Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WH's Jarrett: Dead Gay Bully Victim
Made 'Lifestyle Choice'

The last time I heard anyone use the obnoxious phrase "lifestyle choice" to describe a gay person's sexual orientation was during the Bill Clinton presidency when the gays were accused of wanting "special rights."

Today the Washington Post's gay kapo Jonathan Capehart shares a video interview he conducted on Monday with senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett. She clearly states a belief that Minnesota gay teen Justin Aarberg, who committed suicide in July after being bullied, made a "lifestyle choice."

Listen to Jarrett's nonsense at the 4:20 mark:

What an outrage to claim that the 15-year-old Aarberg made a choice to be gay, and that sexual orientation is a lifestyle. Did she get her talking points from Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council? It's doubly offensive that Capehart makes no effort to point out how dangerous Jarrett's thinking is.

If Capehart were willing to risk his White House access to events like a Latina Fiesta night, he might have taken his tongue off Jarrett and Obama's posteriors and challenged her employment of "lifestyle choice" in speaking about the support of the Aarberg family for their gay son and brother.

With friends like Jarrett and gay reporters such as Capehart, why worry about our enemies at the Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage and the Mormon Church?

Here's a transcript of the pertinent section:

Capeheart: One of the things you've put a spotlight on, and to veer sharply away from infrastructure, and that was on the rash of suicides of gay youth. You gave a speech to the Human Rights Campaign annual dinner, where you named the victims. You talked about the President's committment to making a more inclusive, tolerant, accepting country. Why did you feel it was important to deliver that message, and deliver it there?

Jarrett: Well, I think what we've seen over the last few months are some very tragic deaths of young people, our children. And avoidable deaths. They were driven to committ suicide because they were being harassed in school, and driven to do something that no child should ever be driven to do. And in many cases, the parents are doing a good job. Their families are supportive. Before I spoke at the HRC dinner, I met backstage with Tammy Aarberg, her son Andrew. These are good people. They were aware that their son was gay. They embraced him. They loved him. They supported his lifestyle choice.

But yet when he left the home & he went to school, he was tortured by his classmates. What the President asked me to do was to go and deliver his message that this is an issue that's important and it needs to be addressed now. We've got to stop condoning this in the school, and acting like this is a rite of passage or something that we can't do anything about. [...]


Anonymous said...

It's really Bush's fault, after all.

Maybe in Obamas' 2nd term, after those mid-term elections (2014), he'll settle all this.

Meet the new boss, he's the same as the old boss.


Bucky said...


And this is the emissary that the totally clueless Obama administration sent to try and help heal the rift with the gay community?

Why don't they just call us faggots and be with it?

Anonymous said...

Being gay isn't a lifestyle choice. Being out of the closet is.

But, go ahead, keep tearing down the only party that supports us.

Anonymous said...

Something similar happened the other night on Rachel Maddow's show. She had NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reporting on DADT and he said " It's not advisable for any gay soldier to walk out on the front steps of barracks and openly declare their **sexual preference**" Rachel didn't even blink an eye when the idiot said that.

Ed Sikov said...

I just emailed the White House and basically told them they were idiots and bigots and I wasn't giving them any more money as a direct result.

Jay Martin said...

Lifestyle choice? Did she REALLY JUST SAY THAT?

lene said...

I don't believe I've ever contacted the White House before, but this disturbed me greatly. I sent the following message via their email system --
I sincerely appreciate the progress this administration has made in many areas, especially in passing Healthcare Reform. But a recent comment by senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett disturbs me, and I think clarification and an apology may be in order.

Her comment that Justin Aarberg made a "lifestyle choice" implies that sexuality is a choice and not innate. I don't believe this to be true for anyone, heterosexual, homosexual, or otherwise. Such an implication also leads to "blame the victim" thinking in that it gives the impression that had Justin made the choice to not be gay, he wouldn't have been bullied and therefore wouldn't have felt such despair that he chose to end his life. This is cruel, as well as being contrary to what we know from scientific studies related to human sexuality.

I'm quite certain that Ms. Jarrett didn't intend to cause Justin's family or millions of other Americans who are gay or who love gay friends or family members any pain. But her thoughtless words are not only hurtful, they reflect very poorly on the administration she serves.
I'm one of the millions of happily married heterosexuals who see no damn reason why gay marriage in any way would diminish or harm my own marriage, and can't fathom how we've reached the 21st century with this insane bigotry still in full force. Sometimes I despair.

Anonymous said...

