It's not really easy having sympathy for Sen. Larry Craig, but strangely enough I do.
Back in the 1970s, when I first came out in Salt Lake City, I was rather well acquainted with all the most popular public rest rooms. I knew how to tap my foot and pass toilet paper notes with the best of them and I was reasonably good at "lewd conduct". Back then if you wanted to meet another man to have sex with you're options were limited. There were no gay community centers, gay student groups, no gay social groups. In Salt Lake there was a really seedy bar "The Radio City Lounge". In many places, like Utah and Idaho, "perverts and known homosexuals", by law, could not have a liquor license. Rumor had it that gay bars were "Mafia" owned and operated. Oh and we also had a municipal bath house, built over a natural hot springs, that was pretty disgusting.
If this was what it meant to be gay is it any wonder that a lot of men denied being gay? If this is all he knows about being gay is it any wonder Larry Craig denies being gay? If our places were reversed I might be the disgraced senator and Larry might very well be sitting here writing this.
As this story has unfolded I have been struck by something that hasn't been mentioned much. Why was Larry Craig arrested? Did he threaten anyone? No. Did he defraud anyone? No. Did he approach anyone underage? No. He was looking for another man he could have consensual sex with. We know that at least one young, attractive vice cop was working the Minneapolis Airport looking for someone to entrap. In some places "lewd conduct" would be considered a "nuisance crime" like littering. He'd be given a ticket and sent on his way. In Minneapolis in addition to the time he spent hanging out in the rest room the officer spent 45 minutes interrogating the senator. It seems to me that it was homophobia feeding on homophobia. It was homophobia that created the crime and it was homophobia that led to Larry Craig being arrested.
So Larry Craig's career as a good Republican Senator has been destroyed. His fellow Republicans have broken speed records distancing themselves from him. One even said that he had committed "the unpardonable sin". This has to be hyperbole, cruising a rest room worse than lying to the American people to take us into war in Iraq?
So what do we, as gay men, do about this man who doesn't want to admit to being one of us? Do we "owe" him anything? No. Should we offer him our friendship and support? Well, perhaps, but I really doubt he'll accept it. But let us offer it anyway. After all do we want to be confused with the "friends" who abandoned him. I don't think so.