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November 9, 2006

More gay Republicans
Posted by Teresa at 12:04 AM *

Jim Macdonald, who’s watching Larry King Live via streaming video, tells me that Bill Maher just outed Republican party chair Ken Mehlman as gay on the show.

Now we know the real Republican take on homosexuality: “Much too good for the common people!”

Comments on More gay Republicans:
#1 ::: talboito ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 12:20 AM:

Rumors have circulated for years. Did he have any proof?

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 12:22 AM:

I know rumors have circulated for years. Jim said Larry King seemed shocked, and then Maher was shocked that King seemingly didn't know about it.

#3 ::: Jim Henley ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 12:24 AM:

What's "homosexuality?" Does it mean having the same kind of sex every time?

#4 ::: Jacob Shelton ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 12:25 AM:

Seriously, what is wrong with these creatures? To stand up in front of millions and denounce (vehemently) a lifestyle while secretly practicing it? It's so...political.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 12:29 AM:

It's so cynical, and so arrogant.

#6 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 12:36 AM:

I think this cartoon by Dan Wasserman sums it all up neatly:

http://www.gocomics.com/donwright/2006/10/31/

#7 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 12:37 AM:

Piffle -- I meant Don Wright. Though Wasserman is a great cartoonist, too.

#8 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 12:55 AM:

Interesting story on this at http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=18160

#9 ::: Seth Morris ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:02 AM:

The humor, irony, and straight-line-value are all wonderful. Teresa's line about homosexuality being too good for us is fabulous (of course). I'll be repeating it (with attribution :-) ) for at least a week.

Sadly, however, what Maher did was wrong. If a republican attack dog outed a Democratic leader, none of us would be cheering.

Maher is our version of the attack dog. He's the direct, confrontational, across-the-line knee-jerker who keeps Franken looking polite. That they're both fabulous comic writers helps them get away with attacks the Republican hit men look bad using.

Outing someone, whether the allegation is true or not, is just rude, invasive, and hurtful. If Mehlman is gay--by some definition--it threatens his personal life. If it isn't true, it amounts to name-calling (and makes Maher look much worse in the process).

The worst case would be where Mehlman has engaged in (or currently engages in) some activity some consider "gay" and he doesn't.

If Mehlman hasn't identified as gay, let's not use a rumor to attack his party (no matter how much we need and value ammunition against them), his service (I haven't read his voting record and only know of his apologies on behalf of the party for the last 40 years of avoiding representing black americans), or his person.

Still, it is a great set up for jokes.

#10 ::: Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:03 AM:

...uhm, am I the only one who thinks that if Democrats really mean that it should be no one's business what your sexual preference is, that means...not making a big deal about what anyone's sexual preference is?

I feel like, if tables were switched and a Democrat were outed by someone from the other side, people'd be crying foul and saying it's no one's business.

No one should be forcibly outed - we don't know the individuals circumstance or why they've opted to be quiet about it.

There's nothing nice, or friendly, or right, or just, about outing someone. Saying "they're being a hypocrit" doesn't make it okay.

#11 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:09 AM:

Given how the Republicans using gays, I think one may reasonably slam their leaders for hypocrisy, if those leaders are themselves gay. This is very different from mucking around in someone's bedroom, hoping to embarass them. Problem is...gods, I hope this isn't a false accusation.

#12 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:13 AM:

The problem is that if they're openly working against GLBT rights but in fact are GLBT themselves, they're engaging in hypocrisy that's dangerous. They're wiping away other people's rights. That is an evil thing, and it needs to be stopped.

#13 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:22 AM:

Kelly:

Actually, I think that being GLBT and working against GLBT rights would be the proper situation for outing. If people like him didn't work so hard to portray gay as EEEEEEVIL, then telling people about it wouldn't be a problem now, would it?

Can't have it both ways.

#14 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:31 AM:

Maher is not "our" attack dog. Not mine, anyway.

#15 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:33 AM:

I vaguely remember hearing speculation in the media about Mehlman's orientation . . . earlier this year? Last year? It was during some previous outing-scandal.

I think the Republicans have been selling a service to the heartland. Denial services. And they're not only the provider, they're a customer!

#16 ::: Jacob Shelton ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:54 AM:

Your right about the orientation speculation (lord, that sounds awful) Stefan.If you watch the video (if it's not already on You Tube I'm sure it soon will be) there is shock registered by Maher at King's shock about Mehlman's sexual preferences.With that I'm not sure if it's an outing so much as a re-outing to a slightly larger audience.

#17 ::: Melanie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:58 AM:

Seth:

I'm afraid I have to disagree with you--sort of.

He's the Republican party chair--he's involved in Republican policy, social conservative policy, the kind of policy that's hurtful to many GLBTQ folk. If this were some other issue where something in his personal history could bias his opinion, but he was trying to keep it hidden, the media would be telling us right away. Only sexual orientation gets the privilege of silence on the part of the media, which furthers the idea that it's somehow shameful or dangerous (and it can be dangerous, but that's attenuated by the fact that he's, you know, the Republican Party Chair--we're not talking about a working-class guy living in the rural South or Midwest). If the politician is making policy related to queer issues, we should know if they're queer.

(At this point, I want to play devil's advocate for myself and point out that usually the things journalists reveal are bad. But if they can tell us about somebody's affair or criminal behavior, but sexual orientation is untouchable, what does that say about the relative perceived damage of, say, strangling your mistress vs. being gay?)

And this is the sort of part: I don't totally agree with the idea that we should know--bias doesn't mean the other guy's wrong, it just means you have to be a little skeptical about what he says. Also, being gay doesn't in any way give you some sort of divine right to speak for all non-heterosexual folk in your country, just like being straight doesn't preclude you from advocating GLBTQ issues. It's a bias, not the final statement on your opinions and their correctness.

But my point, I guess, is that while I think the media's current treatment of closeted homosexuals is the way we should treat *all* personal issues, it's not the way any other personal issue is treated. If we can't get the media to shut up about personal bias, then outing is a perfectly rational thing to do--the equal thing to do.

#18 ::: Melanie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:01 AM:

Or, Susan could say that all much more succinctly while I was typing. :)

#19 ::: Seth Morris ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:01 AM:

Janet, I stand corrected and I apologize for any offense. I certainly (believe I) understand your reaction.

My personal opinion of him has gone back and forth over the years; his on-again-off-again drifts towards despondent, hate-based "liberal" activism will eventually cross my put-up-with-it threshold.

#20 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:02 AM:

".uhm, am I the only one who thinks that if Democrats really mean that it should be no one's business what your sexual preference is, that means...not making a big deal about what anyone's sexual preference is?"

Well it seems to me that the "no one's business what your sexual preference is" bit is really about is that people are oppressed because of their sexual preference. If people weren't oppressed then the no one's business bit would seem weird. Given this state of affairs it seems really sensible to out anyone in the party actively pursuing oppression of people for their sexuality because they should fucking stop it.

#21 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:10 AM:

actually given Bush's own orientation it is sometimes hard for me not to associate his every weakness with the traditional stereotypes of gay people. This is a bad thing because my hatred of Bush (and indeed of the Republican party) can in some instances lead to feelings of anti-gay resentment. However I know this is an aberration. I am sure there are many fine Gay people in the U.S who are not Republicans.

#22 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:20 AM:

Re: What the Corner is smoking-

I'm really worried that conservative pundits will put liberal satirists out of work. Because, really, how can you top that?

#23 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:23 AM:

It might be important to note that Maher was talking about outing Republicans in his upcoming show, and King asked him if he planned to name names. Maher said "a couple," and King asked for specifics. When King reacted with surprise, Maher said something to the effect that it was widely known in Washington political circles.

Or maybe the YouTube clip shows all that already.

#24 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:25 AM:

Hmm. I thought I'd seen a link to a YouTube clip above. Guess not.

Well, I don't doubt one will appear soon.

#25 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:34 AM:

Here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUvDdzBr5Fk&eurl=

#26 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 03:11 AM:

Geez, YouTube is like crack. Every time I go to YouTube I end up staring at video clips half the night. I found an even more eyebrow-raising version of "Relax" this time around (really never saw that on MTV), as well as Colbert on gay marriage from a week ago.

#27 ::: bad Jim ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 03:43 AM:

If Mehlman isn't gay, there's no harm done; it's no more than junior high school friction. If he is, he may deserve some sympathy, but damned little pity, considering how ruthlessly his party and his organization have played up the gay threat.

With respect to Ted Haggard, it might be useful to speculate whether the evangelical model of sexuality, that everyone is born straight, exacerbates the problems of the few who don't fit the mold. (In contrast, Dobson seems to regard gays as feminized males, which is nearly as divorced from reality but at least does not invoke demonic interference.)

It's not wise, nor kind, nor careful to say "out them all, and let them sort it out", but doing so might obviate quite a bit of nonsense.

#28 ::: Matt Freestone ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 04:15 AM:

Haven't seen the clip (can't watch YouTube at work) but the descriptions remind me of when Peter Mandelson was outed by Matthew Parris on Newsnight. Parris claimed that he thought it was common knowledge, because it was no secret within the Westminster village. It was almost completely unknown outside those circles however.
Jeremy Paxman's face was a picture though - you could almost hear him thinking "Are you sure you want to say this on TV, Matthew?"

#29 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 04:59 AM:

I really dislike the "homophobes are all closet cases" meme. For me, the emotional impact of supposed progressives using "haha, ur so gay!" as an insult outweighs the sophist argument that homophobes think being gay is a bad thing, so it's ok to insult them for being gay. Besides, if someone were completely 100% straight and not at all a hypocrite, would that make it ok for them to be homophobic? Of course not!

But I particularly, vehemently dislike the version where a particular individual homophobe is outed. Nobody should have their orientation trumpeted to the world at large if they don't want it to be, not even a horrible hateful bigoted person.

Right now, as we speak, gay people are suffering from hatred, ostracism, discrimination and so on. Many of them are in real physical danger from homophobic violence. You personally might be at the heart of a community of like-minded or at least open-minded people. Or you personally might be brave enough to put yourself and your loved ones on the line in order to defend a principle, and that's great. But that's not a decision that should be forced on someone else.

(That said, while I disapprove of Maher's actions and some of the gloating, I can't help liking Teresa's line.)

#30 ::: Eve ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 05:34 AM:

The problem is that if they're openly working against GLBT rights but in fact are GLBT themselves, they're engaging in hypocrisy that's dangerous. They're wiping away other people's rights. That is an evil thing, and it needs to be stopped.

