July 21, 2005

I read the same NYT piece Wonkette did.

And the same notion crossed my mind. I do think the NYT piece was subtly constructed to plant this idea. Just look at the series of photographs they chose: young John in plaid pants, young John with his boys' school pals, young John in a wrestling suit with his fellow wrestlers, John with footballers, and -- the final pic -- John smiling in an all-male wedding photograph. The article also says Roberts married his wife when both were in their forties and that that their children were adopted.

IN THE COMMENTS: A serious hypothetical about a religious conservative living the closeted life.

UPDATE: I discuss the role of this post in a rumor chain here. Please read that newer post before engaging in flights of fancy based on this one.


chuck b. said...

I don't get the plaid pants angle.

Ann Althouse said...

Chuck: Look at the picture. I know plaid pants are basically a country club thing, but juxtaposed with the other pictures, a certain vibe is created.

chuck b. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
chuck b. said...

Yeah I'm missing it too. These look like pictures of my dad.

Sloanasaurus said...

I suppose the Times (a Democrat Newspaper) has to set up Roberts before they trash him completely. That story coming in September.

Ann Althouse said...

I think the Times is making him more appealing to its readership. I think Democrats should be glowing with pleasure right now.

Unknown said...

He's not gay; he's metrosexual.

Unknown said...

art: Perhaps you mean: Ya ever... hang around a gymnasium?" Heaven help us if President Bush asked him about... movies about gladiators!

Contributors said...

I give up. Let's just stop all this now and say it: EVERYONE'S GAY!

John Roberts is gay. Abe Lincoln was gay. Shakepeare was gay. I experimented in college... Is the left happy? Can they shut up and stop calling peoples entire lives a lie and a sham now? We admit it. We're all gay!

The Times has no shame. Nasty little people.

Beth said...

Ann, I'm not sure it makes him more appealing to the NYT readership, if by that you mean liberal-left readers. My suspicions of closeted gays is that, being invested in maintaining their facade, they're happy to lead the witchhunt to keep suspicions about their own sexuality at bay. I wouldn't trust a person who's ashamed of being gay to treat other gay people with a respect he doesn't accord himself.

But I also see no reason to assume that adoption and marriage late in life indicate anything whatsoever about a person's sexual orientation. I'd like to see our consideration of this man focus on his record, and what he has to say for himself.

Hecla Ma said...

Yes, Elizabeth, we'd all like to see a person considered on the strengths of their qualifications - well said - but certain quarters seem completely unable to do that. I know it's the Republicans who are supposed to be gay-hunters, but it always seems to be the folks on the left who are outing others and throwing "gay" suspicion on men and women they don't like.

Joaquin said...

Ann, niiiiice leg-pull.

Contributors said...

Well said, Thecla,
Honestly, I can't remember the last time a conservative outted anyone. But some oh-so sensitive right to privacy liberals just outted a Rick Santorum staffer.

And now you have the liberal "paper of record" so in a snit they can't find anything to sink this guy with they're forced to snidely insinuate the very foundation of his life is a fraud. A lie.

It is base cruelty.

Ann Althouse said...

Dirty Harry: You're WAY overstating what the Times did, which is arguably NOTHING. I'm saying what impression I got upon reading the article. Can I say the Times deliberately manufactured that notion in my head? Obviously, not. No one's "outting" anyone here. There are no professions of knowledge of actual behavior, just a collection of facts and photographs. It doesn't necessarily mean anything.

knox said...

"My suspicions of closeted gays is that, being invested in maintaining their facade, they're happy to lead the witchhunt to keep suspicions about their own sexuality at bay. I wouldn't trust a person who's ashamed of being gay to treat other gay people with a respect he doesn't accord himself."

Seems to me there are probably many complicated reasons why some gay people don't come out to every single person they know, or choose not to announce it to the world if they're a public figure.

Blanketly accusing them of joining in some nefarious "witchhunt" or of being somehow pettily "ashamed" of themselves is awfully judgmental. Lacking in compassion at the very least.

Ann Althouse said...

