As the years pass, I realize more and more that I'm turning into my grandmother Lilly--not a bad metamorphosis for a gay man. She was a stylish, clever and funny old Jewish broad with an eye for a young stud until the end. I could do worse.
This morning as I was catching up on the latest incarnations of the media feeding frenzy surrounding former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey's new book, "The Confession," I realized that there was only one relevant question; and it was my grandmother's universal question for virtually everything of social, political, cultural or religious import: Is it good for the Jews?
Of course, in this case I wondered if it's good for the gays?
Indeed, McGreevey's story is a valuable guidebook for closeted men and likely anyone who is living a life of dishonesty and corruption, especially a politician, on what not to do .
But overall is McGreevey's new book and personal publicity campaign good for the gays?
Is McGreevey going on Oprah and the rest of his brand-building tour in order to apologize to all the people he's wronged, including the people of New Jersey and his family? Will he be working to build sympathy and understanding for corrupt politicians and adulterers? It will be interesting to watch this play out.
No one understands better than I the profound and pervasive dysfunctionality of closet life and the crazy and terrible thoughts and things such an existence engenders. As most of my long-term readers know, I was married for 18 years, experienced my first consensual gay sex at the age of 40 and started the coming out process at that same time. The time lapse between Claudio, my first man, and coming out to my wife was three months--the amount of time it took me to be able to say the truth out loud. She was the first person I told. We then worked together for several months preparing for the realities of this new world before I began to spread the gospel beyond the privacy of our own marriage.
So yes, technically I was an adulterer for three months and the dishonesty of that, even for such a short period of time, was soul-crushing. I'm not going to pat myself on the back and wax poetically about my own courage in coming out; lord knows it took me long enough. But I would hope that the world stays focused on the fact that McGreevey's story is NOT a coming out story; rather it is an involuntary outing story born of political corruption and dishonesty.
McGreevey was forced out of the closet by blackmail and scandal. He did nothing noble and should be no one's hero. And when Oprah hugs him and has her audience give him love on Tuesday, I suppose that will be the Christian thing to do. But some of us will cringe.
Other than losing his job, what price has McGreevey paid for betraying his oath of office, for putting the people of New Jersey at risk for giving an important security post to an unqualified candidate in exchange for sexual favors?
He now lives with his multi-millionaire financier lover in a million dollar plus 17-room Georgian mansion in New Jersey and is quick becoming an A-List gay celebrity. I don't begrudge him the good life, but I question why he needs our sympathy and national media attention. I suspect there are other gay stories that need to be told and would better serve the needs of the gay community.
There are some in the gay community who are already praising McGreevey's courage and newfound honesty. Some are even calling him a role model. And then there are many others in the gay community who are just reveling in the juicy gossip and enjoying a good sneer.
But the activist in me requires a critical look at the renewed McGreevey media frenzy and I must ask: Is this good for the gays? I suppose time will tell. Our enemies will see promiscuity, incompetence, corruption, adultery, dishonesty, arrogance and exploitation. Our friends will see the pain and suffering of the closet and the courage to come to terms with one's sins and misdeeds. Oprah will enjoy a huge bump in ratings. McGreevey's publisher will enjoy a huge Oprah-driven spike in book sales. And the gay community will be dragged through another episode of seedy, sleazy, shady dirt.
We owe it to ourselves and to America to aggressively question if "The Confession" is a valuable coming out story or just another self-serving apologia from a corrupt politician?