We were on the same plane out of Dulles, and he was two rows ahead. His head was shaven, except for a tuft at the very top. With large ears and long, bare cranium he looked like the Sesame Street character Bert, as in Bert and Ernie. Bert always looks worried, bored, and anxious, and so did this man. The television studio had sent a limousine to pick up both of us from the airport. I got in first and was surprised to see him climb in after me. The young man settled in with the detachment of youths who want you to know that they’re there but that they’re, like, not really there. Like, they transcend limos.

He wasn’t as sullen as Matt Dillon doing his awful James Dean impression, however. Despite the black-leather, street-hood look, this fellow seemed more likable. His eyes darted around the spacious interior and finally settled on me, the guy in a business suit. Our eyes met. “Hi,” he said, offering the taut nod of a man on a mission. Thus began my half-hour trip from Kentucky into downtown Cincinnati with a member of the militant homosexual group Queer Nation. Their motto; “We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used To It.”

I represent a pro-family think tank in Washington that differs with Queer Nation on anything that matters. A bigot, by their description. We were both to be guests on The Gerry Springer Show, the Cincinnati-bred clone of the Sally Jessy Raphael Show, starring former Cincinnati Mayor Gerry Springer. I was to tape one show, and the man from Queer Nation was to tape a later one. He seemed to assume from the outset that I was a sort of co-conspirator, since we were guests on a program known for its exploration of unconventional “lifestyles.” Other shows taping that week included, according to the schedule in a producer’s office: “Fat and Proud,” “I Can’t Get Over Elvis,” “Phone Sex Killed My Hubby,” and “Lingerie Fantasies.”

The man from Queer Nation would debate a Los Angeles minister on the topic: “Is Homosexuality Curable?” I would play straight man in another freak show. That is, I was to tell America why it wasn’t a good idea for fathers to wear dresses in front of their kids (show title: “My Dad Wears a Dress”). Why even do a show like this, you might ask? For the simple reason that in today’s media circuses, gender confusion goes largely unchallenged. Those of us who believe in traditional values cannot afford to give the quacks a monopoly.

I told my fellow limo passenger that I would be on the “cross-dresser” show, and he seemed to take it at face value. He talked for a few minutes, denouncing “bigots,” as he called the minister. Then I revealed my pro-family affiliation. “I’m your opponent,” I said, speaking in a general sense. “But I’m not your enemy.”

He looked at me without apparent hostility. “I don’t hate homosexuals,” I said. “I have friends who are gay. But I oppose the agenda of the homosexual rights movement. I don’t want my kid taught in schools that homosexuality is a normal, healthy lifestyle. By any yardstick—especially public health—it’s an unhealthy lifestyle. And I don’t believe homosexuality is a permanent condition. Last week, I spoke with a woman who had been a lesbian for ten years. She is married now and counsels other people out of it. She says that homosexuality is 100 percent curable and that it stems from unresolved emotional disorders in people from dysfunctional families. I’d have to say that people like her give the lie to your contention that humans are necessarily gay from birth.”

It was a mini-speech, but I had been listening to tapes from the L. I. F. E. Ministry in New York all week to try to better understand the phenomenon. L. I. F. E. (Living in Freedom Eternally) counselors blend psychological techniques with spiritual instruction. They encourage homosexuals to reexamine their lives to determine what caused them to turn inward emotionally and to feel so little worth that they believed God Himself had rejected them. The mood is one of compassion, not judgment. (While the L. I. F. E. program operates on the assumption that all homosexuality is revocable, some groups, such as the Catholic ministry Courage, allow for the possibility that the impulse may be too difficult to shed completely but can be controlled.)

“I was born gay,” the man from Queer Nation said vehemently. “I’ve always been gay. And it’s better.” He dismissed the woman I had mentioned by calling hers “an extremist view.” He said the “gay life” was not only equal to that of “breeders” but actually superior, a more responsible choice in a world choking from overpopulation, pollution, and starvation. He accused “heteros” of causing all problems known to man. The words tumbled out, faster and faster, a torrent of cliches, threats, and slogans.

I waited until he paused, then asked: “So your parents were being irresponsible when they had you, then?” He ignored this and pressed on, warning of environmental collapse and problems brought on by “fear, greed, ignorance, and ‘homophobia.'”

