Queen Latifah, PDAs and Outing

I would never have noticed this story on Queen Latifah’s PDAs with her longtime “friend” except that I saw “Leave Queen Latifah Alone” stories on six different progressive/gay/feminist sites. If they’re trying not to out her, they’re doing a poor job of it.

I’ve commented on the subject of outing several different times here on my site, and my opinion hasn’t changed at all.

As long as lgbt people allow society to treat our relationships like they only have a private bedroom component and not the public, society-supported and sanctioned components that heterosexual people demand (and get!) for their relationships, we cultivate an atmosphere of dishonesty within the gay community that allows destructive forces to flourish.

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Bill Maher Outs Ken Mehlman on CNN, and CNN censors on Pacific Broadcast

Bill Maher “outed” GOP party chairman Ken Mehlman as a gay man on Larry King Live last night — as seen on video here.
But on the rebroadcast for the west coast, they edited that bit out of the program, as seen here.
C’mon, guys. YouTube makes this sort of thing ridiculous. I can’t imagine why they’d bother editing that — it’s not like Larry King said it, Maher said it. If it’s not true, it’s not a reflection on CNN. And editing it out just gives it credence, and suggests that it’s something to be hidden.
UPDATES – The above links no longer show the videos of the Larry King show, as YouTube has asked the blog owner to take them down at the request of CNN. However, you can still see the whole video on the Huffington Post.
I think the cat’s out of the proverbial bag on this one, guys.

Continue ReadingBill Maher Outs Ken Mehlman on CNN, and CNN censors on Pacific Broadcast

Even more on Outing

I’ve talked about the subject of “Outing” in the past several times. Scott tackled the issue recently on Bilerico, and along with a lot of others, I commented. I wanted to pull my comment over here, though, because it’s a refinement of some of my previous ideas.

I’ve pointed this out in the past — I really try not to use the euphemisms “outing” and “closeted” because it masks what we really mean — being honest about sexual orientation, or lying about it — and because the terms are so pervasive we no longer think of the issue as an ethical one.

We really have built into our culture this shelter for people who lie about their sexual orientation. In many ways, that’s nurturing for people who are still coming to terms with themselves, but it’s also destructive in many ways. It allows predators to run rampant, it allows people to dodge stigmas they shouldn’t get to dodge, it allows a general air of dishonesty envelope our community that people take as license to be dishonest in other ways.

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Mark Foley, and “real” gay relationships

In an opinion piece for the LA Times, Michelangelo Signorile says that the media should have “outed” Mark Foley as gay soon after his hypocritical votes in favor of anti-gay legislation. I agree with Signorile about “outing” hypocritical public figures, and consistently always have. But there’s something else in the article that I wanted to highlight…

Foley lived in a glass closet in Washington, where many people, we’re now being told, assumed he was gay, even as he orchestrated a lie for the voters of his district with help from the media both in Washington and at home in Florida.
Foley’s closet wasn’t just about protecting his political career. He seemed to be filled with shame. According to one gay man quoted in the Washington Post last week who challenged Foley on his voting for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, Foley justified marginalizing gay marriage by saying, “I could never compare any relationship I have ever had to the nature of my mother and father’s relationship.”
For Foley, homosexuality meant second-class status.
That kind of self-loathing is bound to play out in harmful ways. Would Foley have made online sexual advances on teenagers if he were openly gay or if he’d been reported on, truthfully, by the media as a gay man long ago, and faced the consequences? It’s quite possible the answer is no.

I find the phrase I highlighted above just heartbreaking, for Mark Foley’s sake as well as for my own.
I love my parents, and the people who are especially my role models for a good marriage — my paternal grandparents, who are just wonderful people. But do they somehow have a more “valid” relationship than mine? Of course not. When I see my girlfriend, I see someone as important to me as the members of my own family; someone that love, adore, want to become a better person for, to live with and build a life with.
If I can live up to my grandparent’s example even half way (I’ve referred to them in the past as living examples of “happily ever after”) then I will be more successful as a spouse than 95% of heterosexual married couples are. And I love Stephanie so much that I want that for her and for me. I want a relationship like my grandparents have, with love and stability and surrounded by family and friends.
As loathsome as I think Mark Foley’s behavior was, I hope that someday he finds a relationship that moves him in that way, too — an equitable relationship based on respect and honesty and concern for the well being of his partner.

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“Outing” Revisited

Way back in March of 1998, I wrote a long article/essay/diatribe on the subject of “outing” people. Reading it today, I realize it wasn’t as much about “outing” people as it was about complaining about prevalence of opportunistic gay people who stay in the closet to prey on people who are out while avoiding the stigma of being gay, rather than about the action of “outing” itself.

The subject of “outing” has come up recently in the local gay community, surrounding the issue of Prop 68, the city’s human rights ordinance. It seems that there is some evidence that one of the city-county councilors who voted against the measure is gay or has a history of gay behavior, and none-other than State Rep. Julia Carson herself threatened publicly to “out” him as a hypocrite because he didn’t support it.

