There’s been a lot of smarmy talk about Marcus Bachmann, the husband of anti-gay presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, being secretly gay. Not because anyone knows of him having actually, you know, had sex with men. But because of the way he talks and dances. Including from Dan Savage, the founder of “It Gets Better,” who should know better.
Bachmann is a scumbag because he runs a clinic that offers “reparative therapy’ to cure homosexuals. He’s a homophobe who makes money off of making other people’s lives worse. I have no desire to defend him or his wife.
But he’s not gay because of how he talks or moves, and suggesting that he is, is a total asshat move that implicitly supports a whole range of shitty messages about masculinity and homosexuality.
So stop it.
That is all.
Thank you for this. It annoyed me to begin with, and it’s only getting worse (even leaving aside the part where nobody knows, why do people keep calling him gay like that is a slander against Michelle Bachmann? Why do people keep calling him gay like that’s a bad thing?).
A second thank you from me. Unless there is a smoking gun providing more evidence than someone’s gaydar, just drop it. There was an uproar because a movie trailer had a character referring to something as “gay” in a derogatory sense and the LGBT blogs exploded in outrage. While the hypocrisy of a lgbt working against us while closeted is to me germane, folks looking at Marcus (or whoever) and saying “he’s so gay” is promoting the same meme. Gay=bad is the message the folks in the general populace see.
Point out the unnatural interest in what gays or lesbians do in bed, point out that it isn’t normal to spend that much time dwelling on other people’s sex lives. Point out the fact that the gay bashers have no science and no knowledge to support their position. But for dog’s sake, quit using gay as a slur. Hell, Marcus could be gay or bi and have suppressed it so far he’s totally unaware…I didn’t realize I was bi until I was 30 or so…hadn’t crossed my mind as a possibility. I fully believed myself straight. My one girl encounter had left me cold, I liked boys and sex. Now I’m happily married (in spirit, not legally) to a woman and raising our two sons. I fell in love with a person, who happened to be female.
But the community is so quick to jump on any perceived slur, yet enables those slurs by calling folks we have reason to dislike gay. Not cool. Thank you so much for saying this.
Thank you for saying this. And a thank you to Stacy Taylor for devoting a KGO hour to this as soon as this nonsense started.
Bachmann is a scumbag because he runs a clinic that offers “reparative therapy’ to cure homosexuals. He’s a homophobe who makes money off of making other people’s lives worse.
Let’s snark him for this instead. “Reparative therapy” is ridiculous at the very best and of course harmful to all involved. Surely we can find criticisms that don’t depend on Bachmann’s irrelevant personal orientation.
I agree that a lot of the talk has been smarmy. In Dan Savage’s case, it’s been downright gleeful, but then, snark is his natural medium.
At the same time, Marcus Bachmann is a conservative minister who damages individual gay people by coaxing them back into the closet. Such people don’t have an awesome track record when it comes to being truthful about their own heterosexuality.
Further, if Michele Bachmann is elected President, it will have been on a personal platform which says that it is Satanic to suggest that gay people could possibly be happy:
Michele Bachmann has made opposition to equal rights for gay people a centerpiece of her campaign. Marcus Bachmann has made reparative therapy a part of his ministry. In that context, it’s fair to ask probing questions about what’s up with that.
When one person says, “I’m heterosexual” and another person says, “No you’re not, and I can tell, because you swish when you walk,” the second person is being an ass.
When one person says, “I’m heterosexual and it’s my moral obligation to campaign to deny you rights which I enjoy because I’m heterosexual”, and the second person says, “Look, you just indicted your own character so thoroughly that I have to call into question everything which comes out of your mouth, and compare it against my own life experience with people who were in the closet and then came out, and I gotta say, you look a lot like a closet-case to me”…
…is the second person unreasonable?
If the second person does it politely, is that qualitatively different from doing it with snarky gleefulness, or is drawing that distinction a tone argument?
As a trans person, I’m totally on-board with respecting a person’s self-expressed identity, even in the face of apparently contradictory physical evidence. That’s what I ask people to do with me, and if I don’t grant others the same, then I’m a hypocrite.
At the same time, sometimes people don’t know themselves. Plenty of gay people have said, and believed, that they were heterosexual when it turned out not to be true. Plenty of trans people have said, and believed, that they were cis when it turned out not to be true. In such cases, even loving friends can find a time when it’s the right thing to say, “You know, I see signs that you could be gay/trans, and here they are”.
Is it only okay when it’s a friend with good intentions?
