WHY POLICE BOTHER IS ANOTHER MATTER
Craig was talking the talk
By Rex Wockner
October 7, 2007
Which raises the question: What will it take to make this guy go away? Here we are six weeks after Craig's arrest became public, and the story just will not die. This is intolerable -- even for gay folks like me. I can only imagine how straight people must feel.
So, if you don't mind terribly, I'd like to do my part to help kill this story off, put it out of its misery, make it go away forever. This will require a bit of setup, and I'll have to spoon-feed some straight readers some gay secrets.
The most amazing thing for me is that Craig still insists he wasn't "cruising," which is gay lingo for looking for partners in men's rooms, forest preserves, rest areas and the like (remember George Michael? Wham!), or even just while walking down the street or shopping at Jewel.
Assuming the airport police report is accurate, and by ruling against Craig on Thursday that is exactly what a Minnesota judge did, the insurmountable problem with Craig's insistence is this: We know better.
There are millions of gay men in the U.S. who, like me, came out in a less-enlightened era when we didn't have much choice but to learn about restroom cruising. There were few other ways to find each other. Some of us weren't so much looking for "public" sex as we were just looking to meet. But regardless of our motivation, we all -- millions of us -- have one thing in common: We learned, and we can still speak, the secret language that the police report says Craig spoke fluently in a men's room at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
I learned this non-verbal language in 1984 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Let me be your translator.
The police report says Craig entered the men's room and began peering through the door crack into the undercover cop's stall. The report says Craig did this for two minutes. That is how bathroom cruisers often begin their dance.
The police report says Craig then sat down on the toilet in an adjacent stall, "tapped his toes" several times and moved his foot closer to the officer's stall. The cop responded by moving his foot "up and down slowly." Craig then slid his foot into the adjacent stall, and the two men's shoes "touched." This, gentle readers, is more than a textbook example of how bathroom cruisers communicate that they're there to hook up rather than use the facilities. (Ordinarily, you don't bump feet; usually, the slow up-and-down movement of toes is sufficient.)
The police report says Craig then slowly swiped his hand, palm upward, along the bottom of the stall divider with his fingers protruding into the policeman's stall. It says he did this three times.
This gesture has a precise meaning that is universally understood in the cruising scene. It means: "Come closer to the wall so I can touch you."
If you're skeptical, you should know that the Minneapolis airport is extending the stall dividers farther down toward the floor.
So the bottom line: Larry Craig evidently was cruising. The only way he wasn't cruising is if the perfectly detailed police report is a total fabrication, or if by magical coincidence all his many moves flawlessly mimicked the intricate choreography of the men's-room mating dance.
You can make your own call on that. Audio of the post-arrest argument between Craig and the flabbergasted arresting officer is online. Go to tiny url.com/32h68z and scroll down to "MSNBC audio" in the right column.
Meanwhile, there is at least one other element that has kept this story alive -- the growing consensus among opinion writers, straight and gay, that Craig was entrapped by a police department that should have better ways to use its officers.
After all, it's not as if men's-room sex shenanigans are actually "public." Cruisers go to great lengths to keep from getting caught. Bathrooms that become "tearooms" (gay lingo for cruising bathrooms) are chosen because they're safe for such activity. Many such bathrooms, for example, are L-shaped, or have two layers of doors at the entrance. Why is this relevant? It means that if you're using the men's room as a tearoom, you can hear someone entering the bathroom before the person gets close enough to detect the shenanigans. In most tearooms, cruisers have time to get back in proper position after realizing that someone is heading in.
I agree that Larry Craig was, at minimum, enticed. It takes two to tango. If the cop hadn't been sitting there peering back and playing footsie, Craig probably wouldn't have made the come-hither finger gesture. Instead, he likely would have left frustrated, caught his next flight and returned to the Senate to continue his 100 percent anti-gay voting record.
In the wake of Craig's inane drama, it seems obvious we should urge police departments to find better ways to spend our money. The era of what the British call "pretty policemen" entrapping horny men in toilets is long gone in Western Europe, and it should be relegated to the history books here too. Tearoom hanky-panky is a victimless "crime" that is only visible to those who are looking to find it.
In the end (if this story ever ends), Larry Craig may never come out. He even went so far as to engage in a bizarre, doomed effort to undo his guilty plea. I sort of hope he doesn't come out. He's hardly a role model for gay men, bisexual men or even straight men who sometimes have sex with men.
But if the police report is accurate, there are millions of such men in America who know the truth because we're fluent in tearoom communication. And, if the report is accurate, you now know the truth too.
Veteran journalist Rex Wockner writes for the Windy City Times and numerous other gay publications.