Bil Browning

Video: SF Mayor Candidate Makes History

Filed By Bil Browning | October 03, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Bevan Dufty, LGBT families, making history, political advertising, San Francisco

San Francisco mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty is making history. The openly gay candidate has put out a local television commercial that features his daughter, Sidney. No other LGBT candidate for major office has shown his children in a campaign TV ad.

Now that Colorado Congressman Jared Polis is also a father, will we see his new baby in a campaign ad for the next election? I hope so. It's important that voters see our families.

(Is that not one of the cutest damn kids you've seen? Hit the link to see Rep Polis' absolutely adorable baby.)

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Bevin didn't get the message: when homophobes include their children in their political campaigns, it's "family-friendly." When LGBT candidates include their children, or the children of gay and lesbian couples generally, or letting school kids know that gay people exist and that it's okay if they eventually grow up to be part of our community, it's "exploitation."

Uh-oh, I feel the need to be contrarian coming on...

Dufty has always been very out, it's true. But he isn't explicitly out in this commercial. He could be any Dad. We wouldn't know from this ad if Sydney has two Dads; only one is on display. Even Bevan's vocal patterns sounds kind of uncharacteristically hetero to me... ( And yes, there is good research that most people are able to discern whether men, especially, are gay or straight, with a high degree of accuracy, based on our vocal and speech patterns...unless, of course, we're butching it up. For the voters, that is... )

It's true that if you don't already know Bevan Dufty is gay, you're pretty removed from SF politics. But it's equally true that for a viewer who IS, by some chance, that removed , this ad doesn't, (as queens used to say back in the days of our oppression,) "drop the hairpin." So I'm not convinced how much the ad itself does to advance queer family visibility.

And I'm getting stuck on the statement that "It's so important for voters to see our families."

Why is it important?

Is it so 'they' can see 'we' are just like them?

I'm a voter. And I don't have a family. And I don't want one. And I don't think I am just like straight people. I actually think I'm different from them in ways that have profound and pervasive significance in determining the character and meaning of my life. And I don't accept that my right to live free from violence and harassment, or to enjoy equal protection under the law, or to have access to appropriate health care, either should, or in fact does depend on conforming to, or attempting to sustain a public pretense of sameness.

So I don't consider it particularly advantageous to queer people in general if a gay politician markets his airbrushed assimilated life ( Look! A child! But no sex partner[s]!) to voters.

I am afraid , on the contrary, that by dodging the reality of our difference, and the hate it still engenders, this strategy of apparent assimilation, though it may get him elected, just kicks the can down the road on the crucial issue to LGBT people of the acceptance of our humanity AS QUEERS.

In fact I am afraid such strategies may turn out to have been dangerous for LGBT people, especially if economic and social realities for most people in this country continue to get harsher and meaner. Many straight voters out of a job, or a house, or health care, may lose patience with a narrow gay civil rights agenda that mainly seems relevant to the already relatively privileged, who are seeking to cement that privilege by presenting a subtly dishonest or incomplete fantasy of assimilation as our public face. Populist demagogues may exploit lingering unease with this to direct hate at us for their own political advantage. Oh wait, yeah , that's already happening...

OK, got that off my chest...

I appreciate your vision for Bilerico as a forum for discussion free from personal attack or rhetoric that seems to foreclose disagreement. I hope this post, (and any responses to it,) manages to meet those criteria.

Rick Elliott | October 4, 2011 2:19 AM

Another contrarian view--it's more practical for an office holder be single. There is no time taken up by family stuff and more time to carry out responsibilities of office.