In a hospital waiting room, Kenji Yoshino brushed away the reaching, worried hand of his first boyfriend as they waited for a diagnosis that could have been serious. Ten years later, Yoshino, a Yale Law School professor and deputy dean, still winces at the memory. In his rejection of his lover’s hand, Yoshino was “covering”: Although he was openly gay, he refused to engage in public displays of affection that might seem to “flaunt” his homosexuality.
“Everyone covers,” Yoshino asserts at the beginning of his intriguing book. “Covering,” a term coined by sociologist Erving Goffman in 1963, means to play down certain characteristics in order to fit into the perceived mainstream. Yoshino provides a number of examples: Krishna Bhanji covered his Indian ethnicity when he became Ben Kingsley; Margaret Thatcher covered her femininity by hiring a coach to help lower her voice; Mary Cheney covered by deflecting the media from her same-sex partner; Issur Danielovitch Demsky covered his Jewish heritage by becoming Kirk Douglas; and even the great FDR covered his wheelchair-bound legs by moving behind a desk whenever his Cabinet entered his office. … [click here for more]