First there was Bill Clinton, America’s “first black president.”
And now, there’s Barack Obama, dubbed “the first gay president” by Newsweek over the weekend
The newsmagazine’s May 21 cover features an image of Obama looking off into the distance, a rainbow halo above his head.
The accompanying essay was penned by The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan, who writes that “in four years Obama went from being JFK on civil rights to being LBJ: from giving uplifting speeches to acting in ways to make the inspiring words a reality.”
Sullivan, who is gay, describes Obama’s “evolution” on gay rights as the latest example of Obama “leading from behind and playing the long game.” Of his reaction to last week’s “Good Morning America” interview, Sullivan writes:
“Like many others, I braced myself for disappointment. And yet when I watched the interview, the tears came flooding down. The moment reminded me of my own wedding day. I had figured it out in my head, but not my heart.”
Sullivan also draws a comparison between the gay experience and Obama’s own search for racial identity:
“Barack Obama had to come out of a different closet. He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family. The America he grew up in had no space for a boy like him: black yet enveloped by loving whiteness, estranged from a father he longed for (another common gay experience), hurtling between being a Barry and a Barack, needing an American racial identity as he grew older but chafing also against it and over-embracing it at times.”
“This is the gay experience: the discovery in adulthood of a community not like your own home and the struggle to belong in both places, without displacement, without alienation. It is easier today than ever. But it is never truly without emotional scar tissue. Obama learned to be black the way gays learn to be gay.”
The full essay is online here; the magazine goes on sale Monday.
The “First Gay President” cover comes on the heels of a different provocative cover by Time Magazine, which last week used a photo of a woman breast-feeding her young son to illustrate its cover story on “attachment parenting.”
A Newsweek spokesperson told the New York Post that when editor-in-chief Tina Brown saw the Time cover, “she laughed and said, ‘Let the games begin.’ ”