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Do Gays in powerful positions have obligation to "out" themselves?
March 2, 2001 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Do Gays in powerful positions have obligation to "out" themselves? "It's time for our public figures to stop hiding [in the closet] and for journalists to stop helping them."
posted by darren (55 comments total)

 
Rupert Everett is gay?!
posted by pracowity at 7:24 AM on March 2, 2001


He is according to his IMDB bio.
posted by darren at 7:33 AM on March 2, 2001


i like that article because it shows "deputy editor Maer Roshan" as wildly hypocritical. He talks a good game but then doesn't out anybody -- he shouldn't out anybody, but how can you say, in one breath "Journalism is an amoral profession, we do things all the time that damage people's reputations. When we decide to protect people, we're acting like publicists instead of journalists. We do a disservice to our readers when we keep the doors to the closet closed." and then in the next... protect the privacy of closeted gays.

meanwhile, i'm not sure that these 33 powerfull gays he talks about are actually closeted -- most likely most are not, they're just not interested on being on the cover of a magazine about gays. the closeted gays are the ones that deputy editor Maer Roshan didn't have the phone numbers of.
posted by palegirl at 7:38 AM on March 2, 2001


The answer is an unqualified "no". That's a decision for each individual to make for themselves, based entirely on their own reasons, and one they need not justify to anyone else. Gays are no more a monolithic group than hispanics or people with red hair, and don't owe anything to each other. There's no "Gay club" with obligatory membership and duties.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:38 AM on March 2, 2001


On the same riff, kinda: an old Killing The Buddha article talks about how the Church and its communications machine should handle homosexuality - is it time they came out? Should they be forced to? I'm neither gay nor particularly religious (and I don't even live in NY) but found it food for thought along the same lines. It is - duh - a particularly sticky problem. Don't ask/don't tell but don't hide/don't ignore as well? Allow me to scratch my chin and announce myself devoid of answers.
posted by captainfez at 7:47 AM on March 2, 2001


Personally - I think think every gay man or woman should come out. I think people would then have to deal with the sheer numbers of gay people in the world. What I don't think should happen however is that people should be forced to come out as if being gay was like a politician being paid by a multi-national corporation and having to be very careful about not demonstrating political bias. There are gay Republicans, gay Democrats, gay Tories (UK), gay Labour activists, gay Liberal Democrats, gay fascists, gay libertarians etc etc etc.
posted by barbelith at 8:03 AM on March 2, 2001


> He is according to his IMDB bio.

I was just messing around. I thought he was famous for being gay. But now that I'm here, I suppose I should stop messing around and address the issue: are people obligated to reveal what they do in the bedroom?

No.

If I were gay, I don't think I would feel obliged to subject myself to the scorn (and worse) that so many people direct at gays. If I were a journalist, I don't think I would feel right about outing anyone (except hypocrites).

Yes, it probably would help improve perceptions of gays if they were to all come out together tomorrow. Millions of heterosexuals would turn to their loved ones and say things like, "Well, hell, Sue, if Tiger Woods and David Letterman and Dick Cheney [to name three famous non-gay (?) Americans at random] are, you know, um, gay, then I reckon being gay just ain't so weird after all, now is it? Hell."

But it's not all or none, it's one at a time, outing by outing, and I don't think it's right to shove some people out and let them absorb the pressure so that they'll make things eventually better for the rest.

posted by pracowity at 8:13 AM on March 2, 2001


barbelith: You take that back! There are NO gay Liberal Democrats!


posted by thirteen at 8:18 AM on March 2, 2001


I'd like them all to come out if for no other reason that to dismiss the wild overestimates of the gay population that constantly circulate.
posted by darren at 8:20 AM on March 2, 2001


I'd like them all to come out if for no other reason that to dismiss the wild overestimates of the gay population that constantly circulate.
posted by darren at 8:20 AM on March 2, 2001


Sorry. Hiccuped and hit the button twice.
posted by darren at 8:20 AM on March 2, 2001


Gays are no more a monolithic group than hispanics or people with red hair, and don't owe anything to each other. There's no "Gay club" with obligatory membership and duties.
Leave it to Steven Den Beste, who always comes up with the most hateful, dismissive, and bilious interpretation of absolutely anything, to flub this one majorly. Redheads, about whom I am something of an authority, can't hide their redheadedness. Many Hispanics can't hide their Hispanic heritage. Few redheads and few Hispanics would ever bother even wanting to hide. Some people hate Hispanics, but it's nothing near as widespread as homophobia, which only goes away when straight people get to know gays, which in turn only happens when people are out.

