What makes us gay? Dispute in Babette Joseph's House of Representative's race

I saw this a few days ago on Facebook, but lost track of time posting.  It was picked up by the Post-Gazette.

We are all confused, meanwhile, about a state legislative race in Philadelphia, where one candidate has “outed” the other as straight.

The incumbent, Rep. Babette Josephs, says her challenger in the Democratic primary, Gregg Kravitz, is falsely touting himself as bisexual in order to gain favor with the many gay voters of the district. She said a woman accompanying Mr. Kravitz to a campaign event introduced herself as — gasp — his girlfriend. This after Mr. Kravitz described himself as a “proud member of the LGBT community,” which (to inform out-of-it, old-school readers) stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

This question of a candidate's possible straightness, as something to hide, is such a political scandal that The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote about it at some length. The spin-your-head-around nature of it is a welcome sign to Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News.

“We've hit a new high point when candidates are accused of pretending to be gay to win a seat,” he told the Inquirer. “I've been doing this for 40 years, and I never have heard of this kind of charge in any race in the nation. … It shows how far we've come.”

It's the kind of reverse controversy we have difficulty imagining taking place here on the other side of the Alleghenies for some years — or centuries.

The Philly Inquirer:
“I outed him as a straight person,” Josephs said during a fund-raiser at the Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant, as some in the audience gasped or laughed, “and now he goes around telling people, quote, 'I swing both ways.' That's quite a respectful way to talk about sexuality. This guy's a gem.”

Kravitz, 29, said that he is sexually attracted to both men and women and called Josephs' comments offensive.

“That kind of taunting is going to make it more difficult for closeted members of the LGBT community to be comfortable with themselves,” Kravitz said. “It's damaging.”

What a twist. The long-time LGBT ally alleges the self-identified bisexual candidate is fraudulently identifying with the LGBT community. 

Both candidates' positions feed right into ongoing biphobia pervading the LGBT community.  Suggesting someone isn't really part of the gay community because they have an opposite sex relationship is a very common point of view.  Using language such as “swing both ways,” on the other hand, feeds right into that same mentality and certainly does not convey any sense of dignity or respect for bisexual men and women who don't have the privilege of wealth.

This is particularly interesting given the fact of three bisexual men suing the Gay Softball World Series for saying they didn't count as gay players.  The team was disqualified for having too many straight players. 

It seems people want some sort of measuring stick to determine if bisexual men and women are “gay enough.” The biphobia that pervades Pittsburgh's LGBT community is pretty sad.  Women rail against straight women coming into lesbian spaces to “experiment” with very little thought that they might really be struggling to figure out their identity. I agree they should be upfront about their intentions before dating, but sheesh … do we only want tolerance for people who earn a gay card?  How would you do that anyway?

Over a year ago, I was at a community leadership meeting where a respected leader actually said something to the effect that no one bisexual was present because they can't make up their minds, followed by a stupid giggle.  It isn't funny and it certainly demonstrates that 1) he thought we'd agree with him and 2) he didn't know much about the folks in the room as there were bisexual persons present.  Offensive and damaging to his causes. 

Since that was a political meeting, it brings me back to the Josephs/Kravitz race.  Babette Josephs is a known quantity who has proven she's qualified and understands the issues.  I suspect she's outraged that someone is so blithe about their identity, knowing the struggles many in her district face.  Kravitz may be bisexual, but that doesn't qualify him for office.  Perhaps this public trial by fire will help him be a little more aware of the discrimination the LGBT community endures. 


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