Friday, August 31, 2007

Sexual and Political Blackmail: Republicans and the LGBTQ Community

Gay bloggers and the mainstream media are finding a lot to say about the latest Republican gay sex scandal. I find it quite amusing to see the Republican Party squirm at the thought of one of its own engaging in public gay sex. Despite this, I am actually becoming quite concerned about the backlash that might happen to gay people from the negativity surrounding Senator Craig’s case.

The thought has occurred to me after hearing the police tapes that this man could well be innocent of soliciting for gay sex. Yes, he is profoundly guilty of attempting to cover up the incident and has sealed his own fate by pleading guilty to the charge of disorderly conduct. Also, it may be disgusting to some people to think of public sex, or gay sex of any kind, or of sex in a bathroom stall, but for others, the thrill of such encounters often leads people to behavior that many of us would not consider. This applies to not just a small percentage of gay people. Although it is logistically difficult for straight couples to meet in gender-segregated bathrooms, I have known a number of straight couples who have enjoyed the thrill of sex in public. Chances are that if seen by other guys, a straight couple having sex in public might get a “go for it, dude” rather than a “You have the right to remain silent. Any orgasm you may have may be used against you in a court of law.”

If this issue were not specifically about the “gay” in gay sex, then why have the Republicans moved so quickly to ask Senator Craig to resign, to strip him of his committee memberships and to distance themselves from him? When another Republican congressman was revealed to have been on the client list for a Washington, DC Madame, the same outcry did not happen. Isn’t it just curious that the backlash against Craig is so vehement? Why not the same backlash against a Congressional member who had improper heterosexual liaisons?

You see, it is well known that police stings for public solicitation were historically intended to harass gay people. In fact, in the days before Stonewall in 1969, it was considered routine for gay bars themselves to be raided and all patrons to end up riding to the police station in a paddy-wagon simply for being in the same space together. You might immediately think of the US Constitution and its guarantee of Right of Association, but we are talking about a group of second class citizens whose rights have been traditionally trampled. As attitudes began to change about homosexuality, rounding us up for dancing together became unacceptable, so vice squads moved to toilets and public parks and, sometimes, outside gay clubs where individual bar patrons could be isolated and charged.

I have known people who were approached by undercover police officers as they exited gay clubs in North Carolina. In one case, an officer approached an intoxicated friend of mine and asked him how much he would pay for the option of performing fellatio on the undercover cop. My friend laughed and screamed “A thousand dollars!” only to find himself face down on the pavement with handcuffs being slapped on his wrists. Any normal person would know that his answer was a joke, but he was still arrested and had to appear in court where the case ended up being dismissed for entrapment. This did not keep his name from being printed in the newspapers. His crime, in my opinion, was to have had a sense of humor in a society that isn't laughing about gay people, much less with us.

It is not whether Senator Craig is or is not gay that is at stake here. It is that he tried to cover up this incident and displayed a lack of good judgment in pleading guilty to the charges. It makes him appear gay, and consequently, guilty if not guilt-ridden to a political machine that is rife with denial about the number of gay members that toe the party line for them. He finds himself in a Catch-22. If he pleads his innocence, he appears more guilty. If he admits his guilt of intent, then he is damned.

All you have to do is search for “Republican National Committee gay outing” to find a series of denials of homosexuality or failed political careers of gay men and women who supported a party that is diametrically opposed to their own civil rights. I have my own qualms about outing people because I believe that each of us has to deal with our issues individually and in our own time. However, if a gay person works on the political campaign of a homophobic politician, or if he or she is a career politician who promotes bans on equal civil rights for his LGBTQ peers, then that person is inviting trouble to slip into the shadows and engage in sexual behavior that their party would not condone.

The Republican Party has consistently opposed legislation to protect people from discrimination based upon their sexuality or even their perceived sexuality. I guess that makes sense now, as so many people in the GOP are facing early retirement based upon the threat of being outed. Perhaps it is time for the Republican Party and particularly, gay men and women in the Republican Party to reconsider their stance on gay issues. It would be much healthier for all of us if we acknowledge the findings of the Kinsey report that indicated that a full range of sexuality is normal. With the exception of the extremes on the Kinsey scale, those who are intractably heterosexual and homosexual, the vast majority of people fall in a gray area under the bell curve. Is it not time to acknowledge this fact and remove it from the realm of political blackmail?

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