Sam Adams is my mayor. He is also a friend. When I saw that both The Oregonian and Just Out asked for his resignation and reported that many in the gay community wanted him out of office, too, I knew that was misleading. And I knew it was time for me to share my thoughts.
I’ve always said Sam is his own worst enemy. He has a dark streak in his soul. He beats himself up. When I talked to him on the phone last Wednesday, Jan. 21, I could hear it in his voice when he said, “I brought this on myself.”
Around 4 pm on Jan. 19, after WW broke the story on its website, The Oregonian’s Anna Griffin called me and asked me two things: Should Sam resign? And does this tarnish his reputation? What was more telling was what the openly lesbian columnist and former City Hall reporter said after that: “Way to go, Sam. Way to play into the stereotype.”
For others who think homosexuality is a sin and gay men are nothing but sodomizing pedophiles, Sam’s confession is a gift from God himself. And, the truth is, gay men are sinners. We do like to look at attractive young men. It’s something we share with our straight brothers who like to look at attractive young women. And while there is little doubt in my mind Sam’s behavior was egregiously predatory, anyone who thinks Beau Breedlove is a victim hasn’t been paying attention. He was as much a predator. The guy named his dog Lolita, for God’s sake.
And here, to me, is where the real truth lies.
Sam lied because he felt he had no other choice. He knew if the story came out that he messed around with a younger adult that all gay hell would break loose. Sam would be branded the worst kind of homo—an old pervert in his 40s. He would not only give up his chance at being mayor, his political future would be toast. That’s when he did what, in retrospect, he shouldn’t have done. He played the gay card, characterizing Bob Ball’s accusation as the worst kind of gay smear campaign.
The reasons he played that card will resonate with any outsider who has ever tried to make it in the mainstream. We lie, or at least mask our true selves, to survive an unforgiving world that has just recently decided that those queers are probably OK. Sam, at age 45, has lived in a world that has, for most of his life, looked at gays as nothing more than the butt end of bad jokes. Yes, he comes off like a victim, but truth be told, he is one. He’s had to work harder and try to achieve more just because he is gay. Add a dash of deep-seated self-loathing and the pressure to represent an entire segment of society, and, well, eventually he was bound to mess it up.
Now that we all know our mayor is a sloppy man-whore, I’m glad that’s out of the way. If Sam keeps his job—and he should—he won’t be able to get an erection for the next four years without wondering how it could affect his work. Is that fair? No. But, if he survives this crisis, and I think he will, he and our city will be better for it. This is new territory for all of us, not just Sam.
On Dec. 22, my partner, Juan, and I had dinner with then Mayor-elect Sam Adams and his boyfriend, Oregonian reporter Peter Zuckerman, at Sam’s North Portland home. That night, over chicken soup, I asked Sam what was the one thing he was really good at. Stretched out on his couch, the incoming mayor said: “I get things done.”
Now, more than ever, the mayor needs to live up to those words.
ByronBeck wrote WW’s Queer Window column from 2000 until November 2008.