Michael Hamar

Robyn Deane: McDonnell's Transgender Former Brother-in-Law Speaks Out for LGBT Rights

Filed By Michael Hamar | July 18, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: anti-gay bigotry, Bob McDonnell, Christianists, employment discrimination, gay rights, Taliban Bob, The Family Foundation, transgender

I've met Robyn Deane - we had a nice talk at the Commonwealth Dinner back on May 1, 2010, and she reads this blog - and, candidly, I thinks she's terrific. She also has a unique perspective on Virginia's current Governor, Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell as his former brother-in-law before divorcing Maureen McDonnell's younger sister and transitioning.

I welcome her decision to become more involved in advocacy for LGBT equality in Virginia and nationally. Some question her motives for speaking out, but having talked with her at length, her heart seems to be in the right place.

Personally, what I find so odd about McDonnell is that he knows a number of gays - former Congressman Ed Schrock and myself are but two other gay men McDonnell has known for far more than a decade - and, hence, he ought to realize that we're fully human and he should be less homophobic.

Bob, remember helping me on my political campaign in 1994? The time when we were alone and talked one on one at John Langlois' office? Remember my children who you always treated so nicely?

Sadly, instead of showing tolerance, McDonnell seems more and more a puppet for the nastiest elements of the Christian Right in Virginia (e.g., The Family Foundation and Pat Robertson) who, if given their way, would turn the state into a theocracy akin to Massachusetts under the Puritans. Frankly, I don't understand it. Bob, what are you so afraid of?

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has a great story on Robyn. Here are some highlights:

"I am father to three of the present governor's nephews and nieces," she announced to the more than 100 people trying to shield themselves from the rain. "Whoa," someone muttered. "I'm also uncle to five of his children, so that puts me kind of close," Deane continued. "He is my former brother-in-law... He witnessed the impact that all of this coming out can have on one's life. He had a front-row-center seat."
Deane said she decided to announce her relationship to McDonnell on April 21 because she feels that her situation hardened some of his views on sexual orientation. The governor opposes same-sex marriage and has not backed measures that protect gay state workers from discrimination. "Maybe I sealed an anger in him toward people like us," she said at the rally.
McDonnell, who has turned down invitations from Deane to meet and has not spoken publicly about her, declined to comment for this article. "This is a personal matter," said his spokesman, Tucker Martin. "The governor wishes Robyn the very best."
Deane scoffs at the notion that she will hurt the cause. She insists she can only help, particularly now that gay rights have taken much more of a role in the state policy debate than in recent years.

"I raised my kids to question everything -- always challenge status quo thinking and make a difference,'' she said. "I wouldn't be true to those values if I felt this way but stayed over here, worried about what this, this, this person thinks. Nothing would ever change. "I think the voice needs to be heard," she said. "I can't sit back and wait."

I hope Robyn remains engaged. I also find it ironic that some of the self-appointed "leaders" of the LGBT rights movement are critical. Seriously, they sure as Hell have not accomplished a whole lot for us here in Virginia. In fact, things have become worse on their watch. As for McDonnell, he needs to come clean as to why he treats those gays that he knows and has known so badly.

Is it only to curry favor with the Christianists or something else?

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*looks at article title* So... do you tend to refer to gay people the same way?

'Joe Smith's Formerly Straight Brother Speaks Out For LGBT Rights'


I don't think you meant anything bad by the title but you need to consider your working and use better language, seriously. You do *not* identify someone by who they used to be. Identify them by who they are.

Respect that she transitioned and call her a girl. That title could have been written in many ways.

Oh, I don't think 'Taliban Bob' is a homophobe. I think he's just another asshole who will say anything to get elected by those fanatical Wing Nuts who do whatever that even bigger asshole Pat Robertson tells them to do.

Although I did read that he was trying to undermine the rights of gays and lesbians in the Commonwealth before he was elected governor.

As far as the 'nastiest elements' of the Christian Right - they are ALL nasty! Those who spew vitriol are anything BUT Christians. But then, I don't think they would be content unless they were hating someone.

The trans fail is par for the course for good ole Mike.

I approved the preceeding comment because it exemplifies what I find all too typical of some in the trans community. They seem to always prefer to attack and endeavor to alienate those who would support their casue. And then they complain that gays aren't sufficiently supportive of their cause.

Michael, in all fairness, the title is quite insensitive and deliberately provocative. I am not attacking you in pointing this out, hell the trans community considers me personally some sort of demon. You mentioned trans, was the "brother-in-law" reference really necessary to make the point, couldn't a "former in-law" expressed the content and situation? She is a woman (not a "girl" to the commenter who called her that, damn Feminism 101 anyone?) and that is the salient point, not her former life.

That's it, constructive criticism without ridiculous cis-gender oppression nonsense or claims of gay male transphobia when you clearly are being supportive.

thedeemartin | July 19, 2010 1:56 PM

Well said, R.B. !

Sorry you are correct should not have said girl, I wrote the reply kinda quick before going to bed and that was inappropriate

I've criticized some of your other posts - and those criticisms are objectively valid.

My only qualm here is that, by and large, you use 'gay' and 'homo...' to encompass the situation with Deane. Having said that, I'm not sure she is helping the situation by referring to herself as an uncle in the present tense ('father'? that's sticker - and, I'll acknowledge, something I do not have to deal with given that I had no children prior to transition.)

As for the title of your piece, I think its an exception which proves the rule that the critics are addressing. Deane's past is actually relevant here given that it is that past which stands as the connection to Taliban Bob. I presume that Deane and TB's sister-in-law were not still married after Deane fully transitioned, so the title would appear to be chonologically accurate: she's she now, but she was TB's brother-in-law. Honestly, its how I would phrase it as well.

How young are these children? Oftentimes keeping a title like "uncle" or "father" is less about the parent/relative and more about the children, if they are very young. IMO it's a very personal decision that has no "right" answer other than what those involved agree to.