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Come out, come out, wherever you are!
July 7, 2004 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Wave of Outings hits Congress--Closet-cases running scared --being targeted are the closeted anti-gay members of Congress (and their staff), all a result of the Federal Marriage Amendment, due to come to a symbolic vote sometime before the election in November. More here, too: “We have accepted for far too long fellow gays who work for horribly anti-gay politicians and thus help those politicians bash our community,” Aravosis said. “It’s time we stopped tolerating this situation as normal. These people need, at the very least, to be confronted over their hypocrisy, and when we see them in public we ought to tell them we don’t approve.” And still more from Signorile
posted by amberglow (86 comments total)

 
I still think that forced outing (as opposed to merely urging gay people to come out) is a deplorable practice. It's an invasion of privacy in the worst way and it's using someone else's personal life for political gain.

So, no matter how admirable the intended goal (showing up hypocrisy, proving that gays can be good congressmen/ministers/lion tamers), I still don't like it.
posted by jonmc at 1:30 PM on July 7, 2004


This doesn't sit well with me, at all. Sure, from the theoretical sense it seems like the "outed" deserve to have their hypocrisy made public. But the consequences are, as yet, unknown and could be extremely dangerous. The last thing we need are rabid anti-gay constituents threatening their newly-outed Congress(wo)man. And who knows about the damage done to families of the newly-outed.

I don't think potentially harmful activism like this should be encouraged; voters constantly argue that politics is too dirty...no sense in adding to the stereotype.
posted by BlueTrain at 1:33 PM on July 7, 2004


I'm actually completely okay with this. I think the media should be absolutely flooded with detailed information about the sex lives of every person with any political power whatsoever, if only to help Americans grow up about sex. One orgy story a month just isn't cutting it anymore - we need it all! All at once! Then maybe this kind of issue would lose power and they would actually get down to governing the country. Besides, it would be fun to watch someone on CSpan and have their sexual history scroll across the bottom of their page rather than just their voting record.
posted by pomegranate at 1:36 PM on July 7, 2004


I somehow don't have a big problem with outing a politician who promotes homophobic legislation. I think it's wrong, however, to out a non-public person, or someone who's job has nothing to do with such legislation. My feeling is, if you want a job setting public policy, you ought to be willing to live by the policies you set.
posted by Daddio at 1:45 PM on July 7, 2004


I'm all for it. Hypocrites deserve to be called out, and not just about being gay.

Our Dear President was an abuser of alcohol and drugs himself. Now, he passes all sorts of legislation harmful to people who had the same problems he had. To rub salt in the wound, his own daughters have the same problems he had, but does he expect them to bear the punishment he so boldly pronounces is appropriate for everyone else? No, he screams for privacy - "Its a family matter." Fuck you, George Bush, and fuck all the rest of you hypocrites. You get whatever you deserve.
posted by PigAlien at 1:47 PM on July 7, 2004


I should have said he supports and sponsors all sorts of legislation, rather than passes, since he's not a legislator.
posted by PigAlien at 1:50 PM on July 7, 2004


wait. who's being outted? the gays in public office, or the gays working for those in public office? I think there's a world of difference between the two categories.
posted by crunchland at 1:57 PM on July 7, 2004


Besides, it would be fun to watch someone on CSpan and have their sexual history scroll across the bottom of their page rather than just their voting record.

These are politicians, pomegranate. The kids from the student government club, the poli sci majors in college. I doubt scrolling would be neccessary.
posted by jonmc at 1:58 PM on July 7, 2004


I'm all for outing gay politicians who support anti-gay legislation, but why target the aides?
posted by sid at 2:08 PM on July 7, 2004


What kind of fuckwad idiocy does it take for someone to contemplate holding a public office while not assuming that they will have no privacy whatsoever?

My point is that this is yet another case of "right or wrong" being rather irrelevant. Sure, we can argue the ethics of outing, of tearing open the private lives of our public servants. But in the end . . . aren't they just fucking stupid for not expecting this to happen?
posted by yesster at 2:09 PM on July 7, 2004


How about they use the patriot act to get all the transaction records on adult toys and porn? Then we could get closer to knowing the real percentage of the population that likes to take it through the backdoor.

This is just ugly. I can imagine it's tempting to out someone who's spouting homophobic ideas out of one side of his mouth and swinging with the boys in the evenings, but geez. All his hard work will only fly if most people agree with him anyway. Fight ideas, not individuals.
posted by Hildegarde at 2:15 PM on July 7, 2004


sid, I can tell you that I, personally, would never work for anyone who was acting against my interests, no matter how desperate I was. The aides who are gay and in the closet working for the politicians who are in the closet are aiding and abetting the assault against our liberties. They are fair game too, as far as I am concerned. That's the great thing about libel and slander - truth is always the best defense. There's a reason for that, too. People should be truthful. If they choose not to be truthful, they have no right to complain when they're caught. I don't want people who are lying and deceptive to represent me. Of course, that probably applies to many politicians, but I'm all in favor of their deceit being revealed.
posted by PigAlien at 2:18 PM on July 7, 2004


Hildegarde, it is people, not ideas, that are causing harm to millions of gay and lesbian families. Ideas don't pass legislation, people do.
posted by PigAlien at 2:21 PM on July 7, 2004


I've never understood how someone can lead a 'semi-closeted' life and have one hope in hell of being successful at it. Either you're in or our out, and straddling the threshold just gives power to those that want to hurt you and those dear to you.

For those in Washington to think they can get away with it ... more fool they. The MINUTE you tell someone a secret, it's not a secret anymore, and you've given away a large part of control over your own life.

