Thursday, August 30, 2007

Senator Craig redux

So you're born.

You're a kid. You're attracted to toys. You like crayons and dolls, but you're given trucks and soldiers. And downcast glances from the surrounding adults when you protest. You are told what is appropriate and what is not.

So you do what is appropriate because you want to be a good boy. You want the validation good boys get.

With every passing season, you have urges to do more and more inappropriate things. Sure, girls are pretty. But as you twirl around with them at the Freshman Snowball, it is the angular boys who make your eyes smoky.

You look away, you force yourself, telling yourself it is wrong and unnatural. You just have to try harder, be more conservative. Behave yourself and it will go away. It is silly and stupid. You will grow out of it.

(something deep inside of you says this is horribly wrong. But you have no choice, so you ignore this instinct)

You go to the conservative church with your parents. You embrace all things conservative. If you practice, practice, practice, the thing inside you will go away. You pray to God. If you are an enthusiastic member of His team, He will surely erase the wrong thing.

(shhhh. don't worry. no one will ever find out what you do with those other boys in secret places that feels so good)

Conservatives all around you all the time. Your family, telling you what is right and what to be. You find the more you act like them, the more approval they give you. Approval feels good. You go to a conservative college and keep talking loud and conservatively.

(you are very quiet during the stolen moments with the beautiful boys)

You marry a conservative woman, one who will match your burgeoning political career. You mount and impregnate her. These are simple motions. The children come.

The older you get, the more you realize that the urges inside of you are not going to go away. They are elemental. And The Other people would accept them. But they wear blue and ride donkeys. You wear red and are high on a lumbering elephant, which means money and power and adoration from all the conservatives. You speak their language and wish, wish, wish with all your heart that you could believe it. So you speak it louder in order to imbue the words with power. You denounce and denounce. Sometimes you even think it is working.

(all of this is very big, so you must keep the lovers very anonymous and secret. you may not even exchange names)

Years pass. You instill your children with the conservative values you want so desperately to believe because nothing could be worse than the hell you have lived. And every week you pray at church, searching for an answer, praying it could be different, hoping this thing is not genetic and that it is in one of your children.

(your desire does not wane. you want and want and want, something sexual and brilliant and dynamic, but this you may not have for such a thing would surely be discovered. life is not fair.)

The covert tricks and behaviors are easy enough to learn. Sometimes money changes hands, sometimes not. The acts are played out in filthy places. They are not the honest sex acts you crave

(the most dishonest sex acts are those with your wife you are sorry you are sorry sorry sorry sorr)

the simple human connection with another man,

(it hurts no one but you can't have it)

but they are all you may have, so you settle for the sordid couplings and all their banal satisfaction.

(sorry can't have it and help. who would ever know it's just the taptaptap of my foot just like Dorothy trying to get the hell out of Oz and I've got something that will put you over the rainbow big guy)

And in one instant inside a vile public bathroom stall, your entire life crumbles.


Nin Andrews said...

Yeah, that's brilliant, Erin. But I'm still worried about the bathroom. I mean I've read the Atlanta airport--its men's bathroom is a real spot for quick fixes, and certain restrooms on turnpikes are popular and known, and I'm thinking, what's the deal with the bathroom? I mean just the scent alone should turn a guy right off . . .

The Fool said...

Nicely written, Erin. It just occurred to me while reading this post of the parallell between the Republicans & Democrats and the Bloods & Crips...the colors - the flagging - the red and blue.

Rick said...

Well done!

Kesh said...

Bathrooms are one of the only public areas that are "private." It's someplace you can slip off to and (hopefully) not be caught during the act.

They can't go to a gay bar, because they might be seen. They can't just find a shady spot in the park, because they might be seen. They can't go behind the bleachers at school, because they might be seen.

The men's room is where men are supposed to be with other men, and you can reasonably expect organs to be out of their pants. It's not odd for a man to go into the bathroom, even if other men are going in there too. (Just as long as they don't see both of you go into the same stall...)

It's about the only way a gay male who's not out of the closet can find enough privacy to have an intimate moment. Sometimes, even if they are out of the closet, it can still be the only way (parents, co-workers, etc).

Norm said...

