Lying is a tricky thing. When we lie, it’s rarely just once or just a little “white” thing, because lies are ravenous – they require sustenance or else they threaten to blow up and expose you. Lies are greedy and once you get started, you either have to go big or go home. I’m going to say that Florida’s Lieutenant Governor, Jennifer Carroll, was lying about something when she was caught allegedly engaging in inappropriate intimate behavior with a female coworker. Carroll went big. Too big, really. In her own defense, Carroll basically told the media that she’s simply too fine and too married to be a lesbian. No really.
I’m reminded of a recent retelling of a Kevin Hart routine wherein he says he cannot be honest no matter how small the situation. He must tell a whopper of a lie – like how he happened upon a deerbra (half deer, half zebra) in the street – just to cover up being late to work. Granted, what Carroll is facing is not nearly as insignificant as being late for work but she jumped all the way to “deerbra” for no good reason. If I was accused of getting it on with a woman on the job, I’d simply assert that I in no way participated in any inappropriate office behavior. I might even go a step further to reassert my fidelity to my marriage in attacking the accusation as baseless. What I would not do, however, is say I didn’t do it because, I’m too damn good looking to be gay. That’s just weird, highly offensive, and sounds like you’re just trying to change the subject.
Carroll’s defense tactic is odd but not totally surprising considering she’s a black republican from Florida. While that may be a little bit of my liberal bias showing, I think we all know an auntie or cousin who thinks all black lesbians are that way because they’re too unattractive (or independent, or emasculating) to get a man. The black community can be so very harsh and judgmental toward anyone who doesn’t adopt a traditional standard of female beauty. I was mocked when I cut off my hair to go natural and Brittney Griner, an amazing athlete, is mocked for her androgynous looks. Clearly, only a woman who eschews “the D” would cut off all of her hair or prefer dominating the basketball court to dolling herself up. Since Carroll looks as though she has a standing weekly appointment at Puddin’s Press-N-Curl, we’d be foolish to think she could be gay.
I suspect that the Lt. Governor’s West Indian background may also have something to do with her statement. Born in Trinidad, Carroll moved to the U.S. as a child. West Indian culture is known to be hostile toward homosexuality. Is it a stretch to assume that those cultural beliefs may have had an impact on her views? How about the fact that she’s a republican at a time when the GOP’s quest to quash LGBT-anything comes second only to the party’s nationwide efforts to end access to abortion and contraception? As a Christian, Carroll may also be influenced by those in the black church who have been slow to accept the gay community. Though it may be totally unrelated to Carroll’s comment, Prophetess Juanita Bynum recently disclosed her past relations with women to during an interview on an Atlanta radio station. Some chide Bynum for doing whatever she can to stay relevant, but admitting to same-sex relations is still so taboo in the black church, I’m not sure she’d go that far just for attention. I wonder what Lt. Governor Carroll thinks of Bynum’s looks. Judging by some comments, she’s not the only black Christian who thinks looks = lesbian.
No matter what influences Carroll’s personal beliefs, her role as a leading political figure makes the message all the more damaging. Jennifer Carroll is Florida’s first female Lt. Governor and the first African-American elected statewide. For her to so carelessly insult gay women was really irresponsible. What could have been a run-of-the-mill, local, republican sex rumor (been there, done that) has become the source of national backlash and a rallying point for the LGBT community and their allies. The Atlantic Wire correctly referred to Carroll’s gaffe as a lesson on “how not to respond to a sex scandal.” Blogs and news outlets are collectively shaking their heads at her. Lesbian women all over have taken to Twitter, posting pictures of themselves using the #thisiswhatalesbianlookslike tag.
Still, while we cringe at Carroll’s insensitivity and wonder why she had to go so left field in response to what she says is a baseless rumor and vendetta, I doubt this will have political consequences for her. Judging from how Mitt Romney used the jeers he earned at the NAACP convention, it’s likely that republican voters will see Carroll’s statement as a way to stick it to the gays. Fortunately, there is a positive outcome in all of this – the number of women drawing attention to the diversity and beauty of the lesbian community. Even if Carroll doesn’t learn anything, I think a lot of other people will.