Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Only An Idiot-- Like Our Mass Media-- Would Compare Eric Massa To Mark Foley... Now Sen. Roy Ashburn Is Something Else


When I was really young, like maybe 11 or 12, my mom must have sensed I was gay. I hadn't thought about it myself... didn't even know what it was, although I did feel some kind of undefined attraction for some of the older guys in the neighborhood (older meaning 16 or 17). Anyway, she told me she wanted me to meet someone and to hang around because he was coming over before dinner. It was her hairdresser, a guy with two first names, one of which was Michelle (or at least whatever it was was pronounced "Michelle," like in Bachmann). So Michelle is a walking, breathing stereotype. I can still recall the fluffy pink mohair sweater, the screamingly dyed blonde hair in a style that didn't look like anything any man I had ever noticed had. And his wrist was the limpest wrist I had ever seen. Maybe he was just putting it on thick for me. But it worked. Although I had a couple of discreet "experiments" while I was a teenager, I stuck with girls; I forced myself to, without even making a conscious decision. I knew I wasn't like Michelle; that's all.

I read Hubert Selby's then brand new 1964 now-classic Last Exit To Brooklyn and realized there are gay people in Brooklyn, although it was a painful revelation. Wikipedia synopsizes two of the 6 parts:
The Queen Is Dead: Georgette, a transvestite hooker, is thrown out of the family home by her brother and tries to attract the attention of a hoodlum named Vinnie at a benzedrine-driven party. [And, yes, I'm certain that's where Morrissey got his song title.]

Strike: Harry, a machinist in a factory, becomes a local official in the union. A closeted homosexual, he abuses his wife and gets in fights to convince himself that he is a man. He gains a temporary status and importance during a long strike, and uses the union's money to entertain the young street punks and buy the company of drag queens.

That kept me in the closet for another few years. It really all seemed so furtive and ugly and sad back then. The experiences I had-- as a hitchhiker going back and forth from Brooklyn to Manhattan-- weren't very satisfying. Girls were way better. But... something wasn't right and sometimes I got this unconscious feeling. By the time I was in college drugs were an integral part of my life-- and in a very big way. They do wonders for inhibitions... as well as for denial. I had sex with a guy who I really liked but when my girlfriend found out and demanded I make a choice, I picked her and quickly "forgot" I had ever even had sex with a guy, even though, in the depths of my consciousness I knew that that was exactly the right thing for me.

I had a big transitionary stage after graduation when I was celibate for years, traveling around Asia looking for myself. I found me... in Amsterdam (of all places) and when I went to a psychologist and told him I suspected I might be gay he was waiting for the punchline. Finally he asked me if I had come to see him to get addresses of places where I could meet other gay guys. I took that as a professional blessing-- and I didn't need any addresses because I lived directly across the street from the Vondel Park.

I started making up for lost time with a vengeance. But the closet had scarred me and it took another year before I was able to tell my family (back in America) and my old friends. I was lucky. My mother's reaction, after trying a little denial for a few moments, was "Does this mean you want to start wearing my wigs?" I didn't and there was never a bump, not even the tiniest one. No one ever considered inviting me to anything without my boyfriend or didn't accord him the same love and respect and acceptance they had always given girlfriends I brought home.

I was very lucky. Not every gay person is. Ex-Congressman Bob Bauman's wife, like him a devout Catholic and, also like him, devouter conservative, was-- again, like him-- a founder of the Young Americans For Freedom, had their marriage annulled when he was outed. He wrote the best book I ever read on the topic of a closeted conservative politician coming to grips with himself, The Gentleman From Maryland-- The Conscience Of A Gay Conservative. It should be a must-read for every closeted politician who winds up running for office. The blurb from Publishers Weekly:
Claiming that financial need compelled him to publish this "near-perfect Greek tragedy" of a life "flawed by a great weakness," ex-Congressman Bauman reveals with relentless candor the alcoholic and homosexual behavior that led to the ruin of his political career and marriage. His story is engrossing both on a personal level and as an expose of Washington's gay scene to which, he maintains, belong government, professional and corporate leaders of all political casts. While admitting his guilt, Bauman alleges that his indictment for sexual solicitation and attendant activities, based on evidence from paid FBI informants, was politically motivated by the Carter administration, "Tip" O'Neill and by a Maryland senator who considered him a potential rival. Now practicing law, Bauman still suffers from rejection of his professional talents and from social prejudice, he stresses, and, as a Roman Catholic, finds little comfort in his religion's ambivalent stance toward homosexuality.

Bakersfield state Senator Roy Ashburn, vicious homophobic Republican sociopath by day, bar trawler by night, should have read it long ago. It might have saved him a lot of misery. Outed last week when he was pulled over, drunk, with a young male he had picked up in a Sacramento bar, he actually went on a big Bakersfield radio station and told his constituents "I am gay." No shit, Sherlock! On personal leave since his arrest early Wednesday morning and avoiding the press, he figured he couldn't deny it any longer.
The arrest touched off rampant speculation about his sexuality after a Sacramento television station reported he had been at a gay nightclub in Sacramento just before he was pulled over by California Highway Patrol officers. But Ashburn had declined to comment.

He broke his silence in an interview on Bakersfield radio station KERN (1180 AM) with talk-show host Inga Barks on Monday morning, saying the incident had led to "restless nights" and "soul searching." Ashburn said he had "brought this on myself." When he told Barks he owed his constituents an explanation, she responded, "Do you want me to ask you … the question, or do you want to just tell people?"

"I am gay,'' Ashburn answered, "and so I … those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long. But I am gay. But it is something that is personal and …. I felt with my heart that being gay didn't affect-- wouldn't affect-- how I did my job." He did not express any resentment that his sexuality had come under scrutiny, saying, "Through my own actions, I made my personal life public."

The episode, widely discussed on Internet blogs, in newspapers and on TV, spurred charges of hypocrisy against the senator from gay-rights activists who noted that Ashburn, a divorced father of four, had voted several times against legislation favoring gays and lesbians.

On Sept. 1, 2005, Ashburn voted against a bill that would have allowed same-sex marriages in California. The bill was later vetoed by the governor. Ashburn also was among the minority in voting against legislation last year that designated May 22 of each year as Harvey Milk Day.

"It is unfortunate he helped spread the bigotry that forced him to stay in the closet," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a group supporting gay marriage. "We hope he now takes this opportunity to educate people in his district and throughout the state that his sexual orientation is irrelevant.''

Ashburn defended his votes against gay-rights legislation, saying he was reflecting how the voters in his district felt.

Listen to the whole interview with a right-wing radio host Part I:

Part II, in which he shows he doesn't understand what it means to be a self-loathing Republican homosexual:

Now, what about Eric Massa? I know Eric for a long time-- and I don't know. He told me last week that he expected to get slandered, although he was expecting to get slandered by Republicans. He was very specific about that. He said they were out to get him because he was fighting for ending DADT. Today he's going on the Glenn Beck show to denounce the Democrats for screwing him up instead! (Apparently many of his new allies don't trust him or realize that he's mentally unstable now, adding to the personal tragedy of this guy.) I think he's in a great deal of pain and overwhelmed by a sense of desperation in regard to his crumbling life. All I can say is that I'm going to pray for him (rather than for Ashburn; I'm not that pure of heart at this point on my evolutionary journey). Oh-- and I'm going to continue to work towards eliminating the strictures that closets confine people in. Politically speaking, I could use some help on that one.


Hoyer, as expected, called Massa's wild charges absurd but the big news-- just as Glenn Beck is about to start his exploitation session with a dangerously sick man-- and who better than Glenn Beck?-- the Washington Post reports an even worse assessment than anyone expected.
Former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) has been under investigation for allegations that he groped multiple male staffers working in his office, according to three sources familiar with the probe.

The allegations surrounding the former lawmaker date back at least a year, and involve "a pattern of behavior and physical harassment," according to one source. The new claims of alleged groping contradict statements by Massa, who resigned his office on Monday after it became public that he was the subject of a House ethics committee investigation for possible harassment.

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At 8:01 AM, Blogger Doug Kahn said...

I like this. I hope a lot of people read it. We all need to think carefully about human rights, and hearing you talk about your life is extremely helpful. Thanks.

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Montana said...

“Family Values” California state senator representing Kern County, Republican Roy Ashburn (guess how he votes on gay issues?), goes to a gay bar near the Capital, picks up a scantily clad buddy, gets drunk, drives and receives a DUI. In my opinion the Republican Party has been taken over small portions of the republican party of “birthers, baggers and blowhards” (people who love to push their beliefs on others while trying to take away rights of those they just hate) and that’s who they need to extract from their party if they real want to win. Good Luck, because as they said in WACO, “We Ain’t Coming Out”. They are good at “Follow the Leader”. They listen to their dullard leaders Beck, Hedgecock, Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush and Savage and the rest of the Blowhards. The world is complicated and most republicans (Hamiliton, Lincoln, Roosevelt) believe that we should use government a little to increase social mobility, now its about dancing around the claim that government is the problem. The sainted Reagan passed the biggest tax increase in American history and as a result federal employment increased, but facts are lost when mired in mysticism and superstition. Although most republicans are trying to distant themselves from this fringe they have a long way to go. I guess Ashburn is the first on the list “2010 Republican Summer of Love”. Remember last year list of “2009 Republican Summer of Love”: state assemblyman, Michael D. Duvall (CA), Senator John Ensign (NV), Senator Paul Stanley (TN), Governor Mark Stanford (SC), SC Board of Ed Chair, Kristin Maguire (AKA Bridget Keeney). Do I hear Tammy Wynette, “Stand By Your Man” playing in the background? I remember not so long ago that other Orange County song favorite, “Stand By Your Tan” (for Tan Nguyen). But that’s another Orange County fool.

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Lee said...


Best fucking blog post I ever read about coming out. I'm Jewish and got great visuals of you Mom bringing home the faigelah. And PLEASE go rent Taking Woodstock.My therapist tells her non Jewish therapist colleagues that they should watch it to understand Jewish families. I won't give plot lines away but it has a lot to do with your post.

Quite honestly I don't know what to think about the whole Eric Massa mess except my heart goes out to him.

At 8:27 AM, Blogger aimai said...

This is a truly beautiful blog post. My heart goes out to Eric Massa--and to his family, who have been paying the price for his double life for a long time. I'm really sympathetic to Mr. Massa's dilemma. When he was young, it was difficult if not impossible to come out *as long as you wanted the priviliges of straight, white, male life* and you didn't mind lying to a woman, and your children, and everyone around you in order to facilitate that life. Its totally understandable, and its very sad. But as he's aged, the world around him has changed. It would have been possible, in the last few years, for him to come out and deal with his demons. He couldn't find the way--and again, I'm really sympathetic--and the end result is an implosion.

Let's hope that as we all push for full civil rights for everyone the next generation of Eric Massas won't need to start out lying to themselves, and everyone around them. But lets not have any doubts that plenty of gay people, like Ashburn, will still be conservatives and still vote to repress and attack lots of other people--even if they openly declare their own sexuality and try to have it both ways. As long as fear of "the gay" is a constituent part of base building for the right wing there will always be men and women who are willing to sell it.


At 3:21 PM, Blogger Statistikhengst said...

OH, the Massa thing is just plain old bizarre. His behaviour is extremely bizarre, though I must admit it was amusing watching the right bend down to lick his shoes for one day, thinking they could really shove it down the DEMS throats.

Massa, like most males on the planet, is probably bi and has no idea how to cope with it.

And Ashburn only jumped out of the closet because he had no other choice.


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