Newsweek's Latest Cover: Obama 'The First Gay President' “If Bill Clinton was considered the ‘first black president,’ perhaps Barack Obama will one day be known as the ‘first gay president.’ We’ll keep that on the down low, of course.” –HyperVocal, May 9, 2011 “[A]fter…continually punting on marriage equality during the 2008 primaries, President Obama seems to be auditioning for the role of ‘the first gay president.’” –HyperVocal, February 23, 2011 Now, Newsweek, May 21, 2012: If nothing else, the past week has shown us that the traditional weekly news magazines can still attract attention. Just a few days after TIME‘s impressively provocative Mother’s Day homage — the Sloppy Second Base Heard ‘Round the World — Newsweek is making some news of its own. On Monday, Tina Brown’s mag officially anoints Obama “The First Gay President,” in an article written by one of the most influential gay voices in the media landscape, Andrew Sullivan. CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU COMBINE TIME’S LATEST COVER WITH NEWSWEEK’S LATEST COVER Two years ago, you never could have seen Newsweek‘s proclamation coming. Gay activists heckled Obama at public fundraisers and events throughout 2010. But somewhere along the way, the Obama administration started effecting real, tangible change on gay rights. It ushered through the repeal of discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” ban on openly gay men and women serving their country in uniform. It classified the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional and refused to defend it in court. It spiked an HIV travel ban. It sent Sec. of State Hillary Clinton to a U.N. conference to equate gay rights with human rights. It’s put more openly gay public servants in positions of real power than anyone before. And then came Wednesday, when Obama said something plainly obvious to most people under 40 but unprecedented in American politics: A sitting president declared, “…it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.” We saw this coming. We joked about it 15 months ago, and then again one year to the day before Obama’s famous reversal on marriage equality. But does it hold water? To answer that, in part, it’s important to understand the allusion to President Bill Clinton being called “the first black president.” Back in 2001, Clinton was honored by the Congressional Black Caucus at its dinner in Washington D.C. That’s when the chair, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, said Clinton “took so many initiatives he made us think for a while we had elected the first black president.” The phrase had first been used by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison in a 1998 New Yorker article, but Morrison later said she didn’t mean it as a positive (she was referring to a type of prejudgment, his “already a perp” treatment from the press in the Whitewater and Lewinsky affairs). Johnson’s positive connotation stuck. Morrison’s clarification makes more sense than Johnson’s projective description. Clinton did many great things for the black community, but he can hardly be awarded such a personal distinction. Sullivan’s article, while rational, well-written and well-intentioned on the whole, pulls off the stretch of a lifetime in trying to do the same as Johnson and whomever else refers to Clinton as such: Barack Obama had to come out of a different closet. He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family. The America he grew up in had no space for a boy like him: black yet enveloped by loving whiteness, estranged from a father he longed for (another common gay experience), hurtling between being a Barry and a Barack, needing an American racial identity as he grew older but chafing also against it and over-embracing it at times. This is the gay experience: the discovery in adulthood of a community not like your own home and the struggle to belong in both places, without displacement, without alienation. It is easier today than ever. But it is never truly without emotional scar tissue. Obama learned to be black the way gays learn to be gay. And in Obama’s marriage to a professional, determined, charismatic black woman, he created a kind of family he never had before, without ever leaving his real family behind. He did the hard work of integration and managed to create a space in America for people who did not have the space to be themselves before. And then as president, he constitutionally represented us all. Lovely thought. But that doesn’t make Obama the first gay president. It just makes him a man in a position of untold power with much more empathy than most, if not all, of his predecessors. It makes him a man who knows what it’s like to feel different, to rely on introspection. What’s truly amazing is that Sullivan talked about what a difficult personal journey coming out is for most gay men and women, but then he trivialized that same process by equating it to an almost generic struggle. Some members of the LGBT community have already deemed this “offensive.” That seems a bit hyperbolic. There’s no way Sullivan would intend to offend over marriage equality, an issue on which he’s been leading the charge. This is simply Newsweek trying to sell some magazines, slapping an Internet Photoshop on the front page and seeing who bites. Save the outrage for the real fights. Newsweek‘s biggest error? The real “first gay president” was (probably) James Buchanan, the lifelong bachelor who lived with his close friend, Alabama Senator William Rufus King, for many years before his time in the White House. The pair was referred to as “Buchanan and his wife.” FOLLOW: Go ’head and click and Follow Us Slade Sohmer Slade Sohmer is editor-in-chief of HyperVocal and co-host of SiriusXM's daily "Politics Powered By Twitter" program. Tweet him at @SladeHV.