DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEW of Robert Bauman’s The Gentleman from Maryland; Mike Jones: I Had to Say Something

 

Author (or Editor):  Robert Bauman

Title:  The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative

Fiction? No (autobiography)

Publisher:  Arbor House / Belvedere

Date:  1986

ISBN:  0-87795-686-3

Series Name:

Physical description: hardbound, 276 pgs

Relevance to doaskdotell: conservative gays

Review:

Robert Bauman was a conservative and Roman Catholic Republican congressman from Maryland in the 1970s, to lose in 1980 after a “sex scandal” no doubt engineered by political enemies exposed his double life as a conservative congressman, married father of four children, and gay man seeking trysts.

In this book, in nine untitled chapters, Bauman tells his story, mostly in simple prose. His narrative goes back and forth in time, and sometimes he refers to himself in the third person. The tone of the book is practical and humble; there is no egoism, no agenda, or than, toward the end, to discuss some of the spiritual issues with his sexuality. He simply wants to tell his story. He was somewhat down when he wrote this, unable to get an appointment in the new Reagan administration after losing the election.

The book starts out with a visit to his Congressional offices from the FBI right after Labor Day in 1980. Apparently he had been followed for visiting gay bars and picking up younger (though not minor) male sexual partners and transporting them, apparently a violation of District of Columbia law then. He was plea bargained for six months probation, but his political career was tanked. I was not aware of stings like this in DC this late. I lived in New York City from 1974-1978 and I do not believe this happened there any longer. But when I moved to Dallas in 1979, I found police harassment, and false charges of “public lewdness” in gay bars (particularly the Throckmorton Mining Company) a big problem, until one gay man, a computer operator, challenged the charges and got an acquittal in 1981, after which the harassment abruptly stopped. Bauman describes the bar scene in DC then vivid, with many of the major bars in Southeast, including the Lost and Found, and Tracks, which would be replaced by the Velvet Nation. All of these are gone now, as the areas has been razed in real estate development frenzy for the new Nationals baseball stadium and nearby office buildings and condos.

He describes his personal awareness of homosexual attractions, that would lead to specific experiences fairly early in life. He was concerned about his body image (being overweight), and sought “complementarity” in liaisons with superior-looking men (particularly the buffed swimmer look). It’s curious that conservative writer George Gilder, in Men and Marriage, published about the same time, would use the term “upward affiliation” for the same psychological process,  whereas the Vatican likes to talk about “complementarity” as a moral obligation that drives procreation and marriage. He was too much a citizen of the world to deal with the emotional pampering that heterosexual courtship required (and, once, he had been asked if he was "queer" because he hadn't started dating women). But then he met Carol, a career woman, and, in his own way, fell in love (my own father claimed “one day blue eyes will confuse you”), and had a successful marriage for 21 years, with four kids.  All the while (and like many public figures forced to stay in the closet) he had dangerous trysts, even picking up hitchhikers, sometimes getting mugged (I had two tricks in New York City return an ask for money, and one robbed me of about $30 in 1978 – the NYPD police saying that this would just be a “tax loss”!) and dealing with alcoholism, sometimes obviously driving while intoxicated. An early warning for his downfall occurred some months before the FBI visit when his wife found clumsily hidden male gay pornography.

Bauman led a “real life,” then, trying to compete like a man. He married, had kids, ran for office and won real elections. (He was introduced to political life by serving as a Congressional page, an observation that today seems ironic in view of the Mark Foley scandal, even though his service took place in the 50s.) Then the Roman Catholic Church took everything away from him in 1982 when Carol would divorce him, insisting instead on annulling the marriage, claiming that it could never have happened because he was a homosexual. I haven’t heard of this before, and it seems to contradict the teachings of the church on sin as related to behavior. Or is it consistent with the 1986 idea of homosexuality as an “objective disorder” (what Laura Schlessinger called a “biological error”). Catholic theology is this seems so complete yet so deliciously circular. (A homosexual is not supposed to be around men because he could be tempted – so no gay priests now, please – and not supposed to be around women, because by definition marriage is impossible. It sounds like the Marine Corps not wanting gays and then not wanting straights.)

The last part of the book deals with some of the moral and spiritual questions. The moral condemnation of homosexuality is supposed to be based on setting aside sex, and all of the emotional experience with it, for procreation and marital commitment. Much of the problem comes from the intentional preferences bestowed on heterosexual life so that children can be raised; today people don't like to say that.  Bauman's book refreshes our memories about some noxious proposals of his time: the 1978 Briggs initiative in California, which would have institute a military-style ban on gay teachers and which Gov. Reagen rejected as an invasion of privacy; the 1977 Family Protection Act, which would have provided explicit favoritism for procreation (although it would have also supported eldercare) and signed off an anti-gay discrimination, and another measure that would have prevented federal funds for use in challenging state sodomy laws. Bauman was obviously in a position of conflict of interest in supporting these, in lukewarm fashion. The homosexual, if practicing “upward affiliation” is implicitly saying that masculinity matters, and that competence to procreate and be a suitable ancestor matters, even if the homosexual himself does not become one (although Bauman did, with four children!); instead he picks out who should have a family with his feelings and sensibility. Then this raises the question, if competition matters, why not compete yourself? It can sound like a brutal circle. But you have to have the chance to use your own best talents. For me it should have been music and piano. Later it was chess and writing. (Chess is an excellent way to compete as an individual, to “demonstrate your superiority” in a five-hour event, from opening to endgame.) But the idealization remains.   

Bauman, in fact, did compete, in ways that the public recognizes as deserving of celebrity. I did not. I remained, not in the closet at all, but rather in a separate space, that would gradually become reconciled to the demands of the real world. I have wondered, if Mr. Bauman proved that he really could do all that society expects in competing as a man to provide for a family, why did he jeopardize it with such gratuitous covert behavior? It's not so much addiction in the usual sense as recharging one's batteries in one's own psyche so that one can go on competing as society expects. I do relate to that with my own disco "voyeurism" even if I think my own behavior is of much lower key and much less risky.

Mike Jones with Sam Gallegos: I Had to Say Something: The Art of Ted Haggard's Fall. Seven Stories Press, 2007. 256 pages, hardcover. Ten Chapters and a Postscript. ISBN 1-58322-768-7. Mike Jones gives his own story as a make "escort" in Denver, and his three years of encoutners with "Art", and alias for Ted Haggard, the evangelical pastor who would fall in 2006. The book is quite frank, with all that chest shaving as a normal part of life, but gives a riveting account of how he went to the media. Blogger.

 

 Related: George Gilder: Men and Marriage;  Robinson: Queer Wars;  Tafel: Party Crasher

 

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