Friday, September 14, 2007

McGreevey's Confession

A friend had my television on and was watching the news while I was shaving. I heard something about "New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey's 'shocking' announcement." I knew my friend had always thought McGreevey was "sexy" for some reason, so I came out of the bathroom and joked: "Hey, I bet he's going to say he's gay." Little did I realize.
I finally got around to reading his book.

I confess I have mixed emotions about James E. McGreevey's autobiography The Confession. First, I found former Governor and future priest McGreevey's religiosity to be oppressive (Let me reiterate that I was raised as a Protestant but consider myself Jewish in the racial sense because my mother was Jewish. I am not in any way religious). In truth, I didn't learn much I didn't already know about the closeted lives of married homosexuals and the way they use women as beards. He talks about the shame he felt having homosexual feelings, and the power it gave him to know he could interest, date, and have sexual relations with women. He would invite male friends to his hotel room just in time to catch some gal waltzing out of the bedroom tugging on her dress. (Of course, a lot of straight guys do exactly the same.)

The portrait of McGreevey etched by the former governor and his co-author David France (whose name does not appear on the cover) is that of a self-absorbed little prick who only came out when it suited him and when he faced exposure. I don't envy his new lover, and I'm not sure what to make of Golan Cipel, his former male lover. McGreevey sort of tries to paint him as a hustler and opportunist -- even suggesting that for all he knows Cipel could be straight (more on that later) -- and Cipel's public denial of his homosexuality and consensual relations with McGreevey hardly make him a candidate for Gay of the Year any more than McGreevey. But is it possible that Cipel really loved McGreevey, and became just another in a long line of gay men who are exploited by married homosexuals and then dumped when it's convenient -- or rather when their affair becomes inconvenient? While I don't necessarily see Cipel as a victim, I wonder which of the two men was the real opportunist.

McGreevey -- or France -- tries to debunk a few gay stereotypes in the book, which is fine. However ... At the opening of McGreevey's "coming out" speech he says one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is. And so my truth is that I am a gay American. Let's take another look at that phrase: "Not as we may want to see it or hope to see it" eh? Even when he was supposedly coming out with pride, McGreevey was still sending the message that it is not okay to be gay.

McGreevey began his affair with Cipel just when his second wife Dina was giving birth to his second daughter. Yes, the affair began practically at the start of their marriage and lasted for quite a long time. McGreevey can talk about how conflicted he was, but he also knew -- and admits -- that he could go further professionally with a family. So his two wives merely functioned as decorative beards and little else. McGreevey says little about Dina in his book, giving a sort of half-hearted apology at one point. He very much tacitly tries to make it sound as if Dina knew about his true interests to a certain extent and stayed with him for her own social and political purposes. Whether this is true or not, it doesn't excuse his exploitation of women (he's careful to say what a supposedly great relationship he has with his daughters, one of whom lives with him and his lover). I suspect neither of his wives knew McGreevey was a full-fledged homosexual nor about his numerous "furtive" encounters with males.

To paraphrase an old quote "When the Devil wants absolution, the Devil a monk would be." Well, McGreevey was hardly the Devil -- not even the Jersey Devil -- but he seems to want to be absolved of his guilt over his early anonymous sexual pursuits by suggesting that good, healthy gays are thoroughly domesticated like he is with his new post-Cipel lover Mark O'Donnell. From the closeted slut and adulterer to the Perfect Gay with the house husband, the 1.5 children, and no doubt a house with a white picket fence to boot. Give me a break! As if this jerk should be the Poster Boy for Gay Male America!

As for Cipel being "straight" -- well, it's highly unlikely that a totally hetero man would repeatedly sleep with another guy just because he wanted to supposedly use him. (And I don't believe any male prostitutes are 100% hetero either.) McGreevey wonders if Cipel's affair with him was similar to his "crossing over" to marry two women and live a supposedly straight life. Hardly. With McGreevey it was all about image and power and his shame over being homosexual. In a world that helps foster such attitudes, it's unlikely a heterosexual man (who has no compulsion to have sex with other men) would sleep with a guy when there was no societal pressure to do so, no matter what the "rewards" of the relationship might have been. With his "crush" on Cipel, McGreevey might have showered him with favors, attention, and inapprorpriate positions (no pun intended) even if the Israeli had never slept with him, so if Cipel were "straight" -- or had lousy sex with McGreevey -- he really was as big a loser as the governor, no?

The book got good reviews from liberal critics who responded, and were sympathetic, to McGreevey's tale of the tortures of being in the closet (McGreevey's chief "torture" was his fear of exposure). Being in the closet can indeed be a terrible, oppressive thing. But since McGreevey only married to further his political ambitions, the fact that his marriage was an utter sham was probably not as much of an anguish to him as it can be to other married homosexuals. Besides, McGreevey is in no way a hero. The activists who led the way both before and after Stonewall, all the gay people who live Out and Proud lives and don't use members of the opposite sex to hide behind, they are the heroes.
Borrow this from the library if you'd like to know more about married homosexuals. Otherwise, it is in no way an essential read.
You can read my reaction to Dina Matos McGreevey's book Silent Partner here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Larry Craig in the Men's Room

The incident with Republican homophobe and hypocrite Larry Craig [right photo to your left] being arrested in an airport men's room for trying to play hanky panky with an undercover cop brings forth a whole slew of sub-issues.

1,) This is yet another Republican who excoriates gays and homosexuality, who tries to shoot down gay rights, yet is privately homosexual. Sometimes they seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Most people agree that they can be sympathetic toward "closet queens" but draw the line on men like Craig, who are publicly homophobic.

