Queerty reports on an interview with Hillary Clinton via National Public Radio where they describe her reactions to being questioned about her support of marriage equality as being “angry.” I have listened to the audio portion of the interview and Clinton does not sound that angry to me in her clarification, and that’s not my issue with her responses. My issue with the responses is that Clinton talks a lot in third person about how the country evolved; how she’s an American; and how amazing it is that we’re rapidly coming to equality:
At first, the former Secretary of State tried to talk around the issue. “I think I’m an American. I think that we have all evolved, and it’s been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of,” Clinton replied.
Not content with that evasion, Gross pressed on: “I understand, but a lot of people believed in it already back in the ’90s. They supported gay marriage.”
“To be fair, Terry, not that many.” Clinton said. (True, although Obama was an early supporter. Before he wasn’t.)
Still not satisfied, Gross asked again if Clinton felt she couldn’t speak out earlier because of the political risk. That’s when Clinton erupted.
“I have to say, I think you are being very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue,” Clinton said.
“I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand…” Gross said.
“No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify,” a clearly irritated Clinton answered. “I think you’re trying to say I used to be opposed and now I’m in favor and I did it for political reasons, and that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record, I have a great commitment to this issue, and I am proud of what I’ve done and the progress we’re making.”
What I would really like to hear, and what I think what Gross was trying to get at with her questions, is Clinton’s first person story. How did Hilary come to be a vocal supporter of gay marriage equality? Did she evolve on her opinion as others have? And was that opinion a personal or political evolution?
By not telling her story, Hillary Clinton is doing a disservice to the movement of equality. Hillary is missing an opportunity to humanize the process of coming out in support of gay marriage equality. By not hearing how Hillary came to express her opinion publicly on gay marriage equality, she misses the opportunity to show people someone just like them.
Coming out as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is a personal experience. It’s a personal experience that we share with others in order to help them evolve in their acceptance and support of us and themselves. We tell our story to help those who are still closeted evolve in their own journey of coming out. We tell those who are not allies our story in order to help them evolve into becoming an ally. By learning our own personal story, people can have empathy or sympathy because they see someone just like them, and that’s what helps change hearts and minds.
By speaking only in the third person; the collective “we”, Hillary misses the opportunity to provide people who may be on the fence about equality or against it a role model to whom they can relate. By excluding the “I” from her story; she excludes the chance to show folks someone ‘just like me’; someone who is where they may be on their own journey in supporting gay marriage equality.
Hillary, make the tough choice, tell us your story. Tell us the process of how you came to be a vocal supporter for gay marriage equality. Whether it was journey where you arrived at the mindset of support or a journey where you arrived at the mindset of being public in your support, we’ll still love you. It won’t change our opinion of you. But it may just change the opinion of someone who was once in your shoes into becoming a vocal ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. And no matter how rapidly “we” are all evolving, we still need every vocal ally we can get. Help us get there, by telling us your own personal story.