Oh, and reality check, Steve: You're not gay if you're not out. You're also certainly not queer. You're merely homosexualist. Public figures who are still in the closet in the 21st century are a disgrace to themselves and to the out queers. We walked the line for too many decades for them to get a free ride. And as for civilians: Having sex with members of the same gender and keeping it a deep dark secret is gonna fuck you up. Sure, nobody should out average people. Average people should out themselves. If you keep it a secret, you authorize the belief that there's something wrong with it. And there ain't.
posted by joeclark at 8:28 AM on March 2, 2001


Leave it to Steven Den Beste, who always comes up with the most hateful, dismissive, and bilious interpretation of absolutely anything
God damn! You are a sweetheart Joe. Steven kill your cat or something? Way over the top.
posted by thirteen at 8:35 AM on March 2, 2001


joeclark, (as an observer of canuck politics from afar, I think the name fits, though not as well as Doris)
I'm not sure which Steven Den Beste you're referring to, because the one I've read for the several months I've been here has always been a source of cogent, well-thought-out and well-supported points of view.
You have every right to reveal who you are but it is not your duty to obligate everyone else to share it with the world.
While in "Real Life" I'd have a rather difficult time concealing my ethnicity, I've had internal arguments about telling people online that I'm black. I've decided that "honesty is the best policy" but it makes sense to me that other people might make a different choice.
posted by Octaviuz at 8:38 AM on March 2, 2001


Public figures who are still in the closet in the 21st century are a disgrace to themselves and to the out queers. We walked the line for too many decades for them to get a free ride.

Why on earth do public figures owe anything to the gay community simply because they are gay? Must every woman in a public position be a feminist? Must every black be an civil-rights activist?

In a perfect world, sure, everyone would be out. This is not a perfect world. Don't ask people to ruin their careers and lives for your cause. They may have bigger fish to fry.
posted by frykitty at 8:41 AM on March 2, 2001


For some reason, when I saw pracowity's outburst about Rupert Everett, I thought it said Rupert Murdoch.

posted by hijinx at 8:42 AM on March 2, 2001


joeclark: that's bullshit. No one has an obligation to you. Some folks are in really shitty positions, and they may stand to lose their jobs, friends, families, or even fear for their lives.
Anyone who claims to speak for an entire group without their authority and consent shouldn't be taken for anything more than actors they are. They're only fooling themselves.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:43 AM on March 2, 2001


Gays are this pwerful and control so much? I thought it was Jews. Do they meet at some mountain place in Switzerland and plot strategy to take over the world too?
posted by Postroad at 8:53 AM on March 2, 2001


I think what Joe is saying is that all gays will eventually benefit from people acknowledging the fact that they are gay. Years ago people sacrificed a lot in order for our society to gain the acceptance of homosexuality that it has now, and gay folks should acknolwedge than and continue to try and make society more accepting. This isn't done by hiding and lying.
posted by Doug at 8:57 AM on March 2, 2001


I'd like them all to come out if for no other reason that to dismiss the wild overestimates of the gay population that constantly circulate.

If only everyone would pay attention to Darren's mathematics, we wouldn't have this problem. Oops, except that he didn't provide any math, just a weird unsubstantiated claim.

Darren, what figures are you talking about, and why are they wrong?
posted by Skot at 9:00 AM on March 2, 2001


As a gay man, I understand some of joeclark's frustration with public figures who remain in the closet. It's true that as more public figures come out, acceptance for all gays grows, however slightly. And I don't buy the argument that gays have no obligation to other gays. Anyone who's been hurt or oppressed for an unjust reason has some obligation to others who have experienced a similar injustice.

