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    Closet space

    Michael uses a locution you see a lot in regard to outing:

    I’m in. My perspective on outing is simple. If you are a public figure, like a politician or whatever, I’m tentatively ok with it as long as it’s done to expose some hypocrisy.

    Some months back, I was taken aback to see Dale Carpenter use it, too, in establishing what he thinks are the criteria for justifiable outing:

    First, the outed person’s homosexuality must be directly relevant to some matter of public policy.

    Hypocrisy by an officeholder meets this test, as when a closeted politician opposes gay equality for homophobic reasons.

    Second, there must be credible evidence made available to the public that establishes the person is probably homosexual.

    The word that gets me is hypocrisy, an extremely useful term that unfortunately is extremely easy to use as a catch-all. Hypocrisy is acting in a way that clearly and directly goes against your professed beliefs. Someone who advocates a law against homosexual conduct and still indulges in it is a hypocrite.

    Just about everything else is a grey area, though. Opposing pro-gay legislation for “homophobic reasons”? Who gets to decide what’s homophobic? Does a politician just have to be “probably” homophobic the way she has to be “probably” homosexual? I’m afraid I still don’t think this is sufficient justification for revealing things about people’s private lives.

    The way to treat people you think are hypocritical and up to no good is to shun them. This seems to be the last move anyone thinks of nowadays, what with all the opportunities to sue people or sell their stories to tabloid shows. It’s still the best course, though. People who are just interested in tricks are unlikely to feel the sting, but those who act straight in public and then want to be all matey and down with the Family behind closed doors would, I think, get the message. And if they don’t, there’s not a whole lot we can do. It simply isn’t possible to stick it to everyone who deserves it, and we all lose when the boundary between public and private becomes even more blurred than it is now.

    3 Responses to “Closet space”

    1. Michael says:

      If a politician regularly allowed his 19-year-old son to drink alcohol at home, and if I knew this, would I be right to bring that up in a debate with him on his proposal to strengthen the “21 and over” laws?

      If a politician has been married three times, would I have a right to bring this up when he is writing a law that denies me marriage on the basis that I will be destroying traditional marriage?

      My position is that it is ok to delve into a politician’s private life to expose stuff like this.

      My problem with Aravosis and Rogers is that they not only want to go after the politicians. They want to go after anyone who is associated with them. They have no problem with outing a secretary who probably just answers phones and would have taken any job to support his/her kid. Thery also go after people who work for these politicians who have nothing to do with the politician’s anti-gay stuff.

      That’s what I have a problem with.

      But when Ken Mehlman sends out fliers announcing that leftists are out to ban the Bible and make gay marriage the law of the land (and therefore destroy traditional marriage) then I have no problem with people going after him for it.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Michael, in your first example, you should report him to the police for violating the law. That’d be more effective than anything you could say in a debate. In your second example, marriages are a matter of public record, so you wouldn’t be revealing anything essentially private about the man.

      And as far as Ken Mehlman goes…what are you talking about “going after”? If you disagree with his argument, rebut it. You can’t go around exposing things about people’s personal lives just because you resent the trade-offs they’re making to prioritize what they think is most important.

    3. Outing is a political act

      Sean at White Peril on hypocrisy as a justification for outing: The word that gets me is hypocrisy, an extremely useful term that unfortunately is extremely easy to use as a catch-all. Hypocrisy is acting in a way that clearly…

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