However, I don't like crusades, either, and I still have a bad taste in my mouth over the outings from a decade ago, so I'm not wholeheartedly supporting this move ... the timing's just a little too convenient for me not to label it a publicity grab.
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:23 PM on July 7, 2004


How is taking down a few aides going to help the cause there, PigAlien?
posted by Hildegarde at 2:26 PM on July 7, 2004


It's an underhanded tactic... especially if it's being used against aides and staffers. What's worse: it assumes that if you're gay you _must_ be for gay marriage... and that voting against it is a sign of hypocrisy. Which is not necessarily the case.

The homosexual community doesn't have to walk lock-step on this issue.

I'm with Hildegarde: fight ideas, not individuals.
posted by silusGROK at 2:36 PM on July 7, 2004


In all seriousness, it's much more complex than PigAlien and some of the other commenters seem to believe. I once dated a woman who stood a good chance of becoming a major political player in Texas. Since I'm a dyke and too lazy to spend much time in the closet, she was completely conflicted. It was a source of real personal pain for her to want to be with me but to feel that she was sacrificing the good she could do as a politician just for love. (We were in Texas and she did a lot of work organizing the Hispanic vote. She was involved with a very conservative Democrat voting bloc.)

So - cut to ten years later, she lives in SF and is totally out and is a fundraiser helping elect gay and lesbians to office, but she knows she's living in a bubble. She thinks she could have done a lot more good back in Texas but didn't think her constituents here would ever take her seriously. Her sexuality is just one part of who she is but she feels completely labelled by it, in terms of the campaigns that pick her up and the fundraising she is asked to do.

People don't necessarily see themselves as liars - they see themselves as being discreet about one area of their life in service of the Greater Good they can do for gays and lesbians, but also for other causes they believe in. The problem lies when they become so closeted that others have blackmail power over them. Shame makes people do crazy, crazy things. Like vote republican.
posted by pomegranate at 2:36 PM on July 7, 2004


Targeting the aides wouldn't accomplish anything, no? In all likelihood, they'd get fired, and their bosses would continue to be bigoted and hateful. Unless,
posted by sid at 2:37 PM on July 7, 2004


Pomegranate - I don't think the activists concerned have any problem with closeted politicians, or even closeted Republicans; only closeted politicians who support anti-gay legislation.
posted by sid at 2:39 PM on July 7, 2004


For one thing, it raises awareness, Hildegarde. It shows the world that there are gays in all walks of life. It also shows that the gay community is willing to fight for its rights. This is what happens when you try to trample on people.

Gays and lesbians only have this luxury to be in the closet because 'gayness' is not something that is outwardly apparent, such as the color of your skin.

Let's imagine there were minority politicians who were painting their faces white and trying to blend in while passing legislation that attacked the well-being of other minorities. I don't think there'd be a huge hue and cry that these people shouldn't have the paint washed off of their faces.

Well, that's what we're doing - we're washing the paint off of their faces.

This is a very serious fight. To every gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgendered person who cares what this country stands for - equality for all, this fight affects our very ability to live our lives in freedom and equality.

If you step in our way, we will do what we can to take you down. This is a war - a cultural war and a political war for the pursuit of happiness for millions of Americans who are currently treated like second-class citizens.
posted by PigAlien at 2:45 PM on July 7, 2004


what PigAlien said...this is very very important (vitally important even), and if they're going to propose legislation or constitutional shit to make us permanently second-class, all gloves are off.
posted by amberglow at 3:00 PM on July 7, 2004


all gloves are off.

The ends justify the means.
posted by BlueTrain at 3:12 PM on July 7, 2004


And before anyone here thinks of me as some anti-gay white supremacist, I'm a minority here and my parents moved to the US when they were 25. I find this: "This is a war" to be a despicable comment worthy of the Bush Administration.
posted by BlueTrain at 3:17 PM on July 7, 2004


I keep having this thought... it won't quite solidify, but perhaps someday I'll nail it down, publish it, and usher in a new era of understanding about how our culture works... it goes something like: "the personal is political..." but gimmie a few years to work on it.
posted by scarabic at 3:33 PM on July 7, 2004


BlueTrain, 'the ends justify the means' is usually in reference to means that are immoral, illegal or unethical. In this case, I believe that the means need no justification, as they are neither immoral, illegal nor unethical. Revealing someone else's deceit is perfectly reasonable and legal. That is why truth is a defense against libel and slander, as I said above.
posted by PigAlien at 3:36 PM on July 7, 2004


it goes something like: "the personal is political..."

Only if you want it to be. And I sure as hell don't.

Pomegranate - I don't think the activists concerned have any problem with closeted politicians, or even closeted Republicans; only closeted politicians who support anti-gay legislation.

I remember the outing posters plastered around New York City back in the early 90's and they didn't seem to be targeting people for political reasons, merely picking visible celebrities. So while I'm with you on exposing hypocrisy, I'll let past behavior be a predictor of future behavior.
posted by jonmc at 3:39 PM on July 7, 2004


The ends justify the means.

These means don't need to be justified. If we were talking about outing ordinary civilians, then we'd have to come up with some pretty amazing reasons why we were ruining lives.

But get real. If staying in the closet and actively hurting the gay community is necessary for your job, you're in the wrong line of work -- you should be trying to change attitudes in your party even if that means being less powerful, or you should be doing something else altogether.

