Today’s statement from Senator Larry Craig that he is "not Gay" is yet another reminder of how our current use of language isn’t helpful.
Craig claimed he is not Gay after pleading guilt and paying over $1500 in fines in connection with a charge of lewd conduct in an airport restroom in Minneapolis. The story [See the AP video below if you’ve been out of the loop] has been all over the media the last few days with perhaps the best prize for freudian slip going to Craig’s spokesperson who claimed that the whole incident was just a case of "he said/he said." Comedy writers couldn’t make this stuff up. And why, O why, is Jon Stewart off this week of all weeks?!
Now, Larry Craig, is a right-winger. He’s signed on to every bit of malicious anti-Gay legislation he could get his hands on. With the exception of his, apparently open views on immigration (for which he’s received a pummeling from the nativist fringe-nuts in the Republican right wing) he’s a total wing-nut. You mention the "gays" to him and he starts hollerin’ about the evilness etcetera, etcetera. Rumors about his sexuality have been swirling around DC for a while (thanks to the good folks at Blog Active).
Sons of Cohn
But hearing Craig claim he was "not Gay" puts us to mind of the late Roy Cohn, lackey of Senator Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist witchhunts and general destroyer of lives. Cohn was an evil piece of work on par with J. Edgar Hoover, who terrorized the country and destroyed many lives.
What’s this got to do with Craig? Well, Roy Cohn’s homosexuality was a well known secret in Washington but he was always adamant that he wasn’t "one of those." [If you saw Tony Kushner’s excellent "Angels In America" you’ll remember Al Pacino’s scenery chewing tour-de-force depiction of the closet case.] People like Cohn, and many of the other Republican closet cases that have been caught of late, could claim that they weren’t gay because their existence was so far from the experience of gay people.
We can only imagine that the disparity between the self-loathing Cohn and his same-sex-loving peers was even more pronounced in the 1970s as the Gay community rose up post-Stonewall. On the one hand you had people like Harvey Milk who were out and balanced and trying to contribute to the community at large and then you had the basket/closet-cases like Roy Cohn and his ilk. We can only imagine Cohn looked at the rise of gay-consciousness and its call for "Gay is Beautiful" and thought he had nothing to do with that. It was anathema to the life he’d carved out for himself.
And he would’ve been right. Craig seems to be of that ilk too. So when Craig says "I’m not Gay," we believe him.
We take "Gay" to mean (at the very least):
- "with it" in terms of sexuality or trying to come to terms with one’s sexuality
- honest in the face of one’s truth
- honest to one’s self and one’s family
- loving of oneself
Granted, these definitions may be somewhat arbitrary. But they make more sense than the popular media and blogosphere’s misapplication of the term "Gay" when using the term "homosexual" would be much more useful in differentiating between people who are honest and work to be whole and productive in the face of a cultural climate of Gay hatred (personified by people like Craig and right-wing fundamentalists) and people who are so far away from getting a clue to what really makes them tick and what would make them happy and whole.
Think about it: what has Larry Craig ever done to DESERVE the term Gay? He seems like the saddest of individuals. He seems like a sorry mass of self-loathing and delusion. In that state, we can feel pity for him and his pathetic lack of courage. We can feel pity because we were there once and we know how hard it is to try to be true to ones self in the face of the culture’s hatred of Gay people. [We can pity him, but we don’t have to excuse his self-hating actions that make the lives of his Gay constituents miserable. His self-loathing doesn’t excuse his anti-Gay actions.]
But when it comes to terms we think Craig is right. We think Larry Craig is, at best, a homosexual or a bisexual. But Gay? Nope. No way. Maybe some day — if he musters the courage to be honest with himself and the world.
Till then he’s nothing but a closeted homosexual who’s not ready for the prime time of a life worth truly worth living.