Bil Browning

New Outrage! documentary: Is outing justified?

Filed By Bil Browning | April 27, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living, The Movement
Tags: anti-gay politicians, closet cases, Dan Gurley, Jim McGreevey, Kirby Dick, Larry Craig, Mike Rogers, outing celebrities, OutRage!, Shepard Smith

We haven't talked about outing too much on Bilerico Project and with Outrage!, the new documentary on outing closeted anti-gay political figures hitting the big screen, the topic will soon be a national discussion. The movie outs Florida Governor Charlie Crist and reexamines several other well-known closet cases like Republican Senator Larry Craig, former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith. Former contributor Mike Rogers, known for outing several anti-gay Republicans, is featured heavily in the film.

So what are your thoughts on outing? Do these closet cases' actions make them worthy of a public airing of their laundry? Or do they deserve privacy and their sexual orientation shouldn't be made public? Is outing justified if the person is high profile? Or do they also need to be anti-gay? (Anderson Cooper and Jodie Foster spring to mind as celebrities who've been outed but weren't anti-gay.) What are your thoughts?


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Any public official who votes, supports, or is asked questions about GLBTQ issues must be open and honest about their sexual orientation and everything else--no exceptions. Their votes must always be true and never hypocritical.

Private citizens, even high profile ones, don't represent constituencies and their sexuality should remain private unless of course they take dishonest public positions.

I basically agree with Kim. I was in my 20s before I came out. I wish I'd come out sooner, but it was the right time for me. Most people deserve that right to select what is the right time for them.

However, as Kim notes, when you are involved with passing laws that impact or otherwise regulate how I live my life, then your life is especially open to scrutiny. I'm even OK with you voting however you feel you need to vote, but you have to be honest about your own life, when you are voting on mine.

I understand the concept Kim and BJohn propose above, but it still bothers me. If we truly believe gender preference doesn't matter, then it doesn't matter even if someone is being hypocritical. Even if true that we /think/ someone is gay (or even if we can prove they've engaged in homosexual acts which isn't quite the same thing), outing a public figure is still attacking the person - an 'ad hominem' attack.

Because that cuts both ways: it allows the opposition to treat me the same way. I don't want my sexuality or life choices to become the subjet of the conversation. I want to be able to say 'stick to the issue.'

Even if I think a person is being hypocritical, cowardly or disingenuous, the argument should stand or fall on the merits, not on my opinion of an individual, or my long-distance subjective judgement of their sexuality, honesty or life choices. Or on the opinion of Perez Hilton.

Personally, I think 'gay' should be reserved for people that choose to embrace that term, not people that are conflicted, self-loathing or just horny and unfussy.

Outing people is never ok. It is a violation of privacy and endangers their security. Even if they are fucked up douchebags they still have their rights. Even public officials have a right to privacy when they aren't on the clock. There is a reason we don't spell justice, r-e-v-e-n-g-e in this country.

Although, I also don't think other private citizens should be forced to keep secrets, for example stating they had a relationship with a certain individual.

Actually on further reflection, I feel this is a very very complex issue and needs to be taken on a case by case basis. It seems some actions are justified, that would lead one to appear to be outing, whereas others aren't. For example I don't think a protracted effort to out politicians in this film is justified, but I think the individuals interviewed in the film are perfectly justified in saying what they did.

I support outing closeted politicians and pundits when they advocate or vote against gay rights. These people are a danger to the well-being of those of us who have the guts to be out, and there's no reason why their personal demons should stand in the way of our ability to live fulfilling lives.

If they're in the closet and do support gay rights, then I'd say leave them alone. I still think they should come out, but they're not hurting anyone.

Public officials are never "off the clock". Outing closeted moral scolds is no vice.

Whenever someone chooses to put their private life into the public sphere, they deserve to be challenged if they represent themselves inaccurately. If a closeted gay elected official refuses to ever talk about or answer questions about his/her private life (good luck with that in this country), then we shouldn't out them. But the moment they start touting their cover spouse, denying their sexual orientation or otherwise implying that they are straight when they are not, we have every right to correct the record.

Same thing with celebrities. I was against outing Anderson Cooper for the whole time that he said he wasn't discussing his private life in public because he didn't want to compromise his journalistic ethics. But the second he went on Oprah and talked about every aspect of his private life EXCEPT his sexual orientation, he became fair game in my book.

Harvey Milk said everyone should be out. I fundamentally agree with him.

GregC and Sam are absolutely correct. The power to decide this issue rests within each and every one of us. Sexual orientation may need to remain private or secret for a myriad of reasons, but if you are voting against my rights and freedoms; then, you should expect to be challenged when you are being hypocritical. Public officials are never "off the clock". Whenever someone chooses to put their private life into the public sphere, they deserve to be challenged if they represent themselves inaccurately.

There are two people I can think of immediately whose lives I could destroy.

One is a conservative commentator (No, NOT Anne Coulter!) who transitioned when very young. She's conservative on most issues, but liberal on GLBT ones. Being stealth makes her more effective.

Another is in an exclusive lesbian social milleiu. If her medical history was made public, she and her partner would be thrown out immediately. She takes stealth seriously - the last time she was outed, their house was firebombed with them in it.

"Outing" for TS women can lead to them being killed. Remember that.

I know your upmost (only?) concern is transsexual women, but I think its fairly obvious that outing even cis gay and lesbians can lead to violence. This is especially obvious given the fact almost all transphobic violence is expressed as homophobic hate.