These are people who feel no sense of obligation to the gay community. I don't see why we should act as though we have any obligation to them -- we have an obligation to take care of ourselves, and they're actively working against our interests. Let's just see how well they can do without the protection of secrecy, once they have to live in the world they're complicit in forcing onto the rest of us.
posted by Epenthesis at 3:45 PM on July 7, 2004


"it goes something like: 'the personal is political...' "

"Only if you want it to be. And I sure as hell don't."


I've got news for you, jonmc, the personal is political. The Federal Marriage Amendment is intruding into people's personal lives with politics and telling them that they are second class citizens whose relationships have no legitimacy in the eyes of the state. How more personal and political can you get than that?
posted by PigAlien at 3:56 PM on July 7, 2004


The ends justify the means.

Oh for god's sake. We're not talking about sending these people to Abu Ghraib, we're talking about revealing the fact that they are a part of the population they persecute. Would you have objected to revealing, say, that a sponsor of the round-up-the-Japs legislation of WWII was part Japanese? And what terrible things are going to happen to them? If the worst happens and they're rejected by their constituents, they can apply for a position on "Queer Eye on the Straight Guy" or something.
posted by languagehat at 3:56 PM on July 7, 2004


The Federal Marriage Amendment is intruding into people's personal lives with politics and telling them that they are second class citizens whose relationships have no legitimacy in the eyes of the state. How more personal and political can you get than that?

Which is exactly why I'm against that amendment, PigAlien, because I don't want to live in a country where my every personal choice is politicized, no matter whom is doing the politicizing. Get it?
posted by jonmc at 3:59 PM on July 7, 2004


Yes, I get it, and that's why these hypocrites need to be called out, because they're politicizing the personal lives of those who chose to live their lives out of the closet while expecting that their personal lives should somehow remain unpoliticized. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, isn't it?
posted by PigAlien at 4:06 PM on July 7, 2004


You know, outing seemed really hip and controversial ten years ago. Now, well, it seems kind of dull. I mean, who really cares? I'd forgotten that Jim Kolbe was even gay until I read the article above. It just seems such a non-issue.

Maybe that's the San Francisco bubble effect.
posted by Nelson at 4:07 PM on July 7, 2004


Nelson: in DC, the closet is still really really popular, and very very crowded.

And the personal is highly politicized (especially when we're made a campaign issue)--and our status as citizens with the same rights as you straight folks is at stake. We'd be remiss if we didn't use every tool in our arsenal in fighting this.
posted by amberglow at 4:16 PM on July 7, 2004


We'd be remiss if we didn't use every tool in our arsenal in fighting this.

Fair enough. But how far you wanna take this? If there's a closeted janitor emptying ashtrays in some right-winger's office should they out him, too? Are these activists gonna take in some outed employee if his family disowns him?

I'm using extreme examples to make my point but there are some ethical quandaries involved here.
posted by jonmc at 4:21 PM on July 7, 2004


I love this. This is better than Christmas.

Take it up the sperm gash, you Congreessmen!!
posted by crunchburger at 5:39 PM on July 7, 2004


Attn The Hat:

Are they part of the population they persecute, as they see it?

What if I'm a Southern Baptist with some unfortunate tendencies that I do my best to repress? And I don't see myself as having anything in common with "gays"? In other words, if I consciously don't identify with that population, who are you to force me? If you don't believe you're part of a population, in what sense are you betraying it?

And the worst that can happen is not rejection by constituents.

In the article linked, outing is not to be confined to elected representatives, but the people who work for them. Even if it were, there are still big consequences in family relations (bet that'll help your custody dispute, or maybe you're out of the will, or whatever) and your place in the community you live in.

What seems like poetic justice at first glance doesn't seem just to me at all.

Lastly, ends-justify-the-means folks, how precisely does this further your ends?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:43 PM on July 7, 2004


The Federal Marriage Amendment is intruding into people's personal lives with politics and telling them that they are second class citizens whose relationships have no legitimacy in the eyes of the state.

And yet you have no ethical problem intruding on someone else's personal life, making second class citizens of people who hold opinions you don't share? Why is it bad to out some people but perfectly fine to out others, regardless of the result? Is this some kind of Old Testament vengence?

Making it a liability to be gay isn't good for anyone. Sure, it's fun to point out a politician's hypocrisy, but aren't you also reminding nervous gays everywhere that their jobs, their reputations, and their families hang in the balance? Do you want to remind the general gay public that their sexual orientation can and will be used against them, even by friends?

Don't you want to be part of something with a higher standard than that?
posted by Hildegarde at 5:57 PM on July 7, 2004


What if I'm a Southern Baptist with some unfortunate tendencies that I do my best to repress? And I don't see myself as having anything in common with "gays"?

Then you should probably stay out of the bars and chatrooms, etc. If you can't repress your tendencies well enough to do that, and you're working against those who don't feel they should repress their own tendencies, you're fair game to be outed.

Look, it's not like these folks are really keeping their orientation secret from everyone - the only way they can be outed is if someone knows they're gay. If they're out enough to enjoy the bar scene while simultaneously being closeted enough to work for these bigots, they should be willing to suffer the consequences. These people aren't being outed at random for being gay, they're being outed because they're willing to support our persecutors while reaping the benefits of the community being persecuted.

In the article linked, outing is not to be confined to elected representatives, but the people who work for them.

That makes perfect sense to me. These people are directly contributing to the ability of said representatives to continue oppressing the gay community. These representatives don't work in a vacuum - they depend on the work of their staffs. If a staff member feels threatened by having their representative finding out about their personal life, that staff member should consider finding a job that doesn't directly cause harm to the gay community.

And yet you have no ethical problem intruding on someone else's personal life, making second class citizens of people who hold opinions you don't share?

