The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

QueerlyKos – The “Everyone’s Coming Out, Foley” Edition

Geez. I don’t even know Mark Foley (OK, I met him once ten years ago, at the opening of the 104th Congress) and I’m already sick of him. I don’t mean to be crass, but inside of a week he’s become like the tiresome trick who would not stop calling, IMing, text-messaging, and just get it into his head that it wasn’t all that and I just wasn’t that into him. Now that I think about it, that’s a pretty good summary of the whole affair thus far.

The story broke while I was traveling, and I thought by the time I had time to blog again there’d be nothing left to say. I was wrong. Conservatives are claiming Foley was set up by everyone from Hillary Clinton to Bat-girl, but I think he was framed and by his own party. And I discovered Foley and I had something in common. But enough about me and Foley. There was actually other stuff going on this week.

  • OK. I’m not quite ready to get off Foley yet. The most interesting group to watch as all this unfolded were Foley’s fellow gay Republicans. The quickly recovered from the “dear in the headlights” response and turned their ire upon liberal gays they believe are behind the looming anti-gay witch-hunt in the Republican party.
  • They seem oddly less concerned with the imams of the Republican party’s base, who are using the scandal as an opportunity to spread their usual anti-gay misinformation in the media. The same base that actually believes the party’s become too tolerant of gays. Because, you know, they’ve bent over backwards for us for so long.
  • It’s tempting to be snarky about this. Really tempting, because “The Republican Party has gone to such lengths to demonize homosexuality that it must pain the leadership to reveal that such a thing as a gay Republican congressman could even exist. The party has stigmatized gay people as ‘them,’ not ‘us’ — as a class of people whose ‘lifestyle’ is unsavory and whose committed relationships must never be recognized, lest the republic instantly crumble to dust.” But it plays well with the base.
  • Of course this is the same base that Foley never spoke out against in the first place. But maybe that’s because he couldn’t. Apparently a lot of gay Republicans don’t come out because they fear retaliation; either from their bosses or from their bosses’ constituents. That is the right-wing religious that makes up about 30% to 40% of the party’s voter base, and thus has the power to determine the platform, etc.
  • If the Foley scandal is a calamity for gay Republicans, it’s one jointly made by their party’s allegiance to the religious right and individual gay Republicans’ decisions to remain closeted in exchange for … what?
  • For a seat at the table with a whole lot of people who’ve never liked you and never will and friends who will sell you out if it means keeping those other folks happy, as one activist put it: “The right wing and its allies in Congress have never liked the wing of the Republican party that tolerated the gays. Now, that relationship is inconvenient for Denny Hastert, John Boehner and Tom Reynolds, all of whom are close to gay republican staffers. So they have adopted a new strategy. …The Republican leadership did not protect him these last few months out of political correctness. They protected him because he was a lapdog for their agenda. Not only did he raise lots of money for them from his Palm Beach contacts, but to have the gay guy support their legislative agenda gave them some sense of comfort that they weren’t really discriminators or bigots.Foley and his gay republican friends thought that they were accepted by their GOP friends. It is sadly ironic and unfortunate that legislative discrimination has not had the same painful impact on them that this week’s whispering campaign has had.” Quoted because I can’t say it any better.
  • But if the purge happens, rest assured the blame won’t be laid at the feet of (a) the Republican’s rabid religious right base or (b) the GOP politicians who are too happy to throw some gay red meat to the the beast they brought into power with them. It’ll be entirely the fault of gay liberals, for being less than understanding that some gay people might support a party that supports discrimination against gay people.
  • Yes, there’s the possibility that the Foley fiasco may contribute to Democratic gains in November. But, some gay progressives are unconvinced that changing red to blue is all it will take, considering how many Democrats voted for much of the mess we’re now in.
  • But would there even be the possibility of a what A Mad Mad World calls “The New Red Scare” in a party where there was even the possibility of being an openly gay member of congress?
