As many may be aware given the national coverage, our new, openly gay Mayor, Sam Adams, has apologized for lying about having sex with an 18-year old intern in 2005. Why is this news? When confronted about this in 2007, he lied about it. Why? He was getting ready to run for mayor and was worried about how this could play out. Sam is currently 45, so you can start seeing how this would play out.
Why did he admit he lied now? Guilt. The desire to start his term with a clean slate. The fact he hated asking the guy to continue to lie about this feeling it was unfair to him. Plus, I believe there are the rumors that wouldn’t go away. I guess rumors and story ideas about this have been circulating since 2007.
Now, the gay community of Portland has mixed feelings. Should he resign? Should he move on? There are people on both sides.
And his non-gay supporters are just as mixed. Some still love him, but can’t see him overcoming this scandal – and are calling for his resignation. Others are not. There doesn’t appear to be a common consensus one way or another.
Some say the fact he lied means he could lie to the public again, and in this time of economic crisis, we can’t have that. I think that’s quite a leap to move from lying about your private life to lying about the local crisis. One is his job while the other is his personal life.
Some can’t get over the age difference between he and the guy (whose name is Beau Breedlove, by the way). They feel it was no different than if a teacher had sex with an 18-year-old student. The teacher would love his/her job so why shouldn’t Sam.
Let me tackle my thinking about this issue first. I am not going to claim to be an expert on the sociological inner workers of the gay community, but I have had this conversation v before with a friend of mine (C) who is a gay man. And subsequent conversations with other gay men have confirmed this for me. I asked him why there are wide ranging age difference in some male gay couples specifically. His response as someone who dated a lot of older gay men between 18-30 was simple. Young gay men fall into two categories: those who are out partying & doing that club scene where they are picking up guys every other night – and those who are looking for a relationship. C was definitely in that category at 18. He wasn’t into the club scene, so when he found someone to have a relationship with, the guy was 35 or older. Most of his long term relationships until he hit about 30-35 were with older men. As he said, it becomes easier to find someone your own age to have a relationship with as they grow up and grow out of the club scene.
And, generally speaking, I have found this to be true. I look at the gay men I know, and those in long term relationships with people their own age are both professionals who can afford a foray to the bars once in a while but really have aspirations of buying their first place and starting a family. Others who are in relationships and are young, but with similar aspirations of settling down and having a family, are in relationships with older men. This is why the age thing doesn’t necessarily bother me. And, when I hear that Beau is currently in a relationship with an older man, it reinforces this idea my friend C put forth. Do I wish the Beau was 25 when this happened? Absolutely! I’m not a fan of anyone trying to have a serious relationship with an 18 year old, but as someone who has always acted “older than her age” I can’t judge the circumstances or the maturity of Beau at 18.
The lying thing is where I have mixed feelings. I guess because if my work collided with my personal life, I may actually lie about my personal life. Why? Self preservation mainly. Many of us who have blogs should be able to understand that. I mean, imagine going to work and having someone ask if a particular blog post was you…and imagine it was a more risque one. Would you tell the truth and risk losing your job and possibly your career? Or you would you lie about it?
Amanda Fritz, our newest County Commissioner, commented that in her years as a psychiatric nurse, she has seen a lot of people lie under stress. She has challenged the public to think about whether or not they have made a mistake and lied about it. She has asked another question about the public relevance of this story. I think the larger question is “should Sam be held to a higher standard than the rest of society?”
And, I guess that is my other point of concern with this issue. An old boss of mine once said that a company is truly a microcosm of society. If in Portland, 1% of all people are addicts, we probably have the same demographic internally. If 10% abuse alcohol, we probably have it internally as well. Every area of society has it. If you go looking for it, you will find it. I’m not trying to be Pollyanna by saying we should only look for the good in people instead of the bad. My point is you will always find this stuff in regular life, in business, in schools, in politics, in medicine, in non-profits, everywhere. If you go looking for it, you will find it. And in politics, they always seem to be looking for it. Why? To give someone the political upper hand over another politician.
This isn’t an easy issue. But, despite my mixed feelings, I say leave Sam alone and let him start his job as Mayor. The guy had a lot of guts to stand up publicly and tell the truth despite the fact the lie was firmly in place. He really didn’t have to do it, but he did to clear his conscious and to stop the lies and to stop people from having to continue to lie for him. I would rather judge his performance as Mayor not by his choice of candidate in the bedroom but by his choices while in the office as Mayor. Until I can see that in action, I don’t really feel I have much to judge about him as a politician.