Monday, June 15, 2009

Forty Years of OUTRAGE

Last night I saw the new documentary by Kirby Dick called Outrage. The film examines how closeted gay politicians are often the leading force of the anti-gay movement in our government and are the biggest threat to gay Americans. Some of you might be saying, yeah right, what kind of liberal bullshit is this? But it isn't bullshit. 

Dick's film is well documented, well put together, and shines a light on the biggest problem facing the gay rights movement. We've all heard the stories of politicians caught in compromising positions with members of the same sex and almost always they are right wing republicans who have a history of voting against gay people and often lead the charge to destroy the lives of gays and lesbians. 

How could this be? Why would a gay person, even a closeted one, do this? That's a good question and the answer lies in the never-ending depths of denial. When you hate yourself so much it is only natural that you will turn that hate onto other people, especially those who are doing what you can't bring yourself to do: live an open and honest life. In some ways it is hard to fathom, but in others it makes perfect sense. We live in a world that hates gay people. There is not a day that goes by that I'm not reminded of that. If you are naturally driven to have sex with other men, but you have this deep conviction that it is wrong or will lead to your destruction what do you do? Well, you go about destroying the lives of other gays to prove how wrong it is, but you can't stop yourself from wanting sex. The desire for sex  leads you to do stupid things like solicit sex from strangers in bathrooms (Larry Craig).

Actually the reason closeted gays hate openly gay gays isn't as confusing as why our mainstream press refuses to cover these stories and seems very willing to look the other way. The film shows how countless other politicians have been found out yet still remain in office and in denial, because no one covers the stories but the gay press or bloggers. 

The film focuses heavily on a blogger who is devoted to outing politicians. Many, inside and outside, the gay community hate the practice of outing. But the film makes an excellent case for outing people. This man is not outing private citizens for the fun of it. He is outing public figures who are forcefully destroying gay lives and then leading a closeted life. This is unacceptable and would be all over the press if it was something to do with hetero-sex. Just think back to the Clinton scandal. I'm not against outing public figures who are lying and hurting the gay community by doing so. 

The governor of Florida, where I now live, is one of the main focal points of the film. There have been rumors of Crist's homosexuality since he ran for office as a single man back in 2006. He has denied it repeatedly (though not very convincingly). However there are various men who have gone on record saying they had relationships with Crist and even a few of his supposed girlfriends who hint at his homosexual activity. Crist strangely denies knowing these men, even though sources say he was good friends with them. Then both men suddenly disappear from Florida before the election, which Crist wins. Currently Crist has set his sights higher and what does he do? Finds some woman to marry him. He proposed six weeks before McCain picked a VP (Crist was said to be in the running). He is also said to be a potential presidential nominee. No major newspaper covered any of these allegations. Crist has also done nothing to help gay people in Florida, when we are one of the states with the harshest anti-gay laws. 

The film saddened me and told me what I already knew, but maybe didn't want to face: self-hatred is our greatest enemy and will continue to prevent the gay rights movement from reaching its goals. One guy interviewed made the comment that if all the gay people would just come out of the closet the gay rights movement would be over and done with and I have to agree. Being out is the number one way to fight intolerance and hatred. You have to put a face in front of hate and force people re-examine themselves. It's much harder to hate someone to their face. It angers me so much that people get away with living in the closet and destroying the lives of those who have the strength to come out and be honest. I am out to every single person I know and meet and I'm proud of that. Yes, I believe it helped keep me unemployed for six months last year. I had various people say negative things about the fact that I was openly gay to my face in my interviews, but that is who I am and I'm willing to sacrifice and it angers me when others aren't.

I meet young gay people often who seem very open and honest and then I find out they aren't out their parents or some other person in their lives. Every single time I hear this I lose some respect for that person. We have to fight for our rights. They aren't just going to be handed to us and the fact that we can hide or "pass" doesn't mean we should. Silence is deadly. 

Too many people don't realize how little has changed for gay people in this country. Larry Kramer, a great gay writer and activist, is interviewed in the film and says as gay Americans we have no rights and people need to stop thinking or saying we do. We have nothing. Not a single gay law has been passed federally and this month marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which began the modern gay rights movement. 40 years and that's not even really the beginning. Lots of groups were fighting slowing and steadily for years prior to 1969. How long do we have to wait? 

If my weekend is any indication I fear a long time. On Saturday Dustin and I had a Gay Pride party at our apartment. Everyone was supposed to come as their favorite GLBT historical or fictional character. I thought it would be a really fun event for Pride month and one of my goals was to promote gay history. We always make glasses for everyone at our parties. We buy cheap glasses at IKEA and use pens meant for glass and write on them and then bake them and they hold up really well and work as a party favor. For this party I put dates on the glasses from gay history and wrote out what happened on that day. I had fun things like Queer as Folk debuting, Ellen's coming out episode, but also serious events like the first recorded "hate crime" against gays to Harvey Milk being elected. We decorated the apartment with rainbow stuff and got a Gay Pride cake from Publix (special ordered by my Dustin). They were a little confused but did a great job and this lesbian checked Dustin out and was really excited. I think we made her day.

