But the greatest issue before us is whether Charlie is gay.
The former governor, then single, once elegantly deflected this rumor that refuses to die by saying he was married to Florida. A woman who had no truck for his views once popped the question at a big Tampa political luncheon; Crist simply said, “I’m not.” How he endures this garbage, of late inflicted by the indicted Jim Greer as a way to save his skin, is anybody’s guess.
The rumors naturally reveal far more about those who spread them than Crist. They expect the rumors to wound, even destroy him and his career, the way they might have sixty years ago when whispers of homosexuality were enough to ruin good people and forever taint the public good they did.
Sixty years ago. The opinions of straights who presume their own characters are morally upright have not changed in over half a century. No matter the current talk of gay marriage and admiration of long-term gay relationships in which the partners love and cherish each other—even Jeb Bush has been respectful—the cruelty persists. Charlie Crist may have suffered politically more for standing next to Barack Obama, but this other weapon has always hung over his head, the way birtherism has always dangled over the President’s. The skeptics even said that Crist’s wife Carole is his beard, the result of a political decision he made to increase his odds of being chosen John McCain's running mate.
After all, Charlie Crist fits the stereotype, doesn’t he?
His first marriage, when he was very young, blew up in eight months, when his wife must have discovered the “truth,” right?
He never had children. What do you think that means?
He’s pretty. Not handsome—speaking of stereotypes—in the angular way of a Mitt Romney, who photographs in such an expected way when he stands before the flag. With his never-a-strand-out-of place silver hair, his big-as-a-doe’s brown eyes, and his smooth-as-a-baby’s-skin face, Crist’s appearance is just plain astonishing; he’s perfect. Everybody in the straight universe knows, don’t we, that all gay men look different, that you can spot them at a hundred yards?
Most of all, he’s a spectacular hypocrite, right? He hides who he really is behind his ambition; he says he is against gay marriage.
None of this is meant to offend, unless you think this way.
It’s pointless to declare that these stupid and sometimes deadly prejudices should go away. They won’t. The fight for gay rights will always be; Charlie Crist is proof of that, as he is of the power of the accident of beauty. This nonsense is enough to make you yearn not only for honesty and decency but for the days before TV when a fat man with no hair and a cheap suit could get elected. Or, better yet today, a plus-sized woman.
Now that would be progress.
Mary Jo Melone, former columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, is a writer in Tampa.
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