Never forget that all culture-war 'moral values' initiatives do one thing - they screw the poor. The rich can afford to buy their way out of the morality they impose on everyone else, and they can afford to cover up so that nobody sees them doing it.

One of the main reasons for same-sex marriage and civil unions is inclusion on health insurance (in the US) and similar benefits. If both of you have really good jobs with spiffy comprehensive health insurance, and you have a good family lawyer who can draw up clever trusts and advance-care directives and things to evade your state's no-gay-marriage constitutional amendment, why should you give a toss about the dying cop's life partner who won't get any of that insurance payout?

If Roe v Wade were overturned (I doubt it would be, but just for the sake of argument), and one of the Bush twins became pregnant, do you think she'd have any problem getting an abortion? Nah. She'd take a discreet little trip to Canada (or perhaps New York, unless abortion was banned by federal law) and problem solved. I know this is true because you see it all the time in this corner of the world. Abortion is illegal in Poland, but here in the Czech Republic it's perfectly legal, acceptable and unexceptional. Middle-class Polish women come over for abortions every single day, but poor Poles, who can't afford the fares and the clinic fee, are screwed.

Always the same story. They totally believe that morality, like military service, is something to buy your way out of.

#31 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 06:16 AM:

Rachel, #12: The problem is that if they're openly working against GLBT rights but in fact are GLBT themselves, they're engaging in hypocrisy that's dangerous. They're wiping away other people's rights. That is an evil thing, and it needs to be stopped.

People working against GLBT rights are doing evil things, regardless of their own sexual orientation. A gay bigot is no worse nor better than a straight bigot. I don't think this can be claimed to be anything but point-scoring - it's the dirty campaigning we were all so angry about a week or so ago.

#32 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 06:48 AM:

"People working against GLBT rights are doing evil things, regardless of their own sexual orientation. A gay bigot is no worse nor better than a straight bigot. I don't think this can be claimed to be anything but point-scoring - it's the dirty campaigning we were all so angry about a week or so ago."

That's right it's point-scoring, but I don't think it's dirty campaigning. It's pointing out to the people that are going to vote for the Republicans that their reasons for doing so do not coincide with reality in a way that they will be able to understand and accept.

One thing that Republican voters often argue is that liberal elites look down on them and consider them stupid (well, I do consider anyone who votes Republican stupid but then my operative definition of human is: The animal that is stupid), so if you point out that they are getting screwed economically or that outlawing abortion will be bad for them they think you are calling them stupid, but if you point out someone they are supporting is gay they don't feel insulted, they think you insulted the other guy and just stop supporting him.

This is a bad state of affairs to be true but it is noted that the main thing in politics is to gain power, because it is from political power that change can come. The natural argument against this is but to out people as gay undercuts the democratic position and thus no changes can be made, thus it is wasteful. That natural argument, like many natural ideas, sounds good but it's really very nonsensical because nobody has changed the Democratic position that gay rights should be recognized therefore the outing of every gay republican that follows an anti-gay rights agenda does nothing to harm the democratic position of working towards gay rights. All it does is give the haters reasons to stay at home on election day grumbling about moral decay, which after all is what they like to do best and what they're really good at.


#33 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 07:28 AM:

The Rules of Evidence in American courts of law can be a little hard to follow, but some elements are pretty clear and straightforward. For example, speaking generally, if the prosecution team wants to introduce a piece of evidence that the judge rules is prejudicial against the defendant, the prosecution team cannot introduce it.

However, if the defense team, for whatever reason, either accidentally or intentionally, introduces that same piece of evidence, then the prosecution is free to make their own uses of that evidence.

This seems perfectly fair to me. Almost obsessively fair, which is the sort of obsession a judicial system ought to have.

Mehlman is part of the team prosecuting America's Case Against Gay People. He's part of the team that has introduced prejudicial evidence for the purpose of prosecuting its case. The defense is therefore, at this point, perfectly entitled to do what it will with that same evidence.

If Mehlman was nervous about the evidence being used in some form of rebuttal, he shouldn't have joined the prosecutorial team. The only logical explanation is that he's either too stupid to see what he was getting himself in for, or at some level he's okay with, maybe even happy about, being outed.

I don't believe he's that stupid, so I have to believe that at some level he's either okay with or happy about being publicly outed.

But in any case it doesn't matter. You don't get to take stuff like Mehlman's public and political behavior back. That's because it's public and political. Again, his choice, not Maher's or anybody else's.

#34 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 08:04 AM:

For me, the emotional impact of supposed progressives using "haha, ur so gay!" as an insult outweighs the sophist argument that homophobes think being gay is a bad thing, so it's ok to insult them for being gay.

Have you actually watched that clip? Maher isn't being insulting, he's being matter of fact.

Letting people frame "gay" as an insult instead of a simple statement of fact is part of the overall problem here. Are you trying to argue that being gay is such a bad thing that pointing it out is automatically insulting?


#35 ::: Eve ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 08:29 AM:

No, but being a hypocritical bigot is such a bad thing that pointing it out is automatically insulting.

#36 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 08:36 AM:

#34 ::: Susan writes:
Have you actually watched that clip? Maher isn't being insulting, he's being matter of fact.

Absolutely so, in fact. Larry King's face is an absolute study, and I can just picture his producer in the back making wild "cut, cut" gestures, to go to a commercial break.

#37 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 08:38 AM:

Seth Morris:If Mehlman is gay--by some definition--it threatens his personal life.

If it does so, it does so because of the actions Mehlman, as a Republican leader, has taken and supported.

Hoist by his own petard. I consider it quite just.

#38 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 08:46 AM:

Mehlman has denied being gay (scroll down the the "Side Dish" section), though Maher claimed he hadn't.

#39 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 08:55 AM:

From a purely utilitarian standpoint, an elected official who has to keep a personal secret (any secret, really) is vulnerable to blackmail. Which compromises his/her ability to serve the public.

So under any circumstances, it is bad for democracy to foster a climate of obsessive secrecy and/or bigotry.

But wait. I'm not so sure that the American bigotry about sex (any sex, really) springs from a "conservative" ideology. It springs from culture. You've got issues, America. Figure them out... and stop nagging the rest of the world about'em! Please.

#40 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Guys, I've got to argue against those who oppose this outing on the basis of simple human politeness. Certainly, in the case of normal social interaction, outing someone against their will is rude and uncivilized. Come to that, it's rude and uncivilized in this case as well.

However, I'd argue that the mitigating virtue of this little sin is that it harms the Republican cause. Anything that wounds the political position of those torturing fascist bastards is by definition a Great and Good Thing.

We are, no exaggeration, engaged in a struggle against monsters. Forget the irreparable harm they've done to the constitution, forget the fact that they've brought back torture. Right now, today, some actual human being is going to actually die--or worse, come back irreversibly mutilated in body or spirit--for the sole purpose of enriching Bush's political cronies.

With that in mind, I'd encourage everyone in a position to embarrass or otherwise harm the filth responsible to give etiquette the next couple of years off.


#41 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 09:49 AM:

I have no problem with a public official who is anti-gay being outed. He is not being outed and disgraced for being gay, he is being outed and disgraced as the most vile of opportunistic hypocrites. That is his crime. How anyone could confuse that with playing the same anti-gay card that the anti-gay crowd plays is beyond me.

#42 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 10:09 AM:

Re comment #22 and the item regarding The Corner: Some days you eat the bear. Some days the bear eats you.

#43 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 10:09 AM:

I'm extremely sympathetic to justifications for outing powerful right-wing closeted gays. And I'm not gay, it's not my life that's at stake, so my opinion doesn't matter a hell of a lot anyway.

So, this isn't an opinion about outing. I just want to note that the justification many of you are using for outing powerful right-wing gay folks -- that they are actively doing evil to the lives of gay people -- is only an extension of the arguments that are used for outing any and all closeted gay people. All closeted gay folks, the argument goes, are harming the cause of gay people. All closeted gay people make it harder for gay people to establish their rights. Gays who silently live within the system tacitly support the system. If you support outing gays who actively harm the cause of gays everywhere -- even assuming we all agree about the specific cases -- can you be against the outing of gays who passively harm the cause of gays everywhere? Schadenfreude aside, it seems to me that outing is not a line-item proposition, where you get to decide who it's okay to out. (Are you going to vote on it? Or is it every gay to their own judgment?) Outing is wrong, or it isn't.

#44 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 10:19 AM:

Scraps:
I think there is a distinction to be made between actively harming a cause and passively harming it, even if you take as a given that being closeted is harmful to the cause. I'm not sure how much further I'd go than "not helpful".

I'm not impressed by closet cases, but I'm not automatically in favor of outing people who are minding their own business as long as they aren't using secrecy as a cover for abuse. Republicans are trying to mind MY business, so I have no problem minding theirs right back at 'em.

#45 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 10:31 AM:

I think Sean Bosker has it exactly right.

If Ken Mehlman actually is gay, maybe this explains why there are Log Cabin Republicans. Maybe they wait in hope that the gay Republicans in positions of power will see the light and stop trying to deny themselves rights taken for granted by straight Americans.

BTW, with respect to #43, I guess I don't take such an absolutist stance on outing. I could be convinced to an absolutist stance if someone could point me at the research that shows that outing a hypocrite does no good to either the hypocrite or the public discourse. Someone who is closeted but passive with respect to the struggle for equal rights is probably working on self-acceptance, consciously or subconsciously and ought to be left alone until ready. I find it hard to think the same about a closeted person vociferously fighting against equal rights. I think there must be deeper issues there. Of course, I've only been the former. I've never been the latter, so this is just conjecture on my part.

#46 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 10:35 AM:

Scraps,
No, they're not the same justifications.

These people have been engaged in an active campaign to portray gays as evil, immoral, dangerous, and tainted. They went out of their way to make life more dificult and more dangerous for gays by actively pushing the "gays are evil, sick, and dangerous" meme, while people on the other side worked hard to promote the idea that being gay is simply a fact, with no moral judgement attached to it, and that gays are simply people.

Either Mehlman and his ilk--closeted gays who worked to promote the idea that being gay is a defect--knew the meme was untrue and that they were harming innocent people thereby, or they thought they themselves were dangerous, sick people and were hiding that fact from the American public they were pledged to serve. This is in absolutely no way comparable to living a quiet, closeted life because people like Mehlman made it dangerous to live openly.

Outing the police officer in Ohio who has no control over how millions of dollars are spent to spin gayness is nothing at all like outing the bastard who made it dangerous for that policeman to be out.

