Senator Larry E. Craig (R-ID) is guilty of being a hypocrite. There is little doubt in my mind that the man has been picking up men in public restrooms for quite a while. Rumors have swirled around the conservative senator from Idaho for years. “The Idaho Statesman” has been painstakingly researching the veracity of allegations made by gay blogger Mike Rogers before the 2006 midterm elections.
In an interview on May 14, a full month before the Senator was arrested, Craig told “The Idaho Statesman” he’d never engaged in sex with a man or solicited sex with a man. The Craig interview was the culmination of a Statesman investigation that began after Rogers accused Craig of homosexual sex in October. Over five months, the Statesman examined rumors about Craig dating to his college days and his 1982 pre-emptive denial that he had sex with underage congressional pages.
The most serious finding by the Statesman was the report by a professional man with close ties to Republican officials. The 40-year-old man reported having oral sex with Craig at Washington’s Union Station, probably in 2004. The Statesman also spoke with a man who said Craig made a sexual advance toward him at the University of Idaho in 1967 and a man who said Craig “cruised” him for sex in 1994 at the REI store in Boise. The Statesman also explored dozens of allegations that proved untrue, unclear or unverifiable.
Senator Craig’s sexuality would normally be none of my business if it involves two consenting adults. It isn’t my place to peek through the bedroom windows (or in this case under the bathroom stall) of elected officials- if they do their job then I do not care. But when that elected official is deceitfully engaging in a behavior that he is publicly vilifying than his private sex life does become my business. It is completely unconscionable to me that a man who is having gay sex (whether or not he defines himself as gay doesn’t really matter) would support a Constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage AND civil unions. Obviously the man has some deep seated issues- and is a self loathing man with severe internalized homophobia. Whether or not he wants to address those issues with a therapist is up to him- but when his personal self loathing plays out on the stage of politics and policy that is just clearly unacceptable.
I am not someone who is a fan out “outing” people, but when hypocrisy enters the picture- they must be held accountable.
The problem for me is that while I believe that Senator Craig is a self-loathing latent homosexual who clearly hates himself and spills out his self loathing in the public square, I don’t think the man did something for which he should have been arrested. As a gay man – I am very familiar with tea rooms (for those of you who do not have a gay lexicon handy, a tea room is a men’s room where gay men go to pick up other gay men).
Cruising “tea rooms” was common in the days before gay men had other places to go. There were particular men’s rooms that were “notorious” meeting places for gay men (I guess they still exist). Cruising these places was not about picking up straight men or boys- just a place to “hook up” with other gay men. The word got out about which men’s rooms were “active”. Often police knew which ones were active and had sting operations- not unlike the one that got Senator.
There’s an entire ritual or etiquette to picking someone up in a tea room- and foot tapping is in fact part of that etiquette. To be clear – the reason for all of this signaling is to ensure that the party you are cruising is in fact there for the same thing and is also interested. You tap- he taps back… its non verbal communication that says – “yup, I think we are here for the same thing”. But usually this is just the beginning of all the signaling before you actually connect. It’s really all designed about making sure you aren’t trying to connect with someone who isn’t interested.
As much as I would like to see this hypocrite squirm, I honestly don’t think he should have been arrested. If all he did was “signal” that really isn’t something that is an offense that merits arrest. I believe he was cruising- but I don’t think he should have been arrested for this offense. His guilty plea tells me that he was terrified that his life would be outed.
I have known a number of men who cruised tea rooms (heck I did too when I was coming out in my late teens and was terrified of the idea of a gay bar) and they were not there to do anything harmful and they were not interested in engaging in activity with disinterested parties; yet a number of these men were arrested by police stings that entrapped them for behavior that was not in fact illegal but was perceived to have a motive that may be more prurient. It is patently wrong for these men to be arrested for foot tapping or any behavior that the police deem to be moving in the direction of a “public nuisance” infraction. I am long past the age and the fear of being outed as gay to even remotely be interested in a tea room, but if I was sitting in a bathroom stall listening to my iPod and tapping my foot to the beat of the music- could I be arrested? For that matter could any of us be arrested for that? It is absolutely ludicrous.
So yes, Senator Craig’s behavior should be outed because he has projected his internalized homophobia into public policy positions. But Senator Craig never should have been arrested for making gestures that the police deemed suspect.
Folks- there have been more than 100,000 people murdered in this country since September 11, 2001. Don’t the police have anything better to do?