The XX Factor

The First First Lad Tells All

Rep. Jared Polis came to Washington with Barack Obama and without California’s Proposition 8, in the fall of 2008. Now, the freshman representative from Colorado is navigating his first full year as a legislator-and his first year as an openly gay member of Congress. CNN, which is tracking the freshman years of various newly elected officials, has focused on Polis and his partner, Marlon Reis. Here’s Polis’ thoughtful introduction to the latest installment, on being gay in buttoned-up Capitol :

My partner, Marlon Reis, and I have been together for more than six years. We never saw ourselves or our relationship as anything different from those of other members of Congress , and while notable, the gender of my spouse has little to do with the overall experience of the congressional life and our “freshman year.”

The life of a congressional spouse is harder than the life of the member. They do all the work and get none of the recognition. Fortunately, Marlon’s passion for writing fiction is consistent with the necessary mobility of the congressional lifestyle and being able to work out of two homes. I am proud that Marlon has chosen to tell his tale.

Reis’ tale is even better, wisely riffing on the “otherness” of his age, gender, and sexual orientation at spousal meetings usually reserved for dainty ladies in brooches:

At the time of my introduction, I was something of a novelty among the spouses. At 28 years old, I was one of the youngest spouses in the U.S. Congress. Jared is the second-youngest congressman. Almost immediately, I was mistaken for a staff aide; then again, for a son designated to attend in place of a spouse. More times than I care to remember, I was told, “But you’re so young!”

Rarely has anyone seen me for what I actually am. I don my “Congressional Spouse” lapel pin proudly and hope each time not to be questioned, yet I still receive sideways glances and orders to produce an official ID. It is as if my story is too unbelievable to be true, that I am an interloper, someone in a place I do not belong.

It’s certainly worth reading the whole story .

Now, I suppose we won’t have true post-gender parity among elected officials until a scandal-spinning press conference features a gay man or woman standing stoically behind his or her spouse as they bite their lip and confess to some sordid infidelity. But this has got to be the opening shot in what will prove to be a long, fruitful history of same-sex spouses navigating the strictly gendered, heteronormative world of politics. And of course, I can’t wish that cable-news fate upon this fascinating, pioneering power couple.