A functioning electorate has to be able to scrutinize politicians, and those who politicians bring with them into positions of power. One of the more important tests, in my opinion, is, “Does this politician tell the truth?”
Are we not permitted to point to things which call the politician’s veracity into doubt? Is it okay if we do it politely but not okay if we do it derisively? Is it okay if it fits a pattern we have seen before, even if some of that pattern includes indicators which are problematical and intersectional?
These are not settled questions in my mind, but I can say that, somewhat to my surprise, I’m not totally on board with Amp’s blanket condemnation. These are some of the ways I’m trying to work it out.
The thing is, nobody I’ve seen* has said, “Marcus Bachmann seems like he might be gay; that’s something he should look into.” The point has been made as the punchline of a joke in every instance I’ve heard it discussed, except for people raising problems with the meme itself.
A couple of specific points…
Well, it’s not a tone argument as it’s commonly used (since the point of resisting the tone argument is generally that *no* level of politeness would be sufficient for the person in question to be listened to, merely because of their viewpoint, and that anyway they might have reasons for being a angry). That said, I don’t know if the difference is meaningful. I guess because this is something I feel should be addressed in private as long as public suspicions are pretty much “you swish when you walk.” There are plenty of straight reparative therapy people, we just tend not to hear about them (confirmation bias), and everything else I’ve seen is “listen to his voice! look at the way he dances! look at his clothes!”
Not that I’m saying sexual orientation is something that deserves more silence on the part of the media than, say, somebody having an affair–I don’t think it’s important unless it’s directly related to their politics, but I’ve long since lost that argument. I’m just saying right now we have zero evidence other than people’s hunches.
Please, scrutinize him–although I’m a little wary of the “bring spouses into position of power” argument just because I think we see that a lot more with women politicians than with men politicians, though that’s not what you were doing here. But I don’t see what his sexual orientation has to do with it. Her (and his) politics about sexual orientation, sure. I guess my summary is, why is calling him (potentially) gay seen as a more effective topic of discussion than discussing both his and his wife’s actual prejudices against gay people? Because I’ve seen a lot more of the former than the latter.
*which of course doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened
It’s kind of weird, but it’s kind of a rule of human behavior.
Psychiatrists tend to be, you know, crazy. (Apologies to my shrink!!) A huge proportion of urologists were bedwetters. Priests tend to have a God-problem. On and on. Or, to bring it home to my own profession, lawyers, 99% of lawyers (including me) are control freaks. That’s why we went into this line of work. Nothing wrong with that. We need shrinks, urologists, priests and lawyers, and let’s get the folks who are interested.
People are attracted, usually, not always, to particular fields because they themselves have particular problems. You want to ask, why does this subject interest you so much???
An enormous, off-the-charts number of strident anti-gay preachers turn out to be gay. See among many the Rev. Hazard, who had a gay prostitute on retainer.
That doesn’t mean EVERY person who runs a gay-change-it ministry or who thunders against gays is gay. But…..so many of them are. So many.
IF Marcus Bachmann is gay, and IF his wife knows it…well, this might fuel some of her anti-gay rhetoric. It’s only a “might” it’s not certain. But we’d be morons not to notice a trend here (even as we admit exceptions!).
Not only is Marcus Bachmann’s therapy harmful for gays, but the guy doesn’t even really have the degree he says he does. His Ph.D. alma mater didn’t give out psychology degrees of any kind (let alone Clinical Psychology, as listed on his Clinic’s website), it was criticized for not having rigorous enough of academic standards, and many of the therapists he employs list “Argosy University”, which has run into some trouble as a for profit University that hasn’t been accredited by the American Psychological Association. All of this is to say, the guy’s an empty suit, his clinic is a sham, and these things are perfectly fine to criticize Michelle Bachmann on (though I haven’t seen it yet from the media). People need to know these things about the Clinic that Michelle’s lauded on her campaign. Her husbands perceived sexual orientation? Not so much.
Take a look at these posts, I came to the same conclusions from researching independently after I started hearing about Marcus Bachmann’s Clinic, but didn’t realize that anyone else had figured this out until I googled:
I agree that snarkily pointing out Marcus Bachmann’s potential homosexuality is inappropriate, in the sense that it also conveys the message that being gay is a bad thing.
But I don’t think that means that all discussion of Marcus Bachmann’s potential homosexuality is, or should be, off-limits. One trope of the religious right is that there is no such thing as “homosexuality” or “a gay person;” there is only gay behavior. I don’t believe that. I believe that sexual orientation exists, and that it is independent of behavior.