The suggestion has caused huge debate within the gay community; see bilerico.com for some of the discussion on the issue. It even has the religious right’s panties in a bunch; Micah Clark from the AFA sent out an email to his kool-aid drinkers where he was all in a tizzy about it.

Here’s my take: If you truly believe there’s nothing wrong with being gay, then revealing someone as gay shouldn’t be wrong, should it? If there’s nothing wrong with me having blue eyes, then why would you be hesitant/bothered/ashamed to talk about my blue eyes with other people? You don’t see black people running around worried about whether to reveal other black people as black, do you?

I thought not.

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On the Subject of “Outing”

The phrases “in the closet,” “coming out” and “outing” are euphemisms for lying about your sexual orientation, or telling the truth about it. They’re phrases I dislike, because they allow people to rationalize away the fact that “staying in the closet” is a fundamental dishonesty. It’s much easier to say, “I’m not out yet at work,” than to say, “I’m telling the people I work with lies about my sexual orientation.”

The gay and lesbian community has created a whole culture around the concept of the “closet,” going as far as creating a pop-psychology theory about the “process of coming out” and naming national magazines and websites after it. (Out Magazine, PlanetOut)

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it takes time for people to learn about, understand, and accept their own sexuality when it’s different from the norm. I went through it like everyone else, and it’s understandable that we want to help people who are going through the “great awakening.”

The problem is that the “closet” culture we’ve created allows people who are well aware of their sexuality the opportunity to be dishonest merely to avoid the stigma attached to being gay.

I say once you’re aware of your own sexual orientation, it’s time to tell other people unless you have some compelling reason not to. The older I get, the less tolerant I get of people who are lying about their sexual orientation for no good reason.

And there are some good reasons to lie:

  • If you are in immediate danger of losing your life.
  • If you are in danger of losing your children.
  • If you are very poor and losing your job will cause you to be out of food, clothing or housing.
  • If you are very young and telling the truth will get you thrown out into the streets before you are able to care for yourself, or bullied by your peers.

Many of the gay and lesbian people in this country who lie about their sexual orientation are not doing it for one of these reasons. Many of them are lying because they are afraid to face the hatred; afraid they won’t fit in. Black people have to face the hatred every day; they don’t have the luxury of being cowards.

Privacy, Schmivacy

As much difficulty as I have with the concept of the "closet," I get even more bent out of shape when people try to claim that their gay relationships are a "private matter" because that often reduces their relationship to a sexual one, rather than a loving, romantic one, which is the way the right-wing would like it to be.

When a straight person introduces their partner to anyone, they use the words "husband," "wife," "fiancé;" they naturally announce their emotions to complete strangers and don’t think twice about it. Straight people declare their love by getting married in front of family and friends and send announcements of their wedding to the community paper.

The "private" aspect of any relationship is the sexual, intimate part of a relationship between two individuals; the part that takes place behind closed doors. Heterosexual people have a "public" aspect as well; an aspect of their relationship that is the emotional, "love" part, and that love that is shared to some degree with the couple’s friends, family, and community. When other people know about their love and participate in it, they support it and strenghten it. That’s why the public part of their relationship is important.

Gay people rarely have a truly "public" part to their relationships, they may be honest to friends, and some family, but when it comes to holding hands in public or telling new acquaintances about their relationships, they censor themselves. Their relationships are often limited to the private, to the "bedroom." Because of this, gay people and straight people alike tend to think of gay relationships as merely sexual, rather than sexual and loving.

I know one of the first objections gay people will bring up is that we shouldn’t define our relationships by those of straight people. It’s true that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to that model; but we can draw some conclusions about human behavior by looking at them. Not all gay people want traditional, committed relationships and families, but some do and they shouldn’t be denied the opportunity.

"But… I’m Not Lying, I’m Just Not Telling People"

Oh, baloney. There’s no way to "not tell people." Within the first few weeks of getting to know someone, they’re going to ask you questions about your personal life that you have to answer. Sooner of later, you’re going to have to state a pronoun. If you choose to censor your answers, or be evasive, bingo! You’re lying.

I Don’t Want to Help You Lie

The closet culture we’ve created fosters a conspiracy of dishonesty within the community as well. People who are lying about their sexual orientation assume and expect those who are not lying to help them. They speak in conspiratorial whispers, rather than normal conversation tones. They look around before relating information, speak in code ("Is he family?" "Does he sing in the choir?") and expect others to do so, all with a bit of glee: "we’re putting one over on all these stupid straight people aren’t we?"

If people are lying to stay in the closet, and if I help them by perpetuating that lie, then I am as dishonest as they are, and as much of a coward as they are by going along with them.

Continue ReadingOn the Subject of “Outing”