This past week, openly gay Democratic state Assemblyman John Pérez of Los Angeles, 40, was chosen to be California’s first openly gay speaker of the Assembly (California’s legislative equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives). Yesterday, Houston, of all places, elected its first openly gay or lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, 53. The Associated Press notes that “Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city and the biggest to elect an openly gay mayor.”
(As an aside, the media have been referring to Parker as “gay,” and although technically the term “gay” covers gay men and lesbians, as in such terms as the “gay community” or “gay rights,” this gay man prefers that, when referring to individuals, the term “lesbian” be reserved for females who are attracted to members of their own sex and that “gay” be reserved for males who are attracted to members of their own sex. Therefore, Parker is a lesbian mayor. Thank you.)
Parker beat her opponent, a 61-year-old black man, with 54 percent of the vote.
I can imagine how painful the choice was for many Texans: Vote for the white lesbian or for the black guy. Oh! My! God! A sign of the End Times for sure!
Anyway, both Parker and Pérez are to take office in January.
Their election to their posts is a victory for diversity; neither one of them is a stupid old white man, which, until fairly recently, was a requirement to hold powerful political office.
The AP reports that Parker “says she hopes [that her election] shows the world that Houston is a diverse international community that welcomes everyone.” The AP then immediately notes that “The city of 2.2 million has about 60,000 residents who identify themselves as gay or lesbian.”
That seems like an awfully low number of non-heterosexuals for a city of 2.2 million people. It’s often bandied about that one in 10 individuals is gay or lesbian. That would be 220,000 non-heterosexual people in a city of 2.2 million. If you don’t accept the figure of one in 10, fine; one in 20 people still would be 110,000 non-heterosexual people in a city of 2.2 million. Only 60,000 people in Houston cop to being non-heterosexual? The rest of the non-heterosexuals there are too terrified to come out of the closet?
Alas, I probably won’t be visiting the not-very-non-heterosexual-friendly-sounding city of Houston any year soon…
Pérez is described by friends as a congenial intellectual with a rapid-fire wit, someone so enamored of the Bears – he attended the University of California at Berkeley but did not graduate – that the logo for his Assembly campaign featured a bear and Cal’s blue-and-gold campus colors.
Political consultant Roger Salazar affectionately has dubbed the burly Pérez “Big Papi” – a throwback to the days of legendary Assembly Speaker Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh.
Pérez is extremely knowledgeable about Mexican, Mexican American and Jewish culture although he is not a Jew. He is a rabid college football fan, enjoys an occasional cigar, has a steel-trap mind, and has a fun-loving side, too, as exemplified perhaps by his collection of several dozen rubber duckies, said Erick Bauman, his best friend of many years.
Bauman said that he and Pérez raise eyebrows by engaging in a makeshift foreign language they call “Spiddish,” a mix of Spanish and Yiddish.
“People are amazed to hear us,” said Bauman, vice chairman of the state Democratic Party.
OK, so the many apparent references to the bear culture I won’t touch right now — I will say that I saw Perez at a gay-rights rally here in Sacramento not long ago, and that like I am, he is a big boy — but Pérez and Bauman sound awfully close.
If they are a couple, as they seem to be — I can’t see Pérez learning the Jewish culture and speaking “Spiddish” for a platonic friend, but I can see him doing that for a boyfriend — I certainly hope that they are not describing themselves as “(best) friends.”
It does not advance gay rights for us non-heterosexuals to describe our same-sex mates as “friends.” To do so minimizes our relationships and tacitly agrees that there must be something wrong with same-sex relationships.
Perhaps worst of all, however, is to not talk about our same-sex partners at all, and I note that the biography page of Pérez’s website does not mention his presumed same-sex partner Bauman at all…
P.P.S. I apologize for the photo. I could not resist.