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Behind Washington's Closet Door.
May 7, 2009 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Outrage is the new flick by Kirby Dick which outs gay politicians in Washington who dedicate their careers to reducing rights for gay people.

Kirby Dick Previously.
posted by gman (179 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm generally opposed to outing, and I'm not sure I can advocate it even for these asshats. But really, no one has any business exorcising the demons of their own self-loathing by creating an environment that encourages the continued self-loathing, and the despair, and the sense of futility, experienced by so many others. So I guess they probably deserve it, inasmuch as anyone deserves to have their sexuality made into an issue.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:38 PM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Doesn't the practice of outing undermine the important principle that someone's sexual preferences/practices aren't the public's business as long as they're not hurting anyone?
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:42 PM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


They are indeed hurting others.
posted by gman at 3:44 PM on May 7, 2009 [47 favorites]


To play devil's advocate: They are hurting anyone.
posted by found missing at 3:44 PM on May 7, 2009


I'm generally opposed to outing

This doesn't seem to be about "outing", at least, based on the words of Kirby Dick. The Salon link is a definitely worth reading, for people who are interested to learn his motivations in making this film.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:45 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


To play advocate: They hurt.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:45 PM on May 7, 2009


Doesn't the practice of outing undermine the important principle that someone's sexual preferences/practices aren't the public's business as long as they're not hurting anyone?

Not in the instances where the person outed is in a position of power and votes against the interests and rights of gays/lesbians.
posted by ericb at 3:45 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


To play hurt.
posted by found missing at 3:46 PM on May 7, 2009


Doesn't the practice of outing undermine the important principle that someone's sexual preferences/practices aren't the public's business as long as they're not hurting anyone?

Are you sure they aren't hurting anyone? The subjects of this film are clearly behaving in ways that hurt themselves and other gays and lesbians, by voting for homophobic legislation. Perhaps it's important to distinguish "outing" from what this film intends to do — I would recommend reading what Kirby Dick says in the Salon article.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:47 PM on May 7, 2009


When a person in power is actively engaged in oppressing gay people, I see nothing wrong with outing them.
posted by Mavri at 3:48 PM on May 7, 2009


Welcome to Effigy2000's brain, where as he reads this thread, tonight is cliché night.

1) Hmmm, I'm not sure if two wrongs make a right.
2) But then, I guess the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
3) Maybe the ends (possibly ending discrimination against homosexuals) justify the means.

Fuck this, I'm off to eat a hamburger.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:49 PM on May 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


If someone in office was passing legislation making it illegal for Jews to marry, and refusing to fund Tay-Sachs research, and was making public statements saying Jews were sinners and would go to hell, and then on Friday tossed on a yarmulka and lit the shabbos candles, I would out him as a Yid every chance I got.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:50 PM on May 7, 2009 [39 favorites]


Don't think anyone, except hypocrites, should be outed against their will. Luckily, DC is full of hypocrites.
posted by Falconetti at 3:50 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Andy Towle's review of the documentary.

CNN's Don Lemon Talks to Kirby Dick, Michelangelo Signorile, and Log Cabin Republican Charles Moran about 'Outrage' [video | 09:55].
posted by ericb at 3:53 PM on May 7, 2009


Fuck this, I'm off to eat a hamburger.
posted by Effigy2000


A gay hamburger?

So, in this interview, which is linked to in the first link of the post, the interviewer refers to Matt Drudge & Shep Smith as being closeted. I'd heard the rumors about Drudge... but Shep Smith? Really? He's the only decent human on Fox News, and if he's gay also, well, I seriously feel for him having to work with those vultures.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:55 PM on May 7, 2009


Of course, by "as long as they're not hurting anyone," I meant as long as their sexual practices/preferences aren't hurting anyone.

I thought that was supposed to be the principle that liberals and libertarians believe in.

So it doesn't make much sense to say "they are hurting anyone."

Surely you don't think that any person who, in any area of their life, hurts people, should lose their privacy.
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:55 PM on May 7, 2009


If a closeted politician is making political hay by making sexuality a political issue by advocating for the restriction of rights for glbt people, all while enjoying the benefits of his boy on the side, he should remember he's living in a glass house. When "family values" politicians make "family values" a centerpiece of their political life even as they violate the very tenets they advocate (hello Newt Gingrich!) - whether they're cheating on their wives with a man or a woman - well, I find it hard to cry about.
posted by rtha at 3:56 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


This smacks of playgroundy bullshit.

"Gay people suck."
"Oh yeah? YOU'RE gay."
"Am not!"
"Are too!"

I'm all for outing jackasses as jackasses. But I don't get extra kicks out of them being hypocritical jackasses on top of their jackassness qualities. If we successfully convict someone for being a bank robber, I don't think we need to all jump out of our shit about how they've got a bunch of parking tickets, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:56 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


The subjects of this film are clearly behaving in ways that hurt themselves and other gays and lesbians...

That's a political opinion, that you should act upon in a political way: by voting them out of office. It is the height of arrogance to take personal revenge upon a public servant simply because you disagree with their judgement in office. That's what voting is for. To force your version of "outness" on someone else is totalitarian, homophobic, and a spiritual crime. You have no right to punish them for not living up to your version of gayness you self-righteous prigs.
posted by Faze at 3:57 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's not like there's a law against Republicans being gay. But, do not worry, for the Republican party is not an immovable rock, overgrown with moss, it progresses as mightily as the Mississippi. I envision a future where gay Republicans, poor Republicans, female Republicans, latin Republicans and black Republicans can all come together and vote against their best interests in Harmony.
posted by stavrogin at 3:59 PM on May 7, 2009 [10 favorites]


Surely you don't think that any person who, in any area of their life, hurts people, should lose their privacy.

It takes two to have gay sex -- or three, or more. Your expectations of privacy diminish as others get involved. I do not prohibit past partners from talking about my sex life, and am not in a position to, because it is their sex life too. If any of these politicians' past partners want to discuss their sexual experiences, they are not violating anybody's privacy. They are discussing their autobiographies.

I encourage past partners to talk about our sex life.</small?
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:00 PM on May 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


Lawmakers have infinitely more power to hurt people - including me - than the average closeted joe who works as a bus driver or teacher or pilot.

If those lawmakers publicly get about and talk shit about homos destroying marriage, molesting kids, or converting straight people, and those same lawmakers are being all secretly gay in the sack (or the airport bathroom, as the case may be), do you really think that their rhetoric and their ability to sponsor and pass legislation that may restrict where gay people can work or live or keep their kids in a custody fight or visit their hospitalized not-legally-recognized partners doesn't count as "hurting"?
posted by rtha at 4:00 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doesn't the practice of outing undermine the important principle that someone's sexual preferences/practices aren't the public's business as long as they're not hurting anyone?

Not in the instances where the person outed is in a position of power and votes against the interests and rights of gays/lesbians.


I don't think it's as simple as that though. It would certainly undermine the principle of democracy if people in favor of other forms of government (communists, neo-fascists, anarchists, etc.) were denied the right to vote. I think there is a balancing act here in terms of respecting the privacy of sexual orientation and trying to undermine the people who are actively working against gay rights.
posted by burnmp3s at 4:02 PM on May 7, 2009


I find it interesting that Astro Zombie tags his sex life with:

small?
posted by found missing at 4:02 PM on May 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


These are people who want to make other people's sexual orientation a prominent factor -- in deciding what rights they have, what jobs they can hold, etc. They are not above the law, so if they feel it is their right to interfere in other people's personal relationships, they should have their personal relationships similarly made public spectacle. Hopefully one day we can get to the point where no one gives a shit if you're a breeder or a queer, but for now, these are things that have an impact. Perhaps by outing these douches, we can get more people to realize that being gay is not something shameful, something to be punished. By forcing them to come to terms with it, perhaps they'll stop punishing others for it.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:03 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


If those lawmakers publicly get about and talk shit about homos destroying marriage, molesting kids, or converting straight people, and those same lawmakers are being all secretly gay in the sack (or the airport bathroom, as the case may be), do you really think that their rhetoric and their ability to sponsor and pass legislation that may restrict where gay people can work or live or keep their kids in a custody fight or visit their hospitalized not-legally-recognized partners doesn't count as "hurting"?

Of course that could accurately be described as "hurting," but that's besides the point. See above.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:04 PM on May 7, 2009


It takes two to have gay sex -- or three, or more. Your expectations of privacy diminish as others get involved. I do not prohibit past partners from talking about my sex life, and am not in a position to, because it is their sex life too.

Astro Zombie, that's a reasonable argument, but it doesn't contradict what I said. That's just saying you don't think there's a privacy concern to begin with, not that they somehow waive the usual right to privacy by supporting discriminatory legislation.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:06 PM on May 7, 2009


I find it interesting that Astro Zombie tags his sex life with:

small?


As soon as I saw that, I knew somebody would comment on it, and that their comments would get more favorites than mine, and my heart sank.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:07 PM on May 7, 2009 [24 favorites]


When a person in power is actively engaged in oppressing gay people, I see nothing wrong with outing them.

People like Arthur J. Finkelstein, the prominent Republican consultant who has directed a series of hard-edged political campaigns to elect conservatives in the United States on an anti-gay platform.

An October 1996 Boston Magazine article on Mr. Finkelstein outed him as living with his gay partner on the North Shore of Boston, where they share custody of two adopted children.

In the article ("The Secret Life of Arthur J. Finkelstein") journalist Stephen Rodrick reported: "He has become a millionaire by working for politicians whose policies attack a very important and intimate part of his life. Specifically, four of Finkelstein's clients in the Senate - Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Bob Smith of New Hampshire, Don Nickles of Oklahoma and North Carolina's Lauch Faircloth - form the core opposition to nearly all gay issues before Congress."

In response to the article Finklestein issued a statement: "I keep my private life separate from my business life-something my friends and clients understand, appreciate and respect."

Such hypocrisy! He married his male partner at his estate north of Boston in 2005.

[previously - 1, 2].
posted by ericb at 4:07 PM on May 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


I thought that was supposed to be the principle that liberals and libertarians believe in.

I see no contradiction in my support for sexual freedom and my desire to see reporting on the corrupt behavior of politicians whose hypocritical actions hurt — genuinely hurt — millions of people.

You have no right to punish them for not living up to your version of gayness you self-righteous prigs.

It's not punishing, it is reporting. It's a documentary about politicians hurting Americans by behaving in a fraudulent manner. It's up to people to decide for themselves if having a politician who behaves fraudulently is in their best interests.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:08 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Astro Zombie, that's a reasonable argument, but it doesn't contradict what I said. That's just saying you don't think there's a privacy concern to begin with, not that they somehow waive the usual right to privacy by supporting discriminatory legislation.

