I distinguish here between "anti-gay conservatives" and the bulk of conservative activists and normal Americans who believe that a person's private life is private and should not be talked about in public settings unless (or even if) he or she brings it up initially.
The dust-up involving Ryan Sorba, whose embarrassing tirade (his word) at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) led him to be booed off the stage, is only the latest example of this strange phenomenon of "conservatives" talking about their obsession with other people's sexual behavior. The Sorba incident, including his off-stage encounter with my friend, Alex Knepper, brought the phenomenon into focus for me.
Sorba has written a "book" (for which he has been unable to find a publisher) called "The Born Gay Hoax." In its 95 pages, he uses the word "sodomy" 214 times. He uses the word "sex" (sometimes in compounds like "same-sex") 153 times. In contrast, the word "love" appears only 28 times and the word "affection" just once. (He also uses "pederast" nine times and "pedophile" or "pedophilia" six times, for those keeping score.)
When gay men and lesbians speak in public about social or political issues that impinge on their lives, it is almost always in terms of "love," "affection," "marriage," "commitment," and "responsibility."
When anti-gay conservatives talk about those same issues, it is almost always about sex, genitalia, sodomy, fellatio, or other similar, graphic terms -- often with the clear intention to shock and chagrin their audiences.
For instance, a search of Peter LaBarbera's "Americans for Truth about Homosexuality" turns up 232 hits for "anal sex," 76 hits for "oral sex," 54 hits for "fellatio," and 16,179 (that is not a misprint) hits for "penis."
Just out of curiosity, I did a similar search on the web site of the liberal gay-rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and got only 15 hits for "penis" (two of which were quotations from the Bible), two for "fellatio" (both links to the same document about state legislation), 183 hits for "oral sex" (many also linking to articles about legislation), and 25 hits for "anal sex" (again, most links were to "Law Briefs" on topics like Lawrence v. Texas).
Who is most obsessed with male sex organs?. The answer is not "gay rights groups." It's Peter LaBarbera.
Coincident with Ryan Sorba's rant at CPAC, conservative journalist Cliff Kincaid wrote two pieces last week on gay issues, one in which he says he approves of the Ugandan bill that mandates the death penalty for homosexuals, and one in which he asserts that the gay conservative group, "GOProud's commitment to constitutionally protected homosexual sodomy (i.e., anal intercourse) is not a position that appears on the agenda of any conservative groups."
I had my own bizarre encounter with Cliff Kincaid, whom I knew casually from conservative circles in the 1980s. We were on friendly terms and I know that he had quoted me in articles he wrote about defense and foreign policy issues on several occasions.
In December 1990, I was running for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 49th District (the seat now held by openly-gay Democrat Adam Ebbin), in a special election to be held on January 8, 1991.
Kincaid invited me to appear by telephone on his local radio talk show. He had seen an article about my candidacy in the Washington Post and wanted to talk about it.
I was thrilled to get the media exposure in an obscure, off-cycle election that most voters did not even know was taking place.
Kincaid began the interview, which was scheduled to last 30 minutes, politely. But then he began to emphasize the fact that I was running as an openly gay candidate and got off the track I expected -- namely, the libertarian issues that motivated me to run, like reducing business regulation and taxes -- and began to ask graphic questions about my sex life.
Seriously, he asked me, on live radio, whether I put my penis in another man's anus or mouth, or if I let another man put his penis in my mouth or anus. I was flabbergasted and refused to answer.
He repeated the question, and again I refused to answer. He was persistent and snarled, "Well, if that's not what you want to talk about, why do you think you're on this show?"
As sweetly as I could, I responded, "Cliff, I thought you wanted me here to talk about cutting taxes and spending in Richmond."
Shortly after that, the interview was cut short and I sat at my desk, stunned that a grown man could ask such personal questions in such a public fashion.
The best thing about that interview is that it has given me a great story with which to entertain my friends at dinner parties for the past two decades.
Getting back to my point about gay people being more concerned with love and affection than about genitalia, I've concluded that anti-gay conservatives (not the nice, rational conservatives) are largely clueless about what it means to be gay. That's the only explanation for Ryan Sorba saying to Alex Knepper "you mean you think you're gay" in a timid attempt to cast doubt on the veracity of Alex's claim to be gay.
These people don't understand that when a high-school freshman realizes he's gay and that he has a crush on his best friend, the first thing to come to his mind is not "I want to have anal sex with him." The first thing he thinks is, "I want to kiss him."
The fact that anti-gay conservatives can't make the distinction between affection and lust says more about them than about the people whose rights (and, in Sorba's case, whose existence) they seek to deny.
Perhaps some anti-gay conservative -- the sort who booed Alexander McCobin of Young Americans for Liberty and cheered Ryan Sorba -- can answer my question: Why are you always the first to bring up sex in a conversation about gay rights? Is it a personal obsession, a mask for your true feelings, or is it in some convoluted way connected with rational thought?
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