As a gay man who has been aware of my sexual orientation since the age of 7, I agree that being gay is not a choice. But I do think people are being a bit too hard on Valerie. The term "lifestyle choice" is not something she used as part of prepared remarks or as part of a press release. This seems to be nothing more than a bad choice of phrases. If you were to interview Valerie, I believe that she would say that she does not believe homosexuality to be a choice.

I know the gay community has been disappointed in the lack of progress the Obama administration has made on certain issues, but I don't think you'll find that the administration's position is that homosexuality is a choice.

William Tuthill said...

Here is the letter I just sent to Ms. Jarrett on the WH Web site and by USPS:

Dear Ms. Jarrett:

I have just watched the video of your interview on Monday with Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post. In it you used the term “lifestyle choice” to describe a 15-year-old gay kid who was bullied in school and later took his life.

Your choice of words negated your otherwise well-intentioned comments about bullying and respect for all youth. When you use words like “lifestyle” and “choice” to describe an immutable trait like our sexual orientation, you open the door to the kind of torment gay teens suffer at the hands of classmates.

As long as it’s described as a “choice,” my sexual orientation is fair game, whether in the school yard or the political arena. This is the primary tool used by noisy Christianist ideologues, and I expect it. But when it comes from a close advisor to the President, well-meaning as you are, I am appalled. Language is powerful. To me, your use of “lifestyle choice” betrays a stunning ignorance and I again question this White House’s leadership on granting equality under the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

I pray that you will think about the language you use when describing us in the L/G/B/T community.

Bucky said...

You have it completely backwards, Anon. She may not have used the "lifestyle choice" in her prepared remarks -- because they were prepared by someone else. It was her off the cuff comments where she makes the unfortunate gaffe.

And here is the thing, I would never use the N-word in a casual conversation with anyone, because that is not a word that I ever use. It would never be a "bad choice" of words you would hear me say.

That Ms. Barrett would say such a thing indicates that she is comfortable with the phrase. I suspect that it more correctly indicates her beliefs that a press release or speech prepared by someone else.

The admin's official policy may not be that being gay is a choice, but if the people running the administration believe that it is, that would explain so much about the inaction we've seen on gay issues from Obama.

Bucky said...

In my previous post, the last paragraph should read:

The admin's official policy may be that being gay is a not achoice, but if the people running the administration believe that it is, that would explain so much about the inaction we've seen on gay issues from Obama.

Anonymous said...

How can this be a surprise to anyone? Obama has consistently surrounded himself with anti-gay people. Who does that? If this is a surprise to you, wake up.

Anonymous said...

I am all for gay rights and always have been and usually get very upset when people say ignorant things about homosexuality but I think people are taking this way too far. I agree with anonymous, I don't think she meant anything by saying lifestyle choice, by the way she talked and everything else she said she doesn't seem like she is against homosexuality and I feel if you did ask her whether or not she thinks it's a choice, she would say that she doesn't think it's a choice. I really do think it was just a poor choice of words, saying something you don't literally mean just happens sometimes, it happens to the best of us.. By the way people were acting, I thought this video was going to piss me off and she was going to say some really horrible stuff and then I watched it and don't understand why everyone is freaking out about it. Unless she comes out and says she definitely thinks it is a choice, I'm pretty sure she just said the wrong words and shouldn't be attacked for it.

Anonymous said...

Did any of you bother to watch the entire video? Out of all the positive things she said they pick out two words. What about her taking a stand against homophobia? Embracing our diversity? She said 'lifestyle choice' it's not she called him any number of the foul names people use to describe gays everyday.

Was her comment stupid? Absolutely but I also think forming a belief about the Obama administrations commitment to the GLBT community based on one video is incredibly stupid as well.

He has done more for the GLBT community in the last 2 years than has been done in the entire history of America. There are expectations and reality & the reality is that our President is doing a damn good job for what he has on his plate.

He can't drop everything to make 13% of the population happy. Change often doesn't happen in our appointed time but it doesn't mean it isn't happening. #justsaying

Anonymous said...

I have been a big supporter of Obama and have defended him against charges from other gay folk that he's not doing enough to advance the rights of LGBT citizens. But Valerie Jarrett's use of "lifestyle choice" may be a tipping point for me. It's interesting to see straight posters here who don't think it's a big deal. But the fact that Obama's most senior and trusted advisor, an intelligent, urban sophisticate-- could even utter that phrase--especially regarding a bullied 15 year-old--is shocking to me as a gay man. It shows how out of touch she is on LGBT issues. Yes, she was trying to be supportive, but this just shows that on a very basic level, she doesn't get it--and I suspect the administration as a whole doesn't get it either.