I don't think this is just about a difference of opinions. In any case, I'm not sure how having the truth come out makes you a second-class citizen. It's the government's response to that truth which makes gay people second-class citizens. If you work to support that response, you shouldn't be surprised if your hypocrisy is exposed.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:13 PM on July 7, 2004


I'm not sure how having the truth come out makes you a second-class citizen.

Do you believe this is ethical in any other circumstance? Like, say a politician is trying to support universal health care, or a nice new teacher rolls into town? Or is it just okay to out people you don't like?
posted by Hildegarde at 6:28 PM on July 7, 2004


"Making it a liability to be gay isn't good for anyone. Sure, it's fun to point out a politician's hypocrisy, but aren't you also reminding nervous gays everywhere that their jobs, their reputations, and their families hang in the balance? Do you want to remind the general gay public that their sexual orientation can and will be used against them, even by friends?"

Hildegarde, do you honestly think that gays are responsible for this? Gays don't make it a liability to be gay, homophobes do. Hypocritical homophobes are the worst.

The fact of the matter is that all of these things hang in the balance for any gay person exactly because of the actions of these people who are opposing gay marriage. Hiding in the closet and trying to be quiet about our sexuality will not solve the problem or make it go away.

No gay person needs to be reminded that their sexuality can be used against them. That is a fact and a way of life for every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered person.

Again, you have people who are living in the closet hiding so that their lives will be 'easier', while they try and ruin it for those of us who are trying to live open, honest lives. They don't deserve the luxury of having it that easy. They've brought it on themselves.

And how is universal healthcare or a new teacher related to the Federal Marriage Amendment? This thread is specifically about closeted gay people who are supporting the FMA. The argument is pertinent. Universal Healthcare and a new teacher are not pertinent, unless you are talking about excluding GLBT from universal healthcare services or a teacher who rants and raves that gays should be driven out of school while being gay him or herself.
posted by PigAlien at 6:33 PM on July 7, 2004


Gay positive organizations using people's sexuality against them doesn't strike you as at all problematic? Might as well make a few jokes about those AIDS-ridden fags while you're at it.

Did it ever occur to you that some gay people don't like the idea of legalized gay marriage? That they have religious beliefs that conflict with calling gay unions marriage? Are these people just not as gay as you, or what? Did you get an ideological chip in your head along with your sexual orientation?
posted by Hildegarde at 6:41 PM on July 7, 2004


First of all, the 'outers' are not using sexuality against anyone. Hypocrisy is the crime, sexuality happens to be the modus operandi. If hypocrites don't want to be exposed for what they are, then don't be hypocrites. I am fully aware that I have done many hypocritical things in my life. If anyone were to call me on them, I would gladly take credit and fess up. I would never blame the person who called me out for my own hypocrisy.

As for gay people who don't believe in gay marriage, they're fully entitled to their opinion. However, this issue is not about gay people who are standing up and saying, "I am gay and I am against gay marriage." These are people leading deceitful lives who are trying to interfere with the lives of those who would live open and honestly.
posted by PigAlien at 6:59 PM on July 7, 2004


*outs wolfdaddy and amber*
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:02 PM on July 7, 2004


I can't add anything to what PigAlien, amberglow, et al. have said except to agree with them. If closeted gays and lesbians want to live in peace and privacy, they can do so--by staying peaceful and private. If they're opposed to marriage, they don't have to marry. But I can't see any practical or moral reason to respect someone who lives a lie while at the same time working to oppress his or her peers.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:16 PM on July 7, 2004


PigAlien, I think we're going to have to just agree to disagree about this one. You're of the "all gay people must be out" school and I'm really not. I personally feel that my ideas and my life are significant and worthy of a certain base respect whether or not I choose to tell people about my sexual orientation. You clearly feel differently.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:18 PM on July 7, 2004


I reckon I don't really have a dog in the fight, being straight and all...but my opinion is that these outings are in bad form. If they were outing elected or appointed officials who were both gay and trying to pass anti-gay legislation, I'd be ok with that. But what they are doing is outing people who are not themselves political figures.

I find that problematic. Your private life shouldn't become public domain because your employer espouses views that are unpopular with a segment of the population.
posted by dejah420 at 7:18 PM on July 7, 2004


It does help with the many people who see gays as "the other," "those weirdos in the parades" and who insist "I've never met a gay"

Wait a minute... you mean Joe, my aide for years, Joe in a suit and tie who talks football with me... is one of them? I never knew!

The nutjobs aren't going to be swayed, sure, but there's a large middle ground that just might be helped here.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:25 PM on July 7, 2004


Hildegarde, you are way off base. I do not believe in any way, shape or form that everyone should live their lives out loud and proud. I really could care less if I am the only openly gay person on the planet (gosh, how depressing that would be).

What I care about is that those who chose to live their lives in the closet do not try and keep me in the closet. Civil marriage equality is a fundamental human right. Opposing gay marriage is anti-gay, and anti-gay legislation only encourages the bigotry and hatred against gays which has forced us to live in the closet until recently.

There are no shades of grey here. Either gays and lesbians are human beings like everyone else, with the same inherent dignity and rights, or we're not. We already went through this with the black civil rights movement. Seperate but equal is NOT equal.

Dejah, the 'employees' as you call them are not disengaged from their 'employers'. Their employers are not just 'espousing unpopular views'. These are legislators working to pass laws which will enshrine bigotry and discrimination into the consitution of the United States of America, the finest and most important document in our country.

These aides' jobs are to help their 'bosses' accomplish this gross, disgusting act. No one forces them to take these jobs, and I personally would never take such a job in support of someone working so diligently against the rights of hard-working citizens of this country.

