Herman Cain, My Genitals Are None of Your Business

As Herman Cain continues to argue his innocence with regard to harassment charges, one thing that weakens his defense is surely his homophobia. After all, homophobia and sexual harassment can be pretty darn similar in many ways. Furthermore, when Dan Savage asked Cain to prove homosexuality was a choice by giving him oral sex, he hit the nail on the head. It’s obvious Cain isn’t objecting to love and trust between same-sex individuals. Instead, he’s boiling it all down to what we do with our body parts.

Well, Mr. Cain, my genitals are none of your business. So why in the world do homophobes think they are?

I asked Boston’s Jennifer Strong, a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist who welcomes LGBTQ clients, for her opinion. She explained that a focus on genitalia allows people to ignore all the other aspects of a given relationship, especially those that might be familiar. “It’s much easier to deny someone rights,” says Strong, “when we think of them as being ‘other.'”

She adds that there’s a lot of “gender panic” in our society, with people fearing they won’t meet assumptions that men should be unlike women, who are often viewed as inferior on multiple levels. A result, Strong says, is that homophobia directed at men can be particularly virulent. And transgender individuals are targeted too: “Trans people, by definition, upset the heterosexist gender binaries,” says Strong. This, I note, is one of the many reasons I love the trans community so much — being trans is all about being yourself.

Strong’s insights make me wonder whether the accusations leveled at Cain might actually win him favor with sexist voters. That said, the media suddenly seem blazingly in favor of women’s rights now that they can attack Cain — a fact that appalls the Atlantic‘s Elizabeth Wurtzel: “[The media] don’t care about the routine scandal that is the war on women,” writes Wurtzel, adding that a mere two weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed the Protect a Life Act, which she remarks is aka the ‘Let Women Die Act’: “[The act] would allow doctors to deny abortions to women who face life-threatening conditions if they remain pregnant,” she adds. Frightening stuff. Wurtzel makes a powerful argument that, given wages and working conditions today, we’re nowhere near to gender equality. We’d be fools to believe the media hype.

In my view, the very people who commit sexual harassment are often those who also attack queerness, largely because they believe that they’re the big boss of everyone. Such folks try to play the science card by saying queer sex isn’t natural, when actually birds do it, monkeys do it … and in any case, what’s the big deal about “natural”? Cars aren’t particularly natural. And neither are presidents, frankly. And while we’re at it, the praying mantis is extremely natural, and she bites off her lover’s head straight after intercourse. If homophobes would like to seem “adequately natural,” perhaps they, too, should consider giving that whole head-biting thing a go?

But back to Cain’s argument that homosexuality is a choice. Strong says she really hates that there only seem to be two sides to this debate: that you are either born gay, which is OK because you didn’t choose it, or else you chose it and it is therefore invalid. “So the only way that it’s OK to be gay is if it’s congenital, like a disease?” says Strong. “I don’t like that implication.”

Neither do I. But then again, I’m not a homophobe.

Let’s hope our next president isn’t, either.