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
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.