Tap Dancing and Tea Rooms

Stall Dancing

It figures that Idaho Senator Larry Craig would announce his resignation on a holiday weekend.  I guess he figured that that old PR theory applies; if it’s bad news announce it late on a Friday afternoon, or on Saturday if you can.

As I have said previously, I have learned more about cruising for sex in public restrooms from a repressed Republican “No I’m Not Gay” homosexual, than I ever would have thought possible.  The story, tragic as it is, paints a false picture of what gay men do.  The radical religious Republicans have constantly painted male homosexuality as a deviant life style choice.  Larry Craig has helped perpetuate that myth.

Craig, along with former Congressman Mark Foley, and Florida State Representative Bob Allen are not the poster boys for “Gay Life USA.”  On the contrary, they are a sad example of how the religious based hate of homosexual men promoted by the Republican Party has forced these repressed men to seek fulfillment of their true sexual orientation in dangerous ways.

I knew that eventually some Republicans would complain that Senator Craig was entrapped by an over zealous police officer; they have.  What annoys me about that claim is not that it isn’t probably true. Entrapment has been a tactic of law enforcement targeting gay men for decades, there’s nothing new here. It’s that if it were a Democratic Senator, they would object to such a claim with the answer; “If you’re doing nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

From my perspective bumping someone’s foot, tapping your toe, even running your fingers along the base of a stall partition, is hardly lewd conduct. Stupid yes, invasive yes, lewd not so much.  And Craig’s peering through the crack of a bathroom stall is about the same as looking over at the guy using the urinal next to you to see how you measure up.  Sorry, straight men do it too.

Christopher Hitchens wrote a fun article yesterday on Slate.com titled So Many Men’s Rooms, So Little Time Why men like Larry Craig continue to court danger in public places. In his piece Hitchens writes…

I knew it was all over for Sen. Larry Craig when he appeared with his long-suffering wife to say that he wasn’t gay. Such moments are now steppingstones on the way to apology, counseling, and rehab, and a case could be made for cutting out the spousal stage of the ritual altogether. Along with a string of votes to establish “don’t ask, don’t tell” and to prohibit homosexual marriage, Craig leaves as his political legacy the telling phrase “wide stance”, which may or may not join “big tent” and “broad church” as an attempt to make the Republican Party seem more “inclusive” than it really is.

But there’s actually a chance—a 38 percent chance, to be more precise—that the senator can cop a plea on the charge of hypocrisy. In his study of men who frequent public restrooms in search of sex, Laud Humphreys discovered that 54 percent were married and living with their wives, 38 percent did not consider themselves homosexual or bisexual, and only 14 per cent identified themselves as openly gay. Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Personal Places, a doctoral thesis which was published in 1970, detailed exactly the pattern—of foot-tapping in code, hand-gestures, and other tactics—which has lately been garishly publicized at the Minneapolis-St Paul airport men’s room. The word “tearoom” seems to have become archaic, but in all other respects the fidelity to tradition is impressive.

The men interviewed by Humphreys wanted what many men want: a sexual encounter that was quick and easy and didn’t involve any wining and dining. Some of the heterosexuals among them had also evolved a tactic for dealing with the cognitive dissonance that was involved. They compensated for their conduct by adopting extreme conservative postures in public. Humphreys, a former Episcopalian priest, came up with the phrase “breastplate of righteousness” to describe this mixture of repression and denial. So, it is quite thinkable that when Sen. Craig claims not to be gay, he is telling what he honestly believes to be the truth.

Hitchens closes…

I think it’s safe to assume that many tearoom traders have a need, which they only imperfectly understand, to get caught. And this may be truest of all of those who are armored with “the breastplate of righteousness.” Next time you hear some particularly moralizing speech, set your watch. You won’t have to wait long before the man who made it is found, crouched awkwardly yet ecstatically while the cistern drips and the roar of the flush maddens him like wine.

Idaho Sunset

So while Senator Craig tap dances off into the Idaho sunset, let’s not forget that these are the things that repressed men do. They live closeted lives in the hopes that the truth will not be discovered.  Unfortunately, the truth in these cases usually is discovered and with disastrous and embarrassing consequences.