Corvino: The danger of the gay closet
When I was a high school sophomore, one of my classmates had the misfortune of popping an erection in the communal shower after gym class. I doubt “Paul” was gay. Most likely, it was a typical teenage case of Mr. Happy having a mind of its own. But fellow students at our all-boys Catholic school teased him mercilessly, calling him a fag, and I joined in.
That’s right: I joined in.
Please understand: at the time I was NOT GAY. Sure, I had “gay feelings,” which I kept mostly to myself. I also lacked any straight feelings, and I had a decent enough grasp of logic to know that people with “gay feelings” but no “straight feelings” are gay. It was denial, pure and simple, and my teasing Paul was a way to deflect attention away from myself.
When people ask me how I can even for a split second feel sadness for hypocrites like Reverend George “I hired him to carry my luggage” Rekers, the anti-gay crusader who was recently caught hiring an escort from rentboy.com  for a European vacation, I answer: Because I know what denial feels like.
True, I came clean about my sexuality at 19, whereas Rekers is still dissembling at 61. True, I participated in some schoolboy teasing—the potential damage of which ought not to be underestimated—whereas Rekers has made a career out of spreading lies about gays, writing books with titles like Growing Up Straight: What Families Should Know About Homosexuality, and offering highly paid testimony in Florida and Arkansas against gay adoption. There’s a huge difference.
But part of preventing future cases like these is first to understand them, and I can understand them best by drawing on my own experience. The human capacity for keeping separate sets of “mental books” is as familiar as it is remarkable.
Why is Rekers’ case important? Because it provides yet another stunning example of what it looks like when someone tries to fight his internal demons by scapegoating openly gay and lesbian people. Rekers has spent his life attacking in others what he can’t control in himself, harming countless LGBT innocents in the process. This is the danger of the closet.
Rekers insists that he is not gay, and at one level, he’s right. The term “gay” often refers to a mode of self-understanding and public identity, and Rekers just isn’t there. On this reading, anyone can be a homosexual, but it takes courage to be gay. Sadly, like the Reverend Ted “I’m heterosexual with issues” Haggard before him, Reverend Rekers may never get there.
So let Rekers have his “I’m not gay but my rentboy is” t-shirt. I’ll even believe him when he says that there was no sex, strictly speaking. According to the rentboy, “Lucien” (aka Geo, aka Jo-Vanni), in interviews with the Miami New Times and blogger Joe.My.God, their sessions consisted of daily nude massages where Lucien stroked Rekers “across his penis, thigh… and his anus over the butt cheeks,” causing Rekers to become “rock hard.” (At 61, Rekers doesn’t have the same excuse for erections as my high school classmate.)
This is precisely what one would expect from a “Not Gay” deeply closeted homosexual who has spent his career denouncing the “unacceptable health risks of [homosexual] behavior.” Rekers can maintain this charade only by drawing the boundaries of “homosexual behavior” about as narrowly as Bill Clinton drew those of “sexual relations”—which, as you’ll recall, the president did not have with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. The claims are true on one level—the strained, self-serving, and possibly delusional one.
It’s when I imagine these mental contortions that I feel the split second of sympathy for Rekers. As David Link writes at the Independent Gay Forum, “If the glaringly obvious conclusion is true—that Rekers is, in fact, a frustrated homosexual who won’t allow himself to actually have sex with another man—then he has created for himself exactly the hell he and his colleagues believe homosexuals are headed for or deserve.”
However, it’s one thing to create demons for yourself, and quite another to project them onto innocent bystanders whom you then attack as “deviant” in books, articles, and courtroom testimony. Frankly, there aren’t enough rentboys in Miami to carry that kind of karmic baggage.
Rekers still insists that he sought out the young man because he wanted to share the Gospel. I recommend starting with the “Truth shall set you free” part, followed by some lessons on penance.
John Corvino, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, and philosophy professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. His column “The Gay Moralist” appears Fridays at 365gay.com . Read more about him at www.johncorvino.com .
John will be a volunteer faculty member again this summer for Campus Pride’s LGBT Leadership Camp. For more about Campus Pride’s work, or to make a donation on John’s behalf to support this year’s program, visit http://www.campuspride.org/ .
LGBT Nominees up for Promotion in Episcopal Church
Corvino: Gay parents and biological bonds
Forced into closet by nation they serve
GOP Political Pundits Caught Dissing Gov. Sarah Palin on Tape