Also, Dirty Harry, you write: "the very foundation of his life is a fraud."

Hypothetically, let's assume there is a man, a traditional social conservative who feels homosexual inclinations, but believes it to be wrong to act on these inclinations. He never engages in homosexual behavior, and instead sublimates all his energies into extremely arduous studying and strenuous sports. He lives a good life in every respect. At some point, in his 40s, wanting a family, he finds a woman with a similar story and forms a strong relationship with her. They marry and adopt children and perform their parental duties well. The man never talks about his sexual orientation, and doesn't condemn or do anything harmful to men who do engage in homosexual behavior. Where is the fraud? What has he done wrong? Is he not an exemplary man who has had a stronger trial than most living up to the requirements of his religion? Where is the fraud?

Contributors said...

I never said they "outted" him. I was talking about liberals in general who out and the Santorum aide specifically. Referring to The Times I said, "snidely insinuate."

And I don't think "snidely insinuate" is terribly far from your own observation: "I do think the NYT piece was subtly constructed to plant this idea."

However you want to phrase it: insinuating or subtly constructing, it's still unbelievably cruel. Though not surprising, considering the source.

With insinuation or subtle plant they're calling into question the foundation of his life. It's indefensible.

Ann Althouse said...

Knoxgirl: Well put. Most people don't go around informing others of their sexual orientation anyway. It's wrong to call people hypocrits just because they don't tell you about their thoughts and their private lives.

I realize there's a way in which heterosexuals inform other people of their sexual orientation by freely holding hands in public or saying "my wife" a lot and that sort of thing. But many heterosexuals don't. It's not hypocritical or fraudulent to keep it to yourself.

Contributors said...

Ann -- If you're hypothetical's correct, it's not a fraud. But it's still a cruel invasion of privacy.

If you're hypothetical's correct, do you think his kids know? They seem kind of young, but the son may be old enough to hear it on the playground.

What if it becomes sport to question mom and dad's life together, thanks to The Times, is that okay?

Ann Althouse said...

I don't think we can squelch public debate for the children. Wasn't it terrible that Chelsea Clinton had to hear all those things about their father?

But f I had a father who had done what the man in my hypothetical did, I would admired him, especially if I shared his religious beliefs, but even if I didn't.

Contributors said...

You call that debate? I call it rumor mongering. It's nasty and catty and has nothing to do with how good a Justice he'll be. And it's based on nothing more than an artfully crafted puzzle of certain facts and photos to get tongues wagging.

And it wasn't just terrible what Chelsea heard about her Dad, what about this new crap about her mother? Which mainstream conservatives soundly blasted -- including me on my little blog.

If Roberts is the man in your hypothetical, he's an admirable man but it's none of my business. If he were an openly gay man living with another man, he'd be an admirable man -- I could care less.

I just want a right winger. Whether he's having sex with his wife or-- Ugh, I can't believe you're defending this.

Ann Althouse said...

Dirty Harry: The purpose of my hypothetical was to respond to your outburst about the foundation of his life being a fraud. The hypothetical was presented to establish a point about character and ethics. Since he would be of good character whether it's true or false, it's not a slur -- except to people who think that sort of thing is a slur. Perhaps my motivation to talk about this at all -- which I understand you object to -- is that I think homosexuality should be considered a normal and ordinary fact about a person, like having played on a football team or performed in school plays. Other than that, I'm just reading the newspaper and observing what I observe, as I do every day. I'm not a party partisan, and I'm not in this to help or hurt the right or the left.

Al Maviva said...

If the way the NY Times has framed it gives rise to a serious question, then I suppose it's equally serious of me to suspect that all the single, attractive, successful 35 - 40 year old female attorneys women I work with here in D.C. are lesbians, right? Please. Educated people, high fliers especially, are putting off marriage until their mid-
30s or later. As a “safe” married guy, I hear all the complaints from my female colleagues. Part of the problem is, the dating pool is really shallow if you are highly successful, type-A personality, and you didn’t marry your frat rat / soror sweetheart. You get stuck picking through the leftovers among your type-A colleagues, and given a 60 – 80 hour per week job, the pickens are slim. Sure, there are a lot of gay conservatives in D.C. Good for them, but I’m not sure that fact has anything to do with John Roberts.

