Q: You were extremely apologetic in your statements (in 1980 acknowledging homosexual involvement). Very contrite about what had happened. And (Rep. Gerry) Studds really has not at all been contrite (about the recent revelation that he had had a homosexual affair with a congressional page.) Some people are saying maybe gay people have changed -- "Wait a minute. We don't have to apologize any more for what we are." Is it different? Or is it that you were not as at peace with it as Studds is?
A: I think that that is an important distinction. When I made my statements in 1980, I wasn't gay. In my own mind. And in 1982, when I ran for Congress again, I had reached self-acceptance, but no one ever asked me. The question was never put to me, "Are you a homosexual?"
In a 45-minute press conference when I announced for Congress again, the only question that came close to it was, "Are your problems under control? Are they solved?" And I was quite truthfully able to say, "I've never felt better, my problems are indeed under control, and I'm fine." The press, in one of their rare lapses, didn't ask the important question. And I'd have answered.
Q: In 1980 it was something that you had not really admitted to yourself? Were you fighting it then?
A: As I had most of my life. I've gotten a lot of professional counseling subsequently, both religious and psychological, and done a tremendous volume of reading, across the spectrum of the views on homosexuality. I know more about it today than I ever did before. I'm certainly better in touch with myself. I understand why Gerry said what he said. He's never really made a secret of his being gay.
Q: How did you look at this whole thing with Studds? How do you see what (Rep.) Newt (Gingrich) did, (calling, unsuccessfully, for his expulsion from Congress)?
A: Well, one point has p - - - ed me off royally, and pardon my French. You'll notice how strongly I feel about it. In all of the stories that appeared about me, there's this business about Bauman who is a vociferous opponent of gay rights. Bob Bauman never made a statement in his public life on gay rights. On any kind of gay issues. I voted twice on the McDonald amendment (which would have barred use of federal Legal Services funds to "promote, defend or protect" homosexuality). I cosponsored the Family Protection Act (a wide-ranging and controversial measure incorporating New Right positions including those against abortion, busing, and homosexual rights). But I was no more a vociferous opponent of gay rights than any other conservative. I think it fitted the press' definition of a conservative to think that they were gay baiters. I never said anything about it for reasons that should be obvious. I am not, as The Baltimore Evening Sun said in an editorial, an ex-fag-basher. That was their delicate phrase. Of course they allowed as how maybe it was an improvement that was occurring here. I was at least becoming a little more liberal.
Q: Had you been sitting in judgment on Studds and (Rep. Daniel) Crane (who acknowledged having a heterosexual affair with a page), do you think you would have been one of the outsent of epoken people up there?
A: I can't really -- I really can't -- The answer is if you're talking about the Bob Bauman you've got on the phone now.
Q: No, the Bob Bauman, the previous incarnation.
A: No, I don't think I would have said anything. I think I would have voted, but I wouldn't have been beating any drums. I think Gingrich didn't add any stars to his crown with his colleagues.
Q: Do you think Studds acted correctly in not being contrite?
A: Not to apologize for being gay? Should someone apologize for being straight? Should they apologize for having red hair or black skin? I mean, it is not -- as some of my fundamentalist friends said, and I once thought -- a matter of choice.
Q: Do you wish that you had been able to do that at the beginning? That you had been sure of yourself for what you were?
A: I wish that I had known what I was when I was 5, 10 or 2. There's a special and exquisite kind of suffering that goes on in the gay mind, or the might-be-gay mind, if that's what you want to call it, throughout their life. You carry a stigma that you don't understand. You think you're unique and of course you're not. You're afraid to find out whether anyone else understands because then you would reveal yourself. You keep telling yourself you're not. The question that you are asking goes back much further than my difficulties in 1980.
Q: Is it becoming easier for gay people to deal with this these days?
A: I don't think it's easier. I think that we're dealing with centuries of ingrained religious feelings, teachings. With cultural perceptions inculcated from the earliest reflections on the part of most people, particularly young men. Boys. And to say overnight that that can be reversed, no I don't think so. I think the best you could hope for would be something that says, "Look, don't discriminate against anybody. Everybody ought to have the same chance. But hey, I don't have to accept this kind of stuff." That's where I think that they are these days.
Q: Being gay -- is it political suicide?