True. I think the issue is one of modesty, rather than privacy; I would feel differently if it were detectives following gay men into bathrooms to take photos of their trysts, which I would generally oppose. But if you fuck a gay man, then fuck him over in congress, and then he outs you, you don't get to wah wah wah privacy. You didn't sign a no-tell contract with the guy, and he has the right to tell his own story. He might not have, for the sake of modesty, right up until the moment your hypocrisy became a bigger issue than his modesty.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:10 PM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Again, before the kneejerk "it's wrong to out" comments keep going, people should really read the Salon interview. It sheds a great deal of light on what is incorrect about some of the automatic responses here in this thread.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:11 PM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


In response to the article Finklestein issued a statement: "I keep my private life separate from my business life-something my friends and clients understand, appreciate and respect."

Of course your clients understand that, or they wouldn't be your clients. Now your friends ....

But the issue isn't that of business vs. personal lives. Homophobia should never be seen as a business, it's morals. Selling cigarettes to minors? Eh, that's business. Lucrative, too, because all those other namby-pamby follow-the-law types are busy ignoring their god-given right to supply to the demand!
posted by filthy light thief at 4:16 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think there is a balancing act here in terms of respecting the privacy of sexual orientation and trying to undermine the people who are actively working against gay rights.

Eh, but once you say it's this delicate balancing act, you do undermine the principle that some other guy's sexual preferences/practices are that guy's personal business and don't somehow harm the public. I would like that to be an ironclad principle, not one that can be easily "balanced" out by items on someone's political agenda, even an agenda I agree with.

About 10 or 20 people in this thread have said, "They DO harm others," but they harm others through supporting bad legislation. So attack the policies by making convincing arguments against them. Attack their personal lives? Once you do that, you look ugly, and the person you're attacking actually becomes sympathetic. Astro Zombie might be technically correct that it's not a horrendous privacy breach, but I'm not just talking about privacy rights; I'm talking about PR. This is just not going to sit well with a lot of people -- especially the people who aren't yet convinced, but could potentially be convinced, of the necessity of equal rights for gays.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:17 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


If a politician is campaigning in favor of reinstating prohibition, should it be out of bounds to publish photos that show them tossing back a martini at an out-of-town hotel bar?

If a Congressman is constantly working for more stringent drug sentencing laws and increased funding for War On Drugs activities, should it be permissible to reveal that they were seen in an Amsterdam hash bar, not just inhaling but holding like a pro?

What about a pastor who preaches fire and brimstone against New Age beliefs, but regularly visits a palm reader "for counseling"?

I could go on and on, but I hardly see the difference between any of the above hypocrisies and outing a gay man who votes to keep gays as second-class citizens. They are all equally perverse, and show a personal conflict which stands against their ability to lead because it compromises their better judgement.
posted by hippybear at 4:18 PM on May 7, 2009 [19 favorites]


Attack their personal lives?

It's not an attack, if you support gay rights.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:19 PM on May 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


I could also mention something about politicians not really having a "private life" per se, as part of the devil's bargain they make when they strive to run for PUBLIC office.

It's not like they're outing the CEOs of private corporations, here.
posted by hippybear at 4:21 PM on May 7, 2009


Out 'em, their incompetence needs to be made evident. If you're a politician with a body in your trunk, how stupid or blind crazy do you have to be to push through legislation requiring the death penalty for murder? These are people with profound personal problems which limit their ability to serve the public.

Also, I can't stand hearing about the family as the fundamental unit that our country is based on. Since when? In everything I've ever read about our nation's history, it's the individual who is hailed as the dawning future of our collective potential. If anything, our society has counted on us to sacrifice our familial relationships on the altar of duty and productivity.
posted by hermitosis at 4:21 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can't outing in this case simply be classified as "unmasking a liar"? A politician gains popularity by appealing to voters who are homophobic. He deceives them, by stating or implying that he his heterosexual - he has to, otherwise he could not appeal to that crowd. In such a circumstance, outing him is not about the privacy of a gay individual - it is about a politician telling a lie to his constituents. In this case, by lying he loses his right to privacy about this specific aspect of his life. That's different from outing a gay politician whose political raisson d'etre is not built on projecting an image of a heterosexual to homophobic voters.
posted by VikingSword at 4:23 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's not an attack, if you support gay rights.

Of course, I mean: use their personal lives as the basis for trying to undermine them and make them look bad.

I support gay rights. It's still an attack.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:24 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


If any of these gay politicians are married, can we force them to divorce their wives under DOMA legislation? Technically, it's a gay marriage...
posted by hippybear at 4:24 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I see right-wing media reporting on Al Gore's wasteful home energy usage, isn't that a personal attack on Gore? Why shouldn't he be allowed to own a home that wastes a lot of energy and carries a large carbon footprint? It's wrong of us to read about his hypocritical behavior. If he wants to run the AC with the windows open, that's his private affair.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:24 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pertinent piece of the Salon article:

This film looks at the closet as a whole, and how it's existed in American politics over the last several decades, and how it contorts American politics. I'm interested in it as a system, and the damage that it does, not only in the hypocrisy of certain individuals.



Politics is by nature a public activity. If you don't like the director making politicians' sexuality public, then surely you want politcians to stop making the public's sexuality politic?
posted by Sova at 4:24 PM on May 7, 2009 [13 favorites]


Can't outing in this case simply be classified as "unmasking a liar"?

I agree. Consider it less of a "Gotcha!" and more of a "We'd really like you to clarify the logic behind your position, given these new details..."
posted by hermitosis at 4:25 PM on May 7, 2009


In other words, in one case the reason to keep his sexual orientation private is that it is irrelevant to his political platform. In the other case, he cannot keep that orientation private, because he's made that the point of his campaign by explicitly or implicitly saying "I am not gay" - that is a lie. It is then fair game - and no longer private - for he has made it so.
posted by VikingSword at 4:27 PM on May 7, 2009


Yeah, frankly I want to know if a liar is working for me, so I can decide if his lying matters to me or not, and then fire him. But I can't do that if I don't have the information I need.
posted by rtha at 4:28 PM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


About 10 or 20 people in this thread have said, "They DO harm others," but they harm others through supporting bad legislation. So attack the policies by making convincing arguments against them.

As Barney Frank said in the trailer, a bedrock democratic principle is that "the people who make the law should be subject to the law." A secretly gay politician who votes in favor of antigay laws that will never infringe on his own liberties is a violation of the principle. On that basis, simply attacking a bad policy is not enough. You have to struggle against both the hypocrites who uphold that bad policy and the system that enables their hypocrisy.
posted by jonp72 at 4:28 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Of course, I mean: use their personal lives as the basis for trying to undermine them and make them look bad.

I think the point is very clear, if you read the Salon article, that their legislative actions are the basis for undermining them. The documentary is not about gay politicians who are not yet out of the closet. The documentary is about closeted politicians who consistently vote anti-gay.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:28 PM on May 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


In other words, go ahead and disagree with the documentarian's argument and research methods if you want to, but at least try to understand correctly what his premises are before you attack them. Right now, most of the "outing is wrong!" comments in this thread are attacking strawmen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:31 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


He deceives them, by stating or implying that he his heterosexual - he has to, otherwise he could not appeal to that crowd. In such a circumstance, outing him is not about the privacy of a gay individual - it is about a politician telling a lie to his constituents.

But is being against gay rights implying that you're heterosexual? I don't think so.

People say that someone like Larry Craig is a hypocrite because he's against same-sex marriage while being in a sham heterosexual marriage and engaging in gay sex on the side.

But he's not a hypocrite.

He supports a law that prevents gays from openly, fully expressing their love for each other. He supports a law that encourages gays to stay closeted and enter sham heterosexual marriages, since that's what people feel pressured to do if homosexuality is seen as forbidden and out-of-the-mainstream.

He's actually done a remarkable job of living with the consequences of the very policy he advocates. That's not hypocrisy.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:31 PM on May 7, 2009


Bauman has had a successful career since then as a tax attorney specializing in offshore-banking issues douchenozzle.

TFTFY
posted by heathkit at 4:32 PM on May 7, 2009


I really don't see the objection to this. We have no problem with sunshine laws "outing" politicians who are taking kickbacks from legislation they sponsor or behave hypocritically in other ways. What's the real difference here?
posted by DU at 4:32 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: I don't think I've missed any of that.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:33 PM on May 7, 2009


If you don't like the director making politicians' sexuality public, then surely you want politcians to stop making the public's sexuality politic?

Yes, exactly.

That's my whole point.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:33 PM on May 7, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: I don't think I've missed any of that.

I think you have. Please do read what the documentarian says his film is about.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:34 PM on May 7, 2009


2) But then, I guess the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Spock? Surely you mean Sulu.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:35 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


We have no problem with sunshine laws "outing" politicians who are taking kickbacks from legislation they sponsor or behave hypocritically in other ways. What's the real difference here?

There would only be an analogy if politicians somehow got to have gay sex through opposing gay rights.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:36 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's actually done a remarkable job of living with the consequences of the very policy he advocates. That's not hypocrisy.

Um... I'm not sure Larry Craig just went quietly into the night when he came up against the consequences of his policy. Didn't he try to get the charges dismissed after he pled guilty to them? He was pulling political strings all over the place to keep from suffering those consequences. THAT is hypocrisy.
posted by hippybear at 4:36 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please do read what the documentarian says his film is about.

Please do explain what I've missed. So far, you haven't pointed out anything I haven't been aware of.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:37 PM on May 7, 2009


He's actually done a remarkable job of living with the consequences of the very policy he advocates.

Where can I send flowers and a nice card?
posted by hermitosis at 4:38 PM on May 7, 2009


But is being against gay rights implying that you're heterosexual? I don't think so.

Most certainly so! Any politician who runs on a platform of scorching opposition to something (say pornography, or communism), wishes to project the image of someone who in his private life also practices what he preaches. We don't have cases of anti-communist politicians who nonetheless are communists to their approving constituents. That is the central flaw in your thesis.
posted by VikingSword at 4:38 PM on May 7, 2009


if politicians somehow got to have gay sex through opposing gay rights

Most get to enjoy their privacy and privileges of office, despite the laws they enact. Arthur Finkelstein is one textbook example.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:39 PM on May 7, 2009


I, for one, welcome all the gay Republicans into the mens rooms of all America.
posted by zzazazz at 4:42 PM on May 7, 2009


Didn't he try to get the charges dismissed after he pled guilty to them? He was pulling political strings all over the place to keep from suffering those consequences. THAT is hypocrisy.

Yeah, once he's doing procedural maneuvers in a criminal case, THAT is public, and maybe it was hypocritical. By all means, let's criticize him for that.

But I don't see the point in criticizing him for having gay sex, even for doing it in a public restroom. I just feel sorry for him -- he's pathetic.

Meanwhile, of course I'll speak out against his policies, but I don't see how the fact that he happens to be a closeted gay man is supposed to bolster those arguments. Gay rights is simply the right position and should be argued for on the merits. I think there are so many slam-dunk arguments for gay rights that we shouldn't need to resort to convoluted debates about whether this or that person is gay. Trying to hound politicians or TV anchors about their sex lives is a distraction from the real issues.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:43 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hounding Al Gore about the energy he wastes is distracting me from buying a copy of An Inconvenient Truth on DVD.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:46 PM on May 7, 2009


Most certainly so! Any politician who runs on a platform of scorching opposition to something (say pornography, or communism), wishes to project the image of someone who in his private life also practices what he preaches. ...That is the central flaw in your thesis.

