Monday, August 11, 2003

inappropriate touching
I'm sure many of you have followed at least bits of the "gay bishop" story. I came home last Monday night, waited for the 1a.m. rerun version of CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown, and turned it on to get the headline story: Episcopalians Delay Vote On Gay Bishop Candidate (ok, enuf links to CNN). Then the double whammy accusations - "inappropriate touching" and "internet porn". Well, the porn link thing was fairly obvious that it wouldn't amount to much (anyone who has spent more than 1 hour in his life websurfing knows you can get from practically any site to internet porn in about 3 clicks, and they said as much on the news broadcast), but the "touching" one concerned me, especially when they spelled out the details, as they were, that night.

I listened, and read the TV screen, the vague allegation: "When I first encountered Gene (Robinson the soon-to-be-Bishop) at a ... convocation a couple of years ago he put his hands on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation. NO GAY MAN HAS EVER BEHAVED TOWARDS ME THIS WAY -- and I have had over 25 years of associations with gay male colleagues in the Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego show business communities." At first, the vagueness of "inappropriate" struck me - it's a conclusion without "facts" (he didn't say how or where he was touched, only that it was inappropriate). But the phrase in CAPS gave him away - NO GAY MAN HAS EVER BEHAVED TOWARDS ME THIS WAY - "Ahhh" I thought, it wasn't the touching per se, but the sexual orientation of the toucher that was offensive, and somehow deemed "harrassment" - ("Well, I am a straight man reporting homosexual harassment by a gay male priest from another diocese." his email went on to say)

Of course, later (the next day) we learned that the touching was a hand on the arm, and a hand on the back, twice in the course of one day, in public, while they were talking about a question the accuser had of Robinson. The church investigated, got clarification, the accuser said he regretted using the term "harrasment" and didn't want to pursue the matter further, and the investigators cleared Robinson, and later that day, as we all now know, Robinson was elected Bishop.

But the accusation still haunts me, disturbs me, and even saddens me. We can sort of laugh or titter at the man for going overboard, but I think it is an accurate reflection of what many str8 folks feel, and fear. And I also think we gay folks often act/react, consciously or not, on that level - that touching from us can be construed as sexual, and ought to be avoided. How many gay folks are extra careful in work situations, especially those dealing with children, or others in a caregiver situation. And how many gay folks are afraid to be "out" at work, for fear that any signs of affection, or physical camaraderie will and can be misconstrued? And I also wonder how many gay folks have avoided careers and jobs as caregivers, teachers, etc., for fear of having their sexual orientation hanging over their heads, casting a shadow on everything that is said and done. It's truly a shame, that these fears play out in a way that lessens affection, when the world, our lives, could truly use more of it - hugging, hand-holding, consoling, whatever. Our hang-ups about sex, and homosexuality cause such great damage when we allow them to stifle our natural, good urges to touch each other, to share in a physical way our feelings with and towards each other.