2.) In one sense, when Craig denies that he is gay, he is telling the truth. If you equate "gay" with being out of the closet, self-accepting, and proud of who are you, then Craig is definitely NOT gay. He is, however, definitely a self-hating homo. But absolutely under no circumstances should he ever be considered "straight." Straight men do not have sex with other men in bathrooms or anywhere else.

3.) Most gay men these days do not cruise public men's rooms. It has been called a non-issue, and it is. Decades ago some gay men had no other outlets or meeting places, and men's rooms often became trysting or pick-up places. Nowadays there are many gay bars where men can meet, as well as clubs and on-line sex/dating sites. Guys cruising public men's rooms are more likely to be closeted married types like Larry Craig. But not always ...

4.) Some gay men (as well as straight men and women) are turned on by the bathroom atmosphere, by the risk, by the idea of public sex -- or all of the above. These men are in the minority, of course. And it must be said that there are plenty of heterosexuals who enjoy sex in the bathroom with members of the opposite sex. As well as public sex elsewhere. And all the rest. Many would nevertheless consider indulging in public bathroom sex to be pre-Stonewall behavior as far as gay men are concerned. Maybe. Maybe not.

5.) Children are not "at risk" as they are unlikely to ever run into two guys getting it on in a public restroom. Besides, these guys are homosexual, not pedophiles. (Child molesters, who can strike at children anywhere, are a whole 'nother issue.) And the men having sex would probably be locked in a stall in any case. Besides, kids who hear "something funny" going on might be confused or grossed out, but it's unlikely they would be traumatized. (Very young children are generally accompanied by a parent in any case.)

6.) Men -- or women -- who engage in bathroom sex may be edgy or different from you but that doesn't make them "perverts." Larry Craig may be a hypocrite and a total asshole, but he is NOT a "pervert." Just because a homosexual person is not a healthy, out and proud gay man does not make him perverted, and it's homophobic to suggest so. Many supposedly gay-friendly straight people reveal the issues they have with gays when they suggest only out and proud gay people are not "perverted." There is nothing perverted about sexual (or romantic) relationships between two men or two women even if the two people are closeted hypocrites. They may feel like perverts, ashamed of what they're doing, but it's exactly those negative societal attitudes (which they've absorbed) that they need to overcome.

7.) Age does not excuse Larry Craig. Craig and many others of his ilk carry a great deal of internalized homophobia within themselves. This does not in any way excuse them for attacking the gay community when they themselves indulge in homosexual behavior. Neither does his being sixty-two. There are many out and proud people in the gay community who are much, much older than Craig, who came out in an even more difficult time period, and who are, indeed, gay activists. Craig may have come of age during an even more unenlightened era, but he has lived through Stonewall, the birth of Gay Pride, and all of the newer attitudes towards homosexuality that have developed over these many years. He has been alive while all these advances were being made. Besides, it is a sad fact that there are many much, much younger men and women who are equally hypocritical and/or have the same problem in coming out even today.

8.) Larry Craig's actions in the bathroom were not that terrible, and he was definitely entrapped. Okay, you don't have to have sympathy for this hypocritical asshole, but let's look at what the man actually did in the bathroom. He didn't make a grab for somebody's dick or try to assault someone. He went through a series of silly codes with the guy in the next stall, and the guy -- a plainclothes cop -- apparently responded to these "gay" codes in the affirmative. Next thing Craig was arrested. In this day and age haven't the police got something better to do? Make no mistake, the pious homophobes who are blasting Craig couldn't care less that he was cruising a bathroom, they care about the fact that he was soliciting homosexual activities. Sure, you could make the point that Craig would have been arrested if the cop were female (albeit it's unlikely she'd be in the same bathroom), or if he solicited a female prostitute. I've no doubt people would still make the charges of "pervert" and there would still be plenty of bad jokes. But don't kid yourself -- it wouldn't be quite as bad. And the jokes wouldn't be homophobic. (In fact, in some quarters he might be admired just for being sexual -- heterosexual that is.) In any case, let's just face reality and get past this business that "oh, it's not about his being homosexual, it's just that he wanted to do it in a bathroom." It is about his being homosexual.

9.) What about the cop? [Photo above on the left.] Could he be a self-hating homo as well? You have to wonder about these guys who go on entrapment duty. Why do they volunteer? If they're not volunteers, why are they selected? Do the other cops wonder about them, think a homo will more likely go after another guy who seems gay? Wouldn't it be pathetic if this cop were struggling with his own sexual identity and had to go through with this entrapment nonsense? Or is it possible he's a closeted but not necessarily self-hating cop who was hoping to entrap a Republican hypocrite? Sadly, that's probably just wishful thinking.

10.) The Larry Craig business has brought out the homophobes -- even among the democrats. Again, people think it's okay to make negative comments about "perverts" and "deviants" and "predators" and the like because Craig is a closeted hypocrite -- he's not one of those "nice" gays. But what does this say about how they really feel about homosexuals in general? Some have even trotted out that old nonsense about gay men being child molesters (the cop in this case was a bit baby-faced but he definitely wasn't a kid, nor did he look like one). It's also reminded me how many supposedly gay-friendly straight people are only comfortable with gay people if we trod the "straight and narrow:" i.e. that nice gay couple next door with the 2.5 children and the monogamous relationship (as if all straights have monogamous relationships). They find it a lot harder to deal with gays who are political, demanding their rights and equal treatment, and even harder to deal with gays who are highly sexual (in bathrooms or otherwise) or who don't fit so neatly into the mainstream. Single gay men who are sexually active, for instance, or partnered men who are in "open" relationships. Yes, there are single sexually active straight people, as well as an occasional straight couple with an open relationship, but am I wrong in that these people are more accepted by the hetero majority than their gay counterparts? Just asking.

What to do you think? Feel free to comment if you'd like. You can also email me if you'd prefer to send a private message.