Sunday, June 13, 2010

Republican Sen. Roy Ashburn Talks Gay, on Life in and out of the Closet

     The Los Angeles Times has a telling interview with Senator Roy Ashburn, in which the conservative Republican discusses what it was like living a hypocritical life in the closet and how thankful he is that he was exposed and can now live honestly as a gay man.  

     Here are a few excerpts from the Times interview that reveal the fear and societal pressure that forces so many LGBT persons to hide the truth of their being:
     At some point, you must have realized a public career was incompatible with being open about your sexual preferences.
     Something happened that I guess caused me to realize that. When I was in sixth grade, the police had a raid in the sand dunes [near San Luis Obispo] and a bunch of gay men were arrested, probably charged with indecent activity. That sticks in my mind — the publicity and the shame around it. One of my teachers was one of the people. The talk among the kids, the talk among the adults, the talk in the community, the press — at that time the choice was pretty clear: If you were gay and open, it was a life of shame, ridicule, innuendo about molesting and perversion. It was a dark life. Given that choice of whether you come out or whether you're in secret, I mean, there really wasn't a choice.
     You worked for members of Congress, then were elected to public office yourself from Kern County. Were your sexual preferences in the back of your mind, or did you just go about your business?
     The answer is both yes and no. I was married and had children. And I had a career and a passion. I also had a huge secret. But given my circumstances and my responsibilities, it wasn't an overwhelming issue for me. The desires were always there, but my focus was primarily on — well, pretty selfishly — on me and my career and my family.
     A lot of people, gay or straight, are probably wondering why you voted even against issues like insurance coverage for same-sex partners.
     The best I can do is to say that I was hiding. I was so in terror I could not allow any attention to come my way. So any measure that had to do with the subject of sexual orientation was an automatic "no" vote. I was paralyzed by this fear, and so I voted without even looking at the content. The purpose of government is to protect the rights of people under the law, regardless of our skin color, national origin, our height, our weight, our sexual orientation. This is a nation predicated on the belief that there is no discrimination on those characteristics, and so my vote denied people equal treatment, and I'm truly sorry for that.
     Thankfully, Roy, you've come a long way.  It takes many of us years to get over the trauma and violence conditioning of childhood that forced us to live shamefully in the closet.  I'm happy to hear you've finally escaped.  

     Apology accepted.  Now go out there and use whatever clout you have left to support and pass legislation that will undo the damage of the anti-gay laws that your shame, fear, and self-serving closet once fueled.  

     As for the anti-gay laws that have been passed around this nation, I can only wonder how many votes were passed in favor of discrimination by men and women, who didn't even read the laws for fear that they might be seen as homosexual or weak in their Christian faith.  How many California citizens voted in favor of Proposition 8, stripping marriage rights from homosexual couples, because they were ashamed of themselves or because a closeted cleric, fueled by his own self-hatred and preservation, ordered they vote against the gays?

     To vote blindly against a piece of civil rights legislation  in a nation where all are supposedly created equal has to be one of the biggest hypocrisies a politician or citizen can commit.  Thank you, Roy Ashburn, for being the first politician that I know of to admit the sickness at the center of having a system of government where people are allowed to vote on whether minorities have equal civil rights.