Larry Craig says he’s not gay. I believe him. A lot of men who have sex with men aren’t gay.
Life was simple before 1948: someone was either 100% heterosexual or they were queer (note to young people: that’s what gays were called in the old days). But then biologist Alfred Kinsey studied Americans’ sexuality in detail, and as he discovered, “people are not so easily divided into sheeps and goats.”
Kinsey determined that almost half of American men had both heterosexual and same-gender experiences as adults. Like heterosexual women, men also had same-gender sexual fantasies, preferences, and desires. And so Kinsey developed a 7-point scale of sexual orientation. The continuum was based on each person’s “relative amounts of heterosexual and homosexual experience or response.”
The new Kinsey Scale helped explain sexuality in a far more accurate way to a relatively unsophisticated America. And it would help today’s America understand ex-Senator Craig’s behavior, including his firm repetitions that “I am not gay.”
If Craig could simply say, “I’m straight, I just like to have an occasional sexual adventure with a man,” he might not have to spend his life desperately trying to convince himself that he’s not gay. He might not have to spend his professional career viciously trashing homosexuality and preventing gays from accessing their full civil rights.
He might have a marital crisis on his hands, but that’s his private business. As almost everyone agrees, lying to your spouse about having sex with someone else is immoral, regardless of their gender. Craig’s fears about his “immorality”—and his rantings about others’—were focused on the wrong thing.
Freedom from government interference is one of the two conditions people need in order to freely express their sexuality with other consenting adults. The second condition is freedom from the crushing internal criticism that results from inadequate categories of sexual identity.
Larry Craig helped prevent all of us from enjoying the first condition. He suffered from the lack of the second condition. He knew he wasn’t 100% straight, and he was terrified by the only alternative he knew—that he was gay.
It is increasingly evident that those who moralize the loudest about others’ sexual immorality are typically those who are most shocked by their own erotic impulses. Like Craig, those people need more than two internal categories to describe their sexuality—“wholesomely semi-sexual innocent” and “ravenous sexual pervert.”
Until all Americans know that few people are either, and that most “good” people’s psyches contain complex, intense (and harmless) sexual fantasies and impulses, our nation will continue to suffer under the tormented moralizing of “leaders” terrified of their own sexuality.
Which they express by condemning ours.