October 04, 2006
He's Way Out Now!
Erstwhile governor of New Jersey and closet queen extraordinaire, Jim McGreevey, is letting it all hang out in his inevitable memoir The Confession. The secretive politico doesn't pull his punches anymore; he even seems to revel in the recounting of his sex-capades. I suppose that's what catharsis is all about. Or was there a publisher prodding him on with leading questions like, "Hey, Jim! Wanna sell a million books? Wanna be a TV movie?" As a result, much of the book reads like vintage, soft-core porn. You could be reading a tattered paperback from the pre-Stonewall era on the dollar table at the thrift shop when you encounter passages like, "I was thrilled to find him, to discover that I wasn't alone in the world. And I wanted him. It's not a sexual quest, or not entirely; it's a journey home." Sounds like a sexual quest to me, Jim! And you don't have to jelly it up with flowery prose or justify it anymore. Here he's talking about a tryst as an eight grader with a schoolmate. We're all the same: sex is as hot and all-consuming to gay teens as it is to straight teens – no need to bring it "home" to a higher place.
There's a lot more of the like: "I craved the normal things about love – I wanted to kiss, I ached for a hug, I dreamed of sharing a life with someone I loved, some man I loved." Okay, then! These are the memories he conjures of a grown, post-college McGreevey who, you would think, knew something of the world. Yet, "In public I became as avid a womanizer as anybody else on the New Jersey political scene. But my attraction was largely artificial, my sexual performance a triumph of mind over matter." The amateur shrink in me wants to talk to him about bi-sexuality, and let him know that I'm glad he remembers it as a "triumph". I want to tell him to stop kicking himself — it's all good, as the young folks say. Cut yourself some slack, Jimbo. If the dominant societal "norm" were reversed and 90% of the world had gay sex, who's to say straights wouldn't sneak off to have sex? I'm on board with the innocent teen being lost in a vortex of newly found passions, but grownups need to own what they do — the good, the bad, the ugly.
I suppose naiveté is in the eye of the beholder. Anyway, he became a regular at XXX joints in the old Times Square and at rest stops in New Jersey. He describes one such encounter thusly: "There was nothing enjoyable about it — it was more mechanical than anything. I wasn't even attracted to him. What I felt immediately was both relief and burden — I felt both better and worse."
This is what happens to people in savagely persecuted minorities when they are taught self-hatred. Whatever your reaction is to the salacious details he provides in his book, you have to give the guy credit for being extremely courageous. In a year's time he's gone from a man who felt the need to hide his real persona from both parents, two siblings, two wives, teachers, clergy, and millions of voters, to man who's putting his most personal acts out there for public consumption. And that takes guts.
Here's the lesson in all this: the big nasty in Jim McGreevey's story is not the fact that he's gay. Lying to himself and others caused all the big trouble. The cause is clear: like all who are viewed as outcasts, he caved to enormous peer & social pressures. He decided he could further his political career by appearing to be straight. And he went very far, very fast. Allow me to pose this question: what if he'd been open about his sexuality from the very beginning, faced the obstacles set before him, and became the first gay governor of New Jersey? It's possible. Or, at least, I like to think so. If you're a Democrat.