However, the obligation of one person to a larger group of people will always take second place to his obligation to himself and to the people closest to him. In my case, for example, my friends, immediate family, and church know that I'm gay. My parents have asked me not to tell the extended family, and I have respected their wishes. I sing in a lesbian and gay chorus. But I'm clearly closeted at work because I have no doubt that I would lose my job if my colleagues knew that I'm gay. It's wrong to say that I'm not "gay" because I'm partly closeted. If you don't want to call me "queer" because of that, I say hooray.

I'm considerably more troubled by Darren's comment, "I'd like them all to come out if for no other reason that to dismiss the wild overestimates of the gay population that constantly circulate." You don't have to be a deconstructionist to see the homophobia there.

posted by anapestic at 9:05 AM on March 2, 2001


"I'd like them all to come out if for no other reason that to dismiss the wild overestimates of the gay population that constantly circulate."...

"...Plus, then I'd know when one of them was looking at my ass...."
posted by jpoulos at 9:08 AM on March 2, 2001


I think it's time for the GLBT community to take a more militant role in promoting gay rhetoric and lifestyle. WIth one fist in the air, those unwilling to accept their gay brothers will fall before the righteousness of the Pink Panthers!
posted by Awol at 9:45 AM on March 2, 2001


Well, we're well into the fray here, but some may want to read Roshan's own editorial about the situation he encountered. Be sure to check out the (retiring) Related Links box for other articles from this issue: they're rather interesting and revealing. And here's the Gay Power 101 list.

Last night's er was a somewhat ham-handed story about closeted gays.
posted by dhartung at 10:03 AM on March 2, 2001


Does Tom Spacey or Kevin Cruise owe anything to the gay community because they get paid millions of dollars for their work?

I know I'd feel like I did.

Name five openly gay film stars, sport stars or TV stars. Harder than you think isn't it.

As a young gay man or lesbian there is simply nobody famous who gives you the message that you're ok, that you're not "wrong", this is a shame and causes untold and unnecessary suffering. Coming out is hard enough as it is, a little help from those more fortunate than yourself would go along way.
posted by fullerine at 10:11 AM on March 2, 2001


fullerine: But it's not their "duty" to make you feel better. It would be nice, but its not their job.

That's like me saying Michael Jordan has to be a role model for me because he's black. It would be nice if he was (and he is), but I don't think he owes me anything...
posted by owillis at 10:46 AM on March 2, 2001


I think it's a sign of progress that members of a discriminated group no longer feel the need to be activists. A time to riot, a time to live quietly. Turn, turn, turn.
posted by holgate at 10:47 AM on March 2, 2001


But I'm clearly closeted at work because I have no doubt that I would lose my job if my colleagues knew that I'm gay.

I'd be curious to know what kind of work environment you have. I don't know many open gays, but I suspect I'd know more if everyone came out of the closet. I work for an IT company where people make gay jokes all the time (there aren't many women here, either). Not "kill the queers" kind of jokes, but more like "stop looking at my ass" jokes. I don't think anyone here seriously dislikes gays, and I can't imagine that anyone here would be fired for being gay, but I've never really asked others opinions.

What makes you so sure you'd loose your job if you came out of the closet? I'm not challenging you; I'd honestly like to know.
posted by Loudmax at 10:52 AM on March 2, 2001


Ok, Loudmax, this is really not relevant to the topic, but you asked.

I didn't mean to imply that I work in the kind of environment where people are fired for being gay. There is one openly gay person in another department here, and as far as I know, he hasn't faced any discrimination.

Over the last 2+ years, I got divorced, stopped being a stay-at-home dad, started a new career, went through a nasty custody battle, and faced various other traumas as a result of coming out to my ex-wife. For a large part of that time, I had to miss a lot of work for depositions and court appearances and such, and I frankly have not performed nearly as well as I should have or as I have in past jobs. My employers have been extremely understanding about my situation and have gone out of their ways to keep me around basically because they really like me. If they found out that I'm gay, the wouldn't like me nearly as much. I'd almost certainly be fired. It wouldn't be because I'm gay per se, but if I do a with-and-without analysis, I'm pretty sure that being in the closet, I have a job. Out of the closet, I have to find another position.