I know whereof I speak. I’m a military vet, played rugby for 20 years, did a lot of mountain climbing and mountain biking, and didn’t get married until I was 30, to a successful type-A woman a few years older than me. Most of the pictures of me when I was younger involve me wearing bad clothes, or hanging around with other guys. There are a bunch of with ex-girlfriends floating around – generally involving the strippers and kinda trashy chicks I dated, mainly because no decent woman would have me until I took up a serious career and settled down a bit, and quit being all wild and drunk and stupid. Were I ever nominated for anything, I would sure as hell drop those pictures of the Early Years girlfriends into the fireplace. Well, unless it was in a Democratic administration, or nominated to oversee breast implant safety at the FDA, in which case the stripper girlfriends would prolly give me street cred.

The impression the NY Times is apparently trying to give here, is just as pertinent as the Times’ articles on “ManDates,” the shocking event that occurs when two guys who aren’t gay (horrors!) hang out and do something other than talk sports and fart.

In reality, I think that if this is intentional, it’s a meme that started over at Kos. Follow the links here:


Al Maviva said...

On the adoption thing, the Catholic Church says no artificial insemination is permitted, and he is reputedly a practicing Catholic.

By the way, did you say plaid pants?

A young gay guy wearing plaid pants?

I’m not sure about this, but I believe that is a physical impossibility.

Contributors said...

You're calling rumor mongering "debate." That's what I can't understand. I don't think you're coming at it from a political or partisan position.

And whether your hypothetical is true or not, what "The Times" did was cruel. His sleeping arrangements and how he conducts himself with his wife is nobody's business. His "prior arrangements" are nobody's business. But boy, everyone's sure going to be speculating now... Yeah, that wouldn't bother me a bit.

Boy, a pair of plaid pants and a middle-aged marriage and they're off...

And on the far off chance he isn't gay, and actually does sleep with his wife, and didn't have to come to some sort of understanding with his wife beforehand, and isn't waiting to have a very important talk with his children someday... You know, he actually is who he presents himself to be... Look at what's swirling around him and what the kids will have to face in school, and the questions Roberts will have to answer.

If it was "terrible" for Chelsea, why not terrible now?

Finally, I'm just debating here.I don't object to you bringing it up at all. It's "The Times" I object too. I'm glad you brought it up. This is invigorating. I don't consider you anywhere near a partisan. I'm just having a discussion here... I also share your views on homosexuality and have a paper trail to prove it. Check out my blogs.

When I said "fraud" it had nothing to do with his sexuality. If the rumors had been about him marrying for money -- I'd have used the same word and your coming up with a similarly tortured hypothetical could've made the same point: "Even if true... So, what? Maybe Terezzza knows it but wants to be a Senator's wife. Where's the fraud?"

Beth said...

I am not accusing any specific person of anything, but making an observation based on a lifetime of experience with gay people in and out of the closet. I do feel compassion for people who live in the closet, because I believe it causes them deep pain, and that in many cases, though certainly not all, they find themselves creating a web of lies. It can be a terrible drain on one's integrity, and that's sad. The pressure to appear straight can also cause people to behave dishonorably towards gay people, as part of maintaining that web. This is fact, not judgment.

Ann, most heterosexual people never have to make a decision about how or when to reveal their orientation, while gay people face that decision over and over, in new jobs, moving to new neighborhoods, attending churches, meeting new friends. But for the most part, I don't experience that as a process of informing anyone, but rather of simply being myself. I think it takes much more effort to cover up being gay than it does to be openly gay.

The fact that this NYT article has raised such discussion points to how complex the issue is as it plays out in our public lives, and the political sphere. If the article is meant to cause a nudge, nudge, wink, wink response, that dismays me a bit.

Ann Althouse said...

