No Sex Please, We’re Gay

Guest Commentary

Jack Drescher, MD

January 23rd, 2009

Jack Drescher, MD, is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City. Dr. Drescher is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and presently serves as a Consultant to APA’s Committee on Public Affairs. He is past Chair of APA’s Committee on GLB Issues. Dr. Drescher is Author of Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man (The Analytic Press) and is Emeritus Editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health.

The city of Portland, Oregon is being rocked by a political sex scandal. This one has many of the familiar ingredients of the genre: a sexual relationship between a politician and an intern, a newspaper ferreting out the story, a lying elected official and an ineffective cover up an affair, calls to come clean, a belated admission of culpability, and a sense that the public trust has once again been betrayed.

In this case, the sex involves Portland’s newly elected Mayor Sam Adams and an eighteen-year-old male intern. And the scandal is stirring debate in Portland’s LGBT community, pitting those who believe the Mayor should be forgiven his transgressions and those clamoring for his resignation.

Gay people calling for a gay politician’s head for having sex? This seems a far cry from the attitudes that prevailed within the fledgling gay liberation movement that emerged after the 1969 Stonewall riots.  In the 1970s, gay liberation was seen as a metaphor for other forms of liberation:  third world countries were to be liberated from colonial oppression; African-Americans and other people of color were to be liberated from white oppression; women were to be liberated from male domination; gays and lesbians were to be freed from heterosexual oppression.

At the time, freedom from heterosexual oppression was also taken to mean opposing conventional, heterosexual beliefs about what constituted acceptable forms of sexuality.  Gay writers like John Rechy idealized and glamorized the sexual outlaws who sexually engaged with anonymous and multiple partners.  It was a time when calling someone “promiscuous” could reasonably be interpreted as envy of that person’s sexual prowess.

This early movement called for decriminalizing all consensual sexual activities between adults.  Some would even argue for legalizing sexual activities between adults and minors.  Sexual liberation meant there could be no bad sex as long as the sex was voluntary.

How times have changed.  Today, the LGBT civil rights movement has shifted its focus from a radical sexual liberation to more conservative issues, like the right to marry, the right to raise children, the right to serve in the military, and access to health care.  The Stonewall’s bottle-throwing drag queens could never have imagined that the movement they fired up would one day bring us Log Cabin Republicans or openly gay evangelical Christians.

How did this happen?  Among other reasons, the sexual outlaws of the 1970s did not envision the devastation of the AIDS epidemic that emerged in the 1980s.   And although the gay liberation movement did not bring about a radical rethinking of acceptable forms of open sexual expression among the heterosexual majority, it did create what might be called a gay consciousness in the general culture.  The generations who came after the sexual liberationists would shape their gay and lesbian identities to suit their own needs.

Thus it appears that while those early sexual transgressors may have paved the way for Mayor Adams to win his election as an openly gay man, the cost of mainstream acceptance has required giving up the more outre elements of sexual liberation.  He should not be surprised if the LGBT community does not support him.  Today, there are millions of kids being raised by gay and lesbian parents.  And just like straight parents, they don’t want politicians coming on to their kids.


January 23rd, 2009

If the idea that “an older person in a position of authority should refrain from sexual involvement with a younger person over whom he has authority” is “conservative,” then label me an out-and-proud conservative.

This has nothing, exactly nothing, to do with sexual orientation.

It has everything to do with the inescapable truth that all politicians are, by definition, moral defectives.

Jim Burroway

January 23rd, 2009

Of course, there is a problem with that construct, KipEsquire. While Beau Breedlove is widely reported to have been “an intern”, he was in fact, a state legislative intern. Adams had absolutely no authority over him whatsoever.

Emily K

January 23rd, 2009

It still seems to amount to something seedy. Again, I ask, why did he feel the need to so thoroughly cover it up if there was nothing wrong going on? Why did he put himself inside another closet?

What he did also smacks of “grooming,” which is when an older person develops a close relationship with a minor and then waits until their 18th birthday to get sexual.

Emily K

January 23rd, 2009

And I agree with the Dr. on his last point, that outrage occurs among gay parents – because, as is natural for many parents to feel, they don’t want THEIR barely-not-17-year-old getting involved with a 42-year-old.

Scott P.

January 23rd, 2009

Emily, look at your reaction and the things you’ve said and you have your answer as to why he covered it up.


January 23rd, 2009

The good Dr. is off his rocker. I’d imagine he’s an older gay man who feels like he’s being attacked because he lusts after the younger guys. He needs to stop projecting. This is about a guy who lied. A guy who covered up the lie. A guy who tore down another gay man with his lie. A guy who got others to lie. A guy who needs to be a man and own up.

Scott P. – He covered it up because there is more to the story. Otherwise he would have faced the music back then. He would have just answered the question. Yes, I had a relationship with Beau, it was consensual and it was after his 18th b-day.


January 23rd, 2009

PS – People who keep pointing out that Sam deserves praise for waiting for Beau to turn 18 need their heads examined. That’s just sick. It’s like people who can’t wait to post nudes of Daniel Radcliffe or other shirtless teens and get all excited when they finally turn 18.

Scott P.

January 23rd, 2009

Mike, there might be more to the story, and then again there might now. Clinton lied about Lewinski because he knew the field day the radical right would have with it. I tend to think this is more of the same.