How about Obama? Admits he's still a cigarette smoker. Signed tough new taxes on cigarettes into law. Gave a speech where he heralded the fact that the taxes would deter people from smoking.

So a politician can project an image of being against something, while doing it.

I'm pretty sure everyone participating in this thread (including me) is for gay rights and sees nothing wrong with being gay. But try to put yourself in someone else's shoes. If you're a voter who truly believes gayness is a scary disease that threatens society, you might sympathize with a gay politician who struggles with his sexuality, just as you and I can sympathize with Obama for struggling to quit smoking (or for that matter, admire Bush for overcoming alcoholism).
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:49 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hounding Al Gore about the energy he wastes is distracting me from buying a copy of An Inconvenient Truth on DVD.

It sure is.

People actually do hound Gore about his carbon emissions. And it is a distraction from the global warming issue. That's a very good analogy.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:50 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


There seems to be this perplexing but widespread premise that members of an oppressed minority group (in this case, GLBT politicians) somehow have an extra moral imperative to act in support of civil rights and fairness, more than straight or asexual or whatever pols do. I utterly reject that. We need to hold every single one of these motherfuckers who vote against common decency and for bigotry equally responsible, and that includes the president, whose public position on this particular issue is craven and weaselly.

The wrongness and basic inhumanity of their views and actions is the only thing that really counts, and it counts equally against all of them without regard to sexual orientation. I don't give a rat's ass about their motivations for those actions or anything they do in private life. They're all hypocrites, spouting off about goodness and justice and the American way and openly promoting second-class citizenship because it sells well to the cheap seats.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:52 PM on May 7, 2009 [11 favorites]


Please do explain what I've missed. So far, you haven't pointed out anything I haven't been aware of.

You keep arguing the documentary is a personal attack, meant to out gay politicians because they are gay. This is actually incorrect, this is disputed frequently by the documentarian himself, several times, and this is why I keep asking you to read his words in his own voice, since you do not agree with anyone who tells you this. Rather, his documentary reports on politicians who consistently vote against the civil rights and freedoms of gays in the United States, and who are themselves closeted homosexuals. This is what is explained in the interview and what you have missed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:53 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kickbacks aren't merely hypocritical; they're illegal. Reporting illegal behavior to the authorities is okay, even commendable. Revealing intimate details about a person's life is, at the very least, a bit less clear cut.

If these people aren't out to begin with, then the people they have revealed their sexuality to have had it revealed in confidence. Breaking that confidence, or seeking to have others break that confidence, says more about the integrity of the outer than it says about the other guy's supposed hypocrisy.

I think there's a tendency among some people to think that their political positions are the only valid ones. But there are plenty of legitimate reasons for a gay person to be against "pro-gay" bills. Some people view hate crimes legislation as an impermissible encroachment on free thought and speech. Some people view gay marriage as too heteronormative, whatever that means. Some of these positions I think are short-sighted, but I still think they're valid feelings to have, and I'm not 100% sure that people deserve to have their personal lives shoved into the media just because they feel that way.
posted by jock@law at 4:53 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


So a politician can project an image of being against something, while doing it.

To clarify, what I meant by this was: a politician can project an image of being against while admitting to doing it -- by using their own weakness as a case study in why it's such a grave problem.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:53 PM on May 7, 2009


You keep arguing the documentary is a personal attack, meant to out gay politicians because they are gay. This is actually incorrect, this is disputed frequently by the documentarian himself, several times, and this is why I keep asking you to read his words in his own voice, since you do not agree with anyone who tells you this. Rather, his documentary reports on politicians who consistently vote against the civil rights and freedoms of gays in the United States, and who are themselves closeted homosexuals.

Huh? That's exactly what I've been assuming the documentary does. Again, I don't see what you think I'm missing.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:54 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yikes, I've been participating in this thread for over an hour, and apparently haven't convinced anyone of anything. Well, that's enough from me.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:55 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


How about Obama? Admits he's still a cigarette smoker. Signed tough new taxes on cigarettes into law. Gave a speech where he heralded the fact that the taxes would deter people from smoking.

Since Obama freely admits to being a smoker, he is not concealing his personal relationship to the legislation. If the voters can stomach that - fine, they are informed.

Now, if Obama was secretly a smoker, while he campaigned on that issue, then he is concealing his personal relationship to that legislation, and the voters have the right to know that. That's when the need to out him enters.

If an anti-gay politician says: I am gay, and I'm opposed to gay marriage - again fine... no need to out him, he is out! The voters are informed.

See the difference?
posted by VikingSword at 4:57 PM on May 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


People actually do hound Gore about his carbon emissions.

As well they should, if it is hypocritical.

And it is a distraction from the global warming issue.

What if I think I'm better off learning about global warming from someone who is not so wasteful? What if my time and money should go to people who are working against global warming, who will not be so wasteful in their efforts with my meager resources? What if I don't want to help pay off Al Gore's monthly energy bill? Are those not reasonable, rational questions?

That's a very good analogy.

It's better than you think: If he's a hypocrite, then I should be able to decide for myself whether his views are accurate and worth hearing. Global warming is a serious enough issue that it deserves an honest representative, especially given how much contention there is getting people on board with the idea that the planet's weather is getting goofy. The public focusing on his supposed hypocrisy is not the distraction, rather, it is Gore's behavior that is the distraction from rationally addressing the issues.

Likewise, I would rather have an honest politician vote against the interests of gay people, who is honest about hating gay people, instead of using his office and position to be allowed to enjoy a secret life while outlawing it for others. A strong democracy benefits from honest leadership.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:03 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Last night's Fresh Air featured an interview with Dan Gurley, one of the outed Republican officials interviewed in Outrage.

To make it short: Gurley, national field director for the RNC, was already out to most of his higher-ups and colleagues. He tried to shoot down anti-gay campaign mailings and was overruled at higher levels. He says that the national party officials were very supportive, understanding and tolerant when he was publicly outed in 2004. He now works as an LGBT activist with Equality NC and bemoans the lack of a third party, one that is both fiscally conservative and socially libertarian.

In general, the more I hear about gay Republicans, the more I picture them as people working to change their party from within with regards to social issues. They're not much different from straight and/or progressive folks who think their work and policy ambitions are more important than their personal relationships.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:12 PM on May 7, 2009


But I don't see the point in criticizing him for having gay sex, even for doing it in a public restroom. I just feel sorry for him -- he's pathetic.

I don't think anyone here has criticized him for having gay sex, or having it in a public restroom. It can be pretty fun.

He got shit for being all "the heterosexual family is awesome and homos are destroying it please elect me and give me money so I can keep you safe from homos!"

There's a difference there.

Like, no one on the queer side of things criticized Ted Haggard for having gay sex with a rent boy. They criticized him for doing that while he demonized OTHER people who might do that - or who might be having gay sex in the context of a committed, monogamous relationship - and you know, you don't get to have your cake and eat it too.
posted by rtha at 5:28 PM on May 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


Kickbacks aren't merely hypocritical; they're illegal.

Yeah, I wrote that unclearly.

1) Politicians who get kickbacks.
2) Politicians who do hypocritical things other than removing rights from their fellow homosexuals.
posted by DU at 5:28 PM on May 7, 2009


This all seems perfectly OK to me. In fact this is what OutRage! did in the UK in the early 90s. I thought it was perfectly OK then, and I think it's perfectly OK now. Indeed I'll go as far as to say that in the political environment that we have in the US this is probably necessary.
posted by ob at 5:45 PM on May 7, 2009


It is the height of arrogance to take personal revenge upon a public servant simply because you disagree with their judgement in office.

What utter horseshit. Pointing out that a publicly homophobic politician is sucking dick in DC bars is hardly "taking personal revenge."
posted by mediareport at 6:10 PM on May 7, 2009


Sunshine is a great disinfectant. What if you could hide being black, or Latino, or Asian, or Jewish? Would that be okay?
I have no, zero, not one tiny bit of sympathy for closeted folks. I was disowned and disinherited for coming out and I am a better person for acknowledging who I am and for not perpetuating the system that keeps gays in a ghetto of self-loathing and "secrets."
Tom Cruise is gay, John Travolta is gay, Gov. Charlie Crist is gay, and on and on. And so what? It should be a non issue but all you patronizing folks who bring up privacy are really bigoted and trying to keep the status quo.
Get over it. Quit obsessing about gay people.
I don't know what straight people do it bed but the thought of it makes me queasy. But I have it rubbed in my face everytime I turn on the tv, open a magazine, see a movie, listen to pop songs. It's all straight, straight, straight. Why can't you people just keep that stuff to yourselves?
Got it?
posted by hooptycritter at 6:14 PM on May 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


Perhaps a useful legal analogy for the hypocrisy/dishonesty angle is conflict of interest. If a closeted gay politician lobbies against gay rights he is not disclosing a vested interest -- even if his advocacy seems to oppose his own self-interest. An openly gay politician who opposes gay rights for any reason (however odd that seems) can at least claim transparency.
posted by binturong at 6:17 PM on May 7, 2009


Here's what I see. Do you folks who are arguing that the personal sex lives of DC politicians should be off-limits agree that the media should NOT have reported on Gary Hart's affair? Or John Edwards'? Or Newt Gingrich's divorce?

When the news media finds straight politician in a sex scandal they do not hesitate for a moment to make it headlines, because scandal sells. And yet - those same reporters in many cases know damn well which congressmen are gay but voting against gay rights, yet the reporters say nothing about it under this guise of "oh, that's their private business."

Well, bullshit. That's a double standard that should stop. Hypocrites should be called out as hypocrites.

Now, if we're talking about outing, say, Hollywood celebrities - yeah, there I'm not sure it does any good. Frankly I don't think the love lives of actors of any orientation is worthy of the attention it gets these days. But when politicians want to legislate my sex life while they go around doing the very things they want me not to do? Then they deserve to have their sex live dragged out in the open.
posted by dnash at 6:21 PM on May 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't know, hooptycritter. I am all for outing the folks who make their sexual preference an issue (as does any anti-gay politician running on the explicit or implicit "I am straight" image), but John Travolta etc. (I have no idea if they are gay or not) do not. In that case, it seems to me, we should let them decide how the want to handle coming out or not.

I understand that it may be good for you in the long run to be outed even against your will (as it seems to have been in the case of several politicians!), but we should not make that decision for them. We should not "force" what's good for others.

So, yes, those who voluntarily make their sexual orientation an issue, it is only right that it be examined and the full force of such examination should be brought to bear on it - it's only fair, as that's part of the discourse. But where it is not - I feel a real argument about privacy can be made.

