Let’s make it clear that Mike Rogers–of BlogActive noteriety–has taken outing too far. It’s a rather embarrassing spectacle with the appearance of having been manufactured by a blogger in love with attention and his own power. He seems to want to speak for all gays, but he certainly doesn’t speak me… or really for many of us at all, in my view.
Rogers has published a threatening and possibly illegal letter he wrote for a senator who he claims is an anti-gay hypocrite. What’s enough to count as an anti-gay hypocrite? In a footnote to the letter (yes, this letter has a footnote), Rogers says that voting to confirm Alito for the Supreme Court is enough to qualify a senator as anti-gay. For this terrible crime, Rogers appoints himself judge and jury to execute the “nuclear option” of post-modern gay activism: outing.
But this is patently ridiculous. Hypocrisy cannot be reduced to any disagreement with Mike Rogers’ personal political agenda for who should sit on the Supreme Court. (Note that I happen to agree with Rogers on Alito, but only arrived at this decision after careful deliberation. My decision ultimately turned on Alito’s views on the unitary executive, and not at all on his supposed positions on gay issues. When I was evaluating Alito’s record with an open mind, was I somehow a hypocrite, a sexual orientation traitor? Should I have been outed as a hypocrite? The very notion is insulting.)
Rogers’ post gives outing, indeed progressive gay politics itself, a bad name. That’s quite unfortunate in my opinion, because there are plenty of circumstances involving hypocrisy that justify outing. Not hypocrisy as Rogers would define it (merely being a gay Republican or a gay conservative). But true hypocrisy that actually causes manifest harm in the world. For example, the hypocrisy of a bishop in a church firing his subordinates for homosexuality while secretly engaging in gay sex. Or the hypocrisy of a politician who opposes gay civil rights legislation repeatedly for decades and often demonizes gays and lesbians in his speeches to secure the votes of those who hate gays.
Such extreme examples are rare, but they are real. When the lack of integrity of such public figures is discovered, nobody has an affirmative moral obligation to keep their immorality secret. Doing so makes one a party to the immorality. Outing can certainly be an acceptable moral choice, an option that may cause some pain to the subject of the scandal, but overall reduces suffering for the greatest number.
While some left-leaning gays want to out every politician who has sex with men and once voted against a national holiday for Lenin, some conservative gays would ban outing altogether, as if we are all morally obligated to be every dirty politician’s nanny, shielding him from reaping what he has sown. Their bizarre complaints against “nutso” leftists are as shrill as they are unconvincing. Sanity on the outing issue means ignoring politics as usual and looking beyond left and right.