Mary Cheney, the daughter of the lawyer-shooting vice-president, has a book coming out about her life in politics. She is doing the full press publicity tour including ABC News, People, Vanity Fair, etc. Inevitably the topic comes up about how she reconciles being a lesbian in the political party that is trying to make gay marriage a campaign issue when she clearly disagrees with the policy. I would hesitate to call her a Log Cabin Lesbian, but that clearly is what she is.
An article in the Washington Post by Jennifer Frey points out, perhaps too subtly, the irony that Mary Cheney who has been married (her word) to Heather Poe for over 14 years is nearly invisible when in the same green room with Nick Lachey, who has made a stunningly well publicized mockery of the institution being denied to thousands of very committed same-sex couples.
The article further summarizes Mary’s very brief coming out to her parents story:
She was 16. She and her first girlfriend had just broken up. She skipped school, crashed the car, came home and decided it was time to just do it. Mom cried ("Your life will be so hard") but quickly came around. Dad said he loved her and just wanted her to be happy. The end.
I find it interesting that Mary Cheney, and her parents, knew was she was a lesbian since she was in high school or before. The high school years are very emotionally tough times for people, particularly for those establishing a sexual identity that doesn’t square with the conventional expectations. Sometimes people try on a lot of roles that don’t seem to fit until they can become comfortable with who they are.
I know that because in high school I dated a girl that in all hindsight I now know was lesbian. I don’t take credit or blame for this (although a certain amount of teen-age awkwardness on my part couldn’t have helped matters), since I know sexual attraction doesn’t work that way. We met in English class (where I met nearly every girl I dated in high school) and had homeroom together. She was funny and always smiling. Her family had moved from Texas and she didn’t know a lot of other people in Florida.
She was a big fan of Kris Kristofferson and was impressed that I knew he wrote “Me and Bobby McGee”. I had my dad’s exhaustive pirated country music collection to thank for that hook. Being from Texas, she was also a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, but I barely knew half the players she had posters of on her wall. She was way more athletic and sports-oriented than I ever was.
In the fall of my junior year we started to go on the typical high school type dates, football games and movies. On one date, we went to a mall sporting goods store looking for a gun rack for her brother’s pick-up. I didn’t find gun-rack shopping odd since there were a lot of pick-up trucks and gun racks and even a few Confederate flags in our school parking lot. Our high school band drum major knowingly and ironically kept his marching baton in his gun rack.
The most interesting date I ever had was one Friday night when we got back to her house from the movie or whatever and she got all excited because her brother’s truck was in the driveway. He had gone on a hunting trip and was supposed to be away until Sunday. Sure enough, he was back early because he had bagged a buck and had it hanging from a tree in the back yard of this suburban cul de sac house. I spent the rest of the evening watching the entire family gut and dress that deer, wrapping everything in freezer backs for weeks of meals of venison. While I knew other hunters and had eaten venison, I had never seen this part of the process so up close and personal before or since.
I tried to be a good potential boyfriend. When she had knee surgery, I bought some flowers and visited her in the hospital. That cheered her up because the knee operation had ended her career as a softball catcher. Rather than give up the game, she took up coaching some youth leagues and loved telling me stories about her girls at practice. At one point, we had an awkward conversation where she wondered if she came off as too “butch”. Being romantically interested in her, I tried to reassure her she wasn’t, but there had to be a grain of truth in there. We eventually just drifted apart, but always stayed friendly.
In our senior year, we had the same homeroom still, but she spent a lot of time giggling and talking with another girl in our homeroom that was clearly very butch. These two worked the same shifts at the local ice cream place, and I would always say “hi” when I went through the drive-thru. Any potential relationship between those two didn’t even register with me because I had moved on romantically and was dating my future wife by then.
She wrote a very sweet note in my high school yearbook and perhaps the word “smart” is code for “straight”. Or not. I was a bit of a geek in high school and a lot of other people wrote similar things. In retrospect, clues about our incompatibility should have been falling on me like anvils. She never really “came out” to me and she didn’t owe that to me since it really didn’t matter at that point. We dated, broke up, and stayed friends. Nothing more to say or do. I haven’t seen or heard from her in over twenty years since she doesn’t attend any of the high school reunions I make a point of going to, but I hope she has found love and happiness. We all deserve that. Love comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Mary Cheney knows that, and her father should too.