It is the same reason I would expose a politician who cheated on his wife while running on a "marriage is sacred and I'm a faithful husband" platform, but would leave private one who cheated, but did not run on such a platform (explicit or implicit).
posted by VikingSword at 6:24 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Crist, what an asshole.
posted by oaf at 6:29 PM on May 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ahhhh this is playing right now at HotDocs and I decided to skip it at the last minute. After a day of dotty dotcommers, sad Edmonton pawn shop regulars, murdered Afghani fixers, and Morgan Freeman Brings An End to Racism, I didn't have it in me for some gay rage.

It would have been appropriate though, as I was accosted by some bathroom creepiness today. Think I walked in on some shenanigans, and one of the guys peeped over the stall at me. Gross.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:46 PM on May 7, 2009


Honestly, on this particular issue, I don't care if it's wrong to do it. Fuck 'em.
posted by tzikeh at 6:51 PM on May 7, 2009


Privacy, the liberal concern.
So John Edwards deserves privacy. Child molesting priests and rabbis deserve privacy b/c the truth is too upsetting. What utter and complete horse shit.
Your "privacy" is keeping people in weak positions b/c they have to hide and lie about who they are. Who is more easily blackmailed - an out gay person or a straight adulterer? But the army has a ton of adulterers who will not get dishonorable discharges if their secrets come out.
Seriously, get over it.
Your "privacy" is oppression.
We do not need you to invite us over to dinner but get out of our way. Stop the subtle ber very real bigotry. I am not a weak sissy or unhappy tortured token character in your tv drama. I can be that angry faggot if the need arises.
If Fred Phelps was talking about blacks or Jews his hate would have been shut down long ago.
posted by hooptycritter at 6:52 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


yellow binder - how many times have you made inappropriate comments and gestures to women who have the same sort of disgust when you act like an ass.
I love how you straight guys turn into the most delicate creatures when you get the feeling no matter how irrational and narcissistic, that your mangina may be threatened by some Tom of Finland gay overlord.
posted by hooptycritter at 6:56 PM on May 7, 2009


I'm finding this whole topic thought provoking, and very complicated. It is not immediately obvious to me whether or not it is right to "out" secretly gay politicians who vote in ways that seem anti-gay.

In the Salon interview, Kirby Dick says this is not about outing gay politicians, it's about outing hypocritical politicians. I think that's a meaningful distinction, but I'm not totally sure about the hypocrisy.

What I mean is, these politicians are voting against things like allowing gay marriage, and equal heath benefits for same-sex partners. I'm assuming that since the are still "in the closet", these politicians aren't married to or claiming benefits for their own same-sex partners.

In that case, they aren't actually voting against things they themselves have done or are doing. It seems possible, though weird, that a gay politician could be personally against gay marriage. If they were voting to outlaw (or continue prohibition of) homosexual activity, the hypocrisy case would be a lot clearer to me.

I'm also thinking about the role of elected officials. I want them to vote in favor of what I think is right. Ideally, they would agree with me on a personal level, so I try to vote for politicians whose personal views match my own. Those with different views would presumably vote for different politicians. But there is never a perfect match, so ultimately I think being in a democratic system, politicians should be voting based on what the majority of their constituents think is right--even if they personally disagree.

That leads me to the (for me, very uncomfortable) thought that a gay politician should vote in an "anti-gay" way if that's what the majority of the voters think is right. In which case I can't call it hypocrisy if they do that, and the problem is not the politician, but the constituents themselves.

Moving on to the idea of "outing": in general I think that people's sexual orientation is a private matter and should only become public to the extent that each person decides it should be. So I am, in general, against "outing". Kirby Dick says his intent is to out hypocrisy, but the effect is still very much to out sexual orientation of these politicians as well. Even if that isn't what he's going for, it is what he's doing.

However, by voting to enact (or continue) laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, I ask myself, aren't they making a public issue of everyone's sexual orientation? Yes, I think they are. I'm still not sure that justifies making the politician's orientation a public issue in return, though.

It seems to me the real problem is people who think discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is OK, I'm guessing because deep down they still feel there is something "wrong" with being gay. If those people can be somehow convinced to change their mindset about this, then the reasons for politicians to be in the closet, and for others to out them, seem to evaporate. As does the the impact of outing anyone, when being gay is no longer seen as a bad thing by anyone. I'm not sure that outing (arguably) hypocritical politicians is going to change anyone else's mind about homosexuality, though.

Wow... this ended up a much longer comment than I had intended when I started to write it.
posted by FishBike at 7:02 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hooptycritter, your comment is hilarious. Dude I'm gay, I don't care what people do, but I admit I have a problem with bathroom sex, especially in the middle of the day in a pretty public place.

I know it's a practice that goes back to the days when gay men couldn't be open and had to seek each other our in such ways, and that it's become tradition among some gay people.

But honestly, I don't think it's an inalienable gay right to be able to have sex wherever and if someone takes issue with it, the only possible reason is because they're homophobic.

I personally don't enjoy being peeped on when I'm trying to take a shit, yeah, I find it creepy and gross, and frankly I get why the straight guys hooptycritter mentions feel the same way.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:17 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


yellowbinder - creepy and gross is creepy and gross whether it is straight, gay, whatever, that is my point. Tearooms and all that other stuff will be relics when LGBT people live openly.
posted by hooptycritter at 7:32 PM on May 7, 2009


Is it ok to expose straight extramarital affairs by politicians? Because if that's ok, then this is ok, too.
posted by The World Famous at 7:43 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tearooms and all that other stuff will be relics when LGBT people live openly.

Oh, my. Stars In My Pockets Like Grains Of Sand is a book which has moved me SO deeply as a meditation on differences and threads of similarity and empathy across cultures... Stunning work (as is most of Delaney). Anyway...

In the book, which is set VERY far in the future when humanity is considerably more socially advanced than it is today, there are the Runs. Specific, enclosed spaces which are designed for casual anonymous sexual contact. There are very stringent social rules about approach and acceptance or refusal, but just the idea of the existence of such a place... acknowledging that, for some, there IS a drive to have random nameless shared orgasms... It is a bold concept, but I think it's one that I would support.

Seriously, read that book. Jeez. There's a speech at the end which reduces me to tearful jello every time I read it. Hell, even as I type this. *snif* Damn. I need a drink.
posted by hippybear at 7:47 PM on May 7, 2009


I envision a future where gay Republicans, poor Republicans, female Republicans, latin Republicans and black Republicans can all come together and vote against their best interests in Harmony.

The Republicans are built off this kind of thing. Whether it's gays or poor people.
posted by JHarris at 7:55 PM on May 7, 2009


DAH that's just what you said okay I somehow missed it I'm feeling pretty stupid now maybe I should just shut up bye-bye.
posted by JHarris at 7:57 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


oaf: "Crist, what an asshole."


I see what you did there.
posted by notsnot at 8:07 PM on May 7, 2009


People actually do hound Gore about his carbon emissions.

Yes, the plumber has had the vegan chili talk with him several times.





I just came in to say that.
posted by saysthis at 8:12 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tearooms and all that other stuff will be relics when LGBT people live openly.


Man, I hope not! I've been out since I was about 12 but I still enjoy a anonymous sex as much as the next guy.

Personally, my reaction to this documentary is mostly a dull surprise that we're still talking about this. I was in Queer Nation in the early 90s when this was being argued in the letters section of queer rags across the nation.

Look at it this way: These are the dudes who are making sexuality a public issue - they're the ones who want to legislate sexuality. If its a public issue, then they have to deal with it being public.
posted by serazin at 8:44 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


It sheds a great deal of light on what is incorrect about some of the automatic responses here in this thread.

it sheds no light for those of us who are concerned about the corruption of our politics and our republic by tabloid journalism - it sheds no light for those who are now leading "politically acceptable" lives, are talented, intelligent leaders, but feel they dare not run for office because of some kind of "skeleton" in their closet - it sheds no light for those of us who would like to vote on the ISSUES instead of who was doing who, whether they inhaled or ...

... what the definition of "is" is - how quickly we forget that the number 1 sex scandal in american history targetted a democratic president

live by the sword, die by the sword

frankly, i'm more interested in who's trading votes for money these days than i am who's trading bodily fluids - but i guess catching someone with their pants down is a lot more sexy than catching them with their wallet full

but as long as you've got your seat at the peep show, who cares if someone's breaking into your car and home and robbing you blind?

bread, peepholes and cricuses - juvenal would be amused

just remember that you get the political culture you deserve
posted by pyramid termite at 8:52 PM on May 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


and by corruption of the body politic, i mean this - an atmosphere in which accusations that president x is a muslim and not a real american citizen are more readily accepted, simply because, well, "they said something outrageous about OUR people, so ..."

want change? - start talking about issues, not people
posted by pyramid termite at 8:57 PM on May 7, 2009


Let me ask an honest and respectful rhetorical question.

It's generally considered that if a person claims a true subjective belief in something really wacky -- let's call it "Gotam, Lord of Fire" -- then the public can safely, logically and consistently deem him to be wrong on all counts. In other words, there are some purely subjective beliefs that cannot EVER be accepted, reconciled or justified by a person in their right mind.

Given that, is it possible for a gay person, living a gay lifestyle, to be honestly against modern, popular notions of gay rights? Or is it that any gay person espousing this belief within the bounds of the Constitution is not only a hypocrite, but actively harming others?

I'll give you an analogy ... if a woman came up to you and said, "I don't think women should have the right to vote, because it could harm society" do you merely disagree with her, or does she automatically go into the "Gotam, Lord of Fire" camp?

There is some woman somewhere that loves wearing her burqa. Is she wrong? Is she being hypocritical when she recommends that her friends wear burqas?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:06 PM on May 7, 2009


It's clear to me a lot of people in this thread have never themselves come out. And by that, I mean, it's clear half of you just aren't queer and just don't know how it works.

You don't come out with adorable little embossed calling cards, politely announcing your sexuality. You come out when you meet someone online for sex. Or when you kiss your first boyfriend in the band hall after school. Or when you forget to clear the cache on your computer and your mom finds a treasure trove of gay porn. Coming out isn't a nice, neat, tidy little event that you have a lot of control over. Often it slips out sideways while you're trying your darndest to keep it under wraps. Sometimes, when you're lucky, you get to sit down and have a conversation with someone about it on your own terms.

To say that these people have been outed by documentary film-makers is a ridiculous assertion. These people have outed themselves a hundred times over: cruising bars, answering personal ads, living quietly with partners, in casual conversation, in sly innuendo. Public figures and their defenders are holding on to a notion that seems silly to those who have come out: that because they haven't personally addressed America about their sexuality, that it is somehow still a secret. Sorry Charlie (Crist), YOU let the cat out of the bag; there's no use putting the bag over your head now and pretending it makes you invisible.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:08 PM on May 7, 2009 [10 favorites]


I really don't understand how anyone can really cry boo-hoo for hypocritical politicians. Seriously, it's quite beyond me.
posted by ob at 10:03 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


More of Barney Frank on the issue: "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSDQQtHKakU"
posted by SSinVan at 10:47 PM on May 7, 2009


the notion that one's sexual orientation is or should in any way be 'private' is purely homophobic. no one ever speaks of the 'privacy' of a straight persons sexual orientation, do they? as far as people who 'choose' to hide in a closet, well, they need to be taken to the nearest psychiatrist. there's something wrong with them.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:50 PM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Given that, is it possible for a gay person, living a gay lifestyle, to be honestly against modern, popular notions of gay rights?

