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Sunday, September 24, 2006

A cruel calculation

Dina Matos McGreevey

The Making of a Gay American
Thirty-four days after I was elected governor of New Jersey, I began a secret affair with an aide named Golan Cipel. It destroyed my career, ruined my marriage, and helped me discover who I really am.

* By James E. McGreevey

There were moments when the ripping misery of this life became too great, moments when I thought about “becoming gay” and all that that entails. One of these moments came after I lost my first race for governor to Christine Todd Whitman in 1997. I thought to myself: You’re at a fork in the road. You could give this up and be yourself. This is your last chance.

But I felt compelled to keep running for governor. I’d lost by a mere 27,000 votes. My political potential was enormous. I think I decided that my ambition would give me more pleasure than integration, than true love. Coming to this realization made me feel not suicidal, exactly, but morose. It’s hard to describe how it feels to surrender your soul to your ambition.

Among other things, I was anxious about marrying Dina. I had met her at a campaign event—she was an uncommonly beautiful 31-year-old blonde in a red double-breasted suit. When the event was over I walked her out to her car and kissed her. I’m still not sure what made me do it. Loneliness, I suppose. Maybe she just seemed like the perfect politician’s wife; it might have been that self-serving. Our romantic life was troubled from the start, but I loved her deeply as a friend and companion. And I did believe I was offering her some things she truly coveted: the stability of marriage, the prospect of a loving family, a chance to share a life of public service, political excitement in spades.

In November 1999, I won reelection as mayor of Woodbridge by a landslide. And the following February, on Valentine’s Day, I slid an engagement ring on Dina’s finger. All the while, I never stopped campaigning for governor


I craved love. For years sex had been all that was available to me. From the time in high school when I made up my mind to behave in public as though I were straight, I nonetheless carried on sexually with men. I visited bookstores in New York and New Jersey and had sex in the small booths there until I became too famous to risk discovery. I lurked around parkway rest stops, exchanging false names and intimacies with strangers. But there never was an emotional meaning to these trysts, even the few that were repeat engagements.

The only place where I had ever found any real pleasure in these encounters was in Washington, during my law-school years. At the juncture of Sixth and I Streets, just around the corner from Judiciary Square, there was an abandoned synagogue and a narrow alley leading to the long-forgotten gardens in back. Every night, rain or shine, this hidden pocket of Washington filled with men just like me—almost all of them wearing business suits and, on most of their left hands, proof that they’d made the same compromises I had. We were the power brokers and backroom operatives and future leaders of America. We just happened to be gay.


On December 10 or 11, after I rebuffed several requests for meetings, Golan reached me on my cell phone, upset that I’d been out of touch. I invited him over to the condo for a late dinner, to assure him that he had a future in the administration. He arrived in a suit and tie, dressed impeccably as always. With Dina still in the hospital with our newborn, I was left to my own devices for dinner. I think we ate cold cereal.

He was politely appreciative. We sat at the dining-room table talking and half- watching the cable news, our shared addiction. I don’t know at what point it occurred to me that something more was about to happen. But I know how it started. I stretched out on the couch and placed my legs over his knees, as I’d done previously in the car. I then leaned forward and hugged him, and kissed his neck. His response was immediate and loving.

It was wrong to do. I wasn’t an ordinary citizen anymore. There were state troopers parked outside. My wife was in the hospital. And he was my employee. But I took Golan by the hand and led him upstairs to my bed. He kissed me. It was the first time in my life that a kiss meant what it was supposed to mean—it sent me through the roof. I pulled him to the bed and we made love like I’d always dreamed: a boastful, passionate, whispering, masculine kind of love. When he was gone, I realized that this might all explode on me one day, but I just didn’t care. I felt invincible then.

My circumstances made having an affair excruciatingly difficult, but not impossible. I visited Dina and Jacqueline every day in the hospital, and my heart ached to have our baby home, but until they returned I spent as much free time as I could with Golan. I loved our time together, whether talking politics over cups of tea or trying to remember whose T-shirt was whose at the end of the bed.

When Dina finally got home, our condo became a scrum of familial activity. But, knowing how much work I had ahead of me, the crowds at the condo paid little attention to me.

Once, after an exhausting day in the transition office, I made secret plans with Golan to see him later, at his apartment. The state troopers, now my constant companions, dropped me at the condo and parked around back. When I was sure they couldn’t see me, I pulled on my running clothes and slipped out the front. Golan’s apartment complex was roughly half a mile away, but difficult to get to on foot. I ran along the sidewalk for a while, then below a railroad underpass before returning to the sidewalk and ducking into his building.

He greeted me in his briefs. “Did anybody see you?” he asked, closing the door quickly. We kissed, hard.

I had to think about this for a while. When I saw his Oprah interview, I could barely watch it. It seemed off, creepy.

And then I realized, if he had been on Jerry Springer, people would have booed his ass the minute he showed up. Now, if you don't watch Springer, you might not realize that the audience is gay indifferent, if not friendly. So you see black guys kissing black guys, lesbians, guys telling their girlfriends they're gay.

But when they cheat, they get booed. It normalizes gay relationships in a way you rarely see on TV.

I know what McGreevey did was hard, coming out in a public way. But, there isn't anything noble about what he did.

He's now Mr. Out gay, when he was a coward his entire life, hurting people, cheating, having affairs. Now, I'm in no position to judge when he should have come out or not. I have no idea what that's like.

But I have an idea of what ethics is like.

Here he is, describing what he could bring to his wife, except for a faithful, loving husband. He didn't have to marry her, he didn't have to get her pregnant. He pretty much admits he used his second marriage to run for governor, which is pretty despicable on it's own.

I doubt he even cared that his public sexual escapades would place his wife's health at risk.

Then, with his pregnant wife in the hospital, he brings home his new boyfriend and has sex in his marital bed. We would hardly want to read this if he had done this with a woman. There would be only scorn for such a person. But because he describes it as a moment of discovery, it's supposed to be cool. But it's reprehensible. He didn't even care about the sanctity of his marital bed.

Well, let's talk about Dina McGreevey for a moment. Not only did she not know her husband was sexually active outside their marriage, but was having risky sexual encounters with men. Then, after having this man's baby, she finds out in the worst way short of seeing him fucking some guy, that her husband was gay. People speculated that she knew, but one look at her face showed that she had been the victim of a cruel calculation.

Jim McGreevey wanted to be governor more than he loved the woman he married. He never says he was faithful to her at any point in their relationship. He may apologize for the complete and utter humiliation she may feel at some point, but what he was doing was totally selfish.

Now Cipel is saying he never had any sexual attraction to McGreevey, but that doesn't sound honest. If it hadn't been Cipel, it would have been someone else.

He didn't have to marry his second wife with the cruel calculation he did. He could have found a willing beard. But he didn't, because his only thoughts were about his career and his success. I mean. this is a guy, now parading around with his boyfriend, who opposed gay marriage.

I think the idea is that you're supposed to feel sympathy for McGreevey, and I do, to a degree. But that degree stops when it comes to how cruelly he hurt his wife. And then he comes off as just another cheating husband with no respect for his marriage.

posted by Steve @ 12:18:00 AM

12:18:00 AM

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