On the other hand, at some point I will move to another company, and when that happens, I fully expect to be out at work.
posted by anapestic at 11:11 AM on March 2, 2001


Not that many years ago I lived in a nice Ontario college town. A good (straight) friend and his (straight) brother-in-law, inline skating around town, were taking a break on a residential corner. I guess they "looked queer" or something, because a car filled with Neanderthals pulled up and started wailing on my boys. Since they had rollerblades on I am told the situation was slightly comical, sort of like fighting on ice, but they were nonetheless bashed.

I don't consider myself queer, but I have friends who do. Coming out is a personal decision and, from what I can tell, a process that never really stops.
posted by tranquileye at 11:31 AM on March 2, 2001


I'm a straight man, happily (gaily?) living in a gay neighbourhood, but after a spate of collisions involving rollerbladers barrelling straight at me on the sidewalk (with an occasional frantic hand-gesture that I can only translate as "I'm an idiot, and out of control. Get out of my way"), I can understand bashing rollerbladers.
posted by websavvy at 12:09 PM on March 2, 2001


I'm considerably more troubled by Darren's comment, "I'd like them all to come out if for no other reason that to dismiss the wild overestimates of the gay population that constantly circulate." You don't have to be a deconstructionist to see the homophobia there.

Anapestic... cheap, ignorant rhetoric like that closes doors on dialogue, and is counterproductive. If you disagree with his statement, say as much... bring something to the discussion.

Accusing Darren of being a homophobe (a label with a great deal of baggage in its own right) because he apparently disapproves of the whole "7-10 percent" mantra is tantamount to saying "if you don't agree with our math you must hate us". Excuse me?
posted by silusGROK at 12:14 PM on March 2, 2001


I wish more of my co-workers would come out.

This place could really use some decorating.
posted by bondcliff at 12:27 PM on March 2, 2001


anapestic, your definition of homophobe please, so I know how to plead. If you're going to bandy the phrase about, you should be able to define it.
posted by darren at 12:31 PM on March 2, 2001


I didn't say that Darren hated gays. I said that the homophobia in his statement was obvious. And it is obvious. Homophobia can mean a lot of things, from ignorance to discomfort to hatred.

As for disagreeing with his statement, there wasn't any substance to disagree with. He didn't give any details; you're simply inferring that he disagrees with the "whole '7-10 percent' mantra. I wasn't even aware that such a mantra existed.

What I do know, however, is that the people who are most likely to argue over the numbers of a particular group are the people who are uncomfortable with that group. I believe, for example, that the people who are most likely to argue over how many people died in the holocaust (or indeed to argue that it did not occur) are the people who have the least sympathy for the victims. And no, I am not calling anyone an anti-semite.

I don't really care what percentage of the population is homosexual. But I do know that one way to try to marginalize a group of people is to claim that there aren't that many of them.

As for " 'if you don't agree with our math you must hate us,' " that's really not what I said, since I don't have any math for anyone to argue with. But you are definitely excused.
posted by anapestic at 1:02 PM on March 2, 2001


"the people who are most likely to argue over the numbers of a particular group are the people who are uncomfortable with that group"

I'd argue with an assertion that 90% of the population of my hometown consisted of knockout Swedish flight attendants. I'd do it wistfully, and it doesn't make me a Swedishflightattendantaphobe. More of a Swedishflightattendantophile...
posted by websavvy at 1:11 PM on March 2, 2001


I'm on board with you on that one, websavvy, provided, of course, that the knockout Swedish flight attendants are male.


posted by anapestic at 1:19 PM on March 2, 2001


Anyone who's been hurt or oppressed for an unjust reason has some obligation to others who have experienced a similar injustice.

Sorry, no. You can't unilaterally impose an obligation on someone you don't even know. Certainly you unilaterally obligate an entire group of people.

