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Photo by Keith MayFor Lou Sheldon, it's all about penis. This is not news. As chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) lobbying group, the Anaheim-based Sheldon has long viewed the world through phallus-tinted glasses. Foreign policy? Penis. Military readiness? Penis. Free speech? Penis. Education? Penis, some vagina, but mostly penis. No matter the subject, no matter the issue, it always comes back to watching your Ps and Vs.
Of course, this isn't just any penis and vagina. Sheldon's attention is almost totally taken with gay penis and lesbian vagina, though he does mix in straight penis and vagina every now and then, you know, in regard to pornography, poop love, monkey love and dead love—the latter having nothing to do with Jerry Garcia's former band, though possibly having to do with Jerry himself these days.
Sure, every now and then, TVC will issue a position paper on something like taxation, but normally Sheldon can't go more than a week without issuing a paper in which position is the issue: "Transgenders Will Foment Cultural Chaos" (April 24, 2001), "Homosexual Activists Fight Against Free Speech and Religion" (April 17), and "TVC Leader Troubled by Homosexual Activists Recruited by Bush Administration" (April 12); all can be found on the organization's website, www.traditionalvalues.org.
And, not surprisingly, these stands have given Sheldon his critics.
"Every day is like Hiroshima around here," he said from the TVC's Washington, D.C., office, to which he commutes each week when Congress is in session. His daughter, Andrea, the organization's executive director, mans the office year-round, and when we talked by phone recently, she was apparently at his elbow.
Most recently, there were protests about his inclusion on a 30-member advisory committee to the Faith-Based Summit, a Republican summit of religious leaders. Detractors didn't like that Sheldon had called for the quarantine of AIDS patients, had likened homosexuality to alcoholism and prostitution, and had said and written a whole lot more. So much more that it would take up too much space just to list it. He seems preoccupied with dissing homosexuals.
So preoccupied in fact that at this moment—when conservatives hold the White House, Congress and Supreme Court—Sheldon still fumes over what seems like relatively small gay potatoes. He's upset that the Bush administration appointed a gay man to head the White House Commission on AIDS and that it nominated as ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci, who as governor of Massachusetts "aggressively promoted homosexual recruitment programs in the public schools."
After making his feelings known on those matters, Sheldon says, the White House "promised me that it was not going to become a platform for gay promotion and advocacy. Then, shortly on the heels of all of that, we learn that a guy named, uh . . . named, uh . . . . Anyway, he's been contracted with the Defense Department because he's friends with [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld. And this guy—oh, what's his name?—this guy has been very active in GLAAD [Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] . . . . What is his name? ANDREA! What's the homosexual's name in Defense?"
Critics have claimed his homo harpings suggest the 67-year-old Sheldon is a repressed gay man himself or at the very least harbors deep-seated, lurid curiosity about the lifestyle—or as he has called it, "deathstyle." They point out that he has said publicly that homosexuality is an "underdeveloped stage of heterosexuality," that 25 percent of adolescents experiment with homosexuality and therefore the danger of toleration of gays is "monkey see, monkey do."
(Hinting, perhaps, at a widespread gay conspiracy, Andrea—speaking before the Conservative Political Action Conference last year—referred to doctors doing research with fetal tissue as "mad scientists" and said they were not only "sewing baby ears onto rats for Alzheimer's research" but also placing "human livers in monkeys to make monkey-humans.")
Others say the well-coifed, nattily dressed, soft-spoken minister—who is well-versed in gay lingo and sexual practices and has a ready cache of gay porn—is not gay but rather has simply made a wise business/ political decision. Traditional Values Coalition —not to be confused with the Coalition for Traditional Values, whose website pleads, "The Truth needs to be told: there is a way out for homosexuals"—runs on funds provided by donors who tend to be socially conservative. There are other conservative organizations tapping folks for money by emphasizing abortion, taxation, land use and gun ownership rights. In short, much of the conservative agenda is tapped.
Indeed, using homosexuality to drum up cash is not off the beaten path at all, which is why it's inaccurate and unfair to say that Sheldon is totally obsessed with gay sex when he's into so much more: necrophilia (sex with the dead), urophilia (sexual arousal from urine), klismaphilia (sexual pleasure from enemas), and coprophagia (sexual gratification from eating feces). All appear on his website, along with numerous mentions of pornography, pedophilia and unisex bathrooms. By loading his site with varying levels of what he calls sexual depravity, Sheldon literally provides his donors with more bang for their bucks.
Though the Traditional Values Coalition —not to be confused with the Family Values Coalition of Broward County, whose rally in support of the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gays was supported by the National Organization for European-American Rights, whose director is David Duke—brings in about $3.5 million each year, according to its chairman, Sheldon denies that he picks issues based on their marketability.