What if in proclaiming “I am not gay!” Senator Larry Craig had added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” ??? I’ve gathered that Senator Craig is not a very jocular guy, so this probably didn’t occur to him. I just have the feeling that more people might have cut him some slack if they knew he watched “Seinfeld.”
If you think you’ve had enough of the Senator Craig (R Idaho) scandal, please hang in there with me because I believe this incident has the potential to be a watershed.
If you’re a regular watcher of Oprah, you may have heard of the “down low.” This phenomenon was a huge revelation to me, and most everyone I talk with.
Apparently there always has been a subculture of men who lead a heterosexual life, believe themselves to be straight, but occasionally crave anonymous sex with other men. They even eschew the label of bisexual. In their world, they are straight men who engage in the “down low” behavior, but don’t think they should be defined by it.
So, can you see that Senator Craig doesn’t see a contradiction here if that truly is his thing? As a devoted family man and dedicated public servant who doesn’t consider himself gay, I’m guessing he could pass a lie detector test about his sexual preference.
As I’ve watched all the discussion about it on television, I’ve wondered why this hasn’t come up. The underpinnings of it have been wholly overshadowed by the political implications. This makes me very sad, because there is an opportunity here for some important dialog.
Science and our attitudes progress by disproving yesterday’s truths. We baby boomers watched the world change before our eyes, and as we left the 50’s land of “Leave it To Beaver,” we carried with us reality checks and cultural change to match our needs. We demanded college campuses that weren’t pedantic and structured. We de-marginalized divorce, shined light into the closet as we came out, and changed “shacking up” into the much more accepted art of “living together.”
To now live out our free-thinking, change-the-world legacy, we boomers will be continually challenged to keep our minds open. While most of us have gay co-workers or loved ones, this “down low” concept stretches our tolerance muscles in new ways.
As a young feminist in the 70’s, I didn’t foresee that in my older years I would attend gay marriages, know cross-dressers and transgenders, and cry with a dear friend who tried to explain to me that there was no place for him to go for help for the proclivity that had put him behind bars.
I believe that I am just a fairly normal middle class woman from Middle America. I’ve never moved in any fringe circles, and yet all of these things have crossed my path. My definition of normal – or maybe a better word would be acceptable – just seems to always be evolving.
The compassionate me grieves for the Idaho Senator and his loved ones. That same me grieves for the victims of sexual preference discrimination and hate crimes who never got his vote. I grieve also for the men who risk everything they hold dear by acting out a side of themselves that involves breaking the law. They too are someone’s co-worker, neighbor, trusted friend or loved one.
As horrific as the Larry Craig scandal has been, I see the silver lining in the huge national forum it has created for something that begs to be understood. The first step is dialog. I hope this essay in its small way can do its part.
Perhaps the next step is understanding that possibly, if given the chance, the men of the “down low” would prefer an authentic life spent out of the darkness of shame and the lonely places they are forced to gather.
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