Melvin Boozer, the leader of Washington's Gay Activist Alliance, was reflecting yesterday on the controversy involving Robert Bauman, the conservative Maryland congressman who acknowledged having homosexual tendencies six days after being charged by police with sexually soliciting a 16-year-old boy.

In a calm voice, Boozer decried what he called the "hypocrisy" of a morally conservative public official who, while admitting gay tendencies, has railed against homosexual rights legislation throughout his seven years in Congress. But then Boozer paused a moment and abruptly voiced an emotion that struck a stronger, more pervasive chord in Washington's openly gay community.

"Look," he declared, "We've been slung through the mud all week because of this by people who don't know or care what they're talking about.

Boozer and other gay leaders specifically blasted media coverage of the Bauman controversy, saying reporters and broadcasters have unfairly linked the homosexual trade on New York Avenue and Ninth Street NW -- the origin of police charges against Bauman -- with the rest of Washington's gay community.

The complain that commentators and writers who argue that young downtown hustlers are being corrupted by those men who pay them for sex, are ignorant of the lifestyle there, which gay leaders call a tiny, atypical part of homosexual life in the city.

"Those young men are by no means innocent," said the Rev. Larry Uhrig, of Washington's gay Metropolitan Community Church. "They know exactly what they want and how to get it. Some of them make 30 to 40 thousand dollars a year."

Gay leaders are irritated more, however, by reports that leave the impression that the city's homosexual community is centered downtown in dank, dark bars such as the Cafe Naples.

"As far as I'm concerned places like that represent the dark ages," Boozer said. "The large majority of us feel better about ourselves than that. A reporter from Channel 5 called me up the other day and asked for the telephone number of the Naples Cafe. How the hell am I supposed to know the number of a sleazy joint like that?"

In fact, out of the approximately 25 gay bars in the city only three are go-go cafes where hustling -- sex for money -- is a prime activity. The remainder, such as Morgan's in Adams Morgan, Mr. Henry's in Georgetown, and Lost and Found on Capitol Hill, are more like middle- and upper-crust meeting places where the clientele often includes congressional staffers, consultants and other professional workers.

Several leaders expressed sympathy for Bauman's problems, arguing that they not only have known for some time of his alleged activities, but that they know of other public officials, including conservative congressmen, who frequent gay bars.

"The conflict can be enormous between public postures and hidden homosexuality," said Don Michaels, editor of The Blade, a Washington gay newspaper. "The way to deal with it is to confront it openly and honestly," he said, adding that Bauman's public statements about alcoholism and his appeals to religion "fly in the face of experience."

"I understand politics and his constituency," said Michaels. "But you don't deal with it by total repression."

Many homosexuals contacted yesterday admitted some sympathy for Bauman and suggested that the congressman was victimized by the 16 year-old boy who acted as an informant for police, violating an unwritten gay rule that no homosexual is exposed as a gay unless he chooses to be. But many of them were outraged over what one leader called Bauman's "Jekyll and Hyde politics."

Maccubin expressed this sentiment in the extreme "Bauman ought to resign," he said, "because he has consistently betrayed his gay brothers and sisters."

Lou Chibbaro, a Blade reporter who has covered the story, put it this way: "I'm struck mainly by the anger most people are expressing. On one hand is the notion left by the media that gays are corrupting Washington's boys. On the other is Bauman's problem and the apparent hypocrisy of his politics."