That's not to say that it wouldn't be helpful to all gays if highly-visible gays came out, or that they wouldn't be good people if they did. However, what you are saying is that these people should behave in certain ways just because they're gay. This is like claiming that a black man who doesn't like hip-hop isn't truly black; it might be offensive if it weren't so patently ridiculous.

This is just one of the most obvious problems you run into when you arbitrarily define as a "community" a group of strangers with little in common except for a mostly-inconsequential trait such as sexual orientation or skin color. People at the core of the "community" expect complete strangers to uphold their idea of solidarity, and damn them if they don't.
posted by kindall at 1:28 PM on March 2, 2001


Certainly you unilaterally obligate an entire group of people.

Insert a "can't" in the appropriate place there.
posted by kindall at 1:29 PM on March 2, 2001


No. Anapestic, homophobia cannot "mean a lot of things, from ignorance to discomfort to hatred."

In the strictest terms, homophobia has a very distinct definition. Aside from its meaning, "homophobia" is a pejorative term, rank with political undertones.

On the first point... no inference can be made from Darren's remarks that he is either contemptuous or afraid of homosexuals. On the second point, saying that someone is a homophobe or that their comments smack of homophobia is often done to inflame rather than to educate. So either you don't know/don't care what the word means, or you meant to inflame. Either way, it's pretty sad.

If I seem rankled a bit, it's because I am... words are powerful tools; misused, they can only do harm. I expect more from the educated folks here at MeFi.

Regarding your second post, two points...

First, you're right: I assumed that Darren's comment about percentages was aimed at the "7-10 percent" mantra. Darren, was it?

Second, you're wrong:

"What I do know, however, is that the people who are most likely to argue over the numbers of a particular group are the people who are uncomfortable with that group."

Though I am sure that a subset of the people who argue the numbers are, indeed, uncomfortable with whatever is being addressed... they are by no stretch of the imagination the only group or by that matter not even necessarily the most likely group to have vested interests in the given argument.

Let's take your Holocaust example... there are those who'd like to dismiss the Holocaust, those who would like to aggrandize it (for whatever reason), and those who would like to know for certain what happened, when, etc. Each of these groups might take exception with any number proffered... and all would have different motives for doing so.

*whew*

At any rate, this is of only tangential relevance to the post... so I should apologize to everyone for my lack of strict topicality.

Sorry folks... as I said before, words are powerful tools, and misused they can only do harm.
posted by silusGROK at 1:57 PM on March 2, 2001


Perhaps more in line with the original topic: proceeding from the assumption that "gays in powerful positions have no obligation to out themselves" (I agree with that), do they have any moral obligations to refrain from harming those who are out? Examples: closeted lawmakers who vote for anti-gay rights legislation, out of fear that they will lose their constituencies; clergymen who break out the hellfire when it comes to homosexuality, yet turn out to be gay themselves (we just had one of those); representatives of "ex-gay" ministries who are, um, not so ex (and we just had a couple of those, too).

The "numbers" thing, by the by, reminded me of a recent letter to the University of Chicago magazine that insisted that as gays were only 2% of the population, they really had no business claiming "normality." (Which I thought left Jews like yours truly in a rather awkward position, since we're also about 2% of the population...)
posted by thomas j wise at 2:20 PM on March 2, 2001


Being honest—with yourself, with your friends and family, with the world in general—is always better than being dishonest. Having been in the closet and out of the closet, out is much nicer. There are more things to do out here, you don't feel suffocated or as uncomfortable, it's nice to have people hug you and hold you without worrying that they'll "discover your secret" and no longer wish to hug you and hold you for whatever personal reasons they may have.

It's also worth noting that "being gay" by itself means absolutely nothing—well, it means one thing, but that in itself does not imply most of the other things people may associate with it.

I wonder, for example, if people realize that a lot of this thread would make most young people who are trying to deal with their sexuality in a world of intolerance and prejudice decide that the best place for them is to stay hidden away because people don't want them to come out. They would prefer that you and your feelings stay right where you are, hidden away, in the dark, ashamed.