Anonymous said...

<...a clueless idiot, a liar, or a political opprtunist...>

That is the current job description for a spot in the Whitehouse or to work for Pelosi. Time to move over to ??

Sean D Sorrentino said...

So why are you so wedded to the concept that it's genetic rather than choice? This is America. If you choose to have sex with a member of your own gender, who has the right to tell you no?

Time to stop hiding behind your genes. Come out from behind the biologist and stand out proudly and say, "my body, my choice."

I can't believe you let yourself get sidetracked by those who want to deny the validity of that choice.

Florida Squeezed said...

I think it's reprehensible, not that Valerie Jarrett made this mistake, but the way that radical gay activists slap the Obama administration every time they try to do some advocacy... There are OTHER issues going on, you know... And you could be seeing what you can get out of the Republicans... That's a laugh!

Bucky said...

Jarrett / White House just issued an apology for her comments:

"In a recent interview I was asked about the recent tragedies about gay youth who have committed suicide, and I misspoke when I referred to someone's sexual identity as a 'lifestyle choice.' I meant no disrespect to the LGBT community, and I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not a choice, and anyone who knows me and my work over the years knows that I am a firm believer and supporter in the rights of LGBT Americans. Most of all, I hope this does not distract from the issue I was asked about -- the desperate, tragic decision by some young people who feel that their only recourse is to take their own lives because they are being bullied or harassed because they are gay, or because others believe they are gay. We must instill in young people respect for one another, and we must set an example of mutual regard and civility to create an environment that is safe for every person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."

Anonymous said...

"Being gay isn't a lifestyle choice. Being out of the closet is.

But, go ahead, keep tearing down the only party that supports us."

Yeah, they support you the way they support blacks - promise lots of things, make sure you vote for them, then they ignore you.

How's that working out for you?

Anonymous said...

@ Bucky:"In a recent interview I was asked about the recent tragedies about gay youth who have committed suicide, and I misspoke when I referred to someone's sexual identity as a 'lifestyle choice.'

Misspoke? MISSPOKE? What the h*ll does that mean? English has to be her first language and she's been using it for years. I'm sick and tired of political punks pretending that word means anything other than "damn, ya caught me saying something I think".
Just a pet peeve of mine; carry on.


Unknown said...

I'm not the biggest fan of the phrase, but I see no real wrong here. "Being gay" (i.e. having same-sex desires) may not be a choice. Coming out and living as an LGBTQ person, however, is a choice, and an absolutely courageous one at that--this is what makes the difference between these brave young people and that cowardly old closet queen, Larry Craig. Petrellis is just trying to show his lefty bonafides by being as contentious and intransigent as possible. Irritating as the phrase may seem, it's quibbling. And I'm absolutely appalled that he would equate Valerie Jarret with the Family Research Council. While I'm irritated with the Obama administration in its handling of LGBTQ rights, I find statements like Petrelis's irrational and uncritical. The right already has its Ann Coulters and D'Nesh D'Souzas. I really don't think we need the same illogical squealing on the left. With "intellectuals" like Petrelis, maybe queer people are better off listening to Perez Hilton...

Bucky said...


I wasn't defending her at all. Just pointing out that she had released a statement. I guess the great gay backlash finally got a little bit of attention. And for the record, if you read upthread, you will notice that I believe that the only way she could have "misspoke" is if that is a phrase that she uses regularly. Ethnic/racial/sexual slurs don't accidentally "slip" off of the tongue in if they aren't words you are comfortable using in unguarded moments. We got a glimpse, for just a moment, into what Jarrett really thinks. Carefully worded press releases not withstanding.


And you could be seeing what you can get out of the Republicans

We are seeing what we can get out of the Republicans. It is the same thing we are getting out of the Dems. DOMA? DADT? ENDA? Marriage Equality? Anything?

Anonymous said...

It's a's time we got over our-selves.

We all 'choose' to partake in same-sex relationships.

Show me the DNA chain or gene that re-wires between homo-sexuality and hetero-sexuality, and I'll become a believer.

Until then, it's about time to grow-up and act like responsibly adults.

Anonymous said...


I sure hope you aren't referring to 'LGBTQ' rights in the sense that they are different than those given to any other Amercian Citizen...if so...that's just lunacy...

And Bucky...let's not compare 'lifestyle' choice to 'Ethnic/Racial' slurs...come on now...we can be a bit more articulate and intelligent can't we, even if the topic is moot.

Bucky said...


