Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Gov. Jim McGreevey's "The Confession"

I suppose most people remember the revelation of former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey in 2004. McGreevey, who was a married father of two, broke the news at a press conference with his wife and his parents standing behind him. At the time, he was allegedly being blackmailed by an Israeli acquaintance that he was having an affair with. McGreevey decided to out himself instead of allowing it continue on. He left his office in shame and unsure of what his future life would be like.

I haven't heard much about McGreevey in the last couple of years. But today he appeared on Oprah to talk about that experience and to plug his new book, "The Confession."

McGreevey spoke about the situation and how it changed his life and the life of his soon to be ex-wife. He described his wife as currently being "in transition." It's always tough for a woman in that situation. One day she's the first lady of New Jersey. The next she's questioning a life that she's built with another human being.

Oprah asked him the dreaded question of the caught married man. If you're gay, then why get married?

McGreevey answered that he was in denial about who he was, despite the fact that he knew he was "different" by age 6 or 7. He expounded on his answer later in the interview by saying it was a mixture of "arrogance and denial" that made him think that he could be Gov. of New Jersey, a married father of two, be a closeted gay man, and pull it all off.

Similar to many in the LGBT community, religion played a role in why he kept his life a secret. Getting into politics was another reason. But he also spoke about something that many of us can identify with. He said that he had been called a "fag" in they Boy Scouts. He didn't want to be one of those. So he "added a layer" to hide himself. Those issues arose again in high school. So he added another layer. And so on, and so on. Pretty soon he was fooling even himself. Making himself think that he could keep it all inside and manage everything to his satisfaction.

He went on to read an excerpt from his book about the day that his wife was in the hospital having a difficult c-section. He was at home with his Israeli friend, who he says he was in love with, and willing to "give it all up for."

The former governor said that his previous sexual experiences with men had been limited to highway rest stops, dark allies, and bookstores. He sought out people like himself, those that couldn't be open about who they were for whatever reason. Once he got into politics, he felt that he couldn't meet someone in a bar for fear of being recognized.

To his credit, he talked about a lot of things that leave him in a less than flattering light. Lying to his wife, having an affair, and promising to help his friend with a job in his administration. He takes responsibility for his actions. And he calls his book a "moral inventory."

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I applaud him for this. He's now with an Austrialian man and still living in New Jersey. The couple appeared to be happy with one another. And McGreevey appeared to be happy with being true to himself. Being the former governor of a state should provide him with some interesting opportunities to make something good out of this. You know me. I love a good redemption story.

Oprah did invite his ex-wife to attend. But she wasn't ready. In time, you have to hope that she'll be able to get on with her own life. What McGreevey did to her, there is no quick fix for.

I don't blog about my personal life very often, or about the people in it. But I suppose that one reason why I would give McGreevey the benefit of the doubt is that I can relate in some small way to his story.

No, I was never governor of a state. I was just a good little Baptist boy, and unfortunately in a situation where I couldn't be honest about who I was because of my job. Although truthfully, I wasn't ready to be honest with myself during that time anyway. But that was changing. And after 11 years on the job, I was ready for even more changes.

Just a few days before my resignation was to take effect, I was sitting in my office making sure that I was leaving everything in good shape for my successor. The phone rang and it was a friend of mine. This was someone whom I met through my work, and whom I had done a lot to help. I was used to taking phone calls from her. But this time her voice sounded a little different. She told me that she had attended her regular church service the day before and that my name "came up." From behind his pulpit, this minister of the gospel had outed me to his congregation.

Basically what she said was that he told the audience that "we need to do a better job of picking our leaders." Based upon things he had heard, he told them that I (he used my name) was gay and not someone of a high moral standard. Not because I didn't do a good job, and not because of any act that I had committed. But because of who I was as a person and who I chose to love.

Ever been outed in a small town? It's not fun. Everyone hears about it. Things of which are no one else's business are opened for public examination. People give into the really ugly side of themselves that casts aside all that they've witnessed and let their imaginations run wild. And unfortunately, you're not the only one that gets hurt. Those that care about you get hurt too.

So before judging Jim McGreevey too harshly, just remember everyone's circumstances aren't the same. We still live in a judgemental society that makes it hard for everyone to live so openly and carefree. Ultimately we have to decide our own paths. And unfortunately, sometimes others force you down a path for which you aren't ready.


ET said...

Vert Well said.
(this may come up twice - I lost my conncetion while sending it)

Rocky said...

I find it interesting how our culture is so obsessed with the private lives of our leaders (and non-leaders who get lots of press). It's not a uniquely American phenomenon, but we seem to take it to the extreme.

nelslus said...