A: One of the reasons that I'm following the course that I am now -- which is not easy, personally, my family's circumstances -- is having gone through the last three years and repeatedly met instances of what can only be called discrimination. Not voluntary, in most instances. It was the political judgment that people had to make. "I just can't handle you." Top government officials -- some of whom I've known most of my adult life -- look me in the eye and say "I need you. Lord, I can use your talents. I don't have the courage to name you to a post in my agency."
Q: Have you been told that directly?
A: Oh yeah. You're told at the very highest levels of government. "Yeah, I know your name is on a list of ex-congressmen who would like to be in the administration. But we just don't want to hack that for a day or two in The Post." Or "What will our friends on the right say?" "We just don't want to be bothered with this. We've got enough problems."
Q: What are you doing now, then? How are you managing?
A: The best I can.
Q: Really? People are afraid of you?
A: They're not afraid of me. They're more than willing to hire me on a basis where they don't have to be seen with me. Have done some work on the Hill and for some Washington law firms, on an ad hoc basis. They come in and say "How do we unsnarl this parliamentary problem?" Or, "Our watershed bill's coming up next week, and can you help us during those few days?" And I've done that. But it's been few and far between. I have people in the leadership say, "Gee, we'd love to have you back helping us again this year with new members, and all, but geez, we can't go through that publicity again." There's nothing wrong with me. Intellectually. Mentally. Legally. Or anything else. It's just that because I'm gay, "Please don't come near me. As a politician I can't handle that."
Q: How does that make you feel about your former colleagues.
A: I understand it completely.
Q: You do? You don't resent it? A: I don't resent it. I don't feel bitter. In a wistful sort of way I'm sorry for them. I wouldn't want them to have to go through what I did in order to understand what I think I now understand. Albeit imperfectly. Since I'm now human. Although there were charges in the past that I wasn't. But I'm just saying that it's irrelevant to service in public life or in public office, whether or not you happen to be gay. No, I'm not bitter and I'm not angry. It's just that I'm reporting the news, as they say. I mean, it's just so frustrating. Here I am a person whose entire life has been devoted to politics and government. I'm sure there's a lot of people that would say, "Well, the son of a bitch is getting what he deserves."
Q: You were really a tough son of a bitch on the Hill.
A: That's absolutely true. That was the Bob Bauman that existed.
Q: The old Bob Bauman, was he tough?
A: In a certain strange way, my career might be thought of as politically macho. I think instead of addressing what really needed to be done in my life, I chose another form to prove that "Hey, I have some meaning. I have some worth." I haven't changed fundamentally in many of my views. But I used to use a line: "It isn't true that the liberals say that all issues are simply gradations of the color gray. Now there are blacks and there are whites. There are absolutes. Some things are wrong and some things are right. We have to tell the people what those things are."
Q: You used to say that?
A: I used to say it. I figured it wasn't a bad line. In fact I think Ronald Reagan has used something similar.
Q: And now what do you think about that line?
A: I don't necessarily believe that all things are relative. I think there still are absolutes. But my absolutes have changed fundamentally. The God that I used to know was a wrathful, vengeful, watching-me-every- minute, if-you've-been-caught-you're-going- to-hell God.
The God of my understanding today is a personal God who is far more forgiving and understanding. If he made me, he made me the way I am. I used to think love was some sort of hogwash you had on a hippie poster. My views have changed a lot. It may sound maudlin and sentimental but that's just the way it is.
Q: That obviously has to affect your politics, too.
A: It's much easier to deal in statistics when you're talking about aid to dependent children -- welfare cuts. Say, "There are so many chiselers and loafers on the roles." But I think if I had to address some of these issues again, I would think of it in terms of the mother with four kids sitting in a filthy shack on the Eastern Shore wondering where the food's coming from when the cut goes through.
I'm not soft. I don't think that I'm muddleheaded, or a bleeding-heart liberal. It's just that I realize that there's a dimension to everything that I was doing that I completely missed. I wasn't acting terribly human. I was trying to not be myself. It doesn't mean that all conservatives are heartless and wicked, as the liberals portray. Nor does it mean that the liberals have any corner on wisdom.
Q: Why do you want to (talk about this now)?
A: Because there has to be -- maybe it's an egotistical view -- some reason for the crap that I've had to wade through in the last few years in my life. I do think that God puts us here for some purpose. The avenues are sometimes revealed to you in strange ways. Maybe my not being able to get any appreciable work in the last few years has directed me towards what I'm doing now.