As such, if Marcus Bachmann is gay, then he is gay whether he has sex with men or not. If he’s gay, he’s gay whether he says he’s gay or not. Many men get married, have sex with women, or engage in over-the-top homophobic behavior before coming out as gay. They don’t become gay the instant they come out. They were gay all along, while they were married, while they were having sex with women, or while they were engaging in over-the-top homophobic behavior.
None of this means that Marcus Bachmann must therefore be gay, or that he should be treated as if he is gay. But it also doesn’t make him straight. He either is or isn’t, and while it is polite, and probably appropriate, to treat him and discuss him as if what he presents as reality is, in fact, reality, that is not the same thing as accepting that it’s real. We should choose not to deny the identity that he wishes to present, but choosing not to deny is not exactly the same thing as accepting it as fact.
Psychiatrists tend to be, you know, crazy. That’s kind of a problematic statement.
A lot of people who work as mental health clinicians have various personal issues that they work at improving or resolving, which is also true of the general population. I’m not aware of any research showing that clinicians have a rate of diagnosable mental illness higher than the general population, though. “Crazy” is also a controversial term among folks who live with mental illness – some embrace it, some are neutral about it, and some find it offensive.
His Ph.D. alma mater didn’t give out psychology degrees of any kind (let alone Clinical Psychology, as listed on his Clinic’s website), it was criticized for not having rigorous enough of academic standards, and many of the therapists he employs list “Argosy University”, which has run into some trouble as a for profit University that hasn’t been accredited by the American Psychological Association.
I’m not affiliated with Argosy in any way. But the editor of the last book I published in is faculty at one of their campuses, and I interviewed for a job at another at one point in my career. While I wouldn’t say I found their program super-rigorous from the outside, I didn’t wind up teaching there to know it internally and I can tell you that from the outside, it was fairly identical to the curricula of many other MA-level counseling and MFT programs.
APA accreditation is generally only for PhD and PsyD psychology programs, whereas professional counseling programs are more typically accredited by CACREP and MFT by CAMFT. So for masters’ level clinicians, APA accreditation would never be a factor for them anyway. Argosy is accredited by various regional accrediting bodies, which is much more common than APA and CAMFT accreditation for sure (can’t speak for CACREP as I’ve never examined their system closely).
Now, what bothered me when I examined Bachmann’s clinic was two things:
1) Bachmann is not a licensed clinician of any kind. He has a degree (the issues with which you noted), but no license to practice therapy. I don’t know if Minnesota allows one to practice as an unlicensed psychotherapist (some states do; they are the category of clinician most likely to have grievances brought against them, surprise surprise) but licensure is at least a way to establish a baseline level of training and competence, which he has not demonstrated.
2) Many of the clinicians working for Bachmann appear to be licensed as MFTs. This troubles me IMMENSELY as this is my field, and I know perfectly well that the AAMFT Code of Ethics prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and clearly states that clinicians must only provide treatment that benefits clients. Additionally, AAMFT has rolled out statements over the past few years stating that homosexuality is not a mental illness or a condition requiring treatment, and that “we support that same sex orientation is a normal variant of human sexuality that takes a variety of forms and expression.” Further, they later clarified that they see no basis for treatment aimed at changing sexual orientation, and cautioned that “AAMFT expects its members to practice based on the best research and clinical evidence available.” Of which there is, of course, none supporting conversion therapy.
So what sends me through the roof is that you have an unlicensed person directing and supervising licensed MFTs, who are expected to follow the profession’s code of ethics and the guidance of the professional organization, which has stated that there is “no basis” for practicing conversion therapy. As far as I’m concerned these folks should be stripped of their licenses and their right to practice.
The problem is that GLB-friendly members have been told by our Ethics Committee that we can’t initiate an ethical complaint against another clinician ourselves – we have to have a client who has received conversion therapy and claims to have been harmed by it. No complaining witness, no ruling from the Committee. I would imagine something similar is true in terms of whoever oversees MFT licensure in Minnesota. And of course people who go for conversion therapy are often so shamed about their same-sex attractions at the start of therapy, and further shamed and self-blaming for their “failure” to overcome them (that’s in the best-case scenario, where they’re not also suicidally depressed at the end), that they’re not very likely to go file an ethics complaint with the state or the professional organization against their therapist.
So this drives me up a wall.
Dan Savage is conveying the message that being gay is a bad thing? That strikes me as unlikely.
