Before Scandal Broke, Former GOP Rep. Lee Reportedly Cruised Transwoman Online

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday February 28, 2011

Mere weeks after breaking the story that Republican Congressman Chris Lee had sent a sexy snapshot of himself to a woman he met online, Gawker followed up with revelations that Lee--who hastily stepped down when the scandal broke--seemingly had more going on: The former New York representative had also evidently chatted with at least two transsexual women online, and sent one of them a similar steamy image made with a smart phone camera.

Until Gawker's Feb. 9 expose, Lee had been a rising star in the Republican ranks. Most had never heard of him, but his career was on an upward trajectory.

That changed when Gawker reported on Lee's Craigslist posting of a shirtless photo of himself. Lee reportedly put the photo up as part of an online courtship with a woman other than his wife.

The image contradicted Lee's public image of wholesome "family values" politician, an image buffed by the congressman's anti-gay voting record. Suddenly, a public persona was overwritten by a candid snap of a middle-aged man flexing his muscles in a mirror, red Blackberry clutched in one hand.

Lee stepped down from office in a matter of hours following the Gawker posting. Gawker's Feb. 25 article "The Craigslist Congressman and the Crossdressing Prostitute" said that the congressman's swift departure--which came only a few hours after Gawker posted Lee's shirtless photo--seemed overly hasty, and noted that other politicians had survived considerably more damaging scandals.

"It turns out Lee may have had good reason to step out of the spotlight so quickly: It wasn't just women that the Craigslist Congressman was hunting for on the Internet," the Gawker follow-up reported.

The site went on to say that two different transwomen had revealed stories about alleged online encounters with Lee. The stories shared close parallels, noted Gawker.

Each story also offered a bombshell about postings purportedly made online by the Republican former congressman. In one case, Lee allegedly posted a personal ad soliciting "a sexy TS/CD [transsexual/cross-dresser]." The ad claimed to be from a "Very fit classy, successful guy" who was "New to area." The ad went on to say, "I promise not to disappoint."

According to the source, a transwoman identified as "Fiona," she replied to the ad in January.

Gawker provided details that did not amount to concrete evidence backing "Fiona's" claims, but which highly suggestive. "Yes, that's right: a member of Congress posted a personal ad seeking transsexuals and crossdressers and even included a picture of himself, all without thinking twice, apparently," the article said.

"Fiona" told Gawker in a telephone interview that the man with whom she corresponded in connection with the ad told her he had had a transsexual girlfriend in college.

"I copied and pasted his email into Facebook, and that's when his picture of him and his wife and his little boy showed up," "Fiona" told Gawker. "Then I clicked on the link and realized he was a politician from New York, and I was like OMG."

A cross-dressing escort identified as "Holly" sent Gawker a photo that was similar in content and style to the one Lee reportedly sent to a female government employee who had posted a Jan. 14 ad at Craigslist in the "Women for Men" section. "The man in the photo [sent by "Holly"] has the same physique and is standing in the same pose," the Gawker follow-up noted. "And he's holding the same red Blackberry, although the photo was clearly taken in a different setting and he's wearing different pants." The photo sent by "Holly" obscured the man's face.

Gawker reported that Lee has had little to say aside from a general apology for non-specific "profound mistakes." "But if Lee was using the Internet to meet up with transgender women, it now makes a lot more sense why he would have decided to resign so quickly," the article added. "Lee may have thought if he quit the House immediately, he'd be able to avoid having his 'secret' exposed and spare himself any further embarrassment."

Added the article, "No such luck."

Among other political figures whose careers continued despite sex scandals is Republican Sen. David Vitter, whose contact information was found on a list of clients of Washington, D.C. "madame" Deborah Jeane Palfrey in 2007. Vitter issued an apology before moving on with his political career.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.