Meditations on the L-Word

Janet, Donna, Hillary, and Me

That's right: not just Reno and Shalala, but Hillary Clinton, too. It seems that rumors about the first lady have been energetically circulating in certain quarters since the beginning of the campaign. And now they've seen the bleak light of day thanks to one Jack Wheeler, a self-styled right-wing freedom fighter who pens a regular column for a finance magazine, Strategic Investment. Wheeler devoted much of his February 10 column to Hillary Clinton's sexual appetites, about which he professes to know an inordinate amount.

"My sources indicate that Hillary Clinton is bisexual, and fools around much more than her husband," Wheeler writes, offering no proof and naming no sources, saying only that "the stories you hear from the Secret Service people, detailed to guard her, are mind-boggling. If this is true, the press won't be able to keep a lid on it for long. A year from now, she will be the most despised woman in America, and every guy in every bar in the country will be commenting derisively to the fellow next to him about how '----- whipped' her husband is." (Expletive deleted in the original.)

It is an interesting juxtaposition: a wanton lesbian who nevertheless exerts such sexual power over her husband that she pussy-whips him into becoming a goofy, submissive laughingstock of a man. Asked in a telephone interview whether he considers the charges of man-hating dyke and manhandling siren to be contradictory, Wheeler says, to the contrary, "I think they go hand in hand."

Wheeler has a novel explanation for why he published the Hillary rumor: to warn people of the economic apocalypse that Clinton's alleged lesbianism is likely to bring about. Remember Pat Robertson's trenchant observation, in a 1992 fund-raising letter, of the way in which feminism compels hitherto normal women to "leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians"? According to Wheeler, that's just what Hillary is about to do. Though she hasn't murdered Chelsea or left Bill A yet A this mainstream corporate lawyer poses a serious threat to American capitalism, at least in Wheeler's overwrought brain.

"If this is true," he told me solemnly, "it can have some ramifications on the economy. I think this administration is going to be mired in scandal, and they will suffer the fate that the Greeks were always afraid of: hubris. It is the blatancy with which they are conducting certain affairs. The Secret Service is going crazy! They are disgusted." Though he will not own up to having spoken with a Secret Service agent, Wheeler asserts that "even during the campaign, they complained bitterly about having to stand outside hotel rooms while Hillary was seeing one of her bimbos."

Wheeler downplayed the import of his piece, pointing to the magazine's relatively modest subscriber base (50,000, he estimates). He emphasized that it was not intended to create a "scandal" but to "give people warning." Asked why the column contained no investment advice (should one sell one's U.S. savings bonds?), he answers that his readers can make their own fiscal decisions based on the information he provides them. But he also distributed copies of his piece at this year's twentieth annual convention of the Conservative Political Action Conference, attended by 1200 of the nation's leading conservative activists, according to David Corn, who covered the conference for the Nation. Faced with the outing dilemma, Corn declined to name the rumor, writing only that Wheeler's article contained allegations about Hillary Clinton's "personal life."

Corn's discretion was admirable. To repeat a rumor is to risk keeping it alive. Even so, given the frequency with which the lesbian card is being played these days, it seems worthwhile A no, vital A to examine more closely Wheeler's rumormongering and the motivation behind it, along with that of his fellow mongerers. Granted there's no way to ascertain whether these rumors are true or false: One of the beautiful things about allegations of lesbianism is that, like adultery, they're not only difficult to prove but nigh impossible to refute. Just as my marriage does not and never will prove that I'm not a repressed lesbian, so too is it impossible to know whether these women are, or aren't, homosexual. Hillary Rodham Clinton married young, bore a child A but that doesn't mean she's indubitably straight. Similarly there's no way of knowing for sure about the unmarried Janet Reno and Donna Shalala. No way of knowing about any of us, when you get down to it.

Of course, no one has offered any credible proof A indeed, any proof at all A that any of these women is a lesbian. In Washington A where the issue is rendered deliciously complex by the fact that the lesbian cudgel has been wielded by groups on both sides of the political divide A the radical Queer Nation group outed Shalala solely on the basis of the fact that she had been outed by other gay groups during her tenure as president of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "It's not evidence. I grant you that, okay?" says Michael Petrelis of Queer Nation/National Capital, the group's Washington branch.

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