This week, we learned that virulently anti-gay Puerto Rican Senator Robert Arango was on a diet.
Like any straight man wanting to show off his sculpted new body, he posted pictures of his anus on the gay men’s cruising software Grindr. Last week, a homophobic Indiana lawmaker, Rep. Phillip Hinkle (R), answered a Craig’s List ad for an $80 male prostitute looking for a Sugar Daddy. After he was exposed by the escort, Hinkle said that he isn’t gay and declared “I don’t know what was going through my mind.” And, of course, we all know about Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) who sought sex in a Minneapolis airport men’s room by tapping his foot.
These tawdry tales of deception and deceit are tailor-made for the tabloids. They provide vindication for the LGBT community and punish villains who deserve their fate. However, it is time to look beyond the headlines and have the psychiatric community examine the heads of closet cases that inflict enormous damage on their own people. These disgusting betrayals are much greater than hypocrisy. They represent full-fledged pathology that has devastating consequences for the LGBT community.
To protect their “dirty” secret, these scoundrels are inciting persecution and passing discriminatory laws that lead to many forms of suicide: career, social, financial, emotional, spiritual, and actual. Gay couples with limited rights must pay higher taxes and hire expensive lawyers to draw up contracts. These couples must also endure the emotionally devastating prospect of not having hospital visitation rights when emergencies strike. Careers are irreversibly harmed when homosexuals hit glass ceilings or they are fired in states that offer no legal protections. And, we lose young people every day who hear homophobic rhetoric coming from closeted politicians or those influenced by them.
Enough is enough.
Society needs to stop being squeamish and treating these vulgar events as personal tragedies or sordid anomalies. Such phenomenon are neither episodic nor mere coincidence, but part of a pervasive pattern that strongly suggests that the most rabid homophobes are usually gay. Indeed, solid research backs up this hypothesis: In 1986, a University of Georgia study by Dr. Henry Adams proved that men who are most outspokenly anti-gay were the ones most likely to be turned on by gay porn.
Given the research and empirical evidence, activist and sex columnist Dan Savage is on the money when he asks: “Have we reached a tipping point yet? Shouldn’t homophobic politicians and anti-gay bullies be presumed to be gay until they get caught up in a straight sex scandal?”
My opinion is not mere speculation, but comes from my own behavior while living in the closet. During my freshman year in high school, I confronted a fellow student in my debate class with an anti-gay epithet. He looked me in the eyes and presciently replied, “Those who call other people fags are usually the real homosexuals.”
A similar situation happened in Puerto Rico when Sen. Arango once gay-baited a political opponent and even used a rubber duck to convey that this man was gay. (Apparently, the word for duck is an anti-gay slur in Puerto Rico) The difference was that I was 13 and trying to grapple with my sexual orientation and Arango never grew up and progressed to passing anti-gay laws.
The teenage homophobia that I employed took two distinct forms. The first was deflecting suspicion by laughing at anti-gay jokes. The second was actually telling the jokes to gauge my social group’s reaction, hoping I could find someone who was also a closeted homosexual. The ideal situation for such individuals is to find fellow closet cases that create safe conditions to maintain the heterosexual façade while enjoying the sexual benefits of someone who is open and honest about their sexual orientation.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that the majority of people with anti-gay attitudes are actually gay. Most hostility still comes from heterosexuals brought up in families where religion-based bigotry is preached. But, I strongly believe that those who are most visibly animated and unusually motivated by homosexuality probably have a strong desire to enter that arena. If every anti-gay activist and politician came out today it would not end opposition to LGBT equality, but it would take the heart out of this insidious movement.
We have to stop laughing (not completely) at these sex scandals and start learning more about the psychological dynamics that drive closet cases into conservative politics and anti-gay activism. It is an underdeveloped field of study that deserves scholarly attention from the top research institutions and universities in America.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”