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Comparing Harvey Weinstein to a Night at a Gay Bar Is Insane

Comparing Sexual Harassment to Gay Bars

A commentary in USA Today claimed most gay bars are sweaty sex dens where nonconsensual groping is rampant, akin to Harvey Weinstein's hotel room. Which bars does this op-ed writer frequent? 

The coverage of Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual harassment and assault has been wall-to-wall for a week now. You'd have to be under a rock not to have heard about it.

Sexual harassment and assault are pervasive in our society but rarely get elevated to popular discourse. Even with the depressing headlines, there have been glimmering lights of hope. The #MeToo campaign on Facebook has inspired countless women and men to open up about their experiences and prove that no one is immune from sexual harassment or assault.

I'm familiar with sexual harassment and assault myself. It's happened more times than I can count. Something I've never really talked about before is my experience with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Because my parents were divorced and my mom wanted to make sure I had a male role model in my life, she signed me up to get a Big Brother through the well-known organization. I was never sexually abused, but there were so many times that I felt like I was on the brink of it.

I had no idea what to do about it. I didn't want to get him in trouble because he was a very nice guy and also offered me part-time employment as a young teenager. I also had an inkling that I was gay, so that complicated my decision-making; I was terrified my sexuality would be questioned. I also didn't want to be put in a position to ever have to rebuff him. Thankfully, it never came to that.

Also, between high school and college, on a night out in D.C. with fellow White House interns, I met a guy at a bar who would harass me via email for months. Eleven years later, I would put the pieces together that this was serial behavior on his part and was able to cobble together enough evidence to expose his behavior. His name was Mark Foley, a congressman from Florida.

Not everything coming out of the Weinstein scandal have been positive. Among the more aggravating things I've seen in response to the news is a column in USA Today. National security journalist Marc Ambinder stepped out of his zone of expertise right into a big pile of shit. His column, while well-intentioned, does a major disservice to the LGBT community that he's a part of.

Drawing a comparison between Weinstein's predatory behavior and what goes down at a typical gay club, Ambinder paints a picture of a queer establishment as a place where everyone is shirtless and groping each other, "rarely with consent" or consequences. He then takes it up another notch, saying, "The same people are there, the next week, testing boundaries, stepping up the ladder of predatory behavior."

So it's no wonder when the almost certainly straight headline writers read his column, they wrote, "How Does Harvey Weinstein Happen? Visit a Gay Bar With Me." That headline is proof that his column is a disservice to our community. I'm sure those looking to attack us will find this column to be golden. Ambinder's ignorance is mind-blowing.

Do we need to have a conversation about sexual harassment and assault in the LGBT community? Absolutely. To start with, our trans brothers and sisters are highly susceptible to sexual abuse. People like Ruby Corado at Casa Ruby in Washington, D.C., have been beating the drum of awareness for a very long time. Still, the larger LGBT community looks the other way, and our local government gives scant resources toward prevention.

To enjoy nonjudgmental, like-minded company, we as a community come together in social spaces, whether it be sports leagues, house parties, bars, clubs, fundraising events, or circuit parties. When we socialize, we are all ideally equal, just there to let our hair down and enjoy ourselves. If you've ever been on the dance floor at the club, you're mostly there to dance. Occasionally someone may approach us. This is where Ambinder's column shows a particular ignorance. Only the sloppiest drunk walks up to someone and starts groping him. That's a surefire way to get pushed away or worse. Instead, eye contact and body language are the methods of obtaining or being denied consent. What Ambinder's eyes saw on a dance floor may be foreign to him, but it is a big stretch for him to assume it is nonconsensual.

To be clear, if anyone witnesses another person being shoved against a wall or exhibiting any sign of discomfort, it is incumbent upon us to inquire as to the well-being of the potential victim. It is not, however, our duty to make assumptions that gays getting handsy with each other are doing so without consent. Please take note, Mr. Ambinder.

We have real issues to discuss and solve as a community, but they do not involve making things up and giving red meat to opponents of LGBT equality. And they certainly have nothing to do with taking responsibility for the behavior of vile human beings like Harvey Weinstein.

LANE HUDSON is an activist who worked on the presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.Lane-hudson

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