People leave their jobs over principle all the time. Having a 'job' doesn't make you immune to the repercussions of what the job entails. If the job involves actively working to discriminate against people, then you are directly responsible for that.
posted by PigAlien at 8:29 PM on July 7, 2004


"Civil marriage equality is a fundamental human right. Opposing gay marriage is anti-gay..."

Says you.

*sigh*

The point you made earlier was that their orientation wasn't the issue, and that hypocrisy was — of course, that assumes that you know the hearts of these people. It's not outside the realm of possibility that a legislator could be both gay and not support the recent rush to the alter... which would mean that they're not hypocrits. Unless, of course, their orientation _is_ the issue... and we're outting folks for the helluvit.

Perhaps you have a short memory, PigAlien, but it wasn't too long ago that marriage was considered a breeder thing.

Also... if folks are willing to use outting as a political weapon, who's to say that everyone "outted" is actually gay — it's not like there's a lithmus test for this sort of thing... and if the legislators are straight, how do they ever convince their spouses et al differently?

It used to be that being gay just meant ya dug folks on your own team... now being gay means ya have to carry the same damn torch that everyone else does.

Sad.
posted by silusGROK at 8:51 PM on July 7, 2004


"Perhaps you have a short memory, PigAlien, but it wasn't too long ago that marriage was considered a breeder thing."


Silus, there is a difference between religious marriage and civil marriage. Marriage as a social custom/religious institution was considered a 'breeder thing', as you call it by many gays and lesbians who felt they didn't need to imitate 'straight culture'.

The problem is, marriage is a legal, civil, state-sponsored contract between two people (now defined as between man-and-woman in many states and soon to be in our constitution) which grants them over 1,000 automatic rights and benefits which are not available to people who are not married.

Even if you personally see no need to be married as a gay or lesbian, wait until your life partner gets sick and you are not allowed to visit him or her in the hospital because you are not a 'family member'. Never mind that the biological family members hated you and never recognized your relationship. Never mind that your loved one's wish was to be cremated and not have a funeral when his religious family decides to have a casket and a big, church funeral in a church that denounced his 'evil' lifestyle.

Just wait until that partner dies and you have to pay taxes on property you own just to keep it because your life together is not recognized by the state.

Entire lives are thrown away or destroyed in moments when gays and lesbians are left without the protections of marriage. Heterosexuals can assure themselves with one stroke of a pen what homosexuals have to spend months working on and thousands of dollars on lawyers fees to accomplish, and those accomplishments can be thrown out by one bigoted judge.

These are important issues, issues that affect peoples' lives every day in very real ways. It is abhorrent and disgusting and beyond reprehensible that anyone should wish to enshrine bigotry and discrimination in the constitution.

Think of the children, too! Whether people like it or not, gays and lesbians are having children. Does it really help the children to tell them that their parents, their families are perverted, sub-par, sick, twisted? Yeah, you really have the best interests of children in mind when you start them out to hate their own families at a young age.

You tell hypocrisy not by seeing what is in someone's heart, but by observing someone's actions and words.
posted by PigAlien at 9:17 PM on July 7, 2004


I'm not going to debate the merits of gay marriage, here, PigAlien... gay marriage could be best thing since sliced bread, but demanding that gays toe the line or risk being outed is the kind of claptrap that I thought enlightened people were supposed to be fighting.

"All Jews must support the state of Israel."
"Bill Cosby has gone white for airing our dirty laundry."
"You're a hypocrite if you don't support the movement."

Blah blah blah.

You're welcome to keep singing — you've got plenty of company — but this business of outing is just plain sad.
posted by silusGROK at 10:18 PM on July 7, 2004


silus, it's not about towing a line, but about not harming us. It's not about conforming, but about not working to relegate us to inferior status--it's a big and important difference. It's about whether gay and lesbian Americans are equal to all the other Americans, or not.

It's not the same as saying All jews must support Israel--it's saying you don't even get to have a say about it, and only good hetero Americans can decide--it's shutting us out, and that's completely unacceptable, just like it was unacceptable for Rosa Parks, and the suffragettes, etc....It's making the constitution, for the first time, a restricter of rights instead of a bestower of rights--it's unamerican.
posted by amberglow at 1:11 AM on July 8, 2004


What kind of fuckwad idiocy does it take for someone to contemplate holding a public office while not assuming that they will have no privacy whatsoever?

That sounds like the hallmark of a civilised country to me. I wish the media gave more privacy. (Although maybe they do and I just don't know about it?) This is plenty of stuff we don't need to know about people for them to do a good job of public service.
posted by biffa at 2:22 AM on July 8, 2004


I think it comes down to the following: is a person's right to privacy more important than full equality for homosexuals in the eyes of the law? A lot of the people here who have opposed the outing of public officials involved in discrimantory laws are probably not gay and probably don't have as much at stake.

Forced outing is always an unpleasant thing but I think its rarely done lightly and it usually done for the right reasons. After all, gay rights groups would otherwise be the first people to protect a persons sexual identity.

And, to be honest, it works. An example is the outing of Michael Portillo. Once, a hard-line, homophobic right-winger in the UK Conservative party, under threat of being outed, Portillo was forced to admit that he experiemented with his sexuality at a period in time when the political climate was very much against homosexuality in our country.

Fast forward a few years later and we have a situation where Portillo now speaks for a liberal, pro-homosexual wing of the Conservative party (although is perhaps still in the wilderness a bit) and we live in a time when, thanks to other similar outings, gay rights legislation is getting through parliament and going into the law books.