Sure, but that person is not in his or her right mind with respect to possessing instincts for self-preservation and is probably not long for this world. Sorry to Godwin the thread, but the analogy seems brutally and tragically applicable.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:18 AM on May 8, 2009


There's a shading to the argument Kirby Dick is making that I haven't seen anyone bring up yet. Part of the reason Dick wants to out closeted politicians who legislate against gays is because closeted legislators actually have a stronger motivation to legislate against gays, to prove their heterosexual bona fides. If you're a gay politician who decides to stay in the closet for political reasons, you'll want to inoculate yourself against the suspicion of being gay, so you'll be more virulently anti-gay.

Call it the methinks-thou-doth-protest-too-much principle.

This means that outing gay politicians who legislate homophobically makes perfect sense as a political tactic. If the closet is a key motivation behind their anti-gay legislation, you deny them the option of the closet. In this shading, the closet actually distorts the political process. It's not just that they're gay and promoting anti-gay legislation, it's that the closet is actually driving them to promote anti-gay legislation.

I do think it has to be acknowledged that if you're against outing politicians because deeply private behavior -- even if hypocritical -- should still be private, then you are (by and large) against publicizing sex scandals in which no crime is committed, yes? So John Edwards should have been off the hook, Bill Clinton, Kwame Kilpatrick, Gary Hart, etc.

I still haven't figured out where I stand on this, but thought these points needed to be made.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 12:53 AM on May 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


the notion that one's sexual orientation is or should in any way be 'private' is purely homophobic. no one ever speaks of the 'privacy' of a straight persons sexual orientation, do they? as far as people who 'choose' to hide in a closet, well, they need to be taken to the nearest psychiatrist. there's something wrong with them.

No, it's a general principle, not just for homosexuality. I'm sure many people participating in this thread were adamant, back in 1998, that Bill Clinton's private sex life isn't the public's business.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:35 AM on May 8, 2009


Welcome back!
posted by gman at 5:41 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm sure many people participating in this thread were adamant, back in 1998, that Bill Clinton's private sex life isn't the public's business.

If Bill Clinton had been pushing anti-blowjob legislation, then I would have felt his oral escapades with the beret-clad intern was the public's business. And I still think it would make a dynamite erotic novel.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:28 AM on May 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Heterosexual scandals are just a sort of watered down version of this, in which a politician has campaigned under the guise of being a "family man," dragging his wife and/or kids out onto the stage and plastering them on his posters and so forth. It's the hypocrisy people feed on, and I think it's far less valid than instances which prove a direct conflict of legislative intrest.

When it comes to Clinton, I believe he never should have been asked those questions, because they really were personal. However, when asked, he chose to lie about them, and I think that was a seriously stupid mistake, opening the door to far wider speculation about his suitability. I think this even though I can imagine lying would be second-nature in that situation. Whether he made a stupid mistake in having the affair really isn't for me to say.

As for Hart, he literally dared the press to come up with any dirt about him. He told NY Times Magazine "Follow me around. I don't care... I'm serious. If anyone wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'd be very bored." Almost immediately, the Miami Herald reported that he'd spent the weekend with a young blonde woman. Cue drums.
posted by hermitosis at 6:34 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jaltcoh Bill Clinton's private sex life isn't the public's business.

It's interesting that you have such a bee in your bonnet about "liberal hypocrisy" and yet you so arduously defend freedom of hypocrisy here. Clinton's sex life was almost irrelevant to his performance as president. He wasn't elected on the basis that no-one should ever get a blowjob from an intern and that those who did should be ostracised and treated as second-class citizens. He didn't spend years of his life and millions of his supporters' dollars whipping up rage against intern-screwers in order to get the ignorant public out in droves to vote for him and his, so he could get the numbers and power to get the rest of his obnoxious agenda through.

But that is what these Republicans did, and do. A proportion of their voters support them on the basis that (in summary) they hate the gays. Were they aware that the politician was himself gay, those voters would react with disgust and feel betrayed. He therefore has been elected on the basis of a lie. He has deceived his constituents, and that is something that is so fundamentally harmful to the concept of democracy, in the same way that perjury is harmful to justice, that it ought not be tolerated in the slightest, ever.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:37 AM on May 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Given that, is it possible for a gay person, living a gay lifestyle, to be honestly against modern, popular notions of gay rights?

I suppose so, but given that the very right to be non-heterosexual is one of the rights enshrined in "modern, popular notions of gay rights" the person either must inevitably be arrogant enough to believe that he or she is permitted behavior prohibited to others or masochistic enough to campaign against his or her own existence. Or both. Still, if your hypothetical openly gay politician wants to openly oppose "modern, popular notions of gay rights" then let him or her do so. What a hilarious campaign that would be!

I've been participating in this thread for over an hour, and apparently haven't convinced anyone of anything.

Because you're making an absurd argument. You are claiming that not only do politicians have "the right" to privately and deceitfully engage in behavior which they publicly condemn and in many cases strive to legally prohibit--a "right" which they do have in some very broadly construed sense of the word, i.e. it isn't illegal to do so--but also that they are also owed respect for doing so, owed respect to such a degree that it is required of us to never remark on such deceit.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:16 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since Obama freely admits to being a smoker, he is not concealing his personal relationship to the legislation. If the voters can stomach that - fine, they are informed.

You're mischaracterizing Obama's willingness to admit to being a smoker.

Saying he "freely admitted" it is a stretch.

He occasionally, reluctantly admits it, after lots of questioning, and even then only equivocally. He doesn't go around boasting about being a smoker.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:27 AM on May 8, 2009


you're making an absurd argument. You are claiming that not only do politicians have "the right" to privately and deceitfully engage in behavior which they publicly condemn and in many cases strive to legally prohibit--a "right" which they do have in some very broadly construed sense of the word, i.e. it isn't illegal to do so--but also that they are also owed respect for doing so, owed respect to such a degree that it is required of us to never remark on such deceit.

They're trying to "legally prohibit" gay sex? How can they do that in light of the Supreme Court's holding in Lawrence v. Texas?
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:29 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're trying to "legally prohibit" gay sex? How can they do that in light of the Supreme Court's holding in Lawrence v. Texas?

OK, how about this--they're trying to prohibit gay people from getting married, serve in the military, be protected under hate crimes legislation, etc. If Bill Clinton were trying to prohibit people who engage in oral sex from getting married, serving in the military, etc. then his blow job is fair game. Otherwise, it's not. Bill Clinton does not work to support your argument.
posted by Mavri at 7:38 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


They're trying to "legally prohibit" gay sex?

Why don't you respond to my broader point: why is it more reprehensible to talk about people who deceitfully engage in behavior they publicly condemn, than it is to deceitfully engage in behavior that you've publicly condemned?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:39 AM on May 8, 2009


It's interesting that you have such a bee in your bonnet about "liberal hypocrisy" and yet you so arduously defend freedom of hypocrisy here. Clinton's sex life was almost irrelevant to his performance as president. He wasn't elected on the basis that no-one should ever get a blowjob from an intern and that those who did should be ostracised and treated as second-class citizens.

I wouldn't be so quick to assume he wasn't elected on a basis that was inconsistent with his extra-marital affair.

His theme was to be a champion of everyday people who "play by the rules." He used his power to violate the rules of his marriage.

He created an image of being a good husband who was extraordinarily respectful to his wife Hillary Clinton.

He fostered a liberal, feminist image for himself, yet he emotionally abused Hillary Clinton, and he allegedly assaulted women.

While his relationship with Monica Lewinsky was consensual, you have to admit it's really inappropriate and manipulative for an ultra-powerful boss in his 50s (married or not) to have a dalliance with an intern in her early 20s.

What he did was wrong, and it was inconsistent with the image he generally tried to project. But I regret the fact that these things came to dominate the public debate, because I think people's private sex lives should be their own business, and I think sex distracted from the real issues facing the country.

I'm not trying to defend "freedom of hypocrisy." I despise these people just as much as you do. I simply think the hypocrisy angle is distracting and potentially off-putting to people who are on the borderline on gay rights. I fervently want to convince the whole country to let my loved ones who are gay or bisexual to be able to marry and serve in the military, and I think the arguments in favor of this are so convincing, that it bothers me to see people who are basically on my side engage in witch hunts like this, which are at best a waste of time and at worst counterproductive.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:42 AM on May 8, 2009


Why don't you respond to my broader point: why is it more reprehensible to talk about people who deceitfully engage in behavior they publicly condemn, than it is to deceitfully engage in behavior that you've publicly condemned?

I think I've made my position pretty clear. If you really feel the need for more clarity about my exact views, I recommend re-reading my above comments -- I think I've made 15 or 20 of them. If you don't agree, that's fine, we can agree to disagree. But I don't think there's a dearth of comments from me expressing my views in this thread.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:44 AM on May 8, 2009


By the way, let's give Bill Clinton some credit: he admitted that he seriously wronged Hillary Clinton. I don't think he'd disagree with me that he acted inconsistently with his own professed values. He's looked the country in the eye and said what he did was "wrong." I respect him for his courage and honesty in admitting he acted against his core convictions.

But I wish it had never come to the point where the country was focusing on his affair. Ditto Eliot Spitzer and a whole lot of other politicians. I wish that politicians being hypocritical about their sex lives was such a rarity that we could afford to be outraged about it each time it happens, but unfortunately, this kind of thing is all too common, whether it's gay sex or straight sex. I think Bill Clinton shouldn't have been impeached, I think Spitzer should have stayed in office, I think it's a good thing the press ignored JFK's infidelity, I think it's unfortunate what happened to Larry Craig, and I think it's unfortunate this documentary was made. I'm not discriminating against Republicans vs. Democrats, or gay vs. straight. I just think supporters of gay rights are unwittingly shooting themselves in the foot if they pursue this line of attack.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:54 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think I've made my position pretty clear.

Obviously, you haven't. You've continued to defend the arrogance and deceit of closeted gay politicians who publicly condemn behavior they engage in but you haven't explained why the rest of us are required to look the other way. That's fine. It must be hard to defend a position so patently ridiculous.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:02 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


why is it more reprehensible to talk about people who deceitfully engage in behavior they publicly condemn, than it is to deceitfully engage in behavior that you've publicly condemned?