  • And maybe gay Republicans are working to change their party. Out gay Republicans, that is. It’s hard to change anything when your in the closet because, as Andrew Sullivan puts it, “What I do know is that the closet corrupts. The lies it requires and the compartmentalization it demands can lead people to places they never truly wanted to go, and for which they have to take ultimate responsibility. From what I’ve read, Foley is another example of this destructive and self-destructive pattern for which the only cure is courage and honesty. While gays were fighting for their basic equality, Foley voted for the “Defense of Marriage Act”.” That much lying and compartmentalization adds up to a lot of work, and little time left over for changing anything.
  • Of course, as John Campanelli points out, staying closeted doesn’t mean you’ll do what Foley did. At least not what he did with pages. But the closet still isn’t the healthiest place to be, as the self-destructiveness reference earlier turns inward with depression, alcoholism and other issues that were a reality for Foley as well.
  • And it’s even more difficult if the people you work for are invested in things not changing. Again, Sullivan,”There is something deeply sick about a Republican elite that is comfortable around gay people, dependent on gay people, staffed by gay people–and yet also rests on brutal exploitation of homophobia to win elections at the base.” And what it requires of you? “The miserable example of Mary Cheney, Stepford daughter, shows the full force of this syndrome. It isn’t pretty. It depends upon knowing when to be silent, tip-toeing around bigotry, and shilling for people who may be personally accepting but publicly so in debt to the religious right that they cannot even formally speak the word “gay” in public.”
  • Actually, there’s a slightly more miserable example in Lee LaHaye if reports are true. He’s the gay son of Tim and Beverly Lahaye. Mama is the president of the anti-gay organization, Concerned Women for America. Papa is the author of a popular series of apocalyptic novels, in which the anti-christ is (wait for it) the spawn of two gay men. Lee is the CFO for Mama’s anti-gay organization. Discuss.
  • So, don’t work for the people you work for. You really work for the people they work for.
  • And, those people you work for even if you do everything right as Mark Foley did, at the end of the day they’ll still hate you. “Mark Foley was doing everything right. The religious conservatives in the GOP’s base don’t seriously believe that gay men can become straight. (Wanna stop a straight person from making the ex-gay argument? Ask him if he’d let his daughter marry one.) What they believe in—what they demand—are closeted homos, homos like Mark Foley, a single man who refused to answer direct questions about his sexual orientation. (Has any straight man ever refused to reveal his sexual orientation?) The religious conservatives in the GOP’s base want all gays to be like Mark: deny who we are, live our lives alone, refuse to answer any questions about our sexuality. To them, Mark Foley was a good, closeted homo, deserving of every consideration.” Because it’s not what you do, Blanche. It’s who you are. And the truth of who you are will out eventually.
  • And when the community approaches and offers help? The Victory Fund offered help to Foley, according to Chuck Wolfe. (Yup. They offered to help a Republican.) Foley didn’t want it. (Warning: Click that link and you’ll be listening to public radio. New York Public Radio.)
  • So, are you still perplexed as to why more of us on the other side of the closet aren’t coming to the rescue of some gay folks who’ve been working pretty hard for the folks who want to discriminate against us?
  • The same folks in Congress, mind you, who left town this week leaving several bills that might help gay people — including benefits for partners of federal workers — untouched.
  • The same people, by the way, who want to make sure that kind of the horror story that happened to Kevin-Douglas Olive after the death of his partner of 8 years happens to the rest of us. Because allowing him the simple right to carry out his partner’s wishes concerning his burial would shake the foundations of civilization. Same for the rest of us. Can you change that? From the closet?
  • The same people who want to pass a constitutional amendment in my state, with the full support of a governor from your party, that would ensure my family cannot enjoy the same rights and protections as other families; an amendment, like the one in Virginia (where a Democratic governor opposes the amendment), with language so broad that it could be used to challenge or nullify the few legal protections we have managed to put together through various legal documents.
