Thursday, August 30, 2007

Senator Larry Craig

I suppose it's time to weigh in on the Larry Craig situation.  Craig, a senator from Idaho, was recently exposed as having plead no-contest or guilty to a crime stemming from lewd behavior in a Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport men's lavatory.  Apparently, Craig sent out signals, such as toe-tapping, foot pressing, and finger wiping, that amounted to, in the opinion of his stall neighbor, a solicitation to a sexual tryst.  The neighbor in question happened to be a police officer engaged in a sting operation.

This makes the third GOP sex scandal in about as many months.  Florida congressman Allen, Senator Vitter, and now Senator Craig.

Idaho is not a state which is fond of gay people.  When I lived there, back in the mid-90's doing the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, it still had a statewide sodomy law.  I regret to say I broke that law.  I apologize to the good people of Idaho, but I don't feel I owe any debt to society.  In any event, it's not the place to be faced with a sex scandal and then come out of the closet as a proud gay man, as Barney Frank and Gary Studds were able to do as democrats from Massachusetts.

The republicans, who have for the past 20 years held forth as the party of moral and family values, takes a particularly difficult hit when confronted with sex scandals.  Just one, that of congressman Mark Foley, caused congress to shift to control of the democrats.  What can three highly publicized scandals do?  Clearly the republicans, because of the image that they seek to sell, are much more vulnerable to sex scandals than democrats.  Everyone expects it of morally relativist demoncrats.  (Sorry, Freudian typo).

A little bit of history.  Sex in men's restrooms is as old as Western Civilization.  In fact, in the 20th Century, these came to be known in the lavender patois as "tea rooms."  Airports, bus stations, libraries, almost every one of these has a tea room.  From time to time, law enforcement runs a sting, like the one that caught Larry Craig, and the tea room shifts to another spot, but before long, the action is back.

The concept of the tea room is time-honored, and reflects an era of oppression, when simply gathering together could cause gay people to be rounded up and put in stir.  Back in those days raids on gay bars were common and a person could be arrested for just having a limp wrist or wearing a red tie.

In our more enlightened age, the crime is not in being a degenerate, but demonstrating it in public.  Sex in restrooms, public parks, etc., can get you pinched. 

All that leads me to -- what?  Craig says he isn't gay.  That's quite correct, even if he is a homo.  Being gay means being in some way public to a greater or lesser extent about one's sexuality.  Craig may be, in the Roy Cohn tradition, a straight man who just happens to have sex with other men.  Because divorcing one's wife and taking up with a younger man, as Ariana Huffington's husband did, means being in some way honest about one's sexuality.

The motivating factor to not be honest?  Shame.  Being gay--open and somewhat honest--means that you have in some small way faced the shame and dealt with it.

Because Craig is incapable of being honest about this, he will go down in flames. 

All that said, I'm not sure that what Craig did was a crime in my view.  All he did was solicit--using ambiguous "signals" in the opinion of the arresting officer.  If, for example, someone did that to me, I would say, "I'm not interested," and the behavior would doubtless stop at once.  Personally I believe that solicitation should be protected under the first amendment, and that in order to be arrested for lewd behavior, one should have to have one's lips around someone's Tom, Dick or Harry.

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