Of course, there is a flip-side to this: the forced outing of public officials, such a Peter Mandelson, who have nothing to do with anti-gay legislation but have been outed by tabloid newspapers and their careers ruined for all the wrong reasons.
posted by axon at 3:51 AM on July 8, 2004


A lot of the people here who have opposed the outing of public officials involved in discrimantory laws are probably not gay and probably don't have as much at stake.

Wow, now you have to be straight to have ethical concerns with this?

For the record, I've been out for eleven years.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:52 AM on July 8, 2004


and we live in a time when, thanks to other similar outings, gay rights legislation is getting through parliament and going into the law books.

Or maybe not.

There's still hope, but this is by no means a sure thing anymore, even though it was supposed to be. The old gits in the Lords basically amended the bill out of existence.
posted by Tholian at 5:21 AM on July 8, 2004


Well I'm not quite sure how you measure whether its worked or not. Will Portillo ever be Prime Minister, probably not, but not necessarily because of his sexuality. Are there other politicians who've been forcibly outed and had their careers go down the toilet? I'm sure we could think of some if we put our heads together. In some cases - and for serving politicians, not their staff - it does seem hypocritical on the part of politicians to stand up on some moral platform that they themselves fail to adhere to (in the UK, 'Back to Basics' stands out), but not all political life deals with issues relating to sexuality, not all votes are free votes and politicians represent their constituents and not just themselves. Political life does not, or at least should not, mean an abrogation of a private life.

For the record Peter Mandelson was outed on BBC television by Matthew Parris, a right-leaning journalist with a supposed quality paper (The Times) and a former politician who himself didn't come out until after he left politics. The tabloids were almost certainly aware of Mandelson's sexuality for years before he was outed but hadn't made an issue of it until Parris raised it on national TV. Whether this had an impact on his downfall is possible but debatable. More here.
posted by biffa at 5:54 AM on July 8, 2004


My god, it's like speaking to a brick wall. How many times do I have to repeat: this is not the same as "all jews have to support isreal", or "all gays have to toe the line".

For crying out loud, this is about politicians interfering in the private lives of millions of citizens and marginalizing them. This is about REAL, direct HARM to millions of hard-working, honest citizens in this country. If you make our private lives a political issue and seek to marginalize us to win votes, you will be a target and your personal life is fair game. That is it, that is final and get out of our way because WE WILL DEFEND OURSELVES.

This is about the ACTIONS of those who are being outed, not their sexuality. This is not about every gay person holding the same opinion, but about people (straight or gay) working against the rights of gays and interfering in their private lives.

The gay activists are fighting just as hard against the straight politicians. We use whatever plausible tactics against each politician that we can. In the case of those who might be in the closet, we seek to expose their deceit and hypocrisy. In the case of those who are heterosexual, we find other methods of attack.

No politician has the right to go on a moral high horse and attack our private lives and expect their own private lives to remain unpoliticized.

Get off your stupid high horse, people. Outing is not about using sexuality as a weapon or invading people's privacy. Outing is about exposing deceit and forcing those who would make our lives more difficult to have a taste of their own medicine.
posted by PigAlien at 6:18 AM on July 8, 2004


It used to be that being gay just meant ya dug folks on your own team... now being gay means ya have to carry the same damn torch that everyone else does.

No, you don't have to carry any torch at all. The problem is, gay people working for anti-gay politicians are carrying the torch that's burning the rest of us.

It's not outside the realm of possibility that a legislator could be both gay and not support the recent rush to the alter... which would mean that they're not hypocrits.

It's one thing to "not support the recent rush to the altar." It's another to support the FMA, which would incorporate second-class status for gay citizens into the US Constitution.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:46 AM on July 8, 2004


coming into this late, and PigAlien has already said it best but . . . .

No one has really talked about the concept of the shame inherent in the closet. When you live in the closet, you live in darkness, and you carry that secret with you 24/7, and it eventually starts to taint your world view. The problem this country has with gays is that it is still so very shameful to be gay for many many people. While I am not a big fan of outing, per se, the more we remove the closet the closer we get to this not being shameful. So someone who is not gay may be mistakenly outed? Big fucking deal! Someone accuses you of something you are not, and that ruins your life? Unless it's something like child molestation, which kind of stigmatizes the accused by virtue of the accusation, who gives a rat's ass? I'm mistaken for straight all the time, and I don't freak out about it because being straight is not shameful. Ever wonder why someone like Tom Cruise only sues the tabloids when they print things about him being gay? Because that is such a horrible thing to even be accused of.

And now we have a president who goes on TV and calls me a sinner. A man who has never met me.

If you are going to work towards a political movement that will fundamentally change the fabric of society, then you don't get to hide in the closet so that you don't have to live with your own actions.

While I believe that everyone has the right to privacy, I think it sad that anyone would choose to live in the closet, and disgusting that one would be in the closet and work on anti-gay legislation. Maybe it's because I am not ashamed of being gay. The only thing the DMA will do is continue to reinforce the idea that being gay is shameful.

I also appreciate the irony in arguments defending privacy when we had to fight in court for the right not to be arrested for what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom.
posted by archimago at 7:37 AM on July 8, 2004


So someone who is not gay may be mistakenly outed? Big fucking deal!

While I agree with you that homosexuality should not something to be ashamed of, there's still unintended consequences.