Let’s suppose, for this paragraph, that Marcus Bachmann is gay. If he is, then he’s reprehensible, not because being gay is reprehensible, but because pretending you’re heterosexual and trying to get other people to be heterosexual and helping to lobby against equal rights for gay people, all while being gay, is more reprehensible than doing all that when you’re actually heterosexual. No one admires a Judas goat.
I am very suspicious of the idea that qualities like sexual orientation (or race, gender, etc) change a person’s moral obligations, the way they should behave or the standards by which they ought to be judged.
I agree with Shalom. He might be a man who is attracted to other men and genuinely believes that is something that must be overcome. If he were, that would make him a sadder individual in my mind, but not more reprehensible.
It’s not reprehensible that he believes that himself. It’s reprehensible that he runs a clinic (read: scam) that tries to convince its clients that homosexuality is something to be overcome, usually to the detriment of those same clients.
Right. It’s reprehensible. But I’m not sure it’s more reprehensible if he’s actually gay than it is if he’s straight.
Hey, being crazy (as a therapist) is OK and more than OK. How can my shrink possibly understand me if he doesn’t have issues of his own?? No problem here. Shrinks don’t have to pretend to be perfectly OK themselves, what good would they be then to the rest of us then?
All I want my shrink to do is have his boundary issues under control. All hail my shrink! He’s the god of shrinks.
Are you engaging in a logical fallacy here, suggesting that Dan Savage’s recent statements about Marcus Bachmann can’t possibly contain negative gay messages because of who Dan Savage is?
If so, you are using irrelevant information to evaluate the statements.
Fair enough, and rightly so.
Let me explore what the difference might be. If he is heterosexual, and he is trying to turn gay people heterosexual, he is acting in a situation where he has no personal experience of what he is talking about. That’s a suboptimal place to be, but sometimes we all have to operate on that level, because we can’t all have every life experience. However, then we can point out that he’s acting in defiance of the therapeutic standards of every major organization of professional therapists, many of whom used to believe as he does, and who changed their opinions when the best available science showed them to be wrong.
If he is homosexual, and he is trying to turn gay people heterosexual, then he knows from personal experience that what he is doing doesn’t work, but he’s continuing to sell the snake oil.
As chingona points out, perhaps he is gay but nonetheless believes that gay people can become straight, and he simply hasn’t gotten there yet. That’s certainly possible; there are plenty of people out there who are in denial about all kinds of things. That would make him a sadder case, but it would rescue him from being a snake oil salesman.
So, I guess what I’m saying is this: in the first case, above, he is acting out of mistaken belief. In the second case, above, he knows from personal experience that he is lying but continues to do it anyway. In the third case, he is in denial, and we’re back to acting out of mistaken belief, but a belief resting on even shakier ground than in the first example.
In any case, he’s not looking like a great candidate for dogcatcher. But for me, conscious deception would make him more reprehensible than simple ignorance or lack of self-awareness.
No, because I did not say that it was not possible that they contained “negative gay messages” (surely an imprecise term if you’re going to attempt logical arguments), I said that it didn’t seem likely to me that he was conveying the message that being gay is a bad thing. I was not advancing a logical argument; I was expressing skepticism.
Certainly Dan’s statements could contain negative content about gay people. Based on his past performance, he would not intend such, but hey, we all have internalized prejudice, including prominent gay advocates, and it’s bound to squirt out sometimes, so it could happen without him intending it.
So, when I said, “conveying”, perhaps I should have said, “intending to convey”, to distinguish from “said something which contained a subtext which could be interpreted as reflecting poorly on gay people”.
Susan – I think you’ve totally missed my point.
Fair distinction. I prefer to err on the side of, “behavior reprehensible, orientation irrelevant,” because 1) we will likely never have enough information to make such distinctions with any conviction, 2) it is very easy, and harmful, for the mix-up Ampersand describes to occur, and, most importantly, 3) his behavior is the real point. Even though the lines you draw are reasonable in an abstract moral calculus, his behavior is what’s measurable, what’s hurting others, and what we are entitled to criticize. Consider that a person actively trying to “fix” other people is doing real harm to others, whatever his private thoughts, while a person who respects others’ choices (and legal rights) but agonizes over, lives in denial of, or contently choose to resist his own desires hurts no one save himself (and in the last case, not even himself).
I also think the chance he is consciously deceiving anyone, even if he is attracted to men, is very small. He consciously, certainly knows he and others cannot ever change, but deliberately lies about it… What would be the motivation there? It seems more likely he believes exactly what he says he believes, and doesn’t feel it conflicts with he sexual orientation, whatever it is (or it does conflict and he manages the cognitive dissonance). For me, Occam’s Razor renders the second explanation superior.
