Last edited: February 27, 2005

What Goes on in Bedroom Not Our Affair

Maine Sunday Telegram, April 26, 1998
390 Congress St., Portland, ME 04103
Fax: 207-791-6920

By Bill Nemitz

Lois Reckitt truly didn't mean to offend anyone. She just thought that with all this bedroom talk bouncing off the walls of the South Portland City Council chamber, someone should set the record straight.

And so, after hearing the umpteenth opponent to equal rights for gays and lesbians rant on about Sodom and Gomorrah and "sodomy laws" that don't even exist in Maine, Reckitt decided she'd had enough.

First, she said, sodomy (which, in legal terms, includes oral sex) is not illegal. And second, it is not practiced exclusively by homosexuals.

"I guess that 65 percent of the heterosexuals in this room commit sodomy routinely," she said to a shocked audience.

Are we squirming yet? Good. We should be.

Last week's decision by the South Portland council to put an equal-rights ordinance out to referendum rather than pass it on the spot may not have broken any new ground in the battle to treat gays and lesbians like other human beings, but it did bring into focus what's wrong with this never-ending debate.

It should be about what gays and lesbians face in their everyday world - things like getting (and hanging onto) a job, an apartment, a loan, a seat in the local diner.

Instead, it's about what goes on in their bedrooms.

And before it goes one headline further, we should all take a deep breath and ask ourselves this question: If I'm willing to talk about what gays and lesbians do behind closed doors, am I also willing to publicly discuss my own sex life?

Most of us, if we're totally honest and sufficiently inhibited, will say of course not - intimate moments shared by me and my loved one are nobody's business but our own.

To what, then, do we attribute this fascination with how gays and lesbians express love and affection for one another?

Why does every equal-rights battle, from last February's repeal of the state statute to the local sequels in South Portland and several other communities, climax with a homophobic horde peeking through the windows of Maine's gay and lesbian community - only to recoil in self-righteous horror at something they didn't have to look at in the first place?

Two reasons come to mind.

The first is that gays and lesbians are different - and despite all our progress in recent decades with blacks and disabled people and other victims of discrimination, "different" in too many minds still means "inferior."

The second is that their difference touches the most sensitive of human nerves - our sexuality. Mix that with a dash of judgment and a drop of scriptural extract and you've got a sin powerful enough to keep any God- fearing homophobe lying bug-eyed awake at 3 a.m., wondering what's going on behind those drawn shades next door.

rational Mainers know, of course, that legal protection for gays and lesbians is not, and never has been, about what's happening between the sheets. It's about what's happening in the streets - a point that Lois Reckitt was trying to make last week when she turned the tables on the heterosexuals for a change.

"There was sort of a stunned silence," Reckitt said. "But it's very difficult to sit there for two or three hours and listen to people describe you as subhuman. At some point, you have to respond."

And at some point, equal rights opponents need to stop beckoning for the rest of us to come over and peek inside gays' and lesbians' bedrooms - and start imagining how they'd feel if society suddenly appeared one night at their window, moral microscope in hand, looking for their sexual secrets.

Any volunteers?

- Bill Nemitz is a columnist for The Portland Newspapers.

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