Well, since you put it that way, I guess I do feel a bit of compassion for the soggy old hypocrite. :(

~d said...

o Hell.
this was worded wonderfully, Erin.
thank you!

Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks everyone.

I wrote this this morning after viewing Tom Delay on the Today show (what an effing idiot!!). They were talking about the GOP and these sorts of controversies.

But I was thinking about how/why conservative dunces like Craig or Ted Haggard (remember the 'Jesus Camp' debacle?) get into these situations.

I have no idea what it's like inside Craig's head, but I do believe having to suppress your natural sexuality must be a living hell of fear and guilt and sadness.

The proliferation of gay priests also never surprised me.

If I get closer to God, maybe this terrible urge inside me will go away.

After all, how many in the religious/Christian right believe homosexuality is an abomination? Imagine being a vulnerable young kid worrying that YOU are an abomination. It's just so awful. The thought of it breaks my heart. And we all know there are thousands of kids going through this right now--even those of mildly homophobic parents.

Sure, you could advise such a person to "Just be who you are and eff everyone who doesn't like it" when they are mature enough, but facing persecution and social excommunication from everything and everyone you know ain't so easy.

So I wrote this perhaps too quickly, but it was timely and important. This has garnered some links, so people are reading.

For all of us who are died-in-the-wool-liberals, we can keep hating Craig's politics, but let's also have a little sympathy for his situation. I may not be spot-on here, but I think I've hit on a drop or two of truth.

Your always--


sleepydog said...


Kudos to you, you've shown him more compassion for him and his situation than he has managed to show for others like himself. Perhaps it was self loathing, who knows? I just get so pissed at the hypocricy of it all, when people try to attack/change in others what that can't deal with in themselves.
Anyways, well written and insightful as always!

Carol said...

Thank you for your eloquent words. With the exception of the secret acts in the bathrooms and being attracted to women, you mirrored my life. I admire you, Erin.

Elisson said...

Compassionate and eloquent.

Although I still think the guy's a dickhead.

Jim Strain said...

I applaud your compassion for another human being, and I can manage to work up a bit of it myself. I just think his anti-gay rhetoric, and his vote in the Senate against a bill outlawing job discrimination against gays (a bill that failed by one vote) is beyond pathetic -- it's pathological. He needs to find a different line of work.

Andy said...

sorry - no dice in Sen Craig's case - but thanks for the compassionate thinking of what many men go through. But a man's character shows in the choices that he makes.

I've seen very little discussion of what Sen Craig has chosen to put his family through, and the health risks that he has knowingly exposed his unsuspecting wife and the mother of his children to through his choices.

Many have been in the situation growing up as you describe. Some decide that they could never be that selfish put a faithful wife and family through that sort of deception and ultimate pain, and decide to never marry. Others make the choice and *do* marry, and somehow manage to put their wives and families above their own desires and remain faithful committed husbands.

Larry Craig did neither - he dediced that he can have it his way - all the benefits (both public and private) of marriage, yet practicing deceit and contempt for those who trusted him the most. Because he made selfish choices and profited from them - both professionally and personally.

I find it extremely hard to manage a single ounce of anything but scorn for the guy.

Erin O'Brien said...

All of these comments are evocative and wonderful.


Every statement here is valid. I was not choosing sides or trying to justify Craig's longtime behavior.

But when you have a man like Craig getting a $5 bathroom blowjob, I am compelled to think and think hard.

I love that you all came here and read the essay and that we are talking about this instead of throwing around of stupid tired jokes and angry politics.

This. Is. Good.

This is what I love about writing. This is what I love about the Internet.

Everyone--please, keep talking and commenting and feeling and thinking.

Hal said...

Another moralizing conservative bites the dust.

Anonymous said...


shaina said...


hoosierboy said...

Well written, of course not all conservatives are narrow minded, nor are all narrow minded people conservatives. There is equal hypocracy and hate on both sides of the aisle.

CheekierMeSly said...

There's an inkling of tide turning in news that an Iowa court has struck down a gay marriage ban as unconstituional. They're on the cusp of legal approval, instead. I, for one, sincerely hope it passes.

Dongley Shlongford said...

I love poppin booty in the head.

Doug said...

