Meditations on the L-Word

Janet, Donna, Hillary, and Me

Similarly, Miami's own Jack Thompson, whose one-man anti-pornography crusade has been relatively quiet since his heyday with Luther Campbell and 2 Live Crew, has never offered anything to support his allegations that Reno is a lesbian. Nasty insinuation has been Thompson's weapon, as in the notorious incident five years ago at North Beach Elementary School when, during his campaign to unseat Reno as Dade State Attorney, he presented her with a slip of paper and demanded that she check a box indicating whether she is homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Reno laid a hand on Thompson and informed him that she is "only interested in virile men" A not men like him. Thompson filed charges of battery, and Reno, in response, requested that a special prosecutor be appointed to examine the charges. The prosecutor, Marshall King Hall of Ft. Myers, exonerated her and pronounced Thompson's action to be an "abhorrent," "odious," "political ploy." Yet based exclusively on Thompson's shallow misogynist attacks, both right and left have demanded that Reno "confess" her lesbianism.

In this instance, radical queers and right-wingers are psychological twins: both see lesbians lurking behind every bush. And neither has documentation. "Of course, I can't say 100 percent unless I've slept with [Reno] myself, or unless I have videotape," says Margaret Cantrell, a member of Queer Nation/National Capital. "The standard of proof," Cantrell grumbles, "is very high."

Nor can Wheeler substantiate his charges against Hillary Clinton. He says with confidence that Hillary and Bill sleep in different White House bedrooms A but doesn't know which bedrooms these are. Pressed on his sources, Wheeler allows that "for all I know, it's completely false and completely rumors."

Yet strangely, the mere existence of these rumors is enough to convince many people, and not just fringe players, that they're true. A tautology is at work: Because there are rumors, the rumors must be correct. With this logic, if enough people in my hometown had gossiped about The New Yorker story, it would have become "common knowledge" that I was a repressed lesbian. When I asked Reed Irvine of the conservative watchdog group Accuracy in Media (AIM) what he made of the fact that lesbianism seems to have become the topic du jour in Washington, Irvine ventured: "Maybe because it's the first time that so many women who have that orientation or are alleged to have that orientation have been brought into the government. It's never been an issue before. Mrs. Roosevelt, now we know that she was that way. But it was not known when she was living."

Irvine does not think that Wheeler should have published the rumor about Hillary Clinton, given Wheeler's lack of sources. "Everybody's got his own standards," he says, "and that's not good enough for me." But in a press release distributed prior to Reno's confirmation this past week as attorney general, Irvine's group did demand that her sexuality be investigated further. After all, the release reminds us, Reno is "a 54-year-old spinster."

A 54-year-old spinster! Holy dildos! But the gay groups are equally narrow-minded. In a press release demanding that Reno be outed, Queer Nation/National Capital offered this damning info: "Janet Reno is 54 years old, has no children, and has never been married." That's an awfully conventional notion of womanhood for a "radical" group to deploy. Made it to middle age? Didn't get married? Well, there you are. These simplistic assumptions are the reason why all women A lesbian, straight, bisexual, asexual, undecided A should be outraged by the charges made against Reno, Shalala, and Clinton. They're juvenile, reductive, and appallingly dismissive of the idea that women (like marriages) are complex creatures who cannot be easily pigeonholed. Lesbianism, it would seem, explains so many complex things so quickly and felicitously: It explains why Donna Shalala is short and unmarried. It explains why Janet Reno is tall and unmarried. Why Reno was still living in her mother's South Dade house at the time of her AG nomination. (Funny, Supreme Court Justice David Souter was middle-aged and unmarried and still living in his mother's house when he was nominated, and nobody asked him to defend his heterosexuality in public.) It explains why Bill Clinton confessed to having had marital problems. It explains why Hillary Clinton is such a tough, smart, aggressive woman. It even explains, according to Jack Wheeler, the president's move to admit gays to the military.

"It is Hillary that is pushing the White House's homosexual agenda," Wheeler writes. Why not blame the S&L crisis on lesbians as well?

And you want to know the truth? The truth is that none of these accusers aspires to get to the bottom of the charges they're alleging. Nothing would convince them that any of these women is absolutely, definitely straight. AIM argues that if Reno is a closeted lesbian, she will be more vulnerable to blackmail. (Yet Reno was the first to warn the Clinton administration that Jack Thompson would probably revive his allegations.) AIM even goes so far as to suggest that Reno's reputation for not prosecuting government corruption more vigorously (leaving this task to the feds instead) may be the result of some state officials having "had" something on her A namely, evidence of lesbian alliances. There is no evidence, of course, that this evidence exists.

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