Don Charles who publishes the excellent blog, Christ, The Gay Martyr, wrote the following comment in regard to my previous post, "The Outs and Ins of Outing."
"I've heard Mike Rogers state his position on the radio. He feels that the hypocrisy of anti-Gay politicians who are secretly Gay should be exposed. I understand where he's coming from, but I think there are larger issues to consider.
"Although well-intentioned, what Mike does is akin to blackmail. He's saying "if you legislate discrimination against LGBT folk, I'll publicize your secrets." He uses disclosure of homosexual status as a bludgeon, a punishment. In the long run, that's harmful. It reinforces the widespread notion that homosexuality is shameful, and that people are justified in wanting to hide it.
"In our society, there are both openly Gay people and closeted Gay people. That sends a mixed message, which is bad enough, but when we use disclosure of Gay identity as punishment while simultaneously guarding the secrets of closet cases who behave the way we want them to, that's worse. It validates the stigma.
"Just the other day, I heard someone say: "Being Gay is like having a fatal disease; it's a private matter, and nobody should be forced to talk about it openly!" Is that really what we think about our sexual orientation? Is that what we want Straight people to think? If so, that doesn't exactly encourage the advancement of our equality struggle.
"I think Mike Rogers should reveal everything he knows about Gay politicians, regardless of party affilation or voting record! The objective shouldn't be to expose hypocrisy (although there's certainly nothing wrong with that; the Savior did it all the time). The objective should be to present a picture of society as it really exists, with LGBT folk thoroughly interspersed throughout. In order to advance our struggle, we must end this deep conspiracy of silence around Gay identity!
"If you have good reason to believe a public figure is Gay, there's nothing wrong with saying so. That's not "outing". Nobody can "out" anybody else; the person in question is free to acknowledge the truth, or continue concealing it. Look what's happened with actors Kevin Spacey and John Travolta! Both were "outed" years ago, both men have denied being bisexual, and the media has taken them at their word.
"Some would say those were "failed outings", but I don't agree. I think it's a victory whenever the conspiracy of silence around Gay identity is breached. Neither Kevin Spacey nor John Travolta ever swore Gay Americans to secrecy! We're under no obligation to perpetuate their lies. Refusing to lie for each other is a painful step to take in some cases, but nonetheless, it's step in the right direction.
"As I said in my recent essay, "Potty Training", we who strive for equality must pay a price for the benefits we hope to gain. We have responsibilities to fulfill. We must give up this idea that lying about Gay identity can ever be justified. We must begin speaking casually about our sexual orientation, just like Straight people speak casually about theirs. Those of us who are Christian must remember what Jesus Christ said about hiding a light beneath a bushel basket. We are His lights! The existence of androgynous human beings speaks to the power of God.
"I've said it before, and it's worth repeating: If there's nothing wrong with being Gay, there's nothing wrong with talking about it. However, if there's something wrong with talking about it, there's something wrong with being it! What are your thoughts on this matter, Jerry?"
I REPLIED WITH THE FOLLOWING COMMENT:
"Hi Don Charles: First of all, I absolutely agree with your premise and contentions! However, unfortunately, we're not there yet.
"We have to let people feel comfortable coming out when they think the time is right for them. You're absolutely right when you say that only when Gay people can feel free enough to talk about their sexuality and treat it as casually in the public square as Straight people do all the time, will we move the struggle for civil rights significantly forward. However, I feel that the fight for civil rights is going to have to somewhat accelerate before such coming out is viewed as feasible for many closeted Gay people; these two actions have to occur more coterminously than now exists.
"What Rogers is doing, however, is not outing Gays but he is outing hypocrites! I understand the need for all people to see Gay people and their relationships as being fully equal in validity as are Straight people and their relationships. However, I also understand that by "coming out," there are many who would sacrifice jobs, economic life chances, and even family relations; they must come out, if they ever do, in their own time.
"So, I don't agree with forcibly outing Gay people, given the current homophobic climate in this countriy (although I certainly agree with you that by being closeted reaffirms and reinforces a good deal of the current homophobia), even acknowledging the truth of what you say.
"However, I absolutely do agree with outing hypocrites who are Gay or bisexual themselves and who do everything they can to sabatoge and deny the acquisition of basic rights and dignity to LGBT people! And their behavior is even more egregious given the fact that they do such a damnable thing in order to gain votes or for financial and career gains.