I would also propose that proclaiming your sexuality is a ridiculous notion altogether. Do straight people have to come out? Do straight people have to excuse their sexuality? Do straight people fear that if they hold the hand of the person they love, or deign to kiss them on the mouth (no matter how chastely) that they'll get the shit kicked out of them when they round the corner? Do black people? Do Asians?

Sexuality is not a race issue and can't be compared to it.

The world would be a great place if no one cared. If you started dating boys or girls or boys and girls and could love anyone you wanted, and they could love you back, and no one gave a flying fuck, the world would be a great place.

But we don't live there. Particularly in America, land of the faith-based government, home of the "protection of marriage" law. As if people would suddenly want to be gay if it was okay. As if gay people could suddenly not be, since it is okay.

If someone comes out to you, you know what you should do? Shrug, nod, say "yeah, so?" and pretend they never said it, because it doesn't change who they were (they were always gay, they didn't turn gay the moment they announced it) and it shouldn't change who you thought they were.

Should gay people be outed? No. Should gay people come out? Yes. There should never even be an "in."
posted by honkzilla at 2:22 PM on March 2, 2001


go Lance go.
posted by judith at 2:56 PM on March 2, 2001


There's no "Gay club" with obligatory membership and duties.

stephen, i just think you aren't going to the right clubs.


posted by lescour at 3:05 PM on March 2, 2001


as a young person trying to ascertain my sexuality, i have to say that this thread makes me very uncomfortable. as for the 7-10% "mantra" thing, i thought it had a homophobic ring to it too. i understand that it doesn't always mean that, but there is something to the marginalization argument. besides which, as a young person trying to deal with/figure out my sexuality, hearing people say that "oh, there are definitely a lot fewer gays than everyone says" makes me want to be as straight as possible. it makes me feel like i'm more of an abnormal human being. darren, i haven't seen anything else out of you to say that you're prejudiced at all, and your responses have been even-handed, so i'm guessing it was just a case of poor wording, but that is how it came across to me.

as for whether people should be outed... hell no. everyone's family is different, everyone's friends are different. people here are heralding a world where everyone is out; i would much rather see a world where it simply wasn't an issue. those who are gay can be gay without having to make a big deal out of it, and those that don't want to identify (or even define) their sexuality don't have to. as for myself, i'd be a lot more comfortable not defining it to begin with. it's such a personal issue that no one can say 100% of the time i like men or 50% or 0% with no other options. i understand the usefulness of labels, but i wish we could outgrow them. i don't want to be pigeonholed as anything.

i'm still working out my own personal sexuality, but i know i'm not straight. however, i'm not nearly a 50-50 split, either. what do i call myself? do i identify as bisexual? do i owe anything to that community? i don't think i do. nor do i think i should "come out" to my family. it's my choice, and having someone tell me i owe it to the gay community just makes me feel like maybe i want to be less gay than i am. it alienates people from a community whose whole strength comes from its togetherness, and i think that's an absolute tragedy. the gay community in my town is so strong that i know people who *want* to be gay. they want in. it's not even a trendiness issue, it's a matter of wanting to be a part of something. to alienate people from that is awful, and sets the "gay cause" back more than a public figure remaining closeted ever could.
posted by pikachulolita at 3:14 PM on March 2, 2001


first off. the arguement regarding "you arbitrarily define as a "community" a group of strangers with little in common except for a mostly-inconsequential trait such as sexual orientation" -- American gays are necessarily part of a community regardless of their lifestyle because they are oppressed by the government. i'm talking about marriage rights, and it's a huge deal. it's a major factor in the lives of ALL GAYS in long term, committed relationships.

i'm 21 years old. i guess i'm one of the "young people" lance mentioned in the best-ever mefi comment ever posted ever. i don't consider myself to be in the closet, but in order to maintain that i'm forced to out myself over and over and over and over...