Something doesn't have to be "more reprehensible" to be just plain old reprehensible. If the entirety of your moral and political aspiration is to be no worse than Ted Haggart, then we have no common ground. If the standard you set for yourself is to be no "more reprehensible" than Roy Cohn, then you are selling short on yourself, on your country, and on the cause of progressive rights.
posted by jock@law at 8:03 AM on May 8, 2009


Jaltcoh: There would only be an analogy if politicians somehow got to have gay sex through opposing gay rights.

Well, from what I've read this is exactly the point that is made by the movie. It's not entirely about outing gay politicians who pass anti-gay legislation.

Rather the thesis of the movie according to the filmmaker is that politicians use their public anti-gay politics to build a level of privilege that allows them to have comfortable and closeted gay relationships. To jump back a generation to two of the most notorious examples, by openly fostering witch-hunts against gay men in government, Hoover and Cohn put themselves in a position where no one dared to call out their private sexual behavior for fear of reprisal.

Outing these politicians are just data points for the larger picture. Politicians have profound power and privilege that spills over to their personal lives. Craig, Koch, Rice, and Crist have thousands of dollars, a PR department, security teams, press corps, and a horde of pundits collaborating to protect their closets. Meanwhile working- and middle-class LGBT people can lose their jobs if they live openly.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:06 AM on May 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


There would only be an analogy if politicians somehow got to have gay sex through opposing gay rights.

This.

I haven't reached the end of the comments yet, so I don't know if anyone has made this point yet, but so far I haven't seen it:

It's not about outing closeted politicians.

It's not about outing closeted politicians who vote against gay rights, per se.

It's about outing closeted politicians who oppose gay rights as a means of staying in the closet

These are people who are opposing gay rights, not because they are genuinely opposed to them, but because they want others to think they themselves are not gay. The film maker himself says: "Their votes not merely harm millions of gays and lesbians across the country, but they're also voting against their own beliefs, solely to protect the closet. That's contorting the American political process."

These people need to be outed because they are trying to protect their own sex lives by harming others.
posted by Reverend John at 8:17 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm opposed to outing, except where the person in question is actively working to hurt his or her fellow homosexuals. Then I believe it is a question of profound hypocrisy and I'm not a fan of hypocrisy and believe completely in exposing it.
posted by Tena at 8:23 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jaltcoh: I'm not trying to defend "freedom of hypocrisy." I despise these people just as much as you do. I simply think the hypocrisy angle is distracting and potentially off-putting to people who are on the borderline on gay rights. I fervently want to convince the whole country to let my loved ones who are gay or bisexual to be able to marry and serve in the military, and I think the arguments in favor of this are so convincing, that it bothers me to see people who are basically on my side engage in witch hunts like this, which are at best a waste of time and at worst counterproductive.

Well, here is an interesting example around which to contrast. The film makes the argument that the sexuality of these politicians is something of an "open secret," with potentially dozens of people collaborating to create the public closet.

LGBT servicemen who attempt to live with the same level of openness risk their careers in the military.

Jaltcoh: He created an image of being a good husband who was extraordinarily respectful to his wife Hillary Clinton.

He fostered a liberal, feminist image for himself, yet he emotionally abused Hillary Clinton, and he allegedly assaulted women.


Well, actually, I think that Bill Clinton's abuse of his privilege as a politician in terms of sexual harassment is certainly worth discussing. As was the apparent decision of Edwards to use campaign funds for his extramarital affair at a time when he was playing the family man.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:24 AM on May 8, 2009


This was promised before the 2004 election - go back and look at John Aravosis' archives at Americablog, for 2004. He and others promised to out those closeted Republicans who were actively working against gay rights.

It's time.
posted by Tena at 8:25 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


we have no common ground.

If you think that a politician who is honest with his or her constituents about the policies he or she supports and why is nearly the same as one who lies about the same things, then you are correct; we probably have little common ground.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:30 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


You've continued to defend the arrogance and deceit of closeted gay politicians who publicly condemn behavior they engage in but you haven't explained why the rest of us are required to look the other way.

I think what they do is despicable. I'm completely in favor of gay rights, and I think gays actually have a personal moral obligation to be open about their sexuality. I just happen to also not like advocates of gay rights doing it for them against their will.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:32 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's the difference here between actively exposing the hypocrites who have fought for capping damages in plaintiff's suits, who have sued people? When Rick Santorum was still in Congress, for example, he fought hard for caps and he had sued twice in the past - he'd sued a chiropractor and someone else he owed money to.

Hypocrisy is hypocrisy is hypocrisy. It doesn't matter what it's about - sex, money - whatever.

Elliot Spitzer got what was coming to him. He was the AG for New York and prosecuted people for doing what he was doing.

That is just 58 kinds of wrong and so is working against the rights of gay and lesbian and transsexual citizens when one is hiding one's own sexuality.
posted by Tena at 8:34 AM on May 8, 2009


If you think that a politician who is honest with his or her constituents about the policies he or she supports and why is nearly the same as one who lies about the same things

I haven't said anything whatever about whether the politicians in question are good people or not. I said that outing them is perhaps less righteous than some people are presenting it as being. To the extent that a semi-anonymous Internet weblog may ever be a good forum for genuine political discussion, it would help not to have my positions mischaracterized.
posted by jock@law at 8:40 AM on May 8, 2009


Attack, not an attack... whatever. I see the point of this as making explicit what most people already understand. The fight against equal rights for gays is largely led and motivated by self-hating gays. You want to find a closeted homosexual in your community? Find the guy who's always leading the "defense of traditional marriage" campaigns. I mean, who else has the sheer time and energy to devote to this sort of fight? They've already been fighting it in themselves all their life -- the public campaign is an extension of the private one.

The current ongoing battle for/against equal rights is happening almost entirely within the gay community. The rest of us can choose sides, but we're not really in the fight. And it seems pretty clear which way it's going to go, ultimately.
posted by rusty at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another Kirby Dick interview (just posted on DCist).
posted by JoanArkham at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2009


LGBT servicemen who attempt to live with the same level of openness risk their careers in the military.

In related news ...
Arabic-speaking linguist, Dan Choi, dismissed from Army National Guard due to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Rachel Maddow talks to Dan Choi, Joe Sestak on Don't Ask, Don't Tell [10:11].

Obama sends handwritten letter to gay soldier ousted from the military promising to repeal DADT.

CNN Reports: Gay Issues Closing In On President Obama [10:01]
posted by ericb at 8:54 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fight against equal rights for gays is largely led and motivated by self-hating gays.

just like the war on drugs is largely led and motivated by junkies, the war on terror is largely led and motivated by suicide bombers, the fight against drunk driving is being led and motivated by lushes, and the fight against murder is being led and motivated by morticians who have a few extra bodies to "practice" on

don't get so carried away with your rhetoric that you actually start believing it

the majority of those who vote AND campaign against gay rights are heterosexual and you're minimizing the age old inability of people to mind their own business
posted by pyramid termite at 8:54 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not just hypocrisy of principle at stake here. It's also about privilege. These men are using the powers of their office and campaign funds from "family values" groups to shield themselves from forms of anti-gay prejudice and discrimination that they encourage.

ericb: Personally, I was sick to my stomach when the first news coverage of Condoleezza Rice's co-habitation and shared mortgage with another woman came when she was vetted as a possible VP choice. How many members of the armed forces were discharged under her watch as the voice of American foreign policy during that time for similar circumstances?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:00 AM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


He and others promised to out those closeted Republicans who were actively working against gay rights.

That has always been the mission of Mike Rogers and his website BlogActive.

BTW -- the other day when Rogers was discussing the film Outrage -- DC NewsChannel 8 anchor, Doug McKelway, threatened Rogers on air: I would like to 'give you a punch across the face.'
posted by ericb at 9:01 AM on May 8, 2009


Review in today's New York Times.
posted by ericb at 9:09 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


A round-up of current reviews at Metacritic.
posted by ericb at 9:11 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I said that outing them is perhaps less righteous than some people are presenting it as being.

I'm happy to concede, personally, that outing isn't always righteous, that it isn't always admirable, even that it isn't always necessary. I'm even happy to concede that outing can be wrong or hurtful even when the person being outed deserves it. A lot obviously depends on the who's, why's and how's of outing and must be judged case by case. However, I've yet to read an explanation of why outing is always, necessarily, wrong in every case. Insofar as a politician, as Dick says, "is in the closet, is having sex with someone of the same sex, and is passing laws that hurt gays and lesbians," then they are behaving deceitfully and exposing that deceit isn't necessarily any less wrong or inappropriate as exposing any other kind of political deceit. In cases where a closeted politician truly opposes gay marriage, or the notion of "hate crimes," or any other issue important to LGBT people, then let him or her come out and make that case to the community.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:13 AM on May 8, 2009


Let's connect the dots to fill in the word that describes Barney Frank's statement in the trailer:

Corruption.

These politicians use the wealth and power of their politics to make themselves immune to the rules they impose on other people.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:26 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


From New York Times:
"'Outrage' is less an analysis of the practice of outing closeted public officials than a defense of it, an argument that the dignity and full citizenship of gay men and lesbians are undermined by an unspoken pact of secrecy.

This idea has been a foundation of gay politics for a long time: a clip at the end of 'Outrage' shows Harvey Milk, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors more than 30 years ago, insisting that coming out was central to the project of gay civil rights. And Mr. Dick’s film often works less as an exposé of current injustice than as a historical essay, looking back in particular on the 1980s, when AIDS made candor and visibility matters of survival for many gay men and when resistance to gay rights began to emerge as an organizing principle for conservatives in the Republican Party."
Harvey Milk Speech: "You Cannot Live On Hope Alone"
"Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio there is a young gay person who all the sudden realizes that he or she is gay; knows that if their parents find out they will be tossed out of the house, their classmates will taunt the child, and the Anita Bryant's and John Briggs' are doing their part on TV. And that child has several options: staying in the closet, and suicide. And then one day that child might open the paper that says 'Homosexual elected in San Francisco' and there are two new options: the option is to go to California, or stay in San Antonio and fight. Two days after I was elected I got a phone call and the voice was quite young. It was from Altoona, Pennsylvania. And the person said 'Thanks.' And you've got to elect gay people, so that thousand upon thousands like that child know that there is hope for a better world; there is hope for a better tomorrow. Without hope, not only gays, but those who are blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us's: without hope the us's give up. I know that you can't live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, and you have got to give them hope."
posted by ericb at 9:43 AM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


The message of closeted gay politicians who vote against the interests of their own to others: "I'm ashamed to be who I am."
posted by ericb at 9:46 AM on May 8, 2009


In the interview linked to by JoanArkham, the filmmaker has some very interesting things to say which illuminate our discussion here, I believe.

When he made his movie about the film ratings board, he realized that it was a topic which insiders knew a lot about, but was unknown or opaque to outsiders. So he was looking for another similar situation.

