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    Growing up in public

    Posted by Sean at 10:01, January 12th, 2005

    Gay Orbit notes that GayPatriot appears to have cast the apple of discord in our midst with the varying opinions of its proprietors about whether it’s the new Daily Dish. Others are already doing all the wrangling necessary, so I will confine myself to two points I don’t think are being given sufficient attention:

    First, yes, Andrew Sullivan has turned into a wet noodle. It’s painful to see, and his opining now frequently ranges from the silly to the outrageous. Let’s remember something, though, shall we? A decade ago, he was using his print and television presence to show a rare face of gentlemanly, reasonable gayness. The gay marriage argument has moved beyond his early books, but back then, the opposition really did tend to confine itself to things like, “Gays have sex, not love.” At the level to which the debate had progressed, Sullivan was one of the few major figures who made rational arguments that gays were responsible enough to be fully included in society.

    This past year or so has been a test of his principles, and he’s flunked so far. There’s always hope that he’ll get it together, but he completely deserves the drubbing many of his current positions are taking. That doesn’t change the fact that he made a lasting contribution to gay advocacy; it’s unseemly to be slagging him off as if he were a terminally-empty Richard Goldstein type who’d recently found a way, somehow, to become even more tiresome. Show some respect.

    Second, Gay Patriot wants attention, and I think it’s wonderful that he and his thoughtful collaborator are getting it. I don’t like the idea that for eternity there will be a single Andrew Sullivan Chair in Non-Commie Homosexuality that has to be filled, with every other gay who opens his mouth considered leftist until proven innocent; but there’s nothing wrong with having one commentator or blog that’s the most prominent exponent of right-leaning gay thought.

    And yet…I think GP mentioned once that he works in marketing, and, well, I believe him. I mean that in both good and bad ways. GP and GPW are good at soundbites, and soundbites are useful in blogging. They get quoted, and they’re attached to a site called GayPatriot, and that does good, necessary work in demonstrating that not gays are not all lockstep leftists who look down on America.

    At the same time, I worry. I worry because the guys at GayPatriot don’t seem to recognize that you can’t stop at marketing. At times, they do make solid, worked-out arguments; but for the most part, when one of their political posts sounds good, it sounds good because you’re filling in the gaps between catchy pronouncements with actual facts or logical constructions you’ve read elsewhere. When GP, especially, needs to make a case that has no evidence to corroborate his–there’s the hilarious story of the bottle thrown at his car and the more serious allegation that LCR’s Chris Barron may have had divided loyalties up to very late in the election year–he doesn’t show much inclination to ascertain and then question his own assumptions in order to strengthen his story. (I suppose it’s possible that each of these posts was followed up with more hard evidence, but I read GayPatriot regularly and am pretty sure I’d have remembered; they both made me practically fall off my chair at the time.)

    The guys at GayPatriot also don’t seem to understand that, while they deserve kudos for publicizing their unpopular political opinions, their mindset about people is stereotypical urban-gay, and not in the good way. Here’s GP demonstrating that he’s more all-American than Andrew Sullivan:

    Andrew’s main problem is that he, along with his fellow Clinton Democrats, do not understand Red State (and the majority of) America. He admits he doesn’t like or “get” country music, for example. Funny, my iPod continously brings up Kenny Chesney on random rotation.

    I know people who grew up in rural Kentucky that can’t stand country music; there are also New York music critics who can go off for days about how wonderful George Jones and Loretta Lynn are. But neither of those is really the point–the point is that GP is fixated on the artifacts rather than the attitude. Do you use your music to make a statement about yourself, or do you figure that people’s integrity is pretty much unrelated to whether they have Cher or Reba in the CD player? And, if we’re going to use the term, which mental framework is more “Red State”? (I admit I laughed at the hockey joke, though.)

