Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Tragedy of Homophobia


Associated Press writer David Crary has written an informative article documenting both the tragedy and hypocrisy that’s part and parcel of Republican Senator Larry Craig’s recent “I’m not gay” claim.

As I’m sure most of you know, Craig (pictured above) made the claim yesterday at a news conference concerning his June 2007 arrest and subsequent guilty plea to disorderly conduct over an incident in a public restroom at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

With regards to Crary’s article, I particularly appreciate the quotes included from Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. At one point, Foreman makes the observation that “the tragedy of homophobia [is that] people create walls that separate themselves from who they really are. . . . When they are found out, their life does come crashing down around them – not because they were gay, [but] because of the way they covered it up.”

Elsewhere in his article, Crary notes that “the Craig case raises questions about the phenomenon of male sex in public restrooms – how prevalent is it, and who participates?” His findings may surprise you.

Following are excerpts from David Crary’s article, “Gays Scornful of Senator’s Statement.”

___________________________________________


Sen. Larry Craig’s “I’m not gay” declaration met with disdain Wednesday from gay activists, many of whom knew for nearly a year – long before his recent arrest – of allegations that the conservative Idaho Republican solicited sex from men in public bathrooms.

They view his case as a prime example of hypocrisy – a man who furtively engaged in same-sex liaisons while consistently opposing gay-rights measures as a politician. . .

“He may very well not think of himself as being gay, and these are just urges that he has,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It’s the tragedy of homophobia. People create these walls that separate themselves from who they really are.”

Craig proclaimed his innocence, and his heterosexuality, on Tuesday after revelations that he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct following his arrest in June at a Minneapolis airport men’s room where an undercover officer suspected him of soliciting sex.

But detailed accusations against Craig had been available since last year through an Internet-based activist who had a hand in outing several Republican politicians, including former Rep. Mark Foley, the focus of a House page scandal, and former Rep. Edward Schrock, linked to a gay dating site.

The activist, Mike Rogers, went public last October with allegations that Craig engaged in sexual encounters with at least three men, including one who said he had sex with Craig twice at Washington’s Union Station.

The Idaho Statesman published a lengthy story Tuesday, a day after the June 11 arrest was first reported, detailing Rogers’ allegations, which Craig has denied.

The newspaper went even further back into Craig’s life, talking to other men who claimed they were solicited by him. It also mentioned a congressional scandal in 1982, in which a male page reported having sex with three congressmen, and Craig – although not named by the youth – issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

The cumulative weight of the allegations served to convince many conservatives - as well as gay activists – that Craig was being untruthful. . .

Foreman said Craig contributed to his own problems by living in denial.

“For most people living in the closet, and particularly for people in power, they dig themselves in so deeply they can’t see a way out,” he said. “When they are found out, their life does come crashing down around them – not because they were gay, [but] because of the way they covered it up.”

However, Foreman did express some empathy with Craig in regard to the reaction of his GOP Senate colleagues. They have called for an ethics committee review of his case, which they did not do in response to revelations that Sen. David Vitter, R-La., was on the contact list of a Washington-area escort service.

“The double standard is shocking,” Foreman said. “We’ll throw the closet queer under the bus, but if you see a female prostitute, that’s just fine.”

The Craig case also raised questions about the phenomenon of male sex in public restrooms – how prevalent is it, and who participates?

The issue has been a source of controversy this summer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida., where Mayor Jim Naugle has drawn fire from gay-rights groups for suggesting that such bathroom sex is a significant problem and briefly proposing installation of automated, single-user toilets.

After reports of Craig’s arrest, police officials around the country gave widely varying accounts of whether public bathroom sex was a serious problem in their areas.

“My sense is that most of the people who engage in bathroom sex are living closeted lives,” Foreman said. “If you’re open, you can hook up on line, in a bar or even through your church.”

William Leap, an anthropology professor at American University, said his research indicated that up to half of those who engage in male bathroom sex would consider themselves heterosexual.

“You’ve got several groups of folks,” he said. “Happily married men with children who enjoy having sex with men every so often, and also self-identified gay men who enjoy the thrill of anonymous sex.”

He suggested that almost every sizable community nationwide has one or more places where men seek out sex with other men. Whether that location becomes notorious, and the setting for arrests, Leap said, depends largely on whether the men using it create a disturbance that bothers others.


September 1, 2007 Update: I appreciate the editorial in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, part of which reads:

For gays and others who seek legal recognition of same-sex unions, [the story of Senator Craig] is something deeper [than a political scandal]; if Craig sought homosexual sex, his life story is one of betrayal – of his personal identity, as well as of those who share a sexual orientation that is still taboo in many parts of this culture.

