This week! Should gay people "care" about anti-gay politicians who turn out to be gay? Why are none of them lesbians? Are U.S. soldiers anti-gay — and much more!
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Q: I was thinking about those anti-gay politicians who have been revealed to be gay. Do you think the gay community should help them out or should we leave them alone? I also realized there are no female anti-gay politicians who were revealed to be lesbians. Are there any? – Eli, Melbourne, Australia
A: What do they say are two topics you should never discuss in polite company? Religion and politics. So what are two topics I return to again and again in my column?
Yup, religion and politics! Hey, I yam what I yam.
The scene of Senator Larry Craig’s alleged "crime"
Here’s what I believe about the dozens of closeted anti-gay politicians who have been exposed as gay in recent years: I feel sorry for them, I really do. I’m old enough to know that everyone has “reasons” for the things they do. And I don’t want to see anyone in pain and misery.
But when it comes to my personal compassion, we all have only so much “spiritual capital” to spend in life. I spend most of mine on my partner and close friends and family – my “loved ones.” I spend the rest on people I encounter that personally affect me in some way and on more abstract issues that move or involve me.
Everyone else gets a passing smile and my hearty good wishes.
How do I personally determine who’s “worthy”? How do I separate the “People I Care About Enough to Try to Help” from the “People I Feel Bad For, Sure, But Are Mostly on Their Own as Far as I’m Concerned?”
I ask myself two questions:
First, how much did the person’s own actions cause that misery – and how much did those actions screw up the lives of others? Everybody makes mistakes – that doesn’t mean they don’t get my sympathy. But for me, the degree to which a mistake is “serious” is exactly the degree to which it also screws up the lives of other people (wives, partners, and children included).
Second, how hard are they trying to make amends for their mistakes and how hard are they trying to change themselves so they don’t screw up anymore?
By now, I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.
Sure, I feel “sorry” for the Larry Craigs and George Rekers of the world. Theirs must truly be a miserable hell.
But I’m wracking my brain, trying to think of examples of people who are less deserving of anything more than my fleeting personal concern.
It’s true that their misery isn’t entirely their own fault – their religions and social systems screwed them up big-time. But once you’re past the age of 18, no one is forced to do anything in this country; on a very basic level, they were very willing participants their own oppression. They made a long series of very, very bad choices.
Worse, their choices didn’t just harm themselves. On the contrary, they’ve devoted a large portion of their adult lives to making the lives of other GLBT people as miserable as possible (not to mention their wives and children).
You can maybe make a case that certain closeted gay Republicans don’t actively harm gay people with extreme anti-gay voting records and rhetoric – people like Mark Foley (okay, bad example, since he was in there sexually harassing Congressional pages, and even he was also supporting some of the most virulently anti-gay politicians in the country).
Anyway, you simply can’t make this case for most of them, who are typically as anti-gay as they come.
Second, I see no evidence that they accept personal responsibility for their actions and are trying to make amends.
On the contrary, even after they’re caught, these people usually continue to blame GLBT people for their own transgressions.
Again, I’m wracking my brain, trying to think of a single example of one of these exposed gay politicians who has ever said to us, “Oh, my God, I was so wrong, I’m so sorry for what I did, and I’m going devote some of the rest of my life trying to make up for it!”
At best, they ask for forgiveness from other homophobes – but only inasmuch as it saves their own asses. And even then they’re usually still telling homophobes exactly what they want to hear, openly reinforcing some of the worst, most dangerous stereotypes about gay people: that we can "change," that we’re all promiscuous, hiring prostitutes and lurking in bathroom stalls, etc., etc.
That’s right: they’re still screwing us, right to the bitter end.
Nutshell? Screw ‘em back, I’m sorry to say.
UPDATE: A reader wrote in to suggest that there is at least one former anti-gay gay guy who has tried to make up for the things he did while in the closet: the Rev. Mel White, Jerry Falwell‘s former ghostwriter, now the head of Soulforce, a pro-gay evangelical group that tries to counter the work of those he used to align with. It’s a good example, although White wasn’t a politician and was never involved in scandal.
Next Page! Why do closeted anti-gay politicians never turn out to be women?