Since the financial crisis, the most talked about aspect of Congressman Barney Frank’s (D-MA) career has been his consistent role on the House Banking Committee. There, he’s known for being smart, tough, and colourful.However the soon-to-be-retired 32 year Washington vet is also known for being the first openly gay Congressman in the United States. He was first elected to his seat in 1982, and he officially came out to America in 1987.
The Washington Post has an awesome article on what that journey was like, and the best parts are the anecdotes about how Frank came out to his peers in Congress.
And the most interesting thing about each anecdote is how non-chalant Frank seemed about it every time.
Once, in a casual conversation, the late Rep. Mike Synar (D-Okla.) asked Frank whether he had a girlfriend.
“No,” Frank replied.
“Are you gay?” Synar asked.
“Well, yeah,” Frank said.
There was no further discussion.
Then there was the time Frank was in Egypt over New Years Eve with then-single Congressman Thomas Carper (D-DE) in 1982. Carper had enlisted two women to be he and Frank’s dates at a NYE party and noticed that when the clock struck midnight, Frank didn’t kiss his date.
Carper asked Barney about it, and Barney said he would’ve rather been with the woman’s brother.
“I was pretty nonchalant about it,” Carper said. “And Barney told me later that it was one of the conversations that gave him the courage for him to tell others. It was a funny moment, but it was an important moment for him, and maybe for the rest of us.”
The last story is about the day Frank officially came out. Former Congressman Robert Bauman (R-Md.) was about to publish a book saying that Frank was gay, so Frank told then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA). O’Neil was disappointed, he said that he’d hoped that Frank would be the first Jewish speaker one day.
And then, of course, they had to go about alerting the media.
O’Neill then alerted his press secretary — future talk show host Chris Matthews — that Frank soon “may be coming out of the room.” Aides had to explain that the metaphor was that Frank was coming out of the closet.
In next year’s Congress, there will be seven openly gay or bisexual members. No doubt Frank can take some credit for that.
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