Tuesday, May 23, 2006
by Wayne Besen
In the shadow of Mary Cheney's apologist memoir, "Now It's My Turn," comes an apology from former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey in his new book "The Confession." With Mary receiving a mllion dollars for her "tell nothing" and McGreevey receiving a half million for his "tell-all," it has suddenly become quite lucrative to announce one's homosexuality. Perhaps, next year's National Coming Out Day should be held in a bank?
Cynicism aside, McGreevey's book is a tome that hits home with an agonizing and gut-wrenching portrayal of life in the closet. It is an invaluable resource because it vividly points out that living a lie is not only self-destructive, but also ruins the lives of people sucked into the sham. As a result of McGreevey's deception, two wives were left without a husband and two children were left in broken homes. I guess this is another rousing success story for the "family values" crowd that continues to create mixed orientation marriages that are surely doomed to fail.
McGreevey's book is helpful because it underscores that sexuality is not a frivolous lifestyle choice and it also helps dispel the tired myth that people can "overcome" their same-sex attractions though prayer or willpower. Indeed, McGreevey read the script and acted the heterosexual part with the best of them. Like the "ex-gay" ministries of the Christian Right, he practiced behavior modification and role-playing.
"I studied the moves, figured out what worked and what didn't, practiced and perfected my perfect authenticity."
Part of his self-help "therapy" included ogling Playboy centerfolds, prayer, and reading psychology books. When the psychobabble didn't work, McGreevey turned to the "all you need is a good woman approach -- or, in his case, women.
"As the years went on," McGreevey wrote, "I became as avid a womanizer as anybody else on the New Jersey political scene. But my attraction was largely artificial, my sexual performance a triumph of mind over matter."
Sadly, right wing groups spend millions of dollars to trap people in false and empty existences. The "ex-gay" group Exodus International, for example, has twelve full-time employees who share the goal of reprogramming people to live duplicitous lives, much like McGreevey's. They even have seminars to train people how to walk, talk and act so they can appear heterosexual.
The problem is, even if a person changes outward behavior, it does not change who they are inside. The dissonance created by what is in one's heart and the nonsense that these groups funnel into one's heads can lead to pathological behavior. In great detail, McGreevey discusses how his efforts to change led to a seedy double life.
"As glorious and meaningful as it would have been to have a loving and sound sexual experience with another man, I knew I'd have to undo my happiness step-by-step as I began chasing my dream of a public career and the kind of 'acceptable' life that went with it. So, instead, I settled for the detached anonymity of bookstores and rest stops - a compromise, but one that was wholly unfulfilling and morally unsatisfactory."
McGreevey underscores how conservatives are largely responsible for the very existence of the "gay lifestyle" they disingenuously claim they abhor. But, just as their efforts to ban contraception cause more abortions, the right's efforts to turn gay people straight has kept the adult bookstores in business. In essence, Focus on the Family indirectly subsidizes gay porn palaces and bathhouses.
On Amazon.com, "The Confession" is coupled with "Brokeback Mountain," offering a one-two punch to the closet. Taken together, no thoughtful person could conclude that it is healthy or desirable to pressure people into mixed orientation marriages.
It would have been preferable if James McGreevey had come out without a cloud of scandal hanging over his head. It is still unfathomable that he appointed his one-time boyfriend Golan Cipal to a job that dealt with national security following 9-11.
Still, in a counter-intuitive way, the dishonor of McGreevey's resignation was helpful in revealing the full ugliness of the closet and the sick ways repression manifests itself. With "The Confession" McGreevey is getting a second chance to show that living in his own truth offers a personal power that surpasses even that of sitting in the governor's mansion.
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