I'm not as ready to be quite so understanding about McGreevey. Of course, in perfect fairness, I'm not from a small town and all- but, I'd be a lot more sympathetic with the McGreeveys of the world if they just didn't harm another human being so deeply- i.e., marrying a woman. Years ago, I could be more sympathetic- there of course weren't as many options. However- (and I just googled him)- this man is only 2 years older than me, and he's from New Jersey, for cryin' out loud. He had plenty of options. I get being a Governor might not have been an option for him as a gay man- but, again, life's about choices- and he chose to deeply hurt another human being, and that is wrong. I'm sorry that the world still sucks for us gay men. That does not make it excusable to hurt others, when there are PLENTY of big cities where you can lead terrific lives as a gay man with tons of life options- and again, this boy was in New Jersey. But, IMO, this is one profoundly selfish man. And also, on The View today, Joy and Elizabeth (and I want to wash my own mouth out with soap for agreeing with anything Elizabeth has to share these days- even if I do have an unfortunate for me fondness for her back from Survivor days, but still, ewwww) got him on why did he have to write about graphic sexual details in his book- and then of all things, dedicate the book to his daughter. (Hey, honey, time to read about Daddy diddling with strangers, aintcha proud?!?!GREAT family bedtime reading.) He hemmed and hawed and went on and on about his spiritual journey and how he's trying to be so 12 Step painfully honest and blah blah blah- bottom line, he's tryin' to sell books- and he's still a politician. That's all clearly more important to him than respecting the privacy of others- I'll sure BET that the soon-to-be ex-wife will REALLY love to forgive him if she reads about (or watched Oprah today) about his making whoopee with his ex-boyfriend-who-he-got-a-job-with-New-Jersey's-HOMELAND-SECURITY-department in THEIR bed while she was having a Caesarian. Nice guy. So, I wouldn't place too much faith on him and his man having a happily-ever-after life. (They were just a BIT too cutesy-poo perfect/dressed to within an inch of their lives for my tastes.) I wouldn't exactly be shocked if Jim ends up headin' back to the bookstores or parks for relief if stress gets to him once again. Once a philandering politician.....

Button Gwinnett said...

For those of you that don't know Nelslus, he's only one of the smartest, most articulate, and funniest people I know. He's also a great guy with a couple of decades worth of experience in the social works world. And he has a huge heart. So the fact that he isn't yet willing to cut Jim McGreevey some slack is significant.

I may have missed my mark on this one, Nelslus. At the time this story broke, I just wasn't overly interested in it. I was still trying to cope with my own bad experience which was only 12 months prior to this story. Sort of like "Brokeback Mountain." It hit a little too close to home for me to watch - just yet anyway. I'm VERY good at avoidance.

So I missed the corruption angle on the McGreevey scandal. Apparently he was suspected of having other things going on besides helping his friend land a job that he wasn't qualified for. I made a rare exception and listened to Sean Hannity's show yesterday afternoon to hear his interview with McGreevey. But Hannity tried to hammer home a lot of the same points that you made......with a smile I'm sure.

Even still, what he's put his family through is awful. There's no way to defend that one. And you made a good point about the book. It would've come off a little better had he not gone into such detail on some things. I just hope that he's sincere about recognizing these things about himself and changing for the good. I'd love to see him or anyone in his situation to effect as much good in the world as the bad that he's already done.

I suppose this is where I live up to the title of this blog. I'm a rehabber and belief in the basic good in people at heart.

Button Gwinnett said...

Rocky, I saw an interview with Clay Aiken this morning. I'm not a fan of his....just not my thing. But he was speaking about the same thing. I suppose that when you are a public figure or if you're elected to office you have to expect such things. But it is sad that we tend to do this sometimes to extremes.

I believe in holding certain ones of us to a higher standard, if it's a position that they've asked for. But even they are human. And if we look hard enough, we'll surely find something that we don't like.

nelslus said...

Hey, my friend- 'tis a tinge SAD that these days, this is the only way I get to "hear" from you. :-( Nevertheless, if this is what I must do.....and HEY, after those compliments, that shall be the extent of my whining (and ya KNOW I have a similarly high opinion of you.) Believe it or not, I also am all for the Anne Frank School of believing, or at least hoping for, that people are basically good. And, hey, we are all allowed to our opinions. AND- if I were talking to a number of hetero news sources, I probably wouldn't be quite so "out" with my complaints about McGreevey. Nevertheless, upon reflection- I also want to big-time knock him for his IMO misuse of his working "his" 12 steps. Now, I know of the 12 steps- trust me. And- the 12 steps are about....anonymity. You're hard on yourself, easy on others. At 12-step meetings, with trusted 12-steppers, with your sponsor- HEY, that's the time to be brutally honest about everything. So, he brings all of this up at a meeting (where hopefully his ex-wife, etc. AREN'T there at the same time)- fine by me. His going on Oprah, etc., and talking up about his involvement with the 12 steps, and writing about all the gory sex life details= NOT anonymity. A REAL good way to blow your program= try to write a best-seller. Fine to be brutally honest about yourself- but NOT when it invades others' privacy. So, I certainly do hope he grows to the point of re-thinking all of this. 'Cause IMO it sure is too late to make what I would call true amends to his ex- with all of this- albeit of course that's not truly my call- ultimately, this all is between him and his higher power and all. Still, what I will say is- this all is too sleazy for me. Ain't reading his book, I'll tell ya that.

nelslus said...

BTW- I also just don't get off on beating up on poor little Clay. Still, I'm as likely to pick up Clay's new CD's of "Standards" as I am with McGreevey's sex-bomb epic. Ugh.

Button Gwinnett said...

Nelslus, I promise I'll give you a shout in the next couple of days. It's long overdue.

BTW, I feel a tad bit hypocritical since I do laugh at Kathy Griffin's Clay Aiken jokes.