Column: Gay Envy

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H. L. Mencken once wrote that puritanism is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” The idea that bigots hate those who might be having a good time comes to mind whenever the likes of Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association or Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council make a stupid or hateful comment about the LGBT community or our allies.

Some attribute these men’s enduring homophobia to their own suppressed homosexuality. (This is especially true of Mr. LaBarbera.) This is no more than conjecture; and I have no reason to doubt the heterosexuality of LaBarbera, Barber, Fischer or Perkins (among others). However, like other puritans, these religious crackpots seem obsessed with the idea that lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and trans people are getting more than we deserve, in spite of their determined belief that LGBT people are “unhappy.”

Though there are many reasons why one might be homo- bi- or transphobic, envy of LGBT people is certainly one of them. According to Gregory M. Herek of the University of California at Davis, “heterosexual men may envy gay men because the latter are not constrained by the masculine ideal. Heterosexuals may also envy the sexual freedom presumably enjoyed by lesbians and gay men. In either case, the envy is presumably translated unconsciously into hostility.”

In layperson’s terms, many straight men hate gay or bisexual men because we score more often than they do. But rather than admit that they wish they could be like us, they condemn us as sex-driven, promiscuous libertines: sex fiends who copulate anywhere and anytime, and without consideration for our own health or the morals of humanity.

Now I don’t presume to speculate about the sex lives of leading homophobes. But whatever their personal lives might be, these religious crackpots are obviously obsessed with queer people’s sex lives. In their fantasies, gay or bisexual male teachers are out to seduce innocent boys and trans women are really straight men in drag who use their “transition” as an excuse to sneak into women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.

One of the most memorable incidents of homophobic insanity involved Jim Naugle, who was Mayor of the City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida from 1991 to 2009. (I have a lot of Jim Naugle stories on file, but one will suffice.) Though La-Di-Da’s LGBT community was as dynamic then as it is now, it did not stop Hizzoner from expressing his deeply-held bigotry. Just before Naugle left office his City proposed to place a robotic toilet at the “gay beach” on the corner of A1A and Sebastian Street. A toilet that automatically opens its door after a certain time appealed to the Mayor, though not for efficiency’s sake. The way that Naugle saw it, a robotic toilet would put a stop to gay tearoom sex, which he presumed happened all the time. Gay men, Naugle proclaimed, are “engaging in sex, anonymous sex, illegal sex” in toilets.

“We’re trying to provide a family environment where people can take their children who need to use the bathroom without having to worry about a couple of men in there engaged in a sex act,” he added, noting that he received “numerous calls of complaints from concerned citizens.”

Mayor Naugle was a pain in our collective butts; and I am glad that he finally retired from a job that he held for too long. For all his faults, the current Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler would never make stupid comments like that. On the other hand, LaBarbera and Barber and Fischer and Perkins are still around; and their regular comments make even the craziest Naugle remarks seem almost sane. To these men, being gay is all about sex, sex, SEX!

Though they never say it, it wouldn’t surprise me if they think that LGBT doctors, lawyers or Realtors spend their working days screwing their clients (in the literal sense of the word); or that LGBT-friendly synagogues and churches exist primarily as pickup joints. Alas, our lives are not always as exciting as our critics think they are. But they are certainly more interesting and fulfilling than theirs.

I have been openly gay for all of my adult life and, while I’ve had my ups and downs, they had nothing to do with my sexual orientation. In fact, I think being gay enriched my life; opening it to new varieties and opportunities that I would never have experienced if I was heterosexual. In fact, if I was straight, my life would probably be as boring as our enemies’ are. No wonder they keep attacking us.


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