"So, I don't see Rogers as outing Gay people, as much as I see him outing hypocrites! This distinction might be considered inconsequential, but given the realities of the tremendous hurt that would be entailed in outing all Gay people, even by merely asking the question in this sex-obsessed homophobic society, can terribly hurt some people, and there is no sense in doing that when they are not working against the interests of the Gay community.
"I think that by continuing the work that Gay rights activists, especially Christian Gay rights activists are doing in seeking to destigmatize same-sex love, and even show its consistency with Godly values, increasing numbers of closeted Gay people will be motivated to finally come to the decision that we must all be authentic (and realize it's by that very authenticity that people can live lives as opposed to merely having an existence, and a miserable existence at that), and appreciate and embrace our authenticity and uniqueness that is made in the very image and design of God.
"I trust currently closeted Gay people of good will to eventually come to that conclusion. However, when it comes to hypocrisy of any kind, be it by closeted Gay collaborators with the reactionary forces that hurt LGBT people, or any other hypocritical public figures, their hypocrisy must be widely exposed to show them for the immoral, decadent, deceitful creatures that they truly are!"
UPDATE: Don Charles elaborated on his point in the following comment he made, and I want to post it here:
"Certainly, hypocrisy should be exposed, Jerry. I think my problem with what Mike Rogers does isn't so much his exposing hypocrites; it's his helping closeted officials he doesn't consider hypocrites to maintain their secrets. That's where he makes his mistake: He turns the closet into a reward for good behavior. What message does that send?
"If public officials desperately don't want to be known as Gay, then they should do everything they can to ensure that nobody suspects. (A neat trick if you can pull it off.) However, the sexual orientation of the folks Mike Rogers is protecting is evidently an open secret inside the Washington beltway. He's not reporting on it, and neither is the Washington press corps. To me, that amounts to a conspiracy of silence, and that's not healthy. Any way you look at it, silence and secrecy about Gay identity reinforces stigma, and stigma works to the direct advantage of anti-Gay Dominionists.
"As I said before, I don't believe anybody can be forcibly "outed." It's a personal decision for every LGBT person when and where to acknowledge their truth publicly. I don't think we have the right, though, to demand that others not acknowledge our truth if they know it. It's presumptuous to think that people you've never sworn to secrecy . . . people you've never even met . . . should keep your secrets.
"As for the painful consequences of speaking the truth about sexual orientation, well, Jesus Christ spoke the truth, and He endured painful consequences, didn't he? Doing the right thing often isn't easy. It wasn't easy for Ghandi. It wasn't easy for Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King. It wasn't easy for birth control advocate for Margaret Sanger. Integrity costs! Sometimes it even costs lives, but those of us who seek to follow the example of the Savior must be willing to pay that price!
"I might add that, if you're in a dangerously heterosexist environment, it's not disclosure that threatens you. It's the ignorant attitudes that pose the threat, and it's there hanging over you whether you disclose or not. Those attitudes must be challenged if they're ever going to change. There's no challenge that's more effective than the truth.
"I'm not saying we should go off running down the street screaming "I'M GAY" at the top of our lungs. I'm saying that we must have the courage not to construct heterosexual facades. When questions are posed, we mustn't bristle or dodge or lie. That goes for public figures, clergy, military personnel, educators . . . every LGBT adult."
DON CHARLES ALSO SENT ME THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WRITTEN A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO BY MICHAEL MUSTO IN THE VILLAGE VOICE THAT ADDRESSES THE POINTS RAISED IN DON CHARLES' COMMENTS, AND IT CAN BE READ HERE.
ASKING FOR YOUR COMMENTS:
Although, of course, I agree with what I replied to Don Charles' first comment, I also find myself agreeing with both of his comments as well, and would very much value your inputs regarding this important topic. For LGBT rights to move forward, Gay people must be acknowledged as being in the mainstream of society and who are our neighbors, our co-workers, actors, physicians, teachers, truck drivers, and who occupy all positions in society, and that fact must be made obvious and acknowledged, which will go a long way to moving forward the acquisition of full and equal civil rights for LGBT people.
The reply I made to his excellent first comment, although, in my opinion, true as far as it goes, the more I think about it may not adequately address the larger issue that Don Charles is raising in both of his comments. I'm usually quite certain about what I write, but in this case I'm somewhat ambivalent and, therefore, I would especially very much value your expressing your thoughts on this matter, that I view as being crucial for producing the best strategy for achieving the goal of acquiring full and equal civil and sacramental rights for LGBT people, and for recognizing the dignity and equality, both societally and legally, of same-sex relationships.