Outing celebs just because they are famous is wrong. Outing someone just because you can is wrong.
That being said when a person is attacking us and our rights and he or she has a closeted history of homosexual activities that is perfectly fine to make public. I would not call that person gay, lesbian or bi simply because those are sociosexual identities which we embrace openly. That person is still sociosexually straight but is a hypocrite to attack those of us who do the same things sexually but have another sociosexual identity.
I am bothered whenever people adhere to a 'drop-in-the-bucket' approach and announce that someone is gay because that person has had or occasionally has same sex relationships even if that person is also having or in a heterosexual relationship. Just as they should not be allowed to dismiss their own homosexual activities we should not dismiss their heterosexual activities and histories.
So yes, announcing that some homophobic activist or politician has a history of homosexual encounters or relationships is fine but it is not acceptable to announce that someone is gay if that person does not identify as gay. Or what has happened to me several times when people have told others that I am gay because of my history even though I am out as bi and the person identifying me as gay knows that I am openly bi.

I think politicians and religious/community leaders earn their outings whenever they vote or speak or act in an anti-gay way. I am thinking of a particular politician who has held office for more than twenty years. Big leather daddy in his private life. I hosted a gay fund raiser for him many years ago. He has never come out, and yet he has done remarkable things for the LGBT community. He should not be outed. I don't care what his reasons are for remaining closeted. What he does sexually is no one's business because he has never judged anyone else and has worked for equality from the beginning of his career.

Since I speak from a T perspective, I'm conflicted on this one. Having spent some years as a leader and founder of a T support group, and having had to escort T people out of the closet before, I am concerned that, if we start outing celebrities and politicians who are T, and we come to our knowledge that they are T (or GLB) because we are in a position where we are entrusted with that information in the position of a support group manager, we cross an ethical boundary. Certainly, if I were managing a T support group these days, and say, the Senate Minority Leader were to come to the meeting, I would not consider it ethically correct to out him, or anyone else at said meeting. I'm not sure if a gay bar would qualify as a private enough place to qualify for this sort of ethical dilemma, however. And I admit to a hatred of the sort of hypocracy that would allow a GLBT person to vote against GLBT interests, just as the LCR makes no sense to me.

It did come out during Mitch McConnell's reelection campaign last year that he was a crossdresser, and he still won - barely. The Democratic candidate didn't capitalize on it. The allegations were not proven. (wink wink).

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 28, 2009 5:33 AM

The entire decision of "outing" anyone who is closeted belongs with the individual. High profile outings are an appeal to the lowest type of "gotcha" politics and pulp sensationalism. If these people are hypocrites that is their problem. It is only our job to take, and make if we have to, a high road.

I do not expect to ever live in a perfect society or world, but when I arrive let my hands be clean and my conscience clear.

When a public figure votes or speaks out against gays and that person has been in homosexual situations they are hippocrates and should be outed as such.

When Governor Crist was running for governor the rumors were out there. At that point he hadn't done anything negative towards gays. Since then he has appointed homophobes to the Florida Supreme court and backed the anti-gay marriage initiative. When he was being considered as the VP candidate for John McCain he became even more "conservative." He even announced his engagement and has since been married. I'm originally from NJ and I was very familiar with the Jim McGreevy situation. After I moved to Florida I noticed the same things in Governor Crist. It's very sad for the women involved in their lives. These people must be outed.

Case-by-case basis, of course. But, then again, you can't expect these people to keep quiet if they're talking about their past relationships with someone famous.

Lots of those clips in the trailer I recognize as Larry Craig related. Outing him is no big deal anymore, even though he's not gay and never has been.

First of all, I am not out. Obviously, I have what I feel are good/excellent reasons for this. At the same time, I am treading on the path of being out; were that not the case, I seriously doubt I'd be adding my thoughts to this forum.

I absolutely agree that it is within my rights to decide when and if I come out to the world as gay. If people would like to speculate and discuss my proclivities with each other, there's nothing I can do to stop them, and I always have the opportunity to own up to it or deny it.

As for celebrities, I have to agree with the comment by Rob Barton that their outing just because you can do it is wrong. Most people out themselves anyway, and for the rest of us, it's just a catching up when we find out.

For the politicians, celebrities and others who rail against "the homosexual menace," their motives need to be known, and if they are also gay while describing the ills of being gay, the public deserves to know it.

Bravo gregC and Larry!
If someone wants to intrude on MY private life because of their self-hatred, OUT WITH THEM!!!

Thanks Bill, I'm pleased you brought this topic up and allowed us to weigh in on it. This has caused much debate between GLBT activists, myself included. Do We or Don't We, is always a tough question. We have to ask ourselves, will outing someone help or hurt our goal of gaining equality? Without conclusive proof their living a double life, it can backfire and bite us in the butt. Gov. Crist is a perfect example, back in the day at the Green Iguana, we all "assumed" he was gay. In the infamous Green Iguana article, the bar owner said he was gay and only one person claimed to have dated him. But, there was no concrete proof he's gay. When we organized a demonstration at his wedding and after much heated debate. We decided against outing him as our primary message and took the high road. Instead we focused on his flip-flopping on his "live and let live" philosophy and support of Amendment 2. We wore pink t-shirts saying, "Congratulations Gov. Crist and Carole, When Can We Marry." I firmly believe this approach garnered us much more positive public and media attention, then if we went the outing route. I for one would be very interested in seeing the documentary and what proof they have to offer the Gov. is in fact gay.

That said, when it comes to politicians, religious leaders, so-called ex-gays or fundie fanatics. If they're staunch anti-gay rights advocates and spew hatred directed at us, Outing is justified, they shouldn't be allowed to have their cake and eat it to. Their blatant hypocrisy must be exposed, as should they.

Other than that, if someone chooses to live in their closet, as long as their not doing any harm to us or our community. We should respect their personal choice, I see no valid reason for invading their privacy by outing them. Their sexuality is their own business, by outing them, we're stooping to the same level as those who incite hatred or violence against us.