When Bill de Blasio's Wife Was a Lesbian

9.3.2013

By Andrew Belonsky

Now an advocate for equality, Chirlane McCray identified as a lesbian before meeting her lawmaker husband and New York City mayoral hopeful.

Maureen Dowd was forced to apologize last week for misquoting Chirlane McCray, wife of Democratic New York City mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio. The quote Dowd used in her New York Times column went something like this, "[Fellow Mayoral candidate Christine Quinn is] not the kind of person I feel I can go up to and talk to about issues like taking care of children at a young age and paid sick leave," when in fact McCray said, "Well, I am a woman, and she is not speaking to the issues I care about and I think a lot of women feel the same way. I don’t see her speaking to the concerns of women who have to take care of children at a young age or send them to school and after school, paid sick days, workplace, she is not speaking to any of those issues."

Explaining her misquote, Dowd told Politico, "The substance is the same, but the quote should be exact." And it was that substance, the idea that Quinn is unapproachable, that rubbed many people the wrong way. Many, including myself, read it as a jibe against Quinn's homosexuality.

Apparently that's not what McCray meant, but the incident reminded me of a small scandal from last December when The New York Observer exhumed a 1979 Essence article in which McCray, at that point a member of the black lesbian feminist group called The Combahee River Collective, wrote about how she renounced her lesbian lifestyle after meeting her husband.

“I survived the tears, the isolation and the feeling that something was terribly wrong with me for loving another woman. Coming to terms with my life as a lesbian has been easier for me than it has been for many. Since I don’t look or dress like the typical bulldagger, I have a choice as to whether my sexual preference is known.”

McCray also wrote, “I have also been fortunate because I discovered my preference for women early, before getting locked into a traditional marriage and having children.” That article came with a tagline that read, "BEYOND FEAR—Lesbian Speaks!"

Asked about the article last year, McCray, who along with her progressive husband has advocated for marriage equality, responded: "In the 1970′s, I identified as a lesbian and wrote about it. In 1991, I met the love of my life, married him.”

(Images via Bill de Blasio's Flickr)

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