Family gatherings are a tense time for Helen LaFave, the lesbian step-sister of raging homophobe Michele Bachmann. In a rare interview with The New York Times, LaFave described a cordial if not necessarily friendly relationship with Bachmann that became all the more strained once the Minnesotan Senator cum Representative began spewing vicious anti-gay rhetoric in her bid for political power.
Helen has been with her partner, Nia, for nearly 25 years and with the vote on same-sex marriage on the ballot in Minnesota this November, the two could finally be able to tie the knot. Bachmann, for her part, has made the journey to this point incredibly difficult with a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage – which LaFave called her “very, very sad legacy”:
“It felt so divorced from having known me, from having known somebody who’s gay,” said Helen, a soft-spoken woman with a gentle air. “I was just stunned.”
And while she never doubted that Michele was being true to her private convictions, she couldn’t comprehend Michele’s need to make those convictions so public, to put them in the foreground of her political career, and to drive a wedge into their family.
She told Michele as much, in a letter dated Nov. 23, 2003. She sent copies to her four siblings, her father and one of Michele’s brothers, and kept one herself. In the letter she described her “hurt and disappointment that my stepsister is leading this charge.”
“You’ve taken aim at me,” Helen wrote to Michele. Referring to Nia, she added: “You’ve taken aim at my family.”
Michele, she said, never acknowledged the letter in any way.
Helen also recalled her decision to attend a 2006 State Senate hearing with Nia where Bachmann spoke about her beloved constitutional amendment:
“I wasn’t looking to make a public statement,” she told me. “I just thought: I’m going to go there and sit there so she has to look at me. So she has to look at Nia. I wanted her to see: this is who you’re doing this to. It’s not some anonymous group of people. It’s not scary people. It’s me. It’s Nia.” She paused, because she’d begun to sob.
“I just wanted her to see me,” she said, “because it just feels, through the whole thing, like she hasn’t.”
While Helen hopes to marry Nia in Minnesota someday, she doesn’t think inviting Michele would be a “very good fit.” We can’t blame her – just imagine how awful that toast would be.