    There are a lot of nice people in the blogosphere who are looking for reasons not to think uncharitably about gays and who are very receptive to GayPatriot’s message, which is great. Some of them have day jobs as journalists and could get the site real exposure, which is also great. For now. But the more attention they get, the more likely it becomes that they will run into skeptical people who hold you accountable for everything you say and expect finely-woven arguments. If they don’t start figuring out how to provide them, they’ll make themselves and the rest of us look bad.


    Posted by Sean at 16:58, January 9th, 2005

    I don’t agree with Michael about marriage policy, but I think he’s dead right about this:

    [We’re part of everyday life.] And it�s our job as gay people to let people know we exist, that we live and work with them, and that we�re family members. You don�t do yourself or anyone else any good when you cry �unfair� from your closet.

    You either stay closeted or get to complain that people aren’t doing enough to make your gay life easier, but not both. It’s perfectly honorable to believe that your sexual orientation is a private matter and live by it. You might (in fact, you almost inevitably would) think gay activists are idiots, but you wouldn’t bitch that society is standing in your way. I’m also not referring to what people do on-line–there are lots of reasons people don’t use their own names that have nothing to do with embarrassment at being known as gay.

    What I mean are the types like this guy a few months ago–I thought I’d drop my drink right there–who thought that he’d have an easier time coming out to his parents if gay marriage were legal, ’cause, see, then he could go with his new spouse and simultaneously come out and reassure his parents that he had someone to take care of him. He had obviously given this some thought and, in the manner of all thoroughly insane people, presented it in the even tones of one who knows he’s being perfectly rational. I’m afraid I myself may have reacted like a raving lunatic: “You think the folks are going to take it better if you present your entrance into what they consider a degradation of a sacred institution as a fait accompli? That that’s going to mitigate their anger at having been lied to for your entire adult life that work kept you too busy to socialize and you just hadn’t found the right girl?” The hardships involved in being gay make integrity more, not less, necessary.

    Not quite government’s end

    Posted by Sean at 12:01, December 27th, 2004

    I was disappointed by Jonathan Rauch’s book Gay Marriage , which I thought made uncharacteristically spotty arguments. (Uncharacteristically for him, I mean–not, more’s the pity, for gay marriage advocates.) Being a sensible person, he knows how to confront reality, though; and with his new op-ed, he ends the year much better than he began it. Well, you have to roll yours eyes and move quickly past the loan shark analogy near the beginning. Part of his main point is this:

    The consensus has shifted rapidly, meanwhile, toward civil unions. The 2004 exit polls showed 35% of voters supporting them (and another 25% for same-sex marriage). Particularly after the Nov. 2 debacle, civil unions look to many gay-rights advocates like the more attainable goal. It is not lost on them that Vermont’s civil-unions law and California’s partnership program have proved surprisingly uncontroversial. For their part, social conservatives increasingly, if grudgingly, accept civil unions as deflecting what they regard as an attack on marriage. John Kerry endorsed civil unions, and in October Mr. Bush accepted them, saying, “I don’t think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that’s what a state chooses to do.”

    This year may be remembered as the time when civil unions established themselves as the compromise of choice. For an indicator, watch whether there is an outcry if state courts narrow the scope of the new amendments to allow civil unions and other partner programs. My guess is that few people will fuss.

    It’s been put to me that even civil unions wouldn’t be possible if activists hadn’t first gone the whole way and demanded “marriage rights” and then fallen back to what would then look like a more reasonable position. Maybe. It’s not possible to know. I myself think the collateral damage, as it were, has to be factored in: the fixing in the minds of Americans of an image of gay public figures as, yet again, screechy single-issue activists who think of nothing but themselves. It’s not fair to lay an equal share of the blame on moderate thinkers such as Rauch, but neither is it unfair to acknowledge that his influence was not always as salutary as it might have been. He’s still one of the best advocates we have, especially with Andrew Sullivan still off in Cloud-Cuckoo Land, and it’s a holiday treat (no one’s going to jump down my throat for not explicitly calling it “Christmas” now that it’s 28 December, yeah?) to see him coming around.

