The rash of obscene ignorance sweeping our great nation has prompted me to create a new column on Virally Suppressed called, Wow, What a Wretched Human Being. In our inaugural entry we’ve decided to take a look at Tennessee State Senator and carpetbagger Stacey Campfield. The 44-year old Republican from Tennessee’s 7th district rose to national infamy last year when he introduced his “Don’t Say Gay” bill into the state legislature in an attempt to keep elementary school children from being subjected to healthy, developmentally appropriate discussion about human sexuality. Thankfully for the dignity or our species, the bill died an appropriately ignoble death on the floor of the Tennessee house, but that doesn’t mean that fanatical imbeciles like Stacey Campfield died with it. So, for those of you who know of Senator Campfield solely from that particular display of violent ignorance, we present to you—as a public service—a veritable treasure trove of truly reprehensible things that the young senator has done in his short and regrettable time in office.
For instance, have you ever looked at studies showing almost 40% of LGBT teens reporting at least one suicide attempt and think, well, that doesn’t seem too bad? Stacey Campfield has and he decided to tell the whole world about it on Michelangelo Signorile’s radio show OutQ back in January. When asked about the epidemic of LGBT bullying going on in America, Campfield indignantly responded that the whole, “[LGBT] bullying thing is the biggest lark out there,”1 adding that he believed that “sexually confused” youth are pushed into homosexuality, rather than willing participants. Campfield went on to insinuate that their own unease with their sexuality—not the lack of acceptance and ridicule from their peers and society—was the root cause behind LGBT suicides. Essentially, what State Senator Campfield is saying is that LGBT teens are confused kids who are somehow forced into a homosexual lifestyle and subsequently kill themselves as a result of not being able to re-convert to a heterosexual existence2.
In the same interview where he belittled the suffering of millions of LGBT teens, Campfield decided to voice his views on the AIDS epidemic in America. It should come as no surprise then that, based on what I’ve mentioned thus far about State Senator Campfield and the predilection of the religious right to make outrageously ignorant statements on issues concerning human sexuality, his comments were an affront to science, morality and anything approaching reason. When the subject of AIDS was broached, Mr. Campfield gave the following analysis on the epidemiological roots and transmission risks of the disease:
“Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community — it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall. My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex…very rarely [transmitted]. What’s the average lifespan of a homosexual? it’s very short. Google it yourself.”3
As crazy as it might sound, the inter-species love fest theory of zoonotic AIDS transmission is not relegated to the demented mind of Stacey Campfield. It has long been a urban legend that the first human carrier of AIDS received the disease through some kind of crazy monkey sex. I’m unsure as to the sex of the theoretical patient zero monkey, but I would imagine that the story’s proponents view it as male since this version of history is almost exclusively promoted by people who view AIDS as a “homosexual disease.” Needless to say, scientists are all-but-certain that the first person to contract HIV as we know it today was a tribal man in Southeastern Cameroon who was infected from blood-to-blood contact while hunting a monkey carrying SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus)4. In this interview, Campfield actually mixes two separate, yet equally incorrect, myths in his explanation. The first myth deals with the erroneous claim that HIV was first spread via sex with African monkeys, while the second myth has it that an airline flight attendant was responsible for bringing HIV into North America. At some point in his recollection of the two stories, Campfield must have melded them so that it was the flight attendant who slept with the monkeys, eliminating the middle man in the process.
That the state senator has no idea how the AIDS virus was first spread isn’t particularly troubling. Unless you’re a scientist trying to find a cure for the virus or some sort of virologist, you really don’t need to know about it. Memorizing this bit of scientific trivia isn’t going to get people tested or encourage safe sex. However, what is disconcerting is Campfield’s insistence that it is almost impossible to transmit HIV via heterosexual sex. This type of denialism is fatally stupid. Not only does it discourage straight people from getting tested for HIV and practicing safe sex, but it feeds the inherent stigma of HIV by making it a “them” disease and not an “us” disease. As long as AIDS is “somebody else’s problem”, it will continue to grow at an astronomical rate across the globe, no matter how many anti-retroviral drugs or vaccines we create. When people like Stacey Campfield spread ignorant bile like this to their constituents, what they’re actually spreading is HIV to those who choose to believe them and act as though they are impervious to the disease.
Before winding this whole thing up, I want to briefly make an observation that is not based in fact, but rather on interpretation and opinion. Now, if one were to put the following to trial as evidence in a court of law it would likely be dismissed as circumstantial, but I still feel as though it’s worthy of note. When viewing Mr. Campfield’s unconscionable actions and statements, it may be important to keep in mind that there is a distinct possibility that he himself is dealing with repressed homosexual feelings. In his mid-forties, Campfield has never been married or engaged, a rare thing for any man—Census data shows that around 18% of men in the same age group as Campfield have never married—but especially rare for a conservative politician. However, being single is indicative of nothing until you take into account Campfield’s aggressive grandstanding against homosexuality and a recent study in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology on the relation between homophobia and homosexuality5. In a series of six studies, researchers identified a particular sub-group of individuals who professed extremely heterosexual beliefs, but tested in ways that signified high levels of same-sex attraction. This is not to say that Campfield is in the closet simply because he’s a single man who hates gays. It is just to point out that there is now established scientific evidence that homophobia can be indicative of suppressed homosexuality and that there is a long and documented history of conservative leaders, from Ted Haggard to Larry Craig, taking anti-gay stances in public and wide stances in airport bathrooms. Whether or not we ever see Stacey Campfield’s name added to that illustrious list of politicians scandalized by the Casual Encounters section of Craig’s List remains to be seen. If he does, the man certainly wont be alone.
2Here is the full quote: “That bullying thing is the biggest lark out there…there are sexually confused children who could be pushed into a lifestyle that I don’t think is appropriate with them and it’s not the norm for society, and they don’t know how they can get back from that. I think a lot of times these young teens and young children, they find it very hard on themselves and unfortunately some of them commit suicide.” If anyone believes I am misinterpreting this statement, please feel free to comment with your own interpretation. The state senator’s pronoun usage ain’t exactly crystal clear.
3This quote was taken from an article in The Nashville Scene from January of this year: http://www.nashvillescene.com/pitw/archives/2012/01/26/stacey-campfield-on-the-origins-of-aids-it-was-one-guy-screwing-a-monkey
4For more information on the origins of HIV, check out our article on the subject from May of this year: http://virallysuppressed.com/2012/05/28/out-of-africa-the-origins-of-hiv/