Every gay man knows the scenario: Some sweaty, balding, cross-eyed, toothless hog is overheard issuing a loud, public homophobic warning along the lines of "These homos had better keep their hands off ME!" No problem, Cletus. Your virtue is safe -- not only with me, but with any sentient human being blessed with the senses of sight and/or smell. Something tells me the ladies aren't exactly busting down your door, either, if you know what I mean, you Public Temptation, you.
I've always supposed such sentiments have two basic sources, namely (a) the belief that gay men value sex to the exclusion of everything else and will go to great lengths to get it, and (b) a crippling inferiority complex in regard to one's own attractiveness and potency. Mind you, it's never the Ryan Reynoldses or the Hugh Jackmans who act as though legions of gay men are just aching to get into their pants -- they, of course, could be forgiven for thinking that. No, it's the men with faces and physiques only a mother could love -- a mother or a plastic surgeon or a scout for "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."
Does Eugene Delgaudio, a Loudon County, Va., supervisor and also president of the conservative non-profit organization Public Advocate of the U.S.
, suffer from this syndrome? Certainly he displays the familiar complex of symptoms. It's not that he's all that bad-looking: He looks rather like your middle school principal, or like every woman's first husband. But his bizarre projections about gay male sexuality have, to my way of thinking, dethroned Texan Congressman Joe Barton as the Elected Official Most Likely to Leave You Speechless and made that uncoveted title indisputably Delgaudio's own. Barton's apology to BP for having to endure a "shakedown" was merely pusillanimous, and comparing himself and his fellow Republicans to George Patton, Omar Bradley, and Ike so silly that Richard Nixon, who watched "Patton" over and over and over again, could have authored that particular howler.
No, Delgaudio is of a different, scarier order altogether, having claimed
that TSA pat-downs "are part of the homosexual agenda." According to this logic, the TSA, which apparently has a non-discrimination policy as regards sexual orientation, has been infiltrated by homosexuals who are "getting pleasure" from performing pat-downs. This is all part of a "wide-scale homosexual agenda," says Delgaudio, fostered by "Radical Homosexuals" whose ultimate goal is, is . . . is what
, exactly? Forcing heterosexual employees out of the TSA so that gay staffers can feel up every single male passenger who comes through the security checkpoint?
Picture, if you will, the security line at a major airport. Say, LaGuardia, the day before Thanksgiving. You're a TSA agent working a double shift, and the line is stretching back beyond the Hudson News stand, past Auntie Anne's Pretzels and into the food court. It's 7 a.m., they're in a hurry, they're mad, and there's no end to them. You feel like a heel for making the great-grandmother in the wheelchair open her luggage, and you're trying to explain to the Asian teenagers that they just don't have the proper form of ID. The big guy holding the cowboy boots is mad as hell that he has to surrender the half-gallon bottle of Mountain Dew he just bought, and the couple in matching sweatsuits is holding you personally responsible for their missing their connection to Vegas. Given the hygiene of some of the people in line, you'd take a salary cut if you could compel them to keep their shoes on. There are five or six toddlers screaming at the top of their lungs, and you don't blame them. You'd like to scream yourself, or walk away, but money's tight, jobs are scarce, and this one has job security and benefits.
Let me put it another way: Can you imagine a less erotic space than an airport security line? Can you imagine a person less inclined to cop a quick feel than a beleaguered TSA agent? Can you imagine taking the job just for the jollies you're going to get from placing your hands on the sagging flesh of Joe and Josephine Q. Public?
I've seen plenty of homophobia in my time, plenty of bigotry of all kinds. I can understand why some people are frightened by the idea of repealing "Don't ask, don't tell." Though I can't agree with them any more than I can agree with the people who stand behind the Defense of Marriage Act, I will go to my grave defending the right of people to express their opinions in earnest, even if their opinions are anathema to me and even if they are pitifully ill-informed. And I'm not easily shocked -- I live in New York City. But Delgaudio has stunned even me. In a fund-raising letter he sent to Public Advocate members last spring, he says that "Radical Homosexuals are storming through Washington demanding passage of their agenda." If they get their way, he says, Radical Homosexuals "will terrorize day care centers, hospitals, churches and private schools." If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, we'll see "wedding-gown clad men smooching," then "skipping hand-in-hand down to adoption centers to 'pick out' a little boy for themselves."
He certainly has an apocalyptic vision, a Sodom and Gomorrah way of looking at things. And like all great prophets, he has visions and dreams dreams: He tells us
of driving "to a mailshop hidden deep in a nearly deserted stand of warehouses." In this secreted bunker, "long-haired, earring-pierced men [are] scurrying around running forklifts," loading carton after carton with "pro-homosexual petitions." Then comes the paranoid rip in the narrative: "Suddenly a dark-haired man screeched, 'Delgaudio, what are you doing here?' Dozens of men began moving toward me. I'd been recognized." Oddly, they don't assault him, and they don't even try to feel him up. Rather, they laugh at him: "This time, Delgaudio, we can't lose." Cue the Satanic laughter and Tubular Bells -- we're in the halls of Hell, and it's ruled by gay men and lesbians.
I'm not blaming the entire Republican Party for his madness, and I'm not blaming Loudon County, where his colleagues compelled Delgaudio to apologize for, among other things, calling transgendered individuals "it." I'm not even blaming the primitive wing of the conservative movement; this guy makes Sarah Palin look like Margaret Chase Smith. I am saying that we're taking certifiable loony tunes entirely too seriously, we're electing them to office, and they're not only not apologizing for their hallucinations but are sticking by them.Politics Daily