BY James Kirchick
October 08 2009 10:00 AM ET
Predictably, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation called on Carlson to apologize. The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network condemned Carlson’s remarks as “shocking” and said that he “sends a dangerous message” by implying that it’s acceptable for a teenager to respond with force to an adult making an unwelcome sexual advance. GLSEN went so far as to accuse him of encouraging anti-LGBT bullying, in effect likening the plight of seedy men in restroom stalls to gay teenagers facing harassment. Carlson’s laughing about his roughing up a gay sexual predator may not have been the most sensitive way to retell a harrowing anecdote. But the sexuality of the man in the restroom was immaterial. By condemning Carlson outright, GLSEN and GLAAD sent the message that gays accept the sort of behavior that mainstream society rightly finds repulsive. Indeed, I suspect that most gays find it no less unacceptable.
While public cruising would probably be less prevalent if there were no stigma attached to homosexuality, that doesn’t excuse the irresponsible decisions made by individuals. And though many of the men who cruise parks and bathrooms are closet cases, there is also an element that is comfortably gay and seeks out such sexual experiences for the sheer thrill. And regardless of how the men who participate in the “tearoom trade” perceive themselves, that they seek sexual gratification from other men makes them “not straight,” whether we want them or not. The vast majority of us do not engage in such behavior, which is all the more reason to reject claims that cruising is a matter of personal liberty, sexual freedom, or nostalgia for a bygone era. This isn’t just about keeping up appearances for the heterosexual majority -- though considering their vast numerical supremacy and ability to pass laws that make our lives difficult, that is not always a bad idea -- but personal pride. Not for nothing did Winston Churchill once say of a British member of parliament notorious for cruising public restrooms that he was “the sort of person who gives sodomy a bad name.”