OK…I almost forgot about this, and it was so cool, it’s something that needs to be shared. Earlier this week, Dan and I posted our thinking about the Larry Craig debacle [see below]. Or at least some of the thinking, there’s a lot to this story (not all of it negative: entrapment, the perils of the closet, the importance of not thinking in simplistic binary terms, "public" sex, MSM, "down low" — and why is that usually only applied to African American men…isn’t Larry Craig "down low"? — and bisexuality among the more interesting ideas).
Anyway, as I sit working at the computer every day, I am, invariably, listening to New York Public Radio Station, WNYC-FM, and one of my favorite shows is the Brian Lehrer Show. Next to Terry Gross, on Fresh Air, I think Lehrer is one of the best interviewers in the business.
So I was perturbed, when Brian was discussing the Craig story, that both he and his guest commentators, continued to refer to Craig as "Gay" and talking about "other Gay men" in the same breath as though just because at some point in time some men share a physical attraction to, and seek out sexual contact with other men, that all men who do so are ipso facto "Gay." So I wrote a letter. This is what it said:
Dear Mr. Lehrer, I am a huge fan of your show, listen daily and support WNYC on a monthly basis. I beg you, please please please stop referring to Larry Craig as "Gay" as though this was the problem.
He is sexually confused. At best, Larry Craig is bisexual or homosexual. But the problem with Craig is, plain and simple, his hypocrisy and the effect that has on innocent people’s lives. It is the issue with his constituency; it is the issue with his colleagues and it is the issue with the LGBT community. The LGBT community, and Gay men specifically, have worked long and hard to establish the term "Gay" as opposed to the medically derived "homosexual." This was to distinguish it as a sexual orientation as opposed to a medical diagnosis. "Gay" specifically has connotations of pride, self-worth, self-respect and integration of one’s sexuality with one’s life. It is a difficult thing to achieve…coming out to one’s self, as well as to one’s family and loved ones. It is harrowing. And those of us who identify as "Gay" deserve to make a distinction between us, and closeted, dishonest, confused, homosexuals who have real psychological issues.
It is extremely disheartening to be lumped into the same category as this man. And it confuses the issue. Homosexual hypocrisy is the issue here. Self-loathing is the issue. I hope you can finally come to understand…and share with your listeners, that there is a world of difference.
And as for the behavior in the bathroom, it is classic closet behavior. Bathrooms aren’t being plagued with prowling, predatory "Gay" men. But they are probably frequently filled with closeted men looking to connect with other closeted men. It’s what almost every closeted homosexual man I ever knew did before he discovered he was not the only one, not sick, and could live a healthy, happy and fulfilling life…as a Gay man.
White Crane Journal
The Journal of Gay Wisdom, Spirit and Culture.
Well…imagine my surprise on Friday, when the show does a segment they call "Follow Up Fridays" on stories of the week that continue to call for comment, Brian Lehrer starts talking about the difference between "Gay" and "homosexual" and asking listeners to call in! I just about fell out of my chair when he gets to the segment, and without identifying me personally (or more importantly, alas, White Crane), proceeds to read my letter…verbatim. I was kvelling.
Mostly people responded positively. A woman called in and said she hadn’t been able to put her finger on why the story had been bothering her until she heard this. One gentleman called in and accused me of trying to "hijack the language for political purposes"…well duh! A "professor" (of …I don’t know what) called in and quibbled with my description of "homosexual" as a "medical term" averring, correctly, that homosexuality is no longer a diagnosis in the DSM. Again…well duh! But it was, at one time. It was only taken out of the DSM as a diagnosis in 1973, thanks to the tireless efforts of Barbara Gittings, Judd Marmor, Franklin Kameny and "Dr. H Anonymous" who later turned out to be Psychiatrist John E. Fryer, and the origins of the term are, in fact, from the medical community, and the origins of same-sex sexuality being pathologized. Knowing history is important. Claiming it is imperative.