"And I thought, here I am in Washington, there must be quite a few stories that people only know if they're in politics, inside the Beltway; I started asking around, and very quickly started hearing about, to my surprise — and I think to the surprise of most Americans — that there were many closeted gay politicians. But what struck me as particularly significant was that a number of them were hypocrites: they were voting anti-gay, as well." [emphasis mine]

He wasn't looking for a story about gay politicians... He was looking for an insider story. And apparently, this is not a tabloid rumor-mill kind of reporting on these men.

"I'm sure there are other closeted politicians that I wasn't able to report on, but what I was really interested in was in making sure that the people I was reporting on, the information was there for me to report on, so that it wouldn't become a discussion of rumors. ... I think in nearly every case it was multiple sources corroborating that. That would be the standard that we were looking for."

Further in the interview, he makes this really salient point to our discussion here:

"This is what's interesting about this film is that if you're in D.C., if you're in politics, many of the issues, many of the people that I talk about in the film, are not a surprise. Once you leave this little sphere of information, all this comes as a complete surprise to people."

In other words, these men are not unknown in the political halls as closet queers. This is only a surprise to the REST of us. It's an insider story. These men are only being outed to their electorate, not their colleagues.
posted by hippybear at 9:52 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


pyramid termite: just like the war on drugs is largely led and motivated by junkies, the war on terror is largely led and motivated by suicide bombers, the fight against drunk driving is being led and motivated by lushes, and the fight against murder is being led and motivated by morticians who have a few extra bodies to "practice" on

I wouldn't make any of those claims. I must have gone wrong somewhere, because my point was exactly that the fight against gay rights is fundamentally a different kind of fight than we're used to seeing. Specifically, that it differs from all those you cite above.

Also: the majority of those who vote AND campaign against gay rights are heterosexual

Sure. The majority of everyone are heterosexual. My exact words were "largely led and motivated." I didn't choose those words by accident. I'm saying that if you look at the small minority of people who are very public and out-front against gay rights -- the leaders, the speechifyers, the ones in power who wield their vote -- I would be shocked if the percentage of closeted gays in that group does not significantly exceed the percentage in the general population.

Your garden variety "I just think it's icky" homophobe is probably straight. But the ones who have a serious hate-on against all things queer and go out of their way to make it their life's work to destroy them? Those are the closet cases.
posted by rusty at 9:54 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


My exact words were "largely led and motivated."

your exact words are wrong - and a semantic discussion between "largely" and the "majority" doesn't interest me

you're welcome to post some actual numbers any time you want
posted by pyramid termite at 10:10 AM on May 8, 2009


However, I've yet to read an explanation of why outing is always, necessarily, wrong in every case.

Okay, here's one that I personally find very compelling: outing hypocritical gay politicians doesn't do a damn thing in terms of the larger success of opposing anti-gay legislation (the outed person's career may go down in flames, but how likely it is really that all the people on that side take the moment to heart and change their minds or change their position, rather than just turning on their erstwhile colleague?), and it feeds into a harmful dynamic of the political arena only being open to those who are so spotless, so crystal-clean in every traditional respect that they don't worry about the oppo research uncovering anything. Or only those who are megalomaniac enough to believe their lies will never be uncovered. That's bad for the potentially valuable future politicians who are dissuaded from running, and bad for all voters.

I think that's a really heavy price to pay, honestly. I hate that politics has taken a nasty turn so that the ends justify the means, and getting your legislation passed by destroying the opposition as people or as politicians is seen as just as valid as winning because your ideas or your evidence is better. I think you can draw a straight line between that political atmosphere--the one that started with Clinton, and the "politics of personal destruction," but has kept going on for the past 15 years--and the fact that traditionally unrepresented groups in politics (women spring to mind) are less likely to run because they don't want to put their families through the slime machine. I think that this sort of tactic has the ultimate effect of making more gay people less willing to run for office, because gays (and women and black people and insert your favorite less-privileged group here) have less institutional protection from that sort of attack, and and are more vulnerable in general to accusations that stepping out of line makes them unfit for public office than a straight white dude is.

I think that there's something to be said for defending this practice by pointing out a corruption-like angle where not-out politicians are using their anti-gay legislation to build up up their closet in a really inappropriate way like KirkJobSluder does, I just can't help feeling like the downside of bringing these tactics in general into the public sphere is ultimately so corrosive to the political process that it shouldn't be done.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:12 AM on May 8, 2009


Meh. I'd rather just have a list of names.
posted by bigskyguy at 10:15 AM on May 8, 2009


The message of closeted gay politicians who vote against the interests of their own to others: "I'm ashamed to be who I am."

Yeah, but it goes further than that, it's "I'm ashamed to be who I am and I will unleash this self-hate on the world." They want other people to feel the shame that they feel, and they will go to great lengths to do so. It's really not right, and I can't really see how any fair-minded person can not support the revelation of this hypocrisy.

I'm trying to work out why this is a hot-button issue to me. As a hetero, I've never had to announce my sexuality to anyone (well, OK I did when I was an obnoxious teenager, but I thought girls would like that) but on the two very vivid occasions when friends have come out to me something about the residual look of fear in their eyes got to me. Here they were putting the very core of the being up for my scrutiny. That really struck me as pretty amazing. So maybe that's why I feel strongly about this, or maybe it's that I just can't stand such barefaced hypocrisy.

Of course people have the right to keep their sexuality on the down-low, that's fine (although it does sort of lead to this) but when people are actively using their position of power to pass legislation that criminalises the very group of people to whom they belong, then outing seems to be absolutely justified.
posted by ob at 10:20 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jaltchoh: About 10 or 20 people in this thread have said, "They DO harm others," but they harm others through supporting bad legislation. So attack the policies by making convincing arguments against them. Attack their personal lives? Once you do that, you look ugly, and the person you're attacking actually becomes sympathetic.

This is a legislative matter. In order to have informed votes on legislation, we need to have an informed electorate. In order to have an informed electorate, the public must have a right to know all factors surrounding a piece of legislation, including the politicians personal interests. The same applies to elections as well. Or, do you say that Republican voters who have a viatal personal interest in preventing gays from being in power, have no rightto know whether their own legislator is gay or not?

Bear in mind that these politicians claim that the personal activities of gays are a matter of public policy. They say that gays as a whole do not have a right to privacy, when it comes to marriage, service in the military, adoption, and a host of other issues. Therefore it is only right and just to apply their own principals to these politicians. If their policies, their party and their voters make an issue that sexual orientation is a matter of public politics, then their private lives are political as well, and they owe it to their constituants to make their personal lives public.

I frankly don't believe that politicians have a right to personal privacy anyway, especially when that privacy intersects with their legislation. Corruption thrives in an atmosphere of privacy- and that's probably why Republicans suddenly get big on privacy rights whenever its one of their guys who gets exposed.
posted by happyroach at 10:21 AM on May 8, 2009


These politicians use the wealth and power of their politics to make themselves immune to the rules they impose on other people.

I could be wrong, but I don't think they're immune to the rules they impose on other people that say that same-sex marriages will not be given full legal force by the Federal Government.
posted by The World Famous at 10:30 AM on May 8, 2009


iminurmefi: If those who are closeted and are "protesting too much" through their legislative actions are removed from power, it is less likely that the kind of legislation they have been known to bring forward will come to the floor.

If they were living their lives honestly to begin with, they would not have a veneer of self-loathing standing between their own motivations and true representation of the interests of their constituents.

It frustrates me that so much of what you have written seems to come from the viewpoint that being homosexual is somehow shameful and deserves to be hidden, and will only ruin a political career if it is brought to light.

I am not advocating for the outing of homosexuals. I am advocating for disclosing on a national scale the well-known "inside the beltway" fact that many politicians who bring forward anti-gay legislation are closet queers.
posted by hippybear at 10:41 AM on May 8, 2009


outing hypocritical gay politicians doesn't do a damn thing in terms of the larger success of opposing anti-gay legislation

Sure it does.

It sows discord in the party primarily responsible for anti-gay legislation and opposing gay-rights legislation. If nothing else, it gets them to waste their time in internal witch-hunts for homosexuals instead of doing anything more harmful. It makes the cleavage between the low-tax/deregulation brigade and the Fundie Patrol elements of the Republican party deeper, wider, and harder to breach.

It renders talented legislators who had worked hard for anti-gay legislation unelectable. Odds are the person who replaces them will also be anti-gay, but there will at least be a lottery over how talented they are, and they'll start at the bottom of the totem pole instead of a subcommittee or committee ranking member. And for a while, their seat might even be empty, meaning for those few weeks one less anti-gay voice.

It forces gay Republican politicians to confront, at some level, the anti-gay element of their party that they'd helped to stir up instead of being able to simply ignore it.

In the course of playing smear-the-queer, party leaders say all sorts of amazingly anti-gay stuff and make themselves look like Orval Faubus only less articulate. This probably further alienates substantial numbers of people under 35, who are likely to become regular voters.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:44 AM on May 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


"This is what's interesting about this film is that if you're in D.C., if you're in politics, many of the issues, many of the people that I talk about in the film, are not a surprise. Once you leave this little sphere of information, all this comes as a complete surprise to people."

As a former DC resident of nearly nine years, this is totally true. I didn't work on the Hill, but I did work for a large lefty nonprofit, later for the gay bookstore in the city, and had tons of friends who did political work. Everyone knew this stuff. Everyone except that Middle America congresscritter's constituents, anyway.

Remember when Pete Williams, who was a Pentagon spokesman and assistant secretary of defense, was outed in '91 or '92? No one in DC was surprised to "find out" that he was gay. Certainly no out gay man of my acquaintance was the least bit surprised. Because it wasn't a secret - unless you were outside the Beltway.

It's like when Rosie O'Donnell officially came out; there were apparently lots and lots of people to whom this came as a shock, but it had been a not-very-secret (like, at all) secret in the queer community for ages. Rosie, of course, had not spent years telling lies about gay people and trying to take their rights away in order to bolster her power or protect her closet.
posted by rtha at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


hippybear, I certainly don't think being gay is shameful. I do think it has the potential to ruin political careers: after all, isn't that part of the point of outing these politicians to the voters? If it's not intended to weaken them politically, then what's the point? I'd hazard a guess that even a pro-gay-rights or neutral politician would lose significant support if it became widely known that they were gay. That says nothing about whether it should be inherently shameful, and everything about regressive social attitudes that other people hold. I think people are being a bit facile with the defense that they do nothing wrong by publicly outing someone because being gay isn't something that one should be ashamed of. The same could be said of having had an abortion, or having been a victim of sexual assault, and yet I doubt many people who argue that being a rape victim isn't inherently shamefully would be clamoring for newspapers to publish names, or claiming that voters "have the right to know" whether their Senator ever had an abortion.