I appreciate that you and others here and elsewhere don't understand the big deal with the words "lifestyle choice." Obviously you haven't been paying any attention.

Those who are opposed to gay civil equality -- or opposed to even acknowledging the very existence of gays and lesbians -- have worked very, very hard to frame the debate in terms of gay being a "homosexual lifestyle choice." And as long as the conversation is discussed in those terms, we lose and they win. Every time.

If being gay is nothing but a lifestyle choice, then we can just choose another lifestyle. You know, the heterosexual one. As long as being gay is just a lifestyle choice -- as much as a preference for NASCAR over opera -- then all those homos just need to make different choices.

Haven't you heard all those people opposed to our very existence talking about how we want "special rights?" That's because they see being gay as a lifestyle choice.

And they just think we've made bad choices. And we need to learn to make better ones.

As long as being gay is just a lifestyle choice, then parents ship their gay children off to reeducation camps to pray the gay away. Because, you know, it's just a lifestyle choice and we need to teach them to make better choices.

Being bullied in school. Well, just stop choosing to be a faggot and then you won't get bullied. Make a better choice. Problem solved.

Marriage equality? Just choose to marry someone of the opposite sex like everyone else. Make the right choice and you can get married like everyone else.

So you see, Anon, "lifestyle choice" is a very powerful idea. It is the very basis for the continued legal discrimination of gay men and women.

It is the "rationale" behind which they hide their naked hatred of us.

Words matter, Anon. And those words in particular matter. They are yelled from the pulpits of conservative Christian churches every Sunday.

Hope that was articulate and intelligent enough for you, Anon.

Anonymous said...

of course it's a lifestyle choice
is there some "gay gene"? no. it's not like ethnicity, which is solely determined by who your parents are. therefore, it's either environment or choice... and since there have been cases of identical twins in which one is straight and the other gay, clearly environment isn't it.
and where do you draw the line? if you accept gayness and lesbianness as not chosen and predetermined, then where do bisexual and transgender people come in? and how about sadomasochists and people with "fetishes"? How about necrophiles? Heck, many murdering psychopaths actually get a sexual thrill out of murder, so should we accept them too, and is it wrong to deny THEM the attainment of pleasure? Should we accept all deviants from society into our midst? That's clearly not going to work. There are some severely mentally ill people out there, and while I do not believe gayness and lesbianness are debilitating illnesses, there are some mental disorders that clearly are.

Anonymous said...

Valerie Jarrett has nothing to apologize for, "homosexuality IS a lifestyle choice"! What's sad are those who refuse to face facts and accept the truth!

Anonymous said...

Must we get our panties in a bunch every time we perceive a small slight? I'm a gay man, and I've made a CHOICE to live this lifestyle. It was a long studied and calculated choice.

The more we freak out over the little crap like this the less we're taken seriously when something real happens.

As for this administration doing anything for us...what have they done? It was the Log Cabin Republicans that sued and have gotten traction with the repealing of DADT. This administration has done nothing.

The sooner we become more than one issue people the more effective we'll be.

Diane said...

"I knew a gay professor in college and he was a nice guy and he didn't proselytize or anything."

When that remark was allowed to pass in The Advocate is when people should have gotten upset. But by then, they were too drugged by "hope and change" to even notice.

Unknown said...

We homosexuals now have actions (an appeal against the DADT ruling) AND words (lifestyle choice) that reveal this administration's TRUE feelings about us.

Any gay man or woman who continues to believe in this group of people is just like a battered spouse...a self-hating, love-starved mess who makes excuses for the punches and bruises.

Anonymous said...

A kid who is tormented in school is not making a "lifestyle choice".

When the super jock in my junior high started picking on me it looked like I would be in for six years of torture.

Yet that summer he was in a near fatal boat accident and stopped being such a bully when he finally got back to school.

I am well aware that not every kid is as fortunate as I.

It is apparent we need more high placed gay people in our gov't.

Anonymous said...

When she said "lifestyle choice", she was not referring to the boy's attraction to the same gender, but referring to the boy's "choice" of actually behaving in a certain way. This can be compared to any other lifestyle "choice" one may have, such as the decision to exercise more, eat fast food, hang out with friends, etc.

P.S.> I DO NOT HATE OR DISCRIMINATE GAYS, but If one were to objectively think about it in scientific and evolutionary terms, homosexual behavior doesn't make any sense. Call it an "atheism against nature" if you will. And while homosexual behavior does indeed take place in nature, it is scientifically improbable of such behavior to result in the survival of an individual or species.