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The Ins and Outs of Outing and Coming Out, part 1

Aaron_SchockA blog reader asked me today, how I felt about the linked story. As it happens, I spent much of the day working on a blog post about this story and a number of other recent stories about coming out and outing. After a few failed drafts, I switched gears, and here is the beginning. The start of a series of posts. Hope you will enjoy the them and comment on the various parts. I’ll write about several recent stories and then link them together as the series continues. Here’s the most recent story:

CBS News Reporter Itay Hod: That GOP Congressman From IL Is Definitely Gay

Heres a hypothetical: What if you know a certain GOP congressman, lets just say from Illinois, is gay… and you know this because one of your friends, a journalist for a reputable network, told you in no uncertain terms that he caught that GOP congressman and his male roommate in the shower… together. Now they could have been good friends just trying to conserve water. But theres more. What if this congressman has also been caught by TMZ cameras trolling gay bars?

My reader asked me this:

 I would be interested in your take in this. If the person is “actively harming the LGBTQ community” is it alright to out them? Or does that make outing a weapon and it should never be used that way? Thoughts? Blog post?

First note the title and then how the post begins. At one moment it is hypothetical, and at the same time, it is taken as fact- as confirmation about a real person’s life. Amazing!

Personally this is an interesting question, given that only a fews days ago, I wrote a passionate comment on Facebook about someone who was criticizing Robin Roberts for not coming out sooner. I wrote that coming out is a personal choice and we must always respect a person’s choices surrounding coming out, even when we don’t understand them. Such a desire to respect a person’s choices is easy to comprehend with a person like Roberts who is seen positively. But what about someone like Aaron Schock who is supposedly being outed  in the article linked here?  Does he deserve the same right to self disclosure and respect for his choice?

So, here we have two questions, my reader’s question and also Itay Hod’s:

Let me ask another question. Doesn’t the media have an OBLIGATION to expose his [Aaron Schock's] hypocrisy?

This issue reminds me much of the story from Hawaii, where an out lesbian voted against same-sex marriage in that state because she felt the legislation didn’t provide enough religious liberty protections. There is a belief that gay and lesbian people must be supportive of gay and lesbian legislation- because that legislation is in their own best interests. The trouble is that people are often for or against things based upon so many factors and these may or may not align with what we understand as their interests.


To answer Hod’s question, I don’t think the issue is if this guy should be outed or not, and I’m not even sure if the issue is his hypocrisy.  But it clearly is a journalist’s responsibility to explore and understand why elected officials do what they do. When a person’s voting record appears to be in conflict with their own personal choices, actions and activities, or vice versa, THAT is someone’s obligation no matter what you call it. Hypocrisy or not.

Sexual orientation (i.e. being gay) or being Out is all about self-disclosure. It isn’t clear if Schock is or isn’t gay, being that he hasn’t self-disclosed. Being gay isn’t  about a score on some metric. If Schock has met that score or done some thing or things that unequivocally make him gay.

The problem I have with this situation is that, according the Hod’s post, all the evidence he has is that someone images-1else saw this guy was in the shower with his roommate. Does that seem gay? For sure. And the guy seems to have frequented gay bars. But neither of these things prove anything, and Hod is free to speculate, but there isn’t enough here too say the Illinois congressman is definitely gay. Rather, Hod fans the flames of public speculation with gossip. That’s what I’d expect from Perez Hilton rather than a respected CBS journalist.

Hod also links to John Aravosis and a group of photos labeled as “gay.” This isn’t journalism- this is possibly assassination and stereotyping in the worst way. Aravosis has done some incredible work, but not sure if this is on par with that yet. Hod and Aravosis may be flushing out a closet case which may turn out to be a good thing, or it may fur out to be little more than bullying. Time will tell. Either way, real journalism is absent from this story so far.

If Schock is gay, how about this roommate? What’s his story? If Schock is gay, the roommate isn’t likely to be the only guy he has been naked with. And what of those bar excursions? How is it that gay bars full of guys  do not turn into multiple reports of seeing this guy out being gay? Where a real story is, revolves around the “turn a blind eye” mentality and to report as much about him as possible to see if it explains what this guy does. The Washington gay scene as well as the political arena in general has been complicit before in protecting closet cases, and that can not be tolerated any longer. Does that include making public information that illustrates what is being called hypocrisy? Yes most likely.

If Aaron Schock is deep inside the self hatred and denial that he is gay, his votes against LGBT supportive legislation is consistent with his own efforts to distance himself from a gay identity.  He wouldn’t be the first person in a place of power to act in ways that harm others who are like himself even if he can’t admit that to himself. I’m not sure if that is hypocritical or just sad, but it his harmful either way. Then again, he may really be a hypocrite who selfishly protects himself and takes actions to harm others who are like himself. We don’t yet know.

Hod’s post is, in my opinion, less about Aaron Schock’s sexual orientation, and more to do with what is the media’s responsibility to the general public. Is it right for the media to participate in thew “turning a blind eye” mentality that enables a guy like Schock?  And the answer is emphatically ‘NO’! We the people need real journalists who break the cycle of hiding and remaining silent, even if that includes outing someone against their will or on a time frame other than their own choosing.

via Joe. My. God.: CBS News Reporter Itay Hod: That GOP Congressman From IL Is Definitely Gay.