    (Via IGF)

    I heard you, but what did you say?

    Posted by Sean at 17:46, December 26th, 2004

    I’d prefer to keep my plans for self-improvement in the New Year private, but I’m perfectly happy to share the things I’d like you all to resolve to do for me. Since I like people with interesting vices, I’m not going to tell you to stop overeating, drinking, or smoking. What I would like everyone to stop over-indulging in are words–just three little ones that have rapidly become a public menace through their overuse by gays and our sympathizers.

    hate (used as n.) Oh, children, when your dotty gay Uncle Sean was in college ten years ago, we had many, many ways to accuse people of being intolerant. You could call someone “misogynist” or “sexist” if you thought he was keeping women down, “racist” if he questioned affirmative action, or “heterosexist” if he expressed any discomfort with homosexuality. If you wanted to imply that he was not only intolerant but pathological, you could call him “homophobic.” These pronouncements were shrieky and sententious, but rotating through the different charges at least preserved some variety of phrasing and subject matter.

    But, being busy people, we’ve dispensed with all that. Now hate is the word that slices, dices, peels, juliennes, and transforms ordinary radishes into professional-looking rose garnishes at the touch of a button. Just designate someone as “motivated by hate” and move on. The problem, of course, is that calling moral opposition (however misplaced we believe it is) an emotional reaction doesn’t make it one; Right Side of the Rainbow explained this beautifully.

    Fascinatingly, the venerable noun hatred is not abused this way. When you see someone mention “hatred of gays” or “hatred of women” or the like, you can normally trust him to confine his characterizations to people who really do want to infringe on our rights to self-determination without giving rational reasons. It’s a rare instance of more syllables = less airy pretension.

    second-class citizen (compound n., usually plu.) My objection to this one is less fundamental than my objections to the other two, so I have less to say about it. If second-class citizens were actually used in the process of making a thorough argument that marriage to the partner of one’s choosing is a basic human right, I wouldn’t mind so much; and occasionally, very occasionally, it is. Most of the time, though, it comes off as shorthand for, “Why don’t you love me?” It also tends to accompany coarse, overarching comparisons to the Civil Rights movement that, in my opinion, only hold up in very limited ways. The term has mutated into a buzzword rather than a concept useful for explicating one’s logic.

    self-respecting (adj., used esp. in negative construction “no self-respecting gay could possibly…”) I used to think I’d be overjoyed when the locution self-loathing dropped out of the queer public discourse. What a naif I was. The wording is gone, but it’s been replaced by a longer, more convoluted construction that is, if anything, more annoying. If I had a nickel for every time I read or heard the sentence, “No self-respecting gay could possibly vote for George Bush this year,” I’d be retired to a château with guys in loincloths dropping peeled, seeded grapes into my mouth by now.

    It was always obnoxious for one gay to call another “self-loathing” for deviating from the activist-approved list of political positions and life choices, but it was almost touching, in a weird way, in its suggestion that the addressee was just stuck in that denial stage on the way through coming out and it was making him behave like a jerk. Accusing someone of not being “self-respecting” goes the whole way and asserts that he’s a willful, reasoned-out jerk–in addition to implying that his sense of dignity is properly arbitrated by others.

    If I wanted to dwell on things that annoy me, I have no doubt that I could lengthen the above list without much exertion. If our commentators can start avoiding these terms, however–or at least being certain they’re using them to build and not substitute for argumentation–it will be a good thing for gay issues and for civility in general, neither of which has benefited from many of this year’s installments in the public discourse.

    Happy New Year.

    Won’t you listen to me when I’m telling you / It’s no good for you

    Posted by Sean at 10:14, December 15th, 2004

    Steve Miller at IGF links to this new piece Rich Tafel has in NRO about Bush-voting gays:

    The one statistic confounding pundits in this election is the number of gays who voted for George W. Bush. Polls show that the president received anywhere from 1.5 million to 2 million gay votes, up from 1 million votes in 2000 and double the number of gay votes for Bob Dole in 1996. This dramatic increase comes despite the fact that no gay organization endorsed him, no gay journalist editorialized on his behalf, and no gay leader supported him.

