COMMENTARY: I want a dyke for president, but a dyke with political experience


Zoe Leonard’s “I want a dyke for president” quote captures the public’s desire for a president who’s policies are informed by their own marginalization. 

Lilli Hime

Voters in 2020 might have a hard decision if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose charisma is only matched by his muscular bulge, and Oprah Winfrey, whose mere name-drop supersedes any description, both decide to run for president.

What might have been an excusable joke before the 2016 presidential race looks pretty good, and pretty possible, now. The Rock disclosed the decision as “a real possibility” in a GQ interview, while Oprah has yet to shut down the prospect as her fans build its momentum.

The fact stands, people are actually rooting for these two powerhouse celebrities to fight for the nation’s most powerful position.

And my initial reaction was, “I want a dyke for president.”

Photographer and sculptor Zoe Leonard’s famous quote, “I want a president” details her desire for a president who has been marginalized, who has been forgotten and trampled on by cruel policies; who has been at the bottom of society’s to-care-for list. She lists wanting a president who is a dyke, who doesn’t have health insurance, who has stood in line for welfare and who has survived rape.

“I want a dyke for president. I want a person with AIDS for president and I want a fag for vice president and I want someone with no health insurance and I want someone who grew up in a place where the earth is so saturated with toxic waste that they didn’t have a choice about getting leukemia. I want a president that had an abortion at 16 and I want a candidate who isn’t the lesser of two evils and I want a president who lost their last lover to AIDS, who still sees that in their eyes every time they lay down to rest, who held their lover in their arms and knew they were dying. I want a president with no air-conditioning, a president who has stood in line at the clinic, at the DMV, at the welfare office, and has been unemployed and laid off and sexually harassed and gay bashed and deported. I want someone who has spent the night in the tombs and had a cross burned on their lawn and survived rape. I want someone who has been in love and been hurt, who respects sex, who has made mistakes and learned from them. I want a Black woman for president. I want someone with bad teeth and an attitude, someone who has eaten that nasty hospital food, someone who crossdresses and has done drugs and been in therapy. I want someone who has committed civil disobedience. And I want to know why this isn’t possible. I want to know why we started learning somewhere down the line that a president is always a clown. Always a john and never a hooker. Always a boss and never a worker. Always a liar, always a thief, and never caught.”

Essentially, she wants a president who has lived to see the darker, ignored sides of this country, more than the suits and ties and smiles our politicians put on in the big lights.

Considering if this quote is a true reflection of what we as the people who popularized it want, Winfrey and Johnson are exemplary of who we want to represent us, right?

They were hurt and marginalized before they ever became Hollywood’s top A listers. We would be lucky to have someone as eloquent and kind as Winfrey who has survived abuse like so many women of this country have. We would be lucky to have someone who knows what mental illness and poverty feel like from first-hand experience like Dwayne Johnson.

But does that mean there are no politicians who are gay? Are there no politicians who battle mental health issues, or have slept in a car or lived paycheck to paycheck?

Answer: there are. We just have to elect them.

This year, New Jersey saw Ravi Bhalla become one of the first Sikh mayors of a U.S. city despite many calling him a terrorist up until the day he took oath. Virginia booted out their governor, Bob Marshall, who co-sponsored the discriminatory bathroom bill in favor of Danica Roem, the country’s first openly transgender lawmaker.

And, of course, Barrack Obama, our first black president, who never hesitated to praise his single mother and to speak with gratitude about his humble background, who has also been name called the “founder of ISIS.”

These groundbreaking politicians are proof that the identity of a real person and a politician are not exclusive; they can, and often do, co-exist. Politicians who know the problems of our society firsthand do exist; we just have to support them.

Ultimately, to condemn the tag of politician is to condemn the job experience which we should require of the commander-in-chief. Having political experience should not be made out as a disadvantage, lest we allow our presidential race to become a popularity contest.

I want a dyke for president but a dyke with political experience.