a "conservative" position on speech while at the same time acquiescing to an academic ban on military recruiters can scarcely be said to have a legal philosophy at all. This is the stance of the career bureaucrat, anxious to conciliate both sides at any cost. It is in no way adequate preparation for the contentious process of interpreting law on the national scale.
All the same, Kagan is likely to clear the nomination with no difficulty...which shouldn't be viewed as any kind of setback. Where the Supreme Court is concerned, Obama appears to be bent on fulfilling the PC imperatives above all other factors, including intelligence, scholarship, and ability. The more of these female lightweights he nominates, the better. Scarcely a peep has been heard from Sonia Sotomayor since she took her seat on the bench. I'm willing to bet that the same will be the case with Elena Kagan. If masterful, intellectually powerful leftists were being sent to the Court, it would be something else altogether. But there don't seem to be many of them around.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker, and editor of the forthcoming Military Thinker.