Chirlane McCray – New York’s LGBT Enigmatic First Lady


Why is it when someone who has identified as straight gets caught in flagrante delicto with someone of the same sex, he is immediately labeled as gay and not bisexual?  He’s got a wife! He has a boyfriend! He must be gay! Why don’t we assume he is bi? That’s the evidence we have, isn’t it?

Has there ever been a politician who has come out as bi? Or a minister?

I’ve looked at a lot of protest pictures in my years of writing for The New Civil Rights Movement, and I can’t remember ever seeing a sign that read, “Bisexual and Proud!” If there are T-shirts, they’re not going to make anyone rich. Of all the letters in the LGBTQI alphabet soup of sexuality, it is “B” that rarely comes up, and is even more rarely defended.

I have to believe bisexual people occur in nature at least as frequently as gay people do. Sex is a very pleasant activity, what’s not to enjoy? So where are all the bis? We have plenty of “L” leaders and “G” leaders, and “T” leaders. But who speaks for the “B”s?

I know who I wish would take up the mantle. New York City’s new First Lady, Chirlane McCray, wife of Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Chirlane McCray first came out as a lesbian at age 17. At freshman orientation at Welsley she met her first love, Sharon, of whom she wrote:

“I was ecstatic. There was the joy of waking to her whispers and the soft warmth of her woman’s touch. Beyond that was the joy of discovery, of watching a new part of me unfolding. It was like a second birth.”

When she was 24, she exploded out, writing an eloquent essay for Essence Magazine entitled “I Am A Lesbian.” Asked about that article during her husband’s campaign for mayor, Chirlane explained:

“I thought it important to dispel the myth that there are no gay black people, that black people just didn’t do that sort of thing. That article was my way of telling black women across the country, ‘You are not alone.'”

chirlane McCrayFor ten years after writing that trailblazing essay, Chirlane was a magazine editor, a writer, a poet, and a lover of women. Her articles and poems talk about several female lovers over those years, especially Candice, her partner for two and a half years, who Chirlane once called “the woman with whom I hope to spend my life.”

And then, when Chirlane was in her late thirties, there was Bill – and everything changed.  Chirlane recalled their meeting for Essence:

“In 1991 I was working in the press office at the Commission on Human Rights and was sent over to City Hall. I was wearing West African–inspired clothing and a nose ring, and Bill says he had the love-at-first-sight experience. I did note what a good-looking guy he was and that he was funny and smart and made other people laugh.”

di Blasio Chirlane Mc CrayHe was a politician who hobnobbed with the Clintons. He was white. He was six years younger than her. And he was a man. What are the odds they would spark? And yet it is now twenty years later and they are still happily married, raising two children, and presiding over the City of New York.

Linda Villarosa of Essence Magazine asked Chirlane during the mayoral campaign how she transitioned from lesbian to Bill de Blasio’s wife:

“By putting aside the assumptions I had about the form and package my love would come in. By letting myself be as free as I felt when I went natural. I was attracted to Bill. He felt like the perfect person for me. For two people who look so different, we have a lot in common. We are a very conventional, unconventional couple.”

To my mind, there is no better description of bisexuality than that. And yet, Chirlane, who was so brave as a young lesbian, runs from the “bisexual” label.

“Why are people so driven to labeling where we fall on the sexual spectrum? Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins. Finding the right person can be so hard that often, when a person finally finds someone she or he is comfortable with, she or he just makes it work. As my friend Vanessa says, ‘It’s not whom you love; it’s that you love.'”

How can I argue with that? Bottom line is, no one’s sexuality is really anyone else’s business. And yet, I feel we have lost something of great value. A voice that could speak for a community that has no one else. A leader who could pave the way. Chirlane McCray is in a unique position to begin the conversation. It seems like such a wasted opportunity.

What is it that makes bisexuality so hard to embrace?



Photos via Facebook

tncrmJean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.

Follow me on Twitter as @Uncucumbered or friend me on Facebook.

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