    The post-election conventional wisdom fueled by gay leaders and the media is that President Bush won because he gay bashed. This notion serves all of their purposes: Gays can maintain their image of themselves as hated victims and liberal sections of the media can salve their wounds by admitting that because of their own tolerance they failed to appeal to America’s intolerance.

    Tafel, former head of Log Cabin Republicans and a knowing political operator (I don’t mean that as a dig in this case), doesn’t put it as bluntly as he might have–for instance, “Gay activists and journalists seem to be standing around and asking, ‘Why the hell didn’t you guys do what you were told?'”

    This is funny in light of an encounter I had the other night (in the same place, actually, where I was granted my first taste of this holiday turkey). I was sitting–one of the reasons I usually don’t post about these things is that it’s hard not to give away other people’s personal information, so I’ll limit it to this–between a Muslim who has US citizenship but was brought up in one of the more Westernized countries in the Middle East, on the one hand, and an East Asian guy who’s lived since childhood in various big cities in California’s San-San population belt, on the other. The Muslim man was in his late 40’s, at a guess, and the East Asian was maybe 21.

    The conversation was lively, and at some point, someone brought up the election. Each of us was pleasantly surprised to hear that the other two had voted for Bush, and we spent quite an interval talking about the arguments we’d had with friends and the campaign messages that had and hadn’t reached us. It was fascinating, because here you had a Muslim who divides his time between America and Asia–you know, very cosmopolitan and stuff–and a kid from coastal California who works in the entertainment industry, and both of them just seemed to want to know, What was it that Kerry planned to do? How was it going to be better than an imperfect but predictable Bush? And why was it assumed that they were going to be pulling the lever for the Democrat out of some sort of homo predisposition? Tafel nails the more specific issues, too:

    Gays who voted for President Bush had a simple logic. They recognized that both candidates opposed gay marriage for political purposes. Their primary concern was the war on terror. They believed that we are engaged in a war for the future of our country and our way of life. They believed that the rise of militant Islam is a real and deadly threat. They believed that our country, with all its faults, is a force for good in the world. They believed that our enemy cannot be reasoned with. They believed that we needed a leader who understood the world in terms of moral values, and they didn’t scoff when the president used the words “good” and “evil” to describe the battle against terror. They realized we’ve made mistakes, but also realized that the only thing worse than making mistakes is not even trying. Many gays understood all of this and voted for President Bush, showing that they are people as well as gay people and that they have concerns beside their group interests. They wanted someone who in the difficult months ahead would stand firm in his beliefs.

    I doubt every gay voter who went for Bush agreed with every single one of these, but the overall characterization strikes me as sound. The problem isn’t that reflexive-lefty gays haven’t brought their own beliefs in line with ours since the election. It’s that they still don’t seem to be able to fathom our reasoning at all.

    A decade ago, I was in college in the same city as Camille Paglia was teaching in, and her highly-publicized rants about loony-leftism really made me feel better about coming out. You know, the LGBA (which doubtless has a few more letters in its name by now) was full of JCrew types bleating about oppression. I went to one meeting and never went back, but it didn’t rattle me too much. Paglia and her media followers really looked as if they might generate enough force to break queer activists out of their calcified ways of thinking.

    It didn’t turn out that way. She certainly had her effect–along with others–but it was to peel off the closet moderates and make them more comfortable returning to the common-sense middle. The wacko leaders who are the real problem haven’t moved at all. It’s a shame.


    Posted by Sean at 23:24, December 1st, 2004

    When I’m back here in the States, people are always asking me this unanswerable question: “So…what’s it like to be gay in Japan?” I never really know what to say. I can describe my gay life there just fine, obviously. But I’m a foreigner, of course, so I don’t have anything like the experience my Japanese friends do. Sometimes, the way people put the question is, “How easy is it to be gay in Japan?” That’s even harder to answer.