#47 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 10:38 AM:

Scraps, there is a tremendous difference between a bus driver who makes his living driving buses and who is gay, and a gay politician who makes his living by vilifying gays. It is very simple to discover the difference, and the difference is why I think it is OK to out the politician and not the bus driver.

I also think killing is wrong, but not in every case, i.e. killing in self-defence. I think that fishing is perfectly ethical, but not fishing until all the fish are gone. I like cars, and I support energy conservation, alternative fuels, and gas taxes. You are creating a false dichotomy where it is either acceptable to out all gays, or no gays. I simply disagree, and I think the distinction between a gay Anti-Gay Republican, and a gay bus driver is obvious.

#48 ::: John Aspinall ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 10:52 AM:

Re the Bear (#22 and #42): it's too bad that the Corner, like most right wing sites, doesn't want comments on their stuff (I guess they equate small-d democratic with large-D Democratic).

Given the imaginative talents around here I'm sure someone could come up with a comeback along bear-eats-bush, bear flies back to DC, no-one notices, lines.

#49 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 10:55 AM:

As I said, it's a difference of degree. It doesn't seem to me that you are refuting that; you're just asserting your right to say at what point outing is justified. Universal gay outers are drawing the line in a different place. The essence of your justification is the same. Presumably you would object that the gay bus driver isn't causing enough harm, if any, to disturb their life in this fashion; the universal gay outer would shrug and disagree with you. You both agree that outing is justified; all you have to object to is his judgment of where to draw the line. That's always going to be a matter of personal judgment. That's why it's a serious decision to embrace such a tactic, and not something that can comfortably be justified because that person deserves it. If you support outing the evil, by your judgment, you support outing by anyone else's.

The difference between your analogy to killing, for example, is that we have a societal agreement. We have courts. You claim self-defense, and society can agree, or not. Outing is vigilante behavior. You out who you damned well please. I'm not saying that if you say it's okay to out one person, it's okay to out anyone; I am saying that if you think it's okay to out one person, you are in a weak moral position to morally object to the outing of the bus driver by someone more radical than you. All you can do, once you approve of outing as a tactic of social punishment, is agree or disagree about how it's used. Just my opinion, but I think that's a serious moral step, not one that ought to be taken simply out of dislike for a specific person you don't mind seeing harmed.

#50 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:14 AM:

I really dislike the "homophobes are all closet cases" meme.

If it were not so often true, then we would not believe it.

#51 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:16 AM:

Barney Frank had a great comment on this (and, cosmic coincidence, it was on Maher's show).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSDQQtHKakU

#52 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:26 AM:

All you can do, once you approve of outing as a tactic of social punishment, is agree or disagree about how it's used.

That's a version of the slippery slope fallacy--the belief that because two things fall along the same line of action, no reasonable distinction can be drawn between them.

There is a difference between a person who choses to be closeted while they go about their daily life, and a person who choses to be closeted while actively working to criminalize the behavior they, themselves, practice and deny the human rights of the groups of which they are, themselves, members. It is that harnessing of state violence that is the offense, not the homosexuality; combating that violence is the goal, and outing a random bus driver is different in kind.

The entire Republican apparatus is actively working to criminalize homosexual acts and deny the human rights of homosexuals; the homosexuals who are also party enablers, especially the powerful ones like Foley and Mehlman, should not be allowed to escape the hatred, violence, and rights violations they themselves are sewing.

You're certainly welcome to disagree about whether outing is a moral tool to use in combating that violence; not every tool is moral, even in a fight for one's life. But I don't think it's reasonable to deny the difference in kind between types of outing.

#53 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:28 AM:

All you can do, once you approve of outing as a tactic of social punishment, is agree or disagree about how it's used.

You are projecting; in your opinion outing is a punishment. I can't speak for Sean, but I don't view it that way, any more than I view, for example, revealing Cheney's connections to companies that influence his energy policy as punishment. Information that someone is a raging hypocrite or a chronic liar is relevant to the public debate. Was Gary Hart being punished when he dared the media to follow him and they then discovered he was an adulterer?

Just my opinion, but I think that's a serious moral step, not one that ought to be taken simply out of dislike for a specific person you don't mind seeing harmed.

I should point out that a simple way to avoid being exposed as a hypocrite is to not be one. Actively working against something you secretly espouse is like painting a target on your forehead. A politician invites this scrutiny while a private citizen does not; if you don't want your life scrutinized, do not enter politics. I think that's a valid and non-arbitrary distinction.

#54 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:30 AM:

Scraps, excuse me if I'm misunderstanding your argument, but it seems to me that sufficient difference of degree makes a difference of kind. It seems to me that, by your logic, imprisioning drug dealers who profit by exploiting entire comunities and using violence to reinforce their power base is the same as imprisoning chemo patients who use pot because they're both part of "the war on drugs," and it's just a matter of degree.

#55 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:43 AM:

I don't belive that the bus driver is causing less harm than the anti-gay closeted Republican. I believe that the bus driver is causing no harm. One is causing harm, one is not. I also don't believe that outing is causing the harm. It's the hypocrisy of his position that harms the Senator, not his homosexuality. I don't think anyone should be punished for being gay.

#56 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:44 AM:

On the other hand, Scraps, to argue against outing in cases like Haggard is to argue that sexual privacy is so important that it takes precedence over any damage that a person is doing.

How would you feel about outing an abortion-recriminalization activist who you discovered had recently gotten, performed, or helped arrange an abortion? A pro-temperance activist who drank? An open-source activist who ran a closed-source software project under an alias? A PETA member who had a secret stash of fur coats?

#57 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:46 AM:

This is news to anyone? I remember it being pretty widely stated back when he took the post.

Hell, Tuesday night, when he was trying to spin the early results, I pointed at him and said to my brother "He's gay, you know." You have to wonder what, besides some extreme ideology or greed, would draw a jewish gay man to the Republican party.

#58 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 12:02 PM:

"Scraps, there is a tremendous difference between a bus driver who makes his living driving buses and who is gay, and a gay politician who makes his living by vilifying gays."

Yes, the correct analogy is a bus driver who makes his living driving buses but refuses to allow gay people in the bus.

It would be terribly rude and insulting to point out : "But, you're gay!?!"

#59 ::: Lisa Spadafora ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 12:44 PM:

Losing a job, not getting housing, being at risk when you walk down the street--sure, these can be dangers for gay folks. They can be dangers for female folks or black folks, too. The difference being that, in the latter two cases, people can't usually opt out of having other people know that's who they are.

Can I understand why some people remain in the closet? Of course I can. I'm even capable of feeling a great deal of compassion for some of them. But I don't believe, any more, that it is just a matter of personal choice--to maintain the closet as a safe place for someone else, the ordinary daylight world has to continue to be dangerous for me and mine. Otherwise it wouldn't be necessary. Which is why I feel like debating the moral merits of outing is completely beside the point, and exactly what the Other Guys will hope we do.


#60 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:03 PM:

Interesting to note that CNN edited out Maher's comments regarding Mehlman from the West Coast feeds of Larry King Live.

#61 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:04 PM:

I think I'm missing something here, so please explain. The major justification for outing Mehlman is that he's hypocritical by being gay and a Republican. Let's assume that he is gay, as gay as you get, and is currently, right now living with a male lover and regularly engaging in gay sex.

Has he married the lover? Does he plan to? Does he think he's entitled to?

Has he adopted a child? Again, does he plan to or think he's entitled to?

Has he even behaved as if what he's doing is something right, normal, and acceptable? No, he's denying being gay in the first place.

You can be gay and legitimately think that it is immoral and that the government should not sanction it in any way. You can even be a practicing gay and believe this, without being a hypocrit unless you expect those sanctions for yourself.

Is he wrong? Looks to me like everybody here thinks so, and I agree. But if anything, gay republicans supporting the system means either that they are spineless and consequently deserve the turmoil they have to have by trying to separate their private lives from their public lives so fully, or it shows that they have the strength of conviction to support the ideologies of their party even when it turns against them.

Is it funny to out gay Republicans? Sure, but so is picking on the fat kid at school. Where are the compassionate liberals who accept that for the greater good they have to give up some of their own and pay higher taxes for social programs etc.? Come on guys, you've just won an amazing victory - there isn't a single Republican left in office here in Illinois. Win with some grace.

Scott H at #40, that sounds an awful lot like the ends justifying the means. Let's not start confirming my personal fears that the Democrats taking over is just going to change the flavor of the shit we're getting from the goverment, I'd like at least a few weeks to hope things are on their way up.

#62 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 01:09 PM:

anaea, does he believe that being gay disqualifies him from serving his country? He's supported policies that keep other gays from serving, both in the military and in public office, yet does so himself.

#63 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:09 PM:

Here's a different moral argument about whether this is appropriate: if "everybody knows" something, then everybody should know it. There shouldn't be any facts that everybody in the press corps knows but that are too good for the press's readers.

Reporters who think otherwise are doing their readers a gross disservice. They are confused about what the press should be in a democracy, and they are confused about what it means to be a reporter instead of a participant in the Washington social scene.

#64 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:27 PM:

Googling "Ken Mehlman gay" produces links to stories about this from 2004 and 2005, so it doesn't seem to have been big news to anyone but Larry King.

#65 ::: Sean H ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:56 PM:

My problem here is that I can't see how Mehlman's actions and (purported) political beliefs are made worse by the fact that he is (apparently) gay. Some people seem to be implying that a gay homophobe is worse than a straight homophobe, and I'm just not getting that.

the mitigating virtue of this little sin

Where have we heard that piece of moral logic before?

#66 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 02:59 PM:

To me the line is simple: when you hold forth in public that something is evil and dangerous and seek power to stamp it out, and you do it yourself, then you're fair game for outing. (To a lesser degree the same is true if you hold something up as fair and admirable and are secretly undermining it, but that's less of an issue.)

Say that we discovered a prominent atheist like Richard Dawkins or P.Z. Myers slipping out on the side to a conservative synogogue or church on a regular basis. It would matter, in a way that the church attendance and participation of, oh, me or Jim Henley or Avram Grumer does not, to anything we advocate or crusade against. Neither the worship nor the gay sex are innately harmful (though I think that too much sex of any kind in furtive, dehumanizing circumstnaces is going to be bad for the participants, that's a separate issue). What's at stake is the character of the violator in claiming as necessary a standard that is not in practice feasible, or at least that they're not willing to try for.

#67 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 03:05 PM:

Andrew: Had a "WTF?" moment reading your post on the feed being censored on the west coast, as I live on the west coast and watched the uncensored feed everyone's talking about. If you follow your link, they only (not that this is good either) censored the rebroadcast.

Anyway, the whole "outing" question is a subset of the whole question of talking about sex or anything else people don't want known except in certain circles. Is a prostitute morally responsible to never disclose their client list? What about someone who isn't taking money? Is the only sex people are allowed to talk about is that within the bounds of wedlock, and even then only in the vaguest terms?

With Mehlman, everyone in his social circle likely knows, and everyone in his professional circle as well, and aside from scandalizing some great aunt who will immediately go into denial about it anyway, it likely won't affect his family either.

Who then? Well, it's embarrassing to the Republican party, but if you make it part of your party platform to regularly denounce the evils of the hog-breeders association, then I see little wrong with mentioning that everyone in town knows that the chairman regularly enjoys bacon, even if they don't serve it at party functions. At least in the front room.

#68 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 03:07 PM:

#61, anaea:The major justification for outing Mehlman is that he's hypocritical by being gay and a Republican.

I'm afraid you've lost me at step one.

My understanding is that the major justification is that he is he's hypocritical by having a public stance which is radically different from his private stance. That is, publically, he vilifies homosexuals, but privately he's gay. It would be like a staunch anti-abortionist who, having made this view public, then goes off to have an abortion. Being Republican doesn't really enter into it except that he pushes anti-gay planks as part of a Republican platform.

There's nothing inherently hypocritical about being gay and Republican. I don't consider Log Cabin Republicans hypocritical. They're trying to improve the party from within. Whether I think they are effective or not is a different question.

#69 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Anea, the issue is that a secretly gay Senator is anti-gay. It's the hypocrisy. It's not ungraceful to point it out, and it's not picking on him.

#70 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 03:43 PM:

Is this actually news? Seems like rumours of his being gay have been around as long as I've been hearing his name. Googling "ken mehlman gay" gets a lot of articles from 2004 about this. Did Maher do anything more than that?

#71 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 03:47 PM:

I don't consider the Log Cabin Republicans hypocritical. I do consider them selfish and short-sighted and a little sad. They mostly seem to be well-off white men who think that if it weren't for the whole gay thing, they could and should have the same privilege that rich straight white men have--and screw everyone who is neither rich, nor white, nor male. They don't seem to get that they are in a political party dominated by people who don't just dislike them--they want them to not exist at all. It's a lot like Ward Connerly saying that he welcomes the support of the KKK in his efforts to eliminate affirmative action.

#72 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 04:11 PM:

Just how closeted is Mehlman, anyway? His orientation is no secret at all--I've known for a couple of years (and I'm just some guy living in rural Michigan, who reads stuff online), and it's been widely reported in the media. Is he entitled to be "out" in his personal life, but insist that no one mention it in the media?

Is this another version of the Cheney rule? Was it unfair to "out" the Vice President's daughter, who was living openly with a same sex partner, had a job as a corporate gay liason, etc.?

If you're going to be out, you can't take offense if somebody notices.

#73 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 04:25 PM:

If he thinks he's gay, and has never done it: OK.

If you confronted him with some long past gay fuck-bunny, and he says he decided he was wrong to do this, and stopped: OK.

If he's been spouting the anti-gay line while a regular player of the pink clarinet, he deserves all he gets

#74 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 04:31 PM:

I like what Paula Poundstone said. "I don't know what a gay Republican is. I guess they beat themselves up in parking lots."

I think if someone habitually trashes gays or is a public figure working against our rights and/or demonizing us for political gain, outing them is nothing more than self-defense.

I think there's a bright line between that and outing someone who is simply closeted.

It's wrong to kill someone. To kill someone who has already killed many others and is about to kill you or someone else unless you kill him NOW is still wrong. It's just LESS wrong than NOT killing him.

The Log Cabin Republicans are pathetic losers.

#75 ::: Tilly ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 05:12 PM:

When the conservatives were in power in the UK they spent a great deal of time lecturing on their version of family values (if you weren't the right kind of family, you weren't valued), and morality. There was also a spate of sex scandals involving Tory MPs. They were of public interest partly because the media loves sex scandals, but also because of the sheer level of hypocrisy involved.

When politicians become involved in attacking people's lives, I think it is of public interest and importance if those same politicians are behaving hypocritically.

OT ::waves to Aconite::

#76 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 05:34 PM:

isn't there also simply a truth-in-advertising issue?

There is a certain segment of the electorate that believes that gay people are "objectively disordered", sick and degenerate, and incapable of assuming positions of public trust.

That is, there are people out there who think that homosexuals *should* be kept from positions of power in the government.

Most of those voters vote Republican. And they vote Republican because they believe that by doing so, they will keep the government homo-rein.

Now, if the Republican Party is selling homo-rein government, but in fact providing government that contains many homosexuals in positions of power, then they are defrauding their voters.

Promising one thing, and delivering something different.

That seems like a good reason to bring it to the attention of the electorate, in order that they can decide whether they are really gettint what they are voting for.

Compare: a fair bit of the electorate believes that atheists are incapable of holding public office (Bush I said this: they cannot be patriots or real Americans).

So if you are promising to deliver atheist-free govt, but actually delivering atheists in positions of power, you are defrauding your voters.

It is fair to bring that to their attention.

Not hypocrisy. Just false advertising.

#77 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 05:47 PM:

Is it funny to out gay Republicans? Sure, but so is picking on the fat kid at school.

But it's not funny to pick on the fat kid at school. Nor are powerful Republicans holding public office remotely to be compared with these or any other traditionally scapegoated archetypes.

It is worthwhile (I have no argument for or against the hilarity to be had doing so) to out gay Republicans who've used their ability to pass as straight to gain wealth and power while demonizing others for being gay, though.

There's nothing in being outed that prevents the man from continuing to demonize gays, or from continuing to espouse every other political conviction he holds, or from running for, and winning, high office. It'll just be a lot more work for him to pass as straight in the process, with all the political and financial benefits that has brought him in the past.

I'll be damned if I know whence comes the notion that having liberal political views means not mentioning one's opponent's political hypocracies. Being too good to engage in political debate isn't much of a platform.

#78 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 06:33 PM:

Pericat at #77, I'm not seeing much political debate here. I'm seeing a bunch of people (though not everybody in this thread) pointing and screaming hypocrit because he's gay. I don't have to think that women are entitled to certain rights and privileges just because I am a woman and many feminist activists think so, and it doesn't make me a hypocrit either.

I haven't followed him that much, but I've googled him trying to get an idea of what he's done. I've seen firm support for a marriage amendment to the constitution and defense of Bush policies. I'm not finding anything about voting to ban gays from holding political office (while we're still having issues with women in the military I'm going to se that aside as something where the problem is pathological inability to reconcile with the fact that sex exists) or proposing any such measures.

Again I say that as long as his record is one of denying gays access to social institutions currently reserved for straight people and he hasn't sought entrance to those institutions as a gay man, then I don't see the hypocrisy. People who smoke but want smoking banned from public aren't hypocrits, are they?

If somebody can link me to an article that gives me something concrete where he wants to bar gays from something that he is currently doing much of my point will collapse and I'll grant it. My sentiment that I'd like to see a little more along the lines of "The Republicans can't even put up with their own platform" and less "Haha, evil Republican got publicly embarrased!" stands through it all. Sentiments commonly do.

#79 ::: Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 06:45 PM:

Schadenfreude aside, it seems to me that outing is not a line-item proposition, where you get to decide who it's okay to out. (Are you going to vote on it? Or is it every gay to their own judgment?) Outing is wrong, or it isn't.
Precisely.

Furthermore, we don't know anything about Melman's private life. For all we know, he's gay, and believes it to be a horrible sin, it something he tries to ignore in his life, is something he repents for in Church, is seeking help about, has tried to be reprogrammed. For all we know, he's gay and firmly believes that it destroys the sanctity of marriage, and should get no social benefits - in other words, he believes in what he says and the politics he espouses. The idea that all people who're gay must be proud about it, and happy about it, is woefully naive.

Frankly, I'm exceedingly disappinted in the attitude being shown here, and anaea is right - talk about being ungracious winners. All I can think about is that, were the tables turned and this was a Democrat who'd been quiet about gay issues, or who'd supported Don't Ask/Don't Tell and DOMA, y'all be howling in indignation that someone was so socially rude to out someone else against their will.

You're allowing your prejudice against Republicans to blind your sense of justice and morals, and it's disappointing.

#80 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 07:23 PM:

anaea, he didn't have to write or vote for laws that keep homosexuals out of public office; he determined the platform of the party that spent millions to make sure that any homosexual running for public office would have to fight an orchestrated spin campaign that painted them as unsuited for that office by simple virtue of being gay.

Kelly, you don't know me, my ethics, my morals, or my thought process well enough to inform me what I would do under other circumstances or why I do what I do now. I therefore respectfully suggest you hold your goddamned tongue regarding such issues.

#81 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 07:31 PM:

I've seen firm support for a marriage amendment to the constitution and defense of Bush policies.

You say that like it's no big deal. I had to leave my country in order to get married. This stuff means something to me, to the foundations of my life, what I have to do in order to live as a human being rather than the scum the Republican Party Chair makes his living ensuring I'm treated as, and while immunizing himself from that self-same scapegoat status.

The smoking analogy won't hold; it depends on the smoker's being 'out' to avoid charges of hypocrisy.

#82 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 07:41 PM:

I'm sorry, but Mehlman is a powerful political figure. He resides near the top of a powerful political organization. He therefore puts himself in a position where his character is open for discussion. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but that's the way it is in our political system.

Images of John Kerry sailboarding during the 2004 campaign apparently said something to some people about John Kerry's character. The testimony of a bunch of guys calling themselves the Swift Boats Veterans for Truth apparently said something to some people about John Kerry's character. I happen to think those images and that testimony was either irrelevant or fraudulent, but I don't dispute that people had the right to have information that supposedly said something about John Kerry's character.

If a gay man wants to appear on national television representing a political organization he leads and pressing its case against the character of his political opponents, then he lays his own character open to question.

If Kelly and anaea (it's spelled "hypocrite", by the way) think a gay man working against his own political rights says nothing about his character, they have a perfect right to see things that way.

I happen to think that a public, political figure who is gay and who works against his own political rights is telling me a lot about his character, and I have as much right to that information about him as people have to information regarding John Kerry's sailboarding, or to the testimony of a bunch of guys calling themselves the Swift Boat Veterans.

In American politics, the character of political figures is a legitimate question. You guys are willfully ignoring the political nature of this man's life so let's just lay off the "I'm so tewwibly, tewwibly disappointed in all of you" bit. Nobody's falling for that anymore. No, you are not tewwibly, tewwibly disappointed in all of us in here. You are simply playing the "I'm so tewwibly disappointed in you" card.

Which, you know, says something about your character, as a matter of fact. Speaking of poor losers.

#83 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 07:49 PM:

Kelly and anaea, I don't really care who Ken Mehlman is sleeping with or how he's doing it, nor do I care whether or not he's proud and happy being gay, or if he's tortured and cries himself to sleep every night. What I care about is that he is actively working to keep me a second-class citizen because I'm not hiding in the closet, and that in order to do so, he's joined forces with people who want me to not exist at all. If he hates himself, that's his problem. My problem is that his actions indicate that he hates me, too, and I'm not going to go out of my way to protect him or be nice to someone who hates me because it's "nice".

#84 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 09:44 PM:

#80, #81, #82, #83: Hear, hear.

I'd like to add that anything I can do to make life less fun for anyone who does what Ken Mehlman has been doing is a good thing. Outing him is a very minor inconvenience compared to what slimeballs like him deserve.

So Kelly, you just be as disappointed as you want. I'm pretty fucking disappointed that most states now explicitly prohibit me from getting married. Sympathy for Ken Mehlman? He can die and burn.

#85 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 09:52 PM:

Or, as so many talk show hosts and special prosecutors insisted during the late '90s, it's not the sex act; it's the lying about it.

And Clinton never presented a party platform outlawing blowjobs, if I recall correctly.

#86 ::: Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 10:42 PM:

I'm pretty fucking disappointed that most states now explicitly prohibit me from getting married.
And I'm not, Xopher? (Apparently I must be an Evil Person to feel it's wrong to out someone, which means I must be Republican, given people's reactions in this thread.)

Sorry to disappoint people's expectations, but I happen to be a pretty vocal Democrat, staunchly in favour of all the sorts of things Melman votes against. I'm also capable of saying that dirty political tricks are dirty political tricks, regardless of which party is pulling them.

If we're going to say that outing people it bad, and y'don't do it - something I happen to believe in - then it's a principle that needs to be applied across the board. I don't think that making exceptions for a moral principle like this is a good idea; it undermines the concept. It's okay to out people if we disagree with their politics? That's a dangerous precident. It's okay to out people if we think that they're being hypocritical? It's okay to out people if we think their policies are damaging to others? These are all value judgments that could be flipped around and applied to just about anyone with appropriate justification.

And yes, Michael, I misspell words on occasion. BFD.

#87 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:01 PM:

It's okay to out people if we disagree with their politics? That's a dangerous precident. It's okay to out people if we think that they're being hypocritical? It's okay to out people if we think their policies are damaging to others?

I don't know why you can't comprehend that questions of character are part of our politics. As I said, maybe they shouldn't be, but they are. A gay man who supports the limiting of his own political rights is a fact that goes to his character. You keep making this into something it isn't. It isn't because he's a Republican. It's because he's in politics and leads a political organization that does its best to get mileage out of the issue. He's perfectly entitled to be in favor of having his own rights denied to himself. And because he is a politician, we have a right to know that about him. It speaks to his character. We have a right to know. Get it? If he is going to make a claim to power that we are in a position to grant him, then we have a right to know what's knowable about his character. The end.

And yes, Michael, I misspell words on occasion. BFD.

I don't point it out for your benefit. What would be the point of that since it's clear you don't care about your spelling mistakes? I point out the spelling error for the benefit of others, inasmuch as this is one of the most commonly seen misspellings on the internet (much more common than "precident") and so people start to pick it up after a while. Don't take it personally.

#88 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:08 PM:

Kelly:

Xopher: I'm pretty fucking disappointed that most states now explicitly prohibit me from getting married.

Kelly: And I'm not, Xopher? (Apparently I must be an Evil Person to feel it's wrong to out someone, which means I must be Republican, given people's reactions in this thread.)

Evil? Hardly. What you're being is a drama queen; and you're not listening.

#89 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:14 PM:

"You're allowing your prejudice against Republicans to blind your sense of justice and morals, and it's disappointing."

Actually, it's precisely my sense of justice and morals that tells me your position on this issue is wrong.

#90 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:21 PM:

Kelly, some of us are saying precisely that no generalization about outing is possible. Its virtue or vice depends on the situation. Sometimes it's useful and helpful, sometimes not.

It would be possible run an honest campaign against gay rights in the modern Republican style while being openly gay. It would just...probably not be very effective, since it would have to start with "I think it's the role of the state to keep people like me in our place. We are un-self-controlled monsters and a threat to the fabric of society, and the more we're denied the opportunity to infect others with our diseases and vices, the better." What Republican closet cases want is the chance to mislead their audience about who they're attacking, by building up an image of The Modern Queer without adding the "...like me" that honesty requires.

As a sin of omission, it's the same kind of thing as allegedly neutral commentators who turn out to be on a candidate's payroll. Imagine if someone had been able to produce the evidence and compel ex-Rep. Foley to say "I want Congress to criminalize this kind of relationship...which I have been engaged in for many years." Broadly, the public has a right to know how you the advocate of policy live up to the policy you propose to subject others to.

#91 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:24 PM:

Scraps, #43:

"Schadenfreude aside, it seems to me that outing is not a line-item proposition, where you get to decide who it's okay to out. (Are you going to vote on it? Or is it every gay to their own judgment?) Outing is wrong, or it isn't."

With all due respect, this is assertion, not argument. Why isn't it okay for people to decide on a case-by-case basis? When and how did "outing" become a category of behavior which is either "wrong, or it isn't"? By what mechanics and to what morally coherent end?

If I were to create the word "plerbing" and define it as "revealing hitherto-secret information about other people's financial dealings", that wouldn't create an obligation in everyone else to decide categorically whether all "plerbing" was wrong. Quite the contrary, most sensible people would observe that sometimes it's right and proper to reveal hitherto-secret information about other people's financial behavior, and sometimes it's downright wrong. The same goes for sexual behavior. These things take place in a larger context of other facts. Trying to define them as universally right or wrong isn't just wrong, it's impossible.

#92 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:27 PM:

Red herring, that bit about your politics, Kelly. And if you believe outing people is bad, no matter what, don't do it. I think you're wrong, for reasons stated.

See, I'm not in a nice, straight relationship supported by my nice, straight family and nice, straight community. My time working on gay rights hasn't been spent on behalf of a close friend or a family member. That's me that was threatened for holding the hand of the 'wrong' sex. That's me that was shoved down into the dirt in the parking lot of the 'wrong' bar. That's me my mother's old friend was talking about, when she said to her, all unknowing, "We don't want those kind moving down here and voting."

She made my mom cry, cos she didn't know what to say to her. "Outing people is bad," she'd heard. I told her she could out me to the world if she wanted, twice on Sundays, in the newspaper if she liked. Her friend had babysat me, I'd played with her kids, and now 'we don't want those kind'.

Ken Mehlman & party fostered that thinking, they fed it and watered it and grew fat on it, and they've done it in part by pretending "those kind" ain't nothing to do with them, no sir, and btw, outing people is bad, don't be blowing our cover.

Outing people is a tactic. If and when the political climate of the US becomes such that it is no longer an effective tactic will be a time when it no longer matters to anyone whose hands I hold. Which is the whole point of working for gay rights.

#93 ::: Melanie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:47 PM:

As many smarter people have said above: It matters that he's a politician. Character is part of politics.

While I'm a staunch believer in the fact that the plural of anecdote is not data, I will mention that every person I know who's thought of running for office in the future watches every action to make sure incriminating things can't be turned up in the future. I find it hard to believe that Ken Mehlman thought he could make it to such a position with nobody finding out. He took the job anyway, knowing the risks. It seems, in fact, that closeted politicians depend on the complicity of their peers, their friends and family, multiple journalists, etc.--that they plan on the fact that nobody will tell anyone, and so they can be gay and still have the life they want. And that's another part of this. It's not just that Mehlman is gay--it's that other people in the party knew and didn't, apparently, care all that much. Like Teresa said above, much too good for the common people indeed.

#94 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2006, 11:51 PM:

Is it all right to reveal the state of someone's religious belief? Okay, how about if they're claiming their fuggheaded behavior is a spiritual obligation, and their political agenda is the product of direct revelation, but you happen to know they're an atheist?

I have narcolepsy. I don't talk about it during job interviews, and anyway the people interviewing me aren't supposed to ask about disabilities. I know I can do the work. On the other hand, I don't apply for positions as a fighter pilot. If I did, though, and I somehow failed to mention what a liability I am under conditions of variable acceleration, would it be immoral for someone who knows me well to out me as a narcoleptic?

What gives the question of revealing or not revealing someone's sexual preferences such unique moral privilege?

#95 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 12:00 AM:

So, would it be okay to out a high-ranking Democratic politician? At least one thread of argument here seems to say that it's okay to out Republicans because they're anti-gay, but not Democrats because they're not. (Though maybe someone will refresh my memory on Kerry's position on whether gays should be allowed to marry in the 2004 election?) This looks exactly like special pleading to me.

In some of the related election threads, much has been made of the virtues (and vices) of political parties. A big case was made for holding your nose and voting for the lesser evil. Do you suppose any gay Republicans, out or not, are making just this tradeoff? What if you're gay and the issues you're really passionate about are, say, unrestricted free trade, flat tax, and school vouchers. Perhaps you come to believe the Republican party is where you belong, even if a lot of them would probably rather not have you. Something similar probably happens for black Republicans, albeit without any real chance of being closeted. ("It's just a really good tan.")

#96 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 12:11 AM:

Not any Republican, Albatross. Mehlman has been working with major policymakers. Also, it's long been known that he's gay -- Patrick knew it, for pete's sake, and he told me, some while back.

#97 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 12:20 AM:

Though maybe someone will refresh my memory on Kerry's position on whether gays should be allowed to marry in the 2004 election?

I think that would count as interfering with the operation of the polling place.

#98 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 12:22 AM:

So, would it be okay to out a high-ranking Democratic politician?

In the case of, for example, Jim McGreevy, you're god damned right it would have been. In fact, it was.

Jesus. Are you nuts? What a mess he made of things. (a) He probably should have been out from the beginning for everybody's sake, not just his, but certainly (b) once he hired his boyfriend to be his Anti-terrorism advisor or whatever, then, yes. Hell, yes. Jesus, yes.

Sorry to disappoint you. I know how exciting it is to be able to prove what hypocrites Democrats are.