I think it's defensible to hold the position that there is more good that comes about by outing these politicians than there are downsides, as most everyone here evidently does. I don't agree at all, but different strokes, I suppose. I just think people should at least grapple with the fact that there *are* downsides, that it does feed into a certain style of political discourse, that it does create the expectation among voters that they have the right to know everything about the lives of those who represent them and to not vote for people based on whether they like what they see (and this sort of calculus is much more likely to screw over those of us who aren't straight white men). When you start taking out the opposition by destroying their credibility using information about their personal life, that sort of tactic becomes normalized, and the other side isn't going to hesitate to use it in ways that have nothing to do with being gay. I think we're all the poorer for it.
posted by iminurmefi at 11:10 AM on May 8, 2009


engage in witch hunts

You keep railing against this personal strawman of yours. You keep using loaded terms like "witch hunt" and "personal attack" when it is neither, and when the documentarian himself, in his own words, has reputed what you keep saying. What is your agenda? Because it's not about supporting gay rights, clearly, so much as kicking your strawman around.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:12 AM on May 8, 2009


Wow. I just had my sexuality compared to rape and abortion. I think I'll stop reading this thread.
posted by hippybear at 11:34 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even Godwin doesn't approve of that comparison.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:39 AM on May 8, 2009


I think it is more persuasive to argue that you are more likely to be religiously orthodox if you oppose gay rights than it is to argue that you are more likely to be secretly gay. It's easily demonstrated that political opposition to gay rights since the 1970s has been "largely led and motivated" by religiously orthodox people who are striving to enshrine their orthodoxy in the political and legal sphere.
posted by blucevalo at 11:40 AM on May 8, 2009



You keep using loaded terms like "witch hunt" and "personal attack" when it is neither, and when the documentarian himself, in his own words, has reputed what you keep saying. What is your agenda? Because it's not about supporting gay rights, clearly, so much as kicking your strawman around.

I think that's a bit unfair... it's quite possible for jaltcoh to disagree with the premise behind the documentary and believe that outing hypocritical gay politicians is counter-productive and indeed wrong, without him/her saying so because they have a hidden agenda... Just because the director of the film says "this is not a witch hunt" does not automatically make it so as an indisputable 'fact'.... learn to disagree more productively. I personally believe that hypocrites who have chosen a career in the public eye deserve to have their hypocrisy revealed for all to see, but that doesn't mean I automatically think that anyone who has a different take on it is an enemy.
posted by modernnomad at 12:14 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just because the director of the film says "this is not a witch hunt" does not automatically make it so as an indisputable 'fact'

If the person who put the film together says it's not about "outing" for the sake of outing and explains why, in several forums, I'm hard-pressed to understand why Jaltcoh is so adamant about contradicting the film's maker, using such strong, loaded terms.

He's welcome to his point of view, and I don't think he's an "enemy", but whatever he is complaining about does not have a whole lot to do with what the film is about. So, again, I openly wonder what his agenda is.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:27 PM on May 8, 2009


I do think it has the potential to ruin political careers: after all, isn't that part of the point of outing these politicians to the voters? If it's not intended to weaken them politically, then what's the point?

The point is to out liars and hypocrites. If the pol is closeted but isn't trying to get anti-gay laws passed, or ranting on Limbaugh about the horrible homos, then who cares?

The simple fact of being gay is not enough to ruin a political career in most parts of the U.S. It didn't ruin Barney Frank's career. It sure didn't wreck Tammy Baldwin's. It's not the being homo. It's the lying and the cover-up.

or claiming that voters "have the right to know" whether their Senator ever had an abortion.

If their senator runs on an anti-abortion platform that claims that abortion causes cancer, infertility, and homosexuality (I made the last one up), and says that no one should be able to get an abortion....and then arranges for her daughter's abortion, then yes, that information should come out.

We all agree I think that hypocrisy and lying are bad things, and are especially destructive when done by public servants who are beholden to their constituents (and lobbyists, yeah). If the pol were a lying hypocrite about a non-personal issue - maybe they ran on a platform opposed to nuclear power, but are secretly in the pocket of pro-nuke trade associations, I find it hard to believe that people would have a problem with this connection being exposed.

But oh, the sacredness of "privacy" when it comes to sexual behavior - well, that line can never be crossed, right? Jesse Helms' horrendous racism was never a secret - he was pretty proud of it, in fact - but talking about the relationship he had with a black woman? A woman who bore his child? Nope. Off-limits. Can't talk about it. Because it's "personal."

It's bullshit is what it is.
posted by rtha at 12:30 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


pyramid termite: We won't need to have a semantic discussion, because "largely led and motivated" is the same thing as "majority led and motivated." If you care to read all four words, I think I'm clear enough.

And no, I don't have numbers. Neither do you. I welcome your disagreement -- I'm merely making an assertion here, and it's easy enough to disagree with it. Just please try to disagree with the assertion I'm actually making, which concerns a relatively small number of the most vocal and powerful anti-gay-rights advocates, not the majority of all people who are against the gay.
posted by rusty at 12:59 PM on May 8, 2009


rtha -- you actually mean Strom Thurmond and his African-American daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams.

It's hard to keep straight [Hey!] senatorial bigots!
posted by ericb at 1:00 PM on May 8, 2009


I see it as very similar to the "celluloid closet" of classic Hollywood. There were GLBT people working in Hollywood. But more importantly, you had large conspiracies for the purpose of creating propaganda to promote celebrities as heterosexual.

And the same thing is happening here. The scandal isn't that key politicians are gay. The scandal is that the Republican party conspires to keep it a secret while they push the politics of fear. The scandal is that these politicians have a ton of help building that nice and comfy closet.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:11 PM on May 8, 2009


Man, it's hard to tell old white racist men apart. Thanks, ericb, for the correction!
posted by rtha at 1:13 PM on May 8, 2009


Kirby Dick:
"I was surprised at how few people are aware of this issue. For audiences who are outside the political spectrum, if you will, it is just such a revelation. The gay press has been writing about this, and actually demanding the mainstream media cover this, for years. So people are surprised because mainstream media has stayed away from the subject. And by staying away from it, they perpetuate the closet and the damage that the closet causes. One of the objectives of my film is that, in 20 years, the closet will no longer be a factor in American politics."
As a gay man, none of the folks "outed" in the film are a surprise. Gay press (magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc.) have been covering these same people for years. And friends in Washington rub shoulders with so many more "closet cases" from Capitol Hill at the bars/clubs near Dupont Circle on the weekend.
posted by ericb at 1:17 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the Republicans who have set the terms of this debate. They claim that we are poisonous to discipline during wartime, undermine the sanctity of marriage, and promote general licentiousness and sexual immorality.

Therefore, its up to them to explain why those principles don't apply to their own cabinets, staff and committees.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:44 PM on May 8, 2009


The gay press has been writing about this, and actually demanding the mainstream media cover this, for years.

As pointed out in today's L.A. Times review:
"All the law and policymakers identified have previously been 'outed' in print or online, but most either deny being gay or simply decline to comment on privacy grounds."
posted by ericb at 2:15 PM on May 8, 2009


"One of the more interesting questions 'Outrage' raises is why the mainstream media, so eager to cover every aspect of scandals like presidential candidate John Edwards' extramarital affair, don't follow up when the gay media do this kind of sexual outing. The consensus is that a kind of squeamishness about gay sexuality is a factor, perhaps the last vestiges of an 'is it anyone's business?' feeling that has disappeared from the media's dealings with the heterosexual world."*
posted by ericb at 2:20 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


They claim that we are poisonous to discipline during wartime, undermine the sanctity of marriage, and promote general licentiousness and sexual immorality.

The thing is, the sort of conduct that this film is exposing with regard to at least the ones highlighted in the preview does promote general licentiousness and sexual immorality.
posted by The World Famous at 3:07 PM on May 8, 2009


Yep. The closet will fuck you up but good.
posted by rtha at 3:18 PM on May 8, 2009


Of course, so will the sense of privilege, entitlement, and hubris that these guys enjoy.
posted by rtha at 3:20 PM on May 8, 2009


I wouldn't be so quick to assume he [Clinton] wasn't elected on a basis that was inconsistent with his extra-marital affair.

His theme was to be a champion of everyday people who "play by the rules." He used his power to violate the rules of his marriage.

He created an image of being a good husband who was extraordinarily respectful to his wife Hillary Clinton.

He fostered a liberal, feminist image for himself, yet he emotionally abused Hillary Clinton, and he allegedly assaulted women.


This is laughable. Bill Clinton, nowhere, nohow got votes based even in part on his being a good husband. Complete nonsense.

If anything, Clinton was famous for "bimbo-eruptions", a well known philanderer and a politician around whom there was a perpetual swirl of womanizing scandal.

There was likely not one voter in the U.S. who voted for Bill Clinton because he thought "wow, what a great husband Bill is - I must vote to support that behavior".

And Obama wasn't loudly enough proclaiming to be a smoker? Again, ridiculous. There's a vast difference between a politician who admits - even reluctantly - to being a smoker, and one who not only denies it, but excoriates smoking and smokers as moral degenerates. Again, your thesis utterly fails.

Not to mention, you keep trying to work around a salient point - smoking or anti-smoking are a trivial part of Obama's political identity. You probably couldn't find one voter for whom it was a deciding factor that Obama would fiddle with the tax code in the name of fighting tobacco smoking. Just as "being a faithful husband" /snort/ was not part of Clinton's political identity. In sharp contrast, for the rabid anti-gay crusaders it is the central (and sometimes the only) part of their political identity.

Therefore, for those who don't make being a faithful husband part of their credentials and involvement in relevant legislation - well, to me it's fine to keep their sexual life private - gay, straight, or otherwise (as long as it's nothing illegal). The opposite is the case for those who make it a focus in their campaigns and legislative activity - then it is fair game, since they brought it up, and then any and all information that comes from public scrutiny is relevant and made public, including outing.

We can go round and round on this, but the distinction is crystal clear - if you still find it confusing, I'm happy to keep making it clear.
posted by VikingSword at 3:26 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


We won't need to have a semantic discussion, because "largely led and motivated" is the same thing as "majority led and motivated."

and then

Just please try to disagree with the assertion I'm actually making, which concerns a relatively small number of the most vocal and powerful anti-gay-rights advocates, not the majority of all people who are against the gay.

so is it a "relatively small number" or "largely"?

you seem very confused
posted by pyramid termite at 9:05 PM on May 8, 2009


Being closeted by definition hurts gays and gay rights b/c you wouldn't be closeted if you weren't ashamed of who you are.
posted by hooptycritter at 3:58 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Being closeted by definition hurts gays and gay rights b/c you wouldn't be closeted if you weren't ashamed of who you are.

There are legitimate reasons having nothing to do with one's own self-perception for keeping quiet about sexuality.

Anecdotally, a close buddy of mine is living in Texas, breezily gay. But he fears for his safety if others around him know, so he simply doesn't tell them. Nothing to do with his own feelings about being gay, everything to do with realising that ideals and reality intersect in different ways, and some people have to live (and more pointedly, die) in the grey areas.
posted by pseudonymph at 12:18 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're how many days into this thread and nobody has thought to call a DC gay bar meetup to do our own "research?"
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:48 PM on May 10, 2009


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