Suddenly it occurred to me that I probably shouldn’t push too far. Queer Nation members were known to threaten violence, harass people, and destroy property. Academic colleagues had confided that they didn’t dare appear unsympathetic lest they get AIDS-contaminated blood thrown on them. This kind of stuff sounds plausible in the abstract, but less so when you are sitting there talking with a real person. I felt no physical threat from the young man, who seemed more interested in flailing away at his own doubts. Using slogans as amulets, he warded off simple truths known to human beings for thousands of years. Families, he said, are “recent” inventions. There is no such thing as “normal.” AIDS is not a “gay” disease at all, but is caused by “homophobia,” etc.

“Let’s talk about ‘homophobia,'” I said. “‘Homophobia’ is a new word that has already undergone evolution for political purposes. It used to mean fear, hatred, and persecution of homosexuals. Now it means anyone or anything that doesn’t go along with the homosexual rights agenda. ‘Homophobia’ is a smear that you use to silence your opponents. You’re even using it against the Boy Scouts.” His face changed expression, from pugnacious to lascivious. “I was a Boy Scout,” he said with a nasty chuckle. “And I did it with my Scoutmaster. But it was okay, because I wanted it. I really wanted it. It was gooooood.” He smiled and gazed upward. “You guys are going to lose this one,” I said. “It would destroy the Scouts to bring in homosexuals.”

The seriousness returned. “You’re wrong,” he said. “We are getting stronger all the time, and we will win. We are more than 10 percent of the population and growing.” I shook my head. “No, I’m afraid you’re not. The 10 percent figure comes entirely from the discredited Kinsey studies. You won’t find it duplicated anywhere. Current studies show 3 percent tops, with some showing 2 or 1 or even less. These include surveys from the United States, Australia, and England.”

He got angry. “That’s a lie. There are lots of studies that show the 10 percent.” “You mean like Bell and Weinberg?” I said, referring to two Kinsey disciples who published studies out of Indiana University, where the Kinsey Institute is situated. “They base a lot of their stuff on the Kinsey data. There are no data that come anywhere near Kinsey. And Kinsey’s survey was fatally flawed. He used an enormous number of convicts, many of them sex offenders. He used hundreds of male prostitutes. He prowled the gay bars in search of people with the most bizarre stories. If you don’t believe me, you can check the biography by Kinsey’s co-author, Wardell Pomeroy.”

The first hint of uncertainty flickered in the queer warrior’s eves. I began to feel sorry for him. He honest-to-goodness did not know he had been fed a pack of lies by the homosexual movement, the same lies that the media has been echoing for the past four decades.

My mind reeled. How many politicians live in fear of the phantom 10 percent of voters that might retaliate if homosexual activists are not appeased? How many parents acquiesce to public school indoctrination of their children in anal sex at the behest of sex educators wielding the Kinsey statistics? How many homosexuals waste away, believing they can’t change? I low many know that homosexuality might not have to be the sole or defining element in their lives?

The limo pulled up to the studio, and we exchanged final volleys. As I got out of the car, I looked at mv opponent, who was strangely reticent. Had I convinced him of anything? No. I had no illusions about that. Without having seen his show taped, I have little doubt that he went in and socked it to the L.A. pastor. How could he not, having so much stake in it? The queer warrior made me think of Stanley Baldwin, of whom Winston Churchill said (and I paraphrase); “Stanley occasionally stumbles over the truth. But he always manages to pick himself up and hurry on as if nothing had happened.”

Since he did not have to tape for a couple of hours, the queer warrior asked the limo driver to take him to his hotel. Just before the door closed, he said goodbye, and his arm flinched, as if he were about to offer his hand but thought better of it. I did the same. Then we looked at each other for a second and put out our hands. If this were scripted by liberal bleeding hearts, we would then have hugged and begun to sing “We Are the World.” No, there wasn’t any phony camaraderie, but it was clear there was no enmity either. And that may have surprised both of us. I know it surprised me. These guys look scary on the evening news. We shook hands, and the limo drove off.

I walked up the steps into the studio, turning my thoughts to the bizarre men in dresses who would share the stage with me. One would bring a son, another his wife, and a third his fiancee. The audience would be drugged with the usual rhetoric of ultra-tolerance, and I was to play the role of the bigot. At least, that was the set-up. It wasn’t fair, but that was O.K. Somehow, I was now more confident that just telling the truth in this strange age may be enough.