Anyway, we invited people over. Everyone who came was gay and this guy who I don't know that well looked at the table, which I had sprinkled with rainbow confetti that was "40s." He was like "why are there 40s on the table?" I said "this June is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots." I was expecting him to go, "oh cool," but instead he said "what are the Stonewall Riots?" When he said this I think my heart broke just a little. I explained to him what they were and why they are important and told him that's why Pride month is in June. He didn't seem that impressed or excited, but at least he now knows. Another guest at our party didn't know who Harvey Milk was. Again, I was blown away. They just made a freaking movie. If nothing else he should have know from that. Sean Penn won the Oscar! 

The point is people, gay and straight, don't know anything about gay rights and the fight for equality. Gay people don't know their own history and that's the saddest thing to me. Since coming out I've found out as much as I can about gay history and I love learning it. It's part of who I am and why wouldn't I want to know about it? 
This film is another example of things I want to expose myself to because I need to know what is going on. This film should anger you and outage you, but sadly no one seems to care. Gay people have become as complacent as everyone else. We accept our flamboyant selves on TV and we buy any piece of shit that seems remotely gay. I often wonder what it's going to take for people to truly rise up and demand rights. Maybe it's more education, maybe it's me putting dates on a glass and forcing people to drink from them, or forcing them to watch movies that make them uncomfortable or read things they don't want to read. 

I'm thankful this film is out there and I hope more will see it, will question this hatred in American politics for gays and lesbians, and will demand more of the media (I know that's a stretch). 

Let's not wait for 40 more years to pass us by. 


  1. Hey last I checked I had left a comment up here. What... no discourse?

  2. I enjoy discourse yes, but I don't feel good discourse will come when one seems very attacking in their very first comment. It didn't seem you wanted to have a conversation. I apologize if that's what you intended. I'm happy to respond.

    My post in no way means I think I am better than other gay people because I know gay history. The point is that I feel gay people have a responsibility to know their own history and to fight for their rights and if everyone was willing to do that we would have a those rights by now.

    I also found your example of the gay boy buying new shirts every weekend and going to the gay club very humorous, because I do that every every single week (which you could tell if you read my other posts). I am that person, but I am also a person who reads and thinks and believes in activism. I love gay clubs and shopping and having fun, but you can do that and know your own history and fight for gay rights.

    Being out is the best method for being an activist and I do encourage people to come out and it does upset me when people do not. I understand the journey and I understand it is different for each person. I'm not saying it's easy, but I'm saying it is a necessity. I didn't come out until I was 20 and I regret that.

    Gay people can't get equal rights and equal treatment by hiding. It's a fact. I don't out people. But as I said in my post I do support outing politicians who are attacking gay people. I do not support outing private individuals, but I would encourage those people the best I could to come out.

    I hope this clears up any confusion you had about my post. It has nothing to do with being better than someone else. The two people in my post I mentioned who did not know these facts are friends of mine and people I enjoy. As I said repeatedly one of my goals is education and that was the point of this post.

  3. I know, I'm a meddling blowhard. I didn't mean to come off as attacking, just sassy. For that I apologize. Thanks for getting the irony of the shopping club goer though, that I may have pulled from my own little history. And somewhere there hiding behind my rant may have been the point that you've already communicated so eloquently, everyone has their own history. Whether they study up on it or not, their contribution to queer history is important. There will always be historians, and there will always be people who don't give a shit about where they come from. Disengagement runs rampant in queerdom as it does with any identity. That on its own is worth trying to understand. Shoving a picture of Dorian Grey in people's faces just doesn't seem as educational as first asking, what they know about being queer. And why.

  4. No problem, I like sassy. I think in many ways we agree, but perhaps you take a more realistic approach than I do. My point is while we do all have individual histories and experiences we also have a shared history, which I firmly believe is important to know. Of course there will always be people who don't care, but this becomes problematic when you are part of a group that is fighting for equal rights. I guess I take the "suck it up" approach that says this is the time period you are living in and this needs to happen, so get on it. At the same time I know this probably isn't going to happen.

    While my post may seem very upfront and angry (which I often am) I do want you to know I'm not going around shoving pictures of Dorian Gray in people's faces and that the people at my party who didn't know the Stonewall Riots or Harvey Milk were not banned from my house. I very nicely told them the information and educated them and maybe they'll remember and maybe they won't, but I tried. I'm a college instructor, so I'm used to people not knowing things.

    I'm glad you came back and commented.