Why do I care if Newark Mayor Cory Booker is gay? This is not a rhetorical question. I’d like to know. There’s a comments field below this post, and I need you to explain it to me.
It’s not that I’m not interested in Cory Booker—I am. I love hearing the crazy stories about him running into burning buildings and rescuing people, saving freezing dogs from icy deaths and donning his red cape to fly around the planet to turn back time. How about the video he made with Chris Christie that could have landed them on SNL? Suffice to say, Newark has never had a mayor like him.
But why should I care about his sexual orientation? Especially at this point in time? I know I’m supposed to care because people are talking about it on Jezebel and Gawker and other Internet outlets—and not for the first time. There have been rumors about him for a while. The latest round of speculation comes in concert with the republication of a 1992 article he wrote for his college newspaper, in which he talked about his struggle to overcome his homophobia.
It’s one of those earnest self-explorations that you think is really profound when you write it as a college student, and then 20 years later, pray will have been destroyed in some kind of massive conflagration. But the reason its resurrection got covered in the press was because it’s seen as another in a series of clues to the Mayor’s sexuality. The headline on the blog post at Jezebel read: “Cory Booker Tackles Cory Booker’s History of Homophobia—So Is He Gay or What?” The writer then goes on to quote various sources on the subject, and foment the game of Clue on the subject as other bloggers continue to do.
But I seriously don’t understand it. No, it’s more than that—I think it’s kind of tragic. The past couple years have seen tremendous strides for the GLBT community, culminating in the President’s mention of Stonewall in his inaugural address. It really does feel like the earth is shifting beneath our feet in a historic way when it comes to gay rights, and it’s easy to get carried away by the momentum. On a recent Daily Show, Jon Stewart was positively alight with joy when talking about the progress that’s been made (the penetration, as he put it). We’ve all started to dream of a time when being gay will be just as boring and incidental as being straight. If the Boy Scouts can go there, who can’t?
It reminds me of the talk of a post-racial society after the election of Obama. As we soon discovered, that was an naive hope. We’re not living in a post-racial society, and apparently, we’ve very, very far from a post-gay society if the country’s preeminent feminist blog uses a college paper as a vehicle to probe into this question of Booker’s private life. Perhaps if he were a legislator who was pursuing an anti-gay agenda, there’d be some interest—justifiable interest. But that is not remotely the case here.
I’d like to live in a post-gay society, and I’m going to try. If I need to do otherwise, I’d like to understand why. So if anyone out there can tell me why I should care if Cory Booker is gay, I’d be greatly appreciative.