California state Sen. Roy Ashburn, a Repugnican, top, and U.S. Rep. Eric Massa of New York, a Democrat, are the latest prominent politicians embroiled in political same-sex sex scandals. Ashburn has maintained that his sexual orientation is irrelevant, even though he consistently has voted against equal human and civil rights for his fellow non-heterosexuals.
Political scandals of any type come as no surprise to me.
“Politics,” to me, broadly means “the use of power.”
Many if not even most people don’t know how to handle responsibly any significant power that they come into. To me, there are two major ways that a significant amount of personal political power can be used: (1) to help as many other people as possible in ways that are transparent and legal and ethical, or (2) to help oneself and one’s cronies (this would include one’s political friends, one’s campaign contributors and one’s friends and family members), usually in ways that are kept hidden in the dark and are at least unethical if not also illegal.
Unfortunately, most people who come into power see the purpose of politics not as the first, but as the second. They might pay plenty of lip service to the first, but their deeds demonstrate their allegiance to the second.
In power plays, we usually see two things involved: sex or money (or both). This is because personal power so often is exchanged in money or in sex (or both).
Monetary scandals rather bore most of us. It’s the sexual scandals that we really pay attention to.
And of the sex scandals, it’s the gay sex scandals that really capture our attention.
Recently, first there was Democratic U.S. Rep. Eric Massa of New York, who resigned yesterday. He more or less used cancer as his official reason for resigning, but the word is that he sexually harassed a male staffer. Details of the alleged sexual harassment, which Massa at first apparently denied but then apparently admitted, are sketchy, but it appears as though the sexual harassment was verbal, not physical.
Adding to the scandal is that Massa, 50, was in the U.S. Navy for more than two decades, which probably helped him win his seat in his Repugnican-dominated district, and that he has a wife, two sons and a daughter.
Gay political sex scandals are bipartisan, of course.
The Sacramento Bee today reports:
A prominent Republican [California] state senator arrested on suspicion of drunken driving this week in Sacramento has taken a personal leave through Sunday from the upper house.
State Sen. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield, a 14-year veteran of the Legislature, was arrested at about 2 a.m. Wednesday while driving his state-issued car near the state Capitol.
Ashburn later issued a written apology, but the arrest catapulted his personal life into a very public spotlight.
A Sacramento TV station reported that unnamed sources saw Ashburn at a gay bar the night before the arrest, setting off a media frenzy that stretched from the blogosphere to late-night television talk shows.
Ashburn’s hometown paper, the Bakersfield Californian, printed excerpts from an unpublished interview he did last year in which the divorced father declined to address rumors he was gay.
“Why would that be anyone’s business?” he told a columnist. “I think there are certain subjects that are simply not relevant, and this is one of them.”
But in a world where activists have the ability to instantly hold politicians accountable for any inconsistency between their public actions and personal behavior, some say sexual orientation is entirely relevant.
West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, an openly gay Democrat, told The Bee and other media he had spotted Ashburn at other gay bars in Sacramento in recent months.
“I don’t think it’s a scandal for an elected official to be gay,” Cabaldon said. “But if you’re going to vote against every piece of hate-crimes legislation (to protect gays), that’s hypocritical.”
In the interview, Ashburn said he didn’t believe he had been a staunch anti-gay activist, insisting the way he had voted on social issues reflected his constituents’ views.
Ashburn, who is in his last year representing a bedrock conservative region, organized a Traditional Values Coalition rally in Bakersfield in 2005 to support a proposed constitutional amendment that year to prohibit gay marriage.
Ashburn also touted his support for Proposition 22, [an anti-]gay-marriage ballot initiative, calling himself a co-sponsor at the 2000 measure.
Equality California, a gay rights group, gave Ashburn a “zero percent” for his 2009 voting record.
Ashburn voted against bills that included expanding California’s mental health services for gay youths and measures to protect gay prisoners from violence – which won some GOP votes – and creating a day to honor slain gay activist Harvey Milk.
An Ashburn aide said Friday the senator had no response to questions about his sexual orientation, adding that aides didn’t know if Ashburn would appear Monday for a Senate floor session….
Ashburn is a textbook case right out of the excellent documentary “Outrage”: A closeted, usually Repugnican politician who works against equal human and civil rights for non-heterosexuals. A despicable fucking hypocrite and a fucking traitor to his tribe.
Yes, Assburn, if you are a non-heterosexual legislator who votes against equal human and civil rights for non-heterosexuals, then your sexual orientation is quite relevant, quite relevant to those whose equal human and civil rights you are obstructing because you are ashamed of your own sexual orientation.
And if you are a non-heterosexual man posing as heterosexual but you sexually harass your male co-workers or your male underlings (as has happened to me at the workplace, so I know something about this), then your sexual orientation is relevant; you have made it quite relevant to the victims of your sexual harassment.
And if you are a non-heterosexual male but you have heterosexually married and have had children, guess what? Your sexual orientation is quite relevant to your wife and kids.
If you are a closet case who actually manages to keep your sexual orientation entirely to yourself — which is damn near impossible, unless you live alone in a remote cave, as we are a social species — then perhaps we can say that your sexual orientation is “irrelevant.” (After all, if one actually is asexual or nearly so, then one’s sexual orientation indeed would be fairly irrelevant, at least to other people.)
Those who maintain that one’s sexual orientation is “private” or “irrelevant” or the like — especially when one has made his or her sexual orientation other people’s business — are homophobes.
The only reason that you would maintain that something as basic to oneself as one’s sexual orientation is “private” or “no one’s business” or “irrelevant” or the like is that your core belief about non-heterosexuality is that it is wrong and shameful.
You only enshroud in darkness that which you believe does not belong in the light.
There is nothing wrong with or shameful about non-heterosexuality.
There is something wrong with lying, such as lying about one’s sexual orientation, and there is something wrong with misusing one’s sexual power, such as in the case of sexual harassment.
That is the lesson that we need to take away from the gay political sex scandals.
As long as non-heterosexuality itself remains stigmatized, closet cases will continue to do their damage to others.