One of the reasons I would rather not blog on the Kevin Jennings story is that, I believe, some social conservatives are using it to reinforce stereotypes about gay people. Yeah, there are gay people who have sex with minors. But, they’re also straight men who do the same thing–and women as well. as we know from a number of recent publicized cases of teachers seducing their students.
Despite misconceptions in some social conservative circles, most gay men don’t pursue teenagers. Indeed, of all the gay men I’ve met in the eighteen years that I’ve been out, I can only think of one who expressed an interest in teens and he gave no indication of ever acting on that particular desire.
A number of gay groups have also condemned NAMBLA. In 1994,
GLAAD “adopted a “Position Statement Regarding NAMBLA” saying GLAAD “deplores the North American Man Boy Love Association’s (NAMBLA) goals, which include advocacy for sex between adult men and boys and the removal of legal protections for children. These goals constitute a form of child abuse and are repugnant to GLAAD.” Also in 1994 the Board of Directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) adopted a resolution on NAMBLA that said: “NGLTF condemns all abuse of minors, both sexual and any other kind, perpetrated by adults. Accordingly, NGLTF condemns the organizational goals of NAMBLA and any other such organization.”
I recall that about that time, Log Cabin also condemned the group (though I could find no record online).
And yet despite this condemnation, many gay people seem reluctant to talk about the problem (as, I would dare say, do many straights). When they hear of such conduct, they look the other way, rather than look out for the minor.
We should use this story as to borrow an expression from the President, a “teaching moment.” If we learn of an adult having sex with a child, we should act–and quickly–to stop it.
Let me repeat what most troubles me about this whole matter. It wasn’t just that Kevin Jennings didn’t try to stop the boy from sleeping with an adult, it’s that he wrote about the event long after it happened (talking about it on more than one occasion), conducing himself as if he had handled the situation entirely appropriately, as if he had done nothing wrong.
It’s not always easy to do the right thing, particularly when someone confides in us, seeking our support and/or counsel. In such situations, we frequently make mistakes. Sitting in our homes, reading about the Jennings’s conversation with “Brewster,” without a nervous teenager in front of us, it’s easy to say what we would have done in such a situation.
But, we weren’t there. It’s clear, as Jennings acknowledged only last month, he should have handled the situation differently. And the problem here is that while he talked about the issue repeatedly over the years, he didn’t say as much until his past actions appeared to threaten his political career.