What if the person falsely (or even accurately) outed is disowned by his family, loses his job, or gets gay-bashed because of the outing? Are the outers going to find him a home and a job and pay his medical bills?
posted by jonmc at 8:17 AM on July 8, 2004


What if? Well then that person would taste the bigotry of this country and have a nice wake up call that his/her family are a bunch of bigots. I don't have to be a black person to be disgusted by and speak out against racism when I see it perpetrated against someone else. If more people in this country would have the balls to not tolerate the attitude that there is something wrong with gay people, then most of these problems would disappear.

And I find it hard to believe that someone falsely outed would have a hard time convincing those around him of the truth.

As an out person, who is going to find me a home, a job or pay my medical bills when I am discriminated against in the same way?

And as an out person, I would much rather be out and disowned by my family (which in part I am) than be in the closet and reinforce their bigotry, which in turn would fuel my self-loathing, which in turn would probably make me self-destructive and/or hostile to some other group of people.

It's not fair to blame the truth-speaker for the actions of people who cannot handle the truth.
posted by archimago at 8:45 AM on July 8, 2004


Do you want to remind the general gay public that their sexual orientation can and will be used against them, even by friends?

maybe it's important to remind the general gay public of this - maybe we've all gotten so used to will & grace and queer eye that it seems like gay rights are no big deal, not something that needs to be dealt with. Maybe it is important to point out ugly truth sometimes.

It was a source of real personal pain for her to want to be with me but to feel that she was sacrificing the good she could do as a politician just for love. (We were in Texas and she did a lot of work organizing the Hispanic vote. She was involved with a very conservative Democrat voting bloc.)

hmm, but is it fair to her constituents to deprive them of information they may feel is relevant? I mean, it's sad that they would think it's relevant, but isn't the point of democracy that people can make these choices themselves? Presenting yourself as something other than what you are in order to "do good" for people is a dangerous idea - you don't get to decide what's "good" for them; you present what you think is "good", and they choose from among their options.

Perhaps you have a short memory, PigAlien, but it wasn't too long ago that marriage was considered a breeder thing.

A gay person absolutely does not need to be pro-gay marriage. But it is an entirely different thing to support anti-gay legislature. You can personally have no interest in marrying, but do you then fight to make sure that no other gay people can marry either? Or, if you somehow can come up with an argument that it's important to deny the right to marry to all gay people, including yourself, then you absolutely have to come out as gay yourself, because otherwise the only conclusion one can draw is that you are a self-hating closeted hypocrite.

What if the person falsely (or even accurately) outed is disowned by his family, loses his job, or gets gay-bashed because of the outing? Are the outers going to find him a home and a job and pay his medical bills?

jon, look at that statement. You would blame the people who revealed the fact that someone is gay, not their family, their job, or the gay bashers? Being gay should not be something that puts someone at risk like this. Honesty is the best policy. I don't particularly like the idea of specifically digging around for secrets and having press conferences or whatever to spread them around, but at the same time, I can't really feel sorry for people who hide these kinds of things.

If a public representative is gay but doesn't want to be and thinks it's wrong, they should come out as a "recovering gay"; if they think being gay should be a secondary sexual life but hetero marriage with kids should be primary, they should come out as a non-monogamous bisexual. et cetera. To hide something in order to just "not deal" with the issue is short-sighted and cowardly. To hide something in order to actively punish other people who share the trait but don't hide it is simply despicable.
posted by mdn at 10:20 AM on July 8, 2004


It's not fair to blame the truth-speaker for the actions of people who cannot handle the truth.

I don't blame the outers for homophobia, and I don't tolerate anti-gay bigotry either. But I still am not comfortable with the people appointing themselves able to decide what a person can keep private, no matter how good their intentions.
posted by jonmc at 10:25 AM on July 8, 2004


But I still am not comfortable with the people appointing themselves able to decide what a person can keep private, no matter how good their intentions.

Neither am I. However, I'm even less comfortable with the people appointing themselves able to decide that I should have fewer rights than heterosexuals, and if some of those people are also gay, I have no compunction about exposing their hypocrisy.

Very often, even doing the right thing leaves one with a feeling of alienation, I suspect.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:32 AM on July 8, 2004


Again, fight the ideas and the legislation, not the individuals. Isn't that what we call an ad hominem attack? Is that ever the right thing to do, or is it just a fun cheap shot?
posted by Hildegarde at 10:54 AM on July 8, 2004


jon (and others), you remember the Strom Thurmond stuff? When it was revealed that he had a child from a relationship with a black woman? And that he had supported that kid but kept it a secret for like 70 years? And that for most if not all of that time he was a gigantic racist, actively working in Congress and continually speaking against granting equal rights to blacks?

If anyone (say, a civil rights group) had revealed the existence of the daughter while he was in office, he would have lost his job. On the other hand, he wouldn't have been able to vote against and actively hurt the lives of millions of blacks (and others) in the US for so many years. So, you have a public official hiding something he knew would absolutely destroy his career if known.

So? Would it have been wrong to out Thurmond? Or no?
posted by amberglow at 10:58 AM on July 8, 2004


Hildegarde, there is no such thing as fighting ideas and not people. Ideas are products of human beings and are held by humans and spread by humans. These people who are spreading their 'ideas' are fighting people - gay people. Just because they fight us in the aggregate through legislation does not mean that they are not impacting individual's lives extremely intimately and personally. If they can attack my life, I can attack theirs.
posted by PigAlien at 11:38 AM on July 8, 2004


PigAlien, I think I love you.

jonmc, unless these people are being spied on in the privacy of their homes watching gay porn, then they are in some way not being private, as someone earlier mentioned. These people are acting in some way that is putting them in a position to be exposed.
posted by archimago at 12:13 PM on July 8, 2004


Again, fight the ideas and the legislation, not the individuals. Isn't that what we call an ad hominem attack? Is that ever the right thing to do, or is it just a fun cheap shot?

