United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten spoke publicly for the first time about her life as a lesbian at a gay pride dinner on Thursday night, the Gay City News reported this week.
Addressing the annual Fall Dinner of the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), New York’s gay rights lobby, Weingarten was recalling a telephone conversation in which a colleague in the state teachers union was urging that its annual convention not take up a proposed resolution condemning the right-wing push for a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage.
As she prepared to launch into the part of that story in which she essentially told her union colleague off, Weingarten stepped back slightly from the microphone, visibly took a deep breath, and said, “At that point, my sexual orientation was not as common knowledge… as it might be tonight.”
Those last five words in that sentence came with a smile and just a hint of a laugh. And the statement was met with hearty applause from the crowd of roughly 1,000 at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers on Seventh Avenue.
Weingarten, president of the 140,000-member United Federation of Teachers, told the New York Times City Room blog that “I had never acknowledged my sexuality in such a big setting, although it had never been hidden from anybody.” She said that in the context of a gay-rights event that ““If I wanted to make a powerful statement, I had to insert myself into that statement.”