Democratic Underground

Life Among the Elephants

May 13, 2005
By Jim David

It must be hard being gay in today’s Republican party. Working side by side with raging homophobes with toupees and beehives can’t be easy. I know many gay conservatives and they all have the same refrain – my private life is no one’s business, being gay is not the main issue in my life, the war wasn’t about oil, etc. Then they give reasons why either they aren’t out to their families and co-workers at all or just conveniently don’t discuss it or tell me to go fuck myself, like Dick Cheney to Patrick Lahey.

Everyone is entitled to one’s own private life and how much of it to share. But a revolving closet door can hit you in the ass: witness some recent conservatives that were revealed to have a secret gay life and then saw their careers take a nosedive. Spokane, Wash. mayor and family values Republican James E. West, a vocal opponent of gay rights, had online relationships and is denying molestation allegations. Of his internet shenanigans, West said “I wouldn’t characterize me as ‘gay.’” Well, what would you describe yourself as, James? Mexican? And Virginia Republican congressman Ed Schrock resigned after several come-hither voicemail messages he left on a phone sex service were posted by gay activists on the internet, raising the eyebrows of his constituents higher than Cher's.

Personally, I feel bad for these guys. I mean, how embarrassing to have your naughty bits spread all over the world in 2 seconds flat. There’s no way to know how many conflicted conservatives are online, or how many of the headless torsos on Manhunt are into supply side economics as well as nipple play. Schrock provocatively described himself as “well hung,” a characteristic uncommon to most Republicans. But are these guys self-hating closet cases who actively worked against their own kind, or are they just confused family men who decided to take a dip in the Fire Island pool? Why expose them? Well, West sponsored a bill that would have barred gays from working in schools, day-care centers and state agencies, and called for screening prospective employees for sexual orientation and firing employees whose homosexuality became known. And Schrock was a co-sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment and opposed gay rights including non-discrimination in employment. So while working against gays by day they were working to hook up with them at night, and even followed unwritten internet rules – online profiles that made them a lot younger and hotter. At least New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey flew out of the closet on his own as a preemptive strike against other pending scandals that, so far, haven’t amounted to much.

It must be awful to be secretly gay and do business with characters like Alabama Rep. Gerald Allen or Texas Rep. Robert Talton. Allen wants to make it illegal to have anything in a library by a gay author regardless of content (out goes Walt Whitman, West Side Story, and the Dewey Decimal System). Talton wants state workers to launch an $8 million inquisition into the sexual orientation of current and prospective foster parents, uprooting thousands of children from their homes. He also wants to make it illegal for a teen to make the “choice” to be gay before they turn 18. He didn’t specify if 15 year olds could still get their learner’s permit.

I’m not asking that everyone be like me, out to everyone from here to the Death Star. But I remember how it was before I came out to my family and co-workers, and the uncomfortable silence when the subject of dating or getting married came up and it was my turn to dish the personal dirt. Everyone would get quiet and there was a race to see who could change the subject first. The elephant in the room was so big he had his own entrance.

Imagine how large the Republican Elephant looms for some of these guys, and how much easier their lives might have been - and the lives of those close to them - had they been honest. Look, for all I know their personal lives are a Rodgers & Hammerstein clambake, but I doubt it. Living a double life takes its toll on anyone. Maybe by coming out they could have changed some minds of their colleagues, or wouldn’t have been so quick to legislate against those who aren’t so conflicted. Maybe they would have been happier.

But given the state of the circles they travel in, I wouldn’t trade places with them for all the oil we didn't go to war for.

Jim David is a comedian and columnist for "The Advocate."

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