Sex, Lies, and Press Conferences
The other day, I came back to my office to find a note left by Hawk Stone, a nationally known FTM trans activist—his psychotherapy office just happens to be down the hall from mine. He thought perhaps we should hold a press conference to say that we’re not sleeping together. I howled.For those of you who might have been out of the country the past few weeks, the precipitous fall of Eliot Spitzer, New York’s Governor, led to the swearing-in of Lieutenant Governor David Paterson on March 17. The next day, he and his wife, Michele, held a press conference to let everyone know that they both have had affairs.Thus, the note from Hawk.I know why Paterson did what he did—he became Governor in the shadow of a pay-for-sex scandal that rocked the Capitol in Albany. It was a politically shrewd move. He got out in front of any possible gossip-turned-scandal that could bring down his tenure as New York’s chief executive.For me, it was just a little too much information. Anyone who observes politics or actually plays the game knows that when you give straight men a little power, it goes right to the head between their legs. As a little lesbian running around the New York State Assembly as a press secretary in the mid-1980s, I watched it firsthand—assemblymen and senators hitting on 20-something interns while their wives waited for them back in “the district.”Sex and power go together. That’s just the way it is.Now, I’m no prude, but I do wish that so many of our elected officials weren’t womanizers. I wish they respected women more. But ultimately, I don’t care about their private lives, as long as they’re not abusing kids.I didn’t vote for a virtuous Bill Clinton—his randy reputation preceded him. I voted for a Bill Clinton who would end 12 years of Republican rule. To me, that’s much more important than his getting blowjobs in the White House from someone other than Hillary.The problem with the former Governor is that we all voted for a squeaky clean Eliot Spitzer whose personal brand is crime-fighting and integrity. Here was a man who prosecuted prostitution rings and human trafficking, but whose ultimate downfall came as “Client #9” of some high-priced call-girl service. I’m not upset about his paying for sex. I’m disappointed that he was so stupid.So, what does this mean for GLBT candidates and elected officials? With our sex lives already under a microscope because that’s how society defines us, do we have to be even more diligent to be good boys and girls?When we were just anomalies, our own little scandals may have raised eyebrows, but didn’t turn us out of office.Former US Congressman Gerry Studds (Democrat-Massachusetts) was outed in 1983, after a former male page admitted to having a sexual relationship with him 10 years earlier. During an Ethics Committee investigation, Studds admitted he was gay.Studds addressed the House of Representatives, saying, “It is not a simple task for any of us to meet adequately the obligations of either public or private life, let alone both, but these challenges are made substantially more complex when one is, as I am, both an elected public official and gay.”Eventually, Studds was censured, but his constituents returned him to office. He left Congress of his own accord in 1995.US Representative Barney Frank (Democrat-Massachusetts) had his own little sex scandal, but he’s still in office. He’s now the powerful chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.Fast forward more than 20 years, and the proclivities of men who have sex with men are just as much in the spotlight as the sexual antics of Clinton and Spitzer. Just ask Larry Craig or Mark Foley. Thankfully, they’re not our poster children. Craig will go to all lengths to say he’s not gay, while Foley hides behind alcoholism—supposedly fueled by his abuse at the hands of a priest—to excuse his inexcusable behavior.Speaking of Craig, did you know that he led the effort to have Frank censured when his relationship with a male escort came to light?The bottom line? The political careers of Craig and Foley are over, just like Spitzer’s.I didn’t need to know that Paterson slept with someone other than his wife, that Frank got it on with a male escort, or that Craig couldn’t stop tapping his foot (although I did relish this man getting caught in his own duplicity). But our country’s puritanical roots make people’s sex lives fodder for character debates.Here’s an idea: Let’s leave the running of our country to a bunch of sexually repressed people who get their rocks off bombing people instead of loving them. Did someone just say George W. Bush?Libby Post, the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda, is a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached care of this publication, or at [email protected].