Maya Keyes ends speculation about her sexuality (15123)
February 12 2005 12:00 AM EST
November 17 2015 5:28 AM EST
Maya Keyes ends speculation about her sexuality
Maya Keyes comes out
In her first interview with the gay media, the 19-year-old daughter of right-wing presidential candidate and conservative commentator Alan Keyes comes out of the closet. For her honesty, she's paid a very heavy price.
Last summer Alan Keyes, the far-right Republican known for his own harsh brand of conservatism and his failed presidential bids in 1996 and 2000, was running a wildly unsuccessful campaign against Barack Obama in Illinois's U.S. Senate race. Keyes's only national headlines were made when, in an interview with Sirius OutQ's Michelangelo Signorile, he characterized gay men and lesbians as "selfish hedonists," extending the epithet to Mary Cheney, the vice president's daughter.
It now seems like that spasm of homophobia might have triggered a karmic backlash. His daughter, Maya Keyes--who maintains that she loves and supports her father and who worked for his failed Senate run--has come out as a lesbian. Rumors about Maya Keyes's sexuality have swirled since September; Alan Keyes was even asked by Chicago reporters to comment about it, and he gave a nonanswer.
Now, just months after the election, Maya Keyes has agreed to talk to Advocate.com. On Monday she is set to speak at an Equality Maryland rally. Alan Keyes, a "family values" conservative, has told his daughter that she is no longer welcome in the family's Illinois residence, Maya says, and also refused to pay for her to attend Brown University. Maya was accepted by the Ivy League school for fall 2004 but deferred a year to teach in India.
Advocate.com communicated via e-mail with Keyes, who was using a computer at a Chicago public library while struggling to find both a home and tuition for college.
Help for that came a few days after our interview. Maya Keyes has found a home and assistance to pay for attending Brown University this fall. The Point Foundation--which provides scholarships to GLBT college students with leadership potential, many of whom have been cut off by their families--stepped in. The group's trustees found Maya a place to stay in Chicago and set up a financial package for her at Brown. She will be provided with a mentor. "She's overwhelmed with everything going on at the moment, and this is one less thing she'll have to worry about," says Vance Lancaster, Point's executive director. "We're thrilled we can help."
Why did you decide to come out?
Most of my good friends knew I was queer through most of high school. I came out to my parents at the end of high school. I wasn't planning on it, so there wasn't really an incentive. My mom was searching through my stuff and found a copy of--I forget what it was, maybe The Washington Blade or some other gay-themed media--and so they asked me if I was queer. Last fall when the rumors started, I was out in Chicago with my dad. It got pretty crazy, with reporters hounding me and all my friends. One reporter even started asking the 8-year-old sister of one of my friends about my love life. Thankfully, nobody would talk to them, so it never became a story outside of Internet gossip.
When did you first realize that you were a lesbian?
Probably the first time I saw the movie Hackers--my first taste of Angelina Jolie. Seriously, though, probably middle school. I went to an all-girls school, and when everyone was sitting around talking about Leonardo DiCaprio or whoever was the rage back then, I had to make an effort to pretend to care.
What was their response when you came out to them?
I told my parents. Initially they just denied it. They said I wasn't really queer--I was either lying about it or just confused or going through a phase or brainwashed, etc. Then they just got angry, upset--my mom in particular. I left the country for a year, and things cooled off a bit, but they were always still very harsh if the subject came up. It was best if we just stayed quiet and pretended the whole queer issue never happened. Occasionally we'd have arguments or long talks where they reminded me how horrible and sinful homosexuality is, but mostly if it didn't come up, our relationship stayed pretty OK. Recently things have gotten a lot worse, though, because I'm not staying quiet about it anymore. I hope it's just a phase and we work things out again. At the moment it's been a while since I've talked to my parents.
Are you dating?
I have a girlfriend.
Do you have a career goal?
As to career goals, the two main things I've always wanted to do with my life are to become a published writer and to open up an LGBT youth center, with a focus on queer street kids. I've had a lot of friends who were homeless and a number who were thrown out just for being queer, so it's been a very personal issue to me even before I was in the same situation myself. It's always been something I've wanted to try and help.
What do you think about children of politicians who are closeted? is it better to come out or stay in the closet when their parents are running for office?
I can't really answer that. Coming out is always tough to do, for anyone. Having a spotlight on you doesn't make it any easier, and coming out is a very personal thing; so coming out during an election cycle--for the family's sake it would probably be better to do it when you could have some time without the media watching as well as to talk among yourselves and figure everything out.
Your father made some tough remarks last summer. How did you deal with that?
It was weird to see what he said all over the news, but the remarks themselves weren't any shock to me; it's no different than what he believes and says at home as well.
Are you interested in being involved in the LGBT movement now that you have come out?
I've always been interested in being involved in the LGBT movement; but if I'd tried getting involved all through high school, that would definitely not have been wise, family-relationship-wise. I guess it still isn't wise, but I think it's the right thing to do.
Would you ever get married?
What religion were you raised in? Are you religious now?
I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. I'm still very Christian, yes.
I noticed from your blog that you are looking for a place to live? Is that still true? Yes, that's still true. I have a couple options, I guess, temporarily. Some of my friends back home have offered their roofs. But for the long term I'm not sure, and also immediately right this moment in Chicago, where I don't know anyone, it's also going to be tough. But once I make it back to the East Coast for good, I should be OK for a little while. Long enough to get a job and find something permanent, I hope.
Are you not able to go home?
Yeah, I can't go home. Although my girlfriend pointed out that if I just refuse to leave my apartment for a few more days, there's not a lot they can do about it. It's not like it was my apartment that my dad was paying for, as so many people have suggested. It was my dad's Illinois residence, so even after I leave it, it'll still be there and be paid for--it'll just have no one living in it except for a couple days a month when he's back here. So even though they said I had to get out after today, if I didn't until Friday--when I'm heading back to D.C. for the Equality Maryland thing--I'm not sure there's a whole lot they could do. I hope, anyway. I don't mind the streets, but it's wet tonight. My girlfriend is in New Jersey. I could go, but it'd take me a while to hitch out there from Chicago. I really only know one person in Chicago, and he isn't answering his phone, so I don't know. I guess at least until tomorrow night (which will, hopefully, be drier) I'll do what my girlfriend suggests and just totally blatantly ignore my order to get out [emoticon with tongue sticking out]. We'll see what happens. Hopefully, nothing will.
Maya Keyes ends her e-mail exchange with Advocate.com as the library is closing and she has to leave. The Equality Maryland rally is set for 5 p.m. Monday in front of the Maryland statehouse. It will coincide with the organization's annual Lobby Day. Judy Shepard will also speak. For more information, click on www.marylandequality.org. (Sarah Wildman, Advocate.com)