Not very long ago, a bit of audio tape emerged in which Marcus Bachmann, husband of Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, likened gays and lesbians (and, one presumes, the entire LGBTQ community) to “barbarians”:
We have to understand: barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it, doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature.
Given the virulence of the hatred in those remarks, not to mention the fact that Mr. Bachmann appears to have been involved with/aggressively pushed the so-called “reparative therapy” designed as a “cure” for homosexuality, much was subsequently made of the fact that Mr. Bachmann’s voice sounds not dissimilar to that of the standard-issue stereotypical “gay man” — a bit foppy, a bit high-pitched, the hint of a lisp. Much was also made of the fact that he dances in a mildly flamboyant fashion. The idea underlying all of this japery was and is, of course: OMG it’s so funny, he hates gay people but dude is soooooo gay!!1!
Here’s the problem with that:
I have no idea how quantitatively true it is that gay men sound “gay,” as a rule. Like most people like me, I have what I think of as gaydar, and it is of course set off by men who evidence such things as a lisp, a predilection for pastels, or a greater-than-average interest in musical theater.
For all I know, these things are, in fact, a genetic component of “being gay,” and like any other genetic thing, they run in greater and lesser degrees through the blood of a majority of gay men — just as having a certain physical build is often identifiable as Scandinavian, or a tendency to bald young is associated with Jewish men. Whatevs. I don’t actually care, in any real, meaningful sense. If the LGBTQ community wants to make jokes about the stereotype — or even about Marcus Bachmann — more power to them. We all get to joke about our own. It’s part of how we maintain sanity/autonomy.
However, when society at large starts to giggle at a man’s lisp, or limp-wristed dance moves, even if it’s in an effort to point out possible hypocrisy — even if it’s in an effort to point out pernicious, dangerous hypocrisy in a politically powerful figure — we are not helping to solve the problem. We are, in fact, perpetuating it.
If Bachmann’s slight lisp is funny — why isn’t it funny when some other man lisps? If Bachmann’s failure to maintain stereotypical manly mannerisms is funny — why isn’t it funny when boys play with Barbies or men arrange flowers? When we laugh at these things in Bachmann, we’re saying, loud and clear, that they are laughable. (We’re also, by the way, saying that they can only mean one thing: gay. Not bi-. Not non-normative. Not straight-guy-with-a-lisp. No — these mannerisms mean one thing and one thing only. And we decide what that is). If I were a gay man who had been beaten up for my “girly” behavior — would I be enjoying the jokes made by straight people at Bachmann’s expense? Maybe. Maybe it would feel like payback. But maybe it would also re-confirm what the bullies had been screaming at me all along. (We’ll leave aside, for the moment, the misogyny inherent to finding feminine behavior laughable. But trust, dear reader: There’s misogyny here, too).
So are Bachmann’s mannerisms indication that he’s gay? Hell if I know. And I’m not going to join in on the comedy.
But there is one thing that suggests to me, very powerfully, that Bachmann is, in fact, a closeted member of the LGBTQ community: the very virulence of his hatred (and that of his wife) for the community.
Time and time again, we have seen anti-gay crusaders revealed to have active same-sex sex lives. Whether they are gay, bi-, or something else all together doesn’t really matter — what matters is that they spend their on-camera time demonizing human beings who have same-sex sex, and their off-camera time having same-sex sex. The hypocrisy is horrible, but when coupled with the very real danger that these people pose to the lives of actual human beings the hypocrisy moves from “horrible” to “loathsome and unforgiveable.”
Ted Haggard, former head of the National Association of Evangelicals; Larry Craig, former Republican senator; Bob Allen, former Republican state senator (Florida); Glenn Murphy, Jr., former president of the Young Republican National Federation; George Rekers, psychologist and founding member of the Family Research Council; Eddie Long, influential Atlanta pastor; James McGreevy, former Democratic governor of New Jersey; Roy Ashburn, former Republican state senator (California); Richard Curtius, former Republican state senator (Washington) — the list, frankly, goes on and on. All of these men actively engaged in ruining the lives of their fellow American citizens, all while quietly engaging in the very activity they declared reprehensible.
And then there’s this: Homophobic Men Most Aroused by Gay Male Porn.
So is Marcus Bachmann gay? I don’t know.
But the bitter contempt that he and his wife express toward people who have the temerity to not lead heteronormative lives (not to mention, frankly, the close knowledge of the need for “education” and “discipline”) sounds very, very familiar — and it carries the stench of hypocrisy.
The kind of hypocrisy that shatters lives — not least, and not incidentally, the lives of those peddling the lies in order to cover their own shame.
You can’t pray away the gay — but you can torture a conflicted closet case to death.
7/19/11 update: Please also read the follow-up that I posted this morning.