#99 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 12:45 AM:

Sorry to disappoint you. I know how exciting it is to be able to prove what hypocrites Democrats are.

I need a cigarette.

#100 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 01:00 AM:

I'll support people outing a gay politician of any stripe who's actively working against gay rights.

To me, it's a pretty simple conundrum.

I support the right of people to keep their privacy about their sexual lives (whether it's Bill Clinton or Ken Mehlman). I support the rights of people to know about what might affect the votes of people who hold powerful offices in the government (and please don't try to tell me that the chair of the Republican Party doesn't have a powerful political office -- that one won't fly here, nor would it for a Democrat who worked to oppose abortion).

Which one gets to trump the other? Not a simple question.

#101 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 01:24 AM:

#97 Patrick:

Somewhere, Karl Rove is kicking himself for not finding a way to organize that event.

#102 ::: anomalous4 ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 01:28 AM:

I just checked the YouTube link for the Maher video. CNN yanked it. It's still up at Alternet:

Top Gay Republican outed on Larry King, and....

#103 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 01:53 AM:

#96 Teresa:

Okay. I was thinking of the abstract "is it okay to out someone" question. If he was already out, it's not really an issue in this case.

Here's the way this looks to me: Outing someone in public office is a pretty effective way, in many cases, of ending their political career by playing to a lot of pretty nasty prejudices. It seems inherently pretty slimy to me for that reason.

Think of that really nasty ad against Harold Ford. Looked at one way, it implied he's a healthy straight man who'd probably be tempted by a cute blonde at the Playboy mansion (what a shock!). But everyone understands the set of prejudices that ad was intended to appeal to. At some level, outing some public official to screw up his career seems like the same sort of thing. You're appealing to the worst prejudices of your audience, throwing someone to the mob because it was within your power to do so and doing so advanced your agenda.

I'm not sure I can put together a coherent argument for why it seems so slimy to me. But outing people and then coming up with some justification along the lines of "but it's okay because we're the good guys and he was a bad guy" just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I can't see what principle would lead me to decide that the anti-Ford ad was wrong, but that outing some gay politician was okay.


#104 ::: Melanie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 02:25 AM:

Albatross, you seem to think the point of outing is to get someone removed from their job, which is probably why it seems so slimy to you--which it should, if that was the point. But, to me at least, it isn't. Instead, it seems to stem from a frustration on the part of many liberals at the way conservatives ignore the fiction of the closet, the way they don't mind homosexuals as long as they stay in their place. And, as has been discussed, it's because character is a part of American politics in a way it probably shouldn't be, and silence on the part of the media with respect to sexual orientation *is* the kind of special treatment certain factions of the right always accuse us of wanting. I cannot believe that Maher thought he was jeopardizing the man's job by revealing this. Making his life more difficult, sure.

Unfortunately, having said that, I see that it was announced today that Ken Mehlman will be stepping down from his position within the next couple of months. This makes me more angry than I have felt in a long, long time--not at Bill Maher who outed him, but at the people who once again make the case that it's better to live a lie that could be exposed at any minute than to be honest. (And, again, I'll say that security of position aside, Mehlman's life is not endangered by this in the way some others' might be. I'm not saying everyone should be out, but it's certainly the preferable condition if you can, and I can't believe Mehlman couldn't.)

#105 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 08:16 AM:

Reported, not yet officially announced.

News story here.

#106 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 08:30 AM:

There are other reasons Mehlman could have lost his job, given the election this last Tuesday.

#107 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 08:55 AM:

albatross: So, would it be okay to out a high-ranking Democratic politician? At least one thread of argument here seems to say that it's okay to out Republicans because they're anti-gay, but not Democrats because they're not.

Make sure you're not confusing what someone accused us Democratic queer hypocrites of saying with what we actually said.

As Michael Weholt and Tom Whitmore said, hell, yes, as far as I'm concerned, it's okay to out someone working against gay rights who's gay and pretending not to be. I don't give a damn what party they're in.

Here's the way this looks to me: Outing someone in public office is a pretty effective way, in many cases, of ending their political career by playing to a lot of pretty nasty prejudices. It seems inherently pretty slimy to me for that reason.

It is slimy. It is also exactly the kind of tactic Mehlman and his ilk used extensively, with deliberation and malice, while it benefitted them. They created the climate in which gay politicians can lose their offices if outed, and in which gays can't (for the most part) get elected in the first place. Am I supposed to get upset at such a perfect example of karmic justice?

#108 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 10:14 AM:

103

The comparison to the Ford ad is worth thinking about.

That ad was slimy in part because its effectiveness depended on its audience holding racist views. (It wasn't merely a charge of sexual libertinism; it was a charge that this scary black man was going to violate our white women).

Perhaps you feel that outing people is slimy because you imagine its effectiveness likewise depends on the audience's holding homophobic views?

If I thought that about outing--i.e., that it was parasitic on and reinforcing of gay bigotry--then I might find it slimier than I do. I mean, certainly if the outing consisted in charging the gay man with a litany of traditional gay-bashing stereotypes, or otherwise played on such stereotypes. (e.g. "How can he be the chief of police? He's a *sissy*!"--yup, that would be deeply slimy.)

But I don't think outing does depend in this way on anti-homosexual prejudices or stereotypes. Instead, it depends on our revulsion against hypocrisy and deceit.

And I think its overall effect, over the long term, will be to reduce anti-gay stereotypes rather than to reinforce them. (I think outing fatigue is going to result in tolerance, even if grudging tolerance, as the number of familiar people who turn out to have been gay just grows and grows).

Still, I don't think it's clear-cut: it may be that at this date *part* of the effectiveness of outing, to *part* of its audience, does play on and even reinforce anti-gay prejudices. And that part is comparable to the Ford ad, and comparably slimy.

#109 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 10:23 AM:

'"Schadenfreude aside, it seems to me that outing is not a line-item proposition, where you get to decide who it's okay to out. (Are you going to vote on it? Or is it every gay to their own judgment?) Outing is wrong, or it isn't."

With all due respect, this is assertion, not argument.'

Well hell I'll accept the assertion. I believe that it's okay to out anyone.

#110 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 11:05 AM:

bryan, you're wrong. It's not OK to out your ex-boyfriend the dock worker to his homophobic dock worker pals, for example. (Not that dock workers are necessarily homophobic.)

#111 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 12:00 PM:

#108: Yes, you exactly got what I was trying to say. To the extent outing someone causes them to lose their job because of a generic dislike of hypocricy, it doesn't seem unusually slimy as politics goes. To the extent it causes them to lose their job because of anti-gay prejudice, it seems slimy in the same way as the anti-Ford ad does.

As Jim and others have pointed out, it looks like Mehlman is going to lose his job, not for being gay, but for presiding over a disaster. This is a very good reason to lose your job.

#112 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 12:59 PM:

As reported in the NYTimes today, Mehlman has been planning to leave his job since July. (The article requires registration but what's show on the reg page gives the relevant information.) That would be a couple of years after people started chattering about his sexual orientation and well before either his "outing" this week or the election results.

Sometimes quitting a job is just quitting a job.

#113 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 01:14 PM:

I seem to have gotten myself pegged as a bitter Republican which, as a vehement Libertarian, rather bothers me. Since background and point of view have come into the debate, allow me to give mine.

I grew up in a densely Republican area where outing somebody was akin to setting them up for nastiness if they ever ran into anybody from school outside of school. There were a few people who were openly out, and only one of them actually made that choice, none of them were very happy. Is this how things should be? Hell no. But I would never, ever, say to any of my closeted friends that they had an obligation to be out because I didn't like having to hear my friends abused in the hallways etc. I can only imagine what it was like for them.

I support reform in favor of gay rights all the up to (and stopping just before) paying restitution for past wrongs.

It sucks to be gay most places in this country, and I can't be as irritated about it as somebody who is gay because I'm not in their shoes, but I'm mightily irritated. I'm living in the state that got rid of all its Republicans now, so we can see where my preferences are.

Darkrose at #83, I'm absolutely fine with hating Mehlman because he's wrong in a particularly bastard way. But please, lets not hate him because he's gay, we've got better reasons for that. We may just need to agree to disagree about whether outing is an appropriate tactic for getting at the bad guys.

I understand the arguments about whether he's gay being a part of his character, except that I'd rather not have "gay" be a character trait. Being gay should be the least important, least interesting part about you. The Republicans aren't going to make that easy, but I don't see a reason for anybody to help them with that.

Ultimately, Mehlman's platform is disgusting and wrong, regardless of whether he's gay. It's not better for him to believe and do what he claims to believe and does if he's straight, it's not worse.

Kelly at #86, that was my spelling error and I'll own it. I'm notorious for spelling issues but since my comp currently lacks net access I don't have a particularly convenient way of spell checking. All the offense is mine to take, he's right so I don't mind. Thanks, though ;)

#114 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 01:53 PM:

...I understand the arguments about whether he's gay being a part of his character, except that I'd rather not have "gay" be a character trait....

It isn't, at least in my view. What I meant by character trait in this regard was being gay AND being in favor of having one's political rights denied to one.

Beyond that, thank you for your clarifying post.

#115 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 02:21 PM:

(Not a part of my actual point, more an observation--I'd rather not have "gay" be a character trait, either, but I think to deny that there is a certain amount of ...personality molding that comes along with growing up/being gay in this culture is a bit of a rose-colored-glasses point of view. Like ethnicity or gender, it does have an effect on life experiences.)

Being gay myself, I'd love to live in a world where politicians' sexual orientation was no big deal (likewise their race, religion, and gender)--as that would mean mine wasn't either. But until that happy day arrives, I don't really see much wrong with outing those who are actively working for the oppression/repression of GLBTQ folks. As somebody upthread (read: I'm much too lazy to scroll all that way again) pointed out, if they hate themselves, that's their own affair. When it spills over into hating me, I don't have a lot of qualms about protecting myself however I can. And that includes outing them. They whipped the pack into a frenzy to go after foxes. Revealing them as a fox only seems just.

#116 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 02:45 PM:

"bryan, you're wrong. It's not OK to out your ex-boyfriend the dock worker to his homophobic dock worker pals, for example. (Not that dock workers are necessarily homophobic.)"

hmm, but it may be okay to out your current boyfriend the dock worker to his homophobic dock worker pals.


Okay it may not be okay in all situations to out someone to any particular person or group no matter the situation they are in, however I am of the opinion that outing any politician in a political context is okay with me.

#117 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 02:54 PM:

anaea: I grew up in a densely Republican area where outing somebody was akin to setting them up for nastiness if they ever ran into anybody from school outside of school.

