By Arlene Istar Lev
Are you all breathing more freely having that damn elephant off your chest? That really was a heady election, wasn’t it! Hopefully, portend for good things to come and a good opportunity to examine the role of Homosexuality and American Politics.
My older son is way too young to remember the Vietnam Era draft, and privileged enough that it has never crossed his mind that dying in a war across the ocean could be in his future. I tried to connect the dots for him, between the oil we buy to fuel the car that takes him to his Halloween party, and who in Congress is making the decisions that impact the price of oil, and how that fuels not only war, but racism and terrorism.
“These men and women we have elected can make decisions that can change the course of all of our lives in a positive way.” I say passionately, with only a tinge of guilt that I’m bending his political views to match my own. He says, distracted, “Yeah, Mommy says the same thing…Did you see my new Yu-gi-oh card? It’s the most powerful card in the deck. Everyone wants one, and I have it. Look,” he says, revealing the card hidden in his hand, “It’s Elemental Hero Shinning Flare Wingman!!”
I sigh, thinking, “I would love a card like that myself.” A card that is more powerful than any other: that could bend the energy of the planet away from environmental destruction and racist hatred. A card that could protect my children from evils they cannot yet name. Sadly, I have to trust that those in power, incredibly human beings, without the warrior/fusion power of the Yu-gi-oh masters (or the corporate mega-millionaires who profit from them – the card sells on the Internet for over a $100 dollars!) will make good decisions for all of our futures. We are in better hands than we were last month, although I’m sure not all the cards are yet in play.
Three weeks before this election, we lost the first openly gay U.S. Congressman, at the age of 69, from a blood clot in his lung. In 1973, Gerry Studds (I would’ve changed my name) was the first Democrat in nearly 50 years to win what was then considered a secure Republican seat. Oh those gay trendsetters; now, of course, the Republicans know there is no such thing as a “secure” Republican seat.
Gerry Studds was of course not out in those days; he was outed, which has also become quite a Congressional trend these days. For those of you too young to remember, Studds had had a relationship with a page a decade earlier, which was exposed in 1983, and for which he was censured by Congress – the first time anyone had been censured for sexual misconduct. He never apologized, turned his back while the censure was read, and then held a press conference, with the former page, where they both stated this was a consensual relationship. Studds was then reelected to office for five more terms. Studds stated, “It is not a simple task for any of us to meet adequately the obligations of either public or private life, let alone both, but these challenges are made substantially more complex when one is, as I am, both an elected public official and gay.”
It is a tribute to Studds, that the opening sentence in the newspaper reporting his death, said (and I quote), “Former U.S. Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay person elected to Congress, died early Saturday at Boston Medical Center, several days after he collapsed while walking his dog, his husband said.” His husband said. During Gerry Studds lifetime of serving this country, he went from being a closet homosexual, to an out gay man, legally married in the state in which he lived and that, my friends, is a good ending to the first chapter of Homosexuality in American Politics.
Chapter two is a deja voodoo, of sorts. First of course, is Mark Foley, who has also come out as a gay man, after being caught sending sexually explicit emails to Congressional pages (Maybe this medieval system needs some reevaluating?). I read those e-mails and confess I was a bit shocked, not by the sexual explicitness, or his later admission of alcoholism; nor was I shocked that his Republican colleagues knew of his behavior and protected him for ten years. I was shocked that someone in public office would have such poor judgment. Poor sexual judgment is, of course, as we all know, not a partisan issue.
Closet homosexuality is nothing new, and sadly neither is sexual misconduct with minors, “consensual” or otherwise. I’m glad Foley is getting treatment, and I’m glad he has resigned, and I’m glad he is being prosecuted by the same laws that he helped establish. Studds was right that it is difficult to balance public and private lives, and especially so for lesbian and gay people. However, in 2006, being gay is no longer quite so scandalous and it can also no longer be used as an excuse for sexual misconduct. The more homosexuality comes out of the closet, the less confusion their will be in the mind of the public about the differences between gay relationships and sexual misconduct, between gay sex and pedophilia.
Now, at the close of Chapter two, Homosexuality and American Politics, Reverend Ted Haggard has “given in to his dark side.” Haggard was Senior Pastor of New Life Church, a 14,000 membership evangelical Christian church. Outed by Mike Jones, a gay man who claims to have had sex with Haggard on multiple occasions over a three year period while using methamphetamine, Haggard has admitted to “sexual immorality.”
Although surely a religious crisis, both personally and publicly, this is only a political issue, because the religious right sleeps with conservative Republicans. Mike Jones understood this when he realized that he’d been tricked by his trick. He said, “It made me angry that here’s someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex.” Indeed, it makes me really angry enough to want to use my Elemental Hero Shinning Flare Wingman card!
So that we can all sleep more soundly at night, be assured that Haggard has “submitted” himself to the oversight of a team of spiritual advisors, including Dr. James Dobson, who he is sure will heal and restore him. Be forewarned, Haggard will be back, a testament to the strength and faith of God, an ex-gay convert, their poster child, with a new treatment approach to ending homosexuality.
I want to publicly thank Gary Studds for his years of service as a gay man to our country and for his bravery in facing his public transgressions. I also want to thank Mark Foley and Reverend Ted Haggard for showing us all that no good can come from having a public life that is conflict with your private desires. I think their transgressions helped us win this election, forcing even religious Republicans to question their faith. This election may be a turning point, which may mean we can end this war, which may just keep my young Yu-gi-oh warriors off the battlefields in a few years, which is as close I have ever come to feeling saved.