Outrage and Outing Hypocrites
The controversial documentary, Outrage, finally opened in Atlanta (nearly two months later than the rest of the country) and I went to the matinee this afternoon with fellow bloggers Cleo Creech and Lisa Allender. Directed by Kirby Dick (best known for This Film is Not Yet Rated), the doc outs conservative politicians (and their outspoken supporters and sycophants) who vote against GLBT rights, but are secretly gay themselves: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, former Louisiana Rep. Jim McCrery, California Rep. David Dreier, former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman.
I do not support outing. It's a personal matter men and women should come to terms with in their own way and time. However, when closeted gays rise to power and use that power to repress the rights of their own community, I firmly believe they should be publicly outed and removed from office. Outrage offers a compelling case against all the politicians profiled, with solid evidence and reporting from noted journalists, including CNN's Hilary Rosen, Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff (who was hit on by Shepard Smith in a bar!) Andrew Sullivan and Michelangelo Signorile. Writers Larry Kramer and Tony Kushner weigh in, as well as current and former politicians like Barney Frank, former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevy and former Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe, both of whom outed themselves.
The lightning rod of the piece is blogger Michael Rogers (Blogactive.com), who began a campaign of outing closeted politicians with former Virginia Rep. Ed Schrock, who dropped his campaign for re-election in 2004 when the news broke. Schrock, like the rest of the politicians profiled, actively voted against an array of issues affecting the GLBT community including gay marriage, expanding hate crime laws, allowing gays and lesbians to adopt and even funding for HIV/AIDS. Dick and those interviewed make it clear that all these politicians are self-loathing gay men, drunk on power and raised in an era where they were forced to suppress their sexuality. Larry Kramer levels the charge that Ed Koch ignored the growing AIDS crisis in New York in the '80s because Koch was afraid that addressing it would lend credence to the rumors that he was gay. Randy Shilts made the same charge in the classic non-fiction account of the AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On.
Perhaps the most disturbing profile is that of current Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who has talked about running for Congress next year and has been talked up as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012. Outrage offers a believable series of interviews and evidence that Crist is gay and has dated women (notably during his election campaigns) as a cover. One of the women he dated would not go on camera, but told Dick "to call me in ten years and I'll tell you a story." As governor, Crist signed discrimination into the Florida constitution by banning gay marriage, endorsed a ban on gays and lesbians adopting children and appointed some of the most conservative right-wingers to the state supreme court. Equally disturbing is the media's refusal to report on these closet cases, with CNN censoring Bill Maher outing former Bush campaign manager Ken Melhman on Larry King Live and NPR refusing to mention Crist and Craig in its coverage of Outrage.
I'll be turning 40 in September, and over the last 20 years or so, I've had relationships with men who have renounced their sexuality and gone on to marry women and have children. One of those men said he was raised in a strict Christian home and his family would ostracize him if he came out. Another didn't believe he was really gay, but liked to occasionally have sex with men. I really pity his wife, especially when she eventually finds him in bed with another man, because she will. I won't out them, but I hope neither of them have political aspirations.
If the politicians in Outrage want to stay in the closet, screw their chiefs of staff and pick up tricks in airport bathrooms, that's fine with me. It's their own lives to ruin, but when they go to Washington or attain high office and use that office to suppress civil rights, then it's open season as far as I'm concerned. As openly gay D.C. councilman David Catania says in the film: "They've been chasing us for years -- we're going to chase back."