The saga of Senator Larry Craig, protector of the sacred covenant of marriage and avowed heterosexual, is an interesting one. Interesting and not really that uncommon. Like Craig, there are countless conflicted American males, married and furthering the façade of family values, the kind that proponents vehemently insist are dependent only on one narrow view of sex. These tenets must align with a narrow Judeo-Christian construct and involve acts exclusively between men and women, within the confines of marriage.
Men like Craig, battling sexual impulses, hardwired into their makeup, must compartmentalize those urges. Unfortunately for Craig, but more so for his wife and family, you can’t keep these impulses under cover forever. Eventually you get caught and in Craig’s case, your national coming out party takes place in an airport restroom. Now that really sucks (no pun intended).
Back in the day, when I was reclaiming the streets for God, or better, Jack Hyles, I met countless Larry Craigs, while spending some time in Al Capone’s old haunt of Calumet City, a place affectionately dubbed, "sin city." It was obvious to see why, upon my very first visit.
A group of bible college compatriots would spend Friday nights walking the streets, passing out tracts, witnessing for Jesus and preaching on street corners in this veritable den of iniquity. At that time (the early 80s, the area was notorious for narcotics, prostitution and whatever vice was your calling card), the main street consisted of a string of seedy bars and a shady cast of characters walking the streets. While a certifiable hayseed when I found myself in the Midwest, at 21, it didn’t take me long to know I wasn’t in Kansas (or better, Maine) anymore.
In looking back, I’m now aware that I had cursory contact with gay men growing up; it wasn’t until my first forays into street preaching, however, that I ever met supposed heterosexual men, on the prowl, clearly in the pursuit of one thing—gay sex, with anyone and as many men as they could find, each and every weekend, before going back home to wives and children who probably were unaware of their husband’s, or father’s double life.
Just like Craig’s public insistence that "I am not gay,” these men, once they found out what our mission was, would gather around and while some would give us a hard time and revile God and our brand of religion, many more of these men would pull us aside and insist on explaining to us what they were doing there, particularly that while there were other blatantly gay men men afoot, they were not homosexual in any way.
I’m sure that these men, many whom we came to know by name, realized that we weren’t fooled by their stories. Still, each and every week, they’d ask us to have a cup of coffee, to talk and tell us about their families, their work, their homes—all in an attempt to shore up their defenses, in their own minds. One gentleman began to insist on buying us dinner whenever we ran into him. When we’d tell him that we couldn’t accept, he insisted on doing this and if we didn’t acquiesce, he’d became angry and would stalk off.
One Friday night, we witnessed a man get thrown through a plate glass window and bleed to death right in front of us, despite attempts by one of the students, who was a former paramedic, to stop his bleeding until the police and rescue unit showed up. The Calumet City of that era was not a pretty place and I marvel that I never was harmed while there. I could certainly make a case for divine intervention on those experiences alone.
Even to this day, thinking back on some of the men that I met, it brings back memories of sorrow and sympathy that they couldn’t acknowledge their sexual orientation and had to live this obviously difficult double life. Whether looking for love on the mean streets of Calumet City, or in Craig's case, airport restrooms and who knows where else. I'm sure we will find out in time that Craig had his own personal Calumet City that he frequented. Also, I can only imagine the potential risks of STD and other transmittable diseases that Craig and these men in Calumet City exposed their wives to.
While part of me wants to condemn Craig, as he is obviously not telling the truth, based upon these firsthand experiences nearly 25 years ago, another part of me sympathizes for him. Even more so for his wife and his children. It’s sad that ideology, religion and other societal constraints force people into boxes that they can’t live in. Even worse, they allow themselves to become imprisoned and must resort to this awful life of lies and sexual russian roulette.