    Japan, as you’ve no doubt heard in various contexts, is a shame culture rather than a guilt culture. I love our American forthrightness and sincerity, but (partially on ethical grounds and partially because of plain old temperament) I always feel a sense of release when I’m boarding a plane back to Narita. It comes from the knowledge that I’m returning to a place where every last little turn of phrase or arch of eyebrow isn’t mirthlessly prodded for complex psychological motivations, where you can expect people to be polite and considerate in public, and where no one cares about your private life as long as you don’t force people to reckon with it.

    Of course, not everyone marks private off from public the same way. I would like to be able to establish Atsushi publicly as the person who would speak for my interests if I were incapacitated and with whom I’ve formed a household. I personally have no interest in discussing my sex life with anyone. If people insist on imagining it, anyway, I don’t see how I can stop them; but I also feel no responsibility for preserving their complacencies by pretending not to be gay.

    That sort of balance has not been struck by gay activism in America, but even approaching it would be unthinkable in Japan at this point. Forced arranged marriages are now unconstitutional in Japan, but marriage is still much more a social and economic contract than a meeting of the minds, to an extent that I think would give even the most biological essentialist, far-right American pause. And despite the dramatic rise in the median marriage age for both sexes, you’re a weirdo if you’re not married by your mid-30’s.

    Still and all, there are benefits to Japan’s tradition-mindedness that I think a lot of gays in America have been too willing to cast off. The lack of gay ghettos means that it’s pretty much impossible to wall yourself into a queer-positive echo chamber and start seeing rank-and-file straight people as an enemy arrayed against you. It also means that very few people see their homosexuality as their entire identity, with anti-gayness blamed for every disappointment, setback, depressive episode, and failed relationship. You never hear Japanese gays getting into princessy snits about not being approved of or officially sanctioned exactly like straight people in every last finicking little detail. At ordinary gay bars, you meet brittle, desperate guys who are obviously using a constant stream of sex partners to avoid dealing with their issues much, much less frequently than you do here in the States. (Even here, they’re a minority, of course; their attention-whoring just makes them disproportionately noticeable. But the Japanese in general don’t put the burden of self-definition on sex to the point that we do in the US.)

    The bad side, obviously, is that it can be hard for people coming out to find resources, and that people have to keep their most meaningful relationships hidden. It’s not uncommon for employees at the stodgier companies to be informed that they will not be promoted up the usual management-track escalator until they marry and start producing future contributors to the Social Insurance kitty. So many guys use pseudonyms in their gay lives that I only know the real first and last names of, I’d say, my ten or so closest friends. Japan’s shame culture puts pressure on vulnerable gay kids as much as our guilt culture–there’s no finessing that, and it sucks–but most adults who have come out to themselves seem pretty content.

    So if you’re willing to make the available trade-offs, being gay in Japan doesn’t strike me as all that hard. (I guess I should point out that I live in what’s probably the most gay-friendly part of the whole country, the Shibuya-Shinjuku axis of western Tokyo, though I now live a little outside Shibuya, rather than in the shadow of the 109 Building the way I did until March. Anyway, the point is, I’m talking about urban gay life and not about the provinces, but I don’t think Japan is much different from other developed countries in those terms.) And if, like me, you’re a foreigner and not subject to the full litany of rules Japanese people are, it’s even easier. It’s just an additional weird thing that makes you a typical gaijin. But as I say, my Japanese friends themselves are mindful of the social rules, but I don’t get the sense that they live in fear.

