By Jeff Walsh
"Outrage," a new documentary playing select cities beginning this weekend, is taking on the hypocrisy of anti-gay politicians who are also closeted homosexuals. In each case, there seems to be a direct correlation between the closet and their anti-gay voting records.
Unlike the trailer for the movie (embedded below), the movie names the people in closets of power, interviews their former sexual partners, talks about where they go out to meet people, and makes a strong case for the homosexuality the men, such as Senator Larry Craig, still deny to this day.
I suppose outing has become a generic word in the culture, so we should go back to explore its historic roots. In an age where Perez Hilton "outs" Neil Patrick Harris, it is important to know that outing in the political arena is not about playing a gotcha game for people who merely deny their sexuality but enjoy secret gay lives. It is about people who deny it and actually cause harm to every gay person who has to live with the laws they pass to prove the lies they tell themselves and others are real.
If Florida Governor Charlie Crist wants to live a repressed life as a closeted gay man, that is his right. As it was his right to marry a woman to look more proper right before McCain was looking for a vice-presidential running mate (although I'm sure the timing was purely coincidental). But when defending his closet helps pass anti-gay marriage legislation, bans gay adoption in the state, and appoints two anti-gay state Supreme Court justices who will negatively affect our community for years if not decades, then he opens the door to being outed. Of course, he's been outed so often now, it's almost a running joke. But since he is a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2012, it is important to keep pushing the issue.
Outrage, by documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick, includes a lot of talking heads from the gay media (including some people I greatly admire like Michelangelo Signorile, Larry Kramer, and Andrew Sullivan), as well as formerly closeted politicians like former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, and Congressman Barney Frank.
It doesn't take long to see the throughline for the documentary, but it never gets boring seeing so many people try so hard to deny their sexuality through words, actions, and legislation. Some of the stuff shows how our short-term memory lets people more easily get away with things, such as Senator 'wide stance' Craig being accused of soliticing sex in an airport bathroom. I don't recall many news agencies connecting the dots to his also being accused of soliciting sex with male teenaged congressional pages in 1982. He denied that, too. But at a certain point, how much coincidence can there be? This is one "straight" guy with really bad luck.
Of course, part of the problem with the news media is that the remaining outlets are owned by huge corporations who are also connected politically. Even Dick, in a Q&A after tonight's screening, said there were major news agencies who reviewed this documentary only to have the review pulled from publication by executives much higher up. Couple that with the amount of gay anchors on cable TV who also like to pretend they're straight (but I won't go into a whole 180 to talk about that, or would that be a 360?), and it is increasingly difficult to get the word out about this issue.
There is a potential issue with the movie being seen as a huge Republican pile-on. Of course, the hypocrisy issue is about voting anti-gay, which lends itself more to going after Republicans, as they are more likely to both conceal their sexuality and vote against their own closeted interests. I don't see a way around that issue, though. If there was a closeted, anti-gay Democrat, I'd be just as happy for them to be included.
For me, ever since I heard about this movie, it just seemed like it took someone 16 years to make Michelangelo Signorile's Queer in America into a movie. In that book, Signorile had a whole section on politics, where he detailed the closet of the man he only referred to as "The Legislator." The Legislator is widely believed to be former Oklahoma Senator David Boren, something that isn't even referenced on his Wikipedia page.
Signorile is widely associated with outing and the negative impact of the closet, so his fingerprints seem to be all over this film. But, even he has stopped using the word outing to define this tactic. In this day and age, with everything being equal, he uses a newer, simpler term to define these tactics: reporting.
And on some level, he's right. Even calling it outing is making it more dramatic than it should be in an age of political transparency. Everyone has the right to stay closeted, no matter how detrimental it will be to their life. Once their closet starts negatively impacting others, then they no longer get to make that choice.
If you get a chance to check this movie out, please do so. And, trust me, I haven't revealed all of the closet cases in this review. So, there's still some sense of discovery left for you.
To find out when the movie is playing near you, check the movie's website: http://outragethemovie.com/