This Week in Liberal and Progressive Media
The delight could hardly be concealed in the coverage of Christian-right leader George Alan Rekers's 10-day European vacation with a "rent boy."
According to the Miami New Times, Rekers, a prominent antigay activist who cofounded the Family Research Council, arrived at Miami International Airport with a young male escort, and later insisted he had hired the man to help him with his baggage. "I had surgery. And I can't lift luggage," he told the New Times. A statement on his Web site read: "Dr. Rekers found his recent travel assistant by interviewing different people who might be able to help, and did not even find out about his travel assistant's Internet advertisements offering prostitution activity until after the trip was in progress. There was nothing inappropriate with this relationship." But the escort, who goes by the name Lucien, told the New Times today that Rekers is gay and paid him to provide daily body rubs, giving details on specific caresses favored by the Baptist minister.
The liberal, gay, and mainstream blogosphere lit up in delight these past two days, especially with efforts by Rekers to control the damage. "Rekers has a new explanation for the trip," according to The Huffington Post. " 'I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them,' he said in a statement posted on Facebook." Late-night comedian Stephen Colbert applauded Rekers for "publicly condemning man love while privately being man's best friend" and joked that many of his crew had been hired from Rentboy.com's Web site.
But now what? So yet another antigay crusader turns out to be gay. But the typical reaction—delight at the exposure of hypocrisy—is always short-lived. "This happens again and again, but do we ever sit down and wonder why it happens?" asks LGBT media expert Cathy Renna. There is the obvious chatter—the person is full of self-hate, is ashamed, is overcompensating to hide his homosexuality. But the true effect of that overcompensation can be dire. "There is an insidious and horrible impact of internalized homophobia. I have no problem pinning someone like Rekers as the kind of person who is responsible for the suicides of young LGBT people, and he's hired a rent boy?"
UC Davis psychology professor Gregory Herek is a leading U.S. specialist in homophobia. "Many heterosexual people do a lot to make it clear they are not gay, such as men not touching each other, or not behaving effeminately." People who are gay, or who discover they are gay later in life, may take those actions to a deeper extreme. These days there is a sense of justice when they are revealed to the public at large, but that wasn’t always the case. "Fifty years ago something like this would have just been a sex scandal. It would have the schadenfreude aspect we have now, but simply because of that person's fame. Today it's a bit different. Gays and lesbians are viewed as a minority that has been badly treated, so when they see someone taking that fall, it greatly increases the schadenfreude."
There's another pop-psychology element to the delight as well, says Herek. "There is this notion, one which I try to dispel, which is that people who hold strong antigay positions are always secretly gay." Herek says to the extent that there is empirical data on the subject, there is no evidence this is true. But when people like Rekers get exposed, it fuels that pop psychology. "People get that 'Aha!' feeling, and take those few examples as confirmation of what is not usually true."
The bashing can, of course, go both ways. Just this week The Washington Post's Dave Weigel apologized after describing people who opposed gay marriage as "bigots" in a tweet. Politico wrote a piece about it, "Disclosing Bias at the Post," in which it described Weigel as left-leaning, but applauded the way he defended his bias. Let's see if anyone defends Rekers.