Craig grew up in a society intolerant of homosexuals. A letter published Friday in the Star Tribune expressed a hope for societal change in light of this incident – change that would allow gays to be seen simply as any other human beings, living their lives, as all do, seeking love and fulfillment:

“I have a wonderful partner of many years. My life is good,” reader Ron Anderson wrote. “But I can’t help but think how much happier and healthier we would all be if politicians and religious leaders of all stripes would treat us all as humans instead of political fodder or money-raising devices.”

It is a worthy hope. In many parts of the country the cultural climate for gays and lesbians, as well as for the bisexual and the transgendered, is far more accepting than was the Idaho of Craig’s youth. If he did, indeed, do what was alleged at [Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport], his is a far too common story, the story of a life steeped in fear and characterized by nonacceptance – even by himself.

And that, my friends, is the tragedy of homophobia.


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Hypocrisy, Ignorance, Promiscuity, and “the Love that is the Center of Catholic Christianity”
The Gay Old Party Comes Out
A Rich Laugh Fit for a Dame
What the Republican Leadership and the Catholic Hierarchy Have in Common
Introspection: The Remedy for Hypocrisy
A Humorous Look at Internalized Homophobia


Image: AP Photo/Troy Maben.

4 comments:

paul said...

Homophobia is a misused word. Someone or an institution (i.e. The Catholic Church) that takes the position that homosexual acts are wrong/sinful is not "fearful" of homosexual behavior or fearful of people that are pro-homosexual.

A better and more accurate term would be to characterize the person's or institutional's position that is against homosexual behavior as "anti-homosexual". Could we please be intellectually honest, as well as being respectful of the other side's position and stop the "homophobia" name calling?

Peace

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Paul,

In the context of this particular story, the term "homophobia" is appropriate.

Clearly, fear of being perceived or identified as gay compelled Senator Craig to pursue the types of sexual encounters that he did, and to deny (to this day) that he is gay or bisexual.

As Matt Foreman says, the tragedy of homophobia is that people feel compelled [usually by fear] to "create walls that separate themselves from who they really are.”

Also, most definitions of homophobia include more than just "fear" of homosexual people and activity. Generally, the term also means hatred, hostility, disapproval of, or prejudice towards homosexual people, sexual behavior, or cultures.

I believe you have a valid point: a definition this broad should not, in its actual name, highlight only (or simply) the "phobia" aspect.

Having said that, I do think that the institutional component of the Roman Catholic Church does indeed "fear" homosexuality. Indeed, it's largely a case of "internalized homophobia", an aspect of what Eugene Kennedy identifies as the Church's "unhealed wound."

For instance, when the Church talks about homosexuality undermining "the family," that kind of talk is fueled by irrational fear and a total lack of awareness of the nature of homosexuality and homosexual people. Most families I know welcome and accept their gay members; and many gay people I know want to be part of their original families and strive to establish families of their own.

And finally, if you want to talk about "intellectual dishonesty," look no further than the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on human sexuality - gay or straight!

In his book, Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit, Gary Wills does an excellent job at exposing and examining the Vatican's "intellectual dishonesty" with regards to its teaching on human sexuality. It's well worth checking out.

Peace,

Michael

Ray from MN said...

It is a worthy hope. In many parts of the country the cultural climate for gays and lesbians, as well as for the bisexual and the transgendered, is far more accepting than was the Idaho of Craig’s youth. If he did, indeed, do what was alleged at [Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport], his is a far too common story, the story of a life steeped in fear and characterized by nonacceptance – even by himself.

And that, my friends, is the tragedy of homophobia.


The GLBT movement utilizes some of the most talented press agents in the country screaming "homophobia" at the slightest inkling of evidence of disapproval of the existence or activities of GLBT events.

What is most interesting is that the GLBT movement is probably the largest homophobic organization in the U.S.

Forgive my presumption, but doesn't "B" stand for Bi-Sexual? Doesn't "bi-sexual" include married men who occasionally have sex with men? Would it be logical to presume that such married men would be unlikely to hang out at "gay pride events" or be seen at events where they might be identified as even in the slightest "gay?"

Why then, in the controversy over Senator Craig's alleged activities at the Twin Cities Airport has not one person who regularly identifies himself as a member of the GLBT organization not come to the defense of Senator Craig, who is being accused of not being "G", but of being "B?"

I really sympathized with his plaintif wail as he cried, "I am not gay." He isn't! He is "bi."

Are all GLBT members homophobes? Or are they are a radical cult that looks discriminate against those who are only "bi", or, "partially gay?"

Winnipeg Catholic said...

I think ray has hit the nail right on the head even if he swung the hammer from another angle. I agree completely. This is precisely what I have been trying to say with regard to Kinsey's 1 to 6 scale with regard to sexuality. Those 'bi' folks caught in the middle have to be far more tortured than those 1's and 6's who have the benefit of certainty. And those 1's and 6's have little tolerance for 3's and 4's, even as those in the middle are sometimes drawn towards extreme hypocrisy as they 'battle' their tendencies.