No, that's not an ad hominem attack. The goal of outing people isn't to win an argument. The goal of outing people working for our oppressors isn't to convince everyone that gay marriage is good. It's to damage the efforts of those who would relegate us to second-class citizenship at best.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:24 PM on July 8, 2004


aw, gee, thank you, archimago! that's the sweetest thing anyone's said to me on meta.

kisses!
posted by PigAlien at 1:12 PM on July 8, 2004


jonmc, unless these people are being spied on in the privacy of their homes watching gay porn, then they are in some way not being private, as someone earlier mentioned. These people are acting in some way that is putting them in a position to be exposed.

Wow, what kind of fascist hellhole do you live in? Happily in the EU, protection from invasion of privacy is enshrined in our human rights legislation, and freedom from harassment does extend beyond the home. (See here for the UK situation, for example).
posted by biffa at 2:00 PM on July 8, 2004


"Happily in the EU, protection from invasion of privacy is enshrined in our human rights legislation, and freedom from harassment does extend beyond the home."

Funny that, biffa. Isn't it also the case that in the EU, GLBT rights are generally more well-protected and that many EU countries are now legalizing gay marriage, rather than forbidding it? Strange how that works, isn't it?
posted by PigAlien at 2:33 PM on July 8, 2004


Happily in the EU, protection from invasion of privacy is enshrined in our human rights legislation, and freedom from harassment does extend beyond the home. (See here for the UK situation, for example).

It doesn't seem to me that outing would fall into this category, based on the link you posted. If I see you in a gay bar, there's no reason why I can't tell other people about it, beyond my own reluctance to do so. If I use a camera with a telephoto lens to take a picture of you smooching with somebody in your living room, that's another matter I suppose.

Even if it did fall into this category of Article 8 protection, I don't think that carries much weight:
"Although there is no requirement on private individuals or companies - such as journalists and newspapers - to act compatibly with Article 8, the courts may be increasingly willing to develop the common law so as to provide proper protection for privacy."
So, it doesn't seem to me that our fascist hellhole is much different than yours.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:37 PM on July 8, 2004


Enjoying this debate from my usual seat in the studio audience. My tiny contribution: this pointed commercial (MPEG, 4,524KB) from Canadians for Equal Marriage ran during the final week of campaigning for the recent Canadian federal election.

As PigAlien said, separate but equal is not equal.
posted by Esco757 at 6:12 PM on July 8, 2004


Ooh, I love that commercial, that's wonderful, esco757! Thank you very much! We should run that commercial here in the states. I wonder if we could convince HRC to pay for some TV time.
posted by PigAlien at 6:53 PM on July 8, 2004


that's a great commercial--did it help in the elections?
posted by amberglow at 7:13 PM on July 8, 2004


more on this, and Senator Inhofe (one of his staffers was outed): The committee provided a statement to HOH, also pointing out that the staffer does not work for Inhofe’s personal office and that “Senator Inhofe does not hire openly gay staffers due to the possibility of a conflict of agenda.”
Inhofe, who ran a “God, gays and guns” Senate campaign, first made the claim that he would never hire an openly gay staffer when he was a Member of the House.
And he adamantly opposed the Clinton administration’s nomination of James Hormel, an openly gay man, to be ambassador of Luxembourg.

Gay staffers say the only positive outcome of the outing campaign would be to expose the lack of job protections in Congress for gay and lesbian staffers. There is no federal law that covers the hiring and firing of gay people. What’s more, Congress exempts itself from civil rights laws. And more than a third of House and Senate offices reserve the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

posted by amberglow at 12:41 PM on July 10, 2004


more at Blogactive,
and an article from the Washington Post on a DearMary.com ad

For years our silence has protected you. Today that protection ends.
posted by amberglow at 1:49 PM on July 10, 2004


Senate Vote Blocks Effort to Ban Gay-Marriage in Constitution

Backers of a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages suffered a stinging defeat in the Senate today as opponents easily killed the initiative for the year in a procedural showdown.

Senators voted 50 to 48 against a call to cut off debate, 12 votes short of the 60 required and even below a simple majority of 51.

posted by amberglow at 11:09 AM on July 14, 2004


It will be interesting to see if this is revived... those in favor of an amendment will have to get their ducks in a row, though — deciding on language before hand — because I don't think they'll get a third chance.
posted by silusGROK at 7:48 PM on July 14, 2004


And they're off: New GOP gay-ban tactics:
Court powers could be taken away, says majority leader

Realizing that a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage faces little chance of passing soon, if ever, House Republicans yesterday discussed alternative approaches, including stripping federal courts of jurisdiction over the issue, passing a federal law to define marriage and using the appropriations process to ban gay marriage in Washington.

posted by amberglow at 8:58 PM on July 14, 2004


Put me down as against. I can understand the arguments of those who support outing in this context but I really do think there is ought to be an inherent right to privacy and that it ought to be a matter of personal choice in regards to which facts of one's life can be publically disclosed. Which is a pretty quixotic and impossible ideal anymore, all things considered.
posted by y2karl at 9:35 PM on July 14, 2004


and belatedly, the NYT finally reports on it, with more sympathy for the staffers
posted by amberglow at 11:13 AM on July 25, 2004


this is the Washington Blade story mentioned in the Times story.
posted by amberglow at 11:18 AM on July 25, 2004


very excellent thread on this at DailyKos
posted by amberglow at 3:34 PM on July 25, 2004


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