There was once a time when President Barack Obama used homophobic slurs as a teenager, a choice that he is now “profoundly ashamed” of.
The former President made this surprising admission in A Promised Land, his new memoir, which hit shelves on Wednesday, November 17. In the book, Barack is honest about his how his LGBTQ views have changed over the years, admitting that his “attitudes toward gays, lesbians, and transgender people hadn’t always been particularly enlightened” in the years before he entered politics. It took going to college to change his perspective.
Barack reveals that, as a teenager, he and his friends “sometimes threw around” homophobic slurs at each other as “casual put-downs—callow attempts to fortify our masculinity and hide our insecurities.” He writes, “Once I got to college and became friends with fellow students and professors who were openly gay, though, I realized the overt discrimination and hate they were subject to, as well as the loneliness and self-doubt that the dominant culture imposed on them.”
The former POTUS added, “I felt ashamed of my past behavior—and learned to do better.” Of course, Barack put his evolving beliefs into practice during his time in office: Barack attempted to repeal former Democratic President Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to allow for and protect openly LGBTQ+ soldiers in the US military, and signed federal hate crime legislation like the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which was named in honor of a murdered gay teen, Matthew Shepard, and James Byrd Jr., a Black man murdered by white supremacists in Jasper, Texas.
During his presidency, Barack advocated for civil unions until at least the end of 2010, before “evolving” his views to support same-sex marriage by May 2012. A year prior, Obama instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which sought to allow states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states.
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