It's strange. There have been two trends of thoughts running in the conservative movement. One strain of thought used the government as an instrument of morality -- the anti-divorce laws. No abortion. The other theory was the libertarian view that says government has no right to tell anyone what to do with their private lives. Their major role is to defend the country and to make sure that individuals don't hurt each other. Beyond that, sell the highways, you know.
Somewhere between the two is the truth. On some things, like the right to life, I felt there was a need for legal action. In other areas I said it's not really somethisorry for themng the government should get into. But I think the Republican Party, as a conservative party, should not find any trouble with saying it is not the role of government to be a policeman in the bedroom.
Q: Gays are becoming a potent political force. To be blatant about it, you could be very helpful to the Republican party.
A: Gayness is not something that is a respecter of political lines. There have been four members of Congress involved in some way with homosexuality in the last four years -- two Democrats and two Republicans. Yet it is very difficult (for Republicans) because of the hard-core, right-wing base. We have to deal with this issue in such a way as to keep that group happy and at the same time appeal to gays.
Q: How about the decision to go talk to the ABA? How'd you decide that?
A: I just reached a point where it was quite obvious that nothing was going to happen. I appealed to some of my conservative friends. I said, "Look. I am embarrassed to have to tell you my circumstances, but I need help." And uniformly they were sympathetic, and uniformly nothing happened.
I finally concluded, well, what happens to the effeminate kid who is applying to be a bank clerk?
What happens to the vice president of the savings and loan in Louisville who announces he's the new president of the Dignity Chapter and gets fired the next week? Which happened a few months ago.
What happens to the professor who decides to sign a petition and his tenure is denied?
What happens to the college kid living in terror that his father is going to find out that he's gay? He thinks that he'll be physically mauled. I'm citing you four instances from personal knowledge.
I confine myself to the resolution for the ABA which is the endorsement of the of gay civil rights. I think that has popular support. Beyond gay circles. I think that this is a concept whose time has come. I don't think it's politically damaging to the right or left to support that.
Q: You're saying that while it may not be politically damaging to support (gay civil rights), on the other hand it's politically damaging to admit that you are gay?
A: That's right. That's the way it is. Haven't you ever heard the phrase, "I don't mind my kids going to school with them but I wouldn't want my daughter to date one?" Prejudice is uniform in some respects. That's what people are saying. They don't think anybody should be discriminated against, but they just aren't willing to accept in a leadership position someone whose values are different from theirs in that fundamental a respect.
Q: Do you see (gay civil rights) as a long way off?
A: One of my conservative friends said that if that day ever comes, our civilization will collapse. Others have said if all the conservative gays came out now, Washington would collapse. I mean, I have been in gay bars in the District of Columbia and I've run into members of Congress, I've run into high administration officials, I've run into all kinds of people.
Q: Wait a minute. Really? High administration officials?
A: It was no secret in other adminstrations. Union officials. Go down to Rehobeth any weekend and go to the Blue Moon, which is the current rage. You'll run into some folks there that I'm sure you'd recognize in a minute.
Q: Are these people who have not made their peace with themselves? They are living double lives?
A: I don't know whether they're at peace with themselves, but they quite obviously are living double lives. Hey, look, I'm at peace with myself. Never felt better in my life than I do now. I've got my alcoholism whipped. Haven't had a drink for more than three years. With all the problems I've had, I just don't see myself ever being as miserable in this life or in the next as I was for a good part of my life already. I just hope maybe somebody will be able to say to themselves, "Hey, if he can do it, maybe I can work this out."
Q: When did you decide to say, "Yes, I am gay."
A: When the Catholic Church declared me to be a homosexual.
Q: When was that?
A: When my wife filed for an annulment. It came through sometime last fall. I demanded to know the basis that my marriage had, according to the church, never existed. They had -- based on the canon law -- decided that I was not only gay but had never had the capacity to contract a marriage nor did I have one in the future. It just dawned on me. Why was I fighting? I was trying to get cured by psychiatrists. I was trying to deal with it in my own mind. I wanted to stay married and work it all out. And my wife did me a real favor. One day the Holy Roman Catholic Church had decided that Bob Bauman was gay. That's pretty good authority.