The point we've been stressing is that Mehlman and his party worked very hard to make it really, really hard on gays who are out, or are outed. If he hadn't done so, well, gosh, maybe his being gay wouldn't have had as big an impact on him when he was outed.

#118 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 03:07 PM:

You know, I've been thinking. The Republican party has put a lot of effort into convincing Americans that gay rights are far more dangerous to this country than the travesties that are Iraq, legalized torture, the loss of civil rights, the mounting deficit...while being run by a homosexual.

So, if the Republican party actually thinks being queer isn't that big a deal, in absolute terms, does it think Iraq et al. are even less important than that? It would explain a few things.

#119 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 04:36 PM:

Patrick, re #97: as a poll worker, I would be happy to allow anyone who wanted to to marry in my polling place, as long as I got to officiate.

:)

#120 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 06:30 PM:

Bryan: why do you believe it's ok to out anyone?

As a gay man who was closeted until I was 27, I think I would have been *devastated* had someone forced me out of the closet against my will: that was one of the worst things I could have imagined, and there's no way it could have happened without being traumatic.

Outing people is a form of abuse, basically; and while the argument that it's ok to abuse the abusers is one thing, I don't understand at all the argument that it's ok to abuse everyone who can be abused.

#121 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 06:35 PM:

Jesus. Are you nuts? What a mess he made of things. (a) He probably should have been out from the beginning for everybody's sake, not just his, but certainly (b) once he hired his boyfriend to be his Anti-terrorism advisor or whatever, then, yes. Hell, yes. Jesus, yes.

Yonkers mayor John Spencer--conducted a years-long affair with his chief of staff, during which time he gave her two children and a 200% salary increase; he finally divorced his wife and married the chief of staff after he left the mayorality. And somehow this fact didn't automatically disqualify Spencer from running as Hillary Clinton's opponent in the NY federal Senate race. Can you imagine the coverage if the chief of staff had been male?

(Well, if he had been, the "man gives birth to two babies" angle alone would have guaranteed saturation news coverage. But you know what I'm trying to say.)

#122 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 06:53 PM:

Well, if he had been, the "man gives birth to two babies" angle alone would have guaranteed saturation news coverage...

LOL.

#123 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 08:17 PM:

Robert West, I feel for you, I really do; but could you please notice that this story is NOT ABOUT YOU? Wake up! This is not about "abuse". We're talking here about the nearly-nominal outing of a man who:

1. Has long been known to be gay by practically every politico inside the Beltway, and to a great many politics-junkies outside it.

2. Was only in the closet as far as the national news media and hoi polloi were concerned. (Do you truly not understand that the pressure to stay in the closet falls differently upon different classes?)

3. Has been a major force in Republican policies and initiatives during a time when they've engaged in aggressive gay bashing.

The main reason I'm not out of patience with you is that you're neither the first nor the only person who's made that mistake.

Everybody listen up:

WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT OUTING IN GENERAL.
WE ARE TALKING ABOUT OUTING A SPECIFIC,
NONE-TOO-CLOSETED POLITICAL OPERATIVE
WHO'S BEEN HELPING BUILD THE KIND OF
HOMOPHOBIC NATIONAL POLITICAL INITIATIVES
THAT GET PEOPLE KILLED.
Thank you.

#124 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 08:44 PM:

I understand the arguments about whether he's gay being a part of his character, except that I'd rather not have "gay" be a character trait. Being gay should be the least important, least interesting part about you. The Republicans aren't going to make that easy, but I don't see a reason for anybody to help them with that.

anaea, as far as I am concerned gayness is not a problematic character trait. LYING is a problematic character trait.

There are two conflicting issues at work here. I think most of us agree that lying hypocrits, whatever the activities they are lying about, either explicitly or through simply not telling the truth, should in theory have their hypocrisy exposed. It is also true, however, that because of an anti-gay environment, being outed can have devastating effects on an individual's life.

Both actions, exposing or not exposing the hypocrisy, will cause damage somewhere. You are arguing that the damage caused to an individual by an antigay environment outweighs the interests of exposing a liar and the potential damage he does. I disagree. I would argue that the damage done to a whole community outweighs the damage done to the individual.

I am a (generally) out lesbian. I believe that people, in general, should not be outed if they choose not to be. I also believe that any gay person who actively demonizes and works against the interests of gay people should be outed, just as I believe that anyone who may go bankrupt if his financial machinations are exposed should be outed if those machinations will destroy the life savings of investors.

#125 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 08:53 PM:

I would like to defend myself a bit: I was responding in particular to comment #109, in which the commenter said "I believe that it's okay to out anyone." I should probably have read that in view of the previous comments by the same commenter, and I apologize for not doing so. Yet, having not done the work I should have done to follow the entire thread, I think my reaction to that comment, taken in isolation, was reasonable.

As for the question:
Do you truly not understand that the pressure to stay in the closet falls differently upon different classes?

That's an idea which honestly hadn't occurred to me before, and I think it's a good point. At the same time, I don't think that forcibly outing someone from a priviliged class reduces the pressure to stay in the closet. My experience suggests that it increases that pressure --- because it makes the likelihood that you might be outed loom larger.

#126 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 09:18 PM:

Robert West @ 109: I don't think that forcibly outing someone from a priviliged class reduces the pressure to stay in the closet.

I don't think it's about pressure to be in or out. I think it's about stopping public figures from behaving in a hypocritical fashion by supporting public policies that are specifically designed to punish a class of people that they themselves are a member of. (Sorry for the circuitous phrasing.)

Not to say that it's ever a acceptable to enact public policy to impair the rights of any minority group. It's just particularly appaling when a member of a not easily identified group (e.g. a hidden Jew, a "passing" African-American, a homosexual) puts him or herself in a position of authority and then oppresses his own unacknowledged peers.

I say keep outing anti-gay gay officials until they either stop being anti-gay, or anti-gay prejudice goes away.

#127 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 09:21 PM:

Larry: in a world in which anti-gay prejudice has gone away, there would be no "outing" as such, as there would be no price to be paid for being out.

One thing that I'm not certain of in this debate is the answer to the question: does outing anti-gay officials help hasten the day in which there is no anti-gay prejudice? I'm reasonably certain that proponents would say it does and opponents would say it doesn't; but neither of them have made a convincing case, in my mind.

#128 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 10:09 PM:

I'm coming to this thread late, but as a gay man, needless to say, very engaging discussion.

Outing is not simply right or wrong, and, yes, it is a tool used by pro- and anti-gay people to further an agenda. But I think that much of this discussion is based on the faulty premise that a right to privacy exists with respect to sexual orientation, which I believe is a social fiction. It essentially is a right only gay people claim. What that concept is, is a desire to live in the public sphere unharmed masquerading as a right to privacy. It's just a bigger closet.

I came out at 19 because I decided I was damned well not going to live the rest of my life like I did the five years in high school and freshman year of college. That may not seem like a big deal now. 26 years ago is was. I was spit on, cursed at and punched in those early out years because I had the balls simply to stand in line on a city sidewalk waiting to get into a packed gay bar where I could hang out and relax. I've been gay bashed. A good friend was stabbed. I marched in Boston pride when you didn't join some nicey-nice acceptable group to do it, you just had to be an out gay body in the street dancing, singing, chanting and protesting. And you know what? I now live in a state where my partner of 14 years has health benefits from my job at a finance firm, where I can get married, where GLBT run for office and win. Why? Because people like me came out.

Will Texas ever change if every gay person decides it's "too traumatic?" Will Alabama? No. Agreeing to keep high-profile figures in the closet is complicit in shame. I don't buy the dangerous, angry dockworker argument either. Did that stop women from joining professions in which they were despised? Or people of color? Or Jews? Did it stop gay and lesbian cops and fireman? Someone's got to do it first. I'll agree it takes bravery. I disagree any fear or job or friend or family member is worth staying in the closet. If you don't think being out lessens the pressure to stay in the closet, I believe you are absolutely wrong.

And, sorry, but I'll be damned before I let some Auntie Tom like Mehlman trade my life for his career. Fuck him and every gay man and lesbian like him.

Other than that, I don't have much an opinion on the topic.

#129 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2006, 11:25 PM:

Well said, Mark DF!

Caveat on the dockworker example: I believe Xopher's point had to do with outing a private citizen for reasons of personal revenge.

Now, were the dockworker b/f a person of importance in his union, and used that position to promote discrimination against other gay dockworkers, that's another kettle of fish.

#130 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 12:36 AM:

Robert West @ 127 - My point wasn't that outing closeted anti-gay officials would reduce anti-gay bias. It was simply that I'm all for outing people who are actively hurting other people of their own group. (Again, not artfully worded.)

As to whether or not outing people helps or hurts achieving a society with one less prejudice, I can't say, but I'll defer to Mark DF @ 128.

#131 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 01:01 AM:

Robert West: I don't think that forcibly outing someone from a priviliged class reduces the pressure to stay in the closet.

You're still not listening. The issue isn't outing someone from a privileged class; the issue is outing someone who acquired power by pandering to homophobia. This pandering is an evil more substantive than homophobia itself because it nourishes that prejudice instead of leaving it to wither in the presence of facts. If outing Mehlman makes just one homophobe realize that he's been played -- that he's allowed himself to be led by his own delusion and the lies of the powerful, rather than any fact or conviction -- it will have been appropriate.

#132 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 09:47 AM:

131 CHip:

There have been different arguments in this thread, including distinct ones that say outing is always okay, outing of public officials is always okay, outing of public officials who are on the anti-gay side in some way is okay, or that outing is never okay. It's easy to get responses crossed.

126 Larry Brennan:

If I understand your argument, it's that it's okay to out public officials who are on the side of anti-gay policies and rhetoric. Do you think that's okay if they're just in the same party as the anti-gay people? That is, do you out gay economists who are working for flat tax policies and vouchers, because they're prominent Republicans?

Is it that gays have a special obligation to not support anti-gay positions? Or that anti-gay positions are sufficiently evil that you are willing to violate normal rules of not outing people in those cases. (Suppose a Democrat who was a prominent advocate of warrantless wiretaps and torture for terrorism suspects was also a closeted gay. Would it be okay to out him to get him out of power?)


#133 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 09:57 AM:

albatross, are you taking Larry Brennan's post @126 into account? Because he states his position clearly there, and you're not listening.

#134 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 12:39 PM:

aconite @ 132 in italics

If I understand your argument, it's that it's okay to out public officials who are on the side of anti-gay policies and rhetoric.

Yep, regardless of political affiliation.