  • There’s another option, as Steamboater points out. “If only some of these closeted gay republicans had the courage and stamina to say, ‘I’m a republican because I believe in republican economics and less government etc yet am appalled by the ignorance and prejudices of many within my party etc and am going to work to change that,’ they’d have a solid barricade to fight from, but as it is when they revert to type and stay silent in the face of bigotry from the likes of Jerry Falwell and George Bush, you can’t help feeling these men deserve everything that’s coming to them.” A little advice from Audrey Lourde: Your silence won’t protect you. It didn’t protect Mark Foley. In fact, it may have been his undoing.
  • But if you stay closeted for so long that you end up believing that you don’t deserve equality anyway? Well, you aren’t going to change much of anything, because you may decide you don’t want to.
  • And isn’t the idea of powerful closeted Gay Republicans an oxymoron if “When 50 powerful gay Republicans get together, why do they cower – rather than stand up for themselves and demand understanding and acceptance as human beings from the party they work for every single day?”
  • Maybe you end up with a party that doesn’t want you and a community that, to hear JamesB3 tell it, doesn’t either.
  • So what can you change if you’re out of the closet? Let start small. You can speak out as the students at the University of Missouri-Columbia have, in protest of naming a building after a dean who lead a purge of gay students from campus during his tenure.
  • How about something simple? You can raise a family, with honesty and integrity among your resources.
  • You could celebrate Gay History Month with your family. Or fight for your family’s rights like some families in New Jersey and California.
  • You might even get a Republican governor to sign a gay rights bill. Granted, a Republican governor from Hollywood, but we’ll take what we can get. Can you get a Republican to sign a gay rights bill? From the closet?
  • Maybe your party chair will actually reach out to you, and come to an event of yours, the DNC chair went to a black gay event. Maybe Ken Mehlman will come by your Pride festival. Or not.
  • And if New Jersey and New York are examples, when you stand up for yourself you might discover political leaders who will stand with you.
  • At this rate, someday we might enjoy the same level of equality as gays & lesbians in Slovenia. Perhaps we can even aspire to the same degree of civil rights protections as gays and lesbians as Latvians, who are now protected against discrimination in the workplace. We’re still waiting on a bill that I worked on when I came to DC over ten years ago. Just before your party took over Congress.
  • Remember how people came out and and started demonstrating after Stonewall? Like this 1972 protest against AT&T for its policy of discriminating against gays in employment? Guess who doesn’t discriminate anymore?
  • Of course that will also require a sober assessment of the rights and protections your family doesn’t have, and how to order your life around that reality and cobble together what legal protections you can.
  • Even high school kids, in Jesse Helms’ home state, are doing it.
  • Speaking of high school, if you learn a little more history, you can put on some dark classes and a trenchcoat and head over to the Library of Congress to check out the papers and letters of gay rights activist Frank Kammeny. Disguise your voice and ask the librarian to point you to the news collection. Pay close attention to the stuff about how Kammeny and others fought the McCarthyist effort to “purge” gays from government in the 1950s. (Like the one your bosses are considering.) If reviewing that kind of material at work makes you nervous, you can go pick up The Lavender Scare: The Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government to find out how they fought it. Hint: they had to come out, first.
  • Finally, did you know that even members of NARTH have limits beyond which they cannot remain members of that organization; that they can be offended and will hand in their resignations when their sense of decency — let alone dignity — is violated. And they’re NARTH members, for crying out loud.
  • Next Wednesday, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day. And it may be a busier day for some of us than to others.

What else is there to say? Plenty, I’m sure. But I’ve run out of breath and bandwidth for the time being. That’s fine, as I’m sure this story will still be churning on Monday, provided we don’t go to war with Iran or Venezuela by then. That be just the ticket to draw attention away from the train-wreck of an implosion by a closeted gay Republican congressman, and the party that laid the tracks and let it ride.

I’m sure there’s stuff I missed, particularly because I changed systems this week. I’m doing all my new/blog reading in Google Reader since Wednesday. It’s pretty cool, but I have to pull content from two different systems. So if I missed anything, let me know if the comments, and if you want to give me a tip for next week or you want to get an email alert when this gets posted, just let me know.