Thursday, July 21, 2005

Uncle Tom's Closet (Part 2)

(Uncle Tom's Closet is a three part series that describes the phenomenon of politically powerful gay people who actively oppose the rights and freedoms of gay people. See Part 1 here.)

Former Congressman Ed Schrock (R-VA) and Robert Traynham, senior aide to Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Ed Schrock was an ultra-conservative congressman from Pat Robertson's district in Virginia. The Christian Coalition gave him a 92% rating when it came to voting against the rights of gay people. Now 64, Schrock was in the Navy for 24 years and advocated eliminating Clinton's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy so that recruits could once again be questioned about whether or not they had ever had same-sex experiences. According to his website, he is married and is an active member of Atlantic Shores Baptist Church. He has one son.

Schrock was outed in August 2004 during his reelection campaign by Mike Rogers at when it was alleged that Schrock posted an audio ad on a gay personals phone line to arrange sexual liaisons (fyi: the audio file of Schrock's ad is pretty graphic). As a result, Schrock dropped out of his congressional race weeks before the election leaving the Republican party little time to find a candidate to replace him. In December 2004 he went back to work on the Hill as a staffer for congressman Thomas Davis.

“Dr. Troy's” Prescription (I'm not really a doctor):

A clear path forward for Schrock is hard for me to see, mainly because he has a wife to consider. Note to singles (especially conservative Christian singles): Make sure your potential spouse isn't fooling himself or herself into thinking they are straight! When in doubt, ask. If your partner is going the ex-gay route, you should at least be informed and involved and well-read on the statistical outcomes of ex-gay ministry results.

Schrock is ex-military, so I do not see him as a likely candidate for one-on-one talk therapy. Maybe group therapy would be a good way to go.

Plan A: If Schrock and his wife are happy with their arrangement they could make their marriage work. Some couples in similar situations do, though I imagine a conversation about each person's opinion of extramarital sex is in order if they have not had that talk already.

Plan B: If the marriage is not going to work, now would be the time to make as equitable break as is possible. Fortunately, being 64 is “middle-aged” these days. Now that Schrock doesn't have to hide his attraction anymore, he may find it a relief to be open and decide to live the last part of his life as himself, potentially with a man who loves him just as he is. Schrock is a family man, and as his ad said, he is “buff and tan.” He won't have trouble finding a date. If he goes with Plan B, I would suggest he look into the problems facing same-gendered couples at retirement. For some reason I get a vibe that Schrock is a good guy lost in a fog of homophobia. I could see him becoming a quiet advocate for same-gendered couples in the future.

Robert Traynham, senior aide to Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Robert Traynham is an “out” gay conservative working for senator Rick Santorum. Santorum is known for believing that the right to privacy does not exist in the U.S. Constitution. His legislative opinion is that if “homosexual acts” are “allowed”, polygamy and incest will be as well. Santorum also has said that passing the Federal Marriage Amendment is the most important kind of “homeland security.” He is adamantly against any kind of legal protection for same-gendered couples and their families. Though he is not interested in making it illegal to fire someone just because they are gay, kudos go to Santorum for finding and hiring Traynham, perhaps one of the smarter things he has ever done.

According to Traynham's trustee bio at Cheyney University:

Robert Traynham is currently Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Communications for the Senate Republican Conference, where he serves Conference Chairman, U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, in his leadership office. In this capacity, Mr. Traynham is responsible for developing and implementing communication strategies, and for overseeing press-related activities on behalf of all Republicans in the U.S. Senate. He also served as President of the United States Senate Press Secretaries Association.

Before his current appointment, Mr. Traynham held dual posts for Senator Santorum, both as Press Secretary for the Senator's 2000 re-election campaign in Pennsylvania, and for his Senatorial office at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Robert Traynham has worked for Senator Santorum since January 1997, having served him previously as Deputy Press Secretary and Press Assistant. Prior to working in the U.S. Senate, Mr. Traynham served as Political Director for Black America's Political Action Committee (BAMPAC), an organization whose mission is electing black conservatives to national office.

Below is a section of a conversation with Traynham from Mike Rogers article at RawStoryQ:

…When asked how a gay man could speak for one of the nation's most notorious homophobes, Traynham, left, protested that (he) has "been with the Senator for eight years." Traynham went on to say "Senator Santorum is a man of principle, he is a man who sticks up for what he believes in, I strongly do support Senator Santorum."

When pressed on whether he supported the Senator's stands on lesbian and gay issues, Mr. Traynham abruptly ended the phone call by saying "Senator Santorum is a family man. I have been with Senator Santorum for eight years and I am very proud to be with him."

An attempt to follow-up with a question was met with Mr. Traynham hanging up the phone…

I do not have a place for this one in my head. I understand that some politicos see other issues as more important than fighting for their rights and those of others like them. But how do you work for someone who is actively fighting against your rights? In fact, Traynham helped Santorum get elected on an overt anti-gay relationship platform. I do believe that there is benefit in having homophobic straight people work directly with regular old gay people, but not if the gay person is encouraging the homophobe to keep up the good work of bashing civil rights.

Traynham has indicated that he does not think his sexual orientation is other people's concern. Has he told his boss this? While it may be none of Santorum's business, the senator deplores any hint of gay relationships so much that he was outraged when the Supreme Court decided that they should not be considered illegal. Traynham, at what point does your boss's attempts to squash any access your family may have to the same rights and protections that his has send up a red flag for you?

Why does Traynham's situation make me so angry? At least he is not an elected official (yet). Maybe it is because I think he is young enough to know better, which may not be fair to him. Pennsylvania, outside of the larger cities, is conservative. And who besides Traynham knows what particular socio-cultural prejudices he faces in his network or relationships?

Perhaps Traynham's personal (and somewhat naïve) ambition blinds him to his ultimate fate once his usefulness to social conservatives is depleted. A word of warning from history: When someone sells their brothers and sisters down the river, he likely will find himself shackled to the last raft.

“Dr. Troy's” Prescription (I'm not really a doctor):

A. Stay “Republican Gay.” It seems that the only kind of gay relationships Republicans are comfortable with are non-committed and childless. If people like West, Schrock, and Traynham are the only gay people Republicans know, it is little wonder that the Allen Keyes of the world consider us selfish hedonists.

B. Traynham could find a nice man and settle down. They should try to plan for their retirement and the future of their children together. Then Traynham should try to imagine a couple who does not have enough money or time to hire the attorney necessary to get through the massive trust agreement process.

Traynham also should listen to what Santorum is saying about him and his values. If like the senator, he also equates his own sexuality with bigamy, polygamy, and incest, he will likely need a counselor to help him sort out the differences.

If Traynham is merely taking advantage of his current situation for the sake of an ambitious political career, he should channel Bette Davis's Margo from “All About Eve” and repeat to himself the following:
"Funny business a woman's career. The things you drop on your way up the ladder-so you can move faster-you forget you'll need them again when you go back to being a woman."


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