What does a lesbian look like? Apparently, Florida’s Republican lieutenant governor Jennifer Carroll knows and has decided her sexual orientation is and can be defined by her appearance. Carroll has been embroiled in a controversy with allegations that she had an extramarital affair with a female staffer. Carroll denies the allegations but instead of simply dismissing the story and moving on Carroll decided to make the story national by saying,
“The problem is that when you have these accusations that come out, it’s not just one person you’re attacking. It’s an entire family. My husband doesn’t want to hear that. He knows the type of woman I am. I mean, my kids know the type of woman I am. For twenty-nine years – I’m the one that’s married for twenty-nine years. The accuser is the one that’s been single for a long time. So usually Black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.”
According to Carroll, Black women who look like her can’t be gay. Disregarding the idea that it’s relevant the accuser has been single for a period of time, Carroll’s assertion that lesbians don’t look like her or that there is a physical archetype for women who choose to love and have relationships with other women is offensive and unnecessary.
If Carroll wants to simply deny the allegations, then focus on that without then brining poorly framed generalizations and stereotypes into the conversation. Carroll simply didn’t need to go there to mount a defense. It’s also problematic that Carroll’s defense that she did not have an extramarital affair is based on external and largely irrelevant details like having children and being married. As if no one who was ever married with children ever had an affair.
Carroll has also openly anti-gay policies. As a Navy veteran – and a Republican who is still opposed to the now repealed "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" – her reasoning for why the military should repeal DADT is based on faulty claims about including openly gay service members, the troops will struggle with staying on their mission. Carroll’s claim that is not substantiated by experts with reports finding that DADT repeal lead to very few changes for active duty members. The fight for equality for the LGBT community is ongoing and Carroll is apparently well behind the curve unable to recognize that being openly anti-gay isn’t an acceptable mainstream point of view. With public opinion strongly supporting the repeal of DADT and the increasing support for same-sex marriage it might be time for Carroll to evolve along with the rest of America.
Certainly, we don’t know whether the allegations are true and whether politicians private lives are relevant to their ability to do their jobs is a lively and ongoing debate worth having, but Carroll uses unnecessary reasons to defend her fidelity and integrity. In launching her defense, she unfairly stereotypes other groups in a way that’s harmful and it’s only appropriate that she is called to task and asked to apologize to the gay community.
Zerlina Maxwell is a democratic strategist and soon-to-be attorney. You can follow her on Twitter: @ZerlinaMaxwell