Chirlane McCray’s sexuality shouldn’t be the topic of juicy gossip

New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has been in the news because his wife, Chirlane McCray was misquoted by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times. McCray’s mutilated comments about de Blasio’s opponent, Christine Quinn, brought to light both women’s sexuality – Quinn is openly gay, while McCray was in relationships with women before marrying her husband.

Bisexuality isn’t a new concept, but to many it’s still a woefully misunderstood idea – many feel that bisexuality doesn’t exist – it’s merely being confused – to some it’s a gateway to homosexuality. Of course all of this is nonsense, as these arbitrary labels do little to properly describe human sexuality. And while McCray eschews labels, saying that her marriage to de Blasio changes the way she thought about  “the form and package love comes in.”

It’s up to McCray to decide how she identifies herself – whether it’s gay, straight, bi – and if she chooses to reject labels, that’s fine, as well. But it wouldn’t be a political campaign if the media didn’t approach this complex and personal issues with a schoolyard mentality.

But many members of the media find this story too juicy to resist and run with sensational headlines like:

  • “The Lesbian Past of Bill de Blasio’s Wife” Politicker
  • “Bill de Blasio’s Formerly Lesbian Wife Patiently Explains Human Sexuality” The Cut
  • “Bill de Blasio proud of his marriage with former lesbian” NY Daily News
  • “De Blasio de man! Wife: I was a lesbian before wed” NY Post
  • “Do You Care That Public Advocate De Blasio’s Wife Was Once A Lesbian?” Gothamist

I don’t expect much from the NY Post but even the headline “De Blasio de man!” managed a surprised eyebrow raise from me. It obviously touches on that old fashioned, mythic notion of a man’s virility because he’s able to “turn” a lesbian straight. While the Post‘s idiotic headline was pretty benign – it’s meant to be funny – too many people take this kind of thinking to its violent extreme and engage in “corrective” rape.

The tone of these articles if often of awe and shock – as if it was the strangest thing in the world if a woman once loved a woman and now loves a man, without the aid of harmful reparative therapy – and the funny thing is that the folks who find this story so endlessly fascinating – namely narrow-minded bigoted prudes who like their worldviews to be compartmentalized into neat little boxes – are usually the kinds of people who think being gay is a choice or a disease that can be fought if treated successfully.

Thankfully, McCray doesn’t condemn or distance herself from her past – she’s embracing it in the same way that she embraces her present. She and her husband are also supporters of LGBT rights and do not distance themselves from the gay community, either.

And we also should move away form language that marks McCray as a “former” lesbian or a “past” lesbian – sexuality is much more fluid than that, and it undermines McCray and everyone other individual who doesn’t conform to facile gender and sex rules.

What all this brings up is how immature adults can be. Instead of shrugging and saying “Who cares?” we instead get questions like “Do you care if Ms. McCray is a former lesbian?”  We have to move past the idea that sexuality – no matter how diverse or different from traditional sex and gender roles – is something that is up for discussion or debate, and has some bearing on Mr. de Blasio’s ability to run New York City.

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