“When does a woman go from being single to unmarried?” Maureen Dowd asked this week. Good question. The better question (or rather, observation) comes from the incredibly wise (and if I ran the universe, lesbian) Dahlia Lithwick: “What I see in the national obsession over Kagan’s unmarried status is precisely the same thing I saw in the national obsession over David Souter’s: We want Supreme Court nominees who are diverse and interesting, but as soon as we get one, we treat their unique qualities like hideous communicable diseases.”
All this speculation about Kagan’s sexuality really does get at the crux about whether we think of her as a single gal, or — shudder — an unmarried woman. But as Lithwick notes rhetorically, “Is there a double standard when it comes to unmarried women versus unmarried men and the Supreme Court? I really don’t think so. I think we’re so in love with marriage in this country that we refuse to accept that not everybody does it. We prefer a four-times-married William O. Douglas to a celibate David Souter.” (Counters Dowd, who doesn’t realize she’s actually countering: “Men, generally more favored by nature as they age, can be single at all ages. But often, for women, once you’re 40 or 50, or simply beyond childbearing age, you’re no longer single.”)
This being a gay website, and also because it’s a reasonable place to take the conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about how America views single people as they grow older, and whether The Gays’ inclination to “grab” certain figures as their own plays a role. Souter is a life-long bachelor, and the gay rumors have swirled. Kagan is, so far, a life-long bachelorette, and the gay rumors swirled there. Souter arguably didn’t have to deal with the Twittification of his Supreme Court nomination, meaning any speculation about his sexuality was held within the Beltway. But without the White House pushing back against the “false charges” that Kagan is gay (and the reports from her friends like Eliot Spitzer that she dates men), we would very likely still be wondering semi-aloud if Obama’s new pick plays for our team.
That so many queers — including this website, going off reports of sources who claimed they are close with Kagan — wanted to push for Kagan to be a lesbian: Does that say more about some intrinsic need we have to stake our claim, or does it say more about how even we look at middle aged women who remain without a partner, male or female, as somehow hiding a secret?