January 23rd, 2009

Scott – You cannot be serious. Clinton lied because he knew what he did was wrong. He fooled round with an intern and had he stick cigars up her twat while he talked to world leaders.

Mark F.

January 23rd, 2009

The mayor lied about his relationship, that’s the issue. He may have been unwise to have a relationship with an 18 year old, but the young man was legally an adult when the relationship took place.

However, if we are going to expect politicians to resign over lying, we won’t have many left (maybe a good thing).

Emily K

January 23rd, 2009

Like I said before, public figures who are confident in their identity (like gay public figures, for example??) shouldn’t give two shits about what I think about their personal lives. You already can’t get much “worse” than being a gay man in politics; why hide the fact that he had a consensual relationship with another legal adult? And beyond that, why did the lies get so entrenched? It seems like he violated other ethical boundaries to keep things covered for the past 3 years. If it wasn’t a big deal, and he already wasn’t trying to please “puritans” like me, why did he work so hard to keep it covered??


January 23rd, 2009

While there’s probably at least a little sexual outlaw in all of us, let’s not confuse that with there being a little sexual predator in all of us. Mayor Sam was right about one thing, just how bad this relationship would look, gay or straight, the math of 42 going into 18 makes people uneasy. Although it would have brought to mind such words as unseemly and inappropriate, the fact that it was consensual might have allowed him to shake off the scandal. But no, he chose to lie and persuade the young man to lie along with him about the relationship, which was bad enough, but his apologia have done him no favors and have come off sounding as if he were marking off the days to the young man’s birthday until he could get HIS license to drive. It’s no longer an issue of what this fool was thinking, but why hasn’t he resigned yet?

paul J stein

January 23rd, 2009

If it was consensual,mutually agreed upon, and all were of legal age then what’s the problem. Beau could legally join the armed forces and kill people with the government’s blessing, where is the problem in loving another man. At 16 most young men know what they want,at 18 they should be allowed to go for it without any interference. Get the fuck over it!


January 24th, 2009

“The Stonewall’s bottle-throwing drag queens could never have imagined that the movement they fired up would one day bring us Log Cabin Republicans or openly gay evangelical Christians.”

Why is it when transgender people (specifically transwomen) show up in discussions like this they always get referred to as drag queens? A drag queen is a specific form of performer who may or may not be female identified or transgendered. The women at the stonewall riot (i.e. Syvia Rivera and others) weren’t performers, so can we stop for a moment and consider the terms we use?


January 24th, 2009

Hypatia – It’s because they were drag queens at Stonewall. They were not, I repeat, NOT, transgender.

Jim Burroway

January 24th, 2009


Sylvia Rivera was a transgender activist, not a drag queen.

That’s not to say there neither any drag queens nor transvestites there. But we do know that transgender people were a part of that attempted illegal round-up at Stonewall.

Jim Burroway

January 24th, 2009

Re: “It still seems to amount to something seedy. Again, I ask, why did he feel the need to so thoroughly cover it up if there was nothing wrong going on? Why did he put himself inside another closet?”

Why do any of us put ourselves inside any number of closets? How many of us are still in unspoken closets with our own versions of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?”


January 24th, 2009

Emily” Barely not-17 is like barely not pregnant. You are really pushing things to try to make your argument. That is just daft.

The Dr. makes several errors or helps perpetuate them. The “intern” was not an intern with Adams or in the same department. He worked in the legislature and Adams worked in the city. Second, that also means there was no “authority” over the “intern” either. There was no abuse of a position involved.

It was simply consenting dating between two people both of whom were legally adults and allowed to make that choice. Of course in Emily’s world the “barely not 17” would apparently still be treated like children.

What prudes the gay community has turned into. It is all to gain the respectablity of the bigots who hate. That is a shame.


January 24th, 2009

“Hypatia – It’s because they were drag queens at Stonewall. They were not, I repeat, NOT, transgender.” – Mike

Interesting, how do you come to the conclusion that nobody at the Stonewall riots was transgendered? Especially with such force as to repeat it so marvelously and without citation.
I really do think I’m making a reasonable point about terminology here.
Or do you think that larger groups inherantly get to define the identities of smaller groups?


January 24th, 2009

I don’t care if the mayor had sex with another consenting adult — which is what an 18-year-old is. Rumor has it that a straight politician somewhere once had sex with a younger woman. I’ll post my source on that once I track it down.

What I’m unclear on is if this young yet legal adult was Adams’ subordinate in the workplace at the time of the affair (or hookup). I’ve seen “intern” and “former intern,” so I don’t know if there was any professional misconduct.

Adams should face the music if there was actual professional misconduct. But if it just looks seedy because of the age difference, without any legal or ethical rules broken, then the mayor’s critics should shut up and move on.


January 24th, 2009

Jim – Sylvia was there. Sylvia did not instigate or start the riot. She was just there. Even she never claimed to have more than having just been there.

Hypatia – Read your history on Stonewall. It was the drag queens at Stonewall that threw the first stone. It was the drag queens that finally spoke up. It was not the regular gays. It was not the lesbians. It was not the transgender people that were there. THAT is the reason that drag queens are given the credit. They started the riot. they open ed the door. the rest just followed.


October 22nd, 2009

This is a smaller effect than what we found in the cross’national specifications, but it is still noteworthy. ,

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