They’re Back! Over the years we’ve covered our share of anti-gay clergymen and politicians who were caught engaging in just the kind of activities that they habitually railed against in sermons and speeches. But such stories have fallen off in recent years. It was almost as if these guys were finally getting the message that if you want to rant about homo- and extramarital sex, you really need to stay away from minors, airport restrooms, and women who aren’t your wife. Turns out they haven’t gone away after all; they’ve only withdrawn into that modern fleshpot, the Internet—which seems like such a private place, where you can be truly alone. Not bloody likely! Three cases in point:
I. Reverend Dave Reynolds was the pastor of the Cornerstone Bible Fellowship in Sherwood, Arkansas—that is, until he was arrested on seventy counts of distributing, possessing, and viewing child pornography. Described as “vehemently anti-gay,” Reynolds was one of those pastors who wasted no opportunity to denounce homosexuality, pornography, adultery—the usual suspects. But all the while he was amassing a giant collection of child porn, some of it quite extreme, involving children of all ages and both sexes. As always, one is struck by the sheer obsessiveness of Reynolds’ little hobby, and also by his defense in court. Unable to deny the existence of the numerous photos on his computer—it’s all in the Cloud!—when asked if he had engaged in viewing the material, he replied that he had “not knowingly done so.” Perhaps there’s an ocular disorder of some kind that could render this statement meaningful, but tell that to the judge. Bail was set at an eye-opening $250,000.
II. Staying in Arkansas but moving from the sacred to the profane, District Judge Joseph Boeckmann of Cross County was forced to leave his job when a state commission announced that it had discovered some 4,500 photographs of nude male defendants on his computer. Mind you, these were not just naughty pictures that the judge had downloaded, but photos he had taken himself of young men who’d come before his bench. Boeckmann’s M.O. was to give defendants his private phone number and sentence them to “community service” at his home. The latter would consist of allowing the judge to administer paddlings to their backsides or other sexual acts in lieu of a stiffer penalty. The photos show the young men naked and bending over after receiving their treatment. In return, the judge would agree to make life a lot easier for the defendants by paying off their fines or expunging their convictions. (Most were for minor crimes, such as traffic violations.) As for his defense, once again the Internet had foreclosed any plausible deniability, which didn’t stop Boeckmann from declaring his innocence, claiming that the photos were used “to corroborate participation in community service.” Hey, it was a service, and the judge was part of the community, right?
III. From Arkansas to Ireland, where there’s a town called Armagh with a Catholic Church that once had a priest named Rory Coyle. The latter lost his position when it came to light that he was an active user of Grindr and that he participated in casual hookups and even the occasional orgy. What’s interesting is that Coyle wasn’t the kind of priest that the movie Spotlight spotlit, those sexually frustrated men who furtively diddled the choirboys and used their power to secure their victims’ silence. His targets were guys over eighteen that he courted the new-fashioned way: with salacious screen shots and sex chat. What got Coyle into trouble was his sermons, which were full of fire and brimstone about homosexuals and their sins—which got under the skin of one of his tricks, who blew the whistle on the priest. Commented the whistleblower: “He’s just a hypocrite, denouncing gay people from the pulpit and then shagging guys when no one is looking.” Does this mean that Coyle might have gotten away with this secret life if not for his homophobic sermons? That would be a nice twist on an old ploy.
Matters of Taste Here are nine words you may never have expected to hear: “I’m gay—I just don’t have sex with men.” They were uttered by actor James Franco, who seems determined to keep us guessing about his sexual orientation with similar comments suggesting that he’s embraced a gay identity but can’t quite complete the trip to full sexual expression. What’s curious is how this reverses the situation that has prevailed throughout history, or at least for the past century. People have been having same-sex sex since Day One; they just wouldn’t admit that they were “gay,” or didn’t even have a word for it. We seem to have moved into an age when it’s possible to assume “gay” as an identity without engaging in any particular kind of sexual behavior. The outspoken Franco, for his part, doesn’t much discuss his heterosexual side, if any. So perhaps it harks back to an even older trope, best captured by Christopher Isherwood when he accused W. H. Auden of being “a heterosexual with good taste.” Just a theory.
Toilet Talk The matter of transgender people and public restrooms is suddenly on everyone’s lips, as states like North Carolina and Mississippi pass laws designed to limit transpeople’s access to the lav. The mainstream media have run with the story in all its various aspects, so there’s no need for a recap. But here’s a small item that could have larger implications. It happened at a Walmart in Connecticut and involved a woman named Aimee Toms, who was minding her own business in the ladies’ room when suddenly another woman accosted her: “You’re not supposed to be here! You need to leave!” Now Aimee happens to be “cisgender”—a biological woman who’s happy in her skin, albeit one with short hair and a baseball cap. Security was called and Toms was promptly escorted from the restroom. This incident got some attention, but it’s the kind of thing that could well become routine now that right-wing politicians have whipped up so much hysteria about transgender people using the restroom of their choice. The fact that such people have been quietly doing just that for decades with no ill effects matters little to the demagogues in North Carolina and elsewhere. They’ve managed to manufacture an ugly social problem where before there was none.