Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Politics of Outing

It is a golden rule, universally acknowledged among my gay partners in crime, that the pettiest, cruelest thing one can do is out a closeted homosexual. It's a dictum taken so seriously, that violation threatens immediate excommunication from our circle of friends. It simply isn't done.

Our sexuality is one of the most private aspects of our lives. All of us, gay or straight, are motivated to reveal or withhold details based on a variety of factors that are unique to each individual. Though I am now out in every sense of the word, it took many years to come clean with my parents. My motivation, however, was not fear of disapproval, or being disowned, or shunned, or a hundred other things.

No, I really just didn't want my parents connecting me with any kind of sex in even the vaguest fashion. We're an awkward people, my clan, and sexual discussions are best had after several bottles of strong wine followed by long periods of sober avoidance. These are, after all, the people who threw a yellow book at me when I was 12 with a "Good luck, and godspeed."

People have varying degrees of comfort with their sexuality. I have friends who will eagerly relate their tales of conquest using fruit, napkins, drinks, and other available props in lavish re-enactments meant to amaze and arouse. I also have friends who spend late nights on sling rotationals in abandoned warehouses who would never breathe a word of it in any kind of company. Our willingness to be open is a matter of disposition and entitled to a certain degree of respect.

There are those, however, who have no such respect when they've coaxed the remaining tatters of conscience with the right motivation. The Malcontent recently nudged me towards this site, run by a stereotypically bitter gossip named Mike Rogers.

In Rogers' view, being Republican and gay are incompatible. Not only incompatible, but morally reprehensible. Surfing around his site, the phrases which leap out are standard gay lefty boilerplate. Gay Republicans are "self-loathing" people who "betray" their "brothers and sisters." Therefore, gay Republicans deserve outing if they are not already so.

Rogers claims the great motivator for these outings is hypocrisy. I have already posted at length on hypocrisy. It is the argument to be made when you have no other arguments.

I believe the real issue here is loyalty. People like Rogers demand strict loyalty among homosexuals to his fiercely partisan sensibilities. There can be no disagreement in ideas, methods, or priority. One commenter went so far as to compare gay Republicans to Uncle Toms (would the gay equivalent be an Aunt Patti?).

Homosexuals are not my brothers and sisters. My friends are my family, and they are my friends for a variety of reasons. I am not loyal to anyone out of a shared orientation. Neither am I loyal to white people due to the color of my skin. Were I to ever make a political argument that someone is betraying their brothers and sisters in the white race by supporting affirmative action, I would rightly be denounced as a virulent racist and bigot. It's an unconscienable mindset that should neither be encouraged nor supported.

Enforced racial, sexual, or gendered loyalty to one political party is a form of ideological slavery. People like Mike Rogers are the bounty hunters intended to use whips of gossip and privacy invasion to lash those errant thinkers back onto the plantation of partisan Democratic thought. Do not wander too far, lest you get the beating that is coming to you courtesy of Overseer Mike.

I have already noted that I am conservative and voted for Bush based on shifting priorities. While I am unabashedly pro gay marriage, I part with the gay left on the method and importance in obtaining it. There are simply greater issues facing the republic which demand my attention and vote. That does not mean I cannot compartmentalize the issues and work against the federal marriage amendment while supporting the broader goals of the conservative movement. That people like Rogers cannot separate gay marriage from larger issues is more a testament to his narrow-minded intolerance than any imagined self-loathing on my part.

These outings are about hatred and fanaticism. When you find yourself justifying delving into the sexual lives of political opponents, you are by definition radicalized. You are unleashing forces that are indisputably a double-edged sword. Under this standard any gay candidate for office is now open season. Our "brothers and sisters" are being pitted against one another in a very dangerous way. Do we really want to create an atmosphere within the gay community where we must fear each other to the point of paranoia? Do we want Republicans within the gay community tracking down a candidate's history of meth experimentation while Democrats start hitting up the sex clubs frequented by a Republican opponent?

The heterosexual world does that already. We must now do that to each other? This is considered looking out for our "brothers and sisters" in the community? Please.

There are other elements in the latest Rogers' story that strike an odd chord, like jarring a contemplative funny bone.

And, on top of the many sources above, this story has been confirmed by an individual who used to work with Mr. Berkowitz at, get this, Generation GOP. GenerationGOP is the organization created to recruit young people to the GOP platform (including the denial of civil marriage equality) and candidates.

My God, he's recruiting young people to be depraved Republicans! Replace the word Republican with homosexual, and that makes for an eerie familiarity in rhetoric.

Rogers claims one of the sources for his latest outing came from within the White House. If someone within the White House is not only aware of the person's orientation, but willing to share it with others, doesn't it track that the president or at least his advisors are aware of it as well? Wouldn't that grind against the notion that George Bush is a homophobic bigot who wants to cleanse the world of us all? (Not that I'd mind that train to Montana if Brokeback Mountain is any indication of what awaits).

Then there is the urging to contact the Jewish media. I realize Rogers is Jewish, but I cannot imagine what he hopes to achieve with this. As far as my experiences go, secular Democratic Jews seem to have little problem with homosexuality, and if he's banking on the fact they do, well, that's appealing to some pretty self-loathing impulses. If he thinks they're going to go wild over the "hypocrisy" of it all, well, good luck with that.

All that is aside from the fact that Jews tend to have some sort of pesky aversion to persecution in any form. It is a mystery.

People like Mike Rogers are anathema to the notion that what we do in our bedrooms is no one's business but our own. Had he limited this to merely political officials, his reasoning might make more sense. But notice his caterwauling that Anderson Cooper is not quite as out as Rogers would personally like him to be. Would he be happier if we all wore badges so the public may more readily identify us? Something in pink, perhaps? Three sides would be good. Oh, Mikey, but that's already been done, sugar.

People like Rogers deserve unabashed shunning within the community when they resort to these tactics. Not only does he break one of our most sacred codes, but he creates and nourishes an atmosphere that thrives on destroying the hard won sexual privacy of his so-called brothers and sisters.

This is no service to any of us, conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican.

Note: I've contacted several gay rights organizations for comment. So far they have hemmed and hawed and seem very much like deer caught in headlights. We will see if the gay community will put their principles where their rhetoric lay.

Update: Karol at Alarming News notes the recently indicted Tom Delay will be replaced by Rep. David Dreier of California. Dreier was once subjected to a vigorous outing campaign led by Rogers. I think we can expect a reinvigorated attempt in coming weeks by those on the Left who have allowed themselves to be consumed by hatred.

h/t: Chad at Cake or Death