every time i make a new friend, i have to make it a point to mention "i saw that movie with my girlfriend last week" or "my girlfriend was just saying the other day..." when my italian assignment is to bring in a photo of someone i'm close to, i realize that most of the photos i've got at school are of me and her -- should i bring one of those? i feel stressed out enough about having to do the assignment, having to speak in italian in front of the class. i bring a photo of my brother instead. and then i feel shame. it's my turn to stand up and i curse myself. am i a coward? my nightmare scenario is that my italian professor, standing behind me, will correct "girlfriend" to "boyfriend" thinking i made an error. i can't do it.

one instance of my unwilling closeting is work -- my girlfriend never sent me flowers at the office on valentines day or anything and no one transfering her calls to me has picked up on it [amazingly.] i'm unendingly frustrated by this because there's no obvious moment to out myself there despite the fact that i am [almost] sure that it would be a-okay with everyone. this is a job i've worked at for 4 years now, full time, 8 hours a day [summers, holidays, and for a 15 month stretch once.]

another instance is my future housemates. next year i'm going to be a senior here at vassar college. my best friend [a girl] and i are going to be living with three male acquaintances. they don't know that i'm gay and i'm not sure how/when/if i should tell them. i feel weird about it. i think they have a right to know that i sleep with girls as well as with guys. but like, when does that come up? it's just NOT casual dinner conversation. i keep trying to drop it into conversation, but it's hard. and what if they don't want to live with me because of it? my best friend and i will be homeless. we'll have to live in [gasp!] the dorms!

okay. enough about me, lets talk about rosie:
"...the current issue says the talk queen is among the celebs who live in glass closets with the help of the media. O'Donnell "regularly regales her viewers with personal tidbits about her children and her home … but she never mentions the woman who constantly appears at her side in public," an essay in the magazine asserts. "When Jack Nicholson shows up at a Lakers game with a date, the columns report it the next day. But when O'Donnell's blond friend accompanies her week after week to her box at WNBA games, she turns invisible." ... In what may be the most frank statement yet from Rosie's camp, O'Donnell's spokeswoman says that Rosie and her girlfriend "never hide away. Rosie's sexuality has never been important to her and it's not going to be now. I don't think it's important to her public. She is what she is. "Rosie has no problem with the article," added her rep, though she does dispute a few of its statements."
personally, i think that it would do gays a TON OF GOOD were rosie to be open about her sexuality on her talk program. maybe some bigots would tune out, but think about those bigots who instead would tune in to the idea that this fantastic woman they love, who they watch every day, who they know is a good mother to her children, is a lesbain and hey, maybe they were wrong about gays. maybe lesbians are okay. how about that?
posted by palegirl at 7:42 PM on March 2, 2001


but that's ultimately rosie's choice, is it not? if she makes the personal decision that she wants to stay in whatever closet she's in, she makes that decision. maybe, as her publicist's statement suggests, she doesn't think it's a big enough deal to blatantly come out and say. i see the whole issue as one of personal choice - if you want straight people to respect your personal choice to love women, the same choice ought to be extended to others. you are allowed to stay in the closet if you want to, and i don't think it's a shameful thing. i think it's shameful that people feel like they need to stay in the closet, but if someone doesn't think it's a big enough deal to come out for, then isn't that their choice?
posted by pikachulolita at 12:29 AM on March 3, 2001


American gays are necessarily part of a community regardless of their lifestyle because they are oppressed by the government.

This line of reasoning leads to an excellent idea. Maybe the readily-observed decrease in community spirit in America these days could be reversed if we just oppressed people more.
posted by kindall at 12:54 AM on March 3, 2001


To clarify the point of duty versus choice. I would never wish to see anyone outed be they famous or unknown, and I don't believe that high profile gay men or lesbians have a duty to be out, but I would like to think that a few of them would want to help some of their fellow human beings.

Homophobia is not the norm in the same way that racism isn't the norm, it would be nice to see this point being made. When high profile people come out, a shrug of the shoulders is the majority reaction, perhaps if it happens more often then any other response would look more and more out of place.

Sorry to be so incoherent, I'm ill.
posted by fullerine at 3:17 AM on March 3, 2001


Not to beat a dead thread, but...

