Tuesday, November 15, 2011

After Sandusky, Back to Being Pedophiles

By Kelly Cogswell, HuffPost

Jerry Sandusky, an assistant football coach at Penn State, had such a passion for underprivileged boys that he started his own foundation, The Second Mile, to help them whether they wanted it or not. "Sometimes they don't want it. Sometimes they don't understand what you're trying to do, but they want to be disciplined." That was a statement from his creepy '87 interview with NBC.

Now he's facing 40 counts of rape and assault, including two occasions at the school. Once, a janitor saw him "hugging" a young boy in the shower. Another time, an assistant coach actually saw him raping a kid. They both reported the occasions to their bosses, and when the bosses did nothing, they didn't pursue.

And if Sandusky's a criminal and perv, what do you call the circle of more than 15 men who knew he was abusing kids and let it go on? Even a bishop would have been troubled enough, at least for the sake of the institution, to move the guy to a different parish. But in the cloistered world of football, old Jerry stayed right where he was.

As for the students who rioted on behalf of the legendary head coach Joe Paterno, who got canned for turning a blind eye, well, I guess they don't think the lives of "underprivileged" boys count for much, not next to that of the winningest coach ever. With a wife and five kids, all Penn State grads, doing their bit to stack the stadium with 17(!) grandkids, Paterno had nothing to do with that homo Sandusky.

Yeah, that's right. Already in sports forums online, commenters are once again busy conflating homosexuality with pedophilia. Probably somewhere down the line, we'll even hear that poor Jerry was abused himself as a child. And the circle of guilt and blame will be offloaded -- again -- onto us queers, homos, fags (words not invoked in our slightly ironic, bittersweet way, but hatefully, with a slightly curled lip).

My only new thought is that the persistence of this stereotype is partly our own fault. The closer we get to legal equality, the more closeted we get about gay sex. Maybe it started with AIDS, when we wanted to separate gayness from sex because of the stigma of the disease.

But this sexlessness has gotten even more intense as our institutions have begun to focus on same-sex marriage. We mostly stick to talking points about the equal rights we want to win, like social security benefits, or the ability to file joint taxes. But more than anything, we wax lyrical about consecrating the love between two people who just happen to be of the same gender. Love, love, love, love, love. We want them to forget that those happily married couples will no doubt have sex, because that's what the bigots hate.

Two men getting it on. Two women. They have dirty minds. They imagine us as animals. With children. They work themselves up into pure disgust. That's probably what kept the Penn State guys in denial about Sandusky (who actually was doing all that), as much as the fear of what it would do to their football program.

And our fear of that fear, that disgust, is what drives lesbians and gay men into the sex closet, even as more and more of us are open about our "identities." It's why we've abandoned gay kids to bullies in schools. Get too close, somebody might think something ugly about us. And on the few occasions that lesbians or gay men have tried to do something about schools, our worst critics have been other queers.

I was a Lesbian Avenger. In 1992, for our first action, we demonstrated in favor of New York City's ill-fated Rainbow Curriculum, which was supposed to teach kids to respect each other. Most of it was about ethnicity, but out of the 440-something pages, six actually mentioned lesbians and gay men. So there was a huge backlash.

Our action: going to an elementary school with a marching band, handing out pamphlets with info about famous LGBT people, and balloons that said, "Ask about lesbian lives." Our t-shirts read, "I was a lesbian child." A few parents were upset, but most weren't. Our intent was clear: telling people to get informed and chill out about the whole thing.

And while Christian extremists responded the way they always did, the surprise was the queers. They were horrified that we'd gone to a school, like they were sacred places. Full of children. My god.

It's the same today. We'd rather let kids get bullied and abused and kill themselves than help them and risk getting called pedophiles ourselves. What does that say about us? And nothing will change until we get those bigots out of our heads and scream to the world, "We fuck. So what?"

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