    2 December 09:38 EST

    The rainbow ride will make its arc

    Posted by Sean at 23:50, November 30th, 2004

    Speaking of resignations that fail to make me cry: Gay Orbit reports that Cheryl Jacques is resigning as the head of the Human Rights Campaign, and contends that those who defend her record are misreading it. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that anyone’s considering Michael himself as her successor, since that first post of his is one of the most economical statements of how gay activists need to frame and enact their positions that I’ve read in ages. (He also mentions the tricky what-do-the-‘rents-get-the-boyfriend-for-Christmas problem. Last year, my parents hilariously solved it by getting us, jointly, an all-American Hickory Farms gift set. What made it hilarious was that they decided–I AM NOT making this up–on this one. As soon as I opened the box, I started guffawing so hard I couldn’t inhale, and when I finally calmed down, I was like, “Darling, I would say this is a symbolic gesture of approval, but I don’t think it was intended to have that much subtext.” We kept the little condiment knife as a memento. I value it more than my Wedgwood cups. Where was I?)

    My feeling is that the election will probably, in hindsight, prove to have activated quite a few gays who didn’t go much for politics before–just not in the way leftists have been hoping for. Loud-mouthed activists tend to get little more than eye-rolling from most gays who are just living open-but-unshowy live and don’t think the sky is constantly falling, which has allowed the recent record of intrusive public-school programs and marriage-or-bust campaigning to go relatively unopposed from within gay ranks. The 11 state marriage amendments that passed may, one can only hope, rouse a few quiet types to wonder just what that hell big gay organizations are pushing supposedly on their behalf. It’s a shame that it has to be that way–I’d prefer government intrusion in daily life to be limited to the point that thinking about it all the time was not necessary in order to be an informed and responsible citizen–but the way things work is the way things work. The big-guns organizations need to know that they’re being watched by constituencies beyond their usual urban groupies and yes-men.

    1 December 09:51 EST

    Don’t make me over

    Posted by Sean at 18:02, November 26th, 2004

    John Corvino, one of my favorite writers who post at IGF, has a terrific piece about the state of gay marriage advocacy after the election. It’s a very even-handed call for self-examination. The only reason it doesn’t hearten me more is that…well, it’s not the people at IGF who are the problem. They may not always be right–and I don’t think that, as a group, they were on the right side of the gay marriage argument–but the whole reason they’re part of that organization is that they stand for independent thought. A willingness to face up to cold, hard reality tends to be a natural corrective to untenable positions.

    The people I do worry about are the activist types (both lefty gays and their straight sympathizers) who may feel even more alienated from the center-right range of the electorate than before. They still seem to be kind of reeling, so where they’re ultimately going to land is anyone’s guess. But if marriage bans in 11 states are the point at which a critical number start seriously reassessing their approach, things could be prevented from getting too much worse.

    27 November 04:03 EST

    (Not) taking care of our own

    Posted by Sean at 14:43, November 18th, 2004

    Michael Demmons gives the HRC’s Cheryl Jacques a well-earned pummeling for that organization’s endorsement of Arlen Specter’s opponent in our recent Pennsylvania senate race. The pretense that supporting Joseph Hoeffel represented advocacy of the best interests of gays rather than Democratic party hackery was always tissue-thin, and the HRC’s obstinate failure to recognize that it did something stupid is embarrassing. At least the Log Cabin Republicans appear to be engaging in better-late-than-never self-criticism. Something Michael points out that is obviously meaningful to him (as it is to me from the other direction): Specter could support the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, which I think is probably not politically viable at the moment but is a good idea to be circulating as part of the general gay marriage/civil unions discussion.

    The circle will come around / You’re gonna put yourself / In my place

    Posted by Sean at 04:16, November 16th, 2004

    Mrs. du Toit asked a question in a comment the other day:

    [Jim McGreevey] cheated on his wife, committed fraud against the people he took an oath to protect and represent, lied about the lover because he was going to blow the whistle on him (making him the scapegoat for his fraud), and I’m supposed to be happy for the guy because he “came out”?

    The question was rhetorical, but a friend (who has to remain nameless) obligingly sent a message that constitutes a reply, anyway:

    The McGreevey mess illustrates classic tribalism at work. He is GAY, so he must be GOOD. The fact that he offends people (not necessarily because he’s gay) gives him that kewl countercultural cachet that is a must for an icon.

