Gerry Studds Obituary

From William A. Percy
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Gerry Studds brought great credit to the gay community with twenty-four years of distinguished service in Congress representing the 10th district of Massachusetts. Unlike the now infamous Mark Foley, Studds survived a scandal in 1983 involving sexual impropriety with a male congressional page, who a decade before had accompanied him on a trip to Portugal. Foley resigned within days of the disclosure of his sexually explicit Internet communications with former male pages. Charges that the office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert had ignored evidence of Foley's inappropriate behavior may be a pivotal factor in the upcoming mid-term elections.

First elected in 1972 as an anti-war and pro-environment liberal, Studds was the first congressmen to announce that he was gay. He declined to resign despite calls from the Boston Globe and various officials that he do so, and went on to reelection in 1984 months after the House censured him. Emboldened, he demanded more money for AIDS and for greater gay rights, such as the right to serve openly in the military. He married longtime partner, Dean T. Hara, shortly after Massachusetts legalized gay marriage.

Undisputed evidence shows that Foley sent sexually suggestive e-mail to pages, but no testimony has so far indicated that he actually had sex with pages, or indeed with any male. His hypocrisy is nonetheless evident in his sponsorship of legislation stipulating harsher penalties for intergenerational sex. He was a supporter and instigator of the sexual panic that is sweeping the nation, making sex with a junior, however either is defined, even up to age 18 (and even at that age, often now misnomered as a young boy, as if boyhood didn’t end at about 12, making a “young boy” 6 to 9 years of age) more severely punishable than murdering a youth. In the current climate, failure to distinguish boy from youth has led to a confusion between pedophilia and pederasty, an important distinction. Pedophiles are attracted only to the prepubescent, pederasts to adolescents under 16 or 18.

While almost nobody would condone sex between a congressman and a page, Studds' acknowledgment of error and outstanding service allowed his career to continue even after censure. Barney Frank, another homosexual congressman, also survived scandal six years after the Studds controversy, in 1989, when it was revealed he allowed an adult hustler to share his apartment. He then went on to chair major committees.

President Clinton also seduced or was seduced by an aide and after impeachment in the House, went on to conclude his spectacular presidency. But then, his slip was heterosexual.

The attack on gay pederastic “sex offenders” is in part a form of homophobia, in which even some “good gays” participate to prove that they themselves are all right. But it should be remembered that teenagers are sexually charged, full of hormones, particularly males. Unlike females, who are far more traumatized by intergenerational sex, they cannot be impregnated when penetrated. And they are more likely than females to be the instigators and less likely to be penetrated. Homosexuals are no more likely to engage in intergenerational sex than heterosexuals. The vast majority of “victims” are female. In the old days if a woman had sex with a teenage boy, many thought she had “made a man of him.” Now women can be jailed for such conduct, which is certainly unbecoming a teacher but not necessarily a sympathetic helper as in Catcher in the Rye. But they should be dismissed for their actions, not jailed.

The reigniting of Studds' old sex scandal by fanatical commentators seeking to minimize the ongoing Foley scandal undoubtedly contributed to Studds' untimely death at age 69. This is in itself a tragedy. But the harsh terms, often harsher than for murder, imposed on all sex offenders--even the 17-year-old youth with his 15-year-old girlfriend, with far greater penalty for consensual homosexual sex acts between male adolescents of those ages--verges on insanity.

Even worse is the accelerating Republican witch hunt of their own party members. In the media it is referred to as "the list," supposedly the names of twenty-odd gay and lesbian Republicans--a female senator, four congressmembers, nine chiefs of staff, and two presidential advisors. They purportedly helped cover up Mark Foley's inappropriate communications with congressional pages. Denunciations, outings, and stereotyping by a "right-wing lynch mob" are the order of the day in our capital. CNN has already outed two congressional workers. In Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence (see my books page) I only advocated the outing of senior military officers, supreme court justices, members of the House and Senate, and cardinals, but not congressional staff and chiefs, much less priests or monsignors.

Before mid-term elections the Grand Old Party is panicking, trying to save its control of Congress and individual careers. The party that boasts of decency and family values has come under intense suspicion of having covered up for Foley--for years--while he made passes at teenage boys. "Shameful," said Patrick Sammon, vice president of the Log Cabin Republicans, describing their strategy of hypocrisy. Newsweek columnist Eleanor Clift protested: "What Foley did was not about being gay but about abusing his power over young students--and it was compounded by the actions of his colleagues whose silence made them complicit."

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