Maer Roshan responds to criticism of his article:

So let me clarify: In my essay I argued that the continuing collusion of the media in covering up gay lives is simply bad journalism. As a gay man, I know that people decide to stay in the closet for various, complicated reasons, and though I find their reticence disappointing, I cannot compel others to personal courage. But I can insist of journalists that they apply equal standards to the celebrities -- gay or straight -- that they report on. I never advocated the willy nilly retributive outing of closeted celebrities. I simply proposed accurately reporting the sexual orientation of public figures in contexts where it is appropriate to do so.

(From Romanesko's MediaNews Letters Page)
posted by MarkAnd at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2001


I can buy into that a lot more easily than I can buy into some of the other opinions (e.g. "obligation to come out") in this thread. If you have essentially come out to the media, but then ask the media to hide your homosexuality from the rest of the world, that's pretty wishy-washy and I can see why it would piss off "out" gays. Most gays don't have the option of being "out" to people they know will accept them while being "in" to everyone else, and it seems unfair and cowardly to behave that way.
posted by kindall at 3:47 PM on March 4, 2001


The Press routinely ignores information about individuals lives because it is considered to be innappropriate or tacky to disseminate it. The press could talk about how long an individual spent in the bathroom, or undertake research into what married politicians prefer in bed with their wives. This information, however, is not considered to be relevant to their work unless the individual decides to make it so. This seems to me eminently sensible. I would no more wish for the press to reveal whether or not I were gay to the public than I would want them to reveal whether or not I had a phobia of sheep, or my home address or whether my mother had a mental breakdown. The right of the individual concern to some privacy, and their ability to (roughly) indicate and agree with the media where these limits should be, seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable one. Whether or not the decision to hide these things is the RIGHT one or not for other gay people, the fact remains that the right to privacy has to be respected.
posted by barbelith at 5:52 PM on March 4, 2001


True, the right to privacy must be respected; that goes without saying. However, the media doesn't shy away from saying "Al Gore and his wife, Tipper" when reporting on an occasion where the two appeared in public together (thereby outing Gore as a flaming heterosexual), and gays should expect to be treated similarly. In other words, if a news report would normally mention (or imply) the relationship between a heterosexual couple, it should also mention (or imply) the relationship if the couple happens to be gay. There are instances when this obviously doesn't happen, and if gays object to this, I certainly don't blame them -- especially if it happens at the request of the individuals being covered.
posted by kindall at 6:42 PM on March 4, 2001


"Treat gays the same as straights" in reporting sounds logical, but it ignores the fact that society doesn't treat them the same. These people being reported on have lives to live and in some circles, being identified as gay would make it harder. I think it would behoove a journalist to consider the wishes of the subject and how he thinks a "casual" reference to his orientation might affect his career, family, etc. It's his life and if it's not relevant to a story, I can't see why it should be reported. The only kind of situation I can imagine it being OK to "out" someone is if he were being hypocritical by actively denouncing the gay "lifestyle." Then his orientation becomes a legitimate part of a story.

The kind of opinion I have the least respect for on this topic is the one that says or implies that the closet-cases have to be dragged out for their own good and for the greater good of the gay community. They don't. They are the only ones that have to live their lives, they don't "owe" anything to anyone, and they should make those kinds of decisions for themselves.

Mark
posted by mw at 8:22 PM on March 4, 2001


What bothers me most , I guess, is that gays can be "out" to those who are supposed to represent them to the public (the media), and trust the media not to out them to the public. That seems to me a far too cozy relationship between reporter and subject. It's one thing if the subject reveals their sexuality on background. But if you are a reporter, and you see your subject publicly engaging in affectionate behavior with a person of the same sex, and the subject (knowing you saw this and taking no real steps to hide it from you) asks you not to mention they're gay in your article, I don't see where that's fair to the reporter or to the public. If you are "out" to the public you should be "out" to the whole public, not just to the small segment it doesn't bother. It's one thing to have your arm around your lover while being interviewed in your own home; it's another to do the same at a public function and ask that it not be reported. If a person is widely known by reporters to be gay because of their behavior in public, I don't see any reason they should be obligated not to mention that when it's relevant.
posted by kindall at 10:39 PM on March 4, 2001


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