Is It Ever Okay to Out a Closeted Homosexual?

I read several articles this morning about NPR censoring a review of the new movie Outrage, a documentary about closeted gay politicians who vote against gay rights legislation. Dick Meyer, NPR’s executive director of digital content, said: “NPR has a long-held policy of trying to respect the privacy of public figures and of not airing or publishing rumors, allegations and reports about their private lives unless there is a compelling reason to do so.”

I’m not sure how I feel about outing anyone – even a hypocrital closeted politician who’s most likely voting against gay rights legislation because he thinks it’ll make him appear “straight” to everyone around him. I tossed this question into my Twitter update stream: Is it ever okay to out someone, even if that person is a closeted gay politician voting against gay rights legislation? The answers were mixed:

Robocub: I think anytime a closet case *actively* works against the gay community at large, then it’s perfectly acceptable to out them.

matropolis: TOUGH QUESTION! Tough tough tough…I don’t know. I am conflicted on that…

SyrLinus: IMO, no. The minute is done for one, then it is done for all. It should be up to the person to do so; it is their life.

heysonnie: ABSOLUTELY! David Dreier was our Rep for years, would never even meet with us to talk about any LGBT-related issues.

suebob: That is one of the few cases where I would say yes. Because their extraordinary power affects others.

mrpunkjess: Tough question. Although I’d argue it doesn’t matter if they are. It matters how they are voting.

MtSkullcrusher: YES. Hypocrisy is NOT okay.

blogdiva: only when it is a closeted gay politician pushing anti-gay legislation. outing is called for in these cases

AlexaRPD: I think it is absolutely okay to out the hypocrite.

Phreddy: I don’t think it’s ever okay.

pazenlavida: only in that situation.

empoor: would say not, in most cases. It’s very personal, isn’t it? Coming out shouldn’t be humiliating and pressured.

LaBarceloneta: I’m not sure the short-term gains would outweigh the Karmic debt incurred.

beyrownqueero: i think in that case, it is totally okay to out someone

belledame222: I go back and forth, but increasingly, in ONLY those cases (people actively causing harm to out queer folk), i lean toward yes.

GrrrlRomeo: If you were an out gay kid in high school being harrassed by someone you knew to be a closet gay, would you out them?

taterunino: Sometimes a polly will vote the way they feel their constituency would have them vote, rather than by their conscience.

Blacktating: No, it is never right to out someone. Let people come out on their own terms in their own time.

EvelienSnel: Q[]: Is it [OK] to out someone, even if [he] is a closeted gay politician voting against gay []? — No, better to educate him!

SeanWG: I’d say that we’re obligated to out people like that.

jamaisneutral: I’m not a big fan of outing, but politicians voting anti-gay measures? Yes. Definitely.

My Facebook friends had a lot to say, too.

Even after hearing responses from others, I’m still undecided. When is it ok (if ever) to out someone? I know someone who is a closet case. Outing him would erase a ton of my troubles. I’ve been a member of the LGBTQ community for almost 13 years and standard protocol dictates that you never out someone – not even for personal reasons.

9 comments

  1. Nick Dupree says:

    I gotta go with the “Frank Rule” on this one, I believe in it strongly.

    “I think there’s a right to privacy. But the right to privacy should not be a right to hypocrisy. And people who want to demonize other people shouldn’t then be able to go home and close the door and do it themselves.” — Rep. Barney Frank

  2. Véronique says:

    It seems so clear cut: closet case votes against LGBT issues or actively thwarts LGBT rights, so expose him or her. I agree that what they are doing is despicable and hypocritical. Yet I am not omniscient, and I don’t think it’s right or wise for me to put myself in the judgment seat. Someone mentioned the karmic debt. I feel that I have to stay on the high road, even if I think that someone deserves to be exposed.

    That said, I won’t judge anyone else who believes or acts differently. I am all in favour of fighting for social justice, and we each have our own ways of doing this.

  3. polerin says:

    I’m conflicted.. and I’m also not sure how much good it does to out someone. I’ve not followed these cases closely, but has any politician outed in such a manner actually turned around and done good?

    Even if there are one or two, does this really negate the outpouring of negativity and “See! homosexuals are liars!” outrage that pours out from the constituencies. The voters put these people in office knowing their policy views, and I don’t see them being swayed much by their representative being outed. They’ll just throw another homophobe into play next election and what have we gained other than ruining someone’s life?

  4. jaysays says:

    Although I’m of the opinion (thus far) that it is never ok to out someone, I must say that there is a certainly level of vindication and joy when someone like Ted Haggard gets outed – I just wish I didn’t.

  5. Genia says:

    Don’t miss the SistersTalk Radio episode where we talk about this very issue:

    http://tr.im/lhsN

  6. .

    it IS a tough question, but it seems as if someone should be judged on their actions, rather than their sexual orientation.

    (if someone votes against something, does it really MATTER if they're gay or not ? ..it doesn't change the vote)

    if they promised to vote one way, beforehand, and didn't keep the promises, it would seem tempting..

    but unforseen circumstances may have changed their ability to KEEP those promises.. and there was no way of knowing this ahead of time that in order to accomplish the higher priorities, they would have to dance to a different tune.

    we can't look into their hearts (only God can-Ghandi), and at the end of the day, they still have to look at themselves in the mirror..

    everyone's hypocritical about SOMETHING (it may be impossible to be OTHERwise).. and outing them may do more damage than not..

    so I would have to vote "no. let them wrestle with their OWN demons, as I have plenty of my own to deal with"

    (but for the record, I had to think about that one for awhile :)

  7. Kara Harkins says:

    I would say it depends on the circumstances. If they are harming nobody, then, yes, they have the right to choose what is private and what is public. If they choose to work against other GLBT people then I see no karmic compulsion to protect their secret.

  8. Emily says:

    I really can’t see that outing anyone is right. Yes, some in the closet people have acted despicably, but acting despicably back just doesn’t seem to be right. I agree with Véronique: The high road seems the better road.

    I think there’s too much unknown, too many other people who could get hurt and when I think of how much it would have hurt me to have been outed when I was just too scared to come out myself, I just can’t do that to someone else.

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