Dirty Harry: I don't think I called it a "debate," but I did make a general statement about "public debate." I agree, it's not really a debate, it's just observation, like I might describe the nominee's appearance, which is virtually irrelevant.

What I meant to imply re Chelsea was that public debate -- or discussion -- doesn't have to tone down just because a child migh hear and be hurt.

Maybe we mostly disagree on how blatant the Times article was.

I thought you were criticizing me for calling attention to it.

Contributors said...

Absolutely not, Ann. And apologize for not being clearer. Re-reading my posts, it's not hard to see how you got that impression.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: Thanks for your comment. Well put. I realize being closeted poses special problems and some people may find themselves lying, but I imagine some people -- especially those who do not engage in any homosexual behavior -- are able to simply be private about it. After all, they are just single. Heterosexual single people maintain their privacy and aren't pressured to account for themselves. Many people of all sexual orientations are celibate. I think someone as smart as Roberts would be able to maintain his dignity and his integrity living a celibate life, if that's what he were to choose.

"If the article is meant to cause a nudge, nudge, wink, wink response, that dismays me a bit" -- this is important. I think that expresses some of what I felt after reading the article. I didn't like the whole Jeff Gannon thing either. I wish no one cared about this sort of thing.

Contributors said...

Gerry -- Whew, I'm off the hook... But I do have a question. And this is just an off-hand question. Just a general knowledge question. Nothing to do with this or college or experimenting or anything... Is a dolphin considered an animal? Or mammal? Or, what? You don't have to answer it right away. The, uh, crossword, can wait.

Gerry I'm a fan! You were da' man during the election. Even dropped a coin in your cup. Good work. Glad you came back.

Beth said...

Ann, I have two wonderful family members who are devout, celibate Catholics. I hope it makes sense when I say that they are, for want of a better word, culturally gay. She is a strong, quiet, contemplative butch woman, and he's wonderfully nelly, effusive man. They love their gay friends and relatives, and as part of their faith, embrace the cause of our legal equality. They are wonderful role models for living one's life according to one's spiritual beliefs while at the same time according dignity and respect to those who live differently.

From long experience, I don't feel comfortable assuming that this is the case with other celibate or closeted gay folks, without having personal knowledge of them, their motivations, and their positions on civil rights. I wish for a world where the decisions we make about how to live our lives are not born out of fear of reprisals in the working or political worlds.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: Thanks for the description. It reminds me of the way some people keep religious dietary restrictions but don't feel uncomfortable about other people not keeping the restrictions. It's just a religious observance.

Contributors said...

Going from North Carolina to L.A. was a shock. No one's gay in North Carolina. There are just nice quiet men who live together and garden.

When I got out here two years ago we were at a museum and there were a few gay couples holding hands, arms around each other -- I was very uncomfortable.

Last night we were at the Hollywood Bowl and the two guys in front of us had their arms around each other and I barely gave it a thought.

Of course, I kicked the shit out of them after the concert... But that was on principle, not out of anger. (joke!)

If anything people are people. My sister-in-law switched teams ten years ago. She left a man who treated her like crap for a woman who treats her like crap. People are people.

knox said...

Elizabeth: I know you weren't making a specific accusation; it was your generalized, overarching "suspicion" of closeted gays that dismayed me.

I don't doubt you have a "lifetime of experience"... but the suggestion that it's common that closeted gays are "happy to lead the witchhunt" or "behave dishonorably" is definitely not my experience. My friends who were or are closeted just mind their own business!

I felt like your *original* post suggested that being closeted often accompanies being automatically, actively being hateful or homophobic to other gays. I would characterize this sort of behavior as yes, a "fact" -- but the Exception, not the Rule.

Beth said...

Fair enough, knoxgirl. I re-read my original comment and I did not express myself well at all. I was trying to address the idea that a closeted or celibate gay person on the court might be a good thing, or a welcome thing, for gay rights; my speculation is that if people in the public eye are concerned about hiding their sexuality, then they might not be objective or fair in how they respond to gay rights issues.

