Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dark closets

I only saw a few snippets of the IM conversations ex-Congressman Mark Foley had with the male teenagers who worked as pages. I haven't read all the material that ABC News has put out there because, frankly, it's too embarrassing. (I never read the Kenneth Starr report on the Monica Lewinsky scandal either, for the same reason.) In any case from what little I already saw, I get the idea.

With regard to pedophile Catholic priests, Andrew Sullivan has been saying for a long time that being deep in the closet can lead people down dark paths that they never meant to travel. I never understood before what connection he saw between being a closeted homosexual in a very conservative environment and the temptation to take sexual advantage of minors. But I think with this Foley case I'm starting to get what Andrew means.

Catholic priests, Republican congressmen, these are people whose conservatism is not only a personal view but a public identity. And if you're also gay there's not a lot of wiggle room for being honest with yourself. You can't afford to confront certain truths about yourself because there is simply too much at stake. Maybe that was part of the reason, subconsciously, for entering into the ministry or a political career in the first place, to lock oneself into a situation of social pressure where those unwanted feelings and impulses could be straight-jacketed.

But these individuals can't keep the lid on the pressure cooker forever. There has to be some outlet, but without the consequence of having to admit anything to themselves about what they're doing. A relationship with a mature adult carries with it too much accountability. An adult might ask them to explain themselves, or probe into their motives, and for someone in extreme self-denial that is something to be avoided at all costs. So in order to remain in the closet, even to themselves, and yet be able to act out on their impulses, they will seek out children, minors or anyone who is too naive and powerless to call them on the carpet for their actions.

Undoubtedly many conservatives will come to the opposite conclusion, that this proves all homosexuals are a danger to society and need to be shoved further into the closet. But from what I've seen, from the many gay people I've met over the years, it's apparent to me that honesty in dealing with one's own homosexuality is the healthiest approach a person can take. Where that leads a person depends upon his or her values, religious beliefs, family situation, whatever. But nothing can be dealt with morally (yep, morally) until a person first comes to grip with the truth about him or herself.