“I guess I’d say that I was stunned,” Seth Norton, a Wheaton professor and former wrestling coach who had led the Hastert center and worked with Mr. Hastert, said on Monday. “It was hard to imagine it being true and seemed extremely far-fetched.”There used to be a great store in the West Village, I think on Hudson, that sold vintage porn. A lot of magazines, but the best stuff was the pulp fiction. Anyway, I always think of that store when another "coach" gets busted for molesting teenagers. Gay porn kind of writes itself.
(I should mention that Hastert is not being charged for the sexual abuse because the statute of limitations has long run out. He's being charged for paying someone not to reveal the abuse. There's a distinction, but only a legal one.)
When a man in his 70s is dragged out of the closet, why are people like Norton so surprised they didn't know? You didn't know because he didn't want you to know and he structured his whole life around concealing it from you. The fact that you had no idea is, to say the least, unremarkable. For hundreds of years few people who weren't queer had any idea queer people lived among them. We kept it secret. I thought this was obvious by now, but maybe not. We kept it secret because our safety, our well-being, our lives often depended on the people around us not knowing. It's called terrorism, and it saturated European and American cultures for centuries, with government and church carrying out the worst of it.
The 1940s and 50s, when Hastert was growing up, were some of the scariest years for lgbt Americans. Well, maybe not as bad as the Spanish Inquisition, but pretty bad. Being a queer was even worse than being a Communist. I can blame Hastert for a lot of ugly things but not for trying to conceal his sexuality.
Yeah, things are changing. Things are better. But queer people still consider their safety when deciding how truthful to be in any given moment about who they are. And not just in Africa, or Iraq, or the past.