Mayor Naugle in Florida seems more worried about whether gay people are having more fun than him, than about what’s best for his city
H. L. Mencken once wrote that puritanism is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” The idea that those who we hate might enjoy themselves more than we do came to mind during Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle’s most recent anti-gay tirades.
Some gay critics attribute Naugle’s enduring homophobia to his own suppressed homosexuality. Nothing could be further from the truth. If nothing else, Jim Naugle is a Kinsey One, dyed-in-the-wool, 100 percent heterosexual man. But, like the puritan that he is, Naugle seems obsessed with the idea that gay men the mayor does not care about lesbians might be having a good time.
In spite of his often-quoted statement that “homosexuals … are unhappy,” Naugle can’t help but worry that gay men are really happy, perhaps happier than he could ever be.
There are many reasons why one might be homophobic, and envy of lesbians or gay people is certainly one of them. According to Gregory M. Herek of the University of California at Davis (CD): “Heterosexual men may envy gay men because the latter are not constrained by the masculine ideal. Heterosexuals may also envy the sexual freedom presumably enjoyed by lesbians and gay men. In either case, the envy is presumably translated unconsciously into hostility.”
In layman’s terms, many straight men hate us because we score more often than they do. But rather than admit that they wish they could be like us, they condemn us as sex-driven, promiscuous libertines, sex fiends who copulate anywhere and anytime, and without consideration for the scruples of humanity.
Now I don’t presume to speculate about Mayor Naugle’s sex life as far as I know, he is a happily married man. But whatever his personal life might be, Naugle is obviously obsessed with gay men’s sex lives.
In fact, to Naugle, gay men are all about sex. This was obvious during the mayor’s latest homophobic rant, which came at the wake of the City of Fort Lauderdale’s proposed move to buy a robotic toilet for the City’s gay beach a toilet that automatically opens its door after a certain time appealed to the mayor, though not for efficiency’s sake.
The way that Naugle saw it, a robotic toilet would put a stop to gay tearoom sex, which in his fevered mind happens all the time. Gay men, Naugle proclaimed hotly, are “engaging in sex, anonymous sex, illegal sex” in toilets: “We’re trying to provide a family environment where people can take their children who need to use the bathroom without having to worry about a couple of men in there engaged in a sex act.”
Naugle assured us that he received “numerous calls of complaints from concerned citizens” about gay sex in public toilets. This contradicts a statement from Sgt. Frank Sousa of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, who noted that “there’s no evidence, no reports or arrests made for any men having sex in any restrooms.”
This did not stop the mayor from later issuing an “apology;” not to the gays but “to the children and parents of our community, for not being aware of the depth of problem with sexual activity in parks and public places. I apologize for not bringing this forward earlier. Maybe some lives could have been saved.”
Naugle also attacked the gay Web site CruisingForSex.com for listing several Fort Lauderdale-area parks as gay cruising spots: “Our parks are important for our children, and we will not accept this activity in the name of being inclusive or tolerant.”
(For its part, CruisingForSex.com has called for a gay boycott of Fort Lauderdale.)
This is not the first time that Jim Naugle, mayor of Fort Lauderdale since 1991, has set his narrow-minded sights on gay men. But he really went to town this time.
At the same press conference where he “apologized” to Fort Lauderdale’s children and parents, Naugle also blamed Broward County’s rising AIDS rates on horny gay tourists and on the county itself for spending money to attract gay tourists.
When the GLBT Stonewall Library and Archives sought permission to move into city-owned space, Naugle screamed that the collection contains “pornographic magazines of the worst kind” and worried that Stonewall will be located “in our main park in the city, where our little league fields are.”
At the city Commission hearing that approved the library’s move Naugle, like Sen. Joe McCarthy waving a list of Communists, flashed an envelope that he alleged contained pornographic books and magazines housed at the Stonewall Library. But he then piously refused to open the envelope, claiming, “It’s so disgusting I can’t open it up.”
Do you see the pattern? It doesn’t matter that heterosexuals also have sex in public, that straight tourists also visit Fort Lauderdale to meet sexual partners or that the Broward County Public Library also carries sexually-explicit material. To Naugle, being gay is sex, sex, SEX!
Though he never said it, it wouldn’t surprise me if Naugle thinks that gay doctors, lawyers or Realtors spend their working days screwing their clients (in the literal sense of the word); or that the mostly-gay Sunshine Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church and Congregation Etz Chaim synagogue exist primarily as pickup joints.
Alas, our lives are not always as exciting as he thinks they are. But they are certainly more interesting and fulfilling than his.
I have been openly gay for all of my adult life and, while I’ve had my ups and downs, they had nothing to do with my sexual orientation. In fact, I think being gay opened my life to varieties and opportunities that I would never have experienced if was heterosexual. In fact, if I was straight, my life would probably be as boring as Jim Naugle’s! No wonder he keeps attacking us.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and happy gay activist who lives in South Florida with his life partner and many friends.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 10, 2007