For some strange reason, people seem to particularly enjoy the misfortunes of the fortunate. It happened in Québec a couple of weeks ago, as a prolific and openly gay radio and television star was revealed to have been ticketed in an area park for having done something he probably shouldn’t have (definitely shouldn’t have, if you ask the police officer).
At first, when the news broke, the celbrity tried to say that he had urinated and the police officer ticketed him for that, but it only took a couple of days for him to issue a new statement saying that he had not told the truth, that he had masturbated, that he was ashamed of his actions and that he would now withdraw from his professional life for the time being.
No, I’m not going to name him. If you’re resourceful, you will probably be able to figure out who it is, even if you are not familiar with the entertainment stars of Québec. I won’t name him because I don’t want to get on that shaming bandwagon. I think that bandwagon is the thing we should be upset about, not his behaviour. I’m coming for the hypocrites who should be the ones to be shamed.
The first set of hypocrites are the ones who I will qualify as the prudish or puritanical. How shocking that a man would masturbate in front of another man in a public place! I don’t know what time this act is supposed to have occurred, but from the great silence around the circumstances I assume that this was an evening activity, far away in time if not in place from impressionable youth. So the truth of the matter would be that the police officer was engaged in the usual kind of homophobic entrapment practice that we all thought was a thing of the past. And I’m old enough to know that if you are cruising in a public place you don’t go very far with what you’re doing unless you have some kind of encouragement or interest from your audience. Shame on the cops, shame on their cheerleaders.
The second set of hypocrites might be even worse, in my eyes. I happened to be in a meeting of LGBT groups that was ending as the “news” of the “confession” came out — you know that moment at the end of a meeting when people are putting their coats on and mostly checking their phones for what has happened during their brief isolation from the rest of the world. I swear there was giggling or at least smirking going on at the sharing of that information. He was too successful a gay, maybe, and needed bringing down? Or maybe just too white-picket-fence suburban gay with adopted family to merit any sign of solidarity? Shame on us and the divisions in our community.
There’s a lot to be upset about in this lurid tale of underhanded policing and non-confidential record-keeping (the information was leaked to a “journalist” by someone who was not supposed to share it and who seems to have escaped any consequences). Take those two elements and add in the two coats of hypocrites I mentioned earlier and you have a recipe for something that will always block our efforts to end HIV transmission.
"Who cares if a man is cruising in the wooded area of a park at night? The only witnesses will be other men who are there for the same purpose."
Oh, nobody was HIV-positive here, so no tittering about that. No, it’s the attitudes toward sex and sexuality that stop us from speaking about sex openly and without shame, that ensure that there will always be people who don’t have facts, who feel pressured to be furtive and secretive for fear of others’ (and their own) reactions…in short, who are the ideal hosts of the next HIV infections.
Let’s take aim at the first hypocrites first. Who cares if a man is cruising in the wooded area of a park at night? The only witnesses will be other men who are there for the same purpose, curious forest creatures and — oh — police officers who would have us believe that there aren’t enough of them to keep us safe, but spend their evenings cruising for gay men in parks. No children exposed, no sensitive souls forced to watch the shocking activity, just some men who either think they have no alternatives or who like
insects the outdoors having sex with each other. I don’t care. No shame from me, except for those who would judge them.
And the second hypocrites? We’ve probably all been there, relishing the downfall of people who have outsucceeded us. The Germans even have a word for it: schadenfreude, taking delight in the misfortunes of others. Even if we think there is some kind of justice in a suburban family gay (a home-owner-sexual, as my friends would say) being caught out in a situation from which their public lifestyle distances them, the entrapment approach to policing is a threat to us all. Bullying the person into an ashamed confession and contrition only reinforces the problem.
I always preferred George Michael’s response to his own arrest for an act in public — his video Outside, which explored the issue rather nicely and without shame or apology. I won’t add to the shame here, either, but will work to find the solidarity that the “offender” may have been lacking for those of us not taking the suburban family path.
The ultimate hypocrisies in this, though, are probably the most dangerous of all. A police officer prioritising the rooting out of victimless crime over something that actually hurts someone. A public official in a municipal or court structure who has felt entitled to publicly disclose information he or she was charged with keeping confidential. And no penalty or consequences that we have heard of. Those are the truly shameful parts of this story.