The Gay Moralist: Choosing sides

BTL Staff
By | 2018-01-16T04:44:28-04:00 July 21st, 2005|Opinions|

By John Corvino

Sometimes commenting on current events is just too easy. Take last week’s revelation that Robert Traynham, director of communications for gay-baiting Senator Rick Santorum, is (in his own words) an “out gay man who completely supports the senator.” So reports Michael Rogers in the online publication PageOneQ, which recorded the staffer’s comments in a phone interview.
Santorum, you may recall, has compared homosexuality to incest, adultery, and bestiality. Discussing Texas’s sodomy law (which U.S. Supreme Court ultimately struck down), Santorum told the Associated Press two years ago that “if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.” Later in the same interview he compared gay marriage to “man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”
Not exactly a great friend of gay rights, that Santorum.
As the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, Santorum is also a leading proponent of the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment and a darling of the religious right. So offensive are his views that columnist Dan Savage launched a successful campaign to lend his name to a substance so disgusting I won’t mention it in this newspaper. (If you must know, do a Google search on “santorum”: the slang term actually comes up first, before the senator’s own website.)
But enough about Santorum, who (thankfully) may be voted out of office in the midterm election. My beef is with Traynham, who doesn’t merely work for the guy, but acts as his director of communications: that is, the one responsible for spreading Santorum’s message far and wide. Not his hairdresser (who admittedly deserves ridicule as well). Not his accountant. Traynham is Santorum’s communications director: an “out gay man” acting as a senior spokesman for a notorious homophobe.
Can anyone say “cognitive dissonance”?
Asked to explain himself, Traynham responded in the interview that “Senator Santorum is a man of principle, he is a man who sticks up for what he believes in. I strongly do support Senator Santorum.”
I don’t doubt for a moment that Santorum is a man of principle. But not all principles are created equal, and not all principled commitments are admirable. Traynham’s defending Santorum as a “man of principle”–regardless of what those principles are–makes it difficult to blame commentators for accusations of “Uncle Tom-ism.”
Facile analogies aside, it’s hard to ignore that among the “principles” Santorum holds dear is the pernicious belief that homosexuality is an abomination. Indeed, as his remarks on Texas’s ill-fated sodomy statute make clear, Santorum believes that homosexual conduct should be against the law.
Asked how he could support such a person, Traynham told PageOneQ, “Senator Santorum is a family man. I have been with him for eight years and I am very proud to be with him.” He then hung up the phone.
Again, there’s no doubt that Santorum is a “family man” in one widely understood sense of that term. But Santorum’s notion of “family” excludes any family that Traynham might form (and that countless gays and lesbians have formed, no thanks to Traynham’s boss). And Traynham’s use of “family” rhetoric in supporting such an outspoken opponent of gay and lesbian families is nothing short of disgusting.
What does the good senator think about all of this? Perhaps surprisingly, he released a statement supporting Traynham, stating that “Not only is Mr. Traynham an exemplary staffer, but he is also a trusted friend confidente [sic] to me and my family.”
Careful, Senator. Next thing you know, you’ll be entrusting your family with bigamists, adulterers, and “man on dog” types. That’s the pattern (so we’re told).
Mind you, I am not the sort of angry gay man who thinks that one ought never maintain friendly relations with right-wingers (although some days I think I should be). I have an amicable relationship with Glenn Stanton, Director of Social Research and Cultural Affairs at Focus on the Family, and I genuinely look forward to my interactions (both professional and social) with him. But I still pull no punches when attacking his wrongful views. Opposition to gay and lesbian relationships is not merely irrational, it is profoundly harmful–and people of conscience must say so, loudly and frequently. That’s something that the director of communications for Senator Rick Santorum simply cannot do.
There’s a cultural war going on, Mr. Traynham. Pick sides.
John Corvino’s “Gay Moralist” column appears bi-weekly in Between the Lines and occasionally at the Independent Gay Forum (
Suggested pull quote: “I don’t doubt for a moment that Santorum is a man of principle. But not all principles are created equal, and not all principled commitments are admirable.”

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.