At the Crossroads

Satisfactory Essays
At the Crossroads

In November of 1974, a red headed Bostonian, who looked like she was straight out of Southie, was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. With fifty-nine percent of the vote, Elaine Noble’s victory signified a remarkable emergence, for she was the first openly gay politician to win election to a statewide office (Perry 37-65). Noble’s election was the catalyst for a dramatic series of events, not only for the residents of the Fenway district in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but for the entire country as well. Since that historic afternoon, Massachusetts has typically had ten openly gay politicians on its ballot. On a national level, there are more than one hundred and sixty openly gay politicians, with an average of one hundred additional gays seeking office.

It is necessary to establish that Elaine Noble and her many followers all come from a viewpoint that recognizes the inherent discrimination and oppression of gays. From this position, a pursuance of change through reform of the status quo is a top priority. Another standpoint, called liberationist, seeks to restructure an inherently oppressing system. Both systems are political means for achieving change- politicians themselves are usually reformers, while political organizations and individuals can function under either realm. The liberationist movement is often critical of the reformers like Noble, accusing them of wanting to be just like the (straight) white male. Reformers see themselves more as multiculturalists- that a number of distinct groups exist, and their differences should be celebrated. Liberationists contradict that assumption with the reasoning that gays are an oppressed minority, and as an oppressed minority, cannot function within the structures created by the larger majority. These assumptions are part of the minority thesis, which in a sense forms the systemic differences of each group.

Using the unique geographical space of Washington, DC, I plan to challenge the stereotypical assumption that gay identity is prerequisite to the election of an openly gay politician. When I say "gay identity", I am specifically referring to the sense of community, pride, and progress. The distinct minority theses will be used to convey the implications of identity in the political structure, and in turn the formation of a gay identity in the District of Columbia.

Though Elaine Noble was the first successful gay candidate to win elected office, she was by no means the first openly gay politician. Frank Kameny, an activist who had previously lost his federal job because of his sexual orientation, was the first openly gay person to seek national office.
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