    Well, that’s not the only issue, at least for the gay press. Coming out–being a private decision that, when added to those of others, can have a cumulative public effect–is an ethically thorny subject. The attempt to understand why other gays live differently is laudable, but it often devolves into the making of ethical allowances the same commentator wouldn’t under other circumstances.

    It’s all very well to point out that the social changes of the last three decades were not in effect when men and women who are now around 50 and over were coming of age. Anyone who remembers how to subtract is aware of that. But an important component of personal liberty is self-criticism and self-awareness. It would be nice to see it also pointed out, occasionally, that gay liberation did not happen on some planet that guys like McGreevey haven’t traveled to.

    I don’t fault people who believe their homosexuality is sinful, and try not to act on it, for keeping it hidden. Nor do I think there’s anything wrong with being gay but thinking your sexuality is your own private business and not something you discuss. It’s safe to say, however, that people who think in those ways are not the ones who end up coming out in front of a press conference and expecting everyone to read it as bravery.

    And while I’m on the subject of coming-out-related lameness: another group that routinely drives me around the bend is the “I would come out to my parents if only…” crowd. These are not people who are on the fence about their sexuality. These are not people who have fathers who threatened to get out the shotgun if one of their sons turned out to be a faggot. These are not people who have mothers who are dying of cancer and can’t take any shocks. These are people who know they’re gay, who never have any intention of being anything but gay, and who take advantage of all the conveniences of urban gay life.

    Trust me–it’s not as if I were the type to ask whether and why someone isn’t out to his parents. It’s not any of my business. But if you’re going to volunteer that you’re still closeted and justify it with some face-saving rationalization, try to choose one that actually saves face for you. Hint: “See, my parents still give me some of the money I live on, and I’m afraid they’ll cut me off if they find out I’m gay” does not save face for you. My primarily straight readership may be interested to know that I hear that one constantly, from people around or even over my age, in complete expectation that I’ll be all understanding.

    Well, sorry. Just as being perpetually broke and living on your friends’ couches makes you charmingly raffish at 20 and a loser at 50–even though there’s no single point on the gradient in between when you clearly stop being one and start being the other–not coming out is perfectly understandable when you’ve only known you’re gay for a few years and ridiculous when you’ve known you’re gay for a decade. Once again, I’m not talking about those who treat their sexuality, consistently in word and deed, as a private matter. I’m talking about the ones who bitch about how our activists are handling the marriage issue, who complain about places where domestic partner benefits are lacking, and who expect friends to recognize their relationships. These are people who clearly think they should be out but also want to wait until it’s risk-free.

    “But,” I’m sometimes told, “it’s easy for you, because your parents are understanding.” Uh, yeah, and do you know how I found out my parents are understanding? By coming out at 23 and dealing with the consequences. I was actually close to 100% convinced that they’d disown me–not because they’re nasty but because they’re strictly religious, and I assumed they’d feel obliged not to countenance a way of life they thought was a sin. No longer getting them to supplement my grad school stipend was not the thing I was most worried about, but it did cross my mind. My plan if they withdrew their support, which I persist in thinking was rather clever, was to spend less money.*

    Getting back to the McGreevey case, it’s possible that his wife decided that, while their daughter needs her father around, she herself doesn’t want to be married to a man who isn’t bonded to her as she thought he was. It doesn’t strike me as the most likely of the possible scenarios, but it’s not unlikely, either. In any case, people who are initially sorry only about getting caught often do, if they have a conscience, learn to be genuinely remorseful about what they’ve done to themselves and those around them. (Screwing over an entire state of 10 million people is, of course, in a very special class of doings.) Putting McGreevey in a position of giving other people guidance seems to me not to be getting the order quite right, though.

    * I suppose a truly honest account here would include the information that I didn’t manage my credit cards so hot while I was in my mid-20’s, but I paid everything off in a few years and don’t carry any debt now besides a little left on my student loans.