Poor Little Monsters
It's a truism at least as old as The Scarlet Letter: the most stringent moralists often are those with something to squirmily hide. And that, for some reason, seems to go double for those who seek to regulate sex.
The last couple of months' worth of news provide yet more proof of this particular rancid pudding. The Republicans, taking a break from the never-ending stream of "family values" advocates caught with their dicks in the cookie jar—Craig, Sanford, Vitter, Ashburn, et al—were discovered spending National Committee money at a lesbian bondage club in West Hollywood. Not just a titty bar, mind you; not even a club where straight guys could go to slaver over a little girl-on-girl action, but a faux-lesbian bondage joint. And in oh-so-homo WeHo, of all places! I mean, why should I bother continuing to write fiction? Jesus, you can't make this stuff up.
Not all the hanky-panky is as benign as dykeing-for-dollars peep shows, though. The Roman Catholic Church, having been caught sheltering a plethora of priestly pedophiles, is caught up in ever-expanding scandal, lamentably distracting Pope Benedict from his antigay, anticondom, antiabortion jihads. But what put the whole thing wayyy over the top was a pre-Easter complaint by His Holiness' personal preacher that likened accusations against the Church to the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism." Well, the Church, coming off two millennia of Jew-baiting, oughta know.
The good Reverend Cantalamessa's statement—delivered in Saint Peter's with Benedict in attendance—didn't stand for long before retractions and apologies were the order of the day. But what was fascinating here, besides the tin-ear rhetoric and the sheer chutzpah involved, was the playing of the Vatican Victim Card: sure, the diddled kids might have suffered a bit, but Benedict is the real martyr here.
When homophobes rail against the queer movement, they so often sound so very, very aggrieved. "I don’t have anything against what you do," the usual complaint goes, "as long as you keep it in the bedroom. But you people are trying to shove homosexuality down my throat." (And one simply must love the "down my throat" bit, no?) Some of this rights-for-sodomy-but-not-sodomites shtick is traceable to the "There's no such thing as a gay person, only a person who commits homosexual acts" trope. (Which is where, oddly, many fundie Christians sort of agree with anti-essentialist queer theorists.)
Most crucial of all, though, is the idea that being under siege justifies doing all sorts of stuff—banning same-sex marriage, for instance, or shutting down a play that depicts a Jesus figure as queer.
This last instance, where a small town in Texas rose as one to protest a student production of Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi, was pretty much a textbook case. Suddenly people who no doubt would oppose hate crime laws applying to LGBT folks were screaming about "hate speech," kvetching furiously about the Hollywood/Sodomite/liberal conspiracy that was. once again, attacking Christianity. Oh, and by the way, fuck free speech. Many threatening e-mails later, the college cancelled the performance. The honor of the Omnipotent Lord of the Universe was saved, just in time for Easter.
Rightwing politicians, fresh from decrying the liberal's "Culture of victimization," are now merrily joining in the fun. Hardly a day goes by when poster-pitbull Sarah Palin isn't whining like a whelp about some perceived slight or another. And those chipper Tea Baggers have no problem acting like a lynch mob, not as long as they're fighting to save Granny from the grip of Stalin Obama's dreaded "death panels."
It's as though a whole schoolyardful of bullies suddenly started yowling, "He started it."
Sure, power relationships can be pretty complicated, and yes, there's often nastiness on all sides. Let's face it, angry queens can have pretty sharp tongues… and sharper stiletto heels. But listen, it's usually pretty easy in most circumstances to figure out who the real victims are: find the damage.
Let's take, oh, the Vatican vs. the homos as an example. It's not merely a matter of the current pope damning same-sex marriage as "an objective obstacle on the road to peace." It's not even his endorsing a purge of gay priests. If we look at history, we see a history of Church-approved torture, burnings at the stake, imprisonment, and, more recently, legal disempowerment of queer people. Real antigay harm—a lot of it—has been done under the banner of the cross. And what actual damage, pray tell, has any homo done to the Church of Rome, except for maybe Michelangelo overcharging on the redecoration fees? Zilch.
So it turns out that the Church, while on a retrograde crusade against consensual sexual choice, has been a haven for statutory rapists, that the scandal reaches high, high up in the hierarchy, and that folks have the temerity to call God's Vicar on it. And what happens? The cardinals circle the silk-draped wagons and the Papacy is now, we're told, going through the moral equivalent of the Holocaust.
Funny thing is, when the post-Prop-8 furor hit the fan, Mormons were complaining that though they were the principal targets of protests, they hadn't been alone in their opposition to gay marriage. And hey, they were right. The initial anti-marriage activists, indeed the folks who brought out-of-state Mormons in on the fight, were members of the Catholic hierarchy… who seemed to escape the criticism aimed at the LDS. And now Catholic apologists are similarly objecting that it's so unfair, that child abuse occurs in all sectors of society. Well, yeah, but when you have a whole bunch of pedophile priests bonking boys by the choirload, then being protectively shuttled from parish to parish, well, you got yourselves not just pervasive criminal behavior—one with real, verifiable victims—but something of a public relations disaster.
And Pope Benedict has the gall to proclaim that gays are "objectively disordered?"
Well, in the words of that martyr to masturbation, the immortal Pee-wee Herman, "I know you are, but what am I?"