That's a generalization, but not a wild and unfounded one, nor is my expectation, just a cautionary worry. And I'm thinking specifically of people in positions of authority, not just a general social, personal level.

Beth said...

Dirty Harry,

Well, your sister-in-law's example raises the question whether if sexual orientation isn't innate, poor judgment might yet be. Poor thing!

ploopusgirl said...

I think this entire debate speaks more of some people's views of how homosexual people conduct themselves. Nothing in this article-pictures included-scream "GAY!" to me at all. To call the New York Times cruel for printing what seems to be a biographical article about the new supreme court justice? Absurd. You're the ones making assumptions, not them.

Contributors said...

Elizabeth -- I love my sister-in-law but unfortunately you're right. And when my devoutly catholic wife (whose even more of a right wing extremist than I) heard her sister had left her husband for a woman -- my wife was thrilled. Here was a chance at happiness for her. That's what mattered. But, no... Because gay's like skin color. It means zippo.

Tom T. said...

Ann, doesn't the Peppermint Patty factoid fit in here somehow too?

Ann Althouse said...

Sikes: I think this "comment" set it pretty damned rich. If you think something's missing, why not SAY it? Don't criticize other people's comments.

Tom: I'm assuming people picked up the PP thing from the previous post. Didn't want to overdo it here. Read the Wonkette link for more.

ploopusgirl said...

Well, b. sikes, aren't you pleasant! I had a little difficulty deciphering what it is you're trying to say, what with your spelling and grammar deficiencies. Perhaps you could apply to the federal government for some sort of special rights!

Ann, would you hate me if I said I loved you? ;)

Beth said...

b.sikes--is that you, bill sikes, of Dickensian fame? You can probably guess what I think of the sophist twists of logic it takes to assert "that 'gay rights' has nothing to do with civil rights, but is a conventiently, purposefully crafted appeal for special rights." I'd love some of those special rights--you know the ones, those rights you have as an American citizen--to marry, to adopt, to care for my partner in sickness and in health, to be judged by my work and not by the predjudices of an employer--but this is wasted space, because you know all that and will manage nonetheless to wrap those ideals up in the box of "special rights." Let's not bother.

I love America, and can't imagine moving to Canada, where gay people are nothing special, just folks with all the rights of other Canadians. Because I do have the most basic rights, the right to vote, to free speech and assembly, I'm in a good position to work for equal rights here, in the land I love.

Contributors said...

Gerry -- That's me. One of The Vixen's co-conspirators. Hopefully I'll be there for a while. My few readers are getting exasperated chasing me around.

And brains are sexy.

Sam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sam said...

Sigh. I had to give up reading the Dirty Harry and Ann "debate" because they seemed to be incomprehersibly talking past each other.

To answer the hypo, however, there's obviously no shame, fraud or hypocricy in a conservative person's "hiding" their homosexual urges. A man who feels homosexual urges buts gets married and has kids, while holding the belief that homosexuality is deviant sexuality, does not render his life anything other than a life admirably lived. In the past, such men have been often merely been considered effeminate. There was appropriately no suggestion that such people should abandon their families and start having "honest" sex with men.

If it's not a part of a person's life, then it's absolutely nobody's business to "out" them. Same for any other sexual deviancy. If you intuit that I fantasize about sex with children, animals or my mother, it's clearly not anyone's place to spread rumors about my unclean thoughts. And it certainly doesn't make me a fraud or hypocrite for living a life free of oedipal, underage bestiality.

Beth said...


Simply saying marriage is between a man and a woman doesn't make it so; that's one definition. I want to marry the woman I'm in love with; I assert that I ought to be able to. As for adoption, there's nothing bizarre in my complaint. In many states, including the one where I live, it's illegal for gay people to adopt. There's no determination of fitness beyond that, just the questions "Are you gay?" and "Are you bisexual?" and if the answer is yes, then that's it. The empirical question of my fitness is irrelevant to the state. As for caring for my partner, we have to go through a number of legal procedures, at some cost, to establish those arrangements. We're not allowed to purchase health insurance for one another through our employment. To argue that gay people aren't denied rights that heterosexuals receive automatically through marriage is specious. In my state, it's legal to fire me for no other reason than that I am gay. You might think that's acceptable, but I don't. There are a number of policies that restrict how and why people can be denied employment or fired. I am continuously amazed by the dramas to which people who oppose equality for gay people will go with their rhetoric. Destroy the Sauds? Good grief.

vbspurs said...

