My essay making the case for outing members of Congress and their staffers who are gay and engage in anti-gay activism posted this morning at PJ Media. I’m finding that straight people are having a hard time understanding that there’s no such thing as privacy when it comes to anyone’s sexual orientation. Since there is no such thing as privacy about sexual orientation, there is no such thing as a “right to privacy” about sexual orientation. After your gender, it is the main thing people want to know about you in order to know how to relate to you. Therefore they figure it out for themselves, regardless of how many obstacles you may put in their path. You can’t stop people from doing this. Therefore there is no such thing as a “right to privacy” about sexual orientation.
UPDATE, 12/21/11, Wed.:
The small number of commenters here and pretty much all the commenters at PJ Media seem to me to be putting words in my mouth in order to disagree with me. I’m fine with disagreement, but have to draw the line at misrepresenting what I wrote. The primary confusion is about my point that when someone wants to know your sexual orientation, you can say anything you want but they are going to observe you and make up their own minds — that’s what makes sexual orientation not private. I focused my article specifically on members of Congress and their staffers who meet two additional conditions:
- They are gay.
- They are engaging in anti-gay activism.
Frankly, I am already being accused of engaging in anti-gay activism for supporting practically any Republican, since so few support gay equality. I think it is a threat to America that so many Republicans are intent on shredding the Constitution in order to impose their religious beliefs through the state and on destroying the power of the judiciary in our traditional constitutional balance-of-powers because it is the most effective obstacle to achieving this goal. These are definitely poison pills. However, Obama and the Democrats do as little as they can toward gay equality to keep gays in the fold, which also is bad. But what is infinitely worse is that they want to destroy free enterprise and impose socialism. I believe I have a better shot at gaining my equality under free enterprise than under socialism. Therefore I will support an anti-gay Republican candidate who understands the policies required to get the economy thriving again — just as gay Democrats voted for Obama, who is still “evolving” on marriage equality and has savagely fought against gays in federal lawsuits on gay equality. (Note: one of those lawsuits, by the Log Cabin Republicans, forced Obama to support the repeal of DADT, but he gets no credit since he didn’t get in front of the parade until it nearly passed him by.)
I’m not going to out the average closeted lesbian or gay man who is minding her or his own business. But I am telling them they do not have control over what other people see and think, so without their permission, a lot of people in their lives have figured out their sexual orientation without being told.
However, I will grant that some people are harder to discern than others. I had to be told that financial advisor Suze Orman, Iron Chef Cat Cora and country singer Chely Wright are lesbians. But I believe if I were in a position to observe them in daily life, I’d have figured it out.
The truth that sexual orientation is virtually impossible to keep secret particularly seems to bother closeted gays, perhaps because they didn’t realize that this information about their life is not and never has been totally subject to their control. This thought frightens them and makes them go through the list of everyone in their life trying to figure out who might know without having been told. This also is embarrassing. I still cringe when I think of all the people who tried to reach out to me to let me know they were OK with my being a lesbian when I thought I’d pulled off being an ex-lesbian in my 20’s.
It also alarms people who do not have well-developed powers of observation because they can’t imagine what observant people are doing in order to read other people better than they can. This may frighten or shame them. That was not my intention, but few people react well to those emotions.
Others are terribly concerned about what would happen to closeted gay members of Congress and their staffers who have married a straight person, especially those with children, if they are outed for anti-gay activism. They seem to feel these people are entitled to enjoy all the perks of heterosexuality while exploiting the gay community — for men this typically means seeing gay prostitutes, or having one-nighters or brief flings. Lesbians tend to have longer affairs. But for both lesbians and gay men, they are involved with someone who will never commit to them. This creates despair and instability in the gay and lesbian community. Gay lives are ruined and no one cares. The sympathy has been entirely for the liar and cheat, never for the gays they exploit — and not even for the straight spouses and the children who have a legitimate entitlement to honesty. Funnily enough, the sympathy never seems to go to a straight liar who is cheating on a spouse, so Mark Sanford and Anthony Weiner were widely reviled when their affairs were exposed and the destruction to their careers was considered their just desserts.
Enough gays and lesbians are openly gay that we have reached the tipping point where it is assumed that if you are out and about in the gay community, you are out, period. Part of gay equality is that it is just as dangerous to your career and family life to lead a double life, or to say one thing (anti-gay!) and do another (gay!), as it is for any straight person because of the unpredictability of scorned lovers. I am not saying that everyone in the gay community who is leading a double life should be outed. If you are a private person, people should mind their own business. But if you are a gay member of Congress, or staffer — or any public figure, including celebrities — and you engage in anti-gay activism by demonizing gays and opposing gay equality — then the fact that you are secretly gay IS legitimate news. It is fair to bring your true sexual orientation to the public’s attention and ask for an explanation because of the destruction you are causing in the lives of an untold number of people both in the present and for many years to come.
UPDATE, 1/6/12, Fri.: HA! I was very specific about outing only gay members of Congress and staffers who ALSO engage in anti-gay activism. Both things have to be true to deserve outing. Everyone else who is not in a position of power can make his or her own decision about the closet. And Lily Tomlin said it first: