For almost my entire adult life, I've been openly gay. Why? It was too humiliating and psychologically destructive to lie. I don't think of this as a virtue, really. In some ways, I think it was my pride that forced me to be honest with myself and others; and a deep sense that obviously this was how God made me, and it behooved me to deal with it forthrightly. It was alo fueled by a conviction, as the 1980s darkened for so many gay men, that I had an actual responsibility to be out, and to advance the dignity of so many fighting literally for their lives. It was like being black in the 1950s. My own HIV diagnosis convinced me to fight harder, because I truly believed it might not be for much longer. And in those years and beyond, others chose to sit it out, to run for cover, even to distance themselves from who they were and from their fellows who so desperately needed their help.
Maybe we should feel anger at these people. I don't. I feel sadness. Sadness at the compromises they made and the misery they fueled for themselves. In so far as someone like Jim McGreevey has, for whatever reason, overcome his shame, then I have no interest in judging him. I feel glad he has found some happiness at last, despite his past corruption, human flaws and past opposition to marriage equality. We are all human, and my own life has its own share of emotional and sexual mistakes. Equally, the news about Mark Foley has a kind of grim inevitability to it. I don't know Foley, although, like any other gay man in D.C., I was told he was gay, closeted, afraid and therefore also screwed up. What the closet does to people - the hypocrisies it fosters, the pathologies it breeds - is brutal. There are many still-closeted gay men in D.C., many of them working for a Republican party that has sadly deeply hostile to gay dignity. How they live with themselves I do not fully understand. But I have learned you cannot judge someone's soul from outside. That I leave to them and their God, and some I count as good friends and good people.
What I do know is that the closet corrupts. The lies it requires and the compartmentalization it demands can lead people to places they never truly wanted to go, and for which they have to take ultimate responsibility. From what I've read, Foley is another example of this destructive and self-destructive pattern for which the only cure is courage and honesty. While gays were fighting for thir basic equality, Foley voted for the "Defense of Marriage Act". If his resignation means the end of the closet for him, and if there is no more to this than we now know, then it may even be for the good. Better to find integrity and lose a Congressional seat than never live with integrity at all.
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