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The Making of a Gay American

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My circumstances made having an affair excruciatingly difficult, but not impossible. I visited Dina and Jacqueline every day in the hospital, and my heart ached to have our baby home, but until they returned I spent as much free time as I could with Golan. I loved our time together, whether talking politics over cups of tea or trying to remember whose T-shirt was whose at the end of the bed.

When Dina finally got home, our condo became a scrum of familial activity. But, knowing how much work I had ahead of me, the crowds at the condo paid little attention to me.

Once, after an exhausting day in the transition office, I made secret plans with Golan to see him later, at his apartment. The state troopers, now my constant companions, dropped me at the condo and parked around back. When I was sure they couldn’t see me, I pulled on my running clothes and slipped out the front. Golan’s apartment complex was roughly half a mile away, but difficult to get to on foot. I ran along the sidewalk for a while, then below a railroad underpass before returning to the sidewalk and ducking into his building.

He greeted me in his briefs. “Did anybody see you?” he asked, closing the door quickly. We kissed, hard.

I was totally in love with this man. He loved everything I loved. Politics never bored him. He loved strategy and demographic analyses. He loved power, philosophy, justice. He never stopped thinking about these things, and that’s what gave his life purpose and joy. I think Golan expected me to end up in the White House. Maybe that’s what he loved about me—my potential to bring him to Washington. If he was using me as the engine driving his own ambition, I didn’t mind. I liked seeing myself reflected in his eyes.

I finally settled on an ambiguous title for Golan: special counselor to the governor—part scheduler, part policy strategist, part consigliere. I was pleased at the notion that I’d found a way to meet Golan’s expectations while keeping suspicions to a minimum. But of course neither was the case.

On February 14, 2002, I slipped up. I was sitting with the editorial board of the Bergen Record at their offices in Hackensack, reviewing details of the budget. Commenting on my plan to modernize the Department of Motor Vehicles, which was still issuing easy-to-counterfeit paper driver’s licenses, I said, “After the attacks, this became an urgent goal for New Jersey. We will not skimp on security. We actually brought on a security adviser from the Israeli Defense Forces, probably the best in the world.”

Why did I bring up Golan in this context? It was hubris. I’d won office by a landslide, and then quickly squeezed $3 billion out of one budget and $5 billion out of another. I’d done all that while managing a love affair under everybody’s noses. Twice Golan and I had managed to spend whole nights together—once in Philadelphia, where we’d gone for the Army-Navy game and a Jewish event, and another time for a meeting of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., where we had the nerve to tell the state troopers we would share a double-occupancy room “to save taxpayers’ money.” We made love on the floor that night, fearing the troopers would hear a squeak from the beds.

Given how dramatic those first few months had been for me, I suppose I felt like bragging a little. Look at me, I was saying. I’m so smart I’ve got an Israeli doing security, even though offering security insights was only one informal part of his job.

Little did I know how badly it would play. The next day our switchboard was burning with calls from reporters, demanding Golan’s background and credentials, his immigration status, and his Israeli military records. On February 21, the Bergen Record published a story about Golan. I read it in a cold sweat.

Rather than calling him a naval officer in the Israeli Defense Forces, they called him a “sailor.” Somehow they found he had written a collection of poems in high school, so he was also “a poet.” But the worst line was this: “Democrats close to the administration say McGreevey and Cipel have struck up a close friendship and frequently travel together.” I wasn’t sure if I was reading too much into this article’s innuendo or too little.

That confusion ended when my mother called me. “Jimmy, they’re saying you’re both gay,” she said in disbelief.

I’d been in office for just five weeks, and already my secret life was in jeopardy.


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