Outing: Politicians vs Celebrities

Queer Nation was a backlash gay movement that didn’t want a place at the diversity mosaic melting pot table, they wanted to kick the table over. It was more aggressive than other gay groups of the time, which took a “same as you, just happen to be gay” approach.

The major activity of Queer Nation was outing famous people who were anti-gay in public but gay in private. Not just major Republicans, either; but Hollywood Celebrities.

Part of the urgency at the time was AIDS, which seems strange to look back now at the government and health agency inaction and red tape delays while citizens died. Of course, being gays were not “good” citizens – so it’s not really surprising that many people thought that AIDs was a manufactured illness to eliminate societies’ undesirables.

Which, given that the euthanasia programs of the 1950’s into the 1970’s in Canada and the US of sterilizing “undesirables” in mental institutions and other facilities; didn’t seem that far a stretch. Especially when you consider that the Brits allowed Coventry to be bombed and likely the US allowed Pearl Harbour to be bombed to advance or protect a government agenda. Protecting the secret of radar for the first and to sway public sentiment to get into WWII for the latter.

Aside: Wow, I suddenly understand why there’s so many 9/11 Truthers. They are just expending the pattern. But, why go into an elaborate conspiracy when plain covering your ass and incompetence is the simpler and more elegant explanation for events.

But, back to outing. At first glance, those politicians (link to brain rewards post) who condemn gays publically, propose and support unconstitutional laws to discriminate against gays but who are gay in private – deserve to be exposed, outed and removed from office.

These self loathing closet cases are betraying everyone – publically, they are betraying their fellow gays and privately, they are betraying the voters who are anti-gay and voted for that politician.

In the 80’s, this seemed more than fair to me – but then, to liberal thinkers, being consistent in word and deed is important. (religious thinkers tend towards you’re supposed to fail to live up to the word so you can repent – and it’s the quality of your humble repentance that’s important.”

But now, older and less of a black vs white thinker, I see that perhaps I

But more than politicians, it was celebrities who were outed. Probably because they were less discrete in their sexcapades than more opinion sensitive politicians – so there was a larger pool of people to do the outing – and the public is largely apathetic to politicians so it may be that their sex partners had no idea that they were a public figure – so, it’s a sad commentary that the public knows more and worse cares more about what celebrities are doing than the public figures who have input into legislation which affects us all.

The idea behind celebrity outing was to create the appearance that being gay was okay – to provide role models for gay teens, since they are more prone to suicide than straight teens. Back then to my mind, celebrities were less desirable targets. After all, reluctant role models aren’t anything to emulate.

It also seemed less fair to punish a celebrity with career loss than the politician, since the politicians used their careers to cause harm to real people. But celebrities were escapism, not public policy.

However, most people aren’t really aware of what public policy is and they live their lives indifferently because when you have a strong sense of how the world should be, you tend to perceive it is that way – and cruelly punish anyone who challenges that perception. (Like not allowing them to share in rights – it’s why people who say, gays aren’t banned from marriage, they can marry an opposite gender person like everyone else is so infuriating, since it’s a demand to conform without regard to the gay reality that we aren’t going to live hypocritically and cause harm to those people we’d be lying to by marrying them)

So now, older and more a grey thinker – it may well be that closeted celebrities do cause more harm than lying politicians.

What’s funny is that we expect politicians to lie, but somehow actors who play other people are somehow revealing a truth. It’s funny because it’s true – we use fiction to understand our non-fiction world.

Entertainment, where we think that we escape reality, actually reinforces the reality of whatever the public norms of the day are; it’s not an escape. Entertainment stories, no matter how much greyness they appear to include, is black and white thinking. Which is comforting to us, since everything is clear and simple, even if it’s not easy. Heck, we don’t like anything easy.

If you watch cartoons from earlier decades, the blatant racism is overwhelming to current sensibilities – but wasn’t anything to raise an eyebrow in the 30’s. The newest edition of Huckleberry Finn isn’t even going to have the n-word appear – which alters the cultural context of the book – a whitewashing. But we don’t do any good or anyone favours by pretending that the discrimination wasn’t real or wasn’t as bad.

You have to wonder who’s sensibilities are being catered to – the group who was discriminated against, or the discriminators. By ignoring the elephant in the room, you leave yourself no room to deal with anything else.

Entertainments that reinforce public norms (aka stereotypes) play a huge role in shaping what that black and white world that we think we live in. So, when you don’t see gay characters in movies, TV and books – or the ones you see play a limited role – often a cautionary tale where the character dies because they can’t be “normal” or who find something or someone who facilitates them re-joining the normal herd – often as a result of their lover’s death – it’s easy to think that either there aren’t gay people because they get normal or die; so when you encounter a gay person who’s a person who’s gay – it challenges that black and white world view that entertainment tells us we live in – it causes the anger, resentment and hatred that drives the anti-gay sentiment – which in turn, reinforces what entertainment has told us the world is like.

Legislation is easier to undo and challenge than public norms. The laws of the land are the reality that we live in, they are clear but complicated, interdependent on each other and have a hierarchy of authority. At the top is the Charter or Constitution that explain the basic premises of society – while legislation and other levels of law making have to fit within that larger framework of fairness.

There is no footnote in the highest legislation which says that people from identifiable groups are not included in the rights that all citizens are entitled to because they are citizens.

Yet, under the framework of individual and collective rights where everyone is equal under the law – yet, before 1900’s, “everyone” didn’t include the slaves or aboriginal people at all and only nominally included white women.

White women demanded equality as represented by being able to vote, but it was still well into the 1970’s that what women could wear to schools was out of their control, same for obtaining bank loans without a male co-signer.

Black Americans stepped up to demand equality and the rarer and less public lynching have morphed into hate crimes.

Which explains a lot about why so many black activists hate gays and lesbians being covered by that “hate crime” umbrella. It’s hard to be a victim class when other groups are victims too – it makes being a victim more the norm and any one of is less a special case.

What it takes to increase tolerance and acceptance is that people in the majority know members of the minority – to see them as people. This is fairly easy to accomplish in cities, which tend to be where minorities live – and harder in rural areas, which are more demographically homogenous.

Worse for minorities like gays and athiests, because we look like anyone else – and so, unlike an ethnic or other visible minority, those of us who are in invisible groups have to actually come out and tell people that we’re gay and/or atheist.

So, let’s start by outting ourselves and make it easier for people in public positions to be out and encourage more self-outing.