I actually posted a followup on the Manhattan Examiner link Wonkette had in her site (I must wash now -- I hadn't given her hits-help since February).

Here I am, a veteran of 10 years of an all-girl boarding school in England (featuring plaid gym slips!); a former jockette, who played in TEAM sports and later showered with dozens of sweaty girls; who is a practising Catholic and not married on the near eve of my 30th birthday, and alas, all I can report is -- a deadly boring man-loving nature.

Such is life. We can't all turn out like Tom Cruise and future Justice John Roberts.

Oh and did anyone catch Candy Crowley's Dudley Do-Right comment about Judge JR's looks on CNN?

That rocked.

You never get that comedy value from Christiane.


vbspurs said...

Let's see.

Using my handy "rumour-to-fact" internet comptometre, I predict Scotty's "on good authority" remark will appear as an aside in respected newspapers by 7:08 AM Friday.

Beam me up, Scotty. Oh and RIP.


Beth said...

And in fine journalistic tradition, each subsequent report will cite previous references as sources. Sigh. I'm up late grading composition papers, and I've given three Ds in the past few hours for sloppy citations. It's awfully hard to teach research and writing skills when the people who do those things professionally don't bother to offer a good example.

amba said...


A dolphin's a mammal. Why do you want to know? Is that who you experimented with in college?

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with the poster who suggested that a gay man wearing plaid pants is nearly an impossibility.

This fashion consciousness was the center of some of the courtroom drama in Legally Blonde.

But a couple of weeks ago, I went on a family reunion, and between three and four of my cousins are gay. Two out males, one out female, and one possible female. The guys were significantly more sylishly dressed than their sisters, and were far better groomed.

I have a couple pair of plaid pants that I wore some maybe 20 years ago to make a statement - that I didn't really care about what people though of the way I dressed. I can't fit in them any more, but maybe with losing another 10 lbs... But then, if my erstwhile girlfriend ever saw them, she would burn them, probably on me. She has a habit of stealing my clothes that she doesn't like on me.

So, a gay guy wearing plaid pants? Not.

goesh said...

I have to fess up and say that I married late because I was a lecher. Maybe Judge you-know-who had been engaging in uninhibited copulation and marriage is a form of repentence. Hmm?

Ann Althouse said...

Scotty: I had to delete that. I don't know who you are or whether that's true, so I can't leave that on my site. Pllease don't be offended.

Ann Althouse said...

Victoria, Elizabeth: I've deleted Scotty's post.

goesh said...

I still haven't figured out why the Sauds must be destroyed. I realize I'm not the sharpest pencil in the bin, so maybe Stephen can enlighten me.

Ann Althouse said...

I think it's clear at this point that no man should be wearing plaid pants. Gay guys apparently already know not to wear the damned things, and nongay guys can worry that someone might think they look gay. Whatever -- the pants look bad.

And no one needs to tell women not to wear plaid pants. Women know to look in a mirror when they are getting dressed.

The Author said...

The NYT piece is fawning at worst. If you think it's subtly constructed to make readers think Roberts is gay, you're completely nuts. But then I got here via Power Line, and they really are nuts.

vbspurs said...

Well done, Ann.

You were much more cringingly polite than I would've been in explaining your reasons, but I daresay, you're much more aware of "free speech" in your blog: the good, the bad, the slanderous.

Now, time to move to another thread, methinks. Judge Roberts' potential sex kinks holds only so many charms for me.

But what is it about posting to a thread in a blog, on a topic that just caught your eye, but that once you posted your remarks to, you can't keep away from, since you want to see the replies?

Ah well. Human nature.