Anyway, my point is that his sexual orientation is not the point. I don’t like the idea that the majority of anti-gay voices get let off the hook, even the littlest bit, just for being straight.
Okay, on thinking about it further, I agree that questioning his heterosexuality, even in a non-smarmy manner, is possibly wrong, certainly very problematical, and probably so problematical that it does more harm than good.
I still think there is a meaningful difference between, “I think Marcus Bachmann is gay, and that of course is bad,” and, “Marcus Bachmann shows signs of being gay, which is irrelevant in itself, but if he is gay, that’s very relevant to current political discourse and of course his ministry’s therapeutic clients.” In the first case, the speaker is legitimizing homophobia, and in the second case, the speaker is trying to suss out truth from sales pitch in the political arena. I know that intent does not heal ills, but sometimes it matters and makes all the difference.
But, in almost all circumstances that’s probably cutting too fine to be worth the cutting. And the second sentence is not what Amp was talking about, I don’t think.
So I’ll shut up about it now.
You’re missing the (possibly crucial) third option:
Irrespective of his “base” sexual orientation, he may firmly believe that he was/is actively gay and has successfully changed himself to hetero.
Irrespective of his “base” sexual orientation, he may firmly believe that he was/is actively gay and has successfully changed himself to hetero.
Right. Or might genuinely believe that “fake it till you make it” is preferable to living as a gay or lesbian person. And since he’s been able to “make it” – five kids and however many years of marriage to Michelle and is reasonably content – therefore other gay and lesbian people can and should do the same.
I don’t see people addressing what I thought was Amp’s point (because, of course, it was my own strong reaction when I read about Dan Savage’s remarks).
The problem here is that Dan Savage’s “gaydar” is, this time, in line with the ways male gender is enforced and policed, especially in youth bullying culture. Oddly I sometimes find progressives to be blind to this except as it affects “real gays.” But it isn’t only about repressing a group of people because of their “true” sexual orientation.
Of course it is about that — but it is also about enforcing a certain gender expression on all males or perceived males, whatever their sexual orientation might actually be — or perhaps especially if these young men present themselves implicitly or explicitly as being “heterosexual.” Yes, this masculinity enforcement does usually depend on a symbolic system in which “gay” and “effeminate” are valued negatively. (But I wonder. I sometimes catch a whiff of a future in which different categories of people are treated as being “officially” equal — but in which there is still a huge and oppressive pressure that you have to conform to your category.)
It’s weird that Dan Savage has thrown his weight, inadvertently, behind the bullies who enforce non-effeminate behavior within the heterosexual male population. But that is what his invocation of “gaydar” has the potential of doing.
I have no liking for Marcus Bachmann and his hideous enterprise. But making things harder for nonconforming kids, heterosexual or homosexual, is not the answer. The only escape from oppressive masculinity enforcement shouldn’t have to be being “actually” gay.
I’m a little wary of the “bring spouses into position of power” argument just because I think we see that a lot more with women politicians than with men politicians
Ordinarily I’d agree, but when the female politician in question champions the right-wing Christian concept of wifely submission, I think she demands that we give her husband the same level of scrutiny we do her. He is, after all, an individual not running for office whom the prospective president has indicated she will regard as an “authority” in her life.
Of course, the idea of voting for a candidate who says he or she would regard some other, unelected person as an authority over him or herself is highly problematic. JFK had to make it very clear to the public that, as President, he wouldn’t take orders from the Pope, before he could get himself elected.
I guess I don’t see how that’s problematic. Certainly, if JFK had declared, publicly, that he would in fact take orders from the Pope, that would have been a perfectly reasonable criterion for voters to use in determining whether to vote for him.
I honestly think that American politics would be much, much better off if candidates and politicians were questioned directly and specifically about their religious beliefs. Currently, we have a culture where our political figures can use their religion or their religious identity when it suits them, and then hide behind the ridiculous cultural norm that it is rude or inappropriate to actually, specifically question religious beliefs and their implications.
Edited to say: Okay, I now see that you were saying not that JFK having to clarify his fealty to the Pope was a problem, but that the idea of voting for someone who might owe obedience to an unelected person is problematic.
For some evidence of why Dan Savage thinks it’s okay for him to say what he said in this instance, see
Search down to the mention of Bachmann’s name.
Posted informationally, not endorsementally.