The most important aspect of the whole Larry Craig mess is that it brings up our continuing war against closets.
The pro-closet forces are legion. Every single conservative church is decidedly pro-closet. This includes conservative Protestant denominations, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, even eastern religions.
While it may seem to Americans that the anti-closet forces are the majority, this is not true worldwide. In fact those who are against keeping thoughts, feelings, and desires about sex closeted represent the overwhelming majority in most of the world.
This becomes very clear in the current struggle within the Anglican church. Americans who demand that gays remain closeted have turned for relief to African churches, which have been more than happy to accept them.
Motivational speaker Scott Fried
speaks against closets on college campuses.
Let me note also that calling this a battle against closets is
itself a frame, a way of describing an issue which will bias you toward
my position. Those who endorse closets call this an issue of morality,
or values. That frame lets them paint those who are against closets as
being against morality, as having no values.
Whether your closet includes a gay man, as Craig’s does, or a young
boy, as Mark Foley’s does, or a female prostitute, as Coy Privette’s
does, or simple power games, as Bill Clinton’s does, the fact is most
of us have a closet. We all have thoughts and feelings we decline to
display in our daily lives, and to an extent we should. Craig’s closet
is icky to me, mine is no doubt icky to him — we both deserve a zone
Even a gay man or woman who has "come out" and admitted that the
person in their closet is of the same sex as themselves, usually keeps
a closet. So-called "gay pride" parades at which men or women cavort in
the images of their closets remain controversial, even within the gay
movement, because the fantasies of others often disgust us, and
focusing on the content of a closet can build disgust, a desire to keep
more things shut-in.
There are non-sexual closets as well. Most drug habits are closeted.
The goal of drug-testing is to throw these closet doors open, but most
don’t come open until the disease of addiction has gone far enough that
the victim comes out of their closet voluntarily. The goal of 12-step
programs is to acknowledge the closet, and to stay on guard against
going back into it.
Some people are closet gamblers. Some people are closet adrenaline
junkies. What you keep in your own closet is entirely up to you.
The point is that when those, like me, who say we’re against closets
speak, we’re not saying we want to make you watch us have sex, or smoke
dope, or drop $10,000 on red. What we’re asking for is an open
acknowledgment that hiding our natures from the world is unhealthy, and
that the more things we keep in the closet the more likely we are to
harm ourselves and others.
That should be the real lesson of the last decade’s sex scandals.
But that’s not the lesson which "moralists" insist on taking away.
To moralists the closet must be denied. The very existence of
thoughts or feelings which others find icky or repulsive must be kept
hidden. To many Muslims this extends to any sexual act, even within
marriage. And before you get on your moral high horse over it, this was
the attitude of nearly all Christian groups until fairly recently.
Back when I first started having political thoughts, nearly 40 years ago, I was a conservative. Bob Bauman was a personal hero of mine. Richard DelGaudio was a personal friend. Both, it turned out, had closets which would get them into trouble. Richard’s younger brother Eugene, meanwhile, (right, naturally) remains an ardent proponent of closets.
What’s in his? I don’t know, but sometimes I would like to find out. (Mary Schmidt maybe, Eugene?) It must be something really nasty, or he wouldn’t spend so much time and money trying to keep it shut, as he still fights to keep his brother’s closet shut.
So the war against closets will go on. If you pretend you don’t have one, you’re a liar.