Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More thoughts on that interview with outed California State Sen. Roy Ashburn

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"I have had the privilege of serving in elective office for 26 years and dealing with important legislation, and I did so with a huge secret and in many ways a career built upon lies and deceit."
-- Senator Ashburn, in the L.A. Times interview

by Ken
[from a dispatch carried on BakersfieldNow.com, "home of KBAK & KFFX Eyewitness News"]

Change of course: Roy Ashburn urges support for gay rights

By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
May 27, 2010

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Sen. Roy Ashburn spoke out passionately in favor of gay rights during a legislative session.

The Republican from Bakersfield was forced to reveal he is gay after a recent arrest for drunken driving.

On Thursday, he urged his fellow senators to "rise above discrimination" and support letting gays serve openly in the military.

Ashburn also weighed in on a bill designed to protect clergy who refuse to perform gay marriages.

"I am no longer willing or able to remain silent on issues that affect sexual orientation, the rights of individuals, and so I, um, I'm doing something that is quite different and foreign to me. And it's highly emotional," Ashburn told fellow senators.

Ashburn said he would not be speaking at all were it not for his drunken driving arrest in March after he left a gay-friendly nightclub near the state Capitol. . . .

My agenda for today was an update on the state of the "conventional wisdom" on anti-incumbent fever, but that will have to wait till tomorrow. (I wish we could always shove the conventional wisdom out of sight this easily.) All I really have in mind for today is a gut reaction to Howie's morning post -- specifically, the large chunk of interview he reproduced by the Los Angeles Times's Patt Morrison with recently self-outed California State Sen. Roy Ashburn, whose "life as a 'family values' politician all but ended months ago," Patt recalls --
in the early morning hours of March 3. He was arrested for DUI after he'd left a gay club, and soon thereafter acknowledged that he was gay. His DUI cost him his driver's license for a time and put him back on a bike, pedaling his life in an altogether new direction.

Howie has repeatedly recommended former Rep. Bob Bauman's post-traumatic book The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative, written after he'd come to grips with his ignominious self-outing, and the life of repression and denial that preceded it. I gather from Howie that Bauman achieved some real understanding of the way he'd screwed up a large chunk of his life, and hurt a lot of people who didn't deserve to be hurt, by pretending to be someone other than he was, and in pursuit of that pretense donning the guise of a rabidly homophobic political warrior.

I'm embarrassed to say that I've never actually read Bauman's book, but in the wake of the Ashburn interview, I've just ordered a copy. (You can find them dirt-cheap on amazon.com.) Because what I find so fascinating about the Ashburn interview is how little he can muster to say about his long period of what we might call professional homophobia. It's not that he's inarticulate, just barely articulate on this subject -- and understandably so, given that he's probably only just getting past the "my life as a train wreck" stage.

Listen again as Patt points out, after establishing Ashburn's fascination with politics from his earliest memories, that "you must have realized a public career was incompatible with being open about your sexual preferences":
Something happened that I guess caused me to realize that. When I was in sixth grade, the police had a raid in the sand dunes [near San Luis Obispo] and a bunch of gay men were arrested, probably charged with indecent activity. That sticks in my mind — the publicity and the shame around it. One of my teachers was one of the people. The talk among the kids, the talk among the adults, the talk in the community, the press — at that time the choice was pretty clear: If you were gay and open, it was a life of shame, ridicule, innuendo about molesting and perversion. It was a dark life. Given that choice of whether you come out or whether you're in secret, I mean, there really wasn't a choice.

And when he was elected to public office himself, "Were your sexual preferences in the back of your mind, or did you just go about your business?"
The answer is both yes and no. I was married and had children. And I had a career and a passion. I also had a huge secret. But given my circumstances and my responsibilities, it wasn't an overwhelming issue for me. The desires were always there, but my focus was primarily on — well, pretty selfishly — on me and my career and my family.

Now Ashburn is set up for the crucial subject of his horrible record on every subject relating to the normal rights of gay people as citizens.
The best I can do is to say that I was hiding. I was so in terror I could not allow any attention to come my way. So any measure that had to do with the subject of sexual orientation was an automatic "no" vote. I was paralyzed by this fear, and so I voted without even looking at the content. The purpose of government is to protect the rights of people under the law, regardless of our skin color, national origin, our height, our weight, our sexual orientation. This is a nation predicated on the belief that there is no discrimination on those characteristics, and so my vote denied people equal treatment, and I'm truly sorry for that.

What a way to live! Is it possible not to feel empathy for how hard it must have been? It doesn't excuse his professional homophobia, but now that he's come out the other side, it's hard not to wish him well. Not only is he dealing honestly, finally, with who he is, but he says he's dealing with his alcohol-abuse problem, which you have to figure is not unrelated.
I'm just trying to tell the truth from the reality of the life I've lived, which has been an amazing life. I have had the privilege of serving in elective office for 26 years and dealing with important legislation, and I did so with a huge secret and in many ways a career built upon lies and deceit. Now that the truth is known, actually I am comfortable talking about these things.


As I've said repeatedly, it seems to me that the dramatic shift in public attitudes toward LGBT folk has been largely attributable to the growing awareness of straight folk that they actually know representatives of the once-exotic "other." They're coworkers, friends, and family members, and once you know them as actual people, as opposed to the grotesque caricatures fobbed off by the masters of social orthodoxy, it turns out that they're people just like any other people -- some good, some bad, most somewhere in between, just like everybody else.

It has to be scary as well as deeply shameful for not just closeted by positively bunkered guys like Bob Bauman and Roy Ashburn to accept that ill-informed, malignant characterization of "the other" and applying it to themselves. This of course is the "internalized homophobia" that every LGBT person has to cope with -- and let me say once again (as I did most recently in a post called "Maybe it's not that mysterious why the upper ranks of the GOP and the Far Right are overflowing with homophobic closet cases") that for me nobody has made this more understandable than Mike Signorile, whose "Case for Outing on All Levels," in the June Advocate, Howie cited again this morning.

I'm thrilled in dealing with younger gay men to note how dramatically lower the internalized-homophobia quotient has become. The less of it there is to overcome, the better shot the victim has of getting beyond it. And that manufactured shame doesn't do anyone any good, except for primarily religion-peddling creeps who exploit homophobia for their personal advantage.

To return to that May 27 AP piece, reporter Don Thompson notes:
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Sen. Roy Ashburn spoke out passionately in favor of gay rights during a legislative session.

The Republican from Bakersfield was forced to reveal he is gay after a recent arrest for drunken driving.

On Thursday, he urged his fellow senators to "rise above discrimination" and support letting gays serve openly in the military.

Ashburn also weighed in on a bill designed to protect clergy who refuse to perform gay marriages.

"I am no longer willing or able to remain silent on issues that affect sexual orientation, the rights of individuals, and so I, um, I'm doing something that is quite different and foreign to me. And it's highly emotional," Ashburn told fellow senators.

Ashburn said he would not be speaking at all were it not for his drunken driving arrest in March after he left a gay-friendly nightclub near the state Capitol.

Earlier on, Thompson reported:
"Does anyone really believe that a person's sexual orientation affects their ability to serve our nation and protect our freedom?" he said, supporting a resolution urging Congress to change the military's policy on gays.

"The answer is that being gay or straight has nothing to do with ability, devotion, courage, honor, skill and loyalty, the characteristics that I think we would all agree are desirable and necessary for those who serve in our national military," Ashburn said. "The current policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' is clearly out of date and discriminatory."

He cited conservative icon Barry Goldwater's view that government should stay out of people's private lives.

"It calls upon our nation's best instincts and seeks to correct a basic discrimination that is hurtful to people and to our country," he said of SJR9, the resolution by Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, who is openly gay. "I respectfully ask that we rise above discrimination and vote aye on this resolution."

In this context it's good to hear the last words of Ashburn's quoted by the L.A. Times's Patt Morrison:

"I don't know that I've ever felt more optimistic about the future for myself. I don't know what the future holds, but I think it's going to be incredible."
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3 Comments:

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous me said...

I cannot contain my contempt for assholes like this guy. A decades-long career screwing everything up with conservative politics AND trying desperately to ruin other people's lives. And now he wants to "change"! What a sick, sick joke.

There is no shadow of a doubt that he changed only because he got outed, and if he hadn't been, he'd be as anti-human as he always was.

When he was straight, he was against gay rights. Now that he's gay, he's for them. All he cares about is me, me, ME! It's all about him.

What a disgusting little prick! Fuck him and the horse he rode in on. He absolutely does NOT deserve or belong in any lawmaking capacity.

You ask whether it's possible not to feel empathy for him. Well, I don't. He's a selfish phony through and through, and always has been. He can spend the rest of his life trying to atone for his sins (but he will no doubt actually spend it promoting his weaselly self), and it won't come close to repairing the damage he caused.

 
At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Bil said...

I agree me, AND I remain conflicted about the rah rah attempts to out people. I certainly AGREE that Ashburn is scum based on his voting hypocrisy, and seriously hope that his career is over regardless of how righteously he now votes as an outed gay man.

 
At 1:00 PM, Blogger dj lindsay said...

Hi, please take time to read my post on the football v homophobia day and pass on for all,thanks Lindsay.
http://justaballgame.blogspot.com/2011/01/football-v-homophobia-2011-events.html

 

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