Wednesday, September 28, 2005

To Out or Not to Out

Greetings, kids. Foot is okay, I'm okay. I'm coming back. Having said that, I'm going to go back to some things I've explored in the past, especially around sexuality, and I'm starting with the outing question.

Outing refers to the practice of revealing the sexual orientation of notable folk. From celebrities to politicians, the targets of outing fall into one of the following categories:
--someone who may have a lot of money
--someone who may have a lot of power (or access to power)
--someone who has bashed (verbally, legislatively, spiritually) gay and lesbian people
The idea is that by remaining closeted they enjoy the benefits, if you will, of being gay; i.e. they never suffer the stings that some gays and lesbians may suffer, including loss of work, their home, their children. But, they also never allow themselves to serve as examples of the "everyman" whose only difference is same-sex love, and therefore the "we're just like you" that should provide equalization that we've been screaming for since dirt was new.

Outing makes sense from this place, but more often than not, it comes from a place of shame. The latest players in the outing game are activists and writers, Keith Boykin and Jasmyne Cannick. Their respective sites feature a series that asks if prominent Black preachers, known for anti-gay rhetoric, often nasty rhetoric, are gay. On one hand, it is true that many homophobes (or homo-haters, because they don't really fear homosexuals) generally cover up their own insecurities and loathing of their own sexuality with antagonistic behavior, whether through words or actions. These folk do need to be outed for hypocrisy. The problem is that outing them makes their behavior shameful, and makes all levels of sex between men or women shameful. Others who are outed are outed because the larger lesbian & gay community believes that every lesbian or gay man should be out because there is strength in numbers. Being out liberates one from the burden of shame, the burden of dishonesty. This, as I've said, makes us "everyman."

I'm a greater supporter of those of us with the courage to be out to come out. I'm a greater supporter of creating an atmosphere where people, irrespective of class or race, can be out. Yes, America's acceptance of gay people has been helped by celebriqueers like the Fab Five, and Ellen DeGeneres. I believe the Black gay male community has been helped by a sort of "everyman" in "The Real World's" Karamo, an average Black man who looks like an average Black man, and not a sterotype of the Black gay man of the Blaine and Antoine genre, from "In Living Color" (yes, as old as that tired show is, Black folks still think Blaine and Antoine are typical Black queens). Black lesbians still don't have a face, but that's nothing new. Outing doesn't serve as great a purpose as those who "out" seem to think it does. It polarizes an already contentious community, and the anger and resentment created by revealing something that isn't unilaterally seen as a good thing is a crap shoot; you may or may not gain the ally you seek.

I believe lesbians and gay men should see themselves as whole people, and as whole people, should be who they are in all aspects of their lives, public and private, for not all private things ultimately remain private, and not all public things are meant to be public. The 35-plus years since the Stonewall uprising have resulted in great changes for the better for gays and lesbians, but not enough has happened to undo the many years of subjective Biblical teaching that has created the unwholesome holy alliances forged between government and the Christian church in America, which continues to shape policy affecting lesbian and gay Americans. More work needs to be done, but I don't see outing as part of it.


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