Sam Brinton gives new meaning to the political phrase “bag man.”
The since-fired Department of Energy employee allegedly grabbed a woman’s Vera Bradley bag off the airport carousel in Minneapolis in September, ripped off the tag, and swiftly made his exit. Despite not checking in any luggage, Brinton identifies as innocent.
In July at the airport once named after Pat McCarran in Las Vegas, the nonbinary Brinton allegedly stole a $320 bag containing goods valued in excess of $3,000. A detective working on the case described the culprit as “a white male adult wearing a white T-shirt with a large rainbow-colored atomic nuclear symbol design.” Brinton posted a picture of himself on the day of the Vegas theft in an airport wearing that unique t-shirt, which he called “a great shirt for me to wear on my flight today.”
Nero Wolfe might call that, before eating a sandwich and falling asleep, a clue. Does it make one a Frank Drebin to wonder, given Brinton’s manly mug shot, if the mustache atop red lipstick in the glamour shots served as a disguise?
The gay writer Wayne Besen laments in an important article that it did not take a Sherlock Holmes to suspect Brinton of bad character. His suspicions of shadiness date back more than a decade, when Brinton told stories of victimization leapt at uncritically by gay activists eager to advance their case in the court of public opinion.
Brinton’s inadvertent coming-out story at 11 ended with his dad punching him in the face. He claimed enduring more than a half-dozen trips to the emergency room at the hands of his father, his abuser placing a gun to his head multiple times, an attempted suicide attempt, and, ultimately, banishment from his childhood home.
Amid all that, Brinton claims his family subjected him to torturous conversion therapy involving bindings, ice, heat, and electric shocks juxtaposed with homosexual imagery.
But when Besen, who has dedicated a chunk of his life to combatting conversion therapy, asked him more than a decade ago about the name and exact location of his therapist, Brinton initially did not respond and then essentially claimed a sort of pain-induced amnesia.
“Counselor after counselor has seen me revert to near suicidal tendencies when I try to dig deep into the memories of the time,” Brinton wrote in the comments section at Queerty in 2011, “and I simply don’t have his name. I can picture him clear as day in my nightmares, but his name is not there.”
The answer, coming as it did during a period when Brinton aggressively promoted his “memories of the time,” did not satisfy Besen. It increased his skepticism.
“Why was Sam Brinton the ONLY survivor of conversion therapy I’ve encountered since 1998 who refused to answer these questions?” Besen recently asked in the Los Angeles Blade. “Not only had every other survivor provided this information willingly, but they were eager to fight back and shut down their own therapist or ‘ex-gay’ minister.”
Besen spoke to Brinton’s mother, who denies he endured familial abuse or that the family sent him to conversion therapy. He spoke to a conversion therapy expert in the Orlando area, who denied the existence of such a therapist working out of a strip mall, as Brinton claimed.
This and much else not adding up led Besen to warn such groups as the Trevor Project and the National Center for Lesbian Rights against using Brinton as a poster child. They chose narrative over facts.
Isn’t this just what ideologues do? Brinton’s example should not shock Besen given the existence of this worn template. People blinded by ideology always choose the story that props up their outlook in the face of facts that contradict it.
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For instance, activists immediately portrayed Harvey Milk’s assassination as homophobia turned murderous. But fellow Democrat Dan White employed a gay man as his campaign manager and chief of staff, attended the largest gay-rights fundraiser in U.S. history to that point shortly before the killings, and obviously murdered the enthusiastically heterosexual San Francisco Mayor George Moscone before murdering city supervisor Milk. “This had nothing to do with anybody’s sexual orientation,” Dianne Feinstein reflected three decades later. “It had to do with getting back his position.”
The media similarly depicted Matthew Shepard’s murderers as fueled by anti-gay bigotry. They left out crucial facts. “Matthew was part of an interstate meth-trafficking circle,” Stephen Jimenez, a gay journalist, wrote in The Book of Matt, “and that the buying and selling of crystal meth was only one of the activities he and Aaron [McKinney] shared.” Yes, Shepard and McKinney engaged in sexual activities together on multiple occasions. McKinney and associate Russell Henderson brutally murdered Shepard to steal his money and drugs, not to vent rage at homosexuals.
Jussie Smollett’s story of enduring a gay bashing at the hands of Donald Trump supporters while seeking a Subway sandwich in the polar vortex of zero-dark thirty Chicago seemed preposterous even before video of the Nigerian brothers emerged. But people, to include Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and, infamously, Ellen (now Elliot) Page, wanted to believe their political enemies boogeymen and their political friends victims, so they promoted an unbelievable story.
“Brinton should never have been given a platform by national LGBTQ organizations without having crucial details of their story confirmed,” Besen writes. “LGBTQ groups were sloppy, ethically negligent and shockingly unprofessional, choosing expedience over prudence in turning Brinton into a national spokesperson. They were warned but didn’t listen.”
Maybe they did not listen because bad consequences rarely followed pushing politically convenient yarns in the past.