Unless you’re an avid follower of Philadelphia politics — in which case I say more power to you — you probably haven’t heard a whole lot about the ongoing feud between incumbent Pennsylvania House Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Phila.) and her primary opponent, Gregg Kravitz. Both Josephs and Kravitz want to be the Democratic nominee in the race to represent Center City’s 182nd House district. But things recently got ugly when Rep. Josephs outed Kravitz for being, of all things, a heterosexual. During a primary fundraiser, Josephs boasted that she had “outed (Kravitz) as a straight person” once she claimed to find out he had allegedly been misleading constituents into believing he was bisexual. Kravitz, however, maintains that he is attracted to both men and women, saying “my sexuality is not a qualification for office.”
The only thing this controversy says to me is that politics is alive and well in the great state of Pennsylvania. But things reached a whole new level when I read what Philadelphia Gay News publisher, Mark Segal, had to say about the situation. Segal told a news reporter that he thought “we’ve hit a new high point when candidates are accused of pretending to be gay to win a seat.” Really, Mr. Segal? Is that your final answer? Because with all due respect, I think you’re wrong.
Now, I don’t know if Kravitz is lying about his bisexuality. But the fact that we even have to wonder if candidates are pretending to be gay or bisexual to get votes from the LGBT community signals a new low point. A low point whereby politicians start to think it’s okay to label themselves queer because they think doing so might win them a few votes here and there. By allowing candidates to get away with this egregious behavior, we give them the impression that there is nothing wrong with reducing sexuality to nothing more than a cheap campaign strategy. Certain things are off limits and sexual orientation is one of them. It isn’t a sign of progress that heterosexual candidates in predominantly queer districts feel the need to misrepresent themselves. It’s a sign of regression. It’s a slap in the face to every member of the LGBT community because it assumes that all queer peoples think, act, and feel the same because of they share a common identity. Do all straight people vote the same? I mean, I can’t say for sure given that I’m not straight, but I’d bet good money that isn’t the case.
Unlike Mr. Segal, I think we should all be striving to reach a point where sexuality isn’t even an issue. As a openly gay male with somewhat political ambitions, I’d like to think that I would be evaluated on the merits of my candidacy and not sex of my partner. Last semester, I was elected to serve on the executive board of two prominent political science organizations here on campus. And even though I never so much as mentioned the word gay, I didn‘t shy away from this identity either. But in most cases, I didn’t see it as relevant and neither did the people who elected me. That, Mr. Segal, is what we do here at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
When Chris Armstrong, an openly gay LSA junior, ran at the top of the MForward ticket against candidates from the Michigan Vision and Defend Affirmative Action parties, none of campaigns said a word about Armstrong’s sexuality, or anyone else’s for that matter. All of the presidential hopefuls stuck to the issues facing students here at the University. Unlike the politicians in Philadelphia, candidates in the MSA election focused on things that mattered like tuition hikes, increasing diversity on campus, and fixing the funding for student organizations. In an interview with the Daily after winning the election, Armstrong said of his sexuality that “I won’t showcase it, but I think that it will always be important for individuals to remember that this did happen, and I was elected.”
So Mr. Segal, forgive me if I soundly reject your claim that the controversy in Philadelphia is something we all should learn from. If anything, it seems like you still have a bit of learning to do yourself.
Noel Gordon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.