It seems the Mark Foley scandal was only the beginning of a long-overdue communal discussion about the ethics of outing. In Florida, gay journalists are the ones who advocate asking Republican candidate for governor, Charlie Crist, about rumors that he’s gay. The mainstream media continues to claim that it’s a non-issue, ignoring Reform Party candidate Max Linn’s statement that he will “swear on a stack of Bibles” that Crist is gay.
But even the mainstream media can’t ignore news that Ted Haggard, pastor of an influential anti-gay evangelical megachurch, was outed by a gay male prostitute. Given the startling homophobia of many in those fundamentalist pulpits, it’s a wonder more ministers haven’t been outed, until you remember that those most likely to know about a political figure’s homosexuality -- prostitutes, children, and LGBT people in general -- have been understandably afraid of the right-wing attack machine.
My position on outing is rooted in the idea of gay pride.
Gay pride is more than a march on the last Sunday in June. It’s more than being gay, too. While all civil rights movements tell truth to power, truth-telling and self-identification are the distinguishing characteristics of the gay movement. Without coming out, there is no gay movement, period.
Ideally, every LGBT person would realize that living a lie is not only psychologically and spiritually damaging, but that the more of us who come out the safer we all are from physical and social violence.
But it’s not an ideal world.  If we were in any doubt about it, seeing Jim “I Am a Gay American” McGreevey on the cover of the Advocate’s coming out issue would clue us in. McGreevey, you’ll remember, didn’t come out, exactly. He announced he was gay when he was blackmailed by an employee with whom he was having an affair. Not exactly an inspiring profile in courage.
In his review of McGreevey’s life story, “The Gay Governor Has No Clothes,” Andy Humm argues that McGreevey exaggerates the homophobia he faced growing up in New Jersey in the seventies -- the heyday of the gay liberation movement -- in order to rationalize his self-interested decision to hide in the closet, just as he rationalizes his later failure to act on behalf of gay people while in office.
Many pro-gay progressives are, in my view, overly sympathetic to such rationalizations.
They tend to subscribe to the school of thought that says outing is always wrong, even with elected officials. The reasoning is that outing contributes to homophobia, because it implies that there is something wrong with being gay.
As far as I can tell, the main cause of homophobia is and always has been the closet. That’s why the GOP loves it so much. They’ve even constructed one with a special swinging door for Mary Cheney, sort of like a dog flap, so she can go in and out at will.
The closet keeps us faceless, voiceless, and powerless -- a blank screen onto which the rightwing noise machine can project whatever they want. It is the venerable institution of the closet, not heterosexual marriage, that neocons are so eager to protect. By attacking marriage equality, the right hopes to roll back 30 years of progress on gay rights won with blood, sweat, and tears.
Fortunately, nothing can roll back the changes that have come as a result of the most powerful act of coming out: telling our parents and siblings. Over the past three decades, millions of people took a big risk and told their families who they are. That takes guts. That’s where hearts and minds change. Coming out at work has been successful, as well; tolerant corporations have become major forces for equality. In both cases, timing is crucial. It has to be up to the good judgment of the individual.
But when it comes to political figures, we all have very good reasons to object to the closet. History shows that the closet breeds monsters.
A closeted homosexual masterminded the most infamous political witch-hunt of the twentieth century, McCarthyism. Persistent rumors of homosexual activity swirled around Senator Joseph McCarthy throughout his lifetime. Given that McCarthy relied absolutely on hearsay, innuendo, and blackmail, I’d say that’s proof enough. But there’s also guilt by association: there are also rumors that two other major figures in McCarthy’s anti-commie crusade, Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover, were closeted homosexuals.
McCarthy gave targeted victims an impossible choice: betray the people closest to you or get blackballed and become an unemployable pariah.
Cohn, a Jew, was recommended to McCarthy by their mutual friend Hoover on the basis of his excellent work on the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg spy trial, which resulted in the Rosenbergs’ execution. Cohn denied he was gay right up to the day he died of AIDS.
But J. Edgar Hoover was the worst of the bunch. During his decades at the FBI, Hoover turned the agency into one big closet, shielded from oversight by blackmail collected on leaders of both political parties. In his new book, Conservatives Without Conscience , Dean says of Hoover (hardcover, pgs. 84-87),
After studying Hoover’s behavior and activities, Dr. Harold Lief, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, concluded he was “what is known as an Authoritarian Personality. Hoover would have made a perfect high-level Nazi.”
The fact that these grotesque leaders were homosexual is a dire warning about the pathology of the closet -- lying as one’s central life skill, disdain for the suckers who fall for the lies, inability to sustain (or even imagine) equal relationships. The false, vengeful lives they led were a cynical parody of the conformity they imposed on others. The truth is, when you deny who you are and who you love, you become soulless. All you’re left with are lies and hate. And, in Hoover’s case, unfortunately, power.
Dean goes on to say about “Hoover’s true legacy,” that:
[I]t was he with his fanaticism who planted the seeds from which contemporary social and cultural conservatism has grown. Hoover’s focus on the American family and Christianity attracted an earlier generation of adamant anticommunists, who have become today’s zealous social conservatives.
Enter Karl Rove, the most zealous of the new authoritarians. James Moore, co-author of Bush’s Brain, has written a new account of the Rove phenomenon, The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power, in which he reveals that Karl Rove’s stepfather, with whom he was very close, was a gay man. In an interview on Democracy Now!, Mr. Moore said:
Karl Rove buried his father Louie Rove in July of 2004. There was no public notice in the newspaper. And then he got on the campaign plane, and he went to eleven key swing states to help facilitate the anti-gay marriage amendments around this country, which drove voter turnout in the last election . . .
And it turns out that Karl Rove, the man who is the architect behind evangelical voters and their turnout and a voter delivery system of the Christian right, is agnostic . . .
[He] referred to the Christian right and the fundamentalists north of Austin as “whackos.” They hold these people in more disdain than these individuals are aware of.
In Rove’s defense, it has to be said that some of his “voter delivery system” is not entirely savory. Greased by billions in faith-based initiative money, some black churches are eagerly continuing Rove’s attack on marriage equality -- even after Hurricane Katrina. Gregory Daniels, senior pastor of the Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, says, “If the KKK opposes gay marriage, I would ride with them.”
Reading a statement like that you have to wonder, is marriage equality really a greater threat to the black community than the KKK and George W. Bush? Or is it, for some reason, merely a greater threat to Gregory Daniels? In other words, is Daniels gay?
That’s exactly the question Keith Boykin and Jasmyne Cannick ask in a series of profiles of Daniels and other homophobic black pastors. It’s the right question to ask, because it’s definitely not a non-issue.
Eric Hegedus, national president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, expresses my view on the subject: “There’s nothing wrong with asking a candidate  if he’s gay. It’s just like asking him if he’s married, dating anyone or has children. There’s nothing shameful about being gay.”
He’s right, there’s nothing wrong with being gay. But there’s lot wrong with lying about it. It’s a matter of pride.
is a member of Long Island Media Watch, a grassroots free media and
democracy watchdog group. She can be reached at:
 For an excellent book on a closeted
father’s impact on a family, I highly recommend Alison Bechdel’s
brilliant graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.
Other Articles by Patricia Goldsmith