Do you think that's okay if they're just in the same party as the anti-gay people? That is, do you out gay economists who are working for flat tax policies and vouchers, because they're prominent Republicans?

That's a really interesting question; one I hadn't thought about. If I had the chance to ask them, I'd want to know how they could knowingly choose people who wished them harm as allies. And why they felt the need to be closeted. Without deeper reflection, I'd say (given the current platform of the GOP) out them.

Is it that gays have a special obligation to not support anti-gay positions?

I'll answer that with a question - do African-Americans have a special obligation to not support anti-African-American positions?

Or that anti-gay positions are sufficiently evil that you are willing to violate normal rules of not outing people in those cases. (Suppose a Democrat who was a prominent advocate of warrantless wiretaps and torture for terrorism suspects was also a closeted gay. Would it be okay to out him to get him out of power?)

I never really thought about rules for outing. I could argue that case either way. I suppose I'd consider whether or not the outing would damage his career and if so, who would be replacing him. To me, the decision would be more based on the political impact.

Just a note that this is really the first time I've tried to think about this issue in detail, and I'm not really prepared to drill down into specifics. The whole issue is very complicated, and is a special case of striking a balance between privacy and achieving one's political ends.

#135 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 12:55 PM:

aconite @ 132 in italics

picky note: dass soll albatross, nicht aconite, sein

#136 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 12:58 PM:

Larry Brennan, I assure you that I am not albatross. I am an early-blooming bulb, or a medicinally toxic perennial, but not a web-footed seafarer. I've checked.

#137 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 12:59 PM:

Ack! Sorry for the misattribution!

#138 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 01:24 PM:

"As a gay man who was closeted until I was 27, I think I would have been *devastated* had someone forced me out of the closet against my will: that was one of the worst things I could have imagined, and there's no way it could have happened without being traumatic."

Because it was stated as a precondition to being allowed to out Republican anti-gay operatives without being hypocritical. One could argue that the two things are not really related and pretty much everyone did but I decided to go the other way and accept the rather absurd precondition; if in this world the only way to not be hypocritical when outing Republican anti-gay operatives is by accepting the outing of everyone then I am prepared to accept the outing of everyone.

Of course that is really not my choice to make for 'everyone' but that was the choice presented. However it is pretty hypothetical. I suppose nobody is going to go start outing everyone they can because Bryan said it was okay on one of his infrequent comments on MakingLight.

#139 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 01:48 PM:

(Suppose a Democrat who was a prominent advocate of warrantless wiretaps and torture for terrorism suspects was also a closeted gay. Would it be okay to out him to get him out of power?)

I think NOT. Not if he supported gay rights and same-sex marriage, or at least didn't take a position opposing them. But that case is pretty far-fetched in the real world.

#140 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2006, 04:26 PM:

Bryan, thank you for your response. As I said in my response to Teresa, I had neglected to read the comments leading up to the comment of yours before responding to it, which was obnoxious behavior on my part.

I think it would be a terrible thing, though, if the position you expressed took hold: if the desire to not be perceived as hypocritical when outing politicians who pander to homophobia resulted in the belief that it is reasonable to out anyone, at any time, who is trying to remain in the closet. If the only options are "out everyone" and "out nobody", I prefer "out nobody".

But thankfully that's not a realistic set of options, and there is a middle ground which can be found between them.

#141 ::: Lorax ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2006, 02:25 PM:

Is it that gays have a special obligation to not support anti-gay positions?

Yes, just as an African-American would have an obligation not to support policies of racial discrimination.

Or that anti-gay positions are sufficiently evil that you are willing to violate normal rules of not outing people in those cases. (Suppose a Democrat who was a prominent advocate of warrantless wiretaps and torture for terrorism suspects was also a closeted gay. Would it be okay to out him to get him out of power?)

Very much not so.

Outing is not about playing on the perception that being gay is bad, such that it can and should be used against anyone whose policies you oppose, or removing them from power; it's about HYPOCRISY. It is being able to answer their statements of "these people do not deserve basic human rights" with "you mean people like yourself, Congressman?" If they wish to make life miserable for gay people, then they must be willing to share in that misery. Outing in this case has the potential to be an effective tactic because closeted conservatives frequently feel the need to vote in an extremely anti-gay fashion to avoid suspicion. Once they're out, or outed, that need for "cover" is gone, and their position on gay issues may change.

The example of Rep. Jim Kolbe from Arizona is illustrative in this regard. While closeted, he had a dismal voting record on gay rights issues. After he voted in favor of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, he was threatened with "outing", and chose to come out of the closet instead. His voting record on gay rights issues has improved dramatically since then (and he continued to win re-election and beat back primary challenges from conservative Republicans in his district, until he decided not to run this year).

#142 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 12:43 AM:

I'll be damned if I know whence comes the notion that having liberal political views means not mentioning one's opponent's political hypocrisies.

It's a variation on a common neocon tactic: "If you liberals are so TOLERANT, why aren't you tolerant of [insert bigotry-of-choice here]?" The flaw, of course, is that tolerance is a 2-way street; I am not morally obligated to be tolerant of any opinion or political position which does not in turn grant me the same courtesy. To say otherwise puts all the power into the hands of the intolerant and leaves me no recourse... which, of course, is exactly why the neocons are so fond of this sort of accusation.

Note: I am not accusing anyone here of being a neocon just because they use that kind of argument. But I do think there's a good chance that they picked it up from the neocon side of the current political discourse.

Well, if he had been, the "man gives birth to two babies" angle alone would have guaranteed saturation news coverage.

OMG MPREG!!!

#143 ::: trth mchn ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 11:35 AM:

sm t hv gttn myslf pggd s bttr Rpblcn

Sm t whm? Nt t nyn pyng ttntn. f y thnk y wr s pggd, qt th txt tht pggd y. pg y s smn wh hbtlly cnstrcts strwmn, prtclrly strwmn tht mk y ppr t b vctm, s frm f d hmnm gnst ths wh chllng yr clms.

Drkrs t #83, 'm bsltly fn wth htng Mhlmn bcs h's wrng n prtclrly bstrd wy. Bt pls, lts nt ht hm bcs h's gy, w'v gt bttr rsns fr tht.

Ths s th mst bsrd f yr strwmn; n n n ths thrd xprssd ny htrd f Mhlmn fr bng gy.

W my jst nd t gr t dsgr bt whthr tng s n pprprt tctc fr gttng t th bd gys

Strwmn; n n, nd crtnly nt Drkrs, sggstd tht tng s n pprprt tctc fr gttng t th bd gys. Y ctd Drkrs's pst, bt wndr f y ctlly rd t, rthr thn jst gttng n "mprssn" frm th wrds ( pg y s smn wh hbtlly ds tht). Drkrs wrt bt nt crng bt hrtng Mhlmn; tht's nt bt wht s n pprprt tctc. n nlgy: smn wh sys tht thy dn't cr f mpchng Chny mght cs hm t hv hrt ttck s nt dvctng hrt ttcks s wy t gt t th bd gys ( pg y s th srt f prsn wh dsn't gt tht srt f nlgy, bt hpflly 'm wrng).

ndrstnd th rgmnts bt whthr h's gy bng prt f hs chrctr

Y ndrstnd n sch thng; th sttmnt ws " hppn t thnk tht pblc, pltcl fgr wh s gy nd wh wrks gnst hs wn pltcl rghts s tllng m lt bt hs chrctr"; t's nt bng gy tht's prt f hs chrctr, t's bng hypcrt, nd bng dshnst -- clstd gy mn wh tks strng pblc stnc gnst gy rghts nd pndrs t hmphbs s t lst msldng th hmphbs.

xcpt tht 'd rthr nt hv "gy" b chrctr trt. Bng gy shld b th lst mprtnt, lst ntrstng prt bt y.

Strwmn; Mhlmn sn't bng ttckd fr bng gy.

Th Rpblcns rn't gng t mk tht sy, bt dn't s rsn fr nybdy t hlp thm wth tht.

Strwmn; Mhlmn sn't bng ttckd fr bng gy.

ltmtly, Mhlmn's pltfrm s dsgstng nd wrng, rgrdlss f whthr h's gy. t's nt bttr fr hm t blv nd d wht h clms t blv nd ds f h's strght, t's nt wrs.

Strwmn; whthr t's wrs r nt s nt t ss; wht s t ss s whthr t's wrng t xps Mhlmn s lr nd hypcrt.

#144 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 11:52 AM:

Too many strawmen there, Truth Machine. Feel like trying again in a more congenial tone? Or perhaps you'd rather try a different comment thread -- this one tapered off weeks ago.

#145 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 12:14 PM:

Being Gay should not even be an issue at all. It is no more relevant than whether you wear "boxers or briefs". Sure some people might hate you because it's not what they would wear, but that's their problem.

There is only one reason that being Gay is an issue, and that reason is not because someone Outs them ... the reason being Gay is an issue is because people, mostly GOP people, have made it an issue with their irrational ignorance and hatred.

If the GOP, or anyone else feels that Outing is wrong, then they need to ask themselves WHY ... and work on fixing the reason people believe a Gay person is somehow an "issue", and not get caught up in the "morality" of exposing the fact that someone is wearing "briefs instead of the more conservative boxers".

If you really believe that being Gay is not a "sin", then stop playing into the bigot's hand by allowing them to frame the issue as "Gay is wrong, so exposing someone is exposing them to justified retribution" ... re-frame the issue as "Gay is not wrong, so exposing them should expose them to no retribution, and if it does, then it is the retribution that needs to be though of as wrong and not being Gay".

Out, Out, Out ... you would never consider it wrong in mentioning that a person had a "black grandfather" if you were discussing the fact that that person was a KKK member, or even if that person were a black activist, mentioning that the person had some black heritage would not be something most people would consider private and personal that no one should ever expose. Instead most people would just tell anyone that attacked a person for having a black heritage that they were a racist piece of crap, and rightfully so ... your society needs to get to the same point with homosexuality ... you need to learn that it is not the attribute of the person that needs to be hidden and closeted, it is the attack against that attribute that needs to be condemned and exposed as evil.

#146 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 06:06 AM:

hey, this thread was in 2006. I just wanted to call attention to it because now that a year has passed I guess everyone feels sort of silly now for thinking that there might be gay people in the republican party or something. Sure, there's a few, but its not like a statistical anomaly in my pants or something.

#147 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 06:58 AM:

Of course one should note that a lot of the recent GOP Gay scandals also seem to have a helping of prostitution somewhere on the side. It does seem interesting that hardly anyone focuses on that though.

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