Thursday, May 22, 2008

Open Forum: "Outing" as an Activist Tactic?

"Outing" is when someone discloses someone's sexual orientation, when that person has chosen to keep their sexuality a secret. There are those in favor of outing who believe it is morally acceptable to disclose this information if the person (usually in a position of power such as a religious or political figure) speak out against and are damaging to the LGBT community. There are others who believe that anyone who is closeted is ultimately damaging the Queer community, by not being open about who they are, and so they seek to make the public aware of their truth. Those against "outing" feel it is an invasion of privacy and that people are entitled to live their lives in the closet if they so choose.

As with all controversial topics there are a wide range of opinions. What do you think? Is Outing ever OK? Is it helpful or hurtful to the Queer Lib movement?

10 comments:

Thalassa said...

I've given this topic a lot of thought, and I have a personal rule about how to handle it. The only reason I'm willing to out someone is that they are privately engaging in homosexual behavior, partaking of the community, or otherwise enjoying the privilege of being accepted in queer space while at the same time using their public life to condemn or destroy that same community and space. I feel no urge to out someone who is neutral or gay-friendly in their public life; those people have chosen to treat the community and the space respectfully and I think they should have that respect returned. Classic example: I have a friend who is an athletic trainer for a college, and he's gay. His career would effectively end if he were outed, so he stays in the closet to keep his livelihood.

I've never had to do this, so this is all hypothetical from here out. Once I decide someone is betraying the queer community and that an outing is warranted, I first find some sort of evidence. It doesn't have to hold up in court, just something that will make the accusation stick in the media. Then, I confront the person in question and give a hard deadline for a self-outing, something like 2 weeks. This gives them time to square it with their family and lets them control the tone of it, if they have the courage to do so. If they don't make a public announcement by the end of that time, I out them.

Scott said...

If the person is gay and closeted, not harming anyone with any kind of anti-gay or homophobe-stirring rhetoric, then of course that person should be left alone, and "outing" is unacceptable.

But if the person IS spewing any kind of anti-gay rhetoric, or even supplying the rhetoric to some old coot of a republican (to get a pat on the head), then yes, "outing" the person is perfectly acceptable. Especially when they're the gay republican type who is anti-gay by week, and chasing twinks on the gay strip during the weekends.

If those type of homosexuals seek to ruin the lives of other gay people for their own political gain or $$$, they should be dragged into the streets from the gay clubs they frequent, and beaten, as far as I care. It's not like it would hurt them anyway, as most politicians are alcoholics.

Judith said...

I'm very strongly opposed to "outing." I think there's an assumption among many LGBT people in the developed world, especially in the US and Europe, that the only acceptable means of identity formation is to come out of the closet, be "proud," and join the club. This leaves a lot of people out, and puts people in a vulnerable situation, especially those living among repressive governments who embrace the Western model that they're told is "correct" and then find themselves beaten, tortured, or worse with no help from those who gave them the idea in the first place.

I think being out is right for some people, and I think in an ideal world everyone should be able to come out, *if they want to*, without reprecussions. But not everyone wants this. For some, sexuality just isn't a big deal and is only relevant to the people they're actually dating or sleeping with. For others, being out is uncomfortable because they don't fit into a particular pre-determined sexuality group. For others, practical reasons make coming out dangerous. So I think it'd best to recognise that there are many models of identity formation, and to respect how others choose to view themselves. If someone trusts you with information on their sexuality, don't throw it in their face by paternalistically thinking it's "good for them" or for society to be outed. I think when we do this we start to look a lot like the homophobic people we speak out against.

GDad said...

If the person in question is minding his own business, then I'm not sure why it would be an issue. The people I think we're probably discussing are the closeted politicians or people in power who use their closeted status to walk in circles that would be closed to them if they were out. If those people seek to harm me, I will protect myself, and outing is a tool.

Natalie said...

I 100% agree with Thalassa.

Queers United said...

From your comments and my research on this topic it seems the vast majority of those in the LGBT community take a fair or middleground position on this. It's ok to out the people who seek to harm us but those who are quiet and don't bother us can live a closeted life.

I'd be interested to know how heterosexuals feel about outing. My guess is many more of them would be opposed to outing in any circumstance. They approach it from a different angle but I haven't seen any research on that.

GDad said...

QU,

Why would you suspect that straight people would be more opposed to outing that queers? Just curious - not arguing.

Queers United said...

I just suspect straight people would be less likely to supporting outing because they are less likely to support the notion of coming out and being open about non-heterosexuality period. They don't understand why being out is so integral to our rights, awareness, and self-esteem. For this reason I feel they would be less likely to support us outing others. I could be wrong, but just taking a stab on it.

Bithewya said...

I think outing is only acceptable when it comes to outing people who remain in the closet whilst publicly criticizing or campaigning against LGBT people.

Wonder Man said...

I'm not so sure, outing someone isn't ok. However there are situations we can never imagine, that may lead we to do so

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