I respect your compassion, Erin, I really do, but I'm with Jim and Andy on this one. Check out the man's voting record, which I linked to in this off-color post. My compassion stops when he starts hurting his family, his electorate, his nation. At that point, I feel little more than schadenfreude.

EBEZP said...

Wonderfully well written as ever Erin.
If more people wrote like that the world would be a less bigoted place.
Nice one!

Arlen said...

And in one instant inside a vile public bathroom stall, your entire life crumbles.

Kinda makes me wonder whether Craig had done this sort of thing before. I mean, I know there had been rumors before, and in retrospect they seem credible. What are the chances that out of the X number of times Craig has done this sort of thing in an airport bathroom, one day he would get caught?

Scarlet Hip said...

If only he had put it so eloquently.

Jon Konrath said...

Man, I have trouble finding a $5 bottle of water in the Atlanta airport, let alone a $5 blowjob. Which concourse is this? I must be flying the wrong airline or something.

FromUpNorth said...

Your essay has put me back in touch somehow with the true meaning of compassion. It is a thing that can be tossed aside very easily and mindlessly, and I had done so in this case.

I am in perfect agreement with andy though, and also think the man fully deserves the bad rap he is getting.

Hopefully he will make it through this period of his life. Years from now he might really get in touch with the feeling of compassion himself and with a bit of chance, make it up to society in his own way.

Felix said...

What I wanna know is, why would he say "I never should have pled guilty because I wasn't" after he pled guilty?

OJ called, Bathroom boy Craig is going about this all wrong. And George Michael wants his gimmick back.

Jim Winter said...


The conservatives are so vocal about their beliefs that they're easy for guys like Craig to play. I don't think it's that a lot of anti-gay politicians are in the closet. I think that a lot of wolves in sheep's clothing are, though.

If it were more pragmatic to pander to leftish causes - and it may well be sooner than you think - it will be pretty interesting to see what kind of hypocrites we expose then.

Until then, I have to ask. Why are self-loathing Jews still openly Jewish, self-loathing Catholics openly Catholic, self-loathing whites/blacks/women/men still openly white/black/female/male, yet self-loathing gays are in the closet pretending to be the uptight straight conservatives they can never hope to really be?

In this day and age, it should be easy to tell people who don't like you for reasons you can neither control nor those people should be obsessing about to fuck off and die. Instead, these guys choose the sneaky route and get caught every time.

It's pathetic.

Jenny said...

Thank you for your insightful post. I'm pro-gay but I find these outed religious conservatives very sad. Part of me says "GREAT! Damn hypocrites!" but another part of me realizes that they must have lived their lives in *great* pain and denial. How very sad that their society (xtian fundamentalist right wing) demands it of them.

It's wrong to be forced to resign from the Senate for such a triviality (his actions did not hurt anyone) when other senators who have committed criminal acts (bribery, theft, corruption, manslaughter) are allowed to continue on until they are actually convicted and go to jail.

Amy L. Hanna said...

Well done Erin, but my empathy for someone of such very public and political caliber only go so far when their own poor judgment is lacking in decorum, if not already swathed in hypocrisy.

The Emporer got caught red handed AND with his zipper down.

Only his "demons" were much more honest.

It's as simple as that.

Kristy said...

It's tough to break free of everything you know. And holding in things like this definitely changes/warps a person.

But my sympathy is limited by the fact that he was in a position to do some real good and decided not to. Probably because his "friends" would drop him as quickly as they have in this scandal.

Excellent piece, Erin.

Debbie/ TS said...

Erin I agree with your compassion about the senator. But in your essay you confused gender identity with sexual preferene. I have seen no indication of any gender id problem concerning him only a predilection for men. That is sexual prefeence. He has a bi or gay sexual preference.

The point is those with Gender Identity Disorder (Transsexualism),
do not by definition have a sexual preference difference. For instance I was born male (Ok XXY male) but I PREFER WOMEN. That is not unusual in the transgendered population. Please do seperate gender from sexual preference. Your opening comments about the senator were what someone with Gender Identity Diorder feels during chilhood and adolescence not what a typical gay man would feel.
I see nothing in the Senators make up to suggest gender id nor any reason to either excuse him OR condemn him. So he likes men?! Big deal. After my surgery I will still like women and be considered lesbian. SO??