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Public Sex

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Learning the Ropes

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1970

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On a Deadline

Let me tell you about Bill Clinton and 1992.

That was the year he added "gay rights" to the national political agenda. Hard as it is for some of us to remember (and the younger among us to believe), the LGBT issues that now come up regularly in national political discourse never before had.

What's more, it was clear that candidate Clinton liked and respected gay people—he did a giant fundraiser in Los Angeles with gay activist David Mixner, a longtime friend, and he gave another gay friend, Bob Hattoy, a prominent speaking slot at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. The impact of all this was huge.

"You haven't even taken office," I got to tell him on the last day of the year, in front of 1,000 mostly straight people, at a thing called Renaissance Weekend, 21 days before his inauguration, "and yet already you have dramatically improved my life and the lives of 10 million other gay Americans.

"You have signaled America that people who happen to be gay—just like people who happen to be black or Jewish or female or anything else—should be accorded respect and judged on their contributions and conduct, like anyone else.

"You have signaled the parents of gay children that they need not be ashamed of their children or of themselves. You have signaled other leaders and opinion makers that it's okay to speak out on this issue.

"You have saved lives. Thirty percent of teenage suicides are ascribed to gay kids who would rather die than face a lifetime of not being accepted. Because of you, some of those kids, at least, will feel they have a place in the world.

"Pat Buchanan says AIDS is God's retribution on gays—and presumably on Africans and hemophiliacs as well. Dan Quayle says that being straight or gay is a choice—and perhaps for him it is. But for most of us, it's not a choice. We are who we are.

"Thank you, Bill and Hillary, for including us in your vision of America."

Andrew Tobias is the author of The Best Little Boy in the World and treasurer of the Democratic National Committee.