A Little More On Outing

I think a couple things bother me:

1.) The notion that one can actually betray the gay rights agenda. This feels dangerous to me. I think it's easy on bright line issues like gay marriage, or even gay adoption. But my experience in the post-civil rights era says that the further you move forward, the more complicated the issues becomes. It's not hard to see a point (and maybe we've reached it) where there are serious fault-lines over what makes the agenda and what doesn't. But once you've embraced the tool of outing, it really can be deployed by any one claiming the sword of righteousness.

This, from a commenter, gets at what I mean:

I'm not concerned for the Ted Haggards and Larry Craigs of the world. This is what bothers me- who draws the line at who is "important" enough to forcibly out? I am worried that someone will interpret this as open season for anyone in any sort of leadership position, no matter how loosely defined. To add to that, while there might be legitimate evidence for people like Larry Craig, what happens when everything trickles down to the micro level and it becomes a battle of (s)he said-(s)he said? Bigotry is unacceptable at any level, but when one outs the head of the neighborhood association (S/he is in a leadership position, after all) over hearsay evidence, is that really advancing the cause.

It's worth listening to this interview with an RNC staffer who was outed. He's a conservative operative who was working, in 2004, to help Bush get re-elected. He despised the GOP's stance on gays, but was, in his heart, a conservative. He was outed because the GOP disseminated anti-gay fliers, and the belief was that he could have (or should have) stopped them. I think it's fuzzy enough to make me uncomfortable. Who draws the line on this stuff? It's not enough to feel like it's justice. You have to be able to live with all the implications.

2.) Which brings me to this: How do you know you're right? Seriously. What if you're wrong?

Here's a response from Dan Savage to the earlier post. He concludes:

And here's the funny thing, Ta-Nehisi: these outed politicians--the Craigs, Haggards, Crists, et al--they never off themselves. Everyone talks about the potential of suicide when a high-profile hypocrite like Charlie Crist is outed. But they never kill themselves, do they? That cocksucker Crist just announced his run for US Senate. Outing "victims" either come out or they burrow deeper into their closets. You know who kills themselves when they're outed? The nobodies rounded up when the police departments conduct stings on cruising areas. Small town newspapers typically print names and mug shots after raids on rest stops and cruisy parks, a practice that has lead to suicides.

But no one gives a shit about these guys--they're nobodies, just small-town closet cases looking for a little cock, not powerful politicians doing violence on a daily basis to gay people and our families while scarfing down cock in toilets and bedding their aides.

It seems to me that your sympathies are misplaced, Ta-Nehisi.

It's true that the suicide thing is a hypothetical, and an unlikely one. Fair enough. But I think the "sympathies" critique misses the point. Being against the death penalty isn't the same as having sympathy for ax-murderers, or a lack of sympathy for the victims.

UPDATE #2: Meh, so much for legs to stand on. I just re-read my post. I actually did strongly imply sypathy for people like Craig and Haggard