Friday, August 31, 2007

The Sad Case of the Delusional Senator

I haven't been keeping up here much this week, there's been a lot of stuff going on.  But this story about the Senator playing footsies in the men's-room really seems to have got people's attention, and in an interesting way.  It seems like everybody who has something to say about this has something different to say.

(By the way, everybody is saying that Larry Craig will resign tomorrow.  They've already got his successor picked out, the guy's dead meat.  I'm getting to this feeding frenzy a little late, but it's still got a lot for us to think about.)

Like, some people have used this to talk about why anybody would want to have anonymous sex in a public restroom.  That's a good question -- it's dirty, it's not really very private, there's a significantly nonzero chance of getting caught.  Why would anybody want to do that?  Some elaborate this thought by mentioning Mile-High Clubs and pickup bars and things that heterosexuals do with strangers or where they might get caught, the difference being that restrooms are segregated by sex.  OK, good point, same-sex stuff is going to happen in a room where only one sex can go, maybe some straight people do essentially this same sort of thing, just not there.

Others have used this to open the innateness/choice question.  It seems weird to see this Senator saying, "I'm not gay," when he is obviously busted, and stories have been going around for years about him.  Is he gay, or not?

I'll go with this: he's right, he's "not gay," for the simple reason that he says he isn't.  He does not identify himself as a homosexual person, he just ... has sex with guys whenever he can.  How's that feel to you?

Let me go off on a tangent for a second, just to hedge my bet.  It could be -- could be -- that this is just something he does for the addictive thrill of almost getting caught.  Maybe the sexual part is nothing.  The Post had a pretty good story yesterday where a psychiatrist said "What I found is that many of these people are hardworking and struggling hard to be in control. . . . Anybody can have a compulsion, whether it's a sexual compulsion or some other compulsion..."  So to this shrink, it sounds like the sexual component is more-or-less arbitrary.

I'm not thinking so.

Take a heroin addict.  The thing is, you don't become an addict if you don't take the stuff to begin with.  Most people walk around without ever sticking a needle full of heroin in their arm, just like most guys walk around without giving a thought to propositioning the guy in the next stall.  I don't know what makes a person decide to try heroin, and I don't know why a guy starts a game of footsies with an undercover cop in an airport restroom.

But I'm thinking it's not arbitrary, it's something besides just taking a chance on getting caught.  A guy like this feels a need to have sex with another man, specifically.  It's different from drag-racing or playing Russian roulette.

To understand this, you have to peel the onion of sexual identity, at least a few layers.  Because we have an apparent contradiction here.  We have a man who is irresistibly drawn to having sex with other men, and at the same time he describes himself as "not gay" and in fact, has actively pursued legislation to make like harder for guys who have romantic relationships with other guys.  Let's say that's two contradictions: his behavior and professed sexual identity, and his behavior and his position on the policy issues.

Larry Craig's self-contradictions show us several things.  First, he is a great example of the distinction between sexual behavior and sexual identity.  You can have sex with men, over and over again, yet identify yourself as heterosexual, as your innate urges are pushed out of your self-identity.  Conservatives see this as a good thing.  Yes, they agree that some people have these desires, and there's no argument about whether the desires themselves are innate, everybody knows they are.  But what you're supposed to do, when you have these desires, is to construct a sexual identity that defeats them.  You are supposed to make yourself be straight.

This depends on a model where identity and innate physical attraction are independent of one another.  And can we agree that this model has failed in the Larry Craig case?  And also in the Ted Haggard case, and many others?  It fails because the model also requires that the cognitive component, the sexual identity part, has to be stronger than the physical attraction part.  Maybe sometimes it is, nobody knows how many people are secretly homosexual, and are presenting themselves differently from how they feel.  Nobody knows.  The point is, maybe sometimes, if you click your heels three times and grit your teeth for seventy or eighty years, you can live as a heterosexual even though your physical attractions are different from that.

Why would somebody define themselves in such a way that they have to deny themselves not only the physical pleasure of honest sex, but the companionship and love that grows up around it?  I'd say they'd do that because they feel a tremendous amount of social pressure.  It may come from their church community, or it might just be things the guys say on the playground, but the pressure to "be normal" can be very intense and hard to resist.

I guess I need to say out loud what the alternative model is.  The alternative model is a model of psychological health where a person lives happily with the feelings that the Good Lord (and/or Mother Nature) gave them.  This is a model where sexual identity is compatible with physical attraction.  It's the model where guys who are attracted to guys call themselves, right out loud, "gay" or whatever the term du jour is, and their expression is consistent with their actual feelings.

Because, I think this is obvious but I'll say it anyway, when Larry Craig says he's "not gay" he is simply telling us that he is delusional.  He is expressing a kind of denial and a kind of psychopathology where the self-identity has developed around a falsehood.  I agree, he's "not gay," because he says he's not, his social self-presentation does not include his true feelings, maybe he even believes he is "not gay."  But the divorce of innate feelings and socially-presented sexual identity is not an ideal, and it seems to me that unhappiness is the result, whether the person is successful in behaving in accordance with a delusional sexual identity, or not.


Anonymous Steve Boese said...

Some context/reference info is available at Joe Kort's blog: Sex Addicts and straight men who have sex with men.

August 31, 2007 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kind of like jimK

August 31, 2007 11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
kind of like jimK

Anonymous: What kind of snide remark is that? We've had enough of your irritating, irrational, and inane remarks here. Go develop your own Blog site and prattle all you want to those who hold your puerile views. Enough is enough!

September 01, 2007 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

rob you are such a fag

September 01, 2007 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Emproph said...

Yeah Rob,

According to anonymous, you have such a same gender attraction, (assuming you do, according to anonymous).

Tell me, how do you defend yourself against being alive?

Oh, and just out of curiosity Anonymous, what do "your irritating, irrational, and inane remarks here" have to do with Rob's gender attraction - one way or the other?

September 01, 2007 3:02 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, we have seen stupid people here before, please don't think you're shocking or impressing anybody. The rule has always been Moron's comments will be deleted.

You've got two strikes on you. I'm not putting up with any more of it.


September 01, 2007 3:12 PM  
Anonymous I said...

Jeez Anon, how long have you had a crush on Jim? Don't you have anything better to do on a Friday night than to read his blog and fantasize about playing footsie between the stalls?

September 01, 2007 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Mr. Anonymous, for your brilliant response to my analysis of your remarks. It definitely shed light on the topic! You are the perfect example of why Teach the Facts exists. Your comment illustrates so cogently why TTF is such a strong advocate of curricula changes that teach understanding and tolerance of human diversity. With adult role models of your ilk, is there any doubt why children often behave in intolerant and unacceptable ways toward people who are different from them? Utilizing such disrepectful words as "fag" and aiming personal attacks at somebody you don't even know illustrates not only your own ignorance and homophobia but gives greater credence to TTF's mission.

September 02, 2007 7:06 AM  
Anonymous youwish said...

I really don't think Anon knows the true meaning of "fag"; fag is related to gay males because, during the times of 'witch hunts' gay men were treated horribly. That is, gay men were forced to wear a small bundle of twigs on their shirts showing everyone that they were about to be burned alive just for being gay. At times, they would use the bodies of gay men to burn the witches themselves. Do your research, Anon.

TTF exists just because of people like you. Go do something else with your life besides hating people.

September 02, 2007 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why the GOP should welcome gays into the party
Sunday, August 19, 2007


SOMETIMES tragic occurrences force us to stop and think – those are the moments that crystallize our perceptions of human relations. I found myself in such a state with the passing of a constituent, friend and fellow conservative who also happened to be gay.

Our conversations convinced me that my beliefs in limited government can be shared across the chasms that liberals and conservatives perceive to separate us – ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. That conclusion is not popular on either side of the left-right spectrum: Liberals don't believe gays should be conservative and conservatives don't believe gays can be conservative, especially when a radical left gay contingent dominates media attention and right-wing conformists place their own moral judgment before individual freedom.

The Republican Party claims to be a "Big Tent," and rightfully so, as the core conservative principles of the party revolve around individual liberty and a limited government that serves to protect that liberty. These ideas can help our party cut across lines of "group identity," because the idea of freedom is appealing to groups that lack the political clout necessary to keep government out of their pocketbooks and lives.

Historically, gay Americans have struggled for the freedom to live their lives the way they choose in order to pursue happiness. This is the American Dream, the cornerstone of conservative thinking, and it is these principles that make the increasingly influential gay community the conservative movement's natural ally.

It may surprise some to learn that the very same conservative who refused to be coerced into performing civil union ceremonies by government believes gay voters should be conservative, yet this very instance points to our common ground – a commitment to the rights of the individual and opposition to the power of a collectivist state.

The media like to portray conservatives as wild-eyed ideologues, which is unfair. Of the philosophies that have directed civilization, conservatism has resulted in the most liberty for people around the world. It is at the hands of the liberal welfare state that individualism is destroyed; thus the failure of communism, fascism and socialism in promoting a signature American entitlement – "the pursuit of happiness."

Americans take that phrase for granted, but the idea was culture-transforming. Happiness derives its meaning from the Middle English hap, meaning "chance" or "luck." It is the same root present in the words perhaps or happenstance. The idea present in the words "pursuit of happiness" is the notion that individuals can make their own happiness. Happiness is not purely a matter of luck, but a goal to be pursued in a free environment characterized by limited government. Our Founding Fathers held this truth to be so "self-evident" that they declared it was the indisputable right of all individuals to pursue happiness.

With this belief, many members of the gay community have played a critical role in the conservative movement. Conservatives from Terry Dolan to Andrew Sullivan prove there has been no shortage of influential gay leadership. Arguably, their involvement is even greater in the conservative wing of the party than in the moderate middle.

Upper income brackets

Many gay adults are also in upper income brackets, making the issue of low taxes, which conservatives have staked their reputation on, an important one. The principles of limited government that keep Big Brother out of our personal lives must also keep him out of our pocketbooks. Liberal Democrats may not care what individuals do in their bedrooms, but they are already rattling their tax-hiking sabers to let us know they do care what individuals do with their money.

Obstacles to achieving our real goal of reducing the size of government and limiting its ability to interfere in our lives must be torn down. Gays shouldn't expect government to foist acceptance of their lifestyle on others; religious conservatives shouldn't expect gays to abandon an integral part of their being.

Barry Goldwater once remarked that government cannot pass laws to "make people like each other." His words still ring true today. Labeling people "homophobes" or "bigots" if they refuse to accept the entire gay agenda creates political fractures that work against individual liberties and serve to keep gay voters in the Democratic Party's political ghetto.

The Republican Party must reestablish its commitment to the rights of the individual while respecting the moral code of one subset and upholding the freedom of another. Quite a challenge, indeed. However, the Big Tent needn't become a kaleidoscope of political policies designed to appeal to a large crowd at the expense of sacrificing principles.

Rather, it must transcend mere politics by becoming a manifestation of the principles that culminated in our Declaration of Independence and attract those who share this vision. The principles that are the underpinning of conservatism will ultimately make room in the tent for a surprisingly wide range of membership.

Reestablishing a commitment

In memory of the fine gentleman who inspired this article, I will reestablish my commitment to understanding and the core principles of conservative thought that I believe will best serve our future. My friend fought a tragic inner battle that tormented him to suicide.

No one will ever understand the emotional turmoil that destroyed his life. The demons that haunted him and drove him to such a dark and lonely end also know no ethnic, gender or sexual-orientation boundaries. The boundaries of infinity are large enough and eternity long enough for all of us.

So let the values that we share, as mutual as those terrible instances of suffering that each of us can encounter, allow us all to strive for happiness during our brief stay on Earth.

Thanks, buddy, see you in a better place.

Steve Lonegan, a Republican, is mayor of Bogota.

September 02, 2007 12:09 PM  

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