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Sean William Scott

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Monday, September 18, 2006

How To Make A Gay Role Model 

Step One: Find a gay man whose name has been in the news.

Step Two: Completely ignore the reasons why his name was in the news.

To pay any attention to the news lately, you might be forgiven in thinking that there are only three gay men in America: Lance Bass, Reichen Lehmkuhl and James McGreevey. The celebrity status of Bass and Lehmkuhl isn't terribly surprising, not for the entertainment media that made Paris Hilton a house-hold name. They're young(ish) and fairly attractive (in decent lighting), and even though one's a washed up boy band member and the other was on a reality show once, it doesn't really matter much that their careers now mostly consist of going to very public places so that people can take pictures of them to prove that they love each other very, very much. And hey, they at least make for a more convincing couple than Tom and Katie. I'm not sure that being young, famous and gay is enough to merit an award from the Human Rights Campaign. And I don't even really begrudge the political expediency of their media campaign if all it accomplishes in the end is helping normalize the image of two men showing physical affection for one another in a romantic way, not in light of a culture that feels it's acceptable for airlines to tell gay passengers that if they touch one another they're going to turn the plane around and send them back to where they came from. So, while I might personally think Klaus Wowereit is more newsworthy, I understand the realities of American media.

But McGreevey...McGreevey, I suspect, is one of those cases where gay people are so desperate to have some kind of public figure to promote that they're too willing to overlook the seedier reality of the situation. To recap: McGreevey is the former New Jersey governor who came out of the closet after it became apparent that he appointed his (alleged) lover to a post he was unqualified for. This was during McGreevey's second marriage. Rumors have also suggested that the true motivation for McGreevey's self outing was not a sudden flash of guilt for lying to his wife and the public, or an inability to lead a double life anymore, but a desire to avoid being blackmailed. Is this worthy of being annoited by Oprah as a gay spokesperson? Especially when the "other man" in the story insists that it was sexual harassment, not true love.

Navigating these contradictory narratives is tricky. Is McGreevey a sexual predator? Is he a corrupt politician who traded influence for sex? Or is he an innocent victimized by an unscrupulous rentboy con-man? Or is he a little bit of each? He certainly has shown poor judgment in his choice of sexual partners, if his tales of tearoom tricking are to be believed. And the corruption evident in giving his (alleged) sexual partner jobs he was unqualified for alone should be cause to keep him out of any elected office. But in this day and age I have precious little sympathy for men who choose to remain in the closet, especially when they're married, with children, and having anonymous sex with strangers in restrooms and trading jobs for blow-jobs, so his "poor me, I was consumed with shame and confusion over my desires" sob story holds no water with me. That the mainstream rhetoric over his outing and new publicity tour for his book has focused on his "bravery," I'm particularly leery of the gay community's relative lack of real critical thought on McGreevey. Most gay news sites seem to be content to just let the mainstream news sources appoint McGreevey as the new face of coming out. The new face of gay America.

God help me, I think I'd prefer Lance and Reichen.


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