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Who is standing up for Bill?

This post has been revised.

I understand that this is a difficult issue for many of us to discuss, especially those who are friends and colleagues of Mr. Conley. I knew about Conley’s arrest well before it was published on the cover of Bay Windows, and like Chris from TakeMassAction, I chose to ignore it because I recognized that this could have an unfortunate impact on the political work that he does as a lobbyist due to our sex-phobic society.

Since this issue did make a splash in the media it was, of course, fair game to comment about. And since this is a blog/forum of discussion, everyone is welcome to disagree. In fact I enjoy it when people make me think and re-evaluate my opinions. I do not like hearing that my opinions personally hurt the feelings of members of our community, and I regret when that happens so I encourage everyone to speak up and spark discussion. And as a reminder to the readers of this blog, the team members of queertoday.com do not agree on everything. One person’s blog post does not represent the opinions of the entire group unless otherwise stated.

I think that when I use the word "shame" it may confuse people. When a person remains in the closet about something, it is because they have shame, often due to societal or political pressure. In my own coming out process I used to be afraid to cross my legs in public because I was ashamed of my femininity - which did not conform to society’s norms and expectations. Now that I am confident and out about my femininity I think people respect my courage, whereas in the past I appeared nervous and vulnerable.

Sometimes we rely on shame (or silence/closettedness) as a political tool to get what we want. I believe that HRC was late to add Trans people to their mission in part because they were ashamed to admit trans people were members of our community – transgenderdness threatened the integrity of their “we are just like you” messaging.

In the case of Conley’s arrest I believe that when people are quoted discussing his presumed innocence, integrity, and handwork for the LGBT community, it is a good thing. But Conley’s friends and colleagues should say that they will stand by Conley regardless of whether or not he is guilty of breaking this unjust law. We must emphasize that police stings against gay sex environments like craigslist, manhunt, and the fenz are homophobic and a waste of time. We must say that the gay community will not be shamed into silence about the diversity of our sexual practices.

I believe that Hillary Clinton’s intrepid critique of the Iraq war is drenched in a form of political shame and makes her look wishy-washy and weak on the issue. Hillary will strongly critique the war in a room full of lefties, and then turn around and sponsor an amendment to take away our right to burn the flag to appeal to centrists. People saw right through her hypocrisy.

Our opposition will always point out our own hypocrisy when members of our community are “caught” being sexually promiscuous online but emphasizing our monogamy (which in this sexually repressed society translates into respectability) in public.

I believe our community will be seen as weak and vulnerable unless we come out strong in support of the many folks who are sexually promiscuous or in non-conventional relationships.

Think back for a moment to the “little black book scandal.” Many members of our community reacted by emphasizing how wrong it was for that material to be handed out to minors. And they blamed the outreach worker for making a terrible mistake. But behind a virtual wall of shame, many people stated that they do believe explicit safer sex information should indeed be distributed to teens. Our opponents noticed our contradictions and used it against us. They will continue to do so until our community is liberated from its own shame.


I will be shocked if any of the local gay rights organizations publicly condemn the police stings against gay men or our sex-phobic culture, but it is my opinion that it would be the most courageous, admirable, and politically advantageous (in the long run) thing to do.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mark, you say Bill will "probably not react with strength and pride". Gee, are you sure you're on Bill's side? Do you know him even? If not, predicting that someone will react in a shamefaced, sorry way for the sake of your arguement is just pathetically lazy rhetoric. Not to mention your negative assumptions about Bill's future actions do not support the man, which I think you're trying to do. You are right about one thing - this is not a perfect world. I hope that anyone in the business of lobbying knows that, and will conduct themselves according to political realities, not pollyannaish wishes.

Chris Mason said...

I just posted about this as well. Bill has done so much for our community. We absolutely need to stand by him.
http://takemassaction.blogspot.com/2006/08/stand-by-our-man.html

Mark D. Snyder said...

Anonymous,

You bring up a good point. And no, I do not know Bill personally. However, he has already stepped down temporarily. Would he have stepped down temorarily if his crime was say... smoking pot on the street, or drunk driving? Or did he step down because of the shame that surrounds crimes involving sex?

John Hosty said...

He is a good man, but as falible as any other man. I don't need someone to be pure of thought or action in order to listen to what they have to say. His thoughts and leadership stand by themselves or they do not. His actions in his private life do not in any way dilute the value of his contributions as a leader and a lobbyist because they have nothing to do with one another. I want someone in a leadership role that knows what is best for me and how to effect change in that direction, and Bill is that man. This is no more than a stumbling point in his carreer and he should keep focused on what matters most; effecting positive change for the gay community.

Anonymous said...

he took a leave of absence because he lobbies among legislators. by definition, legislators take the letter of the law seriously (or at least insist on the appearance of doing so). he did break a law (ok, to be determined), even if it is a dumb law. he has done the correct thing by taking a leave of absence, whether he broke this law or some other non-sex-related that would also be divisive such as pot smoking. i think it is significant that he chose to take the leave of absence for 2 reasons. first, it was smart because it diverts the spotlight from his work to himself only, which is appropriate. second, the fact that he was granted leave and didn't get fired immediately for potentially handing grist on a silver platter to the fundies is ample testiment to how well respected he/his work is among colleagues.

Anonymous said...

"whether he broke this law or some other non-sex-related that would also be divisive such as pot smoking." - I am inclined to disagree because this is a misdemeanor charge - the same as jay walking.

jason said...

why is it that people care whether two consenting adults were going to make a financial exchange for sex? i'm glad to see that the police are targetting queer